Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The Doctor and Romana returned to the TARDIS, parked not very far from the Queen’s Hall. Romana was humming a piece of music from the concert. It had been a pleasant evening and for a time she had even forgotten it was part of the Mornington Crescent quest.

But now The Doctor was studying the small print and thinking very carefully about it.

“Catch the grasshopper of Lombard Street.”

“Where’s Lombard Street?” Romana asked.

“It is in the City of London,” The Doctor answered. “On a piece of land granted by King Edward I to a group of goldsmiths from Lombardy. It has always been associated with banking and money-lending.”

“And a grasshopper….”

“Is a species of insect usually found in meadows and other grasslands.”

“So why would we find one in this street of goldsmiths?” Romana asked perfectly logically.

The Doctor was wondering about that, too. He landed the TARDIS at the corner of Fenchurch Street and Lombard Street and he and Romana strolled down the surprisingly narrow, slightly curving way with tall Georgian and Victorian financial buildings either side making it into a rather dark defile.

“Look at the signs on the buildings,” Romana said. “They’re like the ones in the Capitol on Gallifrey – three dimensional pictorial representations.”

“Yeessss,” The Doctor drawled as he studied a rather angular blue eagle hanging from a horizontal post fixed to the front of a bank. A few addresses further along there was a large gold and blue medallion with a crown on top and a cameo portrait of a regal looking man. On the next corner the same building had a matching sign with a cat and a fiddle on it. The Doctor had no idea what either sign was meant to signify. On the opposite side of the road was another blue and gold sign portraying a castle gate and a few paces beyond that was a gold anchor swaying slightly in the breeze.

Then Romana gave an exclamation of triumph. The very NEXT building sported a gilded grasshopper perched on a swinging ironwork sign below the date 1567 and the initials TG.

“Yes, of course,” The Doctor murmured. “Why didn’t I think of that before? TG – Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal Exchange. Financial wizard of the Tudor era, favourite of Mary I and Elizabeth I. Gresham’s Law - "Bad money drives out good" – was named for him.”

“And what does that have to do with grasshoppers?”

“Gres is middle English for grass,” The Doctor replied. “That is a heraldic rebus based on his name on a property built on a site owned by him. As I said, it all makes perfect sense, now.”

“Except that we’re supposed to ‘catch’ this grasshopper,” Romana pointed out. “Exactly how do we do that?”

The Doctor grinned. It was going to be another of those slightly illegal moments. He took his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and adjusted the setting before pointing it at the bolts that held the grasshopper’s frame to the signpost. The bolts turned red hot and then white hot before becoming malleable. The weight of the sign stretched them until they snapped apart.

The Doctor reached out his arms and caught the grasshopper. Romana looked around, wondering why nobody had commented about his actions. She was surprised to see everyone moving very slowly, as if the air had turned to treacle. She also realised that it was quiet. They were in the pause between sounds.

The Doctor had created a slow time bubble around them both while he captured the grasshopper. The people around him would see nothing but a blur as he stretched a second into the minutes he needed to commit his strange crime.

Romana was impressed. Time bubbles were something she had never mastered herself.

The Doctor tucked the grasshopper under his huge coat and walked on quickly. The bubble collapsed and the people carried on walking and talking at normal speed. The sounds came back.

They were a whole block away when somebody came out of the building and discovered that the grasshopper was missing. His shout caused some of the pedestrians to look around, but most carried on walking again. It was nothing to do with them.

“Whew!” The Doctor exclaimed as they stepped into the TARDIS. “I haven’t done that since I was a much younger Time Lord. It really takes it out of me. You check where we have to go next.”

The Doctor sank down onto a chair looking extremely worn out and tired.

“Travel first class under the Thames to the Tower,” she read on the underside of the grasshopper. “I have no idea what that means.”

“It means we have to do another bit of time travelling,” The Doctor told her. “August 1870 is our next stop off point. Why don’t you do it while I take a little rest? The co-ordinate is here.”

He wrote it down on the back of the Promenade programme. Romana took it from him and moved to the navigation console while he lay down on the floor and closed his eyes. He levitated about an inch from the actual surface as he dropped into a deep meditative trance.

Romana was more than capable of what amounted to a third level TARDIS navigation manoeuvre. She certainly didn’t need The Doctor’s help to do it. The whole process took less than fifteen minutes. She used the time to change her outfit. There was a considerable difference in style between ladies daywear in 1870 and evening dress in 1895. She also had time to find out about the location and why it was significant.

Moments after the smooth, untroubled materialisation in a place called Vine Lane - despite there being nothing green among the grimy red brick buildings - The Doctor rose abruptly from his meditation with the energy of a ten year old. A mere fifteen minutes meditation had restored his strength and vitality.

“We’re here? Excellent. Shall we go?”

Romana hadn’t expected praise for her efforts in bringing the TARDIS to the location. The Doctor never did things like that when they were appropriate or deserved, only at odd, unexpected times when they didn’t seem appropriate at all. She reached for the door release and followed him outside into the warm August afternoon.

There was a small queue outside a very small kiosk, not much bigger than the exterior disguise of the TARDIS. The queue consisted of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen and four working class people in duller, well worn clothing. Among the former group there was a well-dressed dwarf who was oblivious to the attention his short stature was attracting. Romana and The Doctor both recognised him as the Graske under the shimmer cloak who answered to the name of Tofamebu Zorezi.

Neither The Doctor and his companion nor the Graske had noticed Sabalom Glitz and Dibber among the working men where their rough appearance if not their apparel was perfectly congruous. Of course, they all had first class tickets. Glitz had sent Dibber to buy their tickets while he kept his eye on his rivals. He had purchased second class ones, not because he was parsimonious – he didn’t know what the word meant – but because he had always been somebody who travelled second class. It never occurred to him to buy first class tickets.

Glitz didn’t even notice the difference until a little man in a conductor’s uniform called for passengers with first class tickets and invited them to step into the lift inside the kiosk. Though he had a pocket full of change and the difference between the one penny ticket and the two penny one was minor it was too late, by then, to do anything about it.


The first class passengers, including The Doctor, Romana and Tofamebu Zorezi stepped into the lift and took just twenty seconds to descend to the waiting room at the south end of the newly opened Tower Hill Subway. They sat on the benches in the small room with a curved metal ceiling and wooden floor and listened to the noise of the approaching subway omnibus. Another conductor opened a door to let the arriving passengers out, directing them to the lift before those waiting were allowed to board.

That was the privilege the extra penny bought for the first class passengers – the chance to sit in the waiting room and board first, getting the choice of seats aboard the metal, tube shaped omnibus. The second class passengers were allowed to come down in the lift and board once they were settled. Glitz and Dibber chose seats closest to the door and furthest from The Doctor. Glitz had a plan for obtaining one of those first class tickets that he realised he needed.

Romana thought it was far from the most comfortable way to travel. With the maximum twelve passengers aboard there wasn’t much elbow room even for those who paid tuppence. The single lamp at one end of the enclosed tube was dull and it was rather stuffy with everyone breathing in such a small space.

It was also a little smelly. The ladies sitting close to her were doused in flowery scents, but the fact that underarm deodorants hadn’t yet been invented was obvious. The men, upper and lower class, all smelt of tobacco. There was a distinct smell of bad breath and old whiskey, too.

And when the omnibus started up it was noisy and jerky as it was hauled along the iron tube beneath the Thames by a stationary steam engine and cable pulley system. Romana could feel the turn of the wheels on the track beneath the soles of her feet.

The journey took less than two minutes then another lift brought them to the surface. Romana wasn’t the only one who breathed deeply when she emerged into the sunshine not far from the Tower of London’s forbidding walls. There was something very claustrophobic about the subway for all that it must have been an innovative and remarkable idea at the time.

“Now what?” she asked.

“Now we have a stroll by the wharf and I’ll tell you all about the time I spent in the Tower along with Rannulf Flambard, the first prisoner to escape from there. I showed him how to tie his bedsheets together to make a rope. A century or so later a poor fellow called Gruffydd ap Llewelyn tried to do the same, but he got the knots wrong and fell to his death.”

Romana was too glad to be out in the fresh air to care about any of The Doctor’s tall stories. She let it all drift past her mind, including his description of playing an early version of draughts with the imprisoned former Bishop of Durham who was out of favour with the new king while they waited for the guards to fall asleep on their watch allowing the sheet rope to be lowered.

“What was that?” she asked, turning and looking back along the way they had been walking.

“What was what?” The Doctor replied absently.

“I heard a cry. And… look….”

Two men were running away down a side street. Another was lying on the ground. The Doctor gave chase to the assailants while Romana went to give assistance to the victim. She was surprised to see that it was the Graske, Tofamebu Zorezi. His shimmer cloak had been stolen and his true shape was revealed - a short humanoid with a pink-red mottled, hairless head, hooked nose, deep set eyes and foot long earlobes that swept back from the head like fleshy horns.

“Are you all right?” Romana asked.

“Nothing damaged except pride,” Tofamebu Zorezi answered. “Ticket stolen.”

“Ticket?” For a moment Romana didn’t grasp why the ticket was important, then she remembered that the last clue was almost certainly on it. “Oh dear. I think the cheat has struck again.”

The Doctor returned to the scene, reporting that the thieves had made their getaway in the twisting lanes and back streets of London. When he saw the victim close up he was surprised.

“Not an ordinary mugging, then,” he commented and enquired about the Graske’s physical well being.

“Doctor, we need to get him off the streets. He won’t pass for Human without his shimmer cloak. But the TARDIS is on the other side of the river and there is no way we can get him on that subway omnibus without being noticed.”

“We could get a hansom cab and go by way of London Bridge,” The Doctor suggested. “I planned that return anyway, since you were so disenchanted by the tunnel. Of course, in another twenty-odd years there won’t be a problem crossing the river from here. Tower Bridge will be open. That’s what eventually led to the closure of the subway, of course. The bridge was free to cross and a much more pleasant journey.”

The Doctor was rambling again. Romana looked around for a hansom cab, the ubiquitous means of transport that she had seen in almost all of the eras of London life she had seen so far, but the Graske had a better idea.

“They didn’t get THIS,” he said, holding up his arm where the Vortex Manipulator wristlet was firmly fixed. “Three can travel as easily as one.”

“Capital idea,” The Doctor agreed. “Romana, take hold of our little friend’s wrist.”


Romana did as he suggested. The Doctor put his hand over hers. The Graske keyed in a co-ordinate on the very small keypad and Tower Hill dissolved around them.

Moments later they were back at Vine Lane next to the TARDIS. A new crowd of passengers were waiting to go down to the subway, but none of them noticed three people of varying heights appear out of thin air and then get into the blue police box.

“Thank you for your kindness,” the Graske said when he was safe inside the console room. “You are a Time Lord of Gallifrey?”

“We both are,” Romana told him. “Doctor, I think we probably ought to let him join up with us for the last clue. After all, he will be heading for the same place, presumably?”

“Romana, you do realise that Graske are considered among the most untrustworthy species’ in the universe?” The Doctor answered.

“Yes, but… he WAS the victim this time, and….”

“Sir,” the Graske said, cutting into her argument. “It is true that my species have something of a reputation. But you may be assured I am an exception to the rule.” He reached in his pocket for a small, thin card. “I am Tofamebu Zorezi of the Fifty-First Century Time Agency. I was sent to ensure that the Mornington Crescent Quest did not cause any time anomalies and to make repairs to the continuum if it did.”

“Well, there’s a coincidence,” Romana said. “The Doctor has the same mission from our people.”

The Doctor looked at the card very carefully. It was lenticular, and holding it in different directions gave different information about the smallest Agent the Time Agency had ever hired. Finally he was satisfied and returned the card to its owner.

“I agree, we should team up for the last clue. Then when we get back to Mornington Crescent we shall have to report another incident. A Quester cheating, not just once, but three times. It really is unthinkable.”

“Somebody must want the prize very badly,” Romana commented. “What IS it exactly?”

“It is priceless,” Tofamebu Zorezi said.

“So I’ve been told,” The Doctor added. “Personally, I’m not bothered about the value. Being the quest winner is what I’m interested in, the prestige, the honour.”

“Good,” Zorezi commented. “Then I shall not have to share it with you.”

“I didn’t say that,” The Doctor told him. “If I win, I shall accept the prize graciously. There are many worthy charities I can donate it to.”

“Charity!” Zorezi laughed. “In my language we say ‘Charity haizisis habitus’ – it begins at home.”

“Let’s get on with it or none of us will win,” Romana pointed out. “There are OTHER legitimate Questers as well as somebody cheating out there. What’s the last clue?”

“Take a Rub from Albert's Catalogue,” The Doctor replied holding up the first class ticket from the Tower Subway to the light and reading the watermarked letters.

“Take a Rub from Albert's Catalogue?” Glitz finally worked out how to read the clue back in his stolen Ballusian time capsule.

“Sounds dirty,” Dibber sniggered. Glitz had thought much the same but he took the moral high ground and chastised his assistant for his childishness.

“We’ll follow The Doctor again,” Glitz decided. “I’m picking up his time machine’s signal.”

“Albert who?” Romana asked. “And what catalogue?”

“Albert Einstein?” The Doctor wondered. “His patent in the catalogue of inventions? No, too vague. Albert Finney, Albert Camus, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Fish, Albert Tatlock….”

Romana quickly looked up all of those Alberts on the TARDIS database and noted that the last two were a serial killer and a fictional character from a TV programme. The Doctor was clearly losing the plot.

While he rattled off more names of people called Albert, Romana turned to the map of London, reasoning that they had not actually dealt with ANY real people in the course of the quest so it was unlikely that this Albert was a living, breathing person, either.

“Doctor, in the city of London I’ve found numerous references to Albert. There is a public house called The Albert near a place called Primrose Hill, and another in the Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Another just called ‘Albert’ with very good reviews for its food and comfortable atmosphere. Eight more pubs called The Prince Albert, a fictional place called Albert Square…. Then there is the Royal Albert Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Albert Memorial…..”

“Prince Albert!” The Doctor exclaimed. “But why would he have a catalogue? No, it can’t be right. Unless….”

He lunged suddenly for the navigation control, surprising Romana and Zorezi.

He surprised Glitz, too, by the suddenness of the dematerialisation, but he was a very good temporal pilot if nothing else and he soon caught up again.

“The Albert Memorial,” The Doctor said, stepping out of the TARDIS into Hyde Park in the sunshine of a warm summer’s day. “Built at Victoria’s command as a memorial, obviously, for her late husband and consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.”

The gilded statue on its elaborate canopied pediment shone in the sunshine. It was a very impressive piece of bronze casting. Romana admitted as much as she studied it.

“What about the catalogue and how do we get a ‘rub’ from it?” she asked.

“The book in his hands,” The Doctor explained. “Most people think it’s a bible. A chap of his stature, immortalised in gilded bronze, they assume he would be holding something really important and weighty. But in fact, it is a catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851 – otherwise known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Remind me to take you there some time, Romana. You’ll love it.”

“Why?” Romana asked.

“Because it is an absolutely fascinating exhibition, and the Crystal Palace is an architectural wonder that outshines anything in the Capitol back home on Gallifrey,” he answered. “It’s…”

“I mean WHY is the statue of Prince Albert holding an exhibition catalogue?” Romana cut in before he went on again.

“Oh, because he was one of the chief patrons of the exhibition. Victoria considered it one of the great achievements of his life,” The Doctor explained.

“Very well,” Romana conceded. “We’ve found the right Albert with the catalogue. So how do we ‘take a rub’ from it?”

“We use your idea from the very first location,” The Doctor answered. “When you suggested brass rubbing. This is bronze, but same difference….”

“The brass was on the floor and there was a place nearby called the London Brass Rubbing Centre – at the Church of St. Martin in the Fields. THAT memorial is at least fifty metres tall and the catalogue is halfway up it – in full view of the public, and of policemen who will consider you shinning up it a public order offence.”

“Yes, I suppose they would,” The Doctor conceded. “We could come again after dark?”

“And still get arrested for defacing a monument,” Romana thought. “That wouldn’t be allowed on Gallifrey. I’m sure people on Earth take an equally dim view of such things.”

“We could do it, with some help from our little friend, and a blackout,” The Doctor decided. He stepped back into the TARDIS where Zorezi was waiting patiently, forced to forego the sunshine because humans were likely to be upset by his appearance. He listened to The Doctor’s plan and agreed that it had merits.

The Doctor programmed the TARDIS to re-materialise in the same place in 1941.

“It’s so dark,” Romana commented as they stepped out of the TARDIS. The landmarks that were becoming familiar to her after visiting so many parts of London in so many eras were barely visible against a cloudy sky.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “There is a war on and London is under blackout to try to avoid bombing raids from the Germans. There will be police and ARP wardens around, of course, probably more than any other time in London’s history, but we won’t be here for long.”

Zorezi was dressed in a small black zentai suit that covered his long ears as well as most of his face. Romana wondered how exactly even a TARDIS wardrobe contained such a strange outfit, but she had to admit it was the perfect disguise for an alien in the London blackout. She kept her eye on him as he started to climb the memorial nimbly, finding footholds where she would never have expected to find them. With her Gallifreyan eyesight and the fact that she knew he was there she could follow his movement easily, but any passing stranger would barely notice him.

He reached the pedestal where the gilded statue stood. It looked duller than it had in the sunlight. Romana wondered if it had been coated with something to make it less conspicuous in the blackout. Zorezi stood out a little more as he set to work making a rubbing of the text etched in the top of the bronze catalogue.

Then she saw him freeze and lie down on the pedestal, making himself look as small as possible. A policeman was walking along South Carriage Drive, right at the bottom of the steps up to the memorial. He paused and shone his torch towards the TARDIS and was obviously puzzled about why it was parked on the mosaic floor beside the sculpture group representing ‘Europe’ on the south-west corner of the memorial. The Doctor and Romana pressed themselves close against the side wall and waited for him to walk on again.

He seemed to take a very long time deciding that a police box could be wherever it wanted to be. At last he pointed his torch down at the ground again and walked on. Romana and The Doctor breathed freely. Zorezi finished his work and scurried down again.

“That’s it,” The Doctor said as he took the rubbing from Zorezi and examined it. “Look, Romana – it is genius. Simply stealing the catalogue from the statue wouldn’t reveal the message. You had to do the rubbing.”

He held the thin tracing paper up to the light so that she was looking at it from the back. The tiny scratches and patina of the years the statue had been there in all kinds of weather formed, not an abstract pattern, but letters making up a single word.


“We’ve done it!” Romana smiled excitedly before reminding herself that it WAS just a trivial game and quite beneath her dignity as a Time Lord to be so pleased about it all.

“We still have to get back to Mornington Crescent, of course,” The Doctor reminded her. “The race is on.”

With that he set the TARDIS to return to the underground station where it all began. It materialised on the platform itself. It was quiet and empty. It was only five o’clock in the morning and no trains were running, yet. The escalator was silent and still.

There were footsteps receding, though, as if somebody had just gone up the stationary steps and was hurrying away.

Then there was a rustle of displaced air and Inigo Flume’s ion fusion cabinet materialised next to the TARDIS. The suavely dressed gentleman stepped out and greeted The Doctor, Romana and Tofamebu Zorezi with cheerful resignation.

“I am beaten at the finish line. You all got here before me,” he said. “I was delayed by some unfair practices by another competitor, but even so, I concede the honour of first place.”

He bowed elegantly with his top hat swept from his head before straightening up again. As he did, Boolian Logic and Negaq Fotatu both appeared out of thin air using their own form of time travel technology. They, too, were gracious when they discovered they were beaten to the prize.

Then everyone turned in surprise as Sir Arthur Sweetwell stepped out of the wall and onto the platform accompanied by his entourage. He looked at the Questers with an expression that could be described as lugubrious by anyone armed with a thesaurus.

“My friends, Questers of honour,” he said. “I am afraid your efforts have all been for nothing. The prize has already been claimed.”

“By whom?” Inigo Flume asked.

“By a fraud, alas,” Sir Arthur replied. “The Quester was here just a few minutes ago, disguised, poorly disguised, I might add, in a shimmer cloak that did not belong to him. The fraudster pretended to be The Doctor.”

Everyone turned to look at The Doctor, who maintained an inscrutable expression, then Flume, Boolian logic and Tofamebu Zorezi all spoke at once about the unfair behaviour of the Quester cheat.

“Yes,” Sir Arthur said, holding up a hand for quiet and getting it. “Yes, I know. But, my friends, be assured. The cheat will not enjoy his prize.”

There were murmurs of surprise and exclamations all round. Again Lord Sweetwell signalled for quiet.

“My Lord,” Inigo Flume said in a calm, reserved tone. “Will you explain your last statement?”

“Have none of you heard of a Pyrrhian treasure?” Lord Sweetwell asked. Again every Quester looked at the other Questers with surprised expressions. “To the man – or woman – or being – it legally belongs to, such a treasure is priceless. It is a universal and unlimited credit that can be exchanged for anything and everything the heart desires, and it can be bequeathed or given to anyone the owner gives it willingly to, so that they, too, may enjoy its fruits.”

Yes, everyone had heard of that treasure. It was, indeed, something to be coveted and prized, and they all felt a deep regret and a burning anger that they had been cheated of it.

“But to one who steals the treasure, or gains it by cheating or devious means,” Lord Sweetwell continued. “That man will find he cannot buy so much as a glass of water with it. The vendor offered the treasure will see only false coinage and reject it out of hand. It will become a millstone around his neck. He will regret bitterly that he ever took possession of it.”

This news sank in very quickly. Broad smiles replaced frowns. Everyone was more than a little disappointed not to have won, but they were pleased to know that the cheat had been hoist by his own petard.

“That, my friends, concludes the Mornington Crescent Quest for this year,” Lord Sweetwell said. “I hope to see many of you again next time, when better luck may prevail.”

And that was that. The Questers bade farewell to the Quest Lord who turned and walked back through the secret wall to his drawing room. Tofamebu Zorezi shook hands with The Doctor and Romana and disappeared in a twinkle of bright light. Boolian Logic and Negaq Fotatu said goodbye and similarly disappeared. Inigo Flume bowed deeply then stepped into his cabinet just as the escalator switched on noisily and the first passengers of the day descended to the platform.

“Well,” The Doctor said. “I think I ought to treat you to a good old fashioned English breakfast before we leave. I know a very good café where the bacon is crisp, the fried eggs wobbly, and the mushrooms excellent.”

Romana thought an English breakfast sounded a little too heavy for her appetite, but she followed The Doctor up the escalator determined to try it. That was what space travel was about, after all.

Sabalom Glitz had already found out that his prize was not so glorious after all. The landlord of the Maolstrom Bar on the edge of the Hydrox Galaxy was a Galastian with four rows of sharp teeth and angry red eyes, not to mention four fists capable of punching holes in solid walls. He again pushed the golden coin back across the bar and insisted that he did not accept false coinage and reminded him that the bill was already six thousand credits.

Glitz contemplated his chances of reaching the door before the landlord and knew he was in trouble.

Dibber, who wasn’t known for his quick intelligence, read the situation with surprising aplomb and made his own exit while Glitz was occupied. It might be time to consider striking out on his own. The Bellusian ship was easy to pilot. He could do all right for himself without Glitz’s fortune-hunting plans dragging him down.