Just before a quarter to six on an otherwise quiet late January morning, a very loud thunderclap rattled windowpanes, set off car alarms and shook Cardiff citizens from their slumber.

“What the fuck was that?” Rhys Williams demanded loudly, though not so loud as his dog, Abbie, could bark or his one year old daughter could cry after having been disturbed at this time of the morning.

“I have no idea,” his wife, Gwen, replied. “A bomb, a sudden rift surge?”

It was a symptom of her total immersion in her work at Torchwood, the secret organisation that monitored alien life on Earth, that she thought of such possibilities before looking out of the window and concluding that there was a localised electrical storm.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if it was Rift related., though” she murmured before going to get Arwen out of her cot and make her an early breakfast. Abbie followed her, tail wagging at the prospect of also being fed earlier than usual.

Rhys sighed and looked at the time. His alarm had been due to go off in ten minutes, anyway. Another early shift at Harwoods Haulage. He lumbered towards the shower.

Ianto and Alun were heading out to work. Sam was with them, his anorak hood pulled around his face so that it wasn’t immediately noticeable that his head was rather bigger than normal for a Human and curiously proportioned. They were on the landing waiting for the lift down to the car park beneath their apartment block when the door to one of the neighbouring flats opened. A child stepped out, dressed in Spiderman pyjamas and slippers with comical animal heads that flapped their ears as he walked. Alun was the first to notice that the slippered feet were leaving bloody prints on the tiled floor.

“There’s something wrong with mummy,” the boy said. “And daddy is crying.”

Ianto picked the child up in his arms and ushered Sam back into their apartment while Alun dialled 999 on his mobile.

Rhys was on his way to work, looking forward to a quiet day in the office, away from babies and dogs. Not that he didn’t love both of them, and Gwen, too, but he knew where he was with transport schedules.

He was driving well below the speed limit for a built up area and he had his eyes on the road. He was a careful driver. A shower and two cups of coffee with his breakfast had fully woken him up from his slumber and it was fully light, now. There were no visibility problems.

It went without saying that he was stone cold sober.

So the last thing he expected was to have a road accident this morning. He was doing everything right when the grey Lexus shot out of the driveway in front of him without warning. He jammed on his brakes but there was no way to avoid broad-siding the car right by the driver’s door.

“Shit!” he swore as the car directly behind him stopped inches from his rear bumper and a police car passing on the other side of the road flashed its lights and pulled over to investigate the crash.

“You’re all right, though?” Gwen asked anxiously as she stepped onto the invisible lift with Arwen in her pushchair, a bag of baby supplies dangling from the handles, and the hands-free mobile kit on her ear as she descended into the Hub. “You’re sure you’re not hurt?”

“I’m fine,” Rhys answered reassuringly. “I wasn’t going too fast and the airbag kicked in like it should. A copper was passing. He saw the whole bloody thing. He said there was nothing I could have done. The driver’s a mess, though, covered in blood. The weird thing is, it’s not all his. He was going on about his mother when the paramedics pulled him out. The copper called in for back up. He thinks something might be wrong in the house.”

“Days like this, I’m glad I left the police,” Gwen said. “Aliens are less trouble than humans most of the time.”

“Yeah!” Rhys laughed nervously. “Anyway, the car’s going to have to be towed. I’ll get a taxi into work as soon as I’ve finished giving my statement. I’m REALLY looking forward to a cup of Angela’s tea, now.”

Normally Gwen was a tiny bit jealous of the attention Rhys’s secretary piled upon him, but this morning he deserved the cuppa and the fresh pastry from the Gregg’s around the corner from the depot.

“All right love. I’ll see you at home, later. Have a good one.”

She closed the call and stepped off the lift. She settled Arwen in her playpen in the Torchwood crèche/school room. Una would be in soon with Martha, and Sam with the boys. It was a contented little group of Torchwood children.

Gilly, the other non-combatant who called Torchwood Cardiff ‘home’ flitted by almost faster than the eye could see, doing odd jobs until Martha got in and assigned her something more important to do in the medical room. She was getting to be a very useful lab assistant, anxious to please. Jack had no reason to complain about her presence.

As Gwen got to her desk, Ianto rang in. He and Alun were delayed. There had been a murder in the flat opposite theirs. They needed to give witness statements to the police.

“Beth and Ray are both in. They can come and get Sam for you. He’ll be happier here out of the way of strangers.”

Ianto thanked her for the easy solution to their concerns about their Weevil-Human hybrid adoptee.

She had just arranged for Beth to do that errand before opening up the tourist office when Jack got in, accompanied by Garrett and Grey. All three of them looked as if they had been crying.

“I’ll go sit and wait for Una to get in,” the boy said more calmly than the two adults in his life were managing. “I’ve got my school bag. I can do some homework.”

Jack nodded and put a reassuring hand on his teenage shoulder before Grey hurried down the steps to find a place to sit in the school corner.

“He’s taking it all in his stride,” Garrett said. “At least he looks like he is. I hope he’s not bottling it all up.”

“Bottling what up?” Gwen asked.

“Yet another piece of weird shit in his life,” Jack answered. “Namely Garrett getting up out of bed this morning and shooting me in the head.”

“What?” Gwen stared at the two men. They were holding hands, tightly. No two people could love each other more completely, and more unconditionally.

Of course, Jack bore no sign of trauma. It took him about fifteen minutes to recover from a head wound, even a close range shot right between the eyes. Gwen had seen him do it more times than she cared to remember.

“Why?” she asked.

“That’s what we need to find out,” Jack answered. “He can’t remember. We need to give him the full gamut of neurological tests…. Something made him do it… and it wasn’t anything I said.”

Garrett was worried. He was, after all, director of MI5’s Welsh section. If he was having psychotic episodes he needed to put himself on sick leave for a start. Quite how he was going to explain his reasons without somebody higher up wanting to pension him off altogether, he didn’t know.

All that and the emotional impact of having murdered his lover in cold blood….

Martha came in through the garage entrance just at that moment. Gwen was relieved. At least she could delegate Garrett to her care.

Una headed straight down to the ‘school’, delighted to have Grey as a classmate for the morning. The reasons for his presence didn’t need to worry her.

Gwen went back to her desk where Gilly had left a cup of coffee already, quietly taking over Ianto’s role with the perculator in his absence. She sipped it and glared at the telephone, willing it not to ring again for at least five minutes.

It almost obeyed her. Four and a half minutes later it trilled. She snatched up the receiver and then put on her best telephone voice.

It was Kathy Swanson. She wanted to know exactly how many spare cells they had in the Torchwood vault.

“About thirty immediately operational and another floor that we don’t usually need,” she answered. “Why?”

“Every police station in Cardiff is full to bursting, already. Can we send the overflow to you?”

Gwen hesitated. Jack got really annoyed when the police assumed that Torchwood was at their beck and call. But… overflow? She queried the word.

“We’ve had one hundred and seventy-five murders this morning, and another three dozen people who’ve clubbed, strangled or kicked their dogs, cats, pigeons or pet bunnies to death, a farmer who took a shotgun to all of his livestock and a trainer who cut the head off his best racehorse – and no, it didn’t get left in anyone’s bed.”

“What the hell….” Gwen’s mind flew first to the accident Rhys had been involved in, the careless driver covered in blood who was upset about his mother, then the phone call from Ianto – a murder in the flat next door. “What’s going on, Kathy?”

“I’m buggered if I know,” DI Swanson answered. “Maybe you lot could try something space age on the suspects. But for now we just need somewhere safe where they can’t do themselves or anyone else any more harm.”

“Tell her it’s ok,” Jack said quietly. Gwen didn’t even know he was standing behind her listening in. She gave Kathy the ok and turned to him questioningly.

“I was looking at the police reports. They’re coming in thick and fast. This comes under our remit or I’m a girl scout – actually, that almost happened once when I was living in the fifty-first century….”

His usual attempt at turning serious moments silly fell flat. He was obviously worried about Garrett. Gwen caught his hand and held it reassuringly for a moment.

“We’ll get to the bottom of all this,” he said, trying to reassure her instead. “Even if I have to put the mind probe on the lot of them.”

The mind probe was a cruel piece of technology that even Jack normally flinched from using. The suggestion that it might be employed in this case was an indicator of his dark mood.

“Have you talked to Garrett about what happened?” Gwen asked him. “Does he know what made him pick up the gun?”

“No,” Jack answered. “No, I haven’t talked to him. Not properly. I just know that he was crying like a baby when I woke up. He said he didn’t know why he did it, and I believe him, because nothing else makes sense.”

“Have you told him you forgive him?” Jack looked surprised by Gwen’s question. “You’re probably the only victim of this horror who has a chance to do that. I think you should.”

“He knows I don’t blame him.”

“Yes, but it won’t hurt for you to say it. Go on, and talk to him. I’ll handle the prisoners that are arriving. I’m quite capable, after all.”

Actually, when the convoy of prison vans rolled up at the garage entrance she wasn’t so sure about that. Most of them were giving no trouble to their police escorts. They were too distressed and confused for that, but the numbers were daunting.

Ianto and Alun arrived just in time to lend her a hand after depositing Sam in his reading corner. They organised the stream of sad characters being put into the cells. They opened up the rarely used floors and ensured they were well away from the resident collection of Weevils and assorted alien life forms. The vaults were hardly a cheery sight, even without them for company.

“Gwen,” Andy Davison approached her escorting a frightened young woman of Asian descent with red rims around her eyes from crying piteously. She had bruises on her face and arms. “I’ve seen your vaults. Can you put this lady somewhere a bit less daunting?”

“They’re MEANT to be daunting,” Gwen answered, but the prisoner looked so very pathetic that she couldn’t help softening. “Take her to the interview room, then.”

Andy did that, then returned to Gwen’s side. She was watching the prisoner through the observation window. She was crying again now that she was alone.

“Her name is Sarita Begum. This morning, just before six o’clock, she smothered her week old baby. Her husband beat her up then called the police. He practically shoved her out of the house and ordered me to lock her up out of his sight.”

Gwen looked at Andy, wondering what to say. Killing a baby was an appalling thing to do, but the husband’s reaction was just as cruel.

“What’s going on in this city?” Andy asked. “Why are ordinary people murdering each other? Is it the same as last time… the hypnotism thing?”

Gwen remembered that occasion, when quite normal citizens had suddenly committed gruesome and inexplicable murders. There was also the time when the undercover members of an alien infiltration cell had blown up power grids and oil pipelines and caused major chaos in the city before Torchwood had managed to stop them. There had even been a nationwide series of murder-suicides that Owen and Toshiko with their Glasgow team had connected with subliminal mind control through broadcast music.

This had all the hallmarks of the same kind of thing.

“There won’t be anyone living in Cardiff if all these weird things don’t stop happening,” Andy went on. “Remember that time when people just dropped dead in the street – witnesses saying the shadow of a giant horned monster killed them.”

Gwen remembered that occasion, too. Jack had almost been one of the victims that time.

“I think that’s what it is,” Andy went on. “It’s some kind of alien plot to have half the city kill the other half – then between half of them being dead and the other half in jail for killing them, the aliens could take over.”

“That’s totally daft, Andy,” Gwen told him. “No alien would come up with a plot that silly.”

“Then what the heck IS going on?” her former police colleague demanded in a weary, desperate tone. “You tell me, because I can’t fathom it. Why would a young mum like that do what she did? Or any of the others. Those people we brought in have done in their wives, husbands, their kids, their mothers….”

“I know,” Gwen said. “Garrett shot Jack. He’s ok, but….”

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves…..” Jack’s voice spoke softly by Gwen’s ear. She hadn’t even heard his footsteps.

“It’s… from the Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde,” Andy said. “Yes, I know, dozy Sergeant Andy doesn’t read poetry. But I saw it scrawled on the wall of a cell once and looked it up. We get some funny customers in our cells….”

“Not as funny as we get in ours.” Gwen cut off Andy’s rambling and slightly irrelevant chatter. She knew he was talking to cover the fact that he had nothing useful to say.

“It’s about the execution of a man who murdered his wife,” Jack added. “And that’s what we have here…. hundreds of people who suddenly, for no reason at all, killed those they loved. It’s not Cell 113. They took out strategic targets. Besides, I’ve been with Garrett while Martha was examining him. He’s Human, fully Human. We’re fine… the two of us. We’re cool. But we need to find out what happened to him and all these other people.”

Jack was about to say something else, but Andy and Gwen suddenly turned and ran from him. He was puzzled until he glanced through the observation window at the woman in the interrogation room. Between them they managed to take the butter knife from her hand before she succeeded in cutting into her wrists. He watched as Gwen administered a fast acting sedative and Andy lifted her limp body into his arms.

“My fault,” the Sergeant admitted as he carried her to the medical room. “I ought to have searched her for weapons, but she’d already been through enough… I never expected….”

Have Martha take care of her,” Jack said in a surprisingly gentle way. “Gwen, can you start collating details about the people we’ve got in our vaults? There’s got to be something that connects them… something that triggered what they did… because I’m damned sure it wasn’t something any of them were planning to do this morning. Check their blood groups, the last place they went on holiday, their drinking habits, I don’t know… but there has to be something… and when we know what it is, we’ll know who’s behind it all.”

That was the thing that Gwen couldn’t help noticing about Jack. He was convinced that everyone they had put in their vaults was more or less innocent of the terrible things they had done. He believed that some outside force had driven them to commit murder, and that somebody, or something, else was the real guilty party.

Of course, he WANTED it to be some outside influence, something alien, some kind of conspiracy, because he didn’t want Garrett to be guilty of shooting him. That was understandable, but was it the best way to co-ordinate an investigation? Was Jack being entirely objective about this matter?

Or maybe objectivity wasn’t what was needed. Maybe this was a time for being utterly subjective, for letting emotion rule the senses.

Either way, Gwen set about the work she was best at, apart from being the friendly PC Cooper with a warm smile who put the innocent and guilty equally at ease and disarmed the tensest situations.

She was also single-minded when she set to work compiling information. Back in her PC Cooper days it was the sort of job the ever so slightly misogynistic Detective Inspector Temple would invariably give to the female police officers under his command – typing and filing.

But she was good at it and there was a peculiar job satisfaction in a properly compiled database of suspects.

She applied the same skills to the people confined in the vaults. She didn’t think of them as suspects, though. They were victims in their own way as much as the people they had killed.

But whichever way she thought of them, nothing in their profiles matched. These were a random cross-section of Cardiff people. They were male and female, old and young, married, single, parents and childless. They were of every social class and standard of education.

They had nothing in common except that they had all woken up at a little before six o’clock in the morning and killed their nearest loved one.

It made no sense. None of it did.

She leaned back from her workstation and sighed wearily. She glanced at the clock. It wasn’t even twelve o’clock. It was only a little over six hours since this all began. Six hours since life changed inexorably for everyone involved.

Garrett had noticed the time, too. He was sitting next to the bed where the young Asian woman was sleeping under sedation. He was still Martha’s chief patient. She was running every possible physical and mental test on him. Some of them were painful. That was why she was using him rather than any other subject. He was a volunteer, willingly submitting to even the most unpleasant of the tests.

He coughed suddenly and felt a vile taste in his mouth. He grabbed a kidney dish from the table and spat into it. Dark blood came out along with part of a tooth and a small quantity of green liquid in which something like a small grub squirmed.

“What the hell?” he demanded. Martha turned from her tasks and took the kidney dish from him. She looked at the mess within it and then quickly poured a cup of neat surgical alcohol, the nearest substance to hand that would sterilise his mouth.

“Don’t swallow, swill your mouth and spit it out,” she told her patient. Garrett willingly did as she said. Surgical alcohol wasn’t something he wanted in his oesophagus, anyway. He swilled and spat. More blood came out, and more of the green liquid, but none of the squirming grubs.

“Let me see,” Martha said when the bleeding stopped. She examined his mouth carefully with a penlight and a mirror. “I think it’s clean. You’re going to have to see a dentist. Your false tooth broke.” She winked at him. “I didn’t realise that your smile wasn’t all your own.”

“I lost two teeth a couple of years back,” he answered. “But what was that all about. What was that thing and how did it get in my mouth?”

“Good question.” Martha set aside the kidney dish and turned to her other patient. She examined her teeth carefully, then reached for a pair of surgical pliars with which she extracted a very high quality denture that proved to have a tiny globule of the green liquid and a tiny grub imprisoned within it.

Garrett watched this in astonishment.

“She used the same dentist as me?” he asked.

“Possibly,” Martha answered. “One who specialised in implanting larvae in the dentures he fitted. Excuse me one moment, Garrett.”

She ran up the concrete stairs from the medical room calling out to Gwen to check the dental records of their subjects. Gwen was too busy to do that. She was responding to calls from her former colleagues in the South Wales Police reporting that the prisoners in their cells were all dying of unknown causes.

“It’s the teeth,” Martha yelled as she headed towards the vaults with her pliers still in her hand.

“Teeth?” Gwen echoed, running her tongue behind the congenital gap in her own front teeth that she had always been self-conscious about until Rhys told her it was sexy. She told her police colleagues to calm down and wait for further instructions from Torchwood and turned back to the database she was compiling to check how many of the subjects had been to the dentist.

“It’s the teeth,” Martha repeated as she crashed into the vault where Ianto and Alun and Jack, too, were dragging prisoners out of the cells and trying to revive them. “No, don’t try mouth to mouth. Their mouths are full of poison. It must have been some kind of delayed process – like a suicide pill… an involuntary suicide pill.”

Her brain had put that much together as she ran from her medical room. She reached one of the prisoners who was still conscious and pushed his head back roughly. She searched his mouth quickly and then pulled out a false tooth. The man yelled in pain, but the blood that came from his mouth was red and clean, not the foul blackish stuff foaming from those it was too late to save.

She only had one pair of pliers and no means to sterilise them between patients, but that was the least of her worries. How many could she save if the ‘time bomb’ was going on in all of their mouths at once?

The answer was seventeen – nineteen including Garrett and the sedated Asian lady in the medical room. She looked at the bodies Ianto and Alun laid side by side in the corridor outside the cells and shuddered. It had been too late for too many of them. She felt as if she had failed.

“You didn’t,” Jack promised her when she said as much. He reached out and she let herself be enveloped in his embrace. Those fifty-first century enhanced pheromones he claimed to have did absolutely nothing right there and then. She was too distraught by what had happened to feel the slightest bit aroused by him, and she had a feeling he didn’t need that right now, anyway.

She reached out and caressed his jaw, though. It was clean shaven as always, with enough of a dimple in the chin to be sexy without looking like he was related to Kirk Douglas. The jaw was firmly set, the teeth strong enough to bite through ropes if his sex life went in those sort of directions.

“Those perfect teeth,” she said. “I bet you’ve NEVER been to a dentist.”

“Not for any kind of work,” he answered. “Just a bit of polishing every six months or so.” He flashed her that bright smile of his in proof of the fact. Every single one of the teeth was his own and they were, as she had noted, perfect.

“Garrett used to have perfect teeth, too,” Jack added. “Until I socked him in the jaw because I thought he’d betrayed a confidence. I was wrong, and I was sorry about it afterwards. We both were when we saw the dentist’s bill.”

“Which dentist did you use?” Martha asked. “It could be important.”

“Cathays Park Surgery,” Jack answered. “Opposite the War Memorial Garden.”

“Yes. I know it.” Martha thought about it for a moment, then contacted Gwen by the in-ear communicator. She asked her if any other suspects had gone to that surgery for dental treatment.

“How am I supposed to find out things like THAT about people?” Gwen responded. “Especially when most of them have just DIED. How is it even relevant?”

“I don’t know,” Martha said. “But it is, somehow.”

“Never mind about the statistics,” Jack cut in. “Gwen, Ianto, Alun, come with me. We’re going to see the dentist.”

Ianto and Alun actually thought he was joking for the first five minutes of the journey through a rainswept Cardiff now that the weather front had caught up with that peace-shattering thunderclap. It was a joke in very poor taste if it was.

By the time reached the dentist’s surgery within sight of the Welsh National War Memorial at Cathays Park, they were less certain.

“There is something ALIEN around here,” Jack confirmed, studying the hologram display on his wristlet. “I’m getting all sorts of unusual readings. Its as if there are aliens in the AIR.”

“Well, let’s not risk breathing them,” Ianto said cautiously. “Bio-hazard suits and masks.”

Before they stepped out of the SUV into the downpour they all slipped into the white coveralls that protected them from alien nasties too small to see and donned face masks. They were a strange sight as they approached the dentist’s surgery. The young woman sheltering under an umbrella by the door certainly thought so. She identified herself as Claire, the afternoon receptionist, job-sharing with Brina who did the morning shift.

“What’s going on?” she demanded. “The surgery is still locked up, nobody there, and you lot looking like…. I don’t know WHAT you look like, but it’s weird.”

“Go home, Claire. The surgery is closed today,” Jack told her before he used the patent alien lock pick to unlock the main door. He stepped inside first, testing the air.

“It’s clear in this section,” he said to the others. “But keep your masks on. There’s something not right here.”

They moved through the building to the number one treatment room. According to Jack’s gizmo the alien traces were in there. He opened the door carefully and stepped inside.

The alien creatures were dead. The floor was littered with them – they were maggots of some kind, each about three foot long. They were already desiccating in the warmth of the centrally heated room.

There was a man lying on the floor, too. At least he looked like a man at first glance. Jack’s gizmo was beeping another story, and the more he looked, the less like a man and more like a larger version of the dead maggots he looked, the Human shape melting away slowly but surely in extremis.

While there was still enough Human to recognise, Jack identified the man who had fixed Garrett’s teeth, a Doctor Fry. Back then he had hair and limbs and a head separated from the body by a neck, but this was him all right.

“Alien dentistry! That’s a new concept.” He kicked the obviously dying being viciously. “What’s it all about?”

“Culling the population,” the creature replied in a rasping voice. “Humans infest this world, their breeding unchecked. If my plan had come to fruition the population would be reduced to controllable numbers. But I was not ready. There weren’t enough implants… the electrical storm… a misfire….”

The words were few, but enough to fill in the whole story. The alien creature had either assimilated the body of Doctor Fry or the doctor had ALWAYS been an alien with a degree in dentistry. Which didn’t matter. What did was the fact that he used his position to implant that many people with dentures containing a small maggot that not only excreted a mind-controlling hormone that made the patients open to suggestion, but also produced a lethal venom that killed once the subject was no longer useful.

“Oh my God!” Gwen groaned aloud. “Andy was right. It WAS an alien plot to destroy humans. I thought it was a conspiracy too far.”

“Yeah, it’s almost embarrassing to think that Sergeant Andy figured it out before us,” Jack remarked. “But a lot of people are dead and this scumbag is responsible.”

Jack kicked again. Gwen was shocked by the ferocity and cold cruelty towards an obviously dying creature. Then she remembered that Garrett had been an unwitting instrument of this attempted ‘cull’. Jack was one of the first victims, at the hands of the man he loved.

That was why Ianto and Alun made no attempt to restrain their boss. They just grasped each other’s hands and watched as Jack kicked one last time and the creature died, turning into a dry maggot husk in moments once the life had ended.

“We need to clean this place, now,” he said coldly a few moments later. “Every trace of alien organisms… complete sterilisation. Gwen, that receptionist, take her somewhere for a cup of tea with a dose of Retcon. She doesn’t need to remember we were here.”

“This isn’t the only place that needs cleaning,” she pointed out. “What about all those people… their families….”

Jack looked at Gwen and began to speak, then he stopped. He shook his head sadly.

“There isn’t a lot we can do for them,” he said. “But I’ll do my best. Trust me.”

Gwen trusted him. She had trusted him for a very long time, even though many of the things he did gave her every reason not to. She let him organise the biggest cover up Torchwood had been involved with in her knowledge – one that the police and health services of Cardiff were equally compliant with.

By the end of that day the press were given a story about the very worst case of deadly e-coli ever to hit the island of Britain. A brand of tinned tomatoes were being cleared from shelves all over Cardiff to test for the killer bug.

What actually happened was that all the survivors, the children and other family members who had witnessed the random acts of murder were brought to a hastily re-opened wing of St. Helen’s hospital. All of them were given a large dose of Retcon and a drug that sedated them for a few hours more. When they woke, they were told the bad news about family members who didn’t make it. The sounds of grief behind closed cubicle curtains were heart-breaking. Even Jack found it hard to listen to. But it was better for children to think they lost their parents to extreme food poisoning which they had survived than knowing that their mothers had been strangled by their fathers who died later of an alien poison.

One case bothered them all. Andy Davidson made the point strongly and Jack was inclined to agree with him. He talked to Answar Begum in a private office near the ‘e-coli’ wing of the hospital.

“Do you love your wife?” he asked simply.

“She murdered my son,” Answar replied. “She is not my wife, not in my sight or the sight of Allah.”

“Did you love her before that happened?” Jack asked.

“She was the jewel of my home,” the unhappy man admitted. “When she gave me the son I longed for… I could not have loved her more.”

“Very well,” Jack said. He nodded to Gwen who came into the room with a tea tray. He watched Answar Begum drink the tea and fall very rapidly into a deep sleep.

“He and his wife will be in a private side room,” Jack said as he rang for a porter. When they wake, they’ll be told about the tragic loss of their baby. They’ll grieve, of course. But together. Perhaps it won’t be long before they try again for a child to complete their happiness.”

Andy understood what Jack was doing. Gwen wasn’t so sure.

“But he beat her up. He had to be put in a cell to stop him murdering her,” she pointed out. “That’s not what I call love.”

“Wouldn’t you do the same to the man or woman who killed your baby?” Jack asked her. Gwen struggled with an honest answer. She tried to imagine how she would feel if Rhys, who she loved dearly, had murdered Arwen, who she loved even more dearly. Imagination failed her.

“This way we’ve saved ONE couple. They can be a family again. That’s about the only victory we’ve scored in this sorry affair.”

“Jack, you are a devious bastard,” Gwen told him. “You’ve lied so often cover-ups like this sit on you like a well-fitting pair of gloves. But you’re also a soppy, soft-hearted thing underneath.”

“Would you have me any other way?” Jack responded. “By the way, the paperwork for this operation is all yours. I need some quality time with Garrett and Grey.”

“Soppy, soft-hearted,” Gwen responded. “And prepared to do anything to get out of any kind of Admin.”


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