The woman was obviously a whore. She was dressed in a gabardine coat, because it was after dark and it was drizzling with rain. But he could guess that beneath the coat she was wearing a skirt so short her knickers were revealed with every step she walked. She would have a low cut top, revealing cleavage. He knew she would. The proof was in the sound her shoes made when she walked. She was wearing high heeled shoes that made a distinctive clatter on the flagstones. She walked like a whore.
She was asking for it.
She turned down the back alley, fumbling in her handbag for something. He heard a metallic sound. Keys. But there were no cars parked in the alley.
Ah. There were flats above the shops. She was home. She thought she was safe.
He waited until she had pushed the door open before he moved in close behind her. She started to scream but his hand covered her mouth. She struggled, but he was too strong for her. He pushed her down on the stairs inside the dimly lit back entrance to what smelt like a cake shop and ripped off her coat. Beneath it she was wearing a knee length skirt and sweater. He pushed the skirt up and pulled her knickers off. He yanked at her sweater until it ripped and snapped the back strap of her bra. He used a piece of the torn sweater to gag her so that his two hands were free. Her terrified sobs were muffled by it all the time he was satisfying the lust that had risen in him when she walked past him making that sound with her whore’s shoes.
She was still sobbing when he was done. He silenced her with one quick twist of her neck. He let her limp body fall while he fastened his clothes and turned away. He closed the door behind him. The yale lock snicked into place. He walked along the alleyway and then turned into the street, mingling with the pub and club clientele who wandered under the newly switched on Christmas lights on a drizzly night in Cardiff city centre.
Martha Jones arrived at the police headquarters at a little after one a.m. She handed the bag she brought to the desk sergeant to be checked and waited to be let through the security door.
Detective Chief Inspector Kathy Swanson was waiting for her on the other side. She was known as a conscientious police officer who took no nonsense from anyone, but Martha had a good working relationship with her, and was surprised at just how serious she looked.
“What’s... happened?” she asked. “All you told me on the phone was that Jack was here and he needed clean clothes. What happened to him? Was he in a fight? Was he killed? Have you called his partner?”
“He asked for you,” DCI Swanson replied. “He didn’t want me to call anyone else. And I’m not his social secretary, anyway.”
Martha was surprised to be taken down to the custody suite, where her bag was checked again and she was marked in the visitor book as an independent medical officer to examine a prisoner.
“Jack is a prisoner?” The idea seemed absurd. She looked at DCI Swanson pleadingly, expecting her to say that it was some kind of undercover thing. “He’s a suspect in some crime?”
“I don’t know what else to call somebody who walks up to the front desk and confesses to rape and murder,” Kathy Swanson replied coldly. She paused and looked at Martha. Her face was inscrutable.
“Jack... OUR Jack... Kathy, it must be a mistake. He would never. You know him. He would never...”
“He made a full statement. We followed it up and found the woman’s body, exactly where he said he left her. We took forensic evidence. That’s why he needs clothes. Those he was wearing are evidence.”
Martha felt as if she’d been hit across the face with a piece of two by four.
“No. Not Jack. I mean, he can be a mad bastard, but he’s not... He’s...”
DCI Swanson shrugged and opened the door. Martha stepped inside. Jack was sitting on the long bench fixed to the wall that served as a bed as well as a seat. There was a blanket and pillow still folded up on it. He wasn’t interested in sleeping. He was wearing a pale blue disposable paper overall and his hair was uncharacteristically dishevelled, as if he had been running his fingers through it in a distracted way.
He looked up as Martha came towards him. His expression was best described as haunted. His eyes brightened a little at the sight of him, but when she tried to hug him, he gently pushed her away.
“No,” he said. “I don’t... I’m sorry to drag you into this. But I didn’t want... Garrett thinks I’m working overnight. He won’t worry for a while. I asked them to call you because... because you’re... because I can trust you...”
“Well, of course you can trust me. But, Jack... what’s going on? Kathy said you came in here and...”
“I remember it so clearly.... following her home... pushing her... ripping her clothes off... raping her and then snapping her neck... I remember it all. And then... I was in the multi storey car park near the railway station... I woke up with blood all over me... and the memory of... of what I’d done.”
“Whose blood?” Martha asked.
“His own, mostly,” DCI Swanson said. “And some kind of animal, according to the forensic lab.”
“But not a dead woman?” Martha queried.
DCI Swanson nodded towards the bag of clothes Martha had brought.
“You might be a qualified doctor, but do you really want to watch him get dressed from the skin out? I don’t. Come outside for a few minutes.”
Martha gave Jack the clothes and followed the DCI out of the cell. The door clanged shut with a dismal resonance that must have been deliberately intended to demoralise anyone on the other side of it.
“This is why you’re here,” Kathy Swanson told her. “Because this case doesn’t add up. He described everything accurately. Right down to the piece of her sweater used to gag her, to the position of the body on the back stairs of the shop. He told us the exact address. But there’s no evidence he was anywhere near the place. The killer broke the victim’s neck cleanly. There was no blood. The stuff all over him has nothing to do with this crime scene. The semen sample found on her doesn’t match. Nor do any hair or skin samples found at the scene. The shop... it’s a bakery. Somebody must have burst a sack of flour earlier in the day. They cleaned it up, but there’s a film of dust settled on the floor, on the stairs. Even the victim had grains of it in her hair. But there is no trace of it on his clothes or in his hair. Nothing on the soles of his shoes. He wasn’t there. Not even as an eye-witness.”
Martha looked relieved.
“Then... you’re not charging him?”
DCI Swanson shrugged again.
“We get nutters coming in all the time admitting all sorts. There’s a daft old Irishman we call ‘IDidItDooley’ because you can guarantee he’ll be here as soon as a tasty crime hits the front page of the Western Mail. But... when somebody comes in and confesses before we even know we have a crime to investigate, what the hell do I do? Charge him with wasting police time, with perverting the course of justice? And if it wasn’t him... how the hell did he know what happened and where?”
“You’re not charging him?” Martha repeated, fully appreciating Kathy Swanson’s dilemma.
“I’m signing him over to Torchwood’s custody,” she said. “Just like we’ve done before with the weird ones. I want him down in the batcave under your supervision until I know what’s going on. If he steps out to smell the early morning seagull crap on Mermaid Quay I’ll have him arrested again. Otherwise... just... get him out of here. I’ve got a murder to investigate and I don’t need the extra paperwork.”
She opened the cell door. Jack was standing up. He was dressed exactly as Martha saw him dressed when she closed her eyes and thought of Captain Jack Harkness. The dark blue shirt and grey pants held up with both a belt and braces went with brown Timberlands that didn’t colour clash as much as they ought to, and over it was a duplicate of the woollen RAF Greatcoat that he wore in all but the hottest part of summer.
He still looked wrecked, though. He wasn’t the Jack she knew, ready at any moment to make a sexual proposition with a twinkle in his eye that meant he really was joking.
He looked ashamed, disgusted with himself. When Martha stepped towards him and put her hand on his shoulder he flinched away as if he felt he would contaminate her by the physical contact.
“Come on,” she told him, grasping his hand despite his reluctance and leading him out of the cell and along the corridor to the custody desk where she signed for his personal possessions. They included his old fashioned Webley revolver in its holster, his futuristic Time Agent’s Vortex Manipulator and retro wristwatch, a packet of breath mints, a collection of keys on a fob, driving licence which indicated that he passed his test in 1953, Torchwood biometric ID card that went with a personnel file even older than that, and a wallet containing money, credit cards and a recent photograph of Garrett and Gray riding the Ferris Wheel that was back on Roald Dahl Plas for the Christmas season.
There was also a can of spray and two pairs of the rather kinky looking black metal manacles used to subdue recalcitrant Weevils. The desk sergeant looked at those objects dubiously but agreed to Martha taking charge of them. She gave everything else back to Jack apart from the Webley. He didn’t exactly look like somebody who ought to be carrying a lethal weapon right now.
He said nothing in the car. He said nothing as she walked with him through the tunnel from the secure garage to the newly restored Hub Central. He was walking on autopilot, following her.
“You’re not going to lock me in the vault?” he said, finally, when she told him to sit down at the table in the rest area while she made coffee.
“Why would I do that?” Martha asked. “You’re not dangerous.”
“I feel as if I am. I really can remember it all... how I felt about the woman... the satisfaction of forcing myself on her... the sound of her neck breaking.”
“You weren’t there, Jack,” Martha insisted, putting a large mug of black coffee in front of him. The mug had ‘A Present from Cardiff’ on it. There was a set of them in the cupboard, donated by Beth for the re-opening of the Hub. She sold them in the tourist office. His dark mood and the friendly red dragon on the mug were distinctly at odds.
“Then how can I remember it?” he asked. “Even the motive for the attack… I thought she was a whore… anyone who wears those kind of heels had to be…”
“Is that how you see women?” Martha asked him. “Really?”
“No. Not usually. I mean… I’m a man. Even if I haven’t had sex with a woman since I started getting serious with Garrett, I can still…”
He broke off. He couldn’t find a way to explain the omnisexual stirrings of his libido that didn’t seem crass and inappropriate in the circumstances.
“But I would never. I have… never forced myself on anyone who didn’t want it. And to murder an innocent woman with my bare hands…” He held his hands out in front of him. They were strong, capable hands. But right now they trembled. He shuddered at the memories that filled him with self-loathing. Martha reached out and held his hands, steadying them.
“You didn’t do it, Jack. It’s not you.”
“You’re certain of that?”
“The forensic evidence says you’re innocent,” she said. “But even if it didn’t… The Doctor trusts you as if you were his brother. That’s good enough for me. Nobody he calls a friend could do what you think you did.”
Jack smiled weakly. He didn’t talk about The Doctor with anyone else in Torchwood. He and Martha had shared experiences to draw upon, including unrequited affection for the mysterious Time Lord.
“If I didn’t… why does it feel so real?”
“I don’t know,” Martha admitted. “It’s some kind of Torchwood weird shit. If you’ll let me, I’ll run some tests… We’ll find out what happened to you.”
“Thank you,” Jack said in a quiet voice.
“Later,” she added. “Right now, I’m going to get into the police reports and read up about the case, see if there’s anything about it that explains your experience. Why don’t you take a shower and then get some sleep for a couple of hours.”
Jack nodded gratefully and finished his coffee before turning towards his refurbished office. There seemed no reason at the time for the bedroom underneath it to be restored now that he and Garrett were an item. It was a strange kind of stubbornness that made him want the Hub rebuilt exactly as it was. But he was glad it was there, now. He slid down the ladder and stripped off his clothes before stepping into the shower cubicle. He still had a lot of blood on his neck and shoulders where a Weevil had got the jump on him. He hadn’t been allowed to wash at the police station for obvious reasons. He was glad to stand under the power spray and let the filth wash away from his body.
Another whore. Another one wrapped up in a coat, but underneath there would be a tight skirt, low top, showing off her body, advertising herself to every man in the street. He followed her from the nightclub. She didn’t get a taxi. She was walking, tottering on strappy high heel shoes.
He kept his distance at first, making sure she didn’t know he was tailing her. She crossed the river on Castle Street, and then turned off the main road into the Sophia Gardens. He was delighted by her decision. It only proved how low her morals were, of course. A respectable woman wouldn’t walk along a dark path at that time of night. Only a whore would do that. Only a woman who was asking for trouble would walk a dark path screened from the multi-storey buildings on Cathedral road by thick, well established trees.
She heard the footsteps drawing closer and began to walk faster. Then she was running, but he was gaining on her. She was sobbing with fear as she ran, knowing what he intended to do when he caught her.
The path turned a few hundred yards ahead, curving back towards the road, to safety. But she wasn’t going to make it. He grabbed her and pushed her into the trees. He ripped her clothes off her, stripped her naked and pushed her down on the cold, rain-soaked leaf mould. He used her torn blouse to gag her so that her screams wouldn’t attract attention before he was done. Then he took his time raping her, humiliating her to the full, enjoying the feeling he got when he gave a whore what was coming to her.
Martha heard Jack’s screams from the newly restored medical room. She ran up the stone stairs and then on into the office in time to see Jack emerge from his lair, stark naked and soaking wet. His eyes were wild and he was breathing hard. His words were almost incoherent, but she grasped enough from what he was trying to say to reach for the telephone. The number was a preset. She got through straight away.
“Kathy,” she said. “There’s been another. You’ve got a serial killer on your hands.”
It was almost dawn when Martha let Kathy Swanson into the Hub. She had spent the night at the crime scene. Jack Harkness was an incidental factor.
“There’s no way he was involved,” Martha insisted as she brought Kathy down to the medical room. Jack was in bed. She had sedated him for his own good. Ianto was at his side, stroking his fevered brow like a mother tending a child. Alun was getting coffee for the DCI. Both had come in to help Martha cope with Jack’s crisis. “He never left this building. He was in the shower acting perfectly normally – normal for Jack, anyway. And then…”
Everything that happened in the Hub was recorded by security cameras. Martha switched on a video screen and replayed the images of a naked, hysterical Jack Harkness emerging from his room. She pointed out the time stamp on the footage. Then she showed her a slightly calmer Jack, half an hour later, wrapped in a blanket, hugging a cup of coffee and telling Ianto in graphic, ugly detail, everything that he had done to an innocent woman who happened to walk through Sophia Gardens on her way home from a nightclub on Castle Street.
Ianto was operating a sophisticated lie detector that was capable of recognising hypnotic suggestion, brainwashing and even deep seated self-delusion. According to the results, Jack was telling the truth. He was the man who had raped and killed a woman.
“When I first examined him, his heart was beating so fast it’s a wonder he didn’t have a stroke,” Martha added. “He was breathing like somebody who had run a half mile… and then had sex afterwards. There were even traces of oxytocin and vasopressin in his bloodstream. They’re the hormones released during and immediately after sexual arousal. His mind and body fully believed he was the one doing that filthy, awful thing. If I didn’t know that he was right there in the shower…”
“Martha,” Ianto called quietly. “Take a look at this.”
He was holding Jack’s left wrist, looking at the Vortex Manipulator. He had been forced to take it off when he was in police custody, but elsewhere he wore it constantly. It had been the only thing he was wearing in the shower.
The LED screen under the protective leather cover was complicated. Martha had no idea what most of it was for. But there was a perfectly normal real time digital clock function that she did understand.
And it was telling the wrong time. Ianto put his own arm next to it, showing the time on his watch. Jack was an hour and ten minutes ahead.
The time it took to commit two rapes and murders.
Even his vortex manipulator thought he did it.
But common sense said he didn’t.
Jack woke and looked up at Ianto, who was still holding his hand. He tried to pull his arm away, but Ianto wasn’t letting him go.
“All the times you’ve been there for me, do you think I’m going to let you suffer this alone?” Ianto said, embracing him in his arms and kissing his cheek tenderly. “I don’t know what this is, Jack, but I know you. I know you would never do anything like that. It’s not in you.”
Jack sobbed into Ianto’s shoulder, ashamed of the vivid memories that haunted his mind, but grateful for the faith and love shown to him by Martha and Ianto who both knew instinctively that he was innocent of these dirty crimes.
Kathy Swanson didn’t know Jack Harkness as well as his Torchwood teammates did. She had grudgingly come to respect him as somebody who was on the same side of the law as she was. She had no special affection for him. But she, too, found it impossible to believe he was guilty of something like that, and she was glad to rule him out of this latest incident on incontrovertible grounds.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She turned away to speak to one of her DI’s, calling with further information about the case. When she turned back, her face was grim. Jack struggled to sit up in the bed, realised that he was still naked and pulled the blanket around his lower half.
“What’s happened?” he demanded.
“We got forensics from the victim in the gardens. Semen, hair and skin samples match the earlier perpetrator. It’s definitely the same man… and definitely not you. But… we’ve got another body, found on the edge of Leckwith Woods. She was within feet of traffic going past on the A432, but nobody even knew she was there until an early morning jogger came by.”
“Gagged with her own clothes?” Jack asked. “Wearing high heel shoes… the high heels are part of it. I… both times… I was obsessed with the shoes… associated high heels with… with whores who deserved it…”
“Not you, Jack,” Ianto reminded him. “The one doing these things.”
“It was exactly the same,” Kathy confirmed. “He raped and killed three women tonight. We fully expect forensics to confirm the same DNA.”
“Why didn’t I experience the third one?” Jack asked. “The other two are so vivid… It still feels as if it was me that was doing it.”
Kathy Swanson redialled her colleague and asked him some questions.
“The other one wasn’t the third. It was the second. It took place at around 11.30. The first was just after nine-thirty. The last was around two-thirty.”
“That definitely exonerates Jack,” Martha pointed out. “He was in the police cell at 11.30.”
“But being in a police cell shouldn’t have stopped me experiencing it. I was in the shower when it happened the second time.”
Ianto grasped Jack’s wrist and stared at the vortex manipulator.
“You weren’t wearing that when you were in the police cell. That’s the difference.”
“But… I’ve worn that every day for…” Jack paused. He couldn’t remember when he hadn’t worn it. The flesh beneath the wide leather strap was pale and glossy and hadn’t seen sunlight for more than a century. “Why would it make this happen tonight?”
“It got buried in the Hub explosion along with you, dug out of the rubble… it could have been damaged – or perhaps that’s a function that’s been dormant from underuse… I don’t know. Even you don’t completely know what that thing does. You mostly use it to operate lifts in a flashy way.”
“I do know what it does. Most of its functions are too dangerously anachronistic for this century. But it has never made me into a monster before. Even the psychic transfer mode was never intended to do that.”
“What psychic transfer mode?” Martha asked.
“It’s…” Jack looked at Kathy Swanson dubiously. Everyone else here knew about his former life as a Time Agent in the fifty-first century.
“You are still the only named suspect I have in three ugly murders,” the DCI told him. “Even if I can’t make it stick, I can make your life a misery for quite some time. So if you’re concealing anything relevant, it would be in your interests…”
“It was an experiment by our technical bods… in 5097. They tried to figure out a way for an agent to put his consciousnesses into the mind of a suspect… and stop them committing the crime. It worked for a bit. But it was sending the agents who tried it schizoid. And when one of them actually carried out the murder he was meant to stop they cancelled the programme and cancelled the function on our Manipulators.”
All three of his friends looked at him with varying degrees of incredulity. The idea was just too science fiction even for Torchwood.
“But that isn’t what happened, here,” Jack continued. “If I was in his head… I’d have stopped him. It was more like he was in mine… and I couldn’t stop him. I couldn’t even stop him thinking those disgusting things…”
“Even so,” Martha pointed out. “It sounds like we’re on the right track. It must be something to do with your gismo going haywire.”
“Even if it is,” Jack added. “How does that help us? These things haven’t happened in real time. And by the time I knew myself again the women were dead. I have no way to stop him.”
“The mind probe,” Ianto said. He tried not to sound enthusiastic. The probe was a nasty piece of kit that caused intense pain to the subject. He was reluctant to inflict that pain on Jack, who had already suffered enough mental anguish tonight.
“Do it,” Jack told him. “Quickly. Before he strikes again. He’s done three women with only a few hours between each one. He might not be finished. And I don’t want… I can’t go through that again. The probe might allow me to focus on him before he chooses his next victim. You might do something more than pick up the body this time, Kathy.”
“Or it’ll fry your brain,” Martha warned him. “That probe is the most barbaric piece of so-called medical equipment since the invention of the trepanning drill.”
But Jack’s mind was made up. He sent Martha to set up the probe, with Kathy watching with fascinated interest, while Ianto helped him get dressed. He would face the probe and anything it might unearth wearing the clothes thatb he felt most comfortable in, that were a part of his identity, with all the dignity he could muster.
There was precious little dignity in being strapped to the metal chair with the freakish headpiece fixed in place and probes attached to his chest. And as brave as he thought he was, as inured to pain, he screamed as the probe began to bore into his mind. ‘Bore’ was the appropriate word. Even though it wasn’t a physical thing, he could well believe that something like the trepanning drill Martha spoke of earlier was grinding its way through his skull and into the soft tissue of his brain.
Then he didn’t feel any pain. Just anger. After all his hard work, there was another whore, out before the sun was even up, walking along as if she hadn’t a care in the world, her coat covering up her provocative costume, but her shoes, her harlot’s high heels giving her away for what she was.
“What’s with this guy and high heels?” Martha asked as they all listened to the words that came out in Jack’s voice, his mid-western American accent, but with a cold menace that chilled all of his friends who listened.
“He associates them with loose women,” Kathy answered. “Maybe his mother went out clubbing in high heels when he was a kid. Something stupid like that. When we get the bastard in custody he can waste some taxpayer’s money explaining himself to a psychiatrist. Right now all I care about is catching him. Can’t he give us some clue about where he is? I don’t have the manpower to cover the whole of Cardiff.”
“Too many people about,” Jack continued. “Opening up the café for breakfast trade. Catch her down on the boardwalk, where it’s quieter.”
“He’s up there, by the Bay!” Ianto exclaimed. He switched on a video screen and turned it to the CCTV of Mermaid Quay and its environs. “No! Oh, no!”
He turned and ran towards the Hub entrance from the tourist office. Martha watched him go and then looked back at the screen. Her heart sank as she recognised the woman who walked, unsuspecting, down the steps to the boardwalk.
“It’s Beth!” she exclaimed. “He’s after our Beth.”
“Stay here and look after him,” Kathy Swanson ordered her before she ran after Ianto. Martha kept one eye on the screen and the other on Jack. He was still speaking out loud, voicing the thoughts of the murderer who was closing in on Beth. She saw Ianto emerge from the tourist office, calling out a warning to her. She saw him wrap Beth in a protective embrace while Kathy Swanson ran past them calling out to the killer to stop and put his hands up.
“Another whore!” Jack yelled out. Then his tone changed. It seemed to Martha as if Jack was fighting for his own identity this time. He screamed viscerally and then slumped in the chair. On the monitor, his brain activity was going off the scale.
And then it stopped. He was brain dead. Martha turned and looked at the video screen again. Kathy was looking over the railing at the water below in the Bay. Beth was pressing her face into Ianto’s shoulder as he held her tightly. An early morning angler ran to the scene, grabbing a lifebelt from beside the wooden steps.
The murderer was gone. Martha didn’t waste any time wondering what had happened. She knew he had jumped into the deep water of Cardiff Bay. She also knew what had made him do it.
She released the restraints fixing Jack to the chair and removed the probe from his head. She waited until he gave a ragged breath and opened his eyes.
“You reversed it. You got into his head instead of him in yours… and you jumped… you drowned him.”
“It was an easier end than he deserved,” Jack answered. “And the only way to break the connection between him and me. I don’t want to feel his filthy thoughts in my head.”
“Jack…” Martha began. But she couldn’t think of anything else to say. She hugged him tightly until Ianto and Beth came into the Hub, followed by Kathy Swanson who was on her mobile phone arranging for a police patrol boat to remove the murder suspect’s dead body from the Bay.
“I guess we’ll never know what the fuck was going on in his head,” she said as she closed the call. “Why he decided to kill women who happened to be wearing the wrong sort of shoes.”
“I know what it was about,” Jack admitted. “I felt it all. The whole twisted delusion. If you really need it, I’ll write a statement. It might help me to get it all out of my head… putting it on paper, instead. God knows, I have enough bad memories of my own to cope with. I don’t need anyone else’s.”
“In your own time, Jack,” Kathy Swanson answered. “I’m not sure I need the extra paperwork. The forensics will confirm we have the right man. That’s enough to close the case. He killed himself rather than be caught. Good riddance to the bastard. My only regret is I didn’t get to kick him in the fucking balls before he jumped.”