Don't Let Me Get Me
By Duncan Johnson
I can only describe it as a cruel joke, though as to the identity of the originator of said joke I may but speculate. I have a mirror in my room aboard the TARDIS. It is part of my dressing-table, the frame carved from the same glowing mahogany. I cannot rid myself of the mirror without also discarding the table and, as such, the mirror stays, mocking me, but also reminding me of what I am, whatever that may be.
I have no reflection. As I sit at the table combing out my hair all I can see staring back at me is an empty room. It makes me question who I am, not being able to see my face. I am told that I have not aged a day in almost ten years, but I have no way in which to confirm this assertion. When I go out, I typically wear blue because I am told that it is a colour that suits me. However, it is entirely possible that they are merely being polite and that it is an entirely inappropriate colour for me to wear. Other women may spend hours fussing over their appearance, but for myself that would be a depressingly fruitless exercise.
It does not help, of course, that my travelling companion is not the least bit interested in questions of a sartorial nature.
When I entered the console room, the heart of our remarkable vessel, the Doctor was standing at the controls, a newspaper clipping in his hand.
'Good morning, Doctor,' I said.
'Ah, Mina, good morning,' the Doctor said. He hastily stuffed the clipping into a waistcoat pocket.
'Are you all right, Doctor?' I asked. In truth, he seemed to me to be troubled.
'Perfectly all right,' the Doctor insisted. 'Why wouldn't I be?'
I was about to pursue the matter further when the central column of the console stopped its rhythmic movement.
'Good, we've landed,' the Doctor announced.
He recovered his velvet jacket from the back of his favourite armchair and then turned to appraise me.
'Yes, I believe you'll pass muster,' he said. Then he pulled the lever on the console the opened the doors and stepped outside.
I hurried after him.
'And where re we this time, Doctor?' I asked as I stepped out into the daylight.
'Can't you guess?' he replied.
Of course I could. The smell of the city alone was quite distinctive. I have visited many strange an wondrous places in my travels with my companion, but I always get a shiver running up my time on our too infrequent visits to Victorian London. It is, in many ways, like coming home.
'Stay here,' the Doctor commanded, striding off down the street.
I was not about to be left behind so I hurried after him. The Doctor ducked into an alley and I was now so close behind him that I we almost collided when he stopped short. I peered over his shoulder in order to discern what had caused him to halt so abruptly and my hand flew to my mouth.
A body lay on the cobbles. It was a man's body, but at first glance I could not make that out. All I could see was the blood and the way the body had been torn apart.
My stomach heaved and I turned away, stepping out of the alley in search of fresh air. I put a hand against the wall to steady myself.
'Mina!' the Doctor snapped, noticing my presence. 'I thought I told you to stay with the TARDIS.'
I was in no condition to argue with him.
A whistle cut through the air.
'The police.' The Doctor said it as if it were a curse. 'I had hoped to examine the body before they arrived, but I suspect we had best be elsewhere. Are you able to walk.'
'You knew thatthat thing would be there,' I accused him as he put an arm around me and began to lead me away.
'Not now, Mina,' the Doctor hissed in response.
'And where do you two think your going,' a voice boomed behind us.
The Doctor and I turned slowly to face the policeman behind us.
'We were just going in search of a police officer, Constable,' the Doctor answered smoothly. 'There's something in that alley there that I believe demands your attention.'
'Yes, we've already spotted that, thank you, sir,' the constable said. 'Now, I believe the inspector would like a word with you.'
'Inspector?' the Doctor repeated. 'He got here very quickly, didn't he?'
'Inspector Graves was nearby, sir,' the constable explained. 'This isn't the first such death in these parts, as I'm sure you know from the papers. They're saying it's the ghost of Springheel Jack.'
'I don't read much,' the Doctor replied with a toothy grin, 'and I don't believe in ghosts either.'
I shot the Doctor an accusatory look, but he ignored me.
'Indeed, sir,' the constable continued. 'Now, if you'll both follow me.'
'Back into the alley?' the Doctor inquired. 'If it's all the same to you, Constable, I would rather spare my companion the ordeal of having to view the body a second time.'
'Right you are, sir,' the constable agreed. 'If you'll both wait here I'll go and fetch the inspector for you.'
The Doctor began glancing about him as soon as the constable was out of sight.
'What are you doing, Doctor?' I demanded.
'Gauging our chances of making a run for it,' the Doctor replied.
'Running from the police?' I said. 'But we haven't done anything wrong. Have we?'
The Doctor looked at me curiously.
'Whatever do you mean?' he asked, his grey-blue stare boring into me.
'You knew that body was going to be there,' I said. 'You know what's going on.'
The Doctor seemed about to say something when a polite cough distracted his attention.
'Inspector Graves, I presume,' the Doctor deduced.
Inspector Graves was a short, rotund man whose strengths, it can only be hoped, lay in his keen intellect, for his qualities were clearly not physical.
'You seem to have me at a disadvantage, sir,' the inspector said in a gravelly voice.
The Doctor extended a hand.
'I'm the Doctor and this is my assistant, Mrs Harker,' he said.
'Just 'the Doctor'?' the inspector inquired sceptically.
'Of course not,' the Doctor replied. 'Now, how can we help you?'
'Well for a start you can tell me how you discovered the body,' the inspector said.
'Oh, that's simple enough,' the Doctor explained with enthusiasm. 'Mrs Harker and I were out for a walk when we, quite literally, stumbled over the remains. We had to take a moment or three to recover our composure after which our first instinct was to go in search of a police officer. We were in the process of tracking one down when we ran into your constable here.'
'Hmm.' The inspector still sounded sceptical, but I was beginning to wonder if perhaps that was his sole tone of voice. 'And perhaps you would care to explain what a doctor and his 'assistant' were doing in Whitechapel of all places?'
'Whitechapel?' the Doctor gasped. 'I had no idea. I hate to have to admit it, especially in the presence of a lady, but I am afraid that, during our walk, I had managed to get us both quite lost. I no longer knew where we were. Whitechapel, you say? Oh dear me.'
I hoped that the inspector was more impressed by this display of ham acting than I was.
'Hmm,' the inspector said again. 'In that case, Doctor, I won't keep you any longer, though I would appreciate it if you would give your address to the constable before you leave in case we require any further help with our enquiries.'
'Quite,' the Doctor agreed.
'Doctor, there is one further thing,' the inspector continued. 'I wonder if perhaps your qualifications are medical?'
'I do have a smattering of medical ability,' the Doctor confessed.
'In that case, I wonder if I might make a further imposition,' Inspector Graves said. 'To date, the police pathologist has been unable to provide us with any practical information about these murders and I was wondering of maybe'
'I might be willing to cast an eye over this one for you,' the Doctor concluded, 'as a second opinion? I would be delighted. Anything to help our fine metropolitan constabulary.'
'Excellent,' the inspector said. 'Ill make arrangements to have you meet the body at the mortuary.'
'Would it also be possible to arrange a carriage for my companion?' the Doctor asked.
'That will not be necessary,' I informed them. 'I am the Doctor's assistant, am I not? I will need to be present to assist him.'
'Excuse us a moment,' the Doctor said to our companions, then he led me to one side. 'Are you sure you want to do this?'
'I want answers,' I replied, meeting his gaze with a stare of my own.
He looked away first.
'Have it your own way,' he said.
* * *
'Who am I?'
'You really don't know, do you?' the stick-like man said. His bulbous head sat atop a collection of gangly limbs. 'You're a patient here at my asylum.
'Who are you?' the man huddled in the corner asked. He had long brown hair and piercing grey-blue eyes.
'Oh, I'm just the doctor,' the stick-like man said. 'I'm here to make you well again. But you're going to do something for me first.'
The doctor jabbed a slender blade deep into the other man's forearm. Blood soaked the sleeve of his stained shirt.
The patient cried out.
'I thought you were a doctor,' the patient said. 'Aren't doctor's supposed to help people.'
'And I will help people,' the doctor purred, 'with your help. See here.'
The doctor rolled up the patient's sleeve to reveal dozens of small scars.
'You see all of these, do you?' the Doctor ask. 'No ordinary man could heal so fast. You are a freak, that's what you are.'
'No,' the patient moaned.
'Oh yes,' the doctor confirmed, 'just like all those poor individuals one might see down at the circus. But you're not like them. They are cripples, but youyou are so much more than a man.'
The doctor prodded his patient's arm. The wound had already closed itself.
'Together, you and I are going to unlock your secrets,' the doctor said. 'Just imagine what I could achieve then.'
* * *
'This is your last chance to back out,' the Doctor said.
He had removed his jacket and was wearing a long leather apron. We were in a small square room. The walls were coated in white and green tiles and every noise echoed. Light came from small grates near the ceiling. The body was lying on a slab in the centre of the dark room, but at that moment it was covered by a sheet. I was standing in one corner of the room, the inspector beside me.
The Doctor looked at me, trying to persuade me with his eyes to leave. I kept my face impassive. Then, with the flourish of a stage magician, the Doctor threw back the sheet.
The body was not the horrible sight I remembered. Someone had clearly made an effort to clean it up prior to the Doctor's examination. Nevertheless, I tried not to look at the body directly. It was not that the sight disgusted me for I had already steeled myself against it, but rather that, as a result of what I have become, the site of blood triggers another more vile instinctual reaction in me, one that I refuse to ever act upon.
'Well,' the inspector asked.
'Give me a moment, please,' the Doctor protested. 'The body is still fresh so I would estimate that time of death was about two hours before we found him.'
'Two hours?' the inspector repeated. 'How do you work that one out?'
'Would you kill a man in this manner in broad daylight?' the Doctor asked. 'No, our murderer struck just before dawn. Hmm, now this is curious.'
'What is?' Both the inspector and I leaned forward as the Doctor investigated the victim's chest cavity.
'Well, the way the rib cage has been torn apart is frenzied, animalistic even,' the Doctor explained. 'I thought at first our killer had cut open the victim's chest with some kind of implement, but the indications here are that someone tore him open with their bare hands.'
'It's the work of a madman,' Inspector Graves declared. 'I've said as much from the very beginning.'
'Maybe so, but it doesn't quite add up,' the Doctor remarked. 'Tell me, were the hearts removed in all the other murders.'
'Yes, they were,' the inspector confirmed. 'More evidence of a disturbed mind at work.'
Hmm, but see here,' the Doctor continued. 'The heart has been removed cleanly. I'd wager this was done by someone with medical training.'
'An educated man?' the inspector said. 'I'm sorry, Doctor, but I cannot agree with you. No gentleman would tear a man apart so.'
'I agree with you,' the Doctor said uncertainly, though probably for different reasons. I don't believe an ordinary man would be physically strong enough. So on the one hand we have a strong barbarian and on the other, the evidence points to a careful intellectual. Curious.'
'It almost sounds as if there are two killers at work, Doctor,' I said.
'Yes, it does,' the Doctor agreed, 'and it shouldn't.'
'You sound as if you know what's going on,' the inspector said.
'No, I don't,' the Doctor replied, 'and that's the problem.'
* * *
The patient was lying on his stomach. It was too painful to lie on his back. The doctor had been applying hot pokers there and timing how long it took the burns to heal. The doctor seemed delighted with the results and the patient wondered if he should be pleased also. The doctor seemed to think he should, but all the patient felt - had felt for as long as he could remember - was pain.
'Hello, guv'nor,' called a small voice from outside his room. 'I've brought you your bread and water.'
There was the scraping sound of a key turning in a lock and then the door swung open to reveal a small girl with a dirt-streaked face who was carrying a tray.
'Hello,' the patient managed. 'Lucy, isn't it?'
'That's right, guv,' Lucy said. She tipped her cap to him and almost dropped the tray in the process.
The patient sat up slowly and took the tray from her.
'If that's all, I'd best be off, guv,' Lucy said.
'Stay a while,' the patient insisted. 'Please.'
Lucy sat down on the floor.
'What do you think of the doctor here?' the patient asked as he tore at the bread.
'He's a good man, guv,' Lucy replied. 'He took me in after my parents died. The doctor looks after me.'
'I didn't know you were an orphan, Lucy,' the patient said. 'I'm sorry.'
'Nothing to be sorry about,' Lucy replied. 'I don't even remember my parents.'
'But the doctor looks after you,' the patient continued. 'And does he look after all of the patients here?'
'Oh yes, guv,' Lucy assured him.
'And the beatings and the burnings, does he do that to all of them too?' the patient asked.
'Oh no, sir,' Lucy said. 'That's just you.'
'So I'm the only one he treats like an animal,' the patient said. 'Why?'
'Well, I really shouldn't be telling you this, guv,' Lucy began, 'but it seems as though you've got something the doctor wants.'
'But what could I possibly have?' the patient protested. 'I don't even remember who I am.'
'Those aren't the sort of questions I ask,' Lucy told him. 'I'm not a clever sort like the doctor.'
'But surely you can see what he's doing is wrong, can't you Lucy?' the patient pleaded.
'I shouldn't be talking to you about this,' Lucy said, scrambling to her feet. 'I'll be on my way now.'
She locked the door behind her.
* * *
We had retired to the inspector's office. He and I had exchanged pleasantries while we waited for the Doctor to clean himself up. I had learned the fine art of saying nothing in as many words as possible from my mother. It was an essential skill when paying ones afternoon calls.
The Doctor burst into the room.
'Well, inspector, I'm sure you'll agree that that was most enlightening,' he said.
'I hardly think' the inspector began.
'Really? That is a shame,' the Doctor consoled him. 'Still, I'm here now and we'll have this whole thing resolved before you know it. Tell me, other than these deaths in Whitechapel, is there anything else out of the ordinary going on at the moment.'
'There have been a series of disappearances in Limehouse,' the inspector informed us.
'And you didn't think there might be a connection?' the Doctor inquired.
'Our killer mutilates his victims and then leaves their bodies behind,' the inspector explained. 'In Limehouse the perpetrator leaves no bodies. Assuming there is a perpetrator, of course.'
'You have some doubts?' I inquired.
'Well, consider the area, Miss,' the inspector replied.
'It's Mrs,' I corrected him. 'Mrs Wilhelmina Harker. And what has the area got to do with it?'
'I'm not sure we should be discussing such matters in front of a lady,' the inspector said.
'Inspector, I have just assisted in a particularly gruesome autopsy,' I told him. 'I do not think you need worry about sparing further me from the more disturbing aspects of this case. Now, what is it about Limehouse that makes you doubt that there is a kidnapper at work?'
'I should tell her is I were you,' the Doctor advised Inspector Graves.
'Well, it's the home of those Chineses and their opium dens, isn't it,' the inspector pointed out. 'Inspector Haynes has been assigned to investigate the matter, but most likely our missing gentlemen are still out there in some drug-induced stupor.'
'No doubt,' the Doctor said. 'Nevertheless, Mina, I'd like you to look into it.'
'Doctor, are you sure it's wise to send a lady into Limehouse?' the inspector asked.
'I think you'll find Mrs Harker more than capable,' the Doctor replied. 'Appearances can be deceptive and I can assure you, inspector, that Mina is made of the sternest stuff.'
'And what will you be doing while I am to be rubbing shoulders with opium sots and their suppliers?' I inquired of the Doctor.
'Pursuing my own line of inquiry,' the Doctor replied enigmatically. Then he turned and strode from the room.
I smiled apologetically at the inspector, then followed the Doctor out. I kept my distance, hoping that he would not look back and spot me. The Doctor knew more than he was letting on about these deaths - that much had been obvious since we had arrived. My concern now was that his insistence upon keeping all of his cards close to his chest might lead to yet more loss of life. Whatever the Doctor's secret, I was determined to seek it out.
The Doctor boarded a hansom outside so I waved down one of my own.
'Where to, ma'am?' the driver asked me as I stepped inside the carriage.
'Follow that cab,' I told him.
* * *
'Eureka!' the doctor cried, practically dancing the length of the patient's cell.
Finally he stopped and leaned in close so that he could whisper into the patient's ear.
'I know your secret,' he said.
'I don't know what you're talking about,' the patient said. He tried to crawl as far away from the doctor as he could, but he was already pressed up against a wall.
'Don't you now,' the doctor purred, rubbing his hands together. 'Then let me enlighten you. You have two hearts.'
'That isn't possible,' the patient retorted.
'Isn't it?' The doctor grabbed one of the patient's hands. 'See for yourself.' He forced the hand against the patient's chest, first on one side then the other. 'Feel that? Two heartbeats. Two hearts.'
'No,' the patient moaned.
'That's the secret of you regenerative abilities, of your strength and vigour,' the doctor said, 'but it won't be your secret for very much longer. Once I've finished dissecting you, your secret will be open to the whole world.'
'You can't do that,' the patient protested. 'I won't let you.'
The patient lunged forwards, hands reaching for the doctor's throat. Before he could even begin to squeeze, however, he had been dragged away by two burly orderlies.
'Restrain that man,' the doctor commanded.
The orderlies slipped a straightjacket on to the patient and tied it tight.
'Enjoy your last afternoon with us,' the doctor said to him. 'We operate tonight.'
* * *
The cab ride took me deeper into Whitechapel and south towards Limehouse and the river. It darkened early at this time of year and already the evening shadows were drawing in. I shivered despite my coat and was glad of the brief respite from the weather afforded to me by the carriage. It was a brief ride, however, for the Doctor had soon leaped from his cab and was even now hurrying through the dingy back alleys of this disreputable quarter.
''Ere, luv, how about letting me show you a good time?'
The man who accosted me reeked of alcohol. His hair was greasy and unkempt and several days' worth of stubble crawled across his chin.
'Excuse me,' I said, trying to push my way past him.
'What's the matter?' the man asked, grabbing hold of my arm. 'My coin not good enough for the likes of you. I've seen your sort before parading up and down the streets here, hawking your wares, but then you think you're too good for us. A grocer doesn't decide he's too good for a customer and neither does a cheap tart like you.'
'Sir, please let go of my arm,' I said calmly. 'You are hurting me.'
'I thought you might like a bit of rough,' the man sneered. He dragged me across the street and shoved me up against the wall. 'Now, what say you give me a free ride seeing what trouble you've caused me an' all.'
I met his eyes with my own.
'I asked you to let go of me,' I said.
It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In this respect, I am glad that I can no longer see my reflection for I am spared the sight of what my eyes now say about me. I can only interpret their power from the reaction of others, and that reaction disturbs me greatly.
The man holding on to me began to tremble like a leaf in the autumn wind.
'Sorry, ma'am,' he stammered. 'I was only messin'. I didn't mean nothink by it.'
He was practically on his knees now, grovelling in the dirt and the filth. His grip was no longer tight and painful. Rather he was pawing at my dress.
'Just go,' I commanded him.
I had lost precious time so now I hitched up my skirts and ran in the direction the Doctor had taken. My delay, however, may have been indeed a blessing for that particular alleyway was now swarming with policemen. Inspector Graves was leading the Doctor away from another body. Even from this distance I could tell that the manner of death was the same.
'It appears that I was right not to trust you, Doctor,' the inspector was saying. 'I followed you down here from the station and look what I found. I only wish I could have arrived a moment sooner.'
'And doesn't that puzzle you, Inspector?' the Doctor asked. 'You were practically dogging my heels the whole time and yet you imagine that I was out of your site long enough to do all of this. And where is the blood, Inspector? Look at me. I should be covered in blood, but my clothes are virtually spotless. Explain that for me, please.'
'Doctor, I have found you at the site of two murders in less than twenty-four hours,' the inspector said. 'Once might be coincidence, but two. Doctor, I am placing you under arrest.'
* * *
The patient looked out of the window of his cell. He could just see the first stars coming out amid the blue-black sky. It was nearly time. He had decided that he would not fight them. He would be hard pressed to anyway, trussed up as he was, but that was not the reason for his inaction. Rather, he had decided that things might be better this way. What value was he to anyone? He did not even know who he was anymore. The doctor, on the other hand, claimed that his death and the subsequent study of his organs could benefit mankind. Weighed up like that, the choice was not really so difficult after all.
He could hear a key turning in the lock so the patient clambered awkwardly to his feet, ready to face his fate. However, the figure that entered the cell was not the doctor.
'Lucy, what are you doing here?' the patient asked.
'Keep your voice down,' Lucy said as she began to unbuckle the straps of his straightjacket. 'They'll here us.'
'What is going on here?' the patient asked, this time in a softer tone.
'I'm helping you escape, guv, that's what,' Lucy replied.
'But I don't want to escape,' the patient said.
'Don't want to escape? But the doctor, he's going to kill you.'
'I know that,' the patient replied, 'but this way I get to help people.'
'You really are a loony, aren't you,' Lucy said. 'Guess that ain't no surprise, give where we are an' all. Do you really think a man who's willing to cut you up has anything but his own best interests at heart?'
'He wants your secrets for himself,' Lucy said. 'I heard him talking. He thinks you can make him into something more than human, whatever that means. He thinks it'll make him king.'
'But I thought you liked the doctor, Lucy,' the patient said.
'The doc's never been any less than kind to me, guv,' Lucy admitted, 'but I've seen the way he treats other people. I've seen the way he treats you. It's wrong, sir, and if I'm to do the right thing, like in the good book, then I have to get you out of here.'
'You read, Lucy?' the patient asked.
'Not I, guv'nor,' Lucy replied, 'but the doctor reads to me some times. When we're away from here, will you read to me, sir?'
'You're coming with me?'
'I'll hardly be able to stay here after the doctor finds out what I've done,' Lucy pointed out.
'In that case, Lucy, I will read you whatever you wish,' the patient said. 'Now, let's be going. I don't believe we have much time.'
* * *
It is a strange thing to admit, but before I met the Doctor, I had not really paid much attention to the great divide between men and women in this century. I had, on occasion, butted heads with men over certain issues, but in general I knew my place and did not question it because that was simply how things were meant to be. However, having now travelled to other times and places, my eyes have been opened to the vast potential experiences that are cruelly denied to my sex in this time.
On occasion, though, the perception of women at this time can work in my favour. For example, when I entered the police station less than an hour after the Doctor had been confined to his cell, the officer behind the desk had no reason to consider me a threat.
'Excuse me, sir,' I said, making a show of straightening my bonnet, 'but there appears to be some form of disturbance in the street outside. It is hardly the behaviour one would expect from civilised men and women. I really think you should put a stop to it.'
'Right you are, ma'am,' the police officer said and, just like that, he left me alone at his desk. I snatched up the bundle of keys residing in plain sight and then made my way down to the cells.
'Mina!' the Doctor called when he noticed me.
'Doctor,' I replied. I pulled up a small wooden stall so that I could sit down outside his cell.
'Mina, aren't you going to let me out?' the Doctor asked.
'I believe that you have some explaining to do first,' I replied.
'Mina, we don't have a lot of time!'
'Than I suggest you talk quickly,' I responded.
I got up and turned to go.
'You can't leave me here,' the Doctor protested.
'I have faith in the British justice system,' I replied. 'You did not kill those men so I am sure that you will not be found guilty of the crime. In the meantime, though, you will not be in a position to get yourself into any further trouble.'
'Oh, have it your way, Mina, I'll tell you everything,' the Doctor said. 'Just get me out of here.'
'Tell me first,' I instructed him.
The Doctor sighed.
'Some time ago I ended up stranded on this planet with no memory of who or what I was. I was admitted to an asylum run by a Doctor Stein. Stein, however, was more interested in physiology than psychology and once he discovered that I was something more than human I became his obsession. He was determined to unravel what he saw as my secrets. Have you any idea what it feels like to be poked and prodded and tortured allegedly in the name of science?'
'Go on, Doctor,' I said. This was painful for him, I could see that. I had an inkling of what it was like to live life as a freak, but I had, with one or two exceptions, managed to keep my true nature hidden from the rest of the world. The experiences the Doctor was relating were more by way of my fears than anything of which I had practical knowledge.
'There was an orphan in the asylum,' the Doctor said. 'Her name was Lucy. She was illiterate, but she liked people to read to her. I remember that clearly. She was such a charming little thing.
'Eventually, Doctor Stein learned about my second heart and he resolved to dissect me to learn more about my unique physiognomy. He told me that he was doing it for the benefit of mankind, but Stein only wanted to advance one person - himself. On the night he was to operate, Lucy helped me to escape and then'
The Doctor buried his face in his hands.
'Doctor,' I asked, 'are you all right?'
'Yes, yes,' he murmured, tilting his head so that he could look up at me. 'It was a very long time ago. I read about these murders in a newspaper on one of our previous stops. I tried for so long to pretend that it was nothing to do with me, but it's all too obvious. Stein is harvesting hearts because he is trying to find a way to become like me.'
'So you came back here to try and stop the killing,' I deduced.
'I thought I could save them,' the Doctor replied. 'I knew the time and place of the murders from the newspaper report. All I had to do was get there first. But I was deluding myself. As far as history was concerned, their fates were already sealed and there was never anything I could do to change it.'
'So what do we do now?' I asked as I unlocked the door of his cell.
'Now?' the Doctor repeated. 'Now, I think it's high time we bearded the lion in his own den.'
* * *
Lucy handed the patient a bag when he stepped out of his cell.
'You were carrying these when they brought you in,' she explained. 'I thought you might like them back.'
'That's very kind of you, Lucy,' the patient said, already rummaging through the bag. He pulled out a blue cube that fit comfortably in the palm of his hand. 'I wonder what this could be.'
'No time for that now, guv,' Lucy said, pulling on his arm.
'Of course not,' the patient agreed, dropping the cube back into the bag and following Lucy upstairs. The front door was locked and Lucy had to spend precious second trying to find the right key.
They could hear shouts echoing down below.
'They must be looking for you,' Lucy said. 'Quick, run for it!'
Lucy flung open the door and the both ran outside. They were standing on the docks on the north bank of the River Thames. The sun was slowly setting behind the Tower of London over on their right. The dying light coloured the water like blood.
'We can escape by boat,' the patient told Lucy and they both raced forward, knocking over both dock-workers and the crates they were moving.
A shot rang out.
'Stay right where you are,' the doctor called.
'Don't listen to him, guv,' Lucy insisted.
There was another shot and Lucy fell into the patient's arms. Her clothes felt damp and when the patient raised one of his hands to examine it he could see that it was covered with blood.
'Promise me I did the right thing, guv,' Lucy said. Her words rattled in her throat. 'Promise me you'll help more people than that doctor ever will.'
'I promise,' the patient said quietly. 'Rest now.'
The patient closed Lucy's eyes for the last time.
He turned and met the doctor's gaze. The doctor levelled his pistol.
'You will come back to me,' the doctor said. 'Alive or dead, it makes no difference.'
'Never!' the patient shouted back.
He sprinted for the edge of the docks and then leaped up into the air. A third shot rang out. The patient disappeared beneath the waters of the Thames.
* * *
'This is it,' the Doctor said as they dismounted from the cab in Wapping. 'This is Stein's asylum.'
'And you believe he's still here?' I asked.
'They say that criminals always return to the scene of their crimes,' the Doctor pointed out. 'You can wait outside if you prefer.'
I did not bother to answer. Instead, I climbed up the short flight of steps and knocked on the door. We waited, but there was no answer.
'Excuse me,' the Doctor said, before bending down and inserting a wire into the lock. After a few moments of twisting and prodding, the door swung opened. Cautiously, we stepped into the gloom.
'Downstairs, I think,' the Doctor said.
We were about halfway down the staircase when the Doctor paused.
'What is it?' I asked.
'The smell,' he explained, 'it evokes more memories than sight or sound ever will.'
Now that he mentioned it, there was a peculiar damp odour about the place. As we descended further, I noticed condensation on the walls and the ceiling and water occasionally dripped down to splash upon the floor.
'We're below the level of the river,' the Doctor revealed when I shot him a questioning glance.
A scream cut through the air, echoing off the walls.
'I don't suppose I could convince you to stay behind?' the Doctor said to me. 'Thought not. Come on then.'
He broke into a run and I was hard-pressed to keep up. My shoes kept slipping on the slimy floor. At last, with my lungs burning painfully within my chest, we burst into what I can only describe as a mad scientist's laboratory, as sensationalised in those science fiction tales of my time.
A young man, unconscious and stripped to the waist, was tied to a wooden table in the centre of the oval room. Tall candlesticks provided light for Doctor Stein to operate by. He himself was standing beside a trolley laden with gleaming medical implements. He was wearing an apron and gloves over a morning suit. The once white apron was now badly stained by blood and other matter and did not wish to contemplate. He was a spindly little man who stooped, possibly due to the weight of his head, which appeared, to me at least, to be meant for a man of considerably larger stature.
Most bizarre of all, however, was the straightjacketed creature that crouched at the far side of the chamber. It's black fur, shot through with strands of silver-grey, was matted and unkempt, but its beady eyes were full of a cruel intelligence as they followed me about the room.
'Still up to your old tricks, I see, Stein,' the Doctor said.
'You,' Stein growled as his gaze fell upon my companion. 'The man with no name. Have you finally found out who you are or are you still searching for answers?'
'I know who I am,' the Doctor replied, 'but I'm always looking for answers.'
'Why are you even here?' Stein inquired. He was passing a scalpel from one hand to the other repeatedly. The blade glittered in the candlelight.
'I'm here to fulfil a promise to a friend,' the Doctor said.
'Doctor,' I said, pointing at the beast in the straightjacket, 'what is that thing?'
''Doctor' is it?' Stein said mockingly. 'I thought I was the doctor around here. Are you perhaps getting ideas above your station?'
'You're no doctor, Stein,' the Doctor sneered. 'As for Mina's question, that's an example of Gorilla gorilla graueri, unless I'm very much mistaken. I take it you used that thing to kill your victims for you.'
'Victims?' Stein repeated. 'Experimental subjects. Donors, if you will, for my experiments.'
'Your 'experiments' are criminal,' the Doctor retorted.
'Criminals?' Stein asked. 'What can be criminal about wanting to advance mankind? Look at Cassius here.' Stain pointed at the gorilla. 'He is the first of a new breed, strengthened by the second heart that beats within his chest.'
'That's not possible,' I said.
'And yet I have achieved it,' Stein declared, laughing. 'Now I have only to perfect the process on a human subject and I will be able to create a new race, not of men, but of gods!'
'You are quite, quite mad,' I told him.
'Madness is only the name the ignorant give to genius,' Stein replied.
'Very profound,' the Doctor remarked. 'But you still haven't succeeded in grafting a second heart onto a human being, have you, Stein? That's why you've been sneaking out at night and snatching people of the streets, because you've run out of victims in this asylum to butcher.'
'No,' Stein snarled. 'Still your secrets are denied to me, but now that you have returned I can continue where we left off. Once I have completed a full study of your anatomy I will be able to become like you.'
'You'll never be like me,' the Doctor countered.
'We'll see about that,' Stein said.
He flung the scalpel at the Doctor. The Doctor raised his arm to block the blade, but it still tore a nasty gash in his hand. He bit back his cry of pain, but the moment's delay had given Stein the opportunity to draw his gun.
'I told you that you would come back to me,' Stein said. His finger tightened against the trigger.
I darted forward and shoved the trolley laden with medical instruments. It struck Doctor Stein just above the knee and he stumbled backward, his shot going wild and ricocheting against one of the stone walls.
'Give it up, Stein,' the Doctor said, hefting one of the tall candlesticks in his undamaged left hand.
'Are you insane?' Stein asked. 'Oh yes, I forgot, that was why you were brought here in the first place.'
He levelled the gun.
The Doctor swung the candlestick and it struck Stein's right hand with a sharp crack. Stein cried out in agony and dropped the gun, which then skidded across the floor.
'You'll pay for that,' Stein snapped, cursing the Doctor.
'The same way you made Lucy pay?' the Doctor asked, taking a few practice swings with his weapon.
Stein reached out and picked up another of the candlesticks before slipping into a stance that mirrored the Doctor's own. He lunged forward, swinging wildly, and the Doctor parried all his blows. My hands flew to my face. I could hardly bare to watch. Across the room, the gorilla roared and strained against his bonds. Both combatants staggered away from each other, breathing heavily from their exertions.
'If you best me, you'll only prove me right,' Stein said, 'by showing that you do possess secrets beyond those of humankind.'
'And if you kill me, Stein,' the Doctor replied, 'you'll only prove how little you deserve them, based on your own lack of humanity.'
With that, the Doctor dropped his candlestick.
'I don't want to fight you,' he said.
'That's too bad,' Stein replied.
Stein ran forward, swinging his candlestick like a club. The Doctor dropped to the ground, sticking out his leg and tripping Stein as he ran passed. Stein collided with the trolley once again.
'We don't have to do this, Stein,' the Doctor shouted at him.
Stein fell face down on the floor.
'Stein?' the Doctor said. 'Stein?'
He hurried over to the other doctor and rolled his body over. Stein's chest was a pincushion for those implements he had intended to use to cut open his victim.
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor said as he knelt by the corpse. 'Maybe now Lucy can rest in peace.'
The gorilla roared again. It strained against the straightjacket and the heavy fabric tore apart. With another snarl of rage, the beast leaped across the room and landed on top of the Doctor. The Doctor wrestled with it as best he could, but the creature was twice his size and driven by fury at the death of his master. The Doctor's blows were ineffectual, but the gorilla's blows were not. I had to look away for I could no longer bear the sight.
Then I noticed Stein's gun on the floor at my feet.
Gingerly, I picked it up. Holding it two-handed, I levelled it and the gorilla. Then I fired.
I had never fired a gun before and the recoil nearly tore my arms from their sockets, but I managed to remain standing. The gorilla screamed as blood flowed freely from the wound between its shoulder blades. It turned to face me, fire glittering in its yellow eyes, saliva trickling from its gaping jaws. It roared again and I could smell its fetid breath. I stood my ground, however, because I could still recall the sight of those bodies on the cobbles of Whitechapel.
Bracing myself against the wall, I tightened my finger on the trigger and fired again and again until I had no more bullets left. It was enough. The monstrous creature gave one final death cry that seamed to shake the building to its very foundations and then it collapsed, dead.
* * *
A few days later, we were seated in a bar on the south bank of the Seine in Paris. The Doctor no longer showed any outward sign of the injuries he had sustained at the hands of that creature, but he still walked with a certain stiffness.
'Doctor,' I asked as I sipped my wine, 'what are we doing here?'
'Waiting for a friend,' the Doctor explained. 'I owe you an apology for the way I've been treating you lately and this is my way of trying to make amends. Henri, come and join us.'
A dwarf with an oiled moustache and wearing a top hat and a long scarf came to join us at our table.
'Doctor,' he said, 'what a please it is to see you again. I don't suppose I could trouble you for a drink, hmm?'
'Later, Henri,' the Doctor told him. 'I have a little job for you first. Mina, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine'
'Less of the old, if you don't mind,' Henri put in.
'Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,' the Doctor concluded. 'Henri, let me introduce you to Mrs Mina Harker, the woman of whom I'd like to commission a portrait.'
'Enchante, madame,' Henri murmured as he kissed my hand. I felt my cheeks redden.
'You wish me to paint a portrait of such a beautiful young lady?' Henri continued. 'Why, Doctor, it will be an honour?'
'To be painted by the great Toulouse-Lautrec,' I said, 'why, sir, the honour is all mine.'
'You flatter me,' Henri replied.
'But flattery does not buy drinks, eh, Henri?' the Doctor said. 'You do this for me and, I promise you, you can have all the absinthe you want.'
'That, my friend, could be an awful lot of absinthe,' Henri remarked with a grin.
'I know you miss your reflection,' the Doctor said to me, 'and I thought we could hang this in you room.'
'I don't know what to say,' I replied.
'Don't say anything,' the Doctor told me. 'Sometimes we all need a little reminder of who we are.'