‘MonstaQuest, eh?’ Rhys pulled a scrunched-up tenner from his pocket. ‘I’ll take a pack of those, then.’

The shopkeeper had just handed Rhys the oversized cards when the mall’s fire alarm went off.


‘Come on, Ianto, get a move on,’ said Jack Harkness. He wriggled in the driver’s seat of the SUV. ‘My ass is going to sleep here.’

‘I know,’ muttered Ianto Jones. ‘I heard it snoring.’ He tapped some more at the compact keyboard and the heads-up display flickered its response. ‘Believe me, I’m as keen to get out of this vehicle as you are. Some date, huh?’

‘There’s still time, we’ll be there,’ soothed Jack. ‘Place won’t be open yet.’ He peered through the grimy windscreen at the grey office buildings. A handsome guy in ugly brown clothes was approaching down the narrow pavement. ‘He’d look better out of that suit,’ noted Jack.

Handsome Guy had to squeeze past the side of the SUV. He gave them a grim stare. Jack grinned right back. ‘What’s his problem? I put the parking indicators on, didn’t I?’

‘They’re supposed to be hazard warning lights,’ admonished Ianto. The regular noise of the indicators continued their tut of disapproval. ‘No, the Rift signature has dropped off. Big surge, died right back, not a trace now. Whatever it was has gone.’

Jack was only half-listening. He had adjusted the electronic wing mirror to follow Handsome Guy’s progress down the pavement. He watched the man lose his temper with a Maestro parked so far onto the pavement that its wing mirror prevented anyone passing. The pedestrian stalked back around the front of the car and hammered on the bonnet with his fist. This made the occupant lean forward to wave him away. That’s when Jack recognised the driver.

‘Oh, not today, please!’

Jack clicked off the hazards, twisted the ignition, and drove smoothly into traffic. The Maestro reversed back from the alarmed pedestrian, and swerved around him into the roadway.

Ianto bounced uncomfortably in the passenger seat. ‘What is it?’

‘That radio journalist again,’ Jack replied, flicking a look at the rear-view mirror. ‘David Brigstocke.’ The Maestro was half a street back, so he took a sharp right. ‘I’m not good on small talk.’

‘Tell me about it,’ replied Ianto.

‘So let’s see if I can shake him and track that last big surge in the Rift signature.’

Ianto was already pattering away on his keyboard. The heads-up display altered to show a road schematic and a recommended route. Ianto winced as Jack scraped the wheels against the kerb. A puddle sluiced across the nearest office wall.

Jack took a racing right-hand turn across traffic. ‘These brakes feel a little spongy,’ he noted, ‘Did you get them serviced?’

‘Didn’t have the parts,’ replied Ianto, ‘so I made the horn louder instead. Take this left.’

A cyclist swerved, crashed, and cursed.

Jack glared at Ianto. ‘One-way street?’

Ianto smiled. ‘Seems to work in both directions.’

A minute later the SUV slewed to a halt, parked across double yellows in a side street.

Jack and Ianto stepped out into the main carriageway. It was flanked by office buildings. The sour stink of drains told Jack there were sewer repairs further down the street long before he saw the candy-stripe tarpaulin of the covered work area. A young man with an equally sour expression ran past them and away, his orange football shirt the brightest spot in the grey street. He was presumably escaping the stench as quickly as possible.

Ianto covered his nose with a dark red handkerchief. It matched his dark red shirt, of course, Jack noted. ‘There’s a church.’ Ianto held his PDA out to Jack.

Incongruously slotted between two office buildings was the narrow sandstone facade of an eighteenth- century place of worship. ‘Holy Innocents,’ explained Ianto. ‘Sometimes called the Concealed Church of Cardiff.’

‘I’ve seen better-concealed churches,’ said Jack, and started up the short flight of steps to the main entrance. ‘This was the high spot for the Rift activity?’

A shrill scream from inside the building curtailed Ianto’s reply. He pocketed the PDA, and followed Jack up the steps at a run.

They were both caught by surprise as the church’s double oak doors sprang open. Jack stumbled into the handrail by the steps, and Ianto sprawled onto the pavement.

The Weevil that had burst through the doors blinked hard in surprise. It fended off the sudden brightness with desperate swipes of its taloned hands. It sniffed the air.

Jack fumbled for his disabling spray, but the creature was off down the street before his hand was out of his coat. ‘Check out the church,’ he snapped at Ianto, and hared off after the Weevil.

The chase proved futile. The Weevil’s lolloping gait swiftly took it to the smelly repair works. Once it had dived into the brightly coloured canvas tent, Jack knew it was already lost to the sewer system.

And besides, David Brigstocke had just stepped forward from a nearby side street. Jack recognised the same old check jacket, this time over battered pale blue jeans. Maybe they didn’t pay radio journalists enough for decent clothes. Maybe clothes weren’t important on the radio.

Jack put his hands on his hips and huffed, a combination of catching his breath and snorting with exasperation. ‘Put that thing away,’ he told Brigstocke. ‘I’m in no mood to talk.’

Brigstocke smiled his thin smile, and pocketed the digital recorder. ‘Would it matter, Captain Harkness? When I played back our last conversation, it had mysteriously changed into a recording of Radio Five Live.’

‘Tuning problem,’ said Jack.

‘Torchwood problem,’ responded Brigstocke smoothly. He was using his ‘on-air’ voice, the slightly clipped Swansea intonation familiar to Cardiff Tonight’s thousands of listeners. ‘Talk to me, Jack.’

‘Busy day,’ said Jack, and walked back to the church. ‘And I’m working.’

‘So am I, Captain Harkness.’ Brigstocke scuttled along behind him, trying to look in control and so resisting the urge to run. ‘You know what happened to my mate Rhodri. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other people who’ve seen what Torchwood get up to. Police, Ambulance, Army. You’re first on the scene, first to leave. You were there that day with Rhodri… I have corroborating evidence.’

He hissed his insistence as they entered the church. The calm interior seemed to demand it. And it also meant that a soft keening became audible at the far end of the church.

Jack found Ianto sitting in the front pew and comforting an old woman. She must have been in her eighties, unless the experience had aged her. The torn remains of a man, wrapped in the shredded remnants of priest’s clothing, were scattered by the vestry door.

‘Miss Bullivant is the sacristan. She found the body.’ With the old lady clutching him, Ianto affected to be unable to pocket his PDA, so he passed it up to Jack. ‘I’ve already called the police.’ Jack saw that Ianto’s real motive was to show him the Rift analysis on the display, relayed from Toshiko back at the Hub.

Brigstocke slumped into the next pew back, trying not to look at the corpse. He was saying ‘Oh God’ repeatedly. When he caught Jack’s eye, he stopped fumbling with his handheld recorder, and put it away again. ‘It’s enough to shake your faith in God,’ he mumbled. He watched as Ianto carefully disentangled himself from the old woman. ‘He’s gone to a better place,’ Brigstocke added feebly.

Jack leaned in. ‘That the best you can offer?’ he breathed.

Brigstocke flushed angrily. ‘This was one of those creatures wasn’t it?’ he whispered urgently. ‘Don’t deny it, I have-’

‘Corroborating evidence,’ said Jack. ‘Yeah, I’m sure.’

‘And that dreadful smell. It’s like the sewer.’

Jack grinned cruelly. ‘Did your corroborating evidence show these creatures are copraphagic?’

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