Owen had lost track of where he was. All he knew was that he was running down a long back alley behind some substantial multi-storey buildings. He caught glimpses of fashionable brand names stamped on the side of industrial size wheelie bins or the back alley detritus from franchised coffee houses and pizza parlours, but they weren’t much help identifying his location.
Not that it mattered. He was within running distance of Torchwood Glasgow, and when he caught up with the alien scumbag ahead of him he was going to make him pay for putting him through this unscheduled exercise.
He wasn’t as fit as he ought to be, he admitted as much to himself as he gulped in air and tried to coax his legs into the extra sprint he needed to catch up with the two-faced humanoid he had busted trying to sell a highly toxic non-terrestrial crack cocaine substitute to a couple of really stupid drug addicts. Of course, the addicts didn’t see the second face. He was wearing a hoodie.
He wasn’t wearing it now. His species seemed to have an even smaller lung capacity than humans. He needed the extra mouth to breath as he ran. The rear-facing visage was wide-eyed and staring back at Owen as he chased him around a corner and into another long alleyway filled with the rubbish the customers didn’t see around the front where the bright, plate glass windows were.
The alien had obviously heard of Torchwood before. When he and Dougal had moved in on his drug deal and identified themselves he panicked and ran for it. Dougal had tried to double back around the block in the Ford Escape, but somehow the alien had given him the slip. It was just him and Owen in the shadowy alley.
And it was a dead end. The alien span around and looked at him with his other face as he backed against the wall.
“Just give it up, for fuck sake,” Owen called out. “You’re going nowhere.”
It looked as if the chase was over. Owen slowed his pace and approached the alien drug pusher cautiously, aware that he might be armed with just about anything. The alien was obviously thinking the same about Owen, though in fact all he had on him was a stun gun and an alien-calming pepper spray. In the shadows, the stun gun looked real enough. The alien put up his hands to surrender.
Owen was reaching to restrain him when a door opened in the building to the right of them. It was a fire door that only opened from the inside. A man in a long overcoat came out, apologising as he narrowly missed bumping into Owen. The alien seized his chance, grabbing the door before it swung shut and hurling himself inside. Owen dodged the stranger and just caught the door in time. He ran inside to find a surprisingly luxurious stairwell with pale blue mood lighting and a plush carpet on the steps. From the floor above came the sound of soft jazz and somebody laughing above the buzz of conversation. Owen guessed it was some kind of late night private club. Very late. It was after three in the morning.
The alien kept on running up the stairs. Owen hurried after him, grabbing him by the collar just as he launched himself at the door leading to the music and voices. The momentum carried them both forward to land in an ungainly heap in the middle of a deep pile, ice blue carpet.
“Do I fucking well look like Will fucking Smith?” Owen demanded as he pulled a set of handcuffs from his pocket and pinioned his quarry behind his back. “When I say give it up, for fuck sake give it up!”
As he dragged the alien to his feet Owen looked around for the first time. His first thought was to revise the idea that this was a night club. Try high class brothel. Owen recognised his local MSP as one of the clients who had hung up his expensive suit jacket on a gilded stand and taken off his silk tie before relaxing on a leather sofa with a young woman wearing very, very little.
The MSP and the other men sitting around the room looked at Owen and his prisoner with an air of disapproval, as if there was a dress code that his jeans, sweatshirt and trainers failed to live up to.
Undress code, more like.
“I’m sorry, but our services are strictly by appointment only,” said a voice like audible honey. Owen looked at the woman who had spoken and noted long legs encased in silk stockings that ended in garters worn just below a tiny skirt. She was wearing a low cut blouse with the skirt. It had to be custom made. As far as Owen was aware, no boutique or department store in Glasgow sold sculpted bodices fitted to three breasts – three full, rounded breasts, Owen noticed.
She had long golden hair. Not blonde, but actually shimmering, burnished spun gold. Her eyes were golden, too, and her impeccable face make up looked as if gold dust was mixed into it.
And then there was the tail. Owen resisted the urge to look behind her to see how it emerged from the skirt. Was there a hole sewn into it, or was it over the waistband? Anyway, it was golden velvet with a long haired pompom on the tip. The amazing lady curled the tail around her left arm as she regarded Owen and his prisoner with something like amusement.
Owen pulled his eyes away from her and looked back at the girl the MSP was fondling. How did he miss the tail and the third breast when he looked at her before?
All the girls had tails and extra breasts.
Owen felt peculiarly out of his depth and just a little scared.
“That’s a Fessian,” the woman said about the prisoner. “A Hydeo-Methanox pusher?”
“He’s a piece of scum, and I’m taking him in,” Owen replied. “To Torchwood.”
The word didn’t seem to mean anything to the golden lady. That surprised him. He thought just about everyone had heard of them these days.
“Take him away,” she said. “Back the way you came.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Owen replied. “Sorry to have bothered you.”
He pushed his prisoner’s hood back up - he was fed up of the spare face staring at him - and marched him out of the door and down the stairs.
When he was out in the fresh air again he paused for a few minutes. He needed that time before he could move on down the alley towards the bright pool of street lighting that told him normality wasn’t as far away as it might have seemed for several very surreal minutes.
His prisoner wasn’t giving him any trouble at all, and when he reached that brightly lit street he was relieved to see the Ford Escape pull up. Dougal jumped out of the driver’s seat to help him.
“Where did you go?” he asked. “I’ve been circling around for nearly twenty minutes looking for you.”
“Where have I been?” Owen shook his head and laughed. “You would not believe if I told you.”
They brought the prisoner back to Torchwood and saw him locked in the vaults. Darius did the paperwork while Owen and Dougal both caught up with some sleep – on separate sofas, of course. Owen took a bit of time getting to sleep. He had a lot to think about.
He woke a little after seven. Dougal was still sleeping. Darius was quietly working at his desk. He changed his shirt and brushed his teeth and got a glass of orange juice from the fridge, then went to his office, closing the door behind him. He put a call through on the subwave network to Torchwood Cardiff. Jack Harkness had been on the graveyard shift, too, but he looked a lot fresher for it.
“How are you doing?” he asked. “Is Toshiko all right? And the kids?”
“Toshiko is fine,” Owen answered. “She’ll be in later after she’s dropped Etsuko at her nursery. But I wanted a word with you… before she gets to the office.”
Jack raised an eyebrow but said nothing facetious. Owen was relieved.
“Jack,” he said. “Have you ever come across a species of stunning women with three breasts, golden hair and a tail?”
Both Jack’s eyebrows raised this time.
“Dassians,” he said.
“So you have?”
“More to the point, have you?”
“I’ve got a bunch of them running what I can only describe as a high class brothel within shouting distance of the Glasgow Hub,” Owen replied. He briefly explained his encounter last night. Jack smiled knowingly. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Or felt it, either. The last time I had a hard on like that…. Well, it was before me and Toshiko were an item. But I’m never going to let her know that.”
“They exude pheromones,” Jack explained. “It’s not your fault. No red blooded male of any species could help it around them. They live for sex. It’s their biggest industry. I visited their planet, once. In the capital city there are sex booths on the streets.”
“Try not to think of portaloos. It’s not as nasty as that. They’re more like small cabins, just about big enough for a bed and a chair and a wash basin. There’s usually music, too, setting the ambience. You put your credit chip in the slot and go in... and the lady is ready and waiting. It’s on a meter like a taxi, so you can spend as long as you can afford.”
“Sounds like all your Christmases come at once,” Owen told him.
“Not really,” Jack answered him. “It loses its novelty value very quickly. Besides, half the thrill is in the chase. If it’s bought and paid for it’s too easy.”
“So what should I do about them?” Owen asked after considering that revelation about Jack’s libido for a half a minute. “I mean... they’re aliens... and they’re running a brothel... with some very expensive clientele.”
“Leave them alone,” Jack answered. “They’re just doing business. They’re not the sort of aliens you need to worry about. You won’t have any trouble with them.”
“Ok,” Owen replied. “Thanks for the info. Look after yourself, Jack.”
“You, too,” Jack answered.
Jack’s advice was reassuring. The encounter had left a profound impression on Owen, though. The erection had gone down, now, but when his concentration drifted he kept thinking about women with three breasts.
He knew he had to stop thinking about them before Toshiko got in. It wasn’t that he had done anything wrong, especially if Jack was right and it wasn’t his own doing. But there was a tiny part of his mind that couldn’t get over the idea that he was cheating on Tosh, and he hated himself for it.
He managed to get his mind on his work by the time she arrived, and he probably got away with it. Later, he was too busy with the latest round of MOD UFO reports to think about sex at all. What had been a really strange night melded seamlessly into an ordinary, mundane morning at Torchwood Glasgow.
Then just before lunchtime he had a phone call that threw him right back into the surreal world again.
“Doctor Harper, I’m Donald Mackinson, MSP,” said the man on the line in a deep, rich Scottish accent. “I believe you are in my constituency, Doctor.”
“Very likely,” Owen replied. “But I don’t have time for a political debate.”
“I’m not giving you one,” Mackinson told him. “Doctor Harper, we met very briefly last night… I don’t know if you….”
“Yes,” Owen cut in quickly, before he went into any further details. “What you do with your private life is your business. I’m not judging… and I don’t think it’s something I’ll be telling the tabloids about.”
“It’s not about that,” Mackinson assured him. “At least… not exactly. Look, I’m calling you on behalf of the lady you met in the same place. I wonder if you could spare an hour to talk to her… Could you meet us at the café on the corner of Brunswick and Wilson Street in twenty minutes?”
He said yes. He couldn’t think of a way of saying no. He contemplated bringing Toshiko with him to the lunch appointment with their MSP and a woman who probably wasn’t a registered voter.
He brought Dougal, instead.
The café was on the ground floor of the building that he had accidentally visited the night before. It was a pleasant, respectable establishment with Parisian style pavement tables on the pedestrianised street outside and waiters in black shirts and trousers that Dougal cast an approving eye over as their coffee was served.
It wasn’t the first time Owen had noticed that the city at night and the city by day were two very different animals, one wild and dangerous, the other fully domesticated. But he couldn’t think of a starker illustration of the fact than this one.
The lady who sat down with Donald Mackinson had a different look for the day time, too. Her hair just looked blonde, tied up in a neat pony tail away from her face. The dress she wore accentuated enough of her curves for him to know she only had two breasts underneath it, and there was nowhere she could be hiding a tail.
“It’s a perception filter,” she said in the same honey-sweet voice he remembered. “It allows me to move around by day without causing a stir. As well as my physical appearance the filter also dampens the pheromone effect that Human men find so alluring by night but distressing by day.”
“Not… completely effective,” Owen told her. “Not in close proximity, anyway.” He glanced at Dougal. He had never had a long conversation about it, but he knew that Dougal had never been sexually attracted to women. He was one hundred per cent gay.
But he was having trouble turning his eyes away from the lady and they were starting to water.
Mackinson shot them both a sympathetic look.
“May I formally introduce Miss Heather Galloway,” he said. “Miss Galloway is not, as you understand, a native of Scotland, but she is one of my constituents, running a profitable business that provides what many people consider an essential service.”
“That is a very diplomatic way of putting it,” Owen commented. He recalled from somewhere, possibly a coffee break anecdote from Munroe MacDonald, that the name Galloway meant foreigner in Scots Gaelic. A good choice of alias for a resident alien.
“Doctor Harper, you are not a native born Scot, either,” Mackinson added. “But you, too, run an establishment that provides an essential service to the people I represent in the Assembly.”
“That is another very diplomatic way of describing the work Torchwood does,” Owen added. “Though I hope you’re not suggesting that running Torchwood and running a brothel have anything in common.”
“Not at all, Doctor Harper,” Mackinson replied. “My object today is simply to bring Miss Galloway into formal contact with you so that she can elicit your organisation’s help with a problem that is troubling her.”
“What problem?” Owen asked. He was intrigued enough to ask the question. Besides, it took his mind off his pressing need to seek a private place to do something Toshiko didn’t entirely approve of.
“Six of my girls are missing,” she said. “It happened over the past four days. They went out on separate occasions and didn’t return. There has been no trace of them.”
“They were out in broad daylight?” Owen asked. “So… presumably they were in disguise?”
“Yes,” Heather answered him. “We have been accustomed to leading a ‘normal’ life here in this city… moving among humans and interacting with them… buying food, clothes, enjoying leisure activities… but now we are afraid to set foot beyond this street. My girls are virtual prisoners in the apartment above. We are frightened, for ourselves, and for our sisters who have been taken from us.”
“I take it you have not contacted the police?” Dougal asked. He, too, seemed to need a distraction from physical sensations.
“I told nobody,” Heather replied. “Until last night… when Doctor Harper accidentally stumbled across our little community. It was then that Donald explained the nature of the organisation called Torchwood. And I confided in him. He offered to introduce me to you. In my work, of course, formal introductions are rarely done. But this is another matter.”
“I understand,” Owen replied. “I can’t make any promises, but we’ll do what we can.” He kept a cool expression, but in his mind he was floundering. He thought of Gwen Cooper. Missing people were more her line of work. He was a doctor. He looked after them after they’d been found. How did he start a missing person search, even an ordinary one, let alone a search for alien missing persons with very unusual attributes.
“We’ll need photo id of your girls,” Dougal said, saving him from a pause that was going to get longer and more embarrassing by the moment.
“In day and night ‘look’,” Owen added.
“I can do that,” Heather answered. “I have everything on file in my office. If one of you could….”
Dougal volunteered. Owen was slightly surprised by that. But he let him go. He finished his coffee with Donald Mackinson for company. He sought for a topic of conversation, but there was only one subject pre-occupying him just now.
“I take it that you know… Heather… Miss Galloway… quite well?”
“On her world, she would properly be addressed as Lady Heather,” Mackinson answered with a wry smile. “Sex workers occupy a much higher social position than they do here. They’re regarded something like the temple women in cities like Corinth in biblical times.”
“Even the ones who work from booths in the street?” Owen asked, glossing over what he didn’t know about biblical Corinth and thinking instead about what Jack had told him about them.
“The booths would be the equivalent of roadside shrines seen in some Earth religions. For ‘offerings’ to the goddesses of pleasure.”
Owen’s senses wobbled. He still had an erection that was going to make driving uncomfortable on the way back to the Hub.
“Given YOUR position in our society… and the trouble it might cause if the press ever found out… how come you got to know Lady Heather so well?”
“I’m a widower,” Mackinson said. “I loved my wife very much. She died after a long, troublesome illness. I miss her in ways you could not begin to understand. I am not ready to think about another long term relationship. To call another woman Mrs Mackinson feels like betrayal of her memory. But I have certain physical needs. The girls satisfy that need with absolute discretion. It is a business transaction, a service rendered for monetary reward. No more, and no less. As for Lady Heather – she is a charming and accomplished woman. I have a great deal of respect for her. I have no qualms about saying I am a friend of hers and that she is a friend of mine….”
“Though not one you are likely to invite as your guest to the State Opening of the Assembly,” Owen pointed out.
“Perhaps not,” Mackinson admitted. “Nevertheless… it grieves me to know that she is troubled. I want to help her. I want you to help her. I have a great deal of influence with the treasury. I could see that your organisation is looked upon favourably…. I don’t mean that as a bribe. I mean that I could ensure finances are not held up in Committee, that sort of thing. A friend in the corridors of power….”
“Torchwood has quite a few friends, already,” Owen pointed out. “Since you are obviously aware - in your official capacity – of our existence, you must know that Torchwood was set up to defend the British Empire from dangerous aliens. Missing alien prostitutes don’t quite fit that remit.”
“I understand that,” Mackinson told him. “But they need help. And where else can they turn?”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t help,” Owen told him. “Just that you can’t take us for granted.”
His instinct was to trust Mackinson. For a politician he seemed surprisingly open and honest, and his reasons for introducing him to Lady Heather appeared to be a genuine wish to help her. He was ready to keep an open mind about him.
Dougal took a considerable time collecting one data stick with information about the missing girls, and when he returned he had a very strange look on his face. Owen said nothing until they were in the Ford Escape driving back to the Hub. Dougal drove while Owen inserted the data stick into the USB drive on the on board computer and sent the information directly back for Toshiko to start processing. Concentrating on that helped make that erection finally subside.
“She had the same effect on you, didn’t she?” he asked Dougal. “Even though you’re gay.”
“Yes,” Dougal admitted. “Yes, she did. I’ve never felt anything like it. When I was a teenager… I tried… I copped a feel with girls… but nothing ever happened. I was a major disappointment to them all. I only ever really got excited when I was with another man… preferably one who felt the same way I did… not one that would kick my head in for trying. But this afternoon… I had the hardest hard on I’ve ever known… and…” He paused and looked studiously at the lorry in front of him at the traffic lights. “I KNEW that nothing Sandy or any other man could do would satisfy the urges I had. I needed….” He paused again. The lights turned green. He paid close attention to his driving for a while. “Lady Heather introduced me to one of her girls… her Human name is Gina... but she was in her alien form… three breasts, tail….”
Owen said absolutely nothing. He knew what was coming next.
“In the part of Glasgow I grew up in, it was called a tuppenny upright and the tarts did it in the back alleyways,” he said. “The way Gina did it was a lot classier and worth a damn sight more than tuppence.”
Owen continued to say nothing.
“I’m still gay… now I’m away from there… I’m thinking of Sandy and how I’m going to come clean to him about what happened… and how I can make up to him for my infidelity. But… is it possible to feel guilty about something and still be glad you did it… knowing you’ll cherish the memory forever?”
“I’m not sure,” Owen replied. “I think if I’d gone up there instead of you… I think I’d be working out how to confess to Toshiko. I’m glad I don’t have the dilemma. I hope Sandy doesn’t give you too much of a hard time, but I honestly don’t know how you could have stopped yourself. Jack Harkness reckons the novelty wears off after a few times. That’s the only thing I’m having trouble believing right now.”
They were almost back at the Hub when Owen took a call from Toshiko on his communicator.
“Leave the engine running,” she said. “Munroe and Shona are going to join you. I think I know where the girls are.”
“Already?” Owen was surprised.
“The CCTV system in Glasgow is even better than the Cardiff one,” Toshiko answered. “I tracked three of the girls from where they left their place of ‘employment’. All three girls were tailed, without them knowing it, by a white van. All three turned a corner into a street without CCTV coverage. The van followed… the van came back a few minutes later… but the girl didn’t. Once… coincidence, but I saw it happen to three of them. And... Owen, it might not just be alien girls. I cross-referenced with the police. They’re keeping it quiet at the moment, so as not to cause a media panic, but they’ve had four missing women reported… four known prostitutes. Their ‘working area’ is only a few streets away from your alien brothel.”
“It’s not MY alien brothel,” he quickly assured her. “I’m just worried about the girls. This looks bad.”
There was a crackle on the communicator, and Owen heard Darius’s voice.
“Boss, I’ve been checking among the vampire community. There are a couple of females of our kind who nobody has seen since sun up on Friday. There might be a connection… or not. I can’t join you. It’s still hours till sunset. But….”
“We’ll do our best,” Owen promised him. Dougal pulled the car up outside the Welsh Tourism office and kept the engine ticking over as Munroe Macdonald and Shona Stewart stepped out. Shona was toting a heavy canvas bag. As they moved off again following a route Toshiko had automatically sent to the Ford Escape’s alien-tech enhanced Sat-Nav, Shona checked and distributed weapons. All four of them armed themselves with both stun guns and automatics with live rounds. They didn’t know what they were going to be up against and they were taking no chances. Dougal pulled the car back into the traffic.
“The van seen every time a girl went missing is registered as a private ambulance belonging to a clinic called The McFarlane Institute. It’s on Mansion House Road.”
“That’s a nice area,” Munroe noted. “Not where you would expect to find kidnapped women.”
“Is there any special area where you would expect to find that sort of thing?” Owen asked. “Weird shit happens everywhere.”
“It’s only about half a mile from where Lady Moira lives,” Dougal noted.
“Lady Moira the aristocrat of vampires, Lady Heather, alien sex goddess!” Owen noted. “We have some classy people on our speed dials!”
“Exactly what sort of institute IS this, anyway?” Shona Stewart asked. “What are we expecting to be up against?”
“I have no idea,” Owen replied. “But our new friend in the Scottish Assembly has just pulled a couple of very fast strings. They’ve been told to expect a spot check from the Environmental Health.”
“Oh, great,” Shona mused as Munroe shuffled through a small briefcase full of authentic ID badges for all the team. “We’re the grime detectives.”
“It could be worse,” Owen assured her. “Remind me to tell you about the time we crashed a sperm donor clinic in Cardiff looking for a sex mad alien. Anyway, weapons in concealed holsters. We’re going in quietly to find out what we’re dealing with. We get tough only if the proverbial hits the fan.”
The gate to the McFarlane Institute was electronically locked, but they were expected. Owen held up his Environmental Health ID to the camera eye and the gate swung inwards. Dougal drove carefully between old oak trees that screened the house from the road. When it came into view it was a late Victorian three storey townhouse of warm limestone that looked almost inviting in the summery sunshine. But the possibility that frightened women, alien, Human, vampire and possibly any other permutation, were being held here against their will gave it a sinister façade to the Torchwood team as they climbed out of the Ford Escape and approached the front door.
The reception hall was stylishly decorated and furnished with sofas in cream fabric and light wood, a beige carpet and cream coloured shades on the light fittings. The walls were decorated with paintings with religious themes. None of the Torchwood team made any claims to be theologians. They recognised one of the images as Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden. Another one might have been the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were dramatic scenes, anyway, and it occurred to Owen as he casually appraised them that punishment for ‘sin’ was a general theme.
He was starting to form a theory about what sort of institute this might be.
“Gentleman, madam,” a smooth voice said. Owen turned to see a man wearing a pastel blue suit approaching him with his hand held out to shake. Owen did so briefly. “I am Alec McFarlane, director of the Institute. I understand that we are due – indeed overdue – your inspection.”
“You are a residential facility,” Munroe said, holding a clipboard and pen in a brisk and efficient manner. “We need to inspect your food preparation areas, laundry, dining rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. We will require copies of your daily cleaning schedule….”
Munroe managed to sound much more like an Environmental Health Inspector than any of the others could have managed. They looked at him admiringly as McFarlane promised they would have access to everything the law required them to see.
“Shona, Munroe, you take the bedrooms and bathrooms,” Owen said. “Dougal, with me. We’ll start with the kitchens.”
He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. None of them were. He thought he would know it when he saw it. Splitting the team was tactical. McFarlane’s expression suggested very strongly that he didn’t like the idea. It meant that he had to summon his assistant, a prim, middle aged woman called Ruth Hamilton, to accompany one half of them.
The kitchen was where it might be expected to be in a Victorian house – the basement. Its windows were high in the walls. It was a big room, and it clearly needed to be. Some fifteen young women were hard at work preparing a meal for a much larger number of people. While they worked, one woman stood by the door and read aloud from the bible. Owen didn’t recognise the passage, but it sounded like an exhortation against sin and in favour of hard work.
“How many meals are provided out of this kitchen?” Dougal asked as he made a pretence of examining the regulatory stainless steel work surfaces and checking that there were adequate provision for hand washing, the storage of raw and cooked meats and other kitchen hygiene essentials.
“Around sixty on any one day,” replied Miss Hamilton. “There are forty-five residents and fifteen staff.”
“And these residents are…” Owen looked at the women. Their age range seemed to be somewhere between eighteen and twenty-five. Most of them looked as if they’d been through the mill. It had been a while since he had worked in a casualty department, but his instincts were as sharp as they ever were. He easily spotted the tell-tale signs, the track marks on the arms of a former junkie, the hollow eyed look of a recovering alcoholic, scars that were almost certainly self-inflicted, the painfully gaunt figure of an anorexic. “This is some sort of halfway house for vulnerable women?”
“They come here to learn through faith and put their sinful ways behind them,” Miss Hamilton replied. “First Corinthians, Chapter Six, verses nineteen and twenty. ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.’”
“Corinth, when Saint Paul set eyes upon it, was a city of iniquity, where sinners wantonly defiled their own bodies, not knowing that they had been bought by the ransom of Our Saviour’s Blood. He exhorted the people to remember that their flesh was not to be so defiled. The women who come to us, must learn to turn from sin and have faith in the Lord to guide them.”
Corinth? Where men went to the temples to worship beautiful women like Lady Heather’s girls, Owen thought, recalling the first time he had heard that city mentioned today.
“You call them sinners?” Dougal asked. “Girls who self harm… anorexics… surely they’re victims. They need medical help, support… not preaching at… not condemnation.”
Owen said nothing. Dougal had summed it up for him. All his medical instincts screamed against such a way of treating vulnerable women. He wasn’t against a bit of tough love for persistent self-abusers. But even alcoholics and drug addicts were in need of help and understanding not bible verses.
“I came here just like them,” Miss Hamilton said. “I had defiled my body in so many ways. I gave myself to men in order to pay for my habit. I fell so low… but through prayer, through opening myself to the Lord, I learnt the error of my ways. I learnt to cast off the sin and make my body a Member of the Lord’s body. I am clean.”
“Really?” Owen remarked, deciding that even Environmental Health inspectors shouldn’t have to listen to claptrap like that. “Well, your kitchen isn’t. I’m a fornicator and adulterer and my colleague here is a shameless sodomite, and we’ll shut you down in an instant if I’m not satisfied with the rest of your facilities.”
Shona and Munroe had listened to a similar sermon from McFarlane. They, too, were wondering what such an approach was doing to people society usually regarded as victims of unfortunate circumstances.
“They are all sinners,” McFarlane said about the group of tired looking women in a common room. Their leisure activities mostly involved listening to more readings from First Corinthians. There were no books on the shelves that weren’t bibles or bible commentaries and no magazines except the in house magazine of the Institute itself. The walls were decorated with more images of God punishing sinners. As a place for relaxation it left a lot to be desired.
“We are all sinners,” Munroe MacDonald replied. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. John: Chapter Eight, verse seven, as I’m sure you know.”
Shona Stuart looked at him in surprise. She had never been sure what to make of the genial middle aged family man who formed a backbone of quiet certainty in the Torchwood team. In his tweed suits and immaculately pressed shirt and tie he looked like somebody who might be a regular church goer, but she had never heard him quote chapter and verse before. Munroe had never passed any judgement on her peculiar relationship with Darius, or her having his child out of wedlock. He never made any comment about Owen and Toshiko’s non-marital status, or Dougal and Sandy for that matter.
It occurred to her that Munroe actually did what many so-called Christians didn’t do. He actually lived by John: Chapter Eight, verse Seven. He didn’t cast the first stone.
Then she noticed something else about Munroe. She looked away but her eye was drawn back to him again, because she had to be sure.
Munroe, the widower, who didn’t seem to have had any sexual encounter for at least a decade, had an erection. She tried not to make it obvious that she was staring at his groin. But even in tweed trousers there was no mistaking it.
Come to think of it, she was wound up so tightly herself she thought she would burst if anyone touched her. She was having sex with Darius regularly again since Gabrielle was born, and it was as hot and satisfying as ever. But just now she would have jumped on Munroe if he had given her even the slightest signal.
No, she wouldn’t. It came as a surprise to her, but she realised it wasn’t a man she wanted right now. She was thinking about sex with women. She was puzzled by that. In her entire adult life she had been exclusively heterosexual. She knew there were lesbians in the army. She had shared barrack rooms with them, and was aware of what they got up to after the lights were out – the sound effects, anyway. But for her sex involved a man.
Darius, whatever else he might be, was all man in that respect.
But right now, her mind was filled with thoughts about female bodies, the soft curves, the warmth of a woman, and she wanted it so badly she was ready to explode.
“There is something wrong with this room,” Munroe said. His voice seemed to be coming from a long way off. Shona pushed her inner lesbian down firmly and concentrated on what he was saying. She looked where he was looking at the tall bay window that let in bright sunlight to the room. It was one of the windows that faced the front of the house, overlooking the garden.
Shona was no interior designer. She wasn’t entirely sure what Munroe was getting at.
“That window is too close to the wall. Victorian architects were fond of order and symmetry. They never designed rooms with windows that were so far off kilter.”
“How does that concern an Environmental Health inspector?” McFarlane asked, justifiably puzzled.
“It doesn’t,” Munroe answered. “Shona, I think this charade has gone on long enough. Restrain this self-righteous, sanctimonious son of a bitch.”
Shona moved quickly. McFarlane was taken completely by surprise. He struggled only once before she zapped him with the stun gun and he slithered to the floor making whimpering noises. While everyone else was taking that in Munroe grabbed a chair with metal feet and threw it at the image of the tower of Babel falling that was in the middle of the obviously false wall. The picture shattered. So did the thin plaster behind. Munroe picked up the chair again and broke a hole into the concealed space.
They had come here looking for missing women. That was what he had expected to find behind the stud wall. And in part that was what they DID find. But there was much more, and much worse.
“Boss!” Munroe said, activating his in ear communicator. “You need to get on up here and see what these bastards have been doing.”
Yes, there were women there. The larger piece of the room beyond the wall was divided into cubicles where two at a time were confined, handcuffed to iron beds with bare mattresses. Within reach of their free hand was a jug of water, a plate with dry bread on it, and a bible. Some of them were wearing hospital style gowns, others were in grey flannel nightdresses. Not surprisingly, none of these captives were reading their bibles. Startled by the noise of the wall being broken in, most of them shrank back from Munroe as he walked between the cubicles, counting the captives and making note of their species. Most were Human, but he found the missing Dassian women, and the two who shrank back from the sunlight that was coming through the broken wall had to be from Darius’s community.
Owen arrived noisily, followed by Dougal who had Ruth Hamilton with him. She looked as if he had given her a burst with the stun gun. Owen gently examined the first couple of captive women and his face turned nearly as grey and angry as Darius got when he forgot himself. All he was short of was the red eyes and fangs. He turned towards McFarlane with his real gun drawn. For a desperate moment he looked as if he was going to execute the man in cold blood, in front of the captives, in front of the startled and confused women who had been in the common room and who now looked upon the Institute’s secret in horror.
His common sense prevailed and he lowered the gun, but not before McFarlane had lost control of his bladder and made a distressing stain on the carpet.
“These women…” Owen said, loud enough so that everyone within the common room would hear. “These women have had nipples and clitoral tissue removed.” He took two steps towards McFarlane again. “Why?” he demanded.
“Sir…” One of the women who had been sitting in the common room approached him timidly. “He encouraged us to have it done. He said it would help us turn from sin if our ‘enjoyment’ of sexual pleasures was curtailed. And he is right. I am better able to give my full measure of devotion to God now that I am not troubled by lust.”
“You… allowed that to be done to yourself? You consented to mutilation?” Owen stared at the woman in utter astonishment. He looked at the others who had been so calmly sitting around listening to bible readings. Then he looked back at the other women who had been hidden from view. “What about them? Did they consent?” He reached out for one of those victims and stroked her brow gently. “Did you ask for this to be done to you?”
“No,” the woman answered in a terrified sob. “He grabbed me from the street… he drugged me… held me here… HE did this to me… without anaesthetic. He said it was my punishment… the agony of my sin… he’s a nutcase. And… and….”
“It’s all right,” he assured the woman. “He’s not going to hurt you, ever again. I’m going to hurt him if he tries.” He turned to Munroe. “These women need to go to hospital straight away. We’ll need ambulances. Those ones need therapy for whatever rubbish he’s brainwashed them with. HE needs a jail cell, along with anyone else on the staff who knew anything about what he was doing. Dougal, call up your Lady Moira, see if she can send her hearse with the tinted windows around for those two. They’ll be safe with her. Munroe, you take the Dassian ladies home. The police can sort out where everyone else belongs.”
“They’re all sinners,” McFarlane protested. “Whores of Babylon, harlots of Corinth, selling themselves on the streets. I am saving them for God.”
“He’s a nutter,” the woman on the bed repeated. Shona had searched McFarlane and Miss Hamilton and found keys that opened the cuffs. Dougal and Munroe looked after the ‘special’ cases that wouldn’t be going in the official police report about the kidnapping and torture of women behind the closed doors of a Victorian villa in Glasgow’s respectable garden suburbs.
By the time Owen got back from the hospital where he had left the women most in need of immediate medical help, everyone else had returned to the Hub and they were talking over what amounted to a strange situation even for Torchwood.
“Humans abducting aliens is a new one on me!” Toshiko commented as she pieced together what the others reported to her. “It was because the Dassians worked in a brothel, I suppose? McFarlane just saw them as more sinners.”
“He tried slicing their extra breasts off, but they grew back,” Munroe commented. “According to that very charming Lady Heather, they can do that where they come from.”
“They’re lucky,” Owen commented. “The Human women are going to need years of reconstructive surgery to repair the damage he did to them. Those who were mutilated against their will, anyway. Apparently a lot of the others are still insisting they did it willingly to be closer to God.”
Shona Stewart rolled her eyes and made a disgusted sound in her throat. She was sitting on Darius’ knee, and he happily wrapped his arms around her waist. She didn’t object to his affections during office hours as she usually did.
“Religion has a lot to answer for,” she said.
“Ah, now,” Munroe told her in his gentle, unassuming, but impossible to ignore tones. “Mrs MacDonald and I were regulars at the Church of Scotland, and we brought up our boy in the same good habit. Nothing wrong with religion in proportion. McFarlane had let it get out of proportion, that’s all.”
“Maybe,” Shona commented then changed the subject adroitly. “You took a VERY long time getting back from Lady Heather’s place. I wonder just how grateful she was to you.”
“Munroe?” Dougal smiled slyly at him. “You sly old dog. Don’t tell me you got a tuppenny upright from one of the girls, too?”
Munroe blushed slightly and smiled sheepishly as everyone looked at him.
“There was nothing upright about it,” he admitted. “Well... maybe the one thing. It was how I knew the lassies were behind the wall, you know. They were putting out those pheromones like an SOS… and I got the message loud and clear. And then… driving six of them back in the SUV… I needed a little relief.” He looked at Dougal quizzically. “What do you mean, tuppenny upright? I thought YOU didn’t do it with lassies.”
“Moment of weakness,” he admitted. “But Sandy is my only sexual obsession from now on.”
Shona said nothing, but she shifted slightly on Darius’s knee. Away from the influence of the pheromones she was happy enough with her Vampire lover. As soon as the day shift at Torchwood packed up and they got some quiet time she was ready to relieve a lot of tension with him.
“Those lassies are beyond my pocket, usually,” Munroe added. “They’re for the likes of Donald Mackinson with his parliamentary expense account. But Lady Heather says any Torchwood employee who drops by will get a substantial discount on club membership.” He smiled softly. “Church going isn’t the only thing I stopped doing after Mrs MacDonald passed away. It’s been a long time. I might just take her up on that once in a while.”
Everyone else looked at him, then each other, and could think of no good reason why he shouldn’t do just that.
Then Owen caught Toshiko’s glance and said absolutely nothing. He did his best not to even THINK anything and he hoped his face wasn’t calling him a liar in front of her.