Torchwood_Long Time Dead, p.1Sarah Pinborough
About the Book
Also in the Torchwood Series
About the Book
‘Now, with her mind and memory unlocked, it was as if she could truly see it. The awfulness inside. The pain that waited. The horror that lived there. It was coming. The screaming of millions.’
Cardiff Bay. The government has ordered the excavation of the wreckage of a secret underground base. DCI Tom Cutler is watching from a distance, fascinated by the process. There are people in his dreams. People he feels he should know.
The disbanded Torchwood Institute spent a century accumulating non-terrestrial artefacts and catching aliens. Who knows what – or who – might still be intact down there.
But by the time they find the first body, Suzie Costello is long gone...
Based on the hit series created by Russell T Davies, Long Time Dead is a prequel to Torchwood: Miracle Day starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles as Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper. It features Suzie Costello, as played by Indira Varma, and Andy Davidson, as played by Tom Price.
New titles in the Torchwood series from BBC Books:
Long Time Dead by Sarah Pinborough
First Born by James Goss
The Men Who Sold the World by Guy Adams
Long Time Dead
For Kelly and Noah
John Blackman cursed quietly as he crouched to get past a fallen concrete strut and some dangling wires hanging from the collapsed ceiling. Then he cursed again – internally this time – for getting his visor more steamed up than it was already.
He hated the suit. It was claustrophobic and, no matter how cold the actual temperature, there was something about the rubbery fabric that always left his skin and clothes underneath soaking in sweat. That’s what he told the rest of the team as he stripped off at the end of the shift. When he was having a quiet, honest-with-himself moment, he knew it was more likely to just be good old-fashioned fear that left him dripping unpleasantly and adding hugely to his washing pile.
He hated being part of the recovery team. He was a scientist. He’d always worked in labs, and had been very pleased with that arrangement. Finding himself assigned to the Department and suddenly in the field wasn’t his idea of fun. It wasn’t as if he could analyse how anything worked from within the stupid suit and clumsy gloves, so why didn’t they just set him up in a nice mobile unit on the surface and he could work there? Most of the equipment and other strange items they’d found had been shattered or broken or apparently useless anyway.
The whole project seemed like a waste of time, but no one argued with the Department. Especially not a science nerd seconded from the laboratories. He’d thought about it once or twice – more than once or twice – about going straight up to Commander Jackson and telling him exactly what he thought about this assignment. He’d practised the speech every time he pulled the suit on and made another treacherous journey underground, but somehow the words just couldn’t get out of his head. Every time he’d seen the Commander’s hulking figure, he’d found that his feet just scurried him on past and his head stayed down. Confrontation had never been one of his strong points. He waved his heavy-duty torch this way and that to check his footing and then edged cautiously onwards into the bowels of the ruined building.
He’d been dreading this part of the job. A lot of the debris on the surface had been carefully cleared away, but the further down they excavated, the more perilous the job became. He could almost feel the weight of the broken building above him, each piece held up precariously by the one next to it, a house of heavy cards ready to crash down on him should he trip and knock one out of alignment. He tried not to think about it. He tried to focus on the job at hand like the Department men did, but it was bloody difficult.
His shirt was already sticking to his skin, and the side of his head itched where his dandruff had come back. So much for not thinking that the place could collapse at any moment. Somewhere over to his left he could hear someone carefully sifting through the rubble, and it calmed him slightly to be reminded that he wasn’t alone down here with only the sound of his own breathing being amplified in his helmet. His feet felt firmer on the slightly cleared route down towards the lower level, and he tried to feel more confident. The sooner he got down there and looked around, the sooner he could get out. He’d said he’d take Lucy Waters from the admin section out for a drink tonight. That wasn’t helping his sweating situation either.
When she’d asked him if he’d like to go out – two whole days ago now – he’d at first thought it was something of a joke. It wasn’t as if Lucy Waters was some kind of Angelina Jolie or anything (he’d probably die if he ever found himself in the same room as a woman like that), but she was well out of his league. A little mousy perhaps, but she had a nice figure and although she always wore prim blouses it was very difficult to not notice her breasts. They were very much in the room, as he’d heard people say.
He, however, was a self-confessed geek through and through. A dislike of vegetables mixed with spending most of his waking hours indoors and away from fresh air had made his skin pasty and slightly flaky, and his thin body never quite sat right in clothes that were always too big or too small. When not in his lab coat, the shoulders of his jackets and shirts carried a dusting of dandruff, and his teeth were slightly yellowed by a dependence on coffee. He’d looked worse as a teenager thanks to several unfortunate bouts of what the doctor described as ‘nervous acne’. John had thought the spots were more angry than nervous, and they had left their battle scars around his chin.
All of this, and his primary interests of astronomy, mathematics and video games, meant that John Blackman had reached the ripe old age of 28 without ever having had a proper girlfriend. In fact, John Blackman hadn’t even been kissed or grabbed a feel of anyone’s tit. But now, he thought, as the air cooled around him and he climbed carefully down into the newly opened up area, all that might change.
Lucy Waters had actually blushed when she’d asked him about the excavation work and how potentially dangerous it was. She’d wanted to know all the details, and she’d leaned in close enough that he could smell her perfume on her skin. Excited as he’d been at the time – and had been for the two days since as the number of tissues now littering the space under his bed could testify – he was now absolutely terrified. If he’d had to choose between this strange building collapsing on him or making conversation with Lucy over a glass of wine, he’d have said the two were equally unappealing. But still, he tho
He paused as silence closed in around him again, the rest of the men working too far away to hear. As the cold stench hit him, all thoughts of Lucy Waters and her breasts evaporated. What was that? Something foetid; damp and rotting. What had been kept this far down in the earth beneath the thriving social hubbub of Cardiff Bay? He was working here – in fact, risking his life here no matter how much the Department operatives laughed at that suggestion – and all he knew was that it had been some kind of secret government research centre. Even crumbled and wrecked as it was, John knew it had been way more sophisticated than his lab was. It was like a contradiction.
They’d pulled bits of equipment out of here that were made out of metals that were entirely unidentifiable, along with several battered pizza boxes and an old Rubik’s cube. The people that had worked here, whoever they were, might have been scientists like him, but he figured they were definitely the trendy variety. They got laid. For a brief second he felt a moment of jealousy and then it was gone. Had they been inside when the building collapsed? They might have been cool, but they were very likely to be dead.
He breathed in short shallow bursts, doing his best to avoid the awful stench, and as he crept forward his foot banged into something hard in the darkness. The metal thump sang out, and he shone the light downwards. He stumbled back slightly. It was some kind of steel drawer and he crouched beside it, stumbling backwards when he saw a human hand. So this was where the stench was coming from. The drawer was open on its side, other pieces of debris littered on it. He swung the torch upwards. What had once been a bank of some kind of steel lockers was now squashed to half its height with the weight from above, and where it had bowed in the middle all its secure contents had shot outwards. For the first time, he realised that perhaps there were worse ways to go than being crushed to death. What else had been stored here with so much security? Chemical weapons? Viruses? The Department had been very quiet on those subjects when he’d asked about the dangers of this job.
He looked down again. What kind of deaths meant people couldn’t be buried by their families? He didn’t want to be here. Not at all. Not even a feel of Lucy Waters’ breasts – any breasts for that matter – was worth it.
He almost shrieked when a low moan interrupted his thoughts. He spun around, waving his torch madly. The noise had come from somewhere to his right. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heart, and listened again. For ten seconds there was nothing, and then there it was: a soft, wet sound. Feminine. Debris shifted and the moan came again.
‘Hello?’ he said, softly. The word was deadened by the cold and concrete. ‘Is someone there?’ The moan came again. Slightly confused, John picked his way towards the source. It couldn’t be a survivor. Unless there was a supply of food and water down here, they’d have been dead long ago. Could one of the team have come down here ahead of him and injured themselves?
He raised his hand and clicked the radio button in the side of his head. ‘Um, this is Blackman? Down in the vault? I think I’ve found something?’ Static fired back at him. Great. Just what he needed. This was government equipment. How could the radio stop working? It didn’t fill him with the greatest confidence. There had been men working at the next level up and he almost called out to them, but the fear of bringing the whole place down on his head kept him quiet. He’d check out whoever was down here, and then go for help. Simple as that. And on the upside, it might get his shift over more quickly.
The moaning sounded stronger, as if perhaps whoever was there was slowly coming round after being knocked unconscious. It was definitely a woman too, which was odd, because he hadn’t noticed any in the morning’s team. He must have missed someone during his daily battle with his nerves as he got his suit on.
‘I’m here,’ he said, peering into the darkness and trying to make out where she lay. The torch finally found her, a few metres ahead of him, the bottom half of her body obscured by the top of another of the broken steel drawers. The way she was lying made it look as if she’d crawled as far out of it as she could before losing her energy. That was ridiculous, of course. It must have fallen on her. She couldn’t have come out of it. Could she? His mouth dried slightly, and then, as he got closer, she came fully into view.
The first thing he noticed was that she was beautiful. Even covered in dust and with the white smock she was wearing tugged this way and that and her thick, dark hair a messy fan beneath her head, she was absolutely stunning. She sighed again and, as he crouched beside her, he glimpsed the tops of her smooth brown thighs. He licked his lips slightly. That was when the second thing dawned on him. She wasn’t wearing a suit. If she was part of the team, she’d be wearing a suit. Where was her suit?
He didn’t have time to consider an answer for that before he noticed something strange under the smock, just about where her stomach was. Something was glowing. There was a circle of red pulsing light showing through the fabric. He touched it gently, but all he could feel was her skin underneath. That was wrong. That was definitely wrong. He looked back at the twisted metal and the way she lay, and he knew, as his bladder contracted, that his first impression had been right. She’d come out of the drawer. Had it been her coffin? That wasn’t possible, surely?
Her back arched suddenly and she gasped loudly, sitting bolt upright with a sudden jolt. The speed of her movement surprised John, and he tumbled backwards from his crouch into a sitting position.
‘Who are you?’ he breathed.
She moved like a cat, quick and flexible, and within a second she was free of the drawer and holding his head in her hand. Had she even been hurt at all? Had the moaning simply been a lure? Why was he suddenly so terribly afraid?
He looked up at her face. A small smile teased her full lips as she tilted her head and leaned in towards him.
‘I have something to show you,’ she whispered. And then she did.
As he looked into the terrible, empty blackness of her eyes, John Blackman knew with certainty that there would never be a date with Lucy Waters. Terror gripped his soul and the darkness that swirled in her eyes sucked him in.
He was so lost, he barely felt it when Suzie Costello stabbed him hard in the liver with a broken shard of glass, all the time smiling at him as he died.
Detective Inspector Tom Cutler wasn’t quite sure how he’d ended up back at the excavation site this morning, but somehow here he was. He sipped his cooling coffee and watched for any sign of activity from beyond the barriers. He should have been at the station. He had the paperwork on the Frame case to finish up, and the DCI’s weekly briefing was due to start at ten. If he was going to make that, then he needed to leave now. His feet didn’t move though. Just five more minutes.
It was barely a month since a terrorist attack had demolished the heart of Cardiff Bay, leaving a bomb crater where the millennium water tower had once stood. When the government teams and the army had first started to dig through the rubble, the crowds had been quite large, mainly muttering about why on earth all the men and women were in protective clothing if the public announcements were to be believed and there was nothing for the residents of Cardiff Bay to fear.
Now, however, they were three weeks in, and most passers-by barely glanced at the Portakabins and sheets of plastic that covered the entrance to the site. There were still army officers guarding the barriers, but there was no real threat of anyone trying to break through. Not since the drunk teenagers had tried to get in on the first weekend of the excavation project. They hadn’t succeeded. Cutler and his new sergeant, Andy Davidson, had responded to that call-out from the army and had given the kids a stern warning then taken them home. Cutler remembered that night. Sergeant Andy had done most of the talking. Cutler hadn’t been able to take his eyes from the sheets
The next day had been a day off, and he’d treated himself to lunch in the Bay. He’d eaten quickly and then wandered down to the site, convincing himself it was just a whim, and that it hadn’t been the sole purpose of his lunch out. Since then, he’d found time to be here at least once every couple of days. More recently though, his visits had become twice a day where possible. And he was intent on making it possible. Something about the place fascinated him, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. When he was away from the site, it was as if he had a quiet itch constantly in his brain.
There was something about this place that niggled at him. As if there was something he should know, but every time he went to the place in his mind that was bugging him, there was just an empty space. It was weird. It wasn’t like him either. He was the golden boy of the Force and had been ever since he’d solved the now infamous gruesome murders during the Welsh Amateur Operatic Contest and been persuaded to stay in Cardiff rather than head back to London. He was easy-going and got on with all his colleagues, commanding respect where it was due. This solitary behaviour wasn’t in his nature.
That hadn’t stopped him coming down here again, though, and, when he was here, the strangeness of his new obsession didn’t matter. He wasn’t getting any answers by watching, but he still felt soothed. He shoved his hands into his pockets and frowned. What was that? He pulled out the rectangular packet. Cigarettes? He stared, surprised. When had he bought those? He hadn’t smoked in months, and he’d quit so naturally that he found it hard to remember ever being a smoker in the first place. Smoking, like these visits, wasn’t in his nature. He went out for long runs at least three times a week and ate healthily. Cigarettes didn’t fit with that lifestyle.
Still, as he stared at the packet, he fought the urge to open it and light one up. He shoved them back into his coat; out of sight, almost out of mind. He should leave. He’d be late. He was about to reluctantly turn away when a figure emerged from behind the heavy plastic sheeting. Tom Cutler moved closer to the barriers, wanting to catch a glimpse of the face through the plastic square, but sunlight bounced off it, spoiling his view. Whoever it was nodded a swift hello at the soldier guarding the entrance and then strolled away. Instead of going into one of the Portakabins, the figure walked straight out through the barriers, barely three or four metres from where Cutler was standing, picking its pace up to a brisk walk. Cutler frowned again. Outside the barrier? In a contamination suit? They never did that.
Torchwood_Long Time Dead by Sarah Pinborough / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes