Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Clarke in Action [4th Doctor & Romana II]

Clarke in Action
John Davies

Clarke smiled at the bus driver and merrily waved his monthly travel pass. The tired looking individual gazed at the date and photograph in that cursory, unfocused way only routine can engender and grunted his assent. Clarke chuckled to himself and slid the pass into an inside pocket.

As he made his way to the top deck, Clarke noted the same drudgery-induced glaze that dulled the driver’s eyes in those of many of the early morning passengers. Fortunately for himself, Clarke was a morning person and so felt none of their malaise. On top of which, he actually enjoyed the job he was going to. Even with a bare minimum of sleep (and some evenings that involved none at all) he gazed from his upper seat with vitality and enthusiasm every day of the week.

Given the nature of the work he was doing, Clarke could have easily have afforded a taxi to chauffeur him, but he disliked them intensely. He loathed the forced cheeriness of the loquacious driver, in particular blatantly home-crafted way they nearly all developed a near fanatical interest in your affairs - for the duration of the trip at least. Show them less than a £5 tip at your destination and their interest vanishes quicker than blast furnaced ice. No, Clarke preferred the real life aches, pains and pleasures of inner-city commuter travel. Ah, the over-loud personal stereos, the rowdy children, the age-proud pensioners. Then there were the students who would be thumbing their way through text books he knew they would barely read half of, and, the piece-de-resistance, on the way back, the over-ladened shoppers who believed the price of one single ticket entitled both themselves and their assorted collection of defreezing poultry, clothes and multipacks to individual seating; Anyway, in his line of endeavour, Clarke reasoned, close observation of real people in real scenarios was essential. It was simply an added bonus that he thoroughly enjoyed it.

Clarke’s personal routine alerted him to the proximity of his bus stop before his eyes registered it was near. He rose smoothly clutching his briefcase tightly to his side. While he liked his early morning passengers enormously, it did not mean he trusted them - and, after all, crime was prevalent. He chuckled again -- he only had to look at his intray to prove that!

Still chuckling, he ran down the metal stairs in an almost childlike fashion, certainly one that did not fit well with the image presented by his iron-pressed suit and highly polished shoes, and landed on the ground floor with a minor jump. A few of the passengers, those who were more alert, afforded his arrival a quick furtive glance. Some smiled good naturedly, while the rest assumed a sudden jolt had caused him to fall. The latter, predictably, looked away, again in politeness. Clarke marvelled at the speed in which his arrival had already been (mis)interpreted, (mis)understood and (mis)filed by everyone on board. So British! Within twenty seconds it might well have not happened.

Ringing the stop bell, Clarke ignored the polite signs advising him not to distract the driver’s attention and strode to the front of the bus, exclaiming, “Next stop, please, mate!”

The driver did not even register a flicker of acknowledgement, but pulled up none the less at the requested stop. Clarke proffered thanks and farewell in equal measure, and received nothing but a direct opposite silence. Unable to help himself, he laughed once more. Boy! He was in a good mood today. Even the abruptness of London Transport could not dent his spirits.

Clarke made straight for his office, stopping intermittently to hand over various amounts of change to the various beggars that paved the way. He arrived after a brief journey and gazed with pride at the totally uninspiring building he had spent so much of his life in. It could have been any solicitor’s office it was so uniform, but what elevated it for Clarke was the simple knowledge that it was his. The stonework belonged to no one but him. The imposing black painted door was his and his alone. Every last brick, grain of wood and pane of glass was his property until the inevitable yet unthinkable happened. And, as Clarke was sure, that day was many years hence.

To an onlooker, one not so pre-occupied with notions of ownership and possession, the only really impressive aspect of the edifice was the highly polished brass plaque. Proudly it proclaimed the company’s name to anyone who could read:

Clarke, Clarke, Clarke & Co

He could not remember, or find documents pertaining to when the firm had been established, so it hadn’t been included.

Fussily, he produced an elaborately large handkerchief and rubbed at an infinitesimal speck of grime and climbed the short flight of steps to the door. Pausing only to hide the handkerchief and locate his keys, he opened the door and stepped through the archway. Slamming the door to with the sole of his right shoe, he allowed his eyes to acclimate to the gloom that descended. A shaft of dust-infested light from the glass panel above the door aided the process and before long he could discern the staircase clearly enough to ascend.

The reception desk before his office was, as always, deserted, and he doffed his bowler hat good-naturedly to the no one who did not sit there. “Good morning. No coffee, thank you.” he intoned, and crossed over to his office door. Another brass plaque presented itself there, this time announcing his name to the dozens of clients he never had. ‘Mr M. Clarke’ it said simply, deliberately avoiding the alphabet of qualifications through fear of intimidation. Just who he was not intimidating . . . - he sighed, dismissing the one area lacking in his job and breezed into his office. In rapid succession, he closed the door, slammed his briefcase down on the leather-topped desk and finally switched on a lightbulb.

The room that was revealed was a rectangle of chaos and order, the whole thing resembling a cross between a library, an antiques store and a military briefing room. Large mahogany bookcases, hinged closed with ornate glass doors dominated one side of the room, while crafted and carved ornamentation lay in profusion around the rest of the interior. Behind his desk and the relatively full intray, a series of large maps were arranged on corkboard. The majority showed varied parts of the United Kingdom, while one concerned itself with the entire world. Puncturing the paper in apparently random places was a series of drawing pins and miniature flags. Clarke glanced at them briefly and then remembered something important.

“Oh no!” He flapped, “Oh no, no, no, no, no!” In one swift leap he was leaning over his abandoned briefcase. With a level of care and attention normally associated with bomb diffusal, he triggered the combination release and eased the lid back slowly. Keeping his eyes tightly shut, and even holding his breath, Clarke reached inside and located a cylindrical object approximately half a meter long.

Without opening his eyes he brought the cylinder to his ear and quickly shook it. Instantly relieved, he opened his eyes at last. “Phew! No damage” he beamed, settling down the thermos safely. Placing his foil wrapped sandwiches next to it, he closed the now empty briefcase and tossed it into a far corner.

Unfortunately its velocity was strong and it knocked one of the large family portraits from the wall opposite the bookcase. It fell with a resounding crash, but thankfully no harm came to either it or the chess set it landed on.

After remounting the picture with its fellows, and affording a brief apology to their images, Clarke strode over to the bookcase and withdrew a large tedious looking book on law. Absentmindedly he seated himself behind his desk, producing an old-fashioned dial phone from one of the three right hand side drawers. Happy that it was secure on the table and fully connected, he went to pour himself a steaming cup of tea.

After a few tentative sips, Clarke opened the law book and removed his 1987 Beano Annual from the hollowed cavity within. Before long, Clarke had kicked his shoes off and was reclining quite happily in his high backed chair. A few moments later, his stockinged feet were on the desk and adventures of Roger the Dodger were bringing a playful smile to his lips.


It knew it was alive, for its genesis burned it its mind. Its earliest recollections were of rage, of being cheated. Lied to. It did recall helping people, but that was a distant, far image among many others. All it knew was that it had been used to kill - and at the time it did not want to.

The revelation hit always when it shouldn’t. It cried out, lashed out, forged on and laid waste. And one day in the past that is probably yet to come, it decided something. If they had made his evil, he was evil. So be it. He would be.

After all - there was no point in fighting nature.


The time/space vortex was paying host to one of its most frequent callers. No invitations had been sent, so there had been no RSVP But then again, there never had been. Through the chaos where time truly was an irrelevance, and beginnings were completely interchangeable with endings, the battered blue exterior of a metropolitan police box spun like a box on a string. Inside the policed box was a dimensionally infinite craft known as the TARDIS, and at their precise moment in time it was carrying it’s occupants onwards (or maybe backwards) completely oblivious to the temporal tempest outside.

In the main console room, a regal looking woman was kneeling with forced patience before a squat, angled dog shaped box. In her hands was a small A5 children’s picture book. The dog, whose name was K9; was reading it aloud,. The woman, Romana, was wearing a puzzled expression that deepened as K9 continued with the narrative.

“ ‘Peter likes Jane’ ” K9 announced, almost smugly. “Next page, Mistress.” Romana shrugged slightly, but complied, “ ‘Jane likes Peter’ Next page, Mistress.” Once again, Romana turned the page, this time barely stifling a yawn. “ ‘Both like Spot.’ Mistress.” Romana’s mind had wandered.


“Oh, sorry, K9” she exclaimed, brought back to the scintillating reality of Peter and Jane with a thump. “Next page?”

“Negative Mistress. Query.”

“Spot is a dog, Mistress?”

Romana turned the book towards her and noted the unmistakable likeness of a cocker spaniel. No doubt in the next volume he would have learned to chase a ball. Now, it he could have split the atom . . . Once again, Romana found herself floating away. “Yes, K9.” she announced finally. “Spot is a dog.”

K9’s ear antennae swivelled momentarily, and a brief series of whirrs and clicks ensued. “This unit is constructed to resemble the approximate physiognomy of an Earth canine, Peter and Jane are Earth male and female.”

Romana chanced another look at the book. Well, they were certainly meant to be.

“And, ” K9 was continuing, “They like Spot. Do Gallifreyan male and female’s like Spot?”

Romana ran a hand through her long blond hair. “If you mean this particular Spot”, she said, waving the book, “No, thankfully. Censorship forbade this kind of piffle. However, as a rule, I’d still have to say no. I can’t recall seeing many dogs, Spot or otherwise, in the capitol.” Seeing K9’s tail droop, she hurriedly continued, “However, the Doctor and I aren’t exactly typical Gallifreyans.”

“Affirmative, Mistress.”

“And we really like Spots. Well, ” she added, closing the book “Ones like you.”

K9’s tail wagged enthusiastically, “Assurance not necessary, Mistress.”
Romana smiled and rested her back against the white wall behind her. Sometimes K9 appeared more emotive than robotic, and this had been one such instance. However, she was puzzled by one thing.



“You are a complex mass of circuitry capable of multiple equations and finite reasoning.”


“So why are you reading ‘Peter and Jane’?”

“Master Doctor thought it would be beneficial for this unit to assimilate basic language structure patterns. Analysis shows many people find difficulty in relating to my linguistic abilities.”

Romana considered a few examples from recent landings where this had proved to be true.

“Fair enough, K9. But this basic?”

Before she could continue berating Earth’s greatest anonymous author, the console room’s inner door burst open and the Doctor ran through. “K9!” he yelled, sliding to a graceful halt before the central console. “Does Spot like Peter and Jane?”

K9 swivelled round to face the tall, short-sleeved figure of the Doctor. His eyes were wide with curiosity, and his hair visibly bounced with anticipation of a reply.

“I didn’t reach that revelation, Master.”

The gleam left the Doctor’s eyes.

“However,” K9 continued, the gleam returning, this time accompanied by a brilliantly huge smile, “Probability rating is 100% that affection is reciprocated.”

“Splendid! Splendid!” the Doctor enthused, “Good dog! Maybe I should call you Spot!”

Romana audibly groaned, while K9’s eye panel momentarily dimmed. “Ident of K9 will suffice, Master.”

The Doctor’s face fell, “Oh.” he said, deflated, “Really?”


“Doctor,” Romana began, standing up to her full height, allowing her saffron dress to flow freely around her, “Can you really imagine running away from a monster calling ‘Spot’?”

“Why not?” he countered defensively, “It’s a full syllable less than ‘K9’ - always good in an emergency. And it’s a lot easier than ‘Romana!’” He paused, “Then again, when would I ever call for help from you, hmmm?”

Romana tossed the book on top of the time rotor and gave the Doctor one of her most withering stares.

K9 provided the words: “Probability that Mistress will aid Master 89%, Master.”

The Doctor frowned, “You didn’t learn that from Peter and Jane did you? Honestly, can’t you learn anything useful?”

“Correction, Master... 95%”

Romana could not surpress her smile, and the Doctor saw her expression from the corner of his eye. “Ok, alright.” He said, “You win. K9?”


“You’re still K9.” He paused, glancing mischievously towards Romana, “Don’t you agree, Spot?”

A large, resonant chime was his immediate answer. It emanated from the console, and echoed briefly around them.

“Danger, Master.”

The Doctor waved a dismissive hand “Oh nonsense, K9. It’s only a message from....” he broke off, suddenly alarmed.
“Gallifrey.” concluded Romana, solemnly. “Only they would know where to find us while the randomiser’s operational.” she was referring to a recent addition to the console, a unit designed to hide their passage through time and space from the vengeful gaze of the Black Guardian. With an air of determination she faced the Doctor square on. “I am not going back!” she asserted.

The Doctor’s face was unreadable.


In his office, Clarke sighed as the telephone rang. Tearing himself a piece of tinfoil from his sandwiches, he placed it midway through a riot at Bash Street School and closed the annual. In one swift motion, the receiver was out of its cradle and next to his ear.

“Hello, ‘Clarke, Clarke, Clarke & Clarke’?”

At the sound of the voice on the other end of the line, Clarke brought his feet to the floor (stubbing his toe in the process) and sat up straight in the chair. “Ow!.. oh, nothing, nothing .. Yes .. Yes .. Oh, alert as always .. What?” Clarke’s face momentarily creased, then relaxed into a smile. “Today? Ah-huh .. Grid Reference? .. Hmmm-mmm .. Ok .. No problems, Bye-eee.”

Clarke replaced the receiver in its cradle and ran a lazy hand through his jet-black hair. His thirty something face suddenly looked much younger. “Well, well, well,” he crooned, before breaking into a painful rendition of “In the mood”. Slowly he slid open another drawer and lifted a clear Perspex box from within. Inside there nestled a colony of pins and mini flags. He extracted one of the latter. Now singing ‘When I’m cleaning windows” he sauntered over to the most crowded of the wall maps and tutted. So many markers. So, so many.

“Ah!” He exhaled slowly, locating the given grid reference and a space where to pin his flag. “You should see what I can see,” he warbled, inserting the pin.

Beneath the map, on yet another lovingly inscribed brass plaque, was the phrase: 20th Century.


Romana was doing something the Doctor had never seen her do before. Well, not in this body, anyway. She was sulking.

“Romana,” the Doctor said, for once intoning his voice at a level, which suited the occasion. “Please don’t sulk. I sulk. I sulk and you look aristocratic. That’s the deal.”

Romana simply glared.
The Doctor knelt down beside K9, “Tell her, K9,” he said, nodding towards Romana, “Tell her I sulk”

Obediently, K9 motored over to where Romana was once again seated on the floor, “Mistress, Masters hypothesis is quite correct. Master sulks.”

“I thought I’d give it a go!”

“Well it doesn’t suit you,” the Doctor exclaimed. “If you can’t do it properly, leave it to the experts.. Honestly, don’t they teach you any self control at the academy these days?”

Romana closed her eyes, fighting back the urge to snap back at what she knew was only playful goading. “I don’t want to go back to find out!” A thought suddenly struck her “Imagine if it were you.” she said, “I can hardly see you returning home the first time they summoned you.”

The Doctor considered this. “I did.” he replied flatly

“You did?”

“Before I met you. Before I met Leela. However,” he said, coming to a conclusion, “That was different. It wasn’t really them. The tall and the short of it is this: If you don’t want to go back, you don’t have to.”

Romana looked up, smiling, “Really?”

The Doctor nodded, grinning insanely, “Really! Anyway, we’ve been jumping to conclusions. Who’s to say it was a recall signal? They could be contacting me for any number of reasons.”

Romana considered this, “Have they before?”

“Well, no, not this directly. But it is feasible. They have used me before. Drawn me off course to do their dirty work while keeping their bureaucratic hands clean and rosy. Come to think of it, there was that time . . .”

Romana rose, and attempted to bring the Doctor back to more immediate concerns. “So, can you decipher it?”

“Hmm? What? Oh, the message. I’m not sure. I’d need to hear it again.” Realisation dawned and he smote his forehead, “K9!”


“Did you record the signal?”

“Signal trace resonates within my memory banks, Master.”

“Can you replay it?”

“Affirmative.” So saying, K9 fell quiet for a second. Then, without warning, the sound heard before echoed around the room once more, albeit at a lesser volume.

“Boom. Crash. Re-toot? Who said the art of conversation was dead?” The Doctor looked at Romana despairingly.

“Do not despair, Master. This unit believes that given time I can understand the message. It is a logic code.”

“Haha!” The Doctor cried triumphantly, then in a whisper added conspiratorially, “They must have known I would build a second K9!” Re-adopting his normal level of conversation, he turned back to K9. “Well, go for it boy. Not quite Peter and Jane, is it?”

“Negative, Master.” K9 burbled, and then fell silent again.


It detected a planet rich in moisture, rotating around a life-giving Sun.

It could settle there.

There was life.


It surged onwards.


The slate mine had closed years ago, yet still the ravages showed. The huge excavation revelled in its virtual uniform greyness, with only a few enterprising outcrops of green attempting to reclaim the land. Sightseers and locals had bemoaned the scar for years; many reluctantly resigned to the fact that they would never see it bloom again in their lifetime.

And then the miracle happened.

One, and over night, the scenery changed. As the sun fell one dreary, regular Thursday, and the inhabitants of Squires Hill closed their doors and windows to the world, the grey vanished. With a speed unknown to even time lapse photography, and a noise unheard before or since, the rocks and boulders were covered in earth, then moss, then grass, hedges, flowers and trees. It was almost as if nature had grown tired of waiting and she had sent forth her vegetation to reclaim its own.

The gossip rose and, through fear of drawing too much unwanted attention to the village, faded within a couple of days. As always though, the gossip addressed everything but the real issue in nature’s apparent demonstration of power. As with every miracle, there was nothing natural about it.


Simon Hill was tired. Overtired. In fact, he was nearly exhausted. He had been walking all day, over various terrains with only his out of tune whistling and heavy backpack as companions. However, that didn’t upset Simon unduly. He liked the solitude, he liked the country.

Simon had discovered the countryside on a school outing approximately fifteen years before, and whenever he felt the pressures of city life encroaching too much, the lure of the natural world came to him unbidden. Such a pull his manifested itself a fortnight ago, and so here he was, his chin spattered with a light outcrop of stubble, his body odour beginning to a make its presence felt, but happy.

He looked up at the moon through the gaps in the canopy above him and decided to set up camp for the night. Fairly soon, he came across a large, unkempt area of free land (he still shuddered at the memory of pitching on an irate farmer’s field) and heaved the rucksack from his shoulders. Freed from its weight, his upper back tingled and he windmilled his arms to ease circulation. Satisfied that he had curtailed an attack of pins and needles, he crouched down and started to unpack his tent. With an ease born of practise, the pegs, guideropes and canvas were quickly erected, and a worn out trainee manager was inside his padded sleeping bag, an assortment of hurriedly discarded daywear heaped beside him.

The gentle but persuasive light from the calorgaz lamp aided Simon’s reading for a while, but before long sleep arrested its prisoner and Simon was enjoying a deep, illogical dream.

Until the wind woke him.

Bleary eyed, he blinked as the lamp light hit his adjusting pupils (I really must remember to turn that damn thing off at night, he cursed himself) and his ears strained to detect the strength of the wind.

It was a wind like none he had ever heard before. It wasn’t irregular, and it wasn’t throwing against the flaps of his tent. In fact the tent walls were stoically still. As well as that, there was no chill. The wind wasn’t cold, it felt ... warm ... and faintly ... moist, like the breath of a lover.

Simon shrugged, dismissing his observations as nocturnal paranoia, and attempted to retrace his dream.

- Simon -

Simon sat bolt upright, clutching the top of his sleeping bag against his chest.

“Wh-who’s there?” he called, his voice cracked with sleep, fatigue and ... fear?

- Simon -

The same word, his name, nothing more.

Ignoring all the advice he normally hurled at the cinema screen, he unzipped the bag and, pausing only to pick up his gaz lamp, padded over to the tent’s front flap and unzipped it.

- Simon -

Nervous, and yet intrigued inspite of himself, crouched down and out of the tent, and then rose to stand - a pathetically thin youth resplendent in nothing more then a baggy off-white T-shirt and over-worn boxer shorts, protected by denial and a calor gaz lamp.

“I said, who’s there?”

- I am -

Simon turned on his now mud soaked heels. The voice (and it was a voice) was all around him.

“And who are you?”

- me -

And the voice trailed off into whispered laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Simon demanded, and then winced and he felt tiny pinpricks of pain assail his feet. Looking down, he saw and outcrop of moss erupt over his toes and then quickly, very quickly spread up and across his legs like green ink over saturated blotting paper. The pain continued as each area of his anatomy, and meagre clothing, were first encrusted, and then consumed by the moss.

Simon’s last thought concerned the choking sensation of musty, sprouting moss entering his nose, mouth, ears and eyes. And then it entered the cavity around his brain.

The moss sprouted grass a mere second after it’s first assault on the youth’s flesh, as the body collapsed to the floor the grass became a hedge, which branched out to cover and engulf the nearby tent.

In the newly deserted glen, a voice, blown across like wind, could be heard quite distinctly.

- food -

- Food -

- FOOD -


“How’s he getting on, Doctor?” Romana enquired, re-entering the console room in an earth - 80’s business suit. The blonde hair, evidently freshly combed, fell over her shoulders incongruously at first sight, but as always she looked born to wear the outfit she had chosen.

The Doctor shushed her with a pointed hand. After the minutest of pauses he asked, “How are you getting on, K9?”

K9 emitted a brief electronic gurgle, and then announced, “Message deciphered master. Await printout.” No sooner had he said it than a small strip of printout paper curled out from the general area of his ‘mouth’.

The Doctor tore the paper off in an impatient sweep and ran over to Romana without reading it. “I can’t look!” he professed, eyes tightly shut, “What does it say? I can’t read it!” So saying, he thrust the arm furthest away from Romana outward and upward, the paper firmly grasped by his fingers.

Unperturbed, Romana circled around the Doctor, who’s eyes remained tight, and coughed politely, the arm was lowered a foot and Romana teased it from his grasp.

“Oh, I don’t know, Doctor. I think even you could manage to read this: ‘Earth In Danger. Forced Relocation. Prevent Infection. CIA’”

The Doctor’s eyes snapped open, “No recall? No summons? No farewell?”

Romana smiled, “Not even a ‘you naughty time lady.’”
“Oh good!” he exclaimed, and then, in a sudden mood change he snatched the paper back. “The CIA? Who do they think they are, and think I am? Some sort of intergalactic trouble shooter?”

Ignoring his outburst, Romana knelt beside K9 and tore off another strip that had emerged. “CIA will, of course, deny all knowledge if intervention detected.”

The Doctor harrumphed loudly, rolled up his strip of paper and stuffed it in his mouth, “Ov curz zeyvill!” he announced.

“Clarify, master?”

Romana looked at the Doctor and noted his fervent chewing, “I think he said, ‘Of course they will’”

“Linguistic pattern matches despite masticular interference. Accepted, mistress”

“So,” Romana said slowly, careful not to cause the Doctor to erupt, “What do we do?”

In answer, the Doctor swallowed and glared at her. Just in case she had not understood, which she had, he said, “Have we any choice?” And, just as if the TARDIS was answering him, as the last word came out of his mouth, the sound of materialisation rose and fell, and the time rotor slowed to a halt.

“TARDIS has landed, Master.”

The Doctor slipped into his long tweed coat and encircled his neck with his improbably long knitted scarf. “I know, K9!” he exclaimed, rather more calmly than Romana had anticipated. A sudden glance from the Doctor told her the struggle his ego was undergoing, “We know!” he added.


Clarke had just decided that he would add a touch of piccalilli to his sandwiches tomorrow when the phone rang again. “Yesh?” he said, a mouthful of cheese preventing him from attempting the full corporate greeting, “What? Already? Ok, ok, ok. Pardon? You want me to . . . ? He’s not going to like this you know. The former Mr Clarke remembered a very impolite meeting with him - oh, no choice, eh? Ok, old chap. Cheerio!”

Clarke cut communication and eased his feet back into his shoes. Draining now tepid tea, he left the Beano annual upturned on his desk and crossed over to the glass bookcase adjacent to the one he’d opened earlier.

Whistling a short three-note tune, he grunted with satisfaction as the front of the case swung open. Taking a deep breath, Clarke walked into the exposed area beyond.

“Oh, I do prefer the bus.” He bemoaned as the door swung to behind him.


Five miles from where Simon Hill had been consumed, the landlord of the Squire’s Arms was busy ignoring his regulars. They, in turn, were happy to be ignored by his dour, saggy face. Well, until they wanted serving, that is.

Not a great believer in the hygiene of pot washing machines, Frank Gordon was busy hand drying a pint pot when the doors of his pub were thrown abruptly inwards. His wrists didn’t stop once in their cleansing and the arrival of two strangers and a large wicker basket caused only the mildest of curiosity among the stupefied regulars. As for Frank, he did not even register a hint of surprise. He had seen everything in his thirty years of having a licence and a couple of bizarrely dressed eccentrics from the city were nothing new. He placed the glass on the ribbed matted draining board, and dunked another in the suds of his sink.

“Good afternoon, Patron!” The tall, curly hairdo man boomed, “We’d like two adjacent rooms, a round of sandwiches and two glasses of your finest lemonade, please. Hmm. Not necessarily in that order though!”


“Romana, what’s the time? It might not be afternoon yet. Bad slip up, that.”

However, before the Doctor could begin again, Frank coughed slightly. “Fair do’s.” He said, ducking behind the bar. The Doctor and Romana’s eyebrows arched, but fell the moment Frank popped back up holding a clipboard. Bulldog-clipped to it were several pre-printed accommodation forms. “We accept cash, cheques or any major credit card. Bill to be settled upon departure.”

The Doctor beamed, “Excellent! Do you accept Centuri Gold?”

Frank nodded, “More than likely.” As Romana proceeded to complete the forms as vaguely as she could, Frank stared at the bar counter and asked, “Two lemonades and a round of sandwiches? Flavour?”

“Well, lemon.”

“The sandwiches.”

“Oh, surprise us!”

A spark of amusement flashed across Frank’s eyes, but it was soon gone. “Fair do’s” he muttered and proffered two pumped lemonades before disappearing into the kitchen.

“Friendly individual.” Romana observed, “Visit Earth and meet the charming locals! Ha!”

“They’re keeping a secret,” the Doctor murmured. A faint whirring abruptly emanated from the basket and the Doctor swiftly kicked it. “Not now, K9” he hissed theatrically, completely capturing the attention he had been striving to avoid.

Turning to the curious crowd, the Doctor mock bowed, “Lovely day for the time of century!” he observed, “Dipped any good sheep recently?”

Their curiosity sated (the stranger was clearly mad, and, worse than that, from the city) the small gatherings returned to their cards and dominoes.

“I thought hostelries like this only existed in motion pictures, Doctor.”

“Oh nonsense!” her companion said, swilling a mouthful of lemonade around his palate as though it were the finest Bordeaux. “Every cliché - oh, excellent lemonade - is based on experience somewhere. We’ve just found a perfect example!”

Proving his point precisely, Frank chose that moment to return bearing a vast array of six sandwiches, all ham. Instead of bringing them over, Frank took the plate over to a corner table and gestured for the Doctor and Romana to join him. “Take your seats,” he said, “Angela’ll be through shortly to show you to your rooms.” He faltered, and he attempted a smile. Romana shuddered, and even the Doctor blanched. “Have a nice stay.” he concluded, the smile thankfully extinguished.

Romana clasped her hands together, “Oh, the sincerity,” she breathed, eyelids fluttering, “it makes me feel so happy to be back on Earth.” her hands fell back to the table. “Again!”

“Now, now, Romana,” the Doctor admonished, ensuring the wicker basket was secure beside his chair, “you can’t blame me this time. CIA” he said, tapping his nose conspiratorially.

Romana let out a brief, sharp burst of air, “Ha. There’s no need to whisper, Doctor. They’re not going to know what you’re on about.”

The Doctor’s finger travelled from his ample nose to his lips. Casting a furtive look around him, he announced, “I wouldn’t be too sure. Earth has a CIA as well you know.”

“Really? A temporal and spatial regulatory agency? Here?”

“Well,” he admitted, “not exactly, but it does investigate things. And people.”

Romana picked up one of the sandwiches, gingerly lifting the top layer of bread. Well, it was food after all...

- Food -

The sandwich fell uneaten, and the Doctor leant forward to within inches of Romana’s face.

“Did you?”

“I did?”




“I did not imagine...”

“Oh, you probably did,” the Doctor declared, reclining in his chair, “after all we are on holiday.” The last part of the sentence was raised so as to ensure everyone heard. “Recovery from exertion and stress.”

Romana smiled at his performance, but her eyes betrayed the fact that she was not buying the dialogue.


It liked this planet. It took its food as it strayed within the realm of infection - all forms of animal life. Ah, so many species, so many flavours, and they all cam willingly.

It had heard the inhabitants of the nearby population cluster (humans? Yes, humans) marvelling at its arrival. It laughed, the noise sounding like rushing air, and basked in its nourishment. It wanted, needed more.

It flexed, and the infection spread. Just as it felt its way into a dry stonewall at the edge of its current boundary, a noise disturbed it. It was harsh, a non-organic grumbling that faded as abruptly as it started.

It had heard the noise before; and not long ago.


Clarke was worried. While travelling from London 1988 to Squire Hill circa 1998 in his TARDIS, the CIA had briefed him further on the severity of the current situation. What was it with this planet? he wondered briefly, and then quickly remembered its mineral and strategic significance. Placed where it was, when it was, it was inevitable that invasion was prevalent. It was rich. It was prime. It was also his home.

Giving his blazer a decisive tug, he vowed to help the Doctor defeat this creature. Observation and paperwork were not enough anymore.

As yet unaware of their new ally, the Doctor, Romana and K9 had been ushered into their rooms politely but perfunctorily by Angela, Frank’s wife. A connecting door joined the two rooms, and it was through this doorframe that K9 was presently ferrying back and forth with surprising speed.

“Master! Mistress!” he exclaimed, his voice containing a tremor unusual to him. “Request immediate conference.”

The Doctor bounded from his own room into Romana’s in two long strides, causing K9 to back-peddle rapidly. “What, now?”

Romana turned from her observations of the world outside the window and said, “Yes, now, Doctor. K9’s detected something.”

“Unit tried to inform master Doctor upon entering local inn, but you motioned me to silence. Imperative I explain immediately.”

The Doctor threw himself down on Romana’s bed without ceremony and yawned, “Go on then, amaze us.”

“High level of vironic infection in locale.”

The Doctor placed a pillow over his face, “Moss.” he drawled

Romana, however, was intrigued. “Go on, K9.”

“Infection is five Earth miles away, Mistress. Additional: it is not native to Earth”.

The Doctor was suddenly gravely concerned. The pillow flew across the room, “What? Now native? Why didn’t you say?”

“I just did, Master.”

“Hmmm, a bit late.”

Romana patted K9 on the head, causing his tail to wag. “Ignore him, K9. I heard you in time.”

The Doctor was up and pacing, “In time? How do we know it’s in time? Viral infections have a nasty tendency to spread quickly and be tenacious.” He paused, his mood brightening, “So long as it’s not conscious.”

K9’s head drooped.



“It’s a modern marvel isn’t it?” Edna was crowing to her bored grandchildren. ”For years, nothing. Then Mother Earth shakes her branches and the barbarity of man is covered.”

“Yeah, Grin.” Sarah Mitchell said obediently, kicking a loose pebble from the moss covered dry stonewall in front of her. “Amazing.”

Unseen by their grandmother, Sarah nudged her brother, and Steven echoes her with even less enthusiasm.

Edna, however, was not to be thwarted from her eulogy to Nature. “Ah, I never thought that I would live to see the day..” She breathed deeply, filling her lungs with clear, fresh . . . And then the sermon ceased. For the air wasn’t clear, and it certainly wasn’t fresh. For the first time since she had dragged her two charge-lings five miles by bicycle, a crease deeper than natural ageing crumpled her forehead. Where were the sounds? Where were the smells? The birds? The ever-present breeze?

“Gran?” Sarah broke through her reverie, or at least tried to, her clear, wide eyes clouding with concern, “Are you okay?”

Breeze ... Yes, there was a breeze.

“S-sorry, Sarah?”

“Are you okay?”

A regular pulsing breeze.

“Y-yes, I’m fi..”

And it knew her name.
What had begun as an exercise in peddling and boredom for Sarah and Steven, transformed into a foray into terror. In less than a minute, they saw their gran, old yet usually fun, fall against the dry stonewall and moss, grass and weeds smother her body entirely.

Their bicycles forgotten, their screams accompanied them down the hill as they ran, and ran, and ran. They stopped only when they collided with a tall, friendly looking man in a business suit.


“Sensors detect intelligence levels high in viral organism, Master.”

“Oh - ”

“No?” suggested Romana, attempting to be helpful.

“Yes,” the Doctor concurred, then repeated the word with gravity, “No.”

“So,” Romana said brightly. “What do you suggest we do?”

The Doctor pulled a face, “Find it. Talk to it?”

Romana was incredulous, “What? And ask it politely to go away?”

“Why not? You never know ... ”

A sharp wrap on the door interrupted this far from conclusive discussion. “Come in,” chorused the Doctor and Romana in unison, and as the door creaked open the usually impassive face of Angela appeared, now full of concern.

“I’m sorry to disturb you sir, madam, er,” she caught sight of K9 and her concern mixed with amazement.

“K9” K9 said, introducing himself.

“Err yes, K9,” Angela acknowledged, absorbing and ignoring the new information in that quintessentially human way, “but there’s somebody here to see you.”

“Really?” The Doctor inquired.

Romana, ever the more practical, opted for a more direct question. “But who knows we’re here?”
There came an unidentified voice from behind their hostess.
“Err, me.”
As Angela bowed and made her retreat, clearly relieved to be going back to her mundane chores, Clarke revealed himself, closing the door firmly behind him.

Clutching his legs like an illustration from ‘A Christmas Carol’ were two wretched looking children, fittingly a boy and a girl. They were clearly in a state of shock.

The Doctor ignored Clarke, his eyes, large and friendly focusing on the children. “And who do we have here?”


It cried out in frustration. Two samples of food had escaped. It needed them. It wanted to sense their fear again. Underdeveloped humans...

It reached out, trying to locate them, moss and grass suddenly staining the old dirt track heading toward Squire’s Hill.

The virus was spreading.


While the Doctor seated the children on the edge of the bed and began to win their confidence, Romana was dressing down Clarke. “How did you find us?”

Clarke tried a winning smile. He had known this was going to be difficult, but he had expected the interrogation from the Doctor, “The CIA directed me here.”


“Naturally. I arrived not long back, and I was wandering around inquiring whether anyone had seen any strangers when these two young things ran into me.” He gazed with concern at the calming children. “They kept going on about their grandmother, quite hysterical - I couldn’t understand a word. So I brought them here to calm down. They looked like they needed a coke. I know I certainly needed a whisky!” He broke off, and Romana felt herself relaxing, warming to the new arrival, “So, as I sipped away, and the children sat shivering, I thought I’d ask if anyone has seen their parents.”


“No luck. Most mouths remained tightly closed. However, the landlady, Angela? came across and suggested they were staying withhold Edna Hughes. When I ventured that they didn’t look well, she paled slightly and said they had a couple of strangers staying presently, and she’d heard one be addressed as Doctor.”

“So,” Romana concluded for him, “more by luck than by judgement you found us.”


“Sounds like one of our trips.”

“I say,” Clarke continued, changing tack slightly, “You don’t work for the CIA at all, do you?”

“What?!” Romana was appalled at the suggestion, and then cooled as she noted the similarity in their clothing, “No, I wear this for fun. What’s your excuse?”

Over by the bed, the Doctor called over, “Hey, are K9 and myself the only ones remotely interested in what Sarah and Steve have to say?”

Romana and Clarke looked momentarily embarrassed and then crossed over to the bed. As the Doctor coaxed the blatantly traumatic experience from the two children, Romana felt a sense of admiration for the tact her travelling companion was using. The story unfolded and was quickly told. A sudden chill descended affecting everyone but K9.

Steven concluded the tale, “It was Grandma’s idea to go up and see the new glade. She wanted to show us the new Green.”

“The new Green?”

“Yes, sir. Overnight, the old mire vanished and the grass came back. And now she’s, now she’s...”

The twins looked at each other, eyes brimming with sadness and confusion. The Doctor smiled reassuringly, and reached into one of his many pockets. He slowly removed his hand and, upholding his palm, revealed a brightly polished stopwatch.

Slowly, the Doctor began swinging the watch back and forth on its chain. Instinctively the children’s eyes moved to follow its movement. They were mesmerised.

Widening his own eyes, the Doctor soothed their passage into a deep hypnotised sleep. “When I stop swinging this watch you will be asleep. You will wake from a signal given by me later, and when you do wake up you will remember nothing of going to the New Glen. Grandma has simply vanished, and you will want to see your parents. OK ... One ... Two ... Three ... Four ... Five ...”

The Doctor palmed the watch away with the ease of a magician and the children fell slowly back into the quilt, fast asleep.
Clarke was all admiration, “I say, Doctor. Very clever.”
Romana, however was unimpressed. “Couldn’t we have eased it further for them?”

The Doctor looked thoughtful for a second, then resolute “No, not really. There is a missing person involved here, and people have to learn to deal with grief at some stage.”

Romana shuddered, “But that’s...”

“Life.” The Doctor claimed emphatically, terminating all further discussion. “Ok,” he said with a fresh tone, “I think it’s time we had a look at this New Glen, don’t you? Come on Clarke, you know the way. K9?”




After a long walk, the sun starting to set along the way, the Doctor, Romana, K9 and Clarke arrived at the new boundary of the New Glen. Clarke gaped in astonishment at the encroaching spread of the viral strain.

K9 trundled up tot the seeping tide and announced, “Master, Danger.”

Rather redundantly, the Doctor held up his hand and bellowed, “HALT! K9’s right. I think we’ve arrived.”

Clarke leaned in close to Romana, “What is it?”

“Alien parasitic virus.” K9 replied for her, “Density increasing.”

“We can see that, K9,” the Doctor said sarcastically. “The question is, how do we communicate?”

Romana flashed her most radiant smile, “Talk?”

The Doctor laughed. “Of all the most ridiculous ideas! The things a viral helix with no visible mouth or brain.” he paused, “of course we should talk to it.” Romana glowered, and the Doctor turned to face the advancing stain authoritatively. “Ahoy there! I’m the Doctor, this is Romana, K9 and our new friend Mister Clarke. Well? What are you?”


“Hmm?” The doctor murmured, addressing his more upright audience, “Not very polite, is it? I only asked...”

- Doctor -

The voice carried over the air. “Yes?” the Doctor yelled happily, rotating to face the Glen once more. “Well, now we know you can hear, how about constructing a full sentence. Hmm?”

K9 bleeped, “Peter likes Spot” he offered, but Romana whispered, “Not now, K9.”

“Apologies, Mistress. This unit was simply attempting to demonstrate simple semantic framework to viral entity.”

“I know K9, and given a less stressful moment I’m sure we’d all than you, but the Doctor’s attempting to save the world. Again.”

“Understood, Mistress”

- Peter likes Spot -

“Oh, very good,” the Doctor observed. “A viral parrot. Haven’t you got a vocabulary of your own?”

- No more than you, doctor. I learn new terms from those I meet -
- Pigeons, rabbits, dogs, cats, insects, and, oh yes, humans -

“So you recognise what you eat. Well at least we can take you to a restaurant. Mind you, one of us would have to read aloud for you. K9’s good at that.”

- Humour? Simon Hill taught me that concept -
- Just as Edna Hughes told me of human brutality to itself. War, Famine… -
- I am a virus Doctor. I consume, devour, learn -

“Well, I hope you only ever understand ‘Doctor’ through report!”

The virus laughed.

- Maybe. What do you want of me? -

Clarke stepped forward. “I’d have thought that was obvious. Get off this world. It’s not yours.”

- I like it here -

“So do its people!”

- Livestock. As the Doctor would say, a Menu -

Clarke’s face darkened in mood and colour, “People!”

- Words, words, words. You say I don’t belong here -
- Yet a race memory in human DNA suggests neither do they -
- Explain that -

The Doctor bristled, “Humankind inhabits earth now. Rightly or wrongly, and not a parasitic lump of bracken!” A thought occurred to him. “Where do you come from, incidentally?”

- A long way from here -

Romana laughed, “That figures. Where?”

- A strange question for one so human in appearance -

“Appearances can be deceptive.” The Doctor pointed out.

- Whatever. You asked where I came from… -
- I remember being made aeons ago on a planet I never heard the name of -
- I was a vaccine until they introduced new elements, corrupting me -
- They misused me. So I, er, misused them -

“And the abused child reared on its parents?” The Doctor summarised.

- And destroyed them. Yes, Doctor, you understand well -
- However, families are large and my, you might term him uncle, caught me, eradicated me -
- Or at least tried to -

“But a part remained.”

- A microscopic cell. But I bred, and I bred, and I will continue -

“Ahem, be that as it may. Why did they introduce sentience?”

- All virus are intelligent, Doctor. I was merely augmented -

“Yes, but why?”

- So I would know which cells to destroy for the benefit of my host. And later… -

“Where to strike to accentuate decay?”

- Yes -

“Well,” the Doctor declared, “I hate to be a party pooper and while I do feel sorry for you I’m afraid I can’t allow you to survive here.” In a split second the Doctor had his sonic screwdriver aloft and was sweeping it in a wide arc.

A high ultrasonic pulse swamped the surrounding land and beneath it, quietly at first but rapidly and angrily gathering momentum, a scream.


No! It would not die like this. It would not! Seek out the weak cells, the susceptible ones. Eliminate, Consume, Learn. Grow Strong, Stronger. It elected to remain silent while it investigated its new structure.


Romana tugged at the Doctor’s sleeve. “It’s having no effect anymore!”

The Doctor sniffed, observing the few, far too few, dark patches on the surface of the green. “I can see that!”

K9 offered his diagnostic. “Analysis shows rapid internal restructuring of DNA.”

The Doctor chewed his lower lip, “clever virus”

“Hmm. When you’re quite finished admiring it, perhaps you’d care to share a theory about destroying it?”

The Doctor stared at Romana. “I think there’s only one way, and I don’t like it.”


“I don’t like to say”

“Go on, say!”

The Doctor took a deep breath and delivered his theory. “Create an anti-virus”

Romana simply gaped, “Oh well, I would never have thought of that!?”

Defensively, the Doctor demanded, “Well? Have you got any better ideas?”

“Not at the moment,” Romana conceded. Ignoring the Doctor’s righteous snort, she ventured, “but to get a sample to work on, we’d have to…”

“I know, and even K9’s not immune. Look at the wall and those bicycles.”

“What bicycles?”


“So, we’re…”

“Stuck, Hmmm.”

There was a furtive cough behind them. Completely forgotten during their exchange, Clarke had a suggestion. “There is one alternative you know.”

“Well, Go on man.”

“Er, you can’t get close without infection…” He broke off.


“Let someone else get infected.”

“And observe? No need, it’s happened. They get infected, they die, it lives.”

“Yes, but they had only one life to lose. Maybe more would trap it.”

“A circle of mass large enough to swamp it? A container of sorts?”

“Yes, but not a circ…”

“But when the circle dies, it moves on. Anyway, no go! No one else is going to die.”

“What if it didn’t involve a circle, only one and what if it didn’t matter if they died once, or twice, or…”

The Doctor’s eyes turned to saucers, “But only a time lord…”

“I know.”

“But who? Romana? Me?”


The Doctor vehemently shook his head, “No, no, no! No way! I won’t allow it!”

Clarke decided it was time to completely redefine his loyalties. “Doctor, this is my home now. Let me save it.”




Clarke appeared to accept the order. Deflated, he muttered a slight, “Oh, ok.” And rammed his hands down deep into his pocket.

Romana started to offer words of placation, but before the sentence had been formed, Clarke had produced a small metallic disc. The object fell to the floor and there was a bright, brief flash of yellow light – like lightning. “Sorry Romana, Doctor.” He said to the now rigid forms of his fellow time lords. Like Pompeiian statues they were caught in positions they had been in only seconds before.

K9 motored to face Clarke head on, his nose-blaster extending, “Hostile action! This unit will protect Mistress Romana and Master Doctor.”

“K9, K9,” Clarke quickly broke in. “No need, they are safe, merely temporary temporally frozen.”

K9 ran a quick diagnostic and was forced to concur. “Explain,” he ordered.

“Hypnotism for the time sensitives. Only protection being this tiepin, ha-ha. I hope you’ll explain to them.”

K9 moved to bar his way, “Hypothesis of self sacrifice illogical. Master Doctor will find solution.”

“There isn’t time, K9. Here,” he said, kneeling to slide a wafer-like circuit into K9’s collar, “make sure they hear this.” He stood up, “Oh well, no time like the past, eh?”

So saying, Clarke swallowed doffed his hat to the Doctor, Romana and K9, and stepped onto the moss. He only achieved a few steps when it swarmed to and ran over him.

It was intrigued.

Unlike with its other victims, the virus saw an eternity of food and sensation within Clarke. Even more than on this planet. The virus crawled off the road, extracted itself from the glen, re-grouping, reforming, realigning.

The trees broke down into their component viral cells and raced forward into Clarke. Clarke’s body died, yet the virus held on. It knew there was more. Clarke’s body, anticipating death, triggered off the process of regeneration. By the time the virus realised what was going on, it was too late. It was inside Clarke’s body in its entirety.

As Clarke was re-born, the virus struggled to restructure its DNA. It succeeded. Just. Clarke died again. And regenerated, the virus screamed, attempting to alter once more. Half of it died. Each time the cleansing process of regeneration kicked in, more and more of the virus finally died, destroyed by the only anti-virus that could ever defeat it, the time lord death/life cycle. But at what cost?

In the road, once again a dry dirt track, laid the prone form of an 80’s businessman. He was dead, yet smiling.

Clarke was gone, but his beloved earth lived on.

K9 glided forward and ran a quick analysis. “Virus eliminated,” he announced, a tinge of near-sadness seemingly in his intonation as he continued, “Clarke too.”

With his death, Clarke’s time-hypnotism faded and the Doctor and Romana rushed over to the fallen body.

“The idiot!” the Doctor exploded, searching in vain for a double pulse.”


The Doctor turned towards K9, “Yes?”

“Please accompany this unit back to the hostelry and I will explain motivations.”

Romana looked puzzled, “You will?”

K9’s ears waggled with pride. “I have been entrusted, mistress.”

The two time travellers shared a knowing glance. Instinctively, they knew what he meant.

In Romana’s room at the Squires arms, the children were still asleep awaiting the Doctor’s signal. It was just as well they were asleep, for the last will and testament of W. Clarke Esq. would have just confused them further.

The Doctor and Romana were sat cross-legged before K9, from whom the voice of the late Clarke issued forth. “… I always knew that tracking you I’d face danger eventually, Doctor. It follows you. And as I followed your times on Earth…”

(The Doctor suddenly jerked, recalling a radar dish. Had that been…?)

“… Well, it was inevitable. Just hope I helped in some way. In any case, I could never have gone back to Gallifrey, not after all the wonders … but I needed to tell you that.”

The Doctor and Romana exchanged a significant glance.

“Ah, well. Goodbye dear fellow. Just pop my body back into my TARDIS and whistle the first three notes of the anthem, eh?”

“Oh, and one last thing. When they realise I’m dead, the CIA will send another agent. However, it goes without saying that you know nothing about it!” Clarke laughed, K9 bowed his head and the voice was heard no more.

Never one for sentiment, the Doctor clapped his hands together and jumped up. “Come along Romana. Time to go.”

For once, Romana didn’t even want to indulge in any temporal word play. “Yes, Doctor. Oh, the children.”

“Ah yes, the children.”

K9’s head raised again, “Human approaching, Master.”

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. “Come in.” K9 intoned.

The door opened and a dazed Edna Hughes ran through, spotting the children immediately. “Ah, Angela was right, there they are!” As she crossed over, the Doctor said, “Now!” and the children woke up to a joyous reunion.

Romana was puzzled, “Doctor?”

The Doctor smiled, “It’s only a theory, but I think that the death of Clarke’s body caused a negative feedback of regenerative tissue into the land.”

Romana nodded, “So, even as the virus ran off the ground, it was cleansing it?”

“Exactly! Fulfilling its original function! Do you know, I’ll never call the CIA a bunch of…”

“Doctor!” Romana interrupted, “children and K9 present!”

The Doctor smiled even wider, “Hmm, let’s allow him to stick with ‘Peter and Jane’, eh?”


The Doctor and Romana, the latter carrying the large wicker basket containing K9 once again, left the room. Only Sarah saw them go. And smiled.

At the bar, the Doctor was in a state of confusion. “Paid? In full?”

Frank, unusually buoyant, almost boisterous, said, “Oh yes, sir. Paid this morning.”


“No point arguing, Doctor.” Romana reasoned, if it’s paid, it’s paid. Let’s go.”

“Well, yes.”

Frank shook both their hands vigorously, “Well, thank you … Cheerio, Call again!”

As they left, frank whistled an upbeat tune. Whoever had paid their bill did not understand the currency very well. He patted the cheque in his back pocket. However, who was he to point out a few extra 0’s?

In the field where the TARDIS had landed, its departing noise meant that Clarke’ last request had been granted and his remains were on their way back to London.

Shortly after, the Doctor, Romana and K9 filed into the police box and the doors closed behind them. From the other side of the field Simon Hill watched the blue box fade from view with undisguised surprise. Maybe the country wasn’t so relaxing after all.

In London, on a regular London bus, an early morning passenger looked up in alarm as a young businessman landed with a little jump from the steps to the upper deck. He must’ve been jolted, she assumed, and returned to her Ruth Rendell.

The man smiled, disembarked and sauntered over to a regular looking building not far away. On the wall at the frontage, a brass plaque proclaimed the business name with pride:

Clarke, Clarke, Clarke & Co

And then, in brackets underneath, it said:

Founded by W. Clarke Esq.
b . ? . d . 1999 .

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