Benton behind bars by ElsieMcC
Summary: An escape is being planned by a gang of inmates at Chelsfield Military Prison and Sergeant Benton is sent in undercover to infiltrate the gang. Will he manage to persuade the leader to accept him? Will UNIT, with the assistance of Miss Hawthorne and Iolanthe Grosvenor, be able to solve the mysterious death of an informant and find the weapons stolen by the gang? And will Benton live to tell the tale? NB a revised version of this story is now at https://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=64107
Categories: Third Doctor
Characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Other Character(s), Sergeant Benton
Genres: Action/Adventure, Mystery
Series: The Hawthorne and Benton Mysteries
Benton behind bars by ElsieMcC
Chapter 6: Chapter 6Author's Notes:
The following morning, Benton woke early. He climbed quietly out of bed and had shaved at the basin and was ready to go to the showers before the waking bell sounded. Sims groaned and stretched, then rolled out of his bunk and down to the floor. He rubbed his eyes and looked at his new cellmate.
“Blimey! You’re a bit keen aren’t you?”
“Couldn’t sleep. Didn’t seem to be much point in staying in bed,” replied Benton.
“I suppose not, oh well,” as another bell sounded and the cell door unlocked, “let’s get this show on the road.”
Sims led the way out of the cell and into the mass of prisoners on their way to the showers. Once they had showered and were dressed in their uniforms, the prisoners filed down to breakfast, mostly in silence. Sims sat with Benton, but they exchanged few words. Benton contemplated the floppy toast and thin coffee with gloomy resignation. The alternative to toast was porridge, and that, as far as the Sergeant could see, could easily have been exchanged for wallpaper paste without anyone noticing the difference. Breakfast over, the prisoners were herded out into the yard for the rest of the morning. Benton had brought his library book with him and sat down on a bench to read and wait for his summons from Baxter. He didn’t have to wait long. Benton had barely started to read when two men approached. One was Sims, the other was unknown to Benton, though he had seen him with Baxter in the canteen. Looking at the other man, Sims said, “This is Benton,” then left in the direction of the door to the infirmary. The unknown man, who Benton mentally named ‘bruiser’, looked down at him and said,
“Baxter wants to see you.”
Benton stood up and tucked his book under his arm.
He was escorted to a corner of the yard, where, he noted, there was likely to be a blind spot in the security cameras that were mounted on the wall. Oh well. It was too late to back out now. Baxter was leaning against the wall, talking to two other men, both of whom Benton recognised from the canteen. The ‘Bruiser’ nodded to Benton and said,
“This is Benton, Sir.”
Baxter smiled and held out his hand,
“Good to meet you, Benton, I’m Captain Baxter.”
Benton shook hands.
“Pleased to meet you, Sir.”
“Sims tells me you’re in a bit of bother, Sergeant.” (Interesting. Benton hadn’t told Sims his rank, Baxter must have more than one source of information.)
“Er, yes Sir.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Tell you the truth, I’m in a bit of bother myself. I’ve got an operation planned and I’m a man down on my team. I wondered if you might consider filling the vacancy.”
Even though he knew about Baxter’s history and personality, Benton still felt some of the Captain’s personal magnetism. Baxter’s concern for him felt almost genuine, he could see how soldiers would feel attracted to join this charismatic and genial villain. Benton decided to be cautious once again.
“I, thank you, Sir. But, if you’ll forgive me, it seems almost a bit too good to be true.”
One of the other men started forward, but Baxter put up a hand to stop them.
“No, Sergeant Benton is right to be cautious. Very well, Sergeant. Before we were sent to this, ah, institution, we had secured a quantity of arms and a ready source of custom for those arms. Our plan is to leave here, to recover the arms and to sell them, securing a healthy profit for all concerned, which includes you, Sergeant, if you decide to join us.”
Benton looked astounded.
“Blimey, Sir, I ...”
“I need not say that if you decide against joining us, we will expect you to remain silent about our project. People who cross me do not tend to survive for very long.”
Two of Baxter’s companions closed in behind Benton. The Sergeant glanced nervously at them, but then looked directly at Baxter.
“Yes, Sir. I’m with you, Sir.”
“Good, Sergeant, I hoped you would be. Your share of the profit should more than take care of your own difficulty and I always repay loyalty in kind.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“There is one thing, Sergeant. I need to be sure that my men can keep their heads in a crisis. I hear that you assaulted your Commanding Officer.”
Benton looked straight ahead.
“Only once, Sir, it won’t happen again.”
Baxter smiled grimly.
“I can assure you it won’t. Still, I expect absolute obedience from my men, so, if you will allow me, I think a small test is in order.”
He fiddled with a signet ring that he was wearing, in direct contravention of prison regulations, then suddenly turned and hit Benton hard across the face, splitting his bottom lip.
Benton flinched but stayed upright, turning back to face Baxter and ignoring the blood that was trickling down his chin. Baxter held his gaze for a few seconds, then smiled and held out his hand once again.
“Good, Sergeant Benton, welcome aboard.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Benton shook Baxter’s hand, then saluted, which seemed to be the appropriate response. Baxter’s smile broadened.
“Thank YOU, Sergeant. Hunter?”
He turned to one of the other men, who fished a handkerchief out of his pocket and held it out. Benton took it and folded it against his lip, nodding his thanks to Hunter. Baxter spoke again.
“That’ll be all for now, Benton, I’ll brief you fully this evening. In the meantime you’d better get back to your book. It doesn’t do to hang around in groups for too long.”
Benton took the hint. Repeating, “Thank you, Sir,” he turned and made his way back to the bench, which was still empty. Baxter looked at Hunter.
“Get anything off him?”
“Seems straightforward enough, Sir, I think he’ll do.”
“Good. We can move now. Get hold of Sims and tell him to alert the Doc.”
Hunter slipped away and Baxter looked across the yard to where Benton was sitting, then turned away to speak to one of the other men.
As Miss Hawthorne had the day “off” she had decided to spend it catching up on some reading of her own. Her morning coffee brewed, she sat at the dining table of the safe house, maps and books spread out around her. Some of the books concerned the history of the Beconswood area, others to do with the use of hypnotism and mind control in military operations. The maps were of various ages, all of Beconswood and the surrounding area. Leaving the hypnotism aside, that was really more Iolanthe’s area of expertise, Miss Hawthorne concentrated on trying to find a likely location for the missing weapons. She looked from books to maps to back again, sighing as she did so. Unfortunately the area was singularly bereft of mines, gravel pits or abandoned factories, which would have made handy hiding places. Miss Hawthorne sighed again and sipped her coffee. The telephone rang, and she got up to answer it, grateful for the interruption.
“Hello? Olive Hawthorne speaking.”
“Hello Miss Hawthorne, Lethbridge Stewart here.”
“Brigadier? What can I do for you? I’m afraid I’ve made little progress in locating the arms dump.”
“Never mind that for now, Miss Hawthorne, I’m sending a man over with a package. You remember the equipment the Doctor showed us?”
“Well, it sounds from what you said as if Baxter is about to pick up the pace, so we need to get it to Benton. You’ll need to take it with you tomorrow. Can you do that?”
“If it is disguised well enough, I’m sure I can.”
“You can trust us for that, Miss Hawthorne, expect the delivery in the next couple of hours.”
“I shall, thank you, Brigadier.”
“Thank you Miss Hawthorne, you’re sure you can operate it?”
“Yes, thank you, the Doctor was quite clear in his instruction.”
“Ah. Good. That’s all for now then, Miss Hawthorne, I’ll wait for your report.”
“Indeed. Goodbye Brigadier.”
“Goodbye Miss Hawthorne.”
Miss Hawthorne hung up and went back to the table. The Doctor’s device should help, but she would rather have at least some idea of where the gang might be heading. And, as she would need to wait in for the delivery, she might as well get on with the task in hand.
No sooner had Benton sat down on the bench again and opened his book, than a shadow fell across the pages. Benton looked up and saw Fulton looking down at him. Seeing the blood stained handkerchief and Benton’s lip, which had started to swell, the warder shook his head.
“Dear me Benton, in trouble already?”
Aware of being overheard, Benton looked the warder directly in the eye and said, calmly,
“I ran into something, Sir.”
“Did you indeed?” asked Fulton, looking searchingly at him. “Well, if you say so. Sims tells me you want to make a phone call.”
“Oh, yes, Sir,” said Benton closing his book and standing up.
“Right, follow me.”
Fulton led Benton into the building and to a payphone that hung on the wall between the Infirmary and the library. The warder took a token from his pocket and handed it to the Sergeant.
“You get five minutes, no funny business or you won’t get any more calls for a month. Or visitors for that matter. When you’ve finished, go to the Infirmary and get something to put on that lip of yours.”
“Oh, and Benton?”
“Stay away from Baxter. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
Fulton walked away, leaving Benton to his call. The warder stood a little way off, close enough to see, but out of ear shot. Benton appreciated the courtesy and the warning, he would have been glad to stay away from Baxter, but, unfortunately, Baxter was why he was there. He had wondered how Fulton knew, then he guessed that he wasn’t the first to have taken Baxter’s test of loyalty. Benton dialed the number, a direct line that couldn’t be traced to UNIT HQ, then inserted the token and heard it drop as the call connected and Iolathe’s voice said,
“John!” Iolanthe didn’t need to feign her relief, but, wary of the call being recorded, she added a bit more sisterly concern, “what have you done? What are they going to do to you? They said I can’t come and see you yet, I’ve been worried sick!”
Benton smiled as she rattled on, then spoke up.
“Listen, kid, I’ve only got five minutes, I can’t talk for long. It’s going to be a court martial, there’s no way round it.”
“I know, but it’s too late now. I don’t want you to worry though.”
“It’s a bit late for that!”
“I know, I’m sorry. But I’m alright, really I am. I’ve met some decent blokes.”
Feeling Fulton’s eyes on him, Benton turned away so the warder wouldn’t see his smile at Iolanthe’s appalled tone.
“Yes. Anyway, they are going to help me out a bit, so if you get any calls or anything, you can tell them I’ve got it covered, OK?”
Iolanthe had been briefed on Benton’s cover story, so she knew what he was driving at.
“Ok. If you’re sure?”
“Do be careful, John, you’re in so much trouble already.”
“Don’t I know it.” Benton looked over at Fulton who held up two fingers, “We’ve got a couple more minutes. How’s college going?”
‘College’ was code for the investigation.
“As if I’ve been able to… oh it’s OK, I suppose, I had a chat with Mr. Gordon about my project and it looks like I’m on the right lines with the criticism of the Locked Room.”
“Good stuff. I’ve got to go. I’ll let you know when you can come and see me.”
“Oh, ok, but do take care John.”
“Same to you, kid”
Benton hung up and stood still for a moment, thinking. Mr. Gordon was the Brigadier’s alias and the Locked Room was Webster’s murder. So they had made some progress with that. Good. And now UNIT would know that he had made contact with Baxter and been accepted in the gang. He hoped he had been vague enough for anyone who happened to have been listening, or that the Governor would intervene if the matter was reported to him. Fulton came over and said, not unkindly,
“All OK at home, Benton?”
“Yes, Sir, at least, yes. I’d better get to the Infirmary. Thank you, Sir.”
Fulton watched him go, pondering. He hoped that Baxter wouldn’t get his claws into Benton, but it might already be too late. He should probably mention it to the Governor, see if they could move Benton to another floor. On the other hand, he wouldn’t want Baxter to think that Benton had betrayed him. Webster’s death was officially unexplained, but Fulton was under no illusions as to who had been responsible for it, even if indirectly. Shaking his head, Fulton went back out into the yard, ready to escort the prisoners into the canteen for lunch.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story archived at http://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=64081