It was late afternoon of the last day that Gwen had been in charge of a female only Torchwood. So far it had been routine, with absolutely nothing to report to Jack when he rolled in tomorrow. She wasn’t sure whether to be pleased about that or not. It would have been good to have some small crisis that the three of them had handled without the men, to prove to them that the Torchwood women were capable of doing Torchwood business without them.
This call from Sergeant Andy was a bit gruesome by all accounts, but still routine. She wasn’t even sure it was Torchwood business. Andy did have a tendency to call them in whenever he saw something a bit out of the ordinary. He was yearning to be involved in a really exciting Torchwood case – preferably one where he hadn’t been taken over by an alien and was the subject of the case.
Anyway, she parked the SUV in a parking bay that said ‘reserved for doctors’. Torchwood were above many things, including parking restrictions. Toshiko gave Etsuko a bottle of sugar free orange juice and spoke to Beth in the front passenger seat.
“If she doesn’t drop off to sleep with her juice, let her have one of the rusks. She’ll be nice and quiet for you.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Beth answered. “You go and see what this is all about.”
Gwen and Toshiko got out of the car and went in through the discreet back entrance to the hospital that led to the mortuary. It was a quieter part of the hospital than any other and even though they had a mortuary of their own down in the Hub, with far more peculiar autopsies lined up on most days, they both found it a sobering place to visit.
“Andy,” Gwen said as she saw her former colleague waiting by the entrance to the mortuary itself. He smiled wanly as they approached. “What have you got that needs our attention then?”
“Body snatching,” he said. “Inspector Temple isn’t giving it much priority. That’s why it’s just me left here. He thinks it’s a student prank. But I’m not so sure. For one thing, they’d have to be sick bastards to have picked this particular body.”
He showed them the open drawer in the bank of cold storage drawers very much like the ones they had at Torchwood. There was documentation for a cadaver, and a plastic body bag had been left behind, but the body was missing. There was evidence that SOCO had been there, dusting the cabinet for fingerprints, but that was police business.
What made it Torchwood business, Gwen wondered?
“Oh!” Toshiko gave a soft exclamation as she read the documentation. “It was a child.”
“What?” Gwen took the clipboard and read. “Colm Malone, DOB, February 16th, 2000. He was nine…” She glanced up at a clock with a perpetual calendar underneath it on the mortuary wall. “Ten tomorrow. Killed in a road accident this morning. Oh, that is so sad. His parents…. What they must be going through. And now…. His body is missing…. How? Is it a mistake, a clerical error?”
“The hospital is investigating that possibility,” Andy said. “ I hope it is. Because if it’s a prank, with a little boy’s body, I’ll hammer the bastards. But I thought it might… just… possibly… be something else. Something that you lot investigate.”
“Like what?” Gwen wondered aloud. “Some creepy alien that eats cadavers? A mad scientist – Doctor Frankenstein, Cardiff style?” Her brain shut down. She didn’t want anything to do with Torchwood to have happened to the body of a nine year old boy who was knocked off his bicycle and died before the paramedics could get him to hospital.
“I don’t really know, Gwen,” Andy told her. “But… look, I’ve got to go and talk to the mother. She has to know about… this. Maybe you could come… as an observer.”
Gwen sighed. She hated that part of being a police officer – talking to grieving families. And this was even worse than just breaking the news of a death.
“All right,” she agreed. “But I think it might be a dead end.” She groaned. “Please forget that I used the word dead in that context while standing here. Tosh… you and Etsu don’t have to be involved. Beth can run you home and then go and pick up Ray. I’ll go with Andy in the police car.”
Toshiko looked relieved. She was the only one of the whole team who was a parent. She saw this case differently to the rest of them. She was glad to distance herself from it. She left Gwen to go off with Andy to face the grieving parents. Etsuko was drifting off to sleep, sucking messily on a rusk as Beth shifted over to the driver’s seat and they both buckled up. She smiled as slightly built Beth adjusted the seat even further and anticipated Owen’s grumbling when he got back and found the SUV feminised. But it served him right for going off with the other Torchwood men on some macho survival weekend.
“How are things with you and Ray, anyway?” she asked conversationally. “Are you still seeing him, socially?”
“We’ve had a couple of dates,” Beth answered. “I’m sort of… getting used to him… being different. He isn’t a bad sort, really. But… I don’t know if there really is a future for us. I mean… he’s a werewolf. I’m not sure we can really have a serious relationship.”
Toshiko wondered if the relationship as it stood involved sex. But she couldn’t think of a way to ask that didn’t seem to be just voyeuristic. She wished Beth well, anyway. And Ray, for that matter.
“Maybe you ought to talk to Owen about it,” Tosh suggested. “The long term, serious thing. He’s the one who knows most about Ray’s condition. Is… he working now? Must be hard to hold down a job.”
“Jack helped him out,” Beth answered. “He’s working at the After Dark Club, as a bar steward. Jack asked the lady in charge of the club. She owed him a favour. You know it’s a club for vampires. It seems like the undead can be kind to the afflicted. He gets the full moon nights off, no questions asked.”
“Sounds a good arrangement,” Toshiko agreed. “Still, make sure he gets down into the vault before night fall. You know Jack’s rules about him.”
“Ray knows what he has to do. He doesn’t want to end up hurting anyone. He hates it when he turns and he doesn’t know himself. He’ll be waiting for me to pick him up.”
Gwen was surprised at how calmly Mrs Malone took the news that she and Andy had to break to her. She was tearful, to be sure. But she was practical, too, making tea for them as if they were guests who had dropped by socially.
“She must be in delayed shock,” Andy whispered when Mrs Malone was out of earshot. “Later, she’ll be climbing the walls. Somebody should look after her.”
“I know,” Gwen agreed. She looked around the neat, cosy living room and sought for an opening into a conversation with the woman. The best she could do was the picture on the sideboard of a man who had to be Colm’s father. Mrs Malone had already mentioned that he was dead.
“Is this your late husband, Mrs Malone?” she asked conversationally as she took the cup of tea that she really didn’t want.
“Yes, it is,” she answered. “Colm senior.”
“Colm...” Gwen looked at the photograph again.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Mrs Malone said to her. “Black man with an Irish name. And you’re probably wondering about how a white woman has an accent like mine, too. Especially in the middle of Wales. It wasn’t just slaves who were sent to the Caribbean in the bad days. My ancestors were poor Irish who sought a better life and ended up working alongside the slaves with very little better status. Colm’s great grandmother was Irish, too. A mixed marriage in the days when that wasn’t accepted on either side. We’re the product of some very unhappy history. But we never regretted anything, except maybe leaving Barbados and coming here. Colm was killed a month after our little Colm was born. And this country has seemed cold and grey to me ever since. Only my baby, my little boy, made it worth going on.”
“I am sorry, Mrs Malone,” Gwen said. “I truly am. And I am very sorry that this other trouble has to afflict you at this time. It is most likely a clerical error and I am sure it will be cleared up soon. You really shouldn’t worry about it.”
“Thank you,” she answered. “But really, there is no need for your concern. The body is just a shell. My boy’s spirit is in a good place.”
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Gwen told her. If… you need somebody to talk to… I… this is my number… If you really need…”
“It is kind of you, Miss Cooper,” Mrs Malone said. “But don’t worry about me. I will get along.”
There was no reason for them to impose on the poor woman any further. Gwen stood and thanked her for the tea. Andy did the same.
“That was just cruel and pointless,” Gwen said as they got back into the police car. “What did it achieve? We just piled a new lot of grief on that poor woman.”
“She had to be told. It’s a legal requirement,” Andy answered. “You don’t think there’s anything sinister in it?”
“It’s a clerical error,” Gwen told him. “Just that. They’ll find the body in a different cabinet under a different name. Somebody will be reprimanded for carelessness. That poor woman will have her child’s funeral. And that’s that.” Andy looked at her. “What did you think? Some kind of voodoo cult ritual?”
“Why did you say that?” Andy asked. “About voodoo? Is there a history of that in Cardiff? Do Torchwood come across it?”
“No. I mean… I suppose I thought of it because of them being from the Caribbean. It was a stupid connection to make. A bit racist, too. It’s as bad as assuming Welshmen shag sheep or whatever. Come on, Andy. It’s nothing. You were right to call me. I don’t mind. But there’s nothing in this for either of us beyond informing the poor woman of what had happened. Drop me off in the city centre and then you go and get your cuppa back at the station and don’t worry.”
As she got into the car, though, something made her glance back at the house. A movement in the window upstairs. It couldn’t have been Mrs Malone. She had only just closed her door from seeing them out. Besides, the face that she glimpsed briefly wasn’t a woman.
She didn’t say anything to Andy. The theory that raised itself in her head was too outrageous even for Torchwood. She certainly wasn’t going to share it with him.
They were only just turning out of the estate when Gwen’s phone rang. It was Beth, slightly breathless, trying not to panic, when she reported that Ray was missing.
“Andy,” Gwen said calmly. “Can you drop me in Castle Street, please.”
“This isn’t a bloody taxi, Gwen,” he protested.
Gwen had never been inside the After Dark Club before. She was slightly nervous. She knew full well what it was. A club run by a vampiress for vampires and humans. It was something so far out of the realms of her experience even though she had worked at Torchwood for so many years now.
Then again, she reflected, she had never been inside the gay bar a few doors down, either, despite knowing four gay men very well. That, too, was a closed world to her. She was, despite her job, still ordinary, boring, and outside of all this.
The bar looked surprisingly normal. They didn’t sell blood by the glass or any such thing. It wasn’t open to the public, yet, of course. But the manageress was sitting at the bar along with Beth and a young man who was sporting a black eye and several bruises on his face. The latter two were drinking tea. The manageress had a glass of water. She stood as Gwen was shown in and invited her to join them.
“I understand that you are Captain Harkness’s second in command,” the manageress said as she waved to her bar steward to bring more tea. “He told me about his team. You do good work, necessary work.”
“We do what we can,” Gwen said cautiously. “I… understand something happened here… involving Ray Barry.”
Davina Lohmeier nodded to the young man with the black eye. He introduced himself to Gwen as Martin Bliss, employed as a daytime steward at the club. He and Ray had been preparing for tonight's trade, changing barrels at the beer tabs, checking the bottles on the optics, making sure there was a plentiful stock of iced water behind the bar for the vampires. Ray knocked off at three. He was supposed to meet Beth and go to the Hub. Martin had been standing in the back alley with him, having a cigarette break and chatting to him about football, television, and how interesting it was working for a vampire. Then a van drove up at speed and four men with baseball bats set upon the two of them. They had fought back, of course, getting in a couple of punches., but they were outnumbered. Martin had been knocked out cold. When he came to, the van was gone. So was Ray.
Beth bit her lip anxiously and exchanged glances with Gwen.
“Do you have CCTV at the back of the building?” Gwen asked.
“Yes, we do,” Davina answered. “Captain Harkness advised me to get all the entrances covered in case of trouble – after last time. I did point out that most of my clientele don’t show up on cameras, but we got it installed anyway.” She again signalled to her bar steward. He switched on a TV monitor behind the bar. Gwen watched the CCTV footage. It confirmed what Martin had told her. She noted that the four men kept their faces turned away from the camera, as if they knew it was there. The van’s registration plate was obscured, too.
“They knew to except a camera,” Gwen said. “Either they checked the place out in advance, or they were tipped off by somebody working here.” She saw Davina shudder unhappily. Some of her graceful poise failed her. She looked crushed.
“Captain Harkness only lets me keep the club open on condition there is no trouble here.”
Gwen looked at her and felt sympathetic. Vampires were a new experience to her. Unhappy, troubled vampires even more so.
“He's out of town right now. I’m in charge. But we have to consider the possibility that a member of your staff is involved in Ray’s kidnapping. How many of them would know about his ‘special circumstances’?”
“Only a very few,” Davina answered. “Ray isn’t comfortable with his ‘affliction’ he doesn’t talk about it. Only myself and a few of my senior staff should know. But it is possible somebody worked it out. I… would you leave that with me? If it is one of MY kind, then I wouldn’t want the police involved. But the important thing is finding Ray before nightfall.” She looked at a gold wristwatch on her slender arm. “One hour until sunset, two to moonrise. Let me deal with my staff while you find him.” Davina sighed. “Usually, I look forward to darkness falling. But on this occasion I would be glad to hold it back a little longer.”
“I agree,” Gwen said. “Please contact me directly if you find out anything.” She gave Davina a business card with her personal phone number on it, noting how cold the long-fingered hand was as they made contact. Beth followed her out of the club by the back way. They looked around the yard, but there were no clues. A bit of blood from the fight. But nothing else. Then again, what could she expect? Footprints, tyre tracks? These days those were all so similar as to give few clues. They needed better technology than that. She rang Toshiko before she started up the SUV.
“Tosh, I know you’re at home and this is your private time with Etsu and everything, but I'm going to have to ask you to do some work. We have to find Ray before something terrible happens. You have the programme for doing CCTV traces on your home computer?”
Of course she did. Toshiko did more on the PC in her spare room than Google searches and email. It was nearly as powerful as the Hub system and linked to it through a secure router. She listened carefully as Gwen told her what to look for. A dark blue transit van, quite new, no older than 2006, anyway, coming out of the back of Castle Street at eleven minutes past three. It would have hit downtown traffic immediately so its progress should be mappable in the city centre at least.”
Toshiko was confident of getting the information. But it would take time. Until then there wasn’t much they could do. Gwen looked at Beth in the passenger seat.
“You’re worried about him, aren’t you?”
“I’m worried about a lot of things,” Beth answered. “I’m worried about him, in case he gets hurt or killed. I’m worried about him hurting or killing somebody else. I’m worried about why somebody grabbed him. what do they want with him? Do they want to torture him.. kill him… is there something they can use him for when he's ‘turned’. I mean.. don’t know.. he’s very strong when he's in that state. Owen and Jack have experimented. He can bend bars of steel. And of course he can get into really narrow gaps. What if somebody wanted to use him to do a bank robbery or something?”
Gwen considered that possibility briefly.
“I don’t see how it could be that. Ray doesn't even know who or what he is when he’s changed. I’ve seen him in the cells.. He’s terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. The animal just takes him over.”
“I know,” Beth answered. “I often go down there. Jack didn’t like it at first, but Owen said it might help. He lets me sit and talk to him to see if there’s any response, any connection with his humanity.” She shook her head sadly. “There’s nothing. Ever. He really is an animal when he’s turned.”
“Then they couldn’t use him for a bank job. There’s no way to control him or train him to do what they want. But then… what else DO they want a werewolf for?”
Gwen looked out of the car window, at people doing their ordinary shopping on St. Mary’s Street. She was sitting here at a pelican crossing waiting for the lights to change and talking about werewolves and what criminals could use them for. The absurdity of it struck her, as it often did.
Then she paid attention to the pedestrians passing in front of her. One of them was Mrs Malone. With the worry about Ray she had almost forgotten that poor woman’s troubles.
And yet, she didn’t look troubled right now. She was gripping a large carrier bag from Toys R Us and seemed busy rather than troubled. The carrier bag was odd. This was a woman whose son died today. And she was buying toys.
Of course, they could be for somebody else’s child. That was the simple, obvious answer. But something stirred Gwen’s curiosity.
“Beth,” she said. “She doesn't know you. See if you can follow her. See where she goes… what shops… if you can find out what she buys… I’ll pick you up round the corner. We can’t so anything else about Ray until Tosh calls, anyway. And… I just want to follow up a hunch.”
Despite being worried about Ray, the thought of doing something that qualified as field work pleased Beth. She got out of the car and hurried over the road, keeping a close eye on the quarry without obviously following her.
Gwen drove around the corner and parked on a single yellow line, certain that even if she did overstay the permitted waiting time no traffic warden in Cardiff would dare to ticket the SUV.
Beth returned ten minutes later. She got into the passenger seat and Gwen started the engine.
“She went to Greggs, the bakers. She had a birthday cake on order – you know, specially made. It was in the shape of a 10, with ‘happy birthday, Colm’ on it.”
“But… that’s her dead son.” Gwen said. “The one who’s body is missing. Is she losing her mind or…” Gwen sighed. “Oh, dear. I hope… I really do hope it isn’t what I think it is…”
“What do you think it is?” Beth asked. But before Gwen could answer Toshiko called her.
“Yeah, go ahead, Tosh,” she said.
“I tracked the van as far as the Llandough roundabout where Penarth Road and Barry Road intersect. The cameras are out of order there and there are at least three routes they could have taken. But if you head that way, you ought to pick up Ray’s transponder signal. It has a range of about two square miles.”
“His what?” Beth asked. Gwen was on the point of asking the same question. Toshiko sighed.
“Owen showed it to me,” she admitted. “Jack’s idea, in case Ray tried to skip town. You know he still doesn’t completely trust him. Anyway, they put a miniature transponder into Ray’s body, under the skin at the base of his neck. It’s like a homing beacon. You just have to get within two miles of him. You can pick it up on the SUV monitor.”
“That’s horrible,” Beth protested. “I didn’t know about it. If I did… He knew I wouldn’t like it, didn’t he? He didn’t tell you because you would think the same. Ray is a decent guy, most of the time. But Jack… has him chipped like a dog.”
Gwen thought that was too close an analogy. She didn’t like the idea, either. But she saw the point of it.
“I’m sure it wasn't like that,” she said in a reconciliatory tone. “He just wanted to make sure Ray was safe. And… anyway… if it can help us to find him before it’s too late, it won’t be so bad, will it?”
Beth looked out at the grey, dusky sky. Time was very short. Gwen had a point. But it still burnt her. She liked Jack very much. He was a kind and thoughtful employer, and a nice man into the bargain. She considered him a friend. But his attitude towards Ray confused her. Yes, he had got him the job at the After Dark Club. But even that seemed in some ways, to be a means of controlling him. And he made no secret of the fact that he didn’t think Ray was good enough for her.
“Jack just worries about you,” Gwen said as if she had read her mind. “Ray IS dangerous and unmanageable when he’s changed. It’s not his fault, I know. But even so, you could get hurt. He doesn’t want that to happen.”
“I see Ray outside of my work at Torchwood. It’s none of Jack’s business.”
That was also perfectly true. Gwen always found Jack’s almost parental concern for her wellbeing in and out of work comforting, but she could see how it would rankle in Beth’s case. Jack did seem to be sticking the spoke into her relationship with Ray. It worried her. She didn’t want Jack or Beth to be hurt over the situation. She didn’t really want Ray hurt, either.
That train of thought was brought to a halt when her mobile rang. She asked Beth to take the call while she carried on driving in the rush hour traffic on the Penarth Road.
“It’s Davina,” Beth told her. “She found the steward who gave away Ray’s secret. He was one of the Human bar staff. She scared him into confessing. I think we probably shouldn’t ask how. He did a deal with some men he met in a bar. They wanted a vampire, but when they found out about Ray they were more interested in him. He claims he doesn’t know what they wanted Ray for or where they were taking him. He thought it was for some sort of freak show.”
“Damn,” Gwen swore. “It was a long shot, but if her man had an address or something more we could go on it would have helped. We really are running out of time.”
They were crawling along the A4160, caught up in the traffic. It was almost fully dark now. The moon would rise soon. And then it would be too late.
“I wish Jack was here,” Beth sighed, despite what she had been saying about him before. “He would know what to do.”
“Not necessarily,” Gwen answered her. “He’s been stumped plenty of times. Come on. We can handle this. We’re not feeble girlies. We’re Torchwood women.”
“You are. I just do memos.”
“Jack taught you to handle yourself in case of problems,” Gwen told her. “Didn’t he do weapons training with you?”
Beth blushed a little. Gwen knew why. Even though Jack was ‘going steady’ with Garrett, being down in the firing range with him on a one to one training session was like Dirty Dancing with guns. It set the pulse racing.
“He only taught me to use the stun gun,” Beth admitted. “I really didn’t want to use real ones. I’m not a Torchwood agent. I’m really not. I’m a secretary. I run the office. I do petty cash. I’m not one of you.”
“For Ray’s sake, right now, you’ve got to be one of us. If you really care about him, you’ve got to help me. And it might mean proving how good you are with the stun gun against men who don’t play nice.”
“Gwen,” She heard Toshiko’s voice over her communicator. “Gwen, watch the signal. We’re in range.”
“What do you mean, ‘we’?” Gwen replied.
“I got the woman next door to mind Estsu. I’m right behind you in Owen’s car.”
“Owen won’t like that,” Gwen laughed. “You know how he feels about his car.”
“He shouldn’t have left the keys on my dressing table, then,” Toshiko answered. She didn’t give Gwen chance to question her any further about that. She knew she had just revealed a big secret about her relationship with Owen. But there were more important things just now. “The transponder. I’m picking it up on the hand held. You should have it in the SUV.”
“She’s right,” Beth said excitedly. “Look…”
Gwen glanced at the pull down computer display on the passenger side of the SUV.
“Transfer the data to the satnav. We can work out where it’s coming from exactly.”
“I don’t know how,” Beth said. “I do memos!”
“Tosh, pull over,” Gwen said. “Come and join us in the SUV. We need your technical knowhow. She turned the SUV into the lay-by that came up fortuitously. Toshiko parked Owen’s sports car behind them. Beth got into the back of the SUV while Toshiko climbed into the passenger seat. As Gwen got them moving again she set to work integrating the transponder data with the satnav.
“Got it,” she said triumphantly. “We’re less than two miles away. Closing in. He’s stationary. In a building.” Toshiko’s fingers flew over the keys on the drop down console. A few moment’s later she had a picture on the computer screen of the building at the transponder location.
“It’s the old Barry Street Baths,” Beth said. “I know it. Celyn and I both learnt to swim there when we were kids. They shut it down and built a modern leisure centre. But why would Ray be there?”
“We’ll find out when we get there,” Gwen answered. “Beth… like I said before. You’re a Torchwood woman now. We’re going in, all three of us.”
Beth looked worried. But excited, too, in a way. Despite her protestations, this was something she had hoped for ever since she came to work at Torchwood. Being a part of the exciting stuff.
Then she remembered that Ray was possibly being hurt by people in that building. And it seemed much less exciting and horribly, heart-stoppingly real.
Gwen parked the SUV around the corner from Barry Street. She issued Beth with a stun gun. She and Toshiko took stun guns, too, as well as live ammunition side arms. Toshiko also loaded a sophisticated tranquilizer gun. Beth looked at it and shuddered.
“Lead bullets don’t work on Ray once he’s turned,” Toshiko reminded her. “Even if we wanted to do that to him.”
“There’s definitely something going on in that building,” Gwen said as they walked along the street on the opposite pavement, looking like three women heading out for the night. They noted men going up to the front door of the old baths and a pool of light inside as they were admitted. “Private function? I don’t think they’re going to let us in. Looks like a male only affair.”
“There’s a fire exit at the back, down the alley,” Beth told her. “Sometimes on Saturdays, kids used to let their mates in through it to skip paying.”
“Lovely,” Toshiko commented. “A dark alley after sundown. Like we want to get raped and left for dead.”
“Moonrise in ten minutes,” Gwen noted. “Rapists won’t be the problem after that.”
They found the fire door. It was locked from the inside. But they were Torchwood women. The patent alien lock busting device made short work of it. Gwen pulled the door open and Toshiko whipped out her stun gun and zapped the man who stood behind it, obviously preventing anyone doing the same back door trick as Beth’s childhood swimming buddies.
“He should stay down for a good half an hour,” Gwen said. “If we’re lucky we should be able to find Ray, sedate him and get right out of here. We’ll deal with whatever’s going on in here tomorrow.”
“He’s this way,” Toshiko confirmed, looking at her hand held transponder receiver. “Downstairs.”
They made their way along a dimly lit corridor with faded posters about water safety and direction to the changing rooms still on the grimy walls. The stairs at the end of the corridor led to the old boiler rooms directly under the pool room.
There were no boilers in there now. The room had been cleared and a number of steel barred cages installed. Beth shuddered as she saw Weevils in them, chained to the wall, angry and snarling. Gwen and Toshiko looked at them with sympathy. Yes, they had Weevils in the vault at Torchwood. But not chained, not like this.
Beth gasped out loud and ran to the end of the long room where there was one special cage. The bars were reinforced and within was not a Weevil, but a man. A long, thin man with a haunted look in his eyes. He crouched on the floor, his neck in a metal chain and his hands and feet manacled. He looked up as Beth grasped the bars and called his name.
“It’s too late,” he said in a plaintive tone. “Get away, Beth. I don’t want you to see. And I don’t want you near me afterwards. Please…”
He was right. It was too late. He groaned in agony and the Human groan turned to an animal growl halfway through. Gwen checked her watch and saw that it was moonrise. Even in a basement where he couldn’t see the moon, he still turned. They all watched in fascinated horror as his bones stretched and changed shape, his Human flesh turned to animal white with coarse fur on it. His skull extended into a wolf’s head. His clothes tore apart as the far broader wolf man burst the seams, and when he looked at them again, it was with a carnivorous animal’s lust for meat. He opened his mouth and growled long and low and menacingly.
“We can still sedate him,” Toshiko said. She took aim carefully. She knew it would take three of the phials in the gun to knock him completely unconscious,. The first one only made him growl even louder.
“There’s somebody coming,” Beth whispered and Gwen pulled her away. They hid in the dark corner of the room and watched as six men came in. Two of them opened a Weevil cage and used cattle prods to subdue the creature while they attached long poles to its neck chain and dragged it out of the cage. The rest came towards the Wolman’s cage. Gwen covered Beth’s mouth to stop her crying out. There was nothing they could do right now. She saw the loaded guns the men were carrying, and all of them were big, muscle-bound types. None of the women fancied their chances in a fistfight with them.
They also used cattle prods to force the Wolfman into submission while they attached poles to the leading chains and forced him out of the cage. He growled and struck out, but the poles meant they were safely out of reach of his claws and teeth as they dragged him out of the room.
“What are they going to do to him?” Beth asked.
“I have a very bad feeling,” Gwen answered. “Come on…”
They slipped out of the cage room and went up two flights of stairs to what used to be the balcony that looked down on the swimming pool.
Around the pool were fifty or so men, all in a state of high excitement. In the dry pool, two Weevils were fighting each other. It was clear that the men were betting on which Weevil was going to win. There was a roar of excitement as the fight ended with the savage death of one Weevil. The other was badly wounded and cowered in a corner of the pit while the body was removed.
“It’s… bear baiting… Cardiff style,” Gwen said in a low voice.
“Why do they want Ray?” Beth asked. Then she realised. “Oh… oh, no.”
Gwen held her arm as they watched a man who seemed to be MC of the night announce a special treat for them all and invited them to put bets on the Wolfman against two ‘devil creatures’. Ray was pushed into the dry pool along with the wounded Weevil and the new, fresh one.
“No!” Beth whispered loudly. “Oh, no.”
The Wolfman was aggressive by nature. It attacked the Weevils straight away. But they were also driven by aggression, and they fought back.
“I don’t want them to hurt him,” Toshiko said. “But I don’t want him to kill them, either. It will set all of Owen and Jack’s work back. If he tastes blood again…”
Beth groaned. She didn’t even want to think about it.
“Even if he does kill them, they’ll bring more in for him to fight. And he’s being hurt by them, already.”
He had taken several deep bites even though he fought ferociously. The crowds cheered as he managed to kill the already wounded creature. But the fight continued. Even as he subdued the second one, another Weevil was brought from the reserve and pushed into the pit.
“I can’t look at this any longer,” Beth said. “Let’s get out of here. We can…”
She froze in shock. They were not alone on the balcony. She saw Toshiko and Gwen both reach for their weapons. She tried to pull her stun gun from her coat pocket but it got stuck. In the precious seconds she lost one of the men struck her across the jaw and she fell, stunned. As she lost consciousness, she heard Gwen and Toshiko cry out briefly as they, too, were overcome.
“Beth!” she heard Gwen’s voice and woke slowly, her jaw stiff and sore. Toshiko was conscious, too. They were all lying on a cold, hard, concrete floor.
They were in one of the cages. The one next to them was empty, but further away there were still Weevils growling menacingly.
“We blew that,” Gwen said mournfully. “Torchwood women! We were hopeless. The men will think we’re complete idiots.”
“What they think of us is not our problem right now,” Toshiko pointed out. “We’re locked in a cage and they took away everything we could use, including our phones, the lock pick, the stun guns, real guns. I don’t even have a lipstick.”
“That’s…. probably not the worst of it,” Beth told her. “This isn’t just any cage. It’s the one Ray was in.” She held up a scrap of shirt fabric that she found on the floor. At the same moment, the door of the boiler room opened with a crash. The Wolfman was dragged and prodded all the way back to the cage. The three women pressed themselves into the far corner, hugging each other tightly as the creature was pushed inside. The door clanged shut again and there was a cold derisory laugh.
“He was promised meat. Saves us throwing in one of those creatures. After all, we have to pay for capturing them. You came free.”
None of them dared reply. Their only hope of survival was to keep still and quiet and hope that the Wolfman didn’t see them.
That was a slim hope. Almost as soon as the door was closed he began sniffing the air. He knew they were there, huddled in the shadows.
“Ray, no!” Beth called out. “Ray… you’re in there… somewhere you are. I know you are. Ray… you can’t harm me. You know me. You know I’m your friend.”
“Beth… don’t,” Gwen warned her. “It’s no use. When he’s like that, he isn’t Ray. He’s a creature, an animal. He’ll rip you to pieces.”
“No, no, he won’t,” Beth insisted. She stood up and stepped between the Wolfman and the other two women. “Owen said that he still has Human DNA. Ray must be in there somewhere. I have to reach him. I have to find him. Ray… Ray, please… please remember me. You know I won’t hurt you. and.. you wouldn’t hurt me if you knew me.”
The Wolfman was within a claw’s reach of her. She closed her eyes and hoped it wouldn’t hurt for long when he tore into her. Then she heard Gwen and Toshiko gasp. And she opened her eyes to see the Wolfman throwing himself against the cage door. It collapsed under his weight. He strode across it and ran towards the boiler room door. That, too, fell beneath his angry determination to be free.
“We’ve got to get after him. We can’t let him kill anyone.”
“No, we can’t,” Beth agreed. She was faster than the other two as they raced after him, following his blood stained footsteps – Weevil blood, mostly, but some of his own, too, back upstairs.
The Weevil baiting was over now. The customers were gone. But there was a light in the room that used to be the café, on the upper level by the balcony.
Beth reached the upper floor to see the café door ripped off. She stepped inside cautiously and saw the Wolfman crouched on a table in the middle of the room, growling menacingly. Behind the old metal serving counter, six men were crouching, whimpering in fear.
“Ray,” she said. “Stay there. Keep them covered.” As she stepped forward she noticed the table where the men must have been sitting before Ray disturbed them. There was a stack of cash, of course. But also the things taken from their pockets. Their phones and other personal possessions, the pistols and the stun guns, and the tranquilizer gun.
She picked up two of the stun guns and approached the serving counter. The Wolfman stayed where he was, though he continued to growl low and deep and the men continued to cower fearfully. When Beth stood above them it didn’t make them feel any better. None of them dared fight back as she stunned them one by one.
When she turned around, Toshiko had the tranquiliser gun in her hand and was aiming it at the Wolfman.
“Let me,” she said. Toshiko hesitated for a moment before passsing the tranquiliser to her. Beth stepped closer to the table.
“Ray, you know this is for the best. We can take you back to the Hub, where you’re safe.”
The Wolfman bowed its head. It still growled, but not quite so loudly. She held the tranquiliser gun close and fired twice. Toshiko passed her a third phial and she inserted it and fired once more. The Wolfman looked at her with large, bloodshot eyes as it slipped into unconsciousness.
“We’ll get him straight back and into his cell,” Gwen said. “Then we’ll pick up some more tranquilisers and come and get the rest of the Weevils. Rhys can lend us a van.”
“What about the men?” Beth asked. “They deserve to be punished.”
“More tranquilisers and another van,” Toshiko said.
Rhys was more than happy to help Torchwood. Even though it was late at night he came up with the two vans. Toshiko drove one of them with the surviving Weevils safely tranquilised in the back. Gwen took the six comatose men up the A470 to a place called Dol-y-gaer, a picnic spot in the Brecon national park, by a lovely lake. But a cold place for the men who were left there wearing nothing but their underpants on a dark night in February. By the time they got back to their base in Penarth – assuming they weren’t arrested for indecent exposure first – it would be cleaned out and locked and boarded. Their nasty little business was shut down.
“Ray is ok,” Beth reported when she got back to the Hub a little after dawn. “He's got some bad wounds, but I’ve treated them. He's feeling bad about fighting the Weevils. He feels he’s let everyone down.”
“Jack will be back later,” Gwen said. “He’ll talk to him. Owen will be interested in what happened. He really did seem to respond to you. That’s good news. It means there might be a way to control his condition after all.”
“I hope so. What about the ones who kidnapped him? What if they try this again?”
“We know who they are. We’ll be watching them. Jack won’t let them so much as visit a zoo, let alone use a helpless creature for their own ends. Anyway, if Toshiko can hold the fort here for a bit longer, there is something I need to do there’s a loose end from yesterday I want to sort out. Come on with me. A bit more field experience.”
Mrs Malone wasn’t expecting her to return. She was startled when Gwen didn’t waste her breath with any kind of explanation, but pushed past her into the house. Beth followed before she could close the door.
“This isn’t a good time,” she protested as Gwen carried on through the house into the kitchen. Mrs Malone was already busy preparing food for a party – a party for a ten year old. There were sausage rolls on trays, vol au vents being basted with egg to make them rise properly, a trifle in a glass dish, individual jellies in paper bowls. And on the sideboard, the ‘10’ shaped cake with ‘Happy Birthday, Colm’ on it.
“He’s upstairs, isn’t he?” she said. “Go and fetch him.”
Mrs Malone sighed and turned away. Gwen and Beth listened to her feet on the stairs. Then there was the sound of several feet coming down again. They went to the hall and looked at the middle aged man who looked exactly like the picture of Colm Malone senior in the drawing room, except that his features were grey. Really grey, like somebody who had no business walking around upright.
The boy looked a lot better. His skin was still the natural chocolate brown of his Caribbean ancestry. If you didn’t know that he was a re-animated corpse it wouldn’t have been obvious.
“I actually said it to Andy yesterday. Voodoo. Then I dismissed it because I thought I was being racist and jumping to obvious stereotype conclusions. But I should have followed it up. I was right. Did you break into the hospital and steal the body, Mr Malone?”
“He can’t speak,” Mrs Malone said. “He was nearly a week dead when I performed the ritual and brought him back. He understands basic language. He… looks after us. Protects us. He helps me around the house. He’s company… when I’m lonely. But… our son… he’s fine. His brain was only still for a little while. There’s only a little loss of memory. He's having trouble talking, too. That’s why I’m carrying on with the birthday party. To try to encourage him. People know about the accident. They’ll think he’s just in shock. Afterwards, we’re going to put the house up for sale, move somewhere that we’re not known… carry on living… as a family…”
“You brought them both back to life?” Beth looked at the father and son in astonishment.
“Colm wasn’t meant to die. He’s a boy. He's ten today. I couldn’t… couldn’t let him. I wanted him back.”
“How did you know what to do?” Gwen asked.
“You thought voodoo and the Carribean was just a cliché. It’s not. I’m a witch. A voodoo witch. I learnt the skills long ago. I’ve never used them except… except for my husband and my son, to keep my family together. That’s all I want. And… and I won’t let you take either of them away from me.”
“What do you expect me to do?” Gwen asked. “Kill them again? Just… just give me your word there won’t be any more bodies disappearing. This is the last time you perform any voodoo in Cardiff.”
“I just want my son,” Mrs Malone said again.
Gwen nodded. She turned away and walked out of the house. Beth followed. They got into the SUV. Gwen paused for a moment with her hands on the steering wheel.
“A few years ago,” she said. “I thought Cardiff was an ordinary, dull place where nothing much happened. Then I found Torchwood. I discovered Weevils. I know there’s a nightclub for vampires in the city centre. I’ve met a Wolfman and a Voodoo child. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
“I always thought my brother was daft when he said things like aliens existed,” Beth replied. “Then I found out he was right all along. But I'm glad that Torchwood is there. I feel safe because of it. only… I don’t think I really do want to be a field agent. I think I should go back to doing memos and petty cash.”
“That’s your choice,” Gwen told her. “You did well, though. I think we all did. When the men get back, we can show them that we coped perfectly well without them.”
“There’s just one thing,” Beth said as she looked at a message on her mobile phone. “Owen’s car is still parked in the lay-by where Toshiko left it. She says can we go and get it before he gets back?”
Gwen laughed and turned the SUV around. The last loose end of the night.