Sea Wraith of St Helen’s Fort
While Ianto had run for help, Alun had lifted the body of the Major down from where it had been suspended on the radio mast like a sinister crucifixion. The mast had broken under his weight, and Alun knew that meant they had no way of reporting this death, no way of summoning help from the mainland. But that seemed almost a secondary consideration as he laid the body on the stone flagged ground and checked to make sure he was actually dead.
As he confirmed to himself that there were no signs of life, Alun shivered with the cold of a January night on the exposed gun deck, but also with the recollection of what he and Ianto had seen – or at least thought they had seen. He forced himself to look at the dead face. The eyes were wide, staring, his expression terror-struck. He reached to close the eyes, then drew back. As horrible as it was to have them staring like that, this was an unexplained death. Others needed to see the body. Even taking it down from the mast was probably wrong from a forensic point of view, but as much as he hated the Major he couldn’t bear to leave him like that.
Owen would probably be able to establish a cause of death, though he had his own opinion on that matter. The expression on his face, and the dark stain on the crotch area confirmed it. It must have taken one hell of a fright to make this hard-nosed bastard piss himself as he died.
There were shouts and running feet, the clanging of the ladder as more than one person climbed it at once. Alun was relieved to see Jack reach the top first, followed by Owen and Ianto. As Owen bent to examine the body Jack shone a strong torch around the gun deck. Alun stood back and was glad of Ianto’s arm slipping around his shoulder. He saw Garrett and Forrester reach the deck, followed by Captain Reynolds, McLennon’s second in command, and the two lieutenants and a sergeant of the instruction team. Reynolds took in the scene and then rounded on Ianto and Alun accusingly.
“What were you doing up here?” he demanded.
“We… just wanted some fresh air,” Ianto lied.
“Fuck that,” Alun contradicted him. “We came up on deck for a quick one up against the leeward wall before curfew.”
“You…” Captain Reynolds looked shocked that anyone would admit to lewd behaviour so blatantly.
“Don’t get all uptight about it,” Alun added. “We’re married according to the law of England and Wales. That law isn’t overruled by the army. We accept that we have to sleep in separate beds this weekend. But we came up here for sex. Get used to it. Anyway, we didn’t even get that far. We heard McLennon scream… And when we got here he was dead. All I did was take his body down from the mast and make it decent. I tried to revive him. But it was already too late.”
“So you say.” Reynolds scowled at them both. “How do I know you didn’t kill him because he caught you in your filthy act?”
“Because this man died of severe fright,” Owen replied as he completed his preliminary examination and confirmed Alun’s first guess. “And even the sight of those two having a fumble isn’t scary enough to do that. There’s not a mark on him. No stab wound, gunshot, strangulation mark. No head trauma. How do you think they could have killed him?”
“We didn’t kill him,” Alun confirmed.
“Well, somebody did,” Captain Reynolds snapped. “You… stand back from the body. You’re associated with them. Don’t touch anything. You might be tampering with evidence.”
“Now, come on!” Jack said, rounding on the Captain. “Just what are you insinuating about my people?”
Reynolds looked at Jack as if he had only just remembered he was there.
“You… I heard you earlier. You threatened to kill the Major. I heard you say it. There were witnesses.” He signalled to his officers. “Lieutenant Mason, Sergeant Cole, restrain him. And those two. Put them all in the brig.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Garrett protested. “Jack was in the recreation room with everyone else.”
“He sent these two to do his dirty work. Same difference. Take them below.”
Alun and Ianto were restrained. Jack looked as if he might try to put up a fight, then he surrendered and let Captain Reynolds take hold of him.
“Everyone else get back to the recreation room,” Reynolds ordered. “You’re all confined there until further notice. Lieutenant Birrell, make sure that’s done.”
“Yes, sir,” Birrell answered, snapping to attention before pushing Garrett and Forrrester towards the steps. They had no choice. Garrett looked at Jack as he was led away with Ianto and Alun. For a moment he wondered if Reynolds was right. Had he ordered them to kill McLennon? He recalled the whispered ‘be careful’ as Ianto left the recreation room.
Then he dismissed the thought from his head. It was a betrayal of Jack’s trust to even entertain the idea.
Jack shivered as the metal door of the room designated as ‘the brig’ slammed shut on the three of them. It wasn’t the first cell he had ever been in and the feeling as the door closed was unpleasantly familiar.
He looked around at Alan and Ianto. It probably was the first cell they had been in. They hugged each other tightly, for comfort. They were both far more upset than he would have expected of them.
“Boys… what did you see up there?” he asked gently. “What killed McLennon… because I know it wasn’t either of you. Even if the bastard had caught you with your pants down… I know you wouldn’t have…”
“We didn’t kill him, boss,” Alun assured him. “And he didn’t catch us doing anything. We only went up there for a cuddle, really. We didn’t actually mean to have sex. Not in this place. We’re not that desperate. We were just… just cuddling each other, up against the gun deck wall on the lee side out of the wind. It was nice. Then we heard a noise above. We didn’t know who it was. We saw a cigarette butt thrown down. Then…”
“Jack…” Ianto continued. “It was nothing Human that killed McLennon. At least… it isn’t Human now.”
“It looked…” Alun continued. “It looked like… a man, but it was as if he was made up of sea mist. He was unsubstantial, floating, like a…. a….”
“A wraith,” Jack said. “I’ve seen them before. They’re…. they’re a sort of ghost. But ghosts, usually, are benign. They can harm nobody. Wraiths… they’re restless spirits. They want revenge or satisfaction for something left undone. They draw on the environment, sea, mist, earth, fire. I remember a case in the 1970s of a fire wraith. He burnt down a whole block of houses looking for his wife. Turned out she had killed him and set fire to the house to hide what she did. He killed fifteen innocent people before he got to her.”
Jack shuddered as he remembered tackling the Wraith. Not the first time he had burnt to death, nor the last. But he remembered it as one of the most painful.
“Somebody who drowned, perhaps. The sea is full of wraiths. Especially around these waters. During the war, ships torpedoed, Dunkirk, D-Day, all the convoys that came in and out of the channel, running the gauntlet of German attacks…”
“It didn’t look that old,” Alun pointed out. “Didn’t look like a sailor, either. If it looked like anything, I’d say it was dressed in a modern army uniform. Saw enough of those in my time.”
“Somebody McLennon pissed off before us?” Ianto suggested. “Come back from the dead to get the bastard.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” Jack answered. He was relieved to have such an explanation presented to him. If McLennon was the reason for the supernatural occurrence, then everyone else would be safe. Garrett and Owen and the other men out there, and the three of them trapped in this locked room with nowhere to run even if it was possible to outrun a vengeful spirit.
“The radio is out of action,” Alun remembered. “Captain Reynolds is in charge until somebody realises and comes looking for us.”
“So the Wraith… if it does want to kill all of us… we can’t get away.” Ianto looked worried.
“If it isn’t… if all it wanted was McLennon… then our problem is Captain Reynolds. He’s convinced we killed him. And…”
“Technically, no, he can’t,” Jack assured them both. “A Captain isn’t authorised to order a court martial. And this island is not in international waters. It’s still part of the UK. We’re not under any war conditions. He can’t claim any special powers. But…”
“There’s nothing stopping him from shooting us anyway?”
“That has occurred to me,” Jack sighed. He moved closer to his two friends and put his arms around them both as if he hoped to protect them from harm. If Reynolds really wanted to kill them, his body wasn’t much of a shield, but the instinct to protect them was burning within him. He wanted to protect everyone here on this artificial island, cut off from help, with something supernatural happening as well as an unreasonable man with a gun in charge of them all. They needed protecting.
The possibility that Captain Reynolds might exact some sort of summary punishment against the three prisoners worried Garrett most as he and Owen, and Lieutenant Forrester were escorted back to the recreation room.
The other men were stunned by the news that they had been arrested. Opinion was sharply divided. Some of them were convinced that they had done it because they were sick of McLennon’s bullying. Others argued that Jack had an alibi and that Alun and Ianto were unlikely suspects.
“I’d have done it if I were them,” one of the U.N.I.T. men said. “The crap he put them through.”
“So would I,” said Morgan, the MI5 man. “Jack… said he was going to kill him.”
Garrett looked at him with a pained expression, then spoke clearly so everyone else could hear.
“Major McLennon didn’t put them through anything we weren’t expecting on this course,” he said. “Jack said some incautious things. He was pissed off and angry. It’s… been a while since he was under regular military discipline. He lost his cool a bit. And Ianto… He’s a civilian. It was all a shock to him. That’s my fault. It was my idea to bring Jack’s team on this weekend. I only did it because I wanted Jack to come along, and it would have been a bit suss inviting my boyfriend on something like this. But I know none of them killed the Major. And if anyone else….”
“Everyone be quiet,” Lieutenant Birrell ordered, cutting off whatever he was going to say. “Sit still and no talking until further orders.”
“Actually,” Garrett replied, standing and facing the Lieutenant. “Whatever Captain Reynolds is doing, right now, in this room, I hold the acting rank of Lieutenant and Military Intelligence outranks regular army. So you, sit down and shut up until we know what’s going on around here.”
The Lieutenant looked at Garrett and recognised something in his face that in all times and places, and regardless of commissioned ranks, was called authority.
He backed down.
“Right, that’s better,” Garrett continued. “Now, we can all vouch for each other. We were all in this room. The only one without an alibi at the moment is you, Lieutenant. So I suggest you sit quiet and think about where you were when the Major was killed.”
“I was in the Officer’s Mess with the others,” he replied immediately. The words ‘Officer’s Mess’ caused a bit of an uproar among the men. Lieutenant Birrell looked around the sparsely furnished room and conceded their point.
“Look, it’s not much better than this,” he said. “Bit warmer, maybe. And we’ve got brandy and cigarettes. It’s… it’s all part of it. You lot…are meant to think of us as the enemy. We can’t be all cosy together in the evenings and then beat the crap out of you all day. You’re supposed to hate us. I mean… the Major… he is a bit sadistic about it. But… you’re supposed to be finding out what it’s like to be in enemy hands… you think Al-Qaeda will treat you soft?”
“I know about Al-Qaeda,” Garrett retorted with a note in his voice that made those around him look at him with a new respect. “Forget what happened before nightfall. What matters is what happened after. You were all in your Officer’s Mess? You and the other Lieutenant… Mason… and the Sergeant, Captain Reynolds, and the Major. Then…”
“Then the Major went out. And the next we heard was your man hammering on the door telling us that he was dead.”
“We only have your word for that,” Forrester pointed out. “What if you all got sick of the bastard and did him in?”
“Maybe he’s not dead,” Morgan suggested. “Maybe it’s all part of it… the course… seeing how we all react to this situation…”
“No,” Owen told him. “Nice idea. But no. I examined the body. He’s dead. That’s my professional diagnosis. Dead as dead. And it certainly wasn’t natural causes. Nor was it the sort of murder any of us could have committed. There’s something more going on here.”
“So what killed him then?”
“I don’t know,” Owen answered. “Maybe bloody Sea Devils, like we said earlier. But I know damn well that none of my friends did it.”
“What was that noise?” Jack asked. Ianto and Alun looked at each other fearfully.
“We heard that… before… outside… it didn’t seem as loud then. In here… Oh, my God!”
They all stared at the outside wall of the room. It looked as if water was seeping in through the rivets. Then it was more like mist, coalescing into a figure in the same kind of battle fatigues they were wearing, except the colours were more unsubstantial. The grey face, apparently composed of mist, was young, Alun’s age, and good looking, or at least he would have been when he was alive. This shade of life, hanging on, was just pitiful.
“Behind me,” Jack said to Alun and Ianto. “Stay behind me.” His protective instinct kicked in again. He stood in front of the Wraith, defending his friends. He looked it in the eye.
“Whatever you want, we’re nothing to do with it,” he said. “We did you no harm. You’ve no reason to come here. Leave my friends alone.”
The Wraith reached out a hand towards Jack. He stood his ground as the insubstantial hand reached inside him. He felt ice cold fingers touch his heart. He tasted sea water in his mouth, the rush of waves closing over his head rang in his ears. He felt as if he was drowning.
He stood his ground. He was scared, but not scared to death. He had drowned before, several times. It was, on the whole, one of the least terrible ways to go. It actually felt quite peaceful.
He felt the icy hand close around his heart and stop it. In the last moments, he heard Ianto and Alun both calling his name fearfully. Then there was nothing, as usual.
An uneasy calm had come over the recreation room during their enforced ‘house arrest’. Some of the men had gone back to card games, though in a more muted way. Some tried to read. One or two managed to get to sleep. Lieutenant Birrell did nothing. He sat, quietly, apparently deep in thought.
Owen was thinking, too. He was wondering what had caused McLennon’s death. Fright, yes. ‘Frightened to death’ was not a cliché. A big enough scare could cause heart failure. He had seen it before. But mostly in elderly people with weak hearts to begin with. What could have frightened a man like McLennon to death? He wasn’t old and he certainly didn’t seem to have a weak anything.
Whatever it was, he didn’t want to come face to face with it.
Garrett was thinking. Mostly he was thinking about Jack, worrying about him and what Reynolds might do to him. But he was concerned for everyone else, too. The calm he had been able to establish was merely a hiatus. There was still trouble brewing. It was only a matter of time….
A scream in the corridor outside the recreation room broke the calm much sooner than he had expected. Owen was the first to move. His instinct as a medical man was to rush to the aid of somebody in distress.
“No,” Garrett warned him. “Wait. It might be a trap.” He took Lieutenant Birrell’s side arm and checked it for ammunition before moving cautiously to the door. He opened it slowly and looked out, then he motioned for Owen after all as he opened it fully and went to help Sergeant Cole. He was struggling down the stairs with Lieutenant Mason slung over his shoulder, either dead or close to death.
Garrett took hold of the trembling man and brought him into the recreation room as Owen and Lieutenant Forrester carried the dying man inside.
“He’s not dead, yet,” the Sergeant managed to say as he was relieved of his burden. “Not yet. But… Captain Reynolds…. He’s…”
“What about Captain Reynolds,” Garrett asked him.
“He’s… he’s dead. It killed him. It… it killed him.”
Garrett was aware of murmuring around the room as the men heard the Sergeant’s panic stricken words.
“What killed him?” he asked calmly. “Steady yourself, man. You’re a soldier. Have a little backbone.”
“It came through the wall and killed Captain Reynolds before he had chance to defend himself. Then it turned on the Lieutenant. Then… it… it looked at me… and I thought it was going to kill me, too. But it… it faded away.”
“What did?” Again, Garrett wasn’t happy about the way everyone around him was filling in the blanks with their own imagination. If he could get a full story out of the Sergeant it would be better than half-coherent ramblings. They would, at least, know what to expect. He turned to look at Owen as he performed CPR on the Lieutenant. “Is he going to make it?”
“I don’t know,” Owen answered. “It doesn’t look good. He’s cold… even though this only happened a few minutes ago. And his heart… it’s as if something reached in and stopped it.”
“Keep trying,” Garrett told him, though he knew Owen would do so, anyway. He would keep trying to save a life until the last moment and then some, like any good medical man would. He turned and looked at the other men standing around watching and though he was Deputy Director of the Cardiff MI5 office and used to having men and women at his command, he felt slightly inadequate right now. “Lieutenant Forrester, Birrell, Agent Morgan, go and release Captain Harkness and Mr Jones and Mr Llewellyn from the brig. It is patently obvious that they had nothing to do with this, and with Reynolds dead, Captain Harkness is the senior officer on this fort right now. We need him.
The three went at once. Garrett hoped he wasn’t sending them into danger. But his first thought was that everyone needed to be together in this room if they had any hope of being safe, and he didn’t want to leave Jack and his men alone down there for a moment longer.
He expected Jack to come running as soon as he was free. Instead he was staggering, helped by Alun and Ianto. Garrett stared in horror at his bone-white face, wracked with pain.
“What the fuck happened to him?” Garrett demanded as he reached to help him into a chair. Ianto and Alun didn’t answer. Not in words, anyway. He looked at their faces and knew. Jack had been attacked by the same creature that killed Captain Reynolds. He had revived, as he always did. But this time it was different. He usually got up from being killed in all sorts of strange ways and carried on as if nothing had happened. This time, he looked as if he might be at death’s door anyway.
“Owen, Jack needs you,” he called out. But Owen was still trying to revive Lieutenant Mason.
“I’m all right,” Jack told him. “Just… I’m cold. Really cold, inside. The Wraith… it… froze my heart. I still feel…”
“Who’s got any alcohol?” Garrett demanding, looking around at the men. Forrester shook his head. His stash had been used already. “Come on, somebody else must have smuggled something aboard. The Captain needs it.”
“I could…” Sergeant Cole began. “The officers’ mess…” Then his own face paled and she shuddered at the thought of going back there, where Captain Reynolds was still lying dead.
“Nobody leaves this room.” Garrett said. “Not even for best brandy.”
“Here, sir,” said a U.N.I.T. man passing over a small hip flask. Garrett smelt it and recognised it as single malt whiskey. He put it to Jack’s trembling lips and he swallowed the whole double measure. His face immediately flushed and his eyes watered, but then he pulled himself upright. He looked stronger. He looked ready to be their leader, as Garrett hoped he would be. Torchwood, MI, U.N.I.T., they all needed him to be that, now.
“I'm in charge?” He shook his head sadly. “Dead man’s shoes was never my favourite kind of promotion. How many have we lost?”
“Two,” Garrett told him. “McLennon and Reynolds.”
“Three,” Owen corrected them. “I’ve lost this one. I tried all I could. But there was too much damage to his heart. And will somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on around here. This man’s last words were about somebody coming back from the dead, and Jack said something about a ‘Wraith’. What the hell are we dealing with here?”
“A Sea Wraith,” Jack explained. “A restless spirit looking for revenge. It got that when it took McLennon and Reynolds and your man there. But it’s not satisfied with just those three. When it reached in and touched my heart, I felt its anger, its need to… to settle the score. I saw its intent. It means to kill everyone, starting with the officers and working down. Which means….”
“It’s going to come back for you?” Garrett reached out to hold him. “Jack, you can’t. You can’t keep sacrificing yourself.”
“Yes, I can,” Jack answered. “If I have to, I’ll stand in front of you all. The next rank down from Captain is Lieutenant. It’s already killed one of those. But there’s you, and Alun, Forrester, that bastard there….” He looked at Lieutenant Birrell and noted that he was more scared than anyone else here. But I’ll even protect him if I have to.”
“Jack,” Ianto spoke for the first time since they reached the recreation room. “You said revenge, retribution. Who is he? And what does he want revenge for?”
“I don’t know,” Jack answered. “But I think somebody here, does.” He stood up and approached Lieutenant Birrell. He was staring at his fellow officer’s dead body as Owen closed his eyes and covered him decently. He jumped when Jack asked him what he knew.
“I know nothing,” he answered. “Why are you accusing me, anyway? I don’t know. I…”
Everyone heard the noise, as if the sea was coming in through the walls. They all saw the mist, and the half-substantial form of the young soldier. It gazed around the room. Lieutenant Birrell tried to run. Jack stepped between him and the Wraith. For a heartbeat its dead grey eyes looked into Jack’s living blue ones. Then its hand reached into his chest. He felt it close around his heart again. Jack slumped to the floor. The wraith glided over him and reached for Lieutenant Birrell as he screamed for mercy.
Jack woke once again to the taste of strong drink – some kind of rum this time - being poured into his mouth and Garrett’s arms around his shoulders. He was grateful for both comforts as he fought off the cold within him.
“How many did it kill?” he asked.
“Only you,” Garrett answered. “You must have weakened it a bit. Lieutenant Birrell was knocked for six, but Owen revived him.
“Ok.” Jack stood upright, leaning only once on Garrett’s arm as he steadied himself. “Time we got some answers.” He looked around and saw all the men relieved to see him alive and well, then he turned to Birrell.
“Who was he?” Jack asked him. “And who killed him?”
Birrell didn’t lie this time.
“His name was Frank Lucas,” Birrell answered. “Corporal Frank Lucas. Captain Reynolds and Lieutenant Mason killed him. It happened the last time we ran one of those course. Before Christmas. McLennon… he would always choose somebody for the special treatment. Somebody to bully. He reckoned it was useful to let the others see what could happen to them. He chose you, this time. Last time… he pushed Lucas too far. Reynolds and Mason roughed him up. He fought back. They tried to make him do the perimeter walk… like you did. In the water. He refused. They… pushed him down the steps. But he must have hit his head. He went under and didn’t come back up. Not alive, anyway.”
“Fucking hell!” It was Alun who swore. Nobody else spoke, but if they had, his words would have echoed around the room.
“It was an accident,” Birrell protested. “They didn’t mean to kill him.”
“Doesn’t sound like an accident to me,” Jack responded coldly. “Sounds like manslaughter at the very least. But what happened afterwards? What did the bastards do to cover it up?”
“They dumped his body out to sea at high tide. Then… he falsified the records, made it look like Lucas was a no-show for the course – as if he had deserted from the army. He made sure there was no investigation, nothing that came back on him. He threatened the others – the other men on the course. Silenced them.”
“But he couldn’t silence the victim,” Jack told him.
“Jack!” Ianto called out. “He’s coming back. I can hear him again.”
Ianto was right. The sound filled all their ears. Everyone drew away from the walls, into the centre of the room, staring around fearfully, wondering where the Wraith would appear this time. All except Lieutenant Birrell. He stood up and looked around, and then walked straight towards the place where the water was pouring in. He waited for the Wraith spirit of Frank Lucas to became corporeal.
“All right,” he screamed. “All right. I know you’ll never leave me in peace. Take me. Take me. I’m sorry. I never had enough courage to speak up against McLennon, to tell the truth. He said he’d… Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I can’t take any more. Just… take me.”
“No!” Owen, who had worked so hard to keep him alive the last time, tried to stop him from throwing his life away. Jack tried to reach him, too. But they were both too late to stop the Wraith from reaching into his chest and stopping his heart. Owen caught him as he fell, but it was clear he was too late. There was no chance of resuscitation this time. Birrell was dead.
Jack stood in front of the Wraith, blocking it from reaching anyone else. Was it his imagination, or did it seem to be more corporeal now? It was less see through. The face almost looked like solid flesh – though still grey, dead flesh.
It flexed its hand. Jack steeled himself for another death blow.
“Stay back, everyone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone else be hurt. He’s already killed once. The power is less the second time. My life… might be enough.”
“No!” Garrett ignored Jack’s order and stepped close to him, putting his hand on his shoulder as he made eye contact with the Wraith. “No, please don’t. You’ve hurt him twice already, and he’s innocent. Yes, he’s an officer. But he’s not one of the ones who harmed you. Surely you know that. You’ve touched him twice. You can surely see into his soul. You know he’s a good man. Don’t hurt him.”
The Wraith said nothing. It reached out and put its hand over Jack’s chest. The icy cold drove deep into him, but it was different this time. The hand felt more solid. It didn’t penetrate his body. He reached out and touched the arm. It was solid.
“You took their life force… and mine…twice… and used it to become real, to be solid flesh again. Why/”
Until now the Wraith had not spoken. Maybe it couldn’t before. But now it spoke with a voice that sounded like water running across shingle on a beach.
“So I can finish the job… my revenge on them all… On everyone who betrayed me.”
“All who?” Jack demanded. “You killed them. The one’s responsible.”
“Those who stood by and did nothing. Those who kept silent.”
“Oh!” It was Owen who groaned aloud as if it all made sense to him. “Oh, Christ. I know what he means. I… when I was a kid… I was short, skinny, spotty, and a science geek as well. There were three bastards who made my school life a misery. I hated them. But it wasn’t just them. The others… everyone else who knew it was happening and did nothing… That’s what he means. He wants them, too.”
“I understand that,” Jack said. “But I can’t allow it. Lucas, you have to end this now. I can’t let you take revenge on men who were too weak-willed to resist McLennon’s bullying. Besides, those men aren’t here. These aren’t the ones who did it. You know that, too. Time has passed. This is a new group of men. And I won’t let you harm any of them. I’ll stop you, somehow.”
“I’ll kill you,” Lucas said.
“Yes, you probably will. But even if you do - even if you kill me a thousand times - I’ll stand between you and these innocents every time. Just… just let it be. Let it end here and now. Be satisfied with the lives you’ve taken already. The ones who were guilty.”
“I can’t. I have to.”
“No, you don’t. Lucas… Frank Lucas. That’s who you were. And I don’t believe Frank Lucas was a murderer. He…was a good soldier who was pushed too far by bad soldiers and bullies. Frank… let it go, now. You have your revenge. Go back to the sea, Be at peace.”
“I… can’t….” The Wraith spirit of Frank Lucas seemed to falter. “I can’t… be alone… cold… There’s no peace to be had in the cold.”
“Then…” Jack felt two hands on his shoulders. Garrett and Ianto, flanking him, trying to protect him. He knew, instinctively, that Alun and Owen were behind him, too, ready to pull him from the danger. They all cared about him. He cared for them. He didn’t want to put them through the pain of seeing him die again. But it was the only thing he could think of that would finish this once and for all.
“Frank… you don’t have to be alone. I’ll come with you. I’ll be with you when you die this time. They’ll… they’ll find both our bodies and make sure we’re never cold again. Take me… one last victim… back into the sea with you.”
“Jack, no!” Garrett cried, gripping him all the tighter. “No, you can’t.”
“Yes, I can,” he answered. “Stand back, please. All of you. Keep away from us.”
Lucas’s hand was still against his chest. The cold was spreading to his lungs. It was painful to breathe. But he reached and held the wraith arm and stepped back. Lucas stepped with him. He backed away to the door, calling out for somebody to open it. He kept on going, out through the corridor, up the steps that led out onto the lower deck. He wasn’t alone. His friends were following, keeping pace with them, a few feet away. Garrett and Ianto, Alun and Owen, the rest of the men behind them, all desperate to know what was going to happen. They spilled out onto the deck as he reached the railing and launched himself over, pulling Lucas with him.
He chose the leeward side, where the causeway was from the Isle of Wight. It wasn’t as deep there, even at high tide. The promised gale hadn’t yet hit and there was only a slight swell. If they worked quickly they could get their bodies out before the storm began in earnest.
Even so, the sea was a dark, cold place to die. He thought he heard Garrett’s voice calling his name. He might have imagined it. He certainly didn’t imagine how much it hurt to hit the water, feeling the numbing cold as he went under, water pouring into his mouth, drowning him as the shock knocked him senseless.
He woke with a shock, as always. He breathed in raggedly and tried not to bite his own tongue as he shivered with the cold. For a disorientating moment, he thought he was in one of the cryo-stores in the Hub. Then he realised it was only his body that was cold. Around him was warmth. He was lying on a bed in the dormitory. His wet clothes had been removed and three or four warm, dry, if scratchy, army blankets were wrapped around him. He opened his eyes to see the faces he hoped to see. Garrett holding him around the shoulders, Owen taking his pulse. Ianto and Alun anxiously rubbing his legs and arms to restore circulation.
“Here.” Garrett pressed a bottle to his lips. He was still slightly disorientated, but he recognised the taste of good quality brandy. Sergeant Cole must have made it to the Officers’ Mess after all. It burned his mouth and throat, taking away the taste of sea water and he felt it in his gut, warming him from the inside until he started to feel fully and completely alive again.
“Did you… did you get Lucas’s body, too?” he asked.
“Yes, we did,” Garrett told him. “We made a temporary morgue in the communications room. For him and his victims. It’s over now, I suppose?”
“It will be when Lucas’s body gets a proper, decent burial, and his record is amended to show that he died in a training exercise.” Jack paused. “And the records of those responsible are amended to show their culpability. I want it on record that Lucas was innocent and they were guilty.”
“It’ll be done,” Garrett said. “I promise.”
“MI5 are some use, then,” he said. “Everyone else is ok?”
“Yes. But there is a force ten gale out there, now. We got you back just in time. Another ten minutes we’d have had no chance. You and Lucas would have washed up in Portsmouth. And the radio is completely useless. We can’t tell anyone we have five dead men here and even if we could, they can’t get out to us in this weather.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Jack answered. “We’ve got enough rations for the weekend. We just have to sit it out until then. Time to brief the men and get two reports written up.”
“One telling the whole truth, to be buried under a mound of Official Secrets Act red tape forever,” Garrett acknowledged. “One cover story in which the body of Corporal Lucas was washed up after the storm and…. What do you think? McLennon and his people committed suicide when they knew the truth would come out.”
It’s lame. And it’s just replacing one fucking lie with another. But I suppose it’ll do. We’ve got all weekend to forge their suicide notes. Just so long as Lucas is exonerated. The bastards made him out to be a deserter. There’s nothing more dishonourable. No wonder he wanted revenge. Even now… I bet the MOD will do something to keep it quiet. They won’t even want that lie to be made public. The men will be sworn to secrecy.”
“Cover up of a cover up of a cover up,” Garrett sighed. “Sometimes I feel ashamed of the lies I have to endorse for the greater good.”
“One day the lies will engulf us all,” Jack said. “When I was down there… in the sea… I felt them. Lucas isn’t the first. He won’t be the last. The sea is full of anger, lust for revenge. If they all had his strength of purpose there would be one hell of a reckoning.”
“That’s a dark thought, Jack,” Ianto told him. “We’ve done our best. We saved everyone else. You saved them. Be thankful for that. And… Jack… I’ve found you some dry clothes. It’s… an RAF uniform, left behind by somebody on a past course. Thought you might enjoy that. When you’re dressed…. The men are all still in the rec room. We told them you were alive, but it was touch and go. They’re all waiting to hear if you’re ok. They think of you as their Commanding Officer. When they see you walk in there, alive and well, they’ll raise the roof off this place. Won’t that put a smile on your face?”
“I’ll give it a go,” he answered, taking the clothes gratefully.