Chapter 4

January 14, 1901 - The Manor House, Berkshire

Mysterious Body found in Thames

Late last evening a body was fished from the lower Thames, amid some sort of wreckage. The cause of death was identified as drowning, occurring sometime between ten and eleven o'clock. The body itself is believed to come from one of the Arab races, and was found in Arabic robes. However the actual identity remains unconfirmed.

Around the same time, two hansom cabs disappeared from the area of the Royal Albert. Police sources say the incidents may be related. Eyewitness accounts of reckless driving in the region of the Tower bridge and the lower dock area support these claims.

- The Chronicle, 15/1/1901

‘Crabtree? Crabtree?’ Sir Arthur's voice echoed through the dark and silent house. ‘When I left, I could have sworn I told him to keep a light on. He's probably retired for the night.’

As Ace hung up her jacket on a coat hook, Sir Arthur walked over to a large desk. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a flint and tinder. With practiced movements, he struck the flint against the steel and ignited the dry tinder. With patient care, he moved the tiny flame to the wick of a candle, and elicited a small but steady flame. He moved below a gaslight mounted in the wall. He opened the gas flow, and raised the candle to the lamp. To his surprise nothing happened.

‘That's strange. Crabtree must have turned off the gas. Blessed unusual.’ He lit another candle for Ace, and then led the way along the corridor. As they passed the study, Ace noticed the door was ajar. She thought Sir Arthur had left it locked after cataloguing his inheritance. She would mention it to him later.

They came to the end of the forbidding corridor, at a door Ace guessed led to the kitchen. Sir Arthur paused a moment, before opening the door.

At first all seemed normal. The candlelight showed the usual kitchen implements and utensils, a large cast iron stove, large ceramic sinks, a long wooden table and... a body.

Cautiously they approached. It was Crabtree, obscured by the table leg. A quick check revealed he was alive. Sir Arthur cursed and set about trying to get the gas running again to get some light. As the room was slowly illuminated, Crabtree stirred.

It was clearer now that he had suffered a blow to head. An ugly-looking bruise was forming round a vicious gash. Ace tried to bring him around while Sir Arthur got a wet towel, and started cleaning away the dried blood from the wound.

‘Fly, devils!’ Crabtree roared, awaking with a start. He took in his surroundings and sank back. ‘I see you have returned, Sir.’

‘What the devil happened, Crabtree?’

‘I was just preparing to retire, Sir, when the lights were extinguished. Naturally, I came down to investigate. I opened the kitchen door and was confronted by an Arab of enormous stature. With the element of surprise against me and several more opponents in the Kitchen proper, I was quickly overcome.’

‘I wonder what they wanted? Surely it can't have anything to do with those beastly disappearances?’

‘Could have something to do with this father of yours?’

‘George? His whole life was archaeology. If wasn't the Amazon, it was Burma. If he wasn't mapping the highlands of New Guinea, he was dusting off pyramids in Egypt.’

‘It keeps coming back to Arabs and Egypt, doesn't it? Two weeks ago, Rama the Arab miracle arrives in town, and woos audiences by the house-full. Around about the same time, people start disappearing. Today, there were two Arabs in your garden. Then when the Doctor and I were at the theatre, Rama disappeared, devotees and all. The stage had a layer of dust, as if it hadn't been disturbed all day. But it gets weirder still. Rama and his band aren't actually Arabs. They're Egyptians. And your father was killed investigating, among other things, an Egyptian sarcophagus. It might be a good time to take a look at this mummy your father dredged up!’

With that note of finality, Ace headed out into the corridor. Sir Arthur, pausing to make sure Crabtree was on his feet, headed after her.

Sir Arthur reached into his pocket for the key, when he realized that the door was already open. He and Ace were about to enter the room, when there was a knock at the door.

‘I'll get it,’ called Ace, already halfway down the corridor.

‘But what if...’

She interrupted him. ‘Think. If they're Arab assassins, they're not likely to knock on the door. And besides, why return to the scene of the crime?’ She went to answer the door, while Sir Arthur entered the study.

Ace opened the front door, not without a few moments of trepidation. Standing there was a familiar well-worn figure, who seemed to be sporting a few more scrapes and bruises than usual.

‘Doctor!’

‘In person. I see you've managed to keep yourself out of trouble for a few minutes.’

‘Almost. What took you so long?’

‘Well, you know turn of the century transportation. Primitive at the best of times.’

‘Sounds like a certain blue police box I know.’

‘Doctor! Ace! The sarcophagus is gone!’

The pair entered the study to find Sir Arthur looking at the collection of archaeological relics.

‘I remember we stood it up right over there.’ He pointed to a blank space of wall. ‘Those devils must have stolen it!’

‘I think we should try and find out who our mysterious thieves are. Ace, fetch your stereo.’

‘I really don't think this is the time for music, Doctor.’

‘Just do it. Your tape deck can do more than you credit it.’

‘It didn't stop the Cybermen did it?’ With that last retort, she ducked out into the corridor.

‘A clue, a clue. Sir Arthur, your father didn't bring back anything else from Egypt, did he?’

‘He brought back a great number of things. Most of them he donated to the Royal Geographical Society. I think he did have a few odds and ends though. I think I put them in the desk.’ Sir Arthur moved over to a large ornate desk, and opened a wide drawer. There inside, in addition to many mundane pieces of stationery, was a small framed portrait of a group of men, and a leather bound diary.

The Doctor held up the portrait. ‘Who are these people, Sir Arthur?’

‘It must be the Explorer's Club. He was always mentioning it. A group of geriatric globetrotters were the words he used, I think.’ Sir Arthur peered closer. 'There's Thomas Marsden, and James Lockerbie, not to mention Sir Richard Brambury.’

‘You know these men?’

‘Doctor...’ Sir Arthur's voice trailed off. He dashed out of the room to return with several copies of The Chronicle.

‘Yes, here... Sir Richard Brambury disappeared while out riding. Here's Lockerbie and Marsden. Doctor, the men who disappeared were all members of the Explorer's Club!’

‘But surely the Police would have realized?’

‘It was a very private group, Doctor. Who is interested in aging explorers who have nothing but past glories to live on? No, the Police won't have guessed. I've had that painting ever since George died, and I never noticed.’ He momentarily winced at the painful memories. However the Doctor had been distracted by Ace's return, and when he turned around Sir Arthur had regained his stoic composure.

‘Doctor, I just saw the strangest thing outside.’

‘Later, Ace.’

‘It was a brilliant light in the sky.’ She noticed the Doctor was concentrating on the tape deck. ‘Don't say I didn't warn you.’

Sir Arthur looked on in puzzlement as the Doctor placed Ace's tape deck on the table, and began to fiddle the controls. Sir Arthur little realized the Doctor's handiwork in crafting the tape deck even if he had known it's original purpose. Built to replace the ghetto-blaster destroyed by the Daleks, the tape deck incorporated some unusual features that had proved crucial to the Doctor's defeat of the Cybermen.

The Doctor had almost completed his task. Adjusting the dish mounted in the top, he punched a button and a shimmering sphere appeared. He twisted a dial, and the picture sprang sharply into focus. It was clear to everyone in the room that it was Sir Arthur's garden.

‘Ace,’ Ace breathed.

‘I added a few security features. It can also directly tie-in with the TARDIS computer.’

‘You mean you can operate it by remote control?’

‘If I need to.’ The Doctor adjusted the controls. The scene shifted to a different part of Sir Arthur's estate. The picture changed again, to a deserted road outside. The Doctor was just about to look elsewhere with his roving eye, when a small shape appeared on the horizon. As the Doctor zoomed in, it grew until it filled the tiny sphere. The shape was a carriage. The observers peered closer.

A lantern was swinging from the side, creating an eerie luminescence that changed with every bump and turn. Seated in the driver's position was a barely visible Arab, cloaked by the darkness. He was driving the horses at a cracking pace, the whip snapping viciously above them.

The Doctor pulled back the image to try and determine how far away the carriage was. He had almost pin-pointed its location when it vanished. The three watchers gasped. The Doctor desperately flicked more switches but to no avail. The carriage had disappeared.

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