Rory flicked the lights on, and they clustered rather uneasily near the doorway. All of them, that was, except the Doctor, who made for the long row of fridges at the other side of the room and began to inspect the contents.
“Nope. Nope. Nope. Ooh, that’s unpleasant. Nope. Aha!”
The body, when displayed to their horrified gaze, made Hilda gag. She clapped a hand over her mouth, swallowed, and breathed deeply for a moment or two. When she opened her eyes, she found that Nell had retreated unceremoniously to the opposite end of the room and Amy was staring in pale, fascinated horror. The Doctor and Rory, on the other hand, were bending over the body, the Doctor scanning it quickly with his sonic screwdriver.
“Ah,” he said, shoving it back into his pocket.
“What?” said Rory nervously.
“Well,” said the Doctor. “That’s – not entirely unexpected.” He peered closely at an especially bloody part of the corpse.
“What is it?” said Rory.
“This woman’s been torn to shreds by some sort of animal.”
There was a pause.
“I thought we already knew that,” said Rory.
“Well. Yes, we did. But now we know definitely.”
“Are you saying you’ve dragged us all the way here to look at a really disgusting body just to see something that we already knew?” Amy folded her arms and glared at the Doctor.
“Well, sort of. Although –”
“Let’s have a look at the other one.”
Rolf’s body wasn’t quite so bad. And yet it was worse. At least they hadn’t been able to see the woman’s face; the expression she’d worn as she died. But they’d known Rolf. They’d taken a walk up to the Auberge only the weekend before he died. And now here he was, his body torn and broken, covered with blood, and the look of terror still on his cold face.
A half sob came from behind, and Hilda turned to see Nell, her hand clamped tightly over her mouth, her eyes full of tears. She moved back and put her arm round Nell’s shoulders, squeezing her as the Doctor scanned Rolf’s body. He swept the sonic screwdriver over the corpse once more, this time stopping at a point near the shoulder. After a moment he pocketed the screwdriver, touched the skin by the shoulder and dabbed the tip of his finger on his tongue. He grimaced and wiped his finger on his trousers.
“Well, that is very interesting,” he said slowly.
Rory bent to peer at the spot the Doctor had touched.
“What?” he said, looking up again. “There isn’t anything there.”
“Oh, isn’t there?” The Doctor smiled like a child who thinks he has set an impossible puzzle. Rory looked back.
“Well, there’s skin. And blood.” He bent closer. “A few bits of his shirt. And some saliva, I suppose. But –”
“Yes – stop!” said the Doctor. “Saliva.”
Rory stared at him, frowning.
“So – he’s been bitten,” he said slowly.
“Ah, but what by? What bit him?” The Doctor narrowed his eyes. “What was he bitten by?”
“Well,” said Rory, while the others watched. “What was it?”
“Was it an animal?” said Nell, then, looking at the Doctor, she added rather uncertainly, “It was an animal, wasn’t it?”
“Not really,” said the Doctor, as Rory covered the body and they were all able to relax slightly. “Actually, not at all. That –” he waved his hand in the direction of the covered body, “is not the DNA of anything that comes from Earth.”
“What?” said Nell, opening the door and leading the way out of the mortuary. “Really, Doctor. This is a serious matter.”
“Oh, he is completely serious,” said Amy.
“No,” said Nell. “That’s really going too far. I mean, you’re talking about – well, aliens.”
“Yes, we are.” Amy’s face was alight with laughter.
“It’s true, I’m afraid,” said Hilda quietly.
“Hilda!” Nell sounded outraged.
“I did tell you about what happened before.”
“Well, yes, but that was science.”
“He’s got a spaceship.”
“A –” Nell choked.
“Oh, come on!” Amy slapped her on the arm. “Never mind that. Let’s get out of this place; it’s horrible. And you, Doctor, can stop being all mysterious and tell us exactly what it is we’re up against.”
“It’s a N –” He broke off abruptly as a small procession approached, bearing something on a stretcher. Hilda sighed inwardly, seeing one of the doctors, and wondering why fate seemed to find it necessary to make things difficult for her.
“Miss Annersley!” began Reg, staring at her in confusion. He broke off, his eyes widening, as the Doctor flourished the psychic paper. “Oh – I do apologise, sir. Is there anything I can –?”
“No, no.” said the Doctor, generously waving his apologies aside. He pointed at the shape on the stretcher. “Anything interesting?”
“No – not really. It – I mean, he – just fell down a precipice, really,” said Reg, looking uneasy. He looked away from the Doctor and gave Nell a smile that held a hint of desperation. “Hallo, Miss Wilson. What a nice surprise.”
“I can tell when you’re lying, Reg,” said Nell, eyeing him severely. She seemed, away from the gruesome bodies, to have recovered her equilibrium. “Now, what is it that’s so interesting about this body? Tell the Doctor.”
Reg blinked once or twice, but he was too conscious of his burgeoning career to risk offending such an important man. Even if he did wear a bow tie and braces.
“This is going to sound ridiculous,” he said.
“Probably.” The Doctor smiled at him cheerfully. “Never mind, say it anyway.”
Reg hesitated, mouthing indistinctly, then seemed to make up his mind to take the plunge.
“It doesn’t look human,” he blurted.