‘They’re what?’

Ianto accepted his PDA back from Jack. ‘They eat faeces.’

Jack enjoyed the disgust on Brigstocke’s face. ‘What, you’re a journalist and you didn’t know that?’

‘We have dictionaries.’

‘You know that’s not what I meant.’

Miss Bullivant had risen and gone to the altar rail. She was looking at a Bible, one trembling hand pressed against her mouth. The book was spattered with the dead man’s blood. Jack could just make out the words she was reading: ‘I saw that one of its heads seemed to have had a fatal wound but that this deadly injury had healed.’ The old woman was sobbing now.

The parquet floor by the body was dark and slick with blood. Jack trod carefully over to the body. Nothing much to pursue here, the ugly but familiar aftermath of a Weevil attack. The scratched trail from the body to the crooked remnants of the confessional box gave the narrative for the priest’s final moments. One arm was bitten almost clean off.

And clutched in the left hand was a large, colourful playing card. Jack checked that Brigstocke was occupied by the sacristan. When he plucked the card out of the priest’s grasp, he had to tug it from clawed fingers. Cadaveric spasm, wasn’t that how Owen described it? Torchwood saw more of it than any scene-of-crime officers, that rare pre-rigor stiffening from intense emotion during violent death.

The card was about A5-size. Stiff, though not as stiff as the priest. The back of it had a bright logo that read: MonstaQuest. The front showed a stylised cartoon monster, with attributes rating it on different scales: Age, Height, Weight, Savagery, Intelligence.

Brigstocke glared at Jack. ‘First on the scene…’ said Brigstocke.

‘First to leave,’ concluded Jack. ‘Come on, Ianto.’

‘Who’s he,’ grumbled Brigstocke, ‘your boyfriend?’

‘Yeah,’ grinned Jack. ‘And we’re late for our date. Never mind, David, you found your story for this evening. Brutal murder of local priest. You got an eyewitness. Make sure you take good care of her.’

The sacristan clutched Brigstocke’s forearm. He was clearly in a dilemma about leaving her there. ‘You’re never going to be a witness, are you, Jack?’ The journalist raised his voice for the first time. The echo followed Jack and Ianto out of the church.

In the SUV, Jack passed the MonstaQuest card to Ianto.

‘Good likeness,’ said Ianto, turning the card over in his hand. ‘But what’s a Toothsome?’


The wedding dress wasn’t ready. Gwen Cooper sat calmly in the food court while bridesmaid Megan got angry on the bench beside her. ‘It’s an outrage, is what it is,’ Megan snapped. ‘How do you know it’ll even be ready in time for the wedding? Worst thing that could happen.’

‘The way you’re going on, you’d think this was your wedding dress!’ Gwen sipped her cappuccino and smiled. She could think of lots of worse things, including yesterday evening’s encounter with Ianto, a slime creature, and a mop and bucket. But none that she could tell Megan about. ‘C’mon, let’s make the most of it. We can look for my going-away outfit. There’s a sale on in Happy, I saw signs in the window.’ She checked her watch: nearly half ten. ‘We might still beat the rush.’

Megan looked liked she’d prefer to go back into Best Day Bridal and tear another strip off the unfortunate manageress.

Gwen rubbed Megan’s arm. ‘Mum insisted I get something special. “Don’t want that snooty cow Brenda sniping as your car leaves for the airport” is how she put it.’ She knew Megan could be jollied out of her mood by a good grumble about Rhys’s formidable mum. Soon to be Gwen’s formidable mother-in-law.

‘Don’t like this place,’ announced Megan as they negotiated a path through the mid-morning rush of Pendefig Mall shoppers. ‘Flowers are all fake. Never a bin when you need one. The toilets are miles away on the top floor. And the place is heaving with bloody English students this time of year.’

‘What about Southampton Simon you went out with? He was a post-grad, wasn’t he?’

‘Exactly,’ said Megan with a finality that brooked no further argument. She popped her head up above the crowd, like a meerkat. ‘There, what about Valley Girl? They had some fantastic Vivienne Westwood jackets.’

Shoppers were looking to the opposite side of the mall. Shouting and a ripple of people down the escalator indicated someone shoving his way down. Gwen fought the temptation to go over – she was emphatically off-duty, and now was not the time for a spot of community policing. She followed Megan. When she tucked her handbag firmly under her arm, she could feel the butt of her Torchwood handgun. Off-duty, maybe, but never off-guard.

‘I am loving your boots, by the way.’ Megan appraised Gwen’s black, calf-length footwear. ‘Converse?’

‘Belstaff,’ admitted Gwen.

‘God!’ shrieked Megan. ‘They pay you well enough in Special Ops, then. How much?’

Gwen didn’t like to admit how much she’d spent on them. She hadn’t told Rhys yet. ‘They’re a bit of a bugger after a couple of hours,’ she admitted. ‘Wearing them because I want to make sure the jacket will go-with, you see.’

‘How about this? It’s waisted, apparently.’ Megan picked out a tailored anthracite jacket. ‘Just the thing for the hen night, eh?’ she brayed. ‘We’ll all be wasted.’

Gwen held the jacket against herself. It was the sort of thing she’d have bought without a second thought before she joined Torchwood. Now she found herself considering the practicalities of washing alien grime out of designer gear. Nothing with ‘Dry-Clean Only’ these days, if she could help it.

‘It says “Anglomania” on the label.’ Megan sucked her cheeks in. ‘Lovely thing, though. So I won’t tell Rhys if you won’t.’

Gwen slipped on the jacket and examined her reflection in a tall mirror. She politely declined Megan’s offer to hold her bag, instead putting her foot on the strap. ‘Does this make my arse stick out? And if you can’t be kind, Megan, at least have the decency to be vague.’

Megan cackled. ‘I used to say that to Banana Boat. Not that he took the hint.’ She affected to remove a piece of lint from the arm of Gwen’s jacket. ‘Is he back in the country?’

‘Missing him?’

‘Like a hole in the head.’ Megan wrinkled her nose. ‘That was a bigger mistake than Dr Simon.’

‘Or Geraint Honess.’

Megan groaned theatrically. ‘Still, if I had those three in front of me and a shotgun with two barrels, know who I’d kill and who I’d spare?’ She cocked her head to one side, but didn’t wait for Gwen’s answer. ‘I’d shoot that idiot Banana twice, to be completely sure.’

‘And then smash his head with the stock!’ laughed Gwen.

‘Stock? Listen to you,’ noted Megan.

Gwen looked away. ‘Firearms training,’ she muttered.

Megan’s mood seemed to have brightened, though. ‘Anyway, this isn’t a shotgun wedding is it. Is it?’ she asked again teasingly.

Gwen didn’t respond. Through the open frame of the shop doorway, something outside had caught her eye. An all-too familiar hunched shape in a leather jacket was shoving through the crowd, spitting and snarling.

‘Stay here,’ Gwen said. She picked up her bag and ran through the exit and towards the Weevil.

‘You clumsy bastard!’ snapped Jenny Bolton. ‘I’ll have you.’ The yob had barged into her, and spun her into an old woman tugging a wheeled shopping basket. Jenny had been in the middle of phoning her mum, to find out where she had got to. The phone was a birthday present from her mum. So where was she? Supposed to be outside Boots a quarter of an hour ago. Jenny wasn’t going to wait all day, was she?

The yob was still shoving his way through the crowd ahead of her with an odd sort of lolloping walk. He careered into a gaggle of teenagers who were entering Valley Girl. A burly goth with long black hair and startling kohl eyes grabbed the yob by the lapels of his leather jacket. ‘Watch it, mate,’ said the goth slowly and calmly. ‘Other people here. Can’t you see through that mask?’ Other shoppers seemed unsure whether to stare or look

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