Murder Games

The first rule of marketing is that the Doctor would make a terrible focus group.

"So she walks into the interrogation room," David Hodges continued, "and suddenly, there's a scream, and by the time you come in and see her, the only thing left of Catherine Willows is a pile of ash." David leaned back in his chair, putting his arms behind his head. He gave his fellow lab technicians a big smile. "So?" he asked. "What do you do?"

David Hodges, the Trace Technician, had been amusing his fellow lab technicians by testing a new board game he had developed. It was a board game where you got to solve hypothetical murders, as if you were a real CSI. The game had been fairly popular around the lab, and that's when the Doctor decided to play.

"Lick the ash," said the Doctor.

All the technicians in the room stared at the temporal stasis box on the table.

"Hang on, you'd what?" asked Wendy. She made a face.

From the doorway, Greg rolled his eyes. "When we take him out into the field with us, he always asks us to lick things," he said.

"Hygienic issues aside, wouldn't that contaminate the evidence at the crime scene?" asked Archie.

"Well, how else do you expect me to establish the chemical composition of the ash?" the Doctor demanded.

David Hodges gave a self-important cough. "You could send it to trace," he suggested.

"What, and spend all that time waiting for results?" asked the Doctor. "One little taste. Nothing much! Just a lick! That's all."

"Doctor, doesn't it bother you that you'd be… well, eating Catherine's remains?" Wendy asked.

"Not her remains," said the Doctor, offhandedly. "Probably just a teleportation beam. Saw one of those in the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Around 200,100. Catherine's fine. Alive and well. Well, I say alive and well. Could be alive and surrounded by a large number of Daleks. But still. Alive. At least for the moment. Nothing a Tardis can't fix right up."

"For the sake of the game," David cut in, "let's just say that Catherine is dead. Not… teleported or captured by aliens or anything. So… you send the sample to the miracle of modern science that is Trace?"

The Doctor scoffed. "Not likely," he said. "I'll stick to licking."

"He means yes," said Archie, just for the sake of moving the game forward. "Just send it to trace. What are the trace results?"

"Wait and see," said David.

The Doctor gave an exasperated sigh, as if this alone would completely make his point. The others ignored him.

"No body for an autopsy," Wendy pointed out. "But she did have time to scream before she died. How long was the scream?"

"Not long," answered David. "About a second."

"You know you can't market this game in the UK," said the Doctor. "They'd just say to check the CCTV cameras. Take all the fun out of it."

Wendy arched an eyebrow. "What are CCTV cameras?"

"They have these video cameras all over England," said Archie. "They catch all public activities on tape. So someone's watching you at all times."

"Hold up," said Greg. "That's real? I saw that on the Simpsons. I thought it was a joke."

"Nope," said the Doctor. "They say it's for terrorism, but I think it's just Torchwood's way of keeping tabs on me."

Wendy's mouth had fallen open. "They have video cameras spying on you all the time?" she asked, incredulous. "But… but that's just… obscene! It's barbaric! It's like Big Brother, but… real!"

David, meanwhile, was telling his tape recorder that marketing the game in England may have drawbacks.

"How does the air feel?" asked the Doctor.

"What?" asked Wendy. "A little nippy. Why? What does that have to do with invasions of privacy?"

"I mean, in David's scenario," said the Doctor. He gave a grunt of annoyance. "Humans!"

David frowned. "It's air conditioned," he said. "Sort of like the air is in any room in the lab."

"Not… tingly?" asked the Doctor. "Could be a high energy weapon. Plasma cannon or Electron Buster. Nasty things. Give off this tingly feeling in the air."

"No," said David. "It's not aliens, Doctor. It's just a normal crime scene investigation."

"Hmmm…," mused the Doctor. "Don't suppose you'll be able to tell me if you sense any temporal distortion in the area?"

"No temporal distortion!" David said. He was starting to get snappy.

"Okay, okay!" said the Doctor, defensively. "Just asking. No harm in asking, is there? I mean, you're assuming that I just happened to stumble into this scenario, and knowing my track record, there are usually either aliens or temporal instabilities or…"

Greg leaned against the open door, a small smile spreading across his face. "Hey, that's not bad," he said, cutting off the Doctor mid-sentence.

All the technicians in the room spun their heads around to face Greg. "What?"

David was beginning to think this had been a bad idea. "I told the Doctor already, there are no futuristic sci-fi alien things in this game," he insisted.

Greg pointed at the box on the table. "No, I mean, I get it," said Greg. "What the Doctor's doing. He's going through all his senses. Taste—that's the licking. Sight—with the cameras. Touch—the tingle in the air. Then that last question with time—I'm assuming you have some sort of time sense?"

"Time Lord," said the Doctor, as if that clarified everything.

"So what's left?" asked Archie. "Hearing and smell. Anything from those, David?"

David Hodges had clearly not expected this line of questioning. It took a little time to rearrange his thoughts. But before he could do so, the Doctor had already chimed in.

"Oh, nearly forgot," said the Doctor. "What's behind the one way glass?"

"Room's locked," said David, proudly.

Greg laughed at this. "He can see through the one-way glass," he said, pointing his thumb at the Doctor.

"Twenty-first century, right?" asked the Doctor. "No alien technology? Can't be a deadlock seal. Sonic Screwdriver should do the trick."

Everyone was looking over at David Hodges. He was starting to feel a little flustered. This was certainly not the best test group for his board game. "There's… it's… there's a series of mirrors inside."

"Oh! Oh!" shouted Wendy. "Dust for fingerprints."

The Doctor gave a pffft sound. "Well, you've just made that too easy, now, haven't you?"

"I was expecting you to take more time getting the door open," David admitted.

"Wait, you've solved it?" asked Wendy. She folded her arms over her chest.

"Course I've solved it," said the Doctor. "If you're going to restrict all the possibilities to one time and place, it's not really all that hard."

The technicians in the room were all shocked. Greg didn't seem surprised. He just rolled his eyes again. "Yep, same old Doctor," he said.

"So what's the answer?" asked David. He had a mischievous grin on his face. He was certain there was no way that the Doctor had worked everything out with so little information.

"Well, there's a nice little window in that room with all the mirrors," said the Doctor. "So solar power seems our most obvious bet. But, course, can't use a focused pinpoint of light to send a woman up in flames. So I'm going to guess someone dissected some of the equipment in the room. Bit of jiggery pokery, shake up the photons a little, and bang! Combustion source."

"But that wouldn't make Catherine go up in flames," said Archie.

"It would with an accelerant," said Greg.

"Bingo!" cried the Doctor. "See, that's what the scream was. Bucket above the door. Catherine walks in, bucket comes crashing down. Little scream. Then she shuts the door, and whomp! No more sound. Soundproof, remember? The scream you heard wasn't from the murder. You never heard the murder. The murder itself was silent."

"But you could check the tapes in the adjoining room," said Wendy.

David Hodges gave her a sideways smile. "And when you do, you discover…"

"That all the equipment has been taken apart and put back together," said Greg. "The Doctor just said that, David. There wouldn't be anything on those recordings."

David Hodges frowned. "So who did it?" he asked the Doctor.

"Greg," said the Doctor.

David nearly jumped out of his chair. He hadn't been expecting the Doctor to get it right. "How…?"

"He's the only one with the technical knowledge to build the device," said the Doctor.

Greg just gave a self-important nod. "All in the job description," he said.

"Honestly, David," said the Doctor, "if you want this game to go anywhere, you have to give people a bit more of a challenge. I mean, if you aren't going to allow trans-temporal travel, at least throw in a few aliens."

Wendy looked over at Greg. "You don't look at all surprised by how quickly he worked this out," she said.

Greg shrugged. "He's been solving cases from inside of a box for about a month and a half now," he said. "What did you expect?"

Archie and Wendy looked at one another, the shock still evident on their faces. Greg heard the sound of footsteps from the corridor behind him, and when he turned, he found Grissom approaching.

"Having fun?" Grissom asked.

"What do we have this time?" asked Greg, already walking over to pick up the temporal stasis box from its place on the table.

"Arson case," said Grissom. He noticed the shocked looks on the technicians' faces, and sighed. "The Doctor worked it out in about five minutes, didn't he?"

"Not even," said Greg, following Grissom out of the room, the Doctor's box in hand.

As they left, David Hodges brought out his tape recorder. "Note," he said. "Game should not be played by time travelling alien smart-asses."