Toshiko stepped out of the grey Volvo Amazon and took several deep breaths of what passed for fresh air in the middle of an industrial city. Munroe, meanwhile, got Etsuko’s pushchair out of the boot and settled her into it. Her little girl seemed happy to be attended to by him.
“Are you all right, dearie?” he asked in his soft lowland burr.
“Yes,” she replied. “At least I will be in a minute or two. It’s all the stopping and starting when we’re driving in traffic. I’m sorry to be such a nuisance. Especially when you took the time to do this. Shopping trips aren’t exactly official Torchwood business.”
“I don’t mind at all,” Munroe said. “And don’t you fret about feeling a bit queasy in the car, neither. I know how it is. When Mrs MacDonald was expecting our boy she had a terrible time. She could hardly sit in the car on the driveway without feeling sick.”
Toshiko smiled and gave a friendly thought to Munroe’s late wife. He talked about her all the time, in loving tones. But always as ‘Mrs Macdonald’. Toshiko wondered if she actually had a first name, and did he ever use it when she was alive.
But she was beginning to realise that was one of his quirks, along with a car so old it was almost certainly the same one his wife suffered travel sickness in during her pregnancy.
She took charge of Etsuko’s pushchair and turned towards the impressive front entrance of the Braehead shopping centre. There wgas a zebra crossing from the car park to the pedestrianised walkway in front of the building. She looked both ways and noted that the only traffic was a park and ride bus still far enough away to stop safely. She started to cross.
What happened next was something of a blur. She remembered the sound of a diesel engine and turned to see the pale cream and green bus hurtling towards her. It was going far faster than it should, as if its brakes had suddenly failed. She heard Munroe calling her name and he must have started running. She herself felt paralyzed, uncertain whether to go forwards or backwards. Either way it seemed likely the bus would hit her and Etsuko.
Then she felt somebody barge into her. She was pushed forward, along with the pushchair, and the bus missed her by inches. But as she turned she saw the man who had saved her hit the front of the bus with a sickening bone crunching thud before sliding down. The bus carried on for another ten yards before coming to a very final stop against a metal crash barrier. She heard glass breaking and metal twisting. Then people began to run from all directions, some to help the passengers and driver inside the crashed bus, some to look at the body of the man who had been run right over by it. Toshiko bent to lift Etusko in her arms and comfort her as Munroe reached her side.
“I’m… I’m not hurt,” she assured him. “It didn’t hit me. I’m just… just…” She turned and looked at the man who had saved her life. He was not the first dead body she had ever seen. Not by a long shot. But even so the sight of him made her sway sickly. He must have been dragged right under the wheels of the bus. One arm was completely severed and his back was a raw bloody mess. She wasn't sure but it looked as if the top of his skull was missing completely. His blood was pooling in a sticky, awful mess.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing to be done for him,” Munroe said. “Best not look, Miss Sato. Come on and sit down.”
Toshiko tried to insist that she wasn’t hurt. There were plenty of people who were. The bus driver had severe head injuries and one of the passengers suffered a broken leg. The others were all bruised and shocked. She was lucky in comparison.
Even so, the paramedics insisted on her going in the ambulance to be checked out.
When Owen rushed in she was sitting in a curtained off cubicle with a cup of tea while Etsuko drank orange juice noisily. He hugged her tightly asking over and over if she was all right.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “I really am. I wasn’t hurt at all. They only brought me here because Munroe told the paramedics that I’m pregnant. It was a shock, of course. Especially seeing that man… God, Owen, he was a mess. And thinking it might have been me, messed up like that… or Etsu. He died saving us. And I don’t even know who he was or anything. Can we try to find out. We… I don’t know… we should send flowers to his funeral or…”
She started to cry. The thought of flowers for the dead man triggered the tears that she hadn’t expended on herself. Owen held her until the moment was over.
“I’ll find out about the man,” he promised. “I’m sorry he died. But… I’m glad you two are all right. He did me one big favour. If anything had happened to you…” He reached out and ruffled the little girl’s hair. She smiled her toddler smile at him. “Tell you what, you go and wait in the reception with Munroe. Get some sweets for Etsu. I’ll see if I can pull a few strings around here and find out about him.”
He had only been working in Glasgow for a little over six weeks, but Owen had visited the morgue at Southern General hospital several times already. He was known to the staff there.
“I know the one you mean,” said Tom Merrick, the senior pathologist. “The body was in a very bad state. The only question an autopsy might reveal is which of the multiple injuries killed him.”
“I hope to God it was the first,” Owen said. “He didn’t deserve to suffer. That man was a fucking hero. He saved my wife and kid. I don’t need to see the body. What I really wanted was an ID if you have one. If he has any relatives, I’d really like them to know he died doing good. It… might be a crumb of comfort to them.”
Owen looked around the morgue. Sooner or later, everyone ended up here whether they were heroes or not. It was a sad fact of life. He had done his fair share of autopsies on people who didn’t deserve their fate, and maybe a few who did. It didn’t make much difference in the end. They were all just meat on the slab when it was over.
But there were always people left behind. And they mattered. Toshiko was right. Somebody ought to know that his death wasn’t completely senseless.
“These are his personal possessions,” Merrick said, pointing to a plastic container with a label on it. “I don’t think the police have contacted the next of kin, yet, though. You’d best wait before you send any wreaths.”
“Good looking bloke,” Owen said as he looked at the dead man’s driving licence. “Bloody shame.”
That was a stupid thing to say, of course. If he had been plug ugly he would still have been as much of a hero and his death still as tragic.
He reached in his pocket for a gadget that looked something like a computer data stick except that the blunt end was a laser scanner that captured all the details on the driving licence in a quick swipe across it. That was all he needed to record all the personal details of the late Dougal Drummond, aged 33, of Broomhill Avenue, Partick.
He thanked Tom Merrick for his help and made his way back to the reception where Toshiko was waiting with Munroe keeping her company.
“We still need to do some shopping,” she pointed out to him.
“I’ll use Tesco online and get them to deliver,” Owen told her. “You’re going home for a rest.”
“Don’t be silly,” Toshiko replied. “I’m fine. I can do some work at the Hub. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Owen gave in. He drove back to the Hub with Munroe following behind in his old car. Toshiko settled down at her workstation with Etsuko on her playmat at her side. There was that much to be said for the Glasgow office. It was a much safer place for a child, without pools of standing water and concrete steps, not to mention low-flying pterodactyl. From the medical room he kept a close eye on them both on the CCTV and was satisfied that Toshiko was sufficiently recovered from the shock. He continued with his experiments with the stomach bile of an alien that had crash landed on the outskirts of the city last week. Finding a container that wouldn’t disintegrate while he analysed the chemical make up was proving the first challenge, but he was determined to crack it.
“Sir!” Lieutenant Stewart disturbed his work with her crisp tones. He looked up expecting to see her standing to attention and saluting. She looked like she was resisting the urge to do both. “There’s been a disturbance at the hospital that falls within our remit.”
“Which hospital?” Owen asked. “There are about a dozen of them in Glasgow. If it’s the maternity one…”
“Southern General,” she answered. “There’s a body missing. Sir… it’s….” Lieutenant Stewart actually looked a little discomforted. “Sir, it’s the man who died in the bus crash. The one who…”
“Don’t tell Toshiko,” Owen immediately answered. “She doesn’t need to know this. She was upset enough about his death. But… what are we talking about here? Bodysnatchers or…”
“No, sir,” Lieutenant Stewart said. “They’re saying that he… walked away… on his own.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Owen swore. “A zombie! That’s all I need. Ok, come on. Let’s find out what this is all about.”
Yes, he had visited the morgue quite a few times already since he became the director of Torchwood Two. But twice in one day was a record. Tom Merrick was waiting for him. He looked worried.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I was on my dinner break… I came back and he walked right into me, dressed in a paper gown. I challenged him and he knocked me over and ran.”
“The bloke who came in disassembled, after being under a bus?” Owen wasn’t being sceptical. He was being thorough.
But there was no doubt about it. Merrick showed him the CCTV from the corridor that showed his encounter with the man in the gown. The face wasn’t easy to see, but this man definitely had both arms and his skull intact.
“We can enhance the face with Torchwood equipment,” Lieutenant Stewart pointed out. “Get a positive ID.”
“Later,” Owen said as he examined the empty body bag in the refrigerated cadaver drawer and took tissue samples. There was blood, hair, even a fragment of the shattered skull in the bag, but very definitely no substantial remains of a road accident victim. “You’ve got a body missing and an improperly dressed man knocked you down in the corridor outside the morgue. I’ll believe it’s your walking corpse. But the question is – how. Who is he, what is he?”
Tom Merrick had no answers to that question. He dealt with the dead – those who stayed dead. Owen thanked him for his time and left.
“Well, he must be alien,” Lieutenant Stewart said as they returned to the Ford Escape. “Nothing Human could come back to life in a body bag.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Owen countered. He thought of Jack Harness. He was Human. He had run enough medical tests on him to know that. Some of them Jack didn’t even know about. He had taken his blood when he was alive, as well as when he was temporarily dead, and had run all manner of tests. They all concluded that Jack was as Human as anyone else. There was a strange compound binding to his DNA strands which was, Owen assumed, the thing that allowed him to come back from the dead. But he was definitely Human.
So did Dougal Drummond have the same compound bound to his DNA? Was it as simple as that? Was he another immortal.
Jack had never fully explained why he was more indestructible than Captain Scarlet. He had hinted that it was something to do with ‘The Doctor’.
So had Dougal Drummond come into contact with The Doctor, too?
“We need to find this man,” Owen decided. “There must be more CCTV footage of the hospital than the corridor outside the morgue. He must have gone somewhere.”
He reached for his in ear communicator. Toshiko answered him. She was at her desk, working. She didn’t know what he was doing at the hospital and he didn’t tell her. But he did ask her to find the frequencies for the CCTV system around the hospital car park. Lieutenant Stewart patched it into the computer system on the passenger side of the car. She and Owen studied the footage for the last few hours.
“That’s him,” Lieutenant Stewart exclaimed. Owen stopped the video and studied the figure that stepped out of the hospital. He was wearing an odd assortment of clothes – a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and a pinstripe suit jacket with bedroom slippers on his feet. Clearly he had stolen the clothes from the lockers of patients or possibly the laundry. He moved quickly but without running. Owen thought he looked furtive and suspicious. But Southern General was a big hospital. Nobody had time to take notice of somebody who wasn’t actually doing anything obviously illegal.
“We don’t have access to the CCTV network outside of the hospital grounds,” Lieutenant Stewart said. “We’ve lost him.”
“I’ve got his address,” Owen said. “Let’s go and see if he’s home.”
Broomhill Avenue, Partick, was tenement land. Owen and the Lieutenant stepped inside the outer door and trudged up the dark and musty smelling stairs to the fourth floor flat that was registered in the names of Drummond and McCoy. Owen rang the bell, not sure what to expect.
The door was opened by a man aged about thirty-five. He was dark haired, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. His eyes were red-rimmed as if he had been crying.
“Are you from the police?” he asked.
“We’re from… Torchwood,” Owen answered. “And I’m sorry if this is difficult, but we really must talk to you. It’s about…”
“It’s about Dougal, I know,” the young man said. “You’d better come in. But I can’t tell you anything more than I told the police. This is all...”
He let them into the flat. Owen noted that it was neat and tidy as if somebody took pride in it. He also noticed that there were photographs all over the living room. A lot of them were of the late Dougal Drummond. In some of them he was with the red-eyed young man who introduced himself as Sandy McCoy.
“He was your… partner?” Owen asked, choosing the description of their relationship with care.
“He was a soldier?” Lieutenant Stewart was looking at photographs, too. She focussed on one in particular. The same man, Dougal Drummond, was in the uniform of a British Army Lieutenant. In the frame with the photograph was a medal. “He won a VC?”
“Posthumously,” Sandy McCoy replied. “He was killed in action… in Iraq. He saved the lives of his captain and two other men but died in the attempt.”
He spoke with pride, and his eyes shone as he did so. Lieutenant Stewart looked puzzled.
“You think one of our sort doesn’t have the stomach for battle? Can’t be brave?” Sandy grabbed the photo frame and held it against his chest as if it was precious to him.
Lieutenant Stewart shifted uneasily on her feet and said nothing more.
“When did he die?” Owen asked quickly.
“A year ago,” Sandy answered. “In July. His mother told me. The army… never recognised me as his next of kin. They informed her… She was given his medal. She gave it to me. She said I had more right… She died a few months ago. A good woman. Losing Dougal took the heart out of her. Me, too. But I’m… I’m trying to get on… to remember him with pride. And to treasure his memory.”
“Well, he certainly wasn’t the man who was killed this morning, saving a pregnant woman and her toddler from a fatal accident?” Lieutenant Stewart asked. Owen rolled his eyes. There had to be a more tactful way of asking that question.
“He couldn’t be,” Sandy answered. “That’s what’s so… the police came to tell me he had been killed. They said I needed to identify the body and were telling me it would be shocking because he was very badly damaged by the bus. But I told them there was no point. It wasn’t Dougal. It couldn’t be. It… was the sort of thing he would do. He was always brave. That’s why he won the VC. He put the lives of others before his own. But… but not this time. I’m sorry.”
“Nothing for you to be sorry about,” Owen assured him. “I’m sorry we had to intrude on you in this way. obviously there HAS been a mistake. I’m very sorry it caused you so much distress. We’ll leave you in peace.”
“Well!” Owen said as he returned to the driver’s seat of the Escape. “What do you make of that?”
“A queer with the VC?” Lieutenant Stewart scoffed. “I don’t believe that for a minute.”
“I do,” Owen replied. “And don’t fucking well talk that way in front of me again. The bravest man I’ve ever had the privilege to know is Jack Harkness. And the runners up in that category… Ianto Jones, Alun Llewellyn, Garrett Dunne. You’re not fit to shine their shoes, Lieutenant, any one of them.”
She scowled but said nothing more. Owen drove back to the Hub.
“Make yourself useful and get Dougal Drummond’s army records,” he said as he parked the car in the underground secure parking. “All of them, including his medical records.”
The Lieutenant scowled again, but he was her boss and he’d given her an order. Owen brought the tissue samples to the medical room and asked Darius to start analysing them while he went to check on Tosh and Etsu.
Etsuko was asleep on the playmat with cushions around her for safety. Toshiko was working on her alien translation programmes, analysing snippets of dialogue allegedly from alien ships that were recorded by a group of radio hams in the Stirling area. She seemed calm. The distressing events of the morning were not getting her down. She was right, he acknowledged, about coming to work and getting on with it. At home she would have been brooding.
But he didn’t want her to know about the mystery surrounding Dougal Drummond.
“You should have something to eat, soon,” he told her. “Munroe will make you some tea and toast.”
“Munroe is always making me tea and toast. It’s not fair on him, you know.”
“He likes to look after you. He’s the soppy sort that way. I’m not so good at that kind of thing. Make the most of it.”
He kissed her cheek and then left her to her work as he headed back to the medical room. Darius had been busy. He gave him the DNA profile from the tissue samples taken from the body bag.
They matched Dougal Drummond’s army medical records.
Except in one respect.
The tissue samples were saturated with some kind of radiation. It wasn’t the same stuff responsible for Jack’s immortality. He accessed the records he kept of his experiments on Jack’s blood to verify that fact. It was something different. But Owen was willing to bet it did much the same thing for Dougal.
He was alive, somewhere.
Owen checked one more piece of information. Then he told his team that he was going out again. He checked a sidearm out of the armoury, but he didn’t ask for any back up. He told Toshiko he expected to be back in an hour.
According to Dougal Drummond’s army records, his mother, the late Mrs Margery Drummond, had lived in a bungalow near the A8 at the time of her son’s death.
It was a stone’s throw from Braehead shopping centre and a brisk walk from Southern General hospital.
And it looked like a house that hadn’t been lived in for six months. Nobody had bothered much with the garden. The once pristine lawn was covered in weeds and the flower beds were running wild. The windows could stand a wipe with a chamois leather, too. The curtains were closed even though it was mid-afternoon.
But there was a light on behind those curtains. Somebody was home.
Of course it could be a bunch of Polish migrants, Owen pointed out to himself as he slipped around the back and tested the kitchen door. Any house that stands empty for too long gets occupied by Poles these days.
But he didn’t think so, really. He reached into his pocket for the most useful of alien gadgets, the one that quietly and unobtrusively opened locks. Fourteen seconds later he pushed opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen.
Somebody was living here. There was food on the counter. Corned beef and tinned rice pudding. Not exactly high cuisine, but meals for somebody for whom food was a necessity, not a pleasure.
He went carefully through the bungalow, keeping his weapon ready to use if he was challenged.
He thought he was being quiet, careful. He thought he had the element of surprise. So when he was grabbed from behind and felt a knife at his throat he swore under his breath.
“Dougal Drummond, I presume,” he managed to say as his gun was wrenched from his hand and pushed into his back. Drummond didn’t say anything, but he made it very clear that he wanted Owen to go into the living room.
“Drop that!” cried an authoritative voice. Owen recognised it as Lieutenant Stewart’s and he was guessing that she was behind Drummond with a weapon trained on him. He prayed that she wouldn’t do anything while there was a gun in his back and a knife to his throat.
“Do you think I’m afraid to die?” Drummond asked in a dull voice of one who really meant what he was saying. “Shoot, if you want. I don’t care. Maybe this time, finally, it will be for good. I’ll be glad to die.”
With that, he threw down the knife and pushed Owen headlong into the living room. As he did so he dropped and rolled and turned to face the Lieutenant. He fired once. She fired twice.
“Fucking hell, no!” Owen screamed as he picked himself up again and ran to the body. The Lieutenant’s aim had been true. A classic double tap to the head. Drummond was dead.
He looked around and saw the bullet from his own gun lodged in the PVC frame of the kitchen window. It was several inches away from Lieutenant Stewart’s head.
“He aimed high. He deliberately missed you, knowing you would fire. He wanted you to kill him.”
“Then he got what he wanted,” Lieutenant Stewart answered. “And you were fucking stupid to try to take him on your own. Good job I decided to tail you.”
“I wasn’t trying to ‘take’ him, you trigger happy bloody GI Jane. I wanted to TALK to him. Go get a sheet from his bed or something to wrap him in.”
“We’ve got body bags in the SUV.”
“He’s not going in another fucking body bag. Do what I said, now. Or you’ll be wearing a daffodil coloured blouse and answering phones in the tourist office for the rest of your attachment to Torchwood.”
The Lieutenant drove back to the Hub. Owen sat in the passenger seat watching the wrapped figure lying across the back seat. There was a sheet of plastic under his head because that was a mess and Munroe was as picky as Ianto was about keeping the official car tidy.
He made a couple of phone calls before they came in. Munroe and Toshiko were already out in the old Volvo. Darius, of all people, was looking after Etsuko. He didn’t seem to be doing a bad job. Owen left him to it and brought Drummond’s body down to the medical room.
While he was waiting he did the tests he had been dying to do ever since he worked out what Drummond’s story was.
He came back to life in much the same way Jack always did, with a systolic jolt to the heart and a racing pulse and a ragged breath. He pulled at the restraints holding him to the table and swore as he saw Owen standing over him.
“Calm down,” Owen told him. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I know what you are,” he replied. “I knew somebody would come for me, sooner or later. Today, running away from the hospital… I knew that would give me away. Well, I won’t let you take me. I’m not going to be your fucking guinea pig… probed and experimented on…”
“Who exactly do you think I am?” Owen asked calmly. He didn’t refute the allegation. He couldn’t. His plan had been to get Dougal Drummond to the Hub and find out what made him tick – or keep on ticking when he shouldn’t have.
“I’m not stupid. I know there are government organisations, military intelligence. They’ll want me as their secret weapon. The soldier who can’t die. I won’t do it. I’ve done my duty for queen and country. I died… painfully… twice in an army uniform. I’ve done more than my duty. I lost everything…. everyone who matters to me.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Owen told him. “I really am. But for the record we’re not the government and we’re not military. We’re Torchwood.”
“You lot are just as fucking bad,” Drummond replied. “I’ve heard of you, too. And I’m not going to give you anything.”
“You don’t have to,” Owen answered. “I already know why you keep coming back to life. It’s nanogenes. You’re body is riddled with them. Sub-atomic robots that act as bio mechanics, repairing your body every time it gets damaged. My old boss told me to stay well clear of anything of that sort. He said it was nothing but trouble. And I always did as he told me. But I’m the boss up here and I have to admit I’m impressed. Do you know how they got into you? They’re of alien origin, obviously. But if it turns out to be some secret plan by the MOD to create super soldiers I’ll be really pissed off. You have no idea the shitload of paperwork it causes when we have to deal with the military!”
Drummond sighed and stopped struggling. He decided to talk.
“My platoon was hit… in the desert. I was the only one not turned into charred meat. I was dying. I had one arm and a leg blown off and my face was in shreds. I was half blind. The one eye that was working… I saw something… a fucking UFO. In the middle of the fucking Iraqi desert I saw a UFO land. I saw aliens come out of it. They walked all around the debris… the mess left behind… bits of what used to be men. Did I mention it was probably friendly fire, by the way? Anyway, the aliens found me. They… injected something into me. Then they left. I lay there in the desert for another hour… with my body putting itself back together. Eventually… I stood up. My uniform was ripped to shreds, but my body was whole… and I wasn’t in pain any more. I walked to the extraction point. I told them I was the only survivor of the attack… I didn’t tell them how I survived. I had a medical. I passed. Back to active service again. That was when I earned my VC. That time I managed to stop some good men from dying. But my body was ripped to pieces. They put me in a sealed coffin, sent me back home. I suffocated fourteen times on the journey. Finally… I managed to break the lid open in the funeral home. I… put a load of flower pots into the coffin and sealed it again. Put the union flag back over it. I got out of there. I… I was alive. but I was nobody. I was dead. Mum, Sandy, both mourned me. I watched my own funeral. I knew I could never see either of them again. I lived rough, slept in doss houses. After my mum died… after her funeral… I came back to the house. Kept a low profile. Came in and out only at night. I could wash more often, sleep in a bed. But I still felt like shit. I’m alive. But I’m alone. I’ve lost everything. Every so often the misery got too much and I killed myself. Jumped into the river, slit my wrists, got into the sort of fights that would get me bottled in the neck…”
“Is that what you were doing today? Trying to kill yourself?”
“No. Today, I was doing some food shopping. Then I saw the bus… and the little Asian woman with the pushchair… I knew it would hurt… Christ, it hurts every time. But I couldn’t just stand there and let them die.”
“The little Asian woman…” Owen said with a catch in his voice. “She’s… my woman. The little girl… If they’d died… I’d want to kill myself, too. I’m… look… I owe you one. A big one. So… come on…” He unfastened the restraints and helped him to stand up. “Just be cool, ok. Come on with me.”
Drummond looked dubious. But he didn’t try to do anything stupid. He walked with Owen along the anonymous cream walled corridor to the central Hub. There, he broke into a run, but there was no need to pursue him. He was going no further than the sofa in the rest area where Sandy McCoy was sitting flanked by Munroe and Toshiko. They both cried as they hugged each other. When they ran out of tears, Owen gave everyone a short and simple explanation of what had happened to Dougal Drummond in the desert.
“So… aliens put something in his blood… and he can’t die?”
“Nanogenes,” Owen repeated. “Every time he’s killed, every time his heart stops pumping, they go to work, repairing him, putting him back the way he should be. I found residue from them in the blood and tissue in the body bag. When you were dead the last time, I examined your blood and found them, doing their thing.”
“Why?” Sandy asked.
“Beats the hell out of me. Maybe they’re some kind of alien medics who saw a wounded man and fixed him up.”
“Will it last forever?” Dougal asked. “Will I never die?”
“I don’t know that, either. But… look, you said you had nothing to live for. Your army career is over. I’m sorry about that. But you’ve got your man there. Isn’t he worth living for?”
Dougal looked at his lover and grasped him around the waist. They hugged. Owen hoped they weren’t going to start crying again.
“Yes, he is,” Dougal admitted. “He’s worth living for.”
“So, no more killing yourself. And… if you want a job… how about you join us? We’re still short staffed. Your military experience could be useful. You and Lieutenant Stewart could work well together. I don’t think she’ll try to shoot you again. And… I can keep an eye on your medical status… see if the nanogenes are here to stay. If they are… Then you really ought to talk to my old boss in Cardiff. If you want to know the pitfalls of immortality, he’s your man.”
For a whole minute Dougal looked as if he wasn’t sure he believed what he was hearing. Then he nodded.
“Welcome to Torchwood,” Owen said to him.