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She was standing in the middle of the playing fields now, her heart still thumping painfully. The world was silent again. No-one walked about during the night any more, and most people didn’t drive unless they absolutely had to. Even Freudesheim was in complete darkness. Joey and Grizel must have decided on an early night.

Hilda looked around, unease beginning to creep over her. There was no-one in sight, no sound of voices or of people. Maybe it had been her imagination – her desperation creating what she thought was the solution. Or perhaps this was how the creature attacked people. Lured them out and then tore them to pieces when they were alone and defenceless.

There was a click and a slight creak. A pause.

“It’s dark,” said a girl, an annoyed sounding Scottish voice. “Ow! Go and get a torch or something, Rory.”

Hilda closed her eyes and breathed out in relief. She began to pick her way carefully across the short grass. It was odd, she thought, that she couldn’t see any light coming out of the – the name escaped her for the moment. The police box thing. A moment later, walking straight into the wall of the toolshed, she realised why. As she began to feel her way around it, Amy’s voice came again.

“Are you sure we’re in the right place, Doctor? This looks like some kind of shack, or something.”

“Are you sure it’s not a chalet?” Hilda smiled in the darkness as she heard the familiar voice of the Doctor.

“I think I can tell the difference between a shack and a chalet,” said Amy tartly.

“It’s a toolshed,” said Hilda loudly.

There was a pause.

“What was that?” That must be Rory.

“Hello?” called Amy. “Who’s there?”

Hilda came to the corner of the shed and rounded it, and suddenly there was light. It streamed across the grass, a yellow path. She hurried towards it and rounded the second corner. And there it was. The blue police box, its door slightly ajar, and in front of it Amy, squinting into the darkness around her, looking nervous and excited at the same time. Rory was beside her, clutching a torch, with a faintly anxious expression on his face, and the Doctor just behind them, looking around with an amiable smile.

“Doctor!” she gasped.

He turned his head, and when he caught sight of her the smile spread into a tremendous grin.

“Hilda!” he said, starting forward.

“Hilda!” said Amy. “Wow, you actually brought us to the right place for once, Doctor.”

“Of course I did,” said the Doctor. “Hallo, Hilda. How are you?”

“I’m –as a matter of fact, things are going very badly. Why don’t you all come in? I’d rather not stand out here any longer than I have to.”

Safely ensconced in her warm sitting room, wrapping their hands round big mugs of tea, the Doctor, Amy and Rory listened to Hilda’s tale.

“And you think it’s an alien attacking people?” said Amy, staring at her. “I don’t mean to sound rude, but don’t you think it could just be some sort of animal, or something?”

Hilda shrugged.

“That’s what most people think it is,” she said. “But – well, the evidence doesn’t seem to point that way. The marks on the bodies aren’t exactly like any animal that’s likely to be roaming this area. Or even any animal that isn’t. Then there’s what happened to Lucy – the police don’t think it was related, as it’s such a different sort of attack, but that seems too coincidental to me.”

“But what animal wraps people up in sticky black web stuff?” said Rory.

“Exactly,” said Hilda. “I must admit that I was at my wits’ end, Doctor. You were the only person I could think of who might be able to help, and I couldn’t think of any way to contact you.”

“Yeah,” said the Doctor, who was sprawling in one of the comfortable chairs in Hilda’s sitting room. “I get around a bit. Good thing we happened to come back, really.”

“Why did you?” said Hilda. “It’s not exactly the most thrilling place in the universe, I’m sure.”

“Amy dropped her ring,” said Rory.

“Don’t suppose you’ve seen it, have you?” said Amy hopefully. “It’s my wedding ring. Rory was a bit annoyed about it, so we thought we’d better come back.”

“Of course, we were thinking half an hour later, not six months,” said Rory, giving the Doctor an old-fashioned look.

“Actually, I think we might have it.” Hilda unlocked a small drawer in her desk and withdrew a small box. She passed it over to Amy. “One of the seniors found it on the playing field. Is this it?”

“Yup.” Amy got up and hugged her. “Thanks, Hilda. I was starting to think Rory was going to divorce me or something.” She slid the ring onto her finger and waggled it at him.

 “Good,” said the Doctor. “Now we can get on with solving Hilda’s problem. Which is obviously some kind of alien.”

He jumped to his feet and strode the long way around the desk to look out of the window.

“Oh, well, that helps,” said Rory. “Some kind of alien. Excellent.”

“Shut up,” said the Doctor. “I’m trying to remember where I’ve – no – no, it’s gone. Never mind. Why don’t we go and find this creature, then?”

Hilda looked up at him, startled.

“But Doctor – this thing eats people.”

A wide, happy smile spread across the Doctor’s face.

“I know!” he said, darting towards the door, pulling his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket. “Come on!”

Amy had already leapt out of her chair to follow him, and Rory and Hilda looked at one another and moved a little more reluctantly. Just as she reached the door, though, Hilda stopped.

“No – wait!”

The doctor turned back impatiently. It seemed that he was simply dying to get to grips with the monster.

“Now what?”

“Give me ten minutes,” said Hilda, dashing to the other side of the room and snatching up the receiver of the telephone. “Nell will kill me if I don’t let her in on this adventure.”

 




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