The lowered gas lamps flickered as Madam C settled into her position at the head of the drawing room table. Her guests looked up at her with a mixture of awe and desperation. The fear of the dock workers flickered behind the eyes of the Whimple sisters but their desire to make contact with the spirit of their dear father outweighed such concerns as Christian doctrine.
In the case of the younger girls, Charity and Mercy, they sought solace from such a contact. But for their elder sibling Dot the will was utmost in her mind.
Madam C looked up at them with something that would have been a beatific smile had her wrinkled features not turned it into something closer to a rictus.
‘The spirits are restless tonight, I apologise for the interruption.’ She held out her hands again offering the circle to be reformed. ‘We will try again.’
‘But... But what was that screaming?’ Mercy stuttered.
‘There are many voices on the other side, not all are happy to be there.’ The smile stayed fixed but the flash in her eyes went unnoticed in the subdued light. ‘There are many forces abroad this night’
The Carbine clicked against the glass of the dining room window. ‘I have a clear shot.’ The driver whispered around his cheroot.
The Woman placed her hand on his wrist, drawing the gun away. ‘Albert, how are we to learn anything if you eliminate every threat you see?’
‘Eleanor, you heard that unearthly wailing...’ the young Albert twitched but holstered the gun as ordered.
‘Clement is working on the locks, come.’ She stepped lightly across the flower bed, skirts raised against the mud, towards the heavy front door.
In the master bedroom (nestled between a wardrobe and a dressing table) stood the incongruous form of a metropolitan police call box. The dark paint peeling and scorched to the wood below suited the down at heel furniture but that was all.
The door at the front opened and The Doctor stepped out, his velvet jacket and renaissance curls looking utterly at home. He stepped to the centre of the room and bounced on his heels for a moment then checked his pocket watch.
‘It’s safe to come out. Earth, northern hemisphere, early 1890s...’ he called over his shoulder. Max followed him out of the ship, eyes scanning the room for details.
‘Doesn’t sound promising if we’re looking for help for Lily.’
‘Inventive bunch the Victorians, Sigmund Freud is at his peak around now...’
‘I don’t think she needs a psychotherapist, Doctor.’ Max tailed off as something caught his eye. He crossed to the bed and lifted a paper with a frown. ‘Earth you say?’
The Doctor joined him and glanced over the sheet. ‘Welsh, that narrows it down, sea salt on the air and a brick built house. Probably Cardiff or Carnarvon’ he jumped on the spot. ‘Cardiff.’
‘Great, didn’t we just leave here?’ Max complained. He turned back to the TARDIS in frustration.
Lily was stood in the doorway, her face lit with a beatific smile. She was whispering something under her breath. Max stepped towards her but she ignored him, pushing past to the door.
Outside, Clement Potterson slid his complicated device into the lock of door and twirled it with the flourish of a stage magician. The door swung open and he bowed.
‘All yours Miss Winters.’ He smiled. Albert and Eleanor stepped in, the hallway in darkness.
There was a low rumbling, almost a chant. Albert fussed at his carbine’s holster and narrowed his eyes at the faint glow from under the drawing room door.
Clement closed the door behind them and drew a slim wired probe from the case he carried slung over his shoulder. ‘I’m getting multiple readings, something different...’ he turned the wand to the top of the stairs.
A woman stood at the top of the stairs, her yellow dress matching her blonde hair, the blue splash of colour in her fringe the same as the colour of her painted nails.
Her lips were moving in time to the chanting from the drawing room. Eleanor waved her team back as the woman stepped down the stair, eyes unfocussed. Two men appeared behind her the shorter one holding his companion back.
‘Hello!’ Called the shorter man ‘I’m extremely sorry about this intrusion...’ The woman ignored this too, walking down the stairs, lips moving in her soft litany. Albert’s carbine was in his hand and levelled as she drew closer. The taller man broke free of his fellow and leapt the narrow stairwell landing with a crunch over Albert. Clement scuttled to one side, protecting the case from the action. By the time the shorter man had joined them, Eleanor’s parasol, knife blade extended, was persuading the tall man to leave Albert alone.
Simultaneously the drawing room door was yanked open. The woman in yellow raised her voice at the shocked appearance of the elderly Madame C.
The case whined and everything in the room seemed to hold its breath. Madame C’s expression froze. The tall man took a step forward that seemed to last eternity. A low grumble filled the narrow mildewed corridor, the flame in the single gas lamp set still.
An inhuman howl pierced the tableau and the gas lamp went out.
But the light did not.