“Yes,” Toshiko said. “Yes, this is nice. Etsuko will love the smaller bedroom. And this living space is beautifully decorated. Yes, this flat will do for the time being, until we’re ready to buy a property in the area.”
Owen nodded to the lettings agent who became busy with the tenancy papers. Owen and Toshiko both signed. This would be their first joint home. They smiled at each other as the significance of that overwhelmed them. Then Owen folded their copies of the agreement and put them into the inside pocket of his jacket. The agent shook hands with them both.
“Thank you, Mr Harper, Mrs Harper,” he said. “It has been a pleasure doing business with you. And here are your keys.”
With that, the agent closed his briefcase and left. They heard the front door of their new home close behind him then they turned and looked at each other. Toshiko’s expression was an odd one. She looked like she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“I’m sorry about the ‘Mrs Harper’ bit,” Owen told her. “I mean, if the silly bastard had looked at our names on the agreement…”
“He probably won’t be the only one making that mistake in future,” Toshiko admitted. “I might as well get used to it. As long as you don’t mind that I don’t want to… you know… make it official. I love you, Owen. And I want us to be together. But we don’t need to get married to do that, do we?”
A sad memory of the first and last time he ever planned a wedding crossed Owen’s mind before he reached out and hugged Toshiko.
“It’s fine,” he assured her. “Shall we go and see our new office, now?”
“I want to check back at the hotel, first. See if there are any messages.”
Owen had confiscated her mobile phone this morning when the number of text messages she had sent over breakfast began to look obsessive.
“Etsuko is fine,” Owen assured her. “Come on, you’ve left her with Gwen and Rhys before.”
“Yes, and an invisible freak tried to kidnap her!”
“Well he isn’t going to do that again, is he? Jack would cut his invisible balls off if he tried. All right, we’ll nip back to the hotel, first.”
They took a little longer than expected at the hotel, because Toshiko felt queasy in the cab on the way. She had a little lie down and Owen ordered tea and lightly buttered toast from room service and watched her eat it before they walked to the newly refurbished Torchwood Two headquarters in Glasgow city centre.
“The queasiness should wear off in a month or so,” Owen assured her as he held her arm. “Once you’re past the first trimester.”
“It never did when I was expecting Etsuko,” she replied. “And don’t you dare tell me that was different. She might have been conceived in an unusual way, but it was a perfectly normal pregnancy. As you well know.”
Her first pregnancy hadn’t been planned. Neither was the second, but at least it happened in the usual way that it happens when two people have been sharing a bed for months. At least this time her baby had a father, biologically, and actually. Owen, of course, had recognised the signs before she did. So breaking it to him hadn’t been a problem. She had been worried about telling Jack, but he had already worked it out, too. And it was part of the reason why he had suggested that she and Owen, with Etsuko, should make a new start for themselves, in Glasgow, as joint Directors of the new department.
The drab, uninviting florists that had been the front for Torchwood Two was gone, now. The fascia over the window now read “Visit Wales” and the window was full of backlit images of the principality.
“A tourist office!” Owen laughed. “Is that an inspired idea or lack of imagination?”
“It’s consistent,” Toshiko answered as they stepped inside. “Although this one is a lot nicer than the Cardiff one.”
It was brighter and newer. There were two young women with beaming smiles who answered telephones. They wore navy blue skirts and blue and daffodil yellow blouses and looked like genuine tourist office staff. One was actually dealing with a customer who wanted to book a bank holiday weekend in Porthcawl. The other nodded imperceptibly to Owen and Toshiko as they slipped behind the free-standing display advertising the castles of Wales and through the concealed door that slid silently open.
The shop front hadn’t been badly damaged by the fire. It just needed a makeover. The subterranean complex that spread out below the basements of a whole block of shops and offices had been gutted a little over six months ago. Everything had been reinstalled from the fiber-optic internet cables to the phone lines, the power generators, the electricity, water, before any kind of interior design had gone on.
Toshiko wondered just who had carried out the work. There couldn’t be many office planners who were asked to include in their design a block of secure detention cells and living space for a vampire.
“Hello, my friends,” Darius said in greeting to them as they stepped into the brand new Torchwood Two Hub. “How are you both?”
“We’re fine,” Owen answered. When Jack told him that the personnel would include Darius, he wasn’t sure how to react. He had got to know him when he worked with Jack to put a stop to the Cardiff vampire killers. Darius owed his undead life to Owen’s skill as a surgeon. He, for his part, had gotten over his first prejudicial feelings. But he was wondering how they were going to get on working together as a team.
“Jack said to say hello from him,” Toshiko added. She shook his cold hand warmly. “He said you were working on a case of your own already?”
“Yes,” he said, his pleasure at meeting his friends fading as his own world enfolded him darkly. “Vampires have been killed. Some of them were friends of mine. It is upsetting.”
“You think there’s a vampire killer in town?” Owen asked.
“I’m not sure what to think,” he answered. “Vampires have accidents. We lose some all the time. But eight in the past week… and they’re not the usual sort of deaths we come to expect.”
“In what way?” Owen was interested.
“Well…” Darius paused. He always held to the tenet that ‘vampires clean up vampire shit’. Joining forces with Torchwood gave him a workplaces without south facing windows, but admitting that he needed help from a Human was the thin end of the wedge for him.
“Look, I’m not officially on duty until next week, anyway,” Owen pointed out. “Call me an interested observer for now.”
It was a compromise. Darius nodded and asked him to come to the mortuary. Owen looked at Toshiko. She nodded and smiled at him. Try keeping Owen away from an interesting autopsy. She turned and looked around the office. It was, she had to admit, a lot nicer than the Cardiff Hub. It didn’t have running water on the floor and the walls were evenly textured and painted a warm cream colour. There were four computer workstations arranged around the room in the way of offices the world over. Two of them looked as if they had already been taken over by somebody. One had a collection of Beatrix Potter miniatures arranged around the base of the monitor stand and a glass jar containing boiled sweets. The other had a screensaver displaying a set of photographs of soldiers on manoeuvres in what Toshiko easily recognised as the Brecon Beacons.
The largest workstation, with three monitors and two keyboards had a small pot plant sitting on it. Toshiko looked at it and laughed softly. It was a bonsai version of Amyris madrensis – Mountain Torchwood. It looked as if it was somebody’s idea of a welcome present. She smiled and sat down at the desk. She reached into a valise that Owen had carried from the hotel for her. First she took out a few things that personalised her own desk. She put the two mood pebbles next to the bonsai tree. Next to them she placed a framed photograph of Etsuko taking her first steps and a group photograph of the Torchwood team – the old team, in Cardiff. The photograph was taken outside in Roald Dahl Plas. She and Beth and Gwen were sitting on a bench. Ianto and Alun, Owen and Jack were behind them. Rhys had taken the photograph. She looked at it and gave a soft sigh. This was all very exciting. But she knew she was going to miss the friendship, the camaraderie that they had down there. Of course, they would probably build friendship and camaraderie here with the Beatrix Potter collector and the military man, and with Darius, of course. But until they did, she would miss the old crowd.
She reached back into the bag and took out a small but heavy case containing some fifty encrypted CD ROM discs. She opened five ROM drives at once and inserted discs. Priority number two, after making herself feel at home, was the computer system. Most people taking over a new computer spent hours loading Microsoft products and anti-virus software. Toshiko was currently loading a face recognition programme that could positively identify every individual in the crowd at the next Old Firm game and tell her all kinds of personal details from whether they had a criminal record to whether they were carrying an organ donor card.
“Good afternoon, Miss Sato,” said a quiet male voice with a soft Scottish burr to it. She looked up at the middle aged man with thinning sandy hair and gentle brown eyes. He placed a small silver tray on her desk. It had a teapot, china cup and saucer and a sugar bowl and jug on it as well as a plate of lightly buttered toast cut diagonally. “Mr Harper said you might be ready for refreshment.”
“Oh, thank you,” she answered. “You work here? I mean… of course you do. Jack said he had recruited some people. What’s your name?”
“Munroe, miss,” he answered.
“Munroe… er… is that… your surname?”
“No, miss, my first name. Munroe MacDonald. I’m a sort of clan war all by myself.” He chuckled at the little joke. Toshiko smiled warmly at him. He seemed nice, anyway. She poured a cup of tea and watched as he sat at the workstation with the Beatrix Potter collection. She was slightly surprised. She knew that Jack had recruited two operatives, a male and female. She had assumed the male was going to be the military type and the female dressed in soft pastels and doing crochet in her coffee breaks or something. Munroe was wearing a suit with shirt and tie underneath. He was typing at what Toshiko reckoned to be about a hundred words a minute. It occurred to her that if Ianto was another twenty five years older and had put on a stone of weight, and developed a Scottish accent, he would be Munroe.
This Torchwood had a Ianto – of sorts. The idea was reassuring. Toshiko sipped the tea and ate some of the toast while she waited to insert the next disc. She felt a little less homesick.
Owen looked at the two bodies that lay on the stainless steel tables. There were four more in the cadaver drawers. Darius said they were all the same.
“This one…” Owen reached into a box of sterilised disposable surgical gloves before touching the flesh. It looked like an extremely elderly woman, at least ninety years old. Her hair was thin and white. The face was lined, eyes rheumy.
But she was dressed in a red sequined mini-dress, suspenders and stockings with strappy stiletto heels. The clothes belonged to a twenty-something who worked in a lap-dancing club.
“Yes,” Darius said. “She was an ‘exotic’ dancer. What other sort of work would a female vampire get in a city like this? It’s after sundown and nobody asks about national insurance numbers.”
“But… she’s a bit…” He looked again at her face. Then it dawned on him.
“Oh… you mean she… when she was alive… I mean… undead…She was… young. But in death… her real age becomes apparent… Is that it?”
“She was ‘turned’ in the 1920s. She was a ‘flapper’ who fell in with the wrong kind of men. A lovely girl. She liked to dance. She never harmed anyone. I don’t know why anyone would want to kill her.”
“She was like you… on the wagon… as it were?” Owen asked.
Darius gave him a look that he could have interpreted any way he chose. Reproachful was a word that sprang to mind.
“Ok… so… what makes you think her death was unusual?” Owen asked.
“Because there IS a body,” Darius replied. “You’ve… seen all the usual sort of films, I suppose. You’ve seen how vampires… when they die… they crumble to dust. But… she isn’t dust. The flesh remains intact. She was killed in a different way. Turn her… and look at the back of the neck.”
Darius winced as Owen turned the cadaver over. He was a member of the Undead, but being in the presence of dead bodies was unusual for him, and whatever she looked like now, he obviously still thought of her as a young girl who liked to dance. Owen had long ago got used to being detached from the corpses before him on the mortuary table.
“Ah,” he said as he examined the wound on the back of her neck. “You know what this is, don’t you?”
Darius shook his head.
“She was stabbed in the Medula Oblongata. It’s a gland at the bottom of the brain that regulates certain functions of the body. Breathing is one of them. In humans, anyway. But it’s also the junction box, as it were, for the nervous system. Essentially, her brain was cut off from the rest of her body. The two parts died… separately.”
“And that stopped her body from crumbling?”
“I suppose it must have,” Owen answered. “Understand, I know very little about vampire biology. I don’t imagine many people do… many humans I mean. And I don’t know how many of your sort ever go to medical school. But it does look as if that method of killing does interrupt the… process.”
He laid the body down carefully and turned to the other one. The same knife wound was on the back of the neck. This body was male, and looked like a sixty year old punk rocker. Darius told him that in undead ‘life’ he had been twenty. He had become a vampire in the late 1970s.
“He was always a bit of an odd one,” Darius said. “Even before he became one of us, I imagine. He kept himself to himself. Lived in the basement of an old house converted into flats. His parents owned the property and kept his ‘secret’ for him. They’re dead now. I think he had trouble coping on his own without them. He would have starved to death if a few of us who knew about him hadn’t gone around once or twice a month with blood packs. That’s how I found him…. in his room… lying face down on the floor. Sally was found in the alley behind the club where she worked. The others… two more in their own homes. One in a deconsecrated church where he used to hang out. Another was killed at the back of the hospital…” Darius had an odd expression. If he wasn’t undead, he might have blushed. “Yes, near the blood bank. He’d been making a collection.”
“I’m not making any judgements,” Owen assured him. “But what you’re saying is that they were all found in different places. They have different lifestyles. All they have in common is that they are all vampires and they were all killed in the same way.”
“They would all have known each other,” Darius added. “That goes without saying. There aren’t that many of us. Glasgow… maybe three hundred, spread out across the city, but keeping in touch with each other… Looking out for each other.”
Owen hadn’t thought of vampires as an ethnic minority before. Nor had he thought of them as people who needed to look out for each other. Well, after all, before he met Darius he hadn’t even believed in vampires. He never actually thought about how they lived – or didn’t live.
“There’s one thing for certain,” he said. “They have all been murdered. This kind of wound doesn’t happen accidentally. And it certainly wasn’t suicide. Somebody did this to them. But why?”
“That’s what I intend to find out,” Darius answered. There was a stress on the ‘I’ that Owen couldn’t fail to miss. He appreciated the second opinion about cause of death, but this was his case. Vampires clean up Vampire shit. Humans don’t get involved. Humans don’t get hurt.
“But what if it isn’t another vampire doing it?” Owen asked. “What if the line is crossed? Then it becomes a Torchwood case?”
“Perhaps,” Darius replied.
Owen looked around the mortuary. It was very well equipped.
“I can get x-rays of the wounds and work out what kind of weapon it was,” he offered. “That might point you in the right direction.”
“Yes, thank you,” Darius conceded. But that really was the limit of the help he could or would accept. Owen knew that. He rather admired Darius’s loyalty to his own kind, his determination that the problems of his undead community didn’t bring them to the attention of the unsympathetic Human population. It was commendable. But it also made him strangely aloof. The only Human he ever really connected with was Jack Harkness. And that was because Jack only really had one foot in the Human race himself, sometimes.
Toshiko was working away quietly. So was Munroe at his workstation. She was feeling quite content. This was going to be her working life for the foreseeable future. She was definitely not going to be a field agent. Once all her programmes were up and running, she would have Glasgow at her fingertips the way she had Cardiff. She could monitor the city streets through the CCTV system, track alien artefacts, watch the skies for unidentified flying objects. The same job as before, but different topography.
She paused in her work and looked at Munroe. He was still typing madly.
“What are you actually doing?” she asked. “We’re only just set up here. I didn’t think there was anything happening, yet.”
“I’m updating a spreadsheet recording carbon dioxide levels in Loch Ness,” he answered. “I’ve been keeping it for the past twenty years. I used to have a little office in Inverness, ostensibly under the auspices of the Department of Environment. But I actually reported to U.N.I.T. That’s how Captain Harkness came to hear of me. He came up and interviewed me and I must have impressed him, because here I am in a much bigger office, a FAR bigger salary, and I can still pop up there once a fortnight and take the water samples and keep my survey going.”
“Survey of….” Toshiko thought about it for a minute. “No. Oh no. You don’t mean… carbon levels… because of…”
Munroe smiled at her. She quite liked his smile. It reminded her a little of her favourite uncle when she was a little girl.
Except her uncle was Japanese, obviously.
“You look after the Loch Ness monster.”
“Yes, miss,” he answered, his smile not faltering. “Somebody has to. What with all the tourism up there, the poor beastie needs somebody looking out for her. After all, there’s only one of her. She’s an endangered species.”
“You’ve seen it… her...?” Toshiko asked. Munroe got ready to answer her, but just then a very familiar klaxon horn sounded. Toshiko checked her monitor and saw the newcomer had entered through a secure entrance at the back of the building. Like Torchwood Cardiff, there was more than one way in or out of this Hub.
“That’ll be Lieutenant Stewart,” Munroe said. “Attached to us from U.N.I.T. Captain Harkness recruited her, too.”
The Lieutenant stepped into the office. Toshiko tried not to let the phrase ‘GI Jane’ cross her mind. Androgynous was another word she tried to avoid. But it was a struggle to stop them both dancing in front of her brain. She wasn’t, technically, in uniform, but she looked as if ‘military’ went through her like the letters in a stick of seaside rock. She was at least five foot eight, slim built. Her hair was short. She was dressed in khaki trousers and a grey-green sweatshirt. She was like somebody who had always worn a uniform trying to go casual but not quite knowing how.
She stopped as she saw Toshiko and glanced at Munroe.
“Lieutenant,” he said. “This is Miss Sato, the joint Director of the facility. Miss Sato, Lieutenant Shona Stewart.”
“Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” Lieutenant Stewart said, ripping off a very neat salute. Toshiko tried not to be embarrassed by it.
“There’s no need to salute,” she managed to say. “Torchwood isn’t military. And ‘ma’am’ isn’t necessary. I’m Toshiko.”
“Ok.” The Lieutenant put out her hand to shake instead. “I thought you weren’t officially starting work until next week.”
“I thought I’d make a bit of a start,” Toshiko answered. “Dr Harper… Owen… is down in the mortuary with Darius.”
“Just as well,” the Lieutenant answered. “I’ve just brought some bodies in. He can take a look at them.”
“Bodies?” Toshiko frowned. “What… how many bodies?”
“Four. They were being taken to the hospital mortuary – but I had a tip off and diverted them.”
“There’s something unusual about the bodies?” Toshiko asked. Automatically, she reached up to her ear. She was so used to wearing a communicator that she had forgotten she hadn’t got one on. She opened the desk drawer and found what she needed. She touched the sensor and called to Owen. He didn’t respond. He wasn’t wearing a communicator, either. She tried again and Darius replied.
“He’s a bit busy just now, miss,” he said. “He said to ask you if you’ve got your CCTV monitoring programme up and running. If so, can you access the cameras around the Port Dundas Business Park, especially near the junction of Possil Road and Saracen Street.”
“Er… I’ll try,” she answered. She loaded up the programme and suddenly felt uncertain. She knew every inch of Cardiff on interactive maps and aerial views. She knew where almost every traffic cam or private closed circuit surveillance camera was. If somebody called out a street name to her she could find it with a quick glance at her screen.
But this was Glasgow and she didn’t know it at all. Port Dundas meant nothing to her, let alone any individual street in the area. She didn’t even know if it had any CCTV.
“Here, let me help,” Munroe said, moving from his desk and coming to her side. He took over one of the keyboards and quickly found the location. “Junction of Possil Road and Saracen Street, that’s the Point. It’s a big modern retail centre, everything under one roof. They’ll have plenty of cameras there, overlooking the car park.”
“Yes,” Toshiko sighed happily. Now she felt within her depth again. “Yes, there are the cameras, and their frequencies. I can tune into them. But what am I looking for?”
“Tosh,” Owen’s voice spoke in her ear. “These four bodies are different to the others I have down here. They were killed in exactly the same way, but they’re not vampires. They’re aliens doing a really good impression of humans. And they only died about two hours ago in the back of their wholesale Chinese food warehouse. There’s a good chance their killer left the area in a hurry. A car registration would be really handy.”
“You should be so lucky,” Toshiko replied.
Owen turned back to look at the bodies that had newly arrived. He thought they might possibly have got away with being mistaken for Human when they were alive. But death had revealed their alien origins in several unquestionable ways. The inky black blood was one big clue. The green tinge to the flesh was another. And the strange smell that their bodies gave off.
“It was a Chinese food warehouse?” Owen asked. “Not a Japanese sushi outfit? These four could have put themselves on the menu. They’re fucking fish.”
“Make sure you get a detailed autopsy for the alien species database.” Owen wasn't sure who had told him that in a voice cold enough to have been fish-descended, too. He asked and Lieutenant Shona Stewart identified herself to him.
He would be doing that anyway. The alien species database was important. It was the one area where Torchwood and U.N.I.T., as well as several other shadowy organisations whose members signed the Official Secrets Act, co-operated. It was useful to know exactly what weaknesses the enemy had.
But these weren’t the enemy by all accounts. These were victims. Owen saw the same wound to the back of the neck. He made a note to study just how many aliens in that database had a medulla oblongata at the base of their necks. He suspected all alien species that actually HAD necks and spinal columns would have one. Which meant that a knife in the neck was the generic way to kill just about anything apart from Daleks, Cybermen and giant multi-tentacled squid.
He had already done this once on the body of Sally the lap-dancing vampiress. But just to be sure that this was part of the same killing spree, he had Darius help him inject barium into the wound and then he x-rayed the body. He was mildly satisfied that his theory was confirmed. The blade that killed the fish-descended Chinese food wholesaler was the same one that killed the vampires. It wasn’t anything spectacular and unique like the ‘life knife’ that Suzie had caused so much trouble with. But it was one of those macho ‘hunting’ knives favoured by people who owned all four of the Rambo films.
Ok, that wasn’t exactly forensic psychology. But Owen was willing to bet that he could find at least one poster of Sly Stallone in the killer’s bedroom.
“Owen!” He was pleased to hear Toshiko’s voice on the ‘com’ this time. “You got lucky. I’ve got you a registration plate. Want to come upstairs and have a look?”
“It’s not upstairs from this mortuary,” he told her. “It’s down the corridor. We’ll be right with you.”
He and Darius slid the bodies into cadaver drawers and labelled them. Then they headed back to what he would have to start calling ‘Hub Central’ from now on. It felt jarringly new and unused for him. He was tempted to get a couple of Glaswegian graffiti artists in to cover the pristine walls with something more lived in.
“Toshiko found our man,” Munroe told him. Owen thought he sounded a little proud when he spoke. He had been working with her for a little over an hour and he felt sufficiently part of a team to have pride in it. The other agent looked less enchanted. She was sitting at her workstation with one leg crossed over the other in a deliberately masculine way and was feigning complete disinterest in what had got Munroe excited.
“He’s on camera, in broad daylight, coming out of the warehouse and getting into his car,” Toshiko said. “The red fiesta. I didn’t get the number from the cameras around the Point, but he drove a bit too fast on Craighall Road and was caught by three separate speed cameras.”
“It might not be the one,” Owen pointed out. “Could just have been a shoplifter...”
“I cross-checked. One of Darius’s friends was killed at the hospital. They have a camera that automatically photographs all cars coming out of the car park. Red Fiesta, same registration. And the lap-dancing club… picture isn’t quite as good. No reg, but another red Fiesta. I think it’s enough to be going on.”
“So what?” Shona said in that same cold fish tone. “So this guy is doing in aliens and vampires. Isn’t that saving us some work?”
Toshiko and Owen had both got used to Darius being a mild-mannered vampire who was always slightly deferential to humans, as if he felt his kind were inferior to them. They never expected the angry snarl that came from deep within him or the way his face changed as his incisors lengthened. He flew at Shona, knocking her from her chair. She responded almost as quickly, kneeing him in the groin and punching him four times in the head before Owen and Munroe between them dragged her off him and Toshiko stepped in to restrain Darius.
“They were friends of mine,” he cried out. His face had returned to normal now. His voice was grief-filled, but he wasn’t actually crying. Toshiko wondered if vampires COULD cry. “They weren’t aliens. They weren’t a threat to anyone. They used to be humans. They just wanted to live… in peace. And somebody killed them. It was murder.”
Shona swore at him. Owen slapped her in the face. She turned on him but he adopted a defensive position.
“Don’t think I’ll be gentle with you because you’re a woman,” he told her.
“Don’t think I’ll be gentle with you because you’re a man,” Shona responded. “And don’t you dare patronise me like that again.”
“Ok, fine,” Owen answered her. Then he swept her feet from under her, not using any special kind of martial arts, nothing that could be called a technique, but plain, simple street fighting. While she was still reeling he dragged her up and pushed her down into her chair again.
“If you really want a fight, you can have one. There’s a gym downstairs. We can go blow for blow. You can take that feminista soldier girl attitude out on me. Or you could remember that I’m your boss as long as you’re assigned to Torchwood and that Darius is one of this team, too. And that our remit isn’t to go around wasting anything that isn’t 100% homo sapien. And Red Fiesta Man is a murderer.”
For a long moment he wasn’t sure if Lieutenant Shona was going to yield. And he wasn't sure if he could beat her in a sustained fight. Being a man didn’t give him very much of an advantage over a woman with special forces training. He was relieved when she huffed dismissively at him and sat down again.
He looked around at Darius.
“I don’t ever want to see those fangs drawn in this building. You keep your cool and hold back your animal instincts or you’ll find out how good I am with sharp instruments - even if I do like you.”
Darius nodded quietly. He had committed a serious breach of vampire etiquette and felt ashamed of himself. Toshiko pressed him down into a seat, too, and looked at Owen.
“Vampire or alien, whatever, I think this IS murder. Serial murder. But… Shona is kind of right. Murder isn’t our remit. We’re supposed to protect Humans from…” Darius gave her a betrayed look. “I’m sorry, I really am. But I just don’t think…”
“No,” Munroe said. It was the first thing he had said on the subject at all. “No, we’ve all got to think more widely than that. Yes, our first priority is protecting the Human race from hostile aliens. But I’ve spent most of my adult life protecting an alien from humans. Old Nessie might be a fifty foot long alien cyborg, but if people actually knew she was more than a myth they’d rip her to pieces one way or another. And me with her, because I’d be standing right in front of her. And so would you, Lieutenant Stewart, because it was U.N.I.T. who first decided she had to be protected back in the 1970s, and you’d be required to do your duty. As I see it, our job here is to protect the innocent from things that the police wouldn’t know where to start with. Sometimes that means stopping humans from being taken apart by tentacle monsters from outer space. But other times it means seeing justice is done for those four fish lads who were doing no harm to anyone and just happened to come from another planet or for Darius’s friends who can’t help being what they are.”
Munroe coughed in a slightly embarrassed way as he finished talking, as if speaking up like that wasn’t something he was used to. Again, Toshiko couldn’t help thinking of him as an older version of Ianto.
“Ok,” Owen said as Munroe’s embarrassment threatened to spread among them all. “Tosh, I presume you got an address to go with that registration. Lieutenant, Munroe, check out stun guns from the armoury. Darius, sorry, but it’s sunny out. Can’t take you.”
“I understand that,” Darius answered. “Just… get the bastard for me... for them.”
Toshiko turned back to her workstation as Owen left with the other two agents. She smiled as she saw the Torchwood Two car set out from its secure garage at the back of the shop. Owen had been adamant that he didn’t want to see the word ‘Torchwood’ anywhere on the bodywork of the ‘official’ car. Jack had laughed and then ordered a specially converted right hand drive version of an American made SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid, in metallic mint green. It was as roomy as the old familiar SUV, with all their specialist equipment installed. But although it might still turn heads when it went by, that would only be because it was a rare car on British roads.
She looked around at Darius. He had taken Munroe’s seat and was working at something. She asked him what he was doing.
“Arranging for cremations,” he answered. “For Sally and the others. I probably won’t be able to attend. After dark funeral services are not usual. But… I wonder if somebody might…”
“Owen and I will,” Toshiko promised. “Maybe Munroe would come, too. He seems nice. Not sure about… the Lieutenant. She’s a little… prickly.”
“She’s a kale.” Darius said, that last word sounding like it must have been in whatever his native language was. Toshiko didn’t know what it meant but the tone was unmistakeable. Then he shook his head. “No, I must try to understand her point of view. If we are to work together here…”
“She was out of order. So was I when I said… you know. But… it’s our first day. We’re all bound to rub each other up the wrong way. The first day Owen joined Torchwood, he and I fought like you wouldn’t believe. Jack made us sit at opposite ends of the Hub. I’m sure things will settle down. Munroe seems nice. Maybe he’ll keep us all together.”
“He is an old fashioned gentleman,” Darius said. “Not many of his sort left these days.”
“Is he…” Toshiko glanced at the Beatrix Potter collection. “Is he gay?”
“Not at all,” Darius answered. “He’s a widower. His wife died ten years ago. He has a married son with a baby girl. He keeps their pictures in his wallet. The little animals belonged to his wife. He keeps them for her.”
“Oh…” Toshiko decided she wasn’t going to assume anything else about her new colleagues from appearances. Although….
“Lieutenant Stewart isn’t gay, either. She likes men in that way, all right. I saw her when Jack interviewed her. She was getting hot flushes. But… don’t let her know I told you that.”
“I don’t think I’ll be telling her anything,” Toshiko answered. “She isn’t… somebody I think I could be friends with.” She sighed. “I’m going to miss that. Gwen and Beth, I could talk to both of them… I feel like I’m the only woman here.”
“The ladies upstairs, they were vetted by Jack’s friend, Garrett. They think that they are operating a front for MI5. I am sure they could be friendly.”
“I suppose,” Toshiko conceded. “But it’s not the same as having somebody on the team who I can relate to.”
“I’m always here if you need to talk,” Darius offered. “I know I’m not quite the same. But the only reason Jack doesn’t give me hot flushes is that… I don’t flush.”
She laughed. Darius was nice in his way, although his spat with Lieutenant Stewart earlier proved that he had dangerous edges to his character. She glanced back at the monitor and noted that the Escape had crossed the river Clyde and was on the A77 heading towards a place called Pollockshaws. If the owner of the red Fiesta was home they ought to be knocking on his door soon with the stun guns at the ready.
“Owen told me to make you rest for a bit,” Darius said as she watched the blip on the map come to a stop. “You have the little kudikis to think of.”
“Kudikis…” Toshiko blushed as she worked out what that word meant. “I didn’t know anyone here knew…”
“I do,” Darius said. “Vampires… have certain senses humans don’t… I can feel the duality in you. You and Owen and your little girl, and the new baby – a little family of your own.”
“Yes,” she answered. “It’s not a secret, as such. We just haven’t really announced it to anyone, yet. I never imagined I’d be talking about it to a…” She sighed. “Sorry. I really should stop doing that. It doesn’t matter that you’re a vampire. It shouldn’t matter.”
Darius didn’t say anything, but he smiled gently at her. She thought she had been forgiven for her faux pas. She looked around again at the monitor. The SUV was moving again. Either their quarry wasn’t home, or he had been quite easy to subdue. The latter was confirmed when Owen called to asked Darius to get the interrogation room ready and reminded Toshiko to go for a lie down.
Now that she knew Owen wasn’t in any danger, she was willing to do that. She went to a long, soft sofa in the corner of the Hub and stretched on it. Darius brought a blanket and put it over her gently. She closed her eyes for a little nap before they got back.
She woke slowly three quarters of an hour later. Darius wasn’t in the Hub any more. She pushed back the blanket and stood up. She stumbled, not quite fully awake, and sat at her desk before she called up the internal CCTV system. She noted that everyone else was in the interrogation room. Munroe and Lieutenant Stewart were standing either side of a man who was handcuffed to the table. Owen sat opposite him. Darius was by the door looking unobtrusive. The man was about forty years old with that silly combed over style of hair that fails to disguise baldness. He looked scared but mutinous. Owen put something on the desk in front of him and demanded to know what it was.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” the man responded. “Who are you? You’re not police. I’m going to have you. This is kidnapping.”
“No,” Owen said with a cold menace in his tone. “We’re not the police. Police have rules about how they treat prisoners. We don’t.”
The prisoner was worried. But he still refused to talk. Owen turned and looked at Darius.
“You know how I said you weren’t to draw your fangs in the Hub? Well, I’m making an exception.”
Darius moved like lightning. He leaned over the desk, his face dark and fierce, eyes red with anger, and his fangs pressing against the prisoner’s neck. He kept them there just long enough for the prisoner to lose control of his bladder and then stood back, his fangs withdrawing again.
“I’m not going to kill you,” he said. “Because I’m better than you.”
“Let’s start again,” Owen said. “What is this piece of alien technology for and where did you get it?”
“I found it,” the prisoner answered. “At a car boot sale. Thought it was some kind of metal detector. But it’s not. It detects… aliens. People who aren’t Human… disguised aliens living among us. Do… you have any idea how many…”
“About eight million across the world,” Owen answered. “That’s a tiny percentage of seven billion people. So tiny I can’t be buggered with the maths. And there’s four less thanks to you. Plus the vampires you killed. They’re not aliens. They come from planet Earth. They’ve as much right to be here as you do.”
“Aliens, everywhere,” he insisted. “The machine identified them. I knew I had to kill them… to rid the world of their contamination.”
“You’re just a new kind of racist,” Owen told him. “A fucking racist. Picking on blacks and Poles and Kosovans is too easy. So you’ve taken it upon yourself to rid the world of the contamination of ‘aliens’ walking among us. That’s all you are. A fucking racist.”
Toshiko looked around. Darius had come back into the Hub. He looked sad. She stood and went to him, putting her arms around him.
“I heard,” she said.
“I couldn’t bear to be in the same room as him any longer,” Darius told her. “I wanted to rip his fucking throat out….”
“Have you ever ripped anyone’s throat out?”
“No,” he answered. “I’m a vampire, not a werewolf. But I wanted to. He killed them because he thought they were aliens and…”
“Yes, I know.” She watched as Munroe and Lieutenant Stewart left the interrogation room and presently came into the Hub. Owen was still with the prisoner. He was injecting him with something.
“He’s getting a strong dose of Retcon,” Munroe said. “Strong enough to make him forget everything for the past six months. When he wakes up, he’ll be in a secure mental facility. I’m just doing the paperwork now. I’m giving him twenty years. Good enough, do you think?”
“I think it’s too kind. He deserves to be in jail. He killed all those people. But at least he’ll never hurt anyone else.” She looked at Darius. He nodded. It suited him, too. It was an ending to the tragic events. Apart from those funerals that must be unique in the history of vampires, it was the only ending that would do.