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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"


Chapter 5
"Murder Inn The Dark"
by William Howells


---


The Doctor glanced up at the Toymaker's array of television screens. He watched as Jadi Morok ducked away from a swooping, Demarian mammal. The Doctor turned back to the Toymaker.


       "I have a proposal for you," he said with a frown.


       The Toymaker smiled. "I can't let you have Dr. Holloway back," he insisted. "She lost her game: that makes her mine, and mine alone." He tickled the rag doll in his hand. "To do with as I please," he added, carelessly throwing the doll to one side.


       The Doctor shuddered, almost imperceptibly.


       "Now, Doctor, what were you saying?"


       "I wish to raise the stakes," the Doctor told him. "If you let Grace rejoin me--" He paused as the mandarin tutted and shook his head. The Doctor glared, and continued. "If you agree, and if Grace and I then lose, you shall have both of us... and the entire population of this planet."


       The Toymaker laughed. "That's callous disregard for human life!" he exclaimed, perfectly mimicking the Doctor's familiar tones. "Have you even considered consulting the natives?!"


       The Doctor scowled. "Do you agree?"


       The Toymaker waggled his finger, blanking his wall of monitors. "But, Doctor," he said briskly, "if you should win the race, I would be left with nothing."


       "The greater the risk, the better the game."


       The Toymaker smiled. "I'll consider your thoughtful offer, Doctor. It might well improve the game. Then again..." With a wave of the Toymaker's ancient arm, the Doctor vanished. The mandarin sat back in his throne-like chair, reactivated the bank of displays, and settled down to be entertained.


* * *


Jadi Morok let off a salvo of shots.


       "Morok!" someone hissed, "stop firing!"


       He looked round and recognized the figure in his night-vision goggles. "Over here, Doctor. Watch out for the flying creatures; they seem hungry."


       "Shhh!" the Doctor whispered, reaching out in the direction of the bounty hunter's voice. "The bats use sonar. Now you've got them angry, they'll home in on any sound and attack."


       Jadi holstered his blaster. "What do we do then?" he asked as quietly as he could.


       "Back to Bessie. Running's probably our best option." There was a pause. "Where is Bessie?"


       Jadi grabbed the Doctor's arm. "This way," he whispered, leading the Doctor towards the roadster.


       "Thanks," said the Doctor. He felt his way round to the front of the car and unplugged Grace's shoes. He slammed the bonnet, and ducked as he heard a flutter of wings approaching the sound. Jadi Morok clambered into the back seat as the Doctor climbed softly behind the steering wheel. He lobbed the shoes into the back seat, and started Bessie up. Flicking the headlights on, he drove off into the tunnel ahead. Bessie ran quietly, but not, it seemed, quietly enough.


       Jadi leaned forward. "Doctor, they're still coming."


       "Hmm? I can't go any faster or I won't have time to turn." The roadster slowed. "Are there any of those Velarian crumblies left?"


       "Sugar-beet?! Doctor, put your foot down -- this is no time for a snack!"


       "Not for me, for those creatures," the Doctor explained hurriedly. "As long as it's food they're after."


       Jadi reached into one of the Wal-Mart bags and removed a large box. He fumbled with the pack for a moment, and then began lobbing crumblies left, right, and centre, over the back of the roadster. "I hope they've got sweet fangs," he murmured.


* * *


The Toymaker chuckled. "Very resourceful, Doctor," he commented with a grin. "I can't wait to see what's in store for those sliced eels."


* * *


Having suffered no further challenge, Bessie eventually emerged from the cave system, finally leaving the mountains behind. Jadi Morok breathed a lungful of the fresh night air.


       For an hour or so afterwards, there was no conversation in the car. Jadi assumed the Doctor was concerned about his friend, and the bounty hunter was happy to sit and watch the scenery. Not that he was being complacent; a small brain was constantly on the lookout for danger, be it to him, or to the Doctor - his investment.


       Suddenly the Doctor broke the silence. "Light up ahead."


       Jadi grunted in acknowledgment. "If I remember right, there's a motel/posthouse type place along here somewhere." He yawned loudly before he could stop himself. "I wouldn't say no to some peaceful shut-eye in a comfy bed."


       "Fair enough," the Doctor said. He glanced at his pocket watch. "We'll stay until breakfast."


* * *


The motel seemed quiet as the Doctor drove Bessie up the long gravel driveway. The building itself was two storeys high. It had a slanted roof, and the chimney was emitting a small quantity of smoke.


       "This isn't a motel," Jadi murmured, "this is a cross between a small country house and a cemetery."


       The Doctor stopped Bessie between two other vehicles -- a sleek Indy Car type and a large-wheeled buggy of some sort -- and waved at a dimly lit sign. "'MortE' Posthouse. Established 2388,'" he read.


       There was a small notice below the sign, tacked to the signpost. Jadi climbed out of Bessie, produced a pair of ornate reading glasses, and examined it. "'The Management welcome all potential clients to stay at MortE' Posthouse. However, the Management takes responsibility neither for any loss of items while on the motel premises, nor for damage to clients, including, but not limited to, dismemberment, decapitation, paralysis, and definitely anything fatal.'" He pocketed his glasses. "Signed 'X. D'Eath, Manager'. Oh, great."


* * *


The Toymaker watched them, amused, as they headed up the motel's front steps and into the building.


* * *


The Doctor rang the bell on the front desk. A tall man appeared from the office behind reception.


       "Can I help you?" He had tousled, brown hair, and an infectious grin.


       "Are you the manager?" the Doctor asked, sure that he'd seen him before.


       "Oh no, no, I'm just a temp. Would you two gentlemen like to check in?"


       "Yes, please. Two single rooms."


       The receptionist produced a couple of forms, and handed one each to Jadi and the Doctor. "Name at the top, please, then sign at the bottom. It's as simple as that."


       The Doctor and Jadi filled in the forms, and signed what amounted to the disclaimer they had seen outside.


       "Thank you," the receptionist said, checking through the papers. He tucked them under the desk, and took two keys from a drawer. "Number 314," he said, handing one to Jadi. He gave the other to the Doctor. "Number 802."


       Jadi frowned. "That's a very large number of rooms for one small building."


       "Not really," the receptionist replied, beaming. "We only have seven guestrooms." He rang the bell. "Bell boy!" he hollered.


       A short, dark-haired man emerged from one of the other ground floor rooms. He looked to be in his mid-forties. "What is it?"


       "Take these two to their rooms: 314 and 802."


       "What, no cases?"


       "No cases."


       The man shrugged. "People with cases tip better," he muttered. "This way," he said to the Doctor and his bodyguard, and headed towards the stairs.


* * *


Jadi Morok awoke with a start. He sat up in his chair, and reached for his blaster. He had heard something.


       He glanced out of the window - the sun was just rising over the mountains.


       Rubbing his eyes, Jadi crossed to the door of his room and peered beyond it. There were people wondering around the reception with burning candles.


       Someone stepped into his line of sight. "Freeze!" he hissed.


       "Put it away, and follow me," came the Doctor's voice. Jadi did as instructed, and stepped out of his room.


       The Doctor too was carrying a candle, and he led Jadi to the stairway and down into reception. There was a crowd of people standing in a circle around the middle of the floor. Jadi looked over the shoulder of the nearest person, and saw what they found so interesting.


       On the floor was a white outline in the shape of a humanoid body.


       One of the guests was examining the ground around the marked out area. He was dressed in what looked like a brown, religious habit. He looked up.


       "Dear me, this is terrible," he said, shaking his head. "Did anyone see how he died?"


       Jadi saw the Doctor crouch down beside the other man. "Well, if it isn't Mortimus the Monk. Don't tell me you're the best the Toymaker can do."


       The Monk chuckled. "Doctor! What a pleasant surprise! Don't tell me you're in the--" He stopped. The Doctor and Jadi followed his gaze. Floating in the air above the staircase was the enlarged, semi-translucent head of the Toymaker.


       "The game begins, Doctor."


       The Doctor stood up. "Someone has just died here, Toymaker. I'm not playing any game until I find out what's going on here."


       The mandarin smiled. "But that's just what I want, Doctor. A good old-fashioned whodunnit. Can you solve the puzzle before your competitor, I wonder? If you wish to see this again," he continued, nodding to an image of a complicated micro-circuit appearing beside him, "I recommend that you do."


       The Doctor turned away from the fading form of his enemy. "Mr. Morok, it looks as if we have to play detectives."


       "What was that circuit?"


       "Bessie's toroidal interference dephaser."


       Jadi sighed. "So what you're saying is we're going nowhere without it?"


       The Doctor nodded solemnly.


* * *


Grace sat back in her drab cell, following the action projected on the wall in front of her.


       "Who's your money on then, my dear? The Doctor or the Monk?"


       She looked round. She could see the Toymaker through the bars that were the door of her prison. "I'm not a gambling person."


       "Oh dear," said the Toymaker, "I'm sorry to hear that. Well, sit back and enjoy the show, then. You like whodunnits, I hope?"


       Grace sighed. "An alien planet, imprisoned by an immortal madman, and the only consolation is intergalactic Columbo." She turned back to the screen. "Then again, I quite liked Columbo reruns."


       The Toymaker chuckled. "I assure you this will never be repeated."


* * *


The Doctor, Jadi Morok, and Mortimus were still standing in the middle of the motel lobby when the Toymaker's disembodied head rematerialized.


       "I think I should give you a start," he told them.


       The Doctor felt a piece of paper in his hand. He glanced at Mortimus and saw that he also had a copy. The Doctor looked at the writing on the paper.


       "It would be unfair of me not to give you some suspects to start with."


       The Doctor read through the list in increasing disbelief. "Staff: the cook. Guests: the Doctor," he scoffed, "the Monk, Jadi Morok, Borusa of Gallifrey, the Rani!" He looked up at the Toymaker accusingly. "Have you been taking people from my psyche?"


       "Very good, Doctor. I selected those not taking part in the race from your mind myself."


       "That isn't fair!" Mortimus shouted. "He knows the characters -- he has an unfair head start."


       The Toymaker thought for a moment. "Yes, yes, we must be fair. So I'll set a time limit. Doctor, you have until 4:22 this afternoon: if you do not identify the murderer by then, the Monk wins by default."


       The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, but before he could say anything, the Toymaker had gone. He looked at Jadi. "You didn't do it, did you?" he asked.


       "No," Jadi replied simply.


       "Thank you, I thought not. That's two of us off the list already."


       The Monk smiled. "Surely you don't suspect me, Doctor?"


       The Doctor put his tongue in his cheek and led Jadi Morok into the motel's small restaurant.


       "You're a fool, Doctor," Mortimus called. "I'll find out who the murderer is, and I'll do it before you!"


* * *


"Can I help you, gentlemen?" A young, fair-haired man in a frock coat stood, notebook ready, preparing to take the Doctor's breakfast order.


       The Doctor looked at him sideways. There was something familiar that he couldn't quite place. "Toast and tea for me, please. Jadi?"


       "Poached Pteramyx egg and coffee. Caffeinated."


       The waiter returned shortly with their orders. The Doctor proffered him a seat. "I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind."


       The waiter sat down. "What would you like to know?"


       The Doctor sipped his tea before consulting the suspect list. "Do you know any of the guests?"


       "Not very well. Trau Borusa has been staying for a few days."


       "Can you think of any reason he'd have to kill the deceased?"


       "No. As I say, I don't really know much about the guests. You'd have to ask him yourself."


       Jadi suddenly realized something. "Who *was* the deceased?"


       "Another guest by the name of Pjetr Vensen."


       Jadi was unfortunately drinking as he heard this. "Vensen!"


       The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "You know him?"


       "Know him?! He's an assassin."


       "Professional?"


       "Yes. I hear he earns - earned - enough to keep him in bounty hunting. Not doing very well in that department. Had a reputation for bringing people in dead rather than alive."


       The Doctor chewed a piece of toast thoughtfully. "Three guesses as to who he was after. Well, I doubt Borusa would have killed him to protect me." He looked back at the list. "What about the cook? Do you know if she held anything against Vensen?"


       "Hmm, nice girl, wouldn't hurt a fly, I'm sure. However, it's rumoured that he held something against her often enough."


       "Does she have a name, this cook of yours?"


       The waiter nodded. "It's something long and complicated. We just call her Romana."


       It was the Doctor's turn to splutter his morning beverage.


* * *


The Doctor left Jadi to keep an eye on Mortimus, and following the waiter's directions, managed to find his way to the door labelled "Kitchen". He opened it, and was pleased to find Romana inside. She was peeling carrots.


       She looked up. "Doctor! Where did you spring from?"


       "Hello, Romana," he said affectionately. "Nice to see you again, even if you are just one of the Toymaker's puppets."


       She put down her knife, and unfastened her hair. Her long, golden locks fell down over her shoulders. "I don't understand. Who's the Toymaker?"


       "Never mind," the Doctor told her. "What matters is that a bounty hunter named Vensen has been murdered."


       "Vensen? Disgusting little man!"


       "Didn't you get on?"


       "No, he-- Doctor, I don't like the way you just said that; you're not suggesting that I might have had something to do with his death. Are you?"


       "No, no. I wondered if you might know who else had a motive?"


       She thought for a moment. "There's a woman staying here called the Rani. I saw her talking to Vensen a few times."


       The Doctor nodded. "It wouldn't surprise me if he was in her pay," he said. "I saw two vehicles parked outside. It's quite possible that she's in the race too. It would certainly be in her interests to have me killed."


       Romana held up a glass of an orange liquid. "Carrot juice?"


       The door opened and Jadi Morok entered. The Doctor sighed with relief. "Sorry, Romana, must dash." The Doctor and Jadi left the room. "Did you find the Rani?"


       "No sign of her."


       "Hmm. What has Mortimus been up to?"


       "The Monk hasn't left his room," Jadi told him as they walked back to reception.


       "It's weird, don't you think?"


       "What?" Jadi asked.


       "Well," the Doctor replied, "the Toymaker says that if we don't solve the case, Mortimus wins."


       "So?"


       "I know Mortimus was at a slight disadvantage, but changing the rules so significantly..." The Doctor stopped walking and thought hard. "Something's not right. There isn't any physical evidence; that makes for a very difficult investigation."


       "Well, that explains the time limit," Jadi suggested. "The Toymaker doesn't want to be bored."


       "He's waited millennia before..." The Doctor frowned. "It must be possible. The Toymaker's games can be very difficult, but never so hard that the player doesn't have a sporting chance. There's only speculation, no way to pin down the murderer. So why does Mortimus seem so confident?"


* * *


The Toymaker clenched his fists. "Is that the only way you can win my games, Doctor, by not playing them properly?"


       He waved his hand.


* * *


"Doctor!" Jadi had seen something.


       "What is it?"


       "Look at the clock."


       The Doctor followed the bounty hunter's gaze to the grandfather clock that stood behind the reception desk. The hands were moving at high speed, the hours rushing buy. Suddenly they stopped.


       The Doctor smiled. "4:21. The Toymaker must be worried. I think I'd better work out what the logical conclusion of my reasoning is..."


       Mortimus appeared at the top of the stairs and began to descend. "Looks like you're about to lose, Doctor."


       The Toymaker appeared behind the reception desk. "What a shame that would be," he said sarcastically. "Well, Mortimus, who do you think the murderer is?"


       The Monk grinned. "No, no, let the Doctor go first."


       "Doctor?"


       Jadi listened nervously as the Doctor began to speak.


       "I believe I know who was responsible," he said. "I think Vensen was killed in self-defence, and that you only turned this into this rather sad game afterwards. It was most likely one of the real life characters here, and that limits the motives. I didn't do it, and Jadi didn't do it. That leaves the Rani and Mortimus. As far as I can tell, the deceased was employed by the Rani to kill me, so I doubt she would attempt to kill him. My best guess - and I admit, that I'm not entirely sure - is that when Mortimus arrived, Trau Vensen mistook him for me, and tried to kill him. In order to save himself, Mortimus managed to overpower Vensen and kill him."


       Mortimus looked concerned, but shook his head, forcing a smile. "How would I kill him? I don't have a weapon."


       The Doctor shrugged. "Used Vensen's blaster. Or that cord around your waist that you insist on wearing with that ridiculous habit."


       The Toymaker laughed and produced three cards from the air. He turned them over, one by one. "Well, well," he said. "Mortimus the Monk, with the rope, in the lobby. Congratulations, Doctor." Two men dressed as policeman appeared by his side. "The Monk has lost. Take him into custody." They grabbed Mortimus; all three vanished.


       "Time to move on, I think, Doctor," the Toymaker said.


       "Not quite yet." It was a female's voice.


       The Doctor turned. "Hello, there. I was wondering where you'd got to."


       The Rani had her blaster trained on them. "You were almost right, Doctor. However, I didn't pay Vensen to kill you: I paid him to kill Mortimus."


       "Hmph!"


       "Nothing personal, Doctor. I didn't know you were going to turn up too. However, now you're here..."


       The Doctor ducked her shot. It passed straight through the Toymaker and into the wall behind him. The receptionist emerged from the office. "What's going on?"


       Jadi produced his blaster and returned fire. Rani took cover behind an ornate wooden table. As Jadi continued firing, the Doctor ran behind him and out of the front door of the motel. Jadi wasn't far behind.


* * *


The Doctor ran down the steps and leaped into Bessie's driving seat. He felt Morok land in the back seat, and started the roadster up. With a screech of gravel, he accelerated down the driveway. In the wing mirror, he saw the Rani's buggy following.


* * *


The Toymaker sat in his throne room watching the action. He saw the receptionist run out after the departing guests. "You haven't paid your bills!" he shouted.


       The Toymaker waved his arm lazily.


       The words on the motel name sign metamorphosed from "MortE' Posthouse" to "The Northern Comet Motel". The disclaimer below disappeared.


       The receptionist vanished. A young woman materialized in his place, looking dazed and confused. Shaking her head, she went inside.


* * *


Bessie sped on as shots flew between Jadi and the Rani. The Doctor saw a blaster shot strike a wheel of the Rani's buggy. The tyre burst, and the buggy swung off the road, coming to a stop on the grassy verge. The Doctor turned to congratulate Jadi on his shooting.


       But it wasn't Jadi in the back.


       The Rani pointed her blaster at the Doctor and chuckled.


---
To be continued...



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