Authors: Barry Letts
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
ISLAND OF DEATH
ISLAND OF DEATH
Published by BBC Worldwide Ltd,
Woodlands, 80 Wood Lane
London W12 OTT
First published 2005
Copyright © Barry Letts 2005
The moral right of the author has been asserted Original series broadcast on BBC television Format © BBC 1963
Doctor Who and TARDIS are trademarks
of the British Broadcasting Corporation
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
ISBN 0 563 48631 7
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places
and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living
or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Commissioning editors: Shirley Patton and Stuart Cooper Editor and creative consultant: Justin Richards Project editor: Vicki Vrint
Cover imaging by Black Sheep © BBC 2005
For more information about this and other BBC books please visit our website at
‘Is it vampires, Prof? Or did she starve herself to death? Or what?’
Professor Mortimer Willow, consultant forensic pathologist to the Met in North London, grinned happily at the grizzly remains lying on the table in front of him. He loved a puzzle.
‘What indeed, Sergeant. No, not vampires - for two reasons.
One, vampires are a myth; unless you’re talking about a member of the species
. I suppose one might conceivably have escaped from Regents Park, but it would have to have been a very large bat indeed to have done this to the poor lass. As for starvation...’
He leaned forward and picked up the bony hand. Anybody who had anorexia nervosa - or who had been deliberately deprived of food - would have been dead long before she’d reached this degree of emaciation.
‘And the second?’
‘The second reason it’s not vampires.’
‘What are you talking about, Sergeant? Do try to stick to the point!’ Glory be to Gladys, the man was a fool! Removing the entire contents of the circulatory system would merely produce a slightly thinner and extremely pallid version of the victim. The weight of the blood would be only about eleven pounds. Less than a stone.
The chestnut-haired young woman must have been quite a beauty: the structure of her skull, clearly delineated under the tight skin, made that quite apparent; her sojourn in the shallow grave on Hampstead Heath had been too short to affect the smooth complexion; and the fox that had revealed her to the early morning jogger had soon given up any hope of a decent dinner.
Doctor Prebble, the professor’s assistant, peered at the body through his thick glasses. ‘Could it be a virus?’
‘When in doubt, eh?’ said the professor. ‘The all-purpose get-out! Where would the medical profession be without its pet viruses? I think not, Brian.’ And he pointed to a mark on the base of the victim’s neck, just above the breastbone. ‘The skin has been punctured.’
Prebble whipped out his tape measure. It was a cut an inch and a half long. ‘Doesn’t look like a knife wound,’ he said.
Ah well, we’re not going to find out by goggling at her like a bunch of tourists at Madame Tussauds...’ The professor held out his hand, without looking, and as he expected his assistant placed within it the razor-sharp scalpel he would use to open up the chest and the abdomen. And, as was his wont at these moments, he abruptly burst into song.
And as suddenly stopped.
He would learn nothing from the internal organs of the deceased; nothing from the lungs, the heart, the liver, the kidneys; nothing from the gut, from the oesophagus to the rectum; and for a very good reason.
There was nothing there.
The dead girl’s body was literally just skin and bone.
Arimiggle arimoggle frendog Skang!’
At least, that’s what it sounded like to Sarah Jane Smith, as she stood at the back of the white-clad bunch of about a dozen young people who were happily chanting the words.
Maybe it was Tibetan, she thought. Or Sanskrit. Judging by the images displayed on the walls, it wasn’t any European language, not even Finnish or Lithuanian - or Double-Dutch for that matter, even if it sounded like it.
As the voices rose in pitch and volume, she glanced over at the slight, curly-haired figure whose presence here was the reason she had come. The pale face of Jeremy Fitzoliver (her Hooray Henry’ colleague on the
) was ecstatic, with a wide-eyed vacancy that did it no favours at all.
Looks even more like an educationally sub-normal sheep than usual, thought Sarah, as her attention was caught by a movement.
Now what? The white-robed guru - if that’s what he was.
Where had she seen that handsome face before? - who was sitting at the front before a pair of ornate curtains, was pouring a colourless liquid from a handsome antique jug into a number of small plastic cups. These were then handed round by two helpers dressed like their master.
For a moment she was tempted to take a cup like the other couple of ‘guests’, as the newcomers like her were dubbed, but her journalistic caution prevailed. You could never be too careful. If she was going to discover what this was all about, she needed to keep her head clear.
As the chanting became more frenzied, rising in a crescendo of rapture, the guru, taking a larger cup in both hands, rose to his feet, turned his back on the gathering, and raised the chalice on high, quite obviously mirroring the actions of a Christian priest at communion.
Well really! At that moment, Sarah quite forgot all her reservations about the cosy version of faith she’d argued over in the vicar’s confirmation classes. This was a sort of blasphemy!
But worse was to come. As the voices came to a climax with a resounding shout of ‘SKANG!’, the helpers pulled back the curtains to reveal a painting of a being: an Indian or Tibetan divinity it would seem; or more likely a demon. A horrific demon in the shape of a hideous insect with a needle-pointed snout... or... what was the word? Oh yes... a proboscis.
Was this what they’d come to worship?
The silence as the faithful drained their cups was broken by shouts of joy and wild laughter. Watched with benign equanimity by the guru (and utter astonishment by Sarah), they flung their cups to the ground and their arms round each other, giggling and chattering at the tops of their voices like a crowd of ten-year-old schoolgirls let out to play.
They were clearly as high as kites.
To Sarah’s horror, Jeremy tripped his way through the swaying crowd, almost dancing, and threw his arms around her in an enveloping hug. This was a Jeremy transformed, very far from the usual reserved ex-public-school boy she’d always known.
‘Come on!’ he cried, pulling back and grabbing her hand.
‘We’re all going down to the garden. This is where the guests get to share our love-in!’
‘No, no!’ said Jeremy, with a typical Jeremy chortle.
‘Nothing like that! Just dancing and singing and stuff. Come on, Sarah, this is the first day of the rest of your life!’
Trust Jeremy to latch onto a new cliché, thought Sarah, taking back her hand. She lowered her voice. ‘Jeremy, there’s something not quite right with this whole set-up. Why don’t we work together to find out what’s going on? You could be undercover while I...’
‘You’ve got it wrong, old girl! This is how life should be -
loving everybody, sharing everything... Once you let the Skang into your heart...’
‘You haven’t given them any money, have you?’ she asked.
He reddened slightly. ‘Look, don’t start that elder-sister sniff again. It wasn’t much. Peanuts really.’
‘We’re only talking about a measly twenty thou. Honestly, Sarah, you sound just like Mama sometimes.’
Twenty grand! More than four times what she earned in a year! It was no good. He was well and truly hooked.
‘Off you go,’ she said, seeing his almost panicky glance over his shoulder as he realised that his new brothers and sisters had all disappeared.
‘I want to have a word with his nibs,’ she added grimly. ‘I’m not going to let this one get away.’
Jeremy’s shadow of a frown at her disrespect was wiped away by the sunny grin of the new-born zealot. ‘Please yourself,’ he said. ‘You’ll join us in the end. Everybody will.
Honestly, Sarah, I’ve never been so happy in all my bally life!’
And off he went.
She turned to speak to the guru - who had been wiping the ceremonial cup and replacing it in a little cupboard - only to find that he was staring at her with a slight frown on his face.
Had he heard what she’d been saying?
When he caught her eye he turned away, taking a key from his pocket, to unlock the double doors underneath the sacred icon.
‘Excuse me!’ called Sarah.
He turned back - but not before he’d re-locked the door.
‘You’re missing all the fun,’ he said, with a charming smile.