A Bit of Bother

by Gary Merchant [Reviews - 12]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Crossover, General

A BIT OF BOTHER

Evening all. It’s a funny old life around here. You can go for months without any real trouble, and then all manner of things come at you all at once. We had a night like that not so long ago. I was on desk duty myself, so I wasn’t really involved. But I heard all about it from the DI later. He was beside himself. Anyway, this is what happened…

*****

The Detective Inspector approached his colleague. “What have we got tonight, Bob?”

Bob shook his head. “You won’t believe this lot, Guv. We’ve got four of ‘em, in separate interview rooms. Everything from affray to common assault.”

“A normal night’s work, then.” DI Palmer read through the statements. Then he read them properly, a look of uncertainty crossing his face. “Are they all mad, or is it just me?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Bob sighed. “A couple of our lads had to be seen by the medical officer.”

“Playing rough, were they?”

“No, Guv.” Bob replied. “It’s like they’d been hypnotised, or something. They almost let two of them go!”

Palmer thought about this. “Hmm. Well, let’s leave the conjurors to stew for a minute or two. Who’s first?”

*****

“Look, I really don’t know why I’m here. I’m not the sort to cause trouble.”

“Really?” Palmer looked at the fellow before him. The monk’s habit looked a bit out of place, but apart from that he seemed harmless enough. Not that Palmer always judged by first impressions.

“I’m just a humble servant of the Lord, on something of a sabbatical. Just minding my own business, officer.”

“Inspector,” Palmer corrected. Maybe he was who he said, but the crib sheet told a different story. “According to my officers, you were found kicking the life out of a Police Telephone Box. Not what you’d call normal behaviour for a ‘humble servant of the Lord.’”

“Ah, well it’s the Doctor, you see. It’s his fault.”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“Well, first he took away my dimensional stabiliser,” he explained, “and then he marooned me here on Earth in the 1960’s. No word of explanation, other than it would do me good. And on top of that, he made my TARDIS look like his.” The man shook his head. “My faith in human nature has been severely tested these last few days.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir,” Palmer sighed, “but that’s still no excuse for causing an affray and causing damage to public property.” He turned to the sergeant. “Put him in a cell for tonight. And see if the canteen’s still open.” He turned back to the man. “I take it you’d like something to eat?”

The suggestion of a free meal seemed to appeal. “Well, I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble…”

“No trouble at all, sir.” He left the interview room, as Bob fell in step alongside him. “Well, he wasn’t too hard to deal with. Who’s next on our list?”

“It’s a woman this time,” Bob replied. A Mrs Rani.”

“A foreigner?” Palmer surmised. “Typical.”

*****

“Madam, if you’d just calm down…”

“What?” Palmer’s voice was drowned out. “You ask me to remain calm after all I’ve been through? I don’t think so. Just wait until I get my hands on him.”

“Madam, I appreciate…”

“You know nothing.” She resumed her pacing around the floor. Nothing anyone could do would persuade her to be seated.

Her clothes were pretty garish, Palmer noted. Not that he professed to know anything about fashion — mini skirts were bad enough. The number of arrests relating to indecency had gone up as quick as girl’s hemlines. But this woman’s outfit was something else — dressed from head to foot in leather, which to Palmer’s mind was kinky in itself. But her bearing was almost regal. She was certainly a Lady, Palmer reckoned. He turned back to the matter in hand. “Madam, you can’t just go around assaulting people.”

She glared at him. “Why not?”

“Well, because… it’s not the done thing round here. And you could be held indefinitely on a charge.”

That pulled her up short. “I can’t stay here.” Her tone was less abrasive, but still strident.

“Well, that’s entirely up to you, Madam.” Palmer tried to see if there was a way out of this. “If, for example, you were defending yourself against this man…”

“His name is The Master,” she declared. “Though how anyone can take him seriously is beyond me.”

“Quite. But as I was saying…”

She dismissed the suggestion. “No, it was my fault. He just got in the way, and I hit him — rather satisfying it was too.”

"Right." Palmer noted her smile at that statement, but persevered. “So all this was in the heat of the moment, nothing planned.” He didn’t like to see a woman in trouble, and was searching for some middle ground.

She, in turn, seemed to acknowledge this. “You could put it that way, yes.”

Palmer cleared his throat. “Well, I think perhaps it would serve all our interests if you stayed here for the night — just to allow time for everyone to cool off.”

She gazed up at the ceiling and sighed. “Oh, very well. Just don’t let me near him again.”

“I think we can make sure of that, Madam.”

Palmer left the room. Bob was waiting for him. “Her English is very good for a foreigner,” he observed. “Did she really…?”

“She did.” Bob looked down the charge sheet. “In fact, the one she assaulted is next on the list.”

“Right, lad.” Palmer marched down the corridor. “Let’s see what Chummy has to say for himself.”

*****

“She’s here, isn’t she? That damned Rani…”

“Language please, sir.” Palmer was less than impressed with the man before him. He had the appearance of a toff, but Palmer could see that he was nothing more than a common criminal. It was the eyes — you could always tell by the eyes. “Yes, the lady is here. How did you know?”

“It’s that bellowing voice.” The man sat back in the chair, wincing at a memory. “She’s hardly the most quiet of individuals, wouldn’t you agree, Inspector?”

Palmer was not about to rise to the bait. “Be that as it may, sir, you’re hardly in the best position to judge.”

“Ah, you mean that fracas with your fellow officers? Yes, that was most regrettable.”

“Regrettable, sir?” Palmer’s mood was not helped by this man’s attitude. “I’d call it damned irresponsible. As I understand it, my lads had to break up a fight between you and a man of the cloth.”

The man laughed. “What, that Monk? He’s a second rater. No more a man of the cloth than I am. I don’t know why I wasted my time with him.”

“Then why did you, sir? By all accounts, there was a heated argument going on between you for some time. One of my officers says you addressed each other by name.”

The man shrugged. “It was nothing. As for knowing him, well I suppose I did — a long time ago. We didn’t agree on things then, and nothing much has changed since.”

“Then why the argument?” Palmer prompted.

“It was the TARDIS,” the man blurted out. “The… police box.”

“Really?” The DI was not impressed. “He reckons it’s his.”

The man was intrigued. “Does he now?”

“Aye. And then he starts laying the blame at a member of the Medical profession.” Palmer suddenly realised he had said more than intended. The words had come tumbling out before he could stop himself. With an effort, he regained his composure. “Anyway, I think you’d better stay here.”

The man seemed amused by this. “Are you detaining me, Inspector?”

“For your own good,” Palmer replied. “If that Mrs Rani gets her hands on you…”

“Ah, yes. You may have a point.” The man stretched out in the chair. “Very well, Inspector. I will place myself at your disposal.”

Palmer had the annoying feeling that he was being mocked, but gave no outward sign. He closed the door behind him without another word. As he marched down the corridor, a deep laugh seemed to echo around him. “I’m bloody hearing things now,” he muttered. He strode off in search of his colleague.

*****

He found Bob in the canteen, where they both supped from welcome mugs of tea. Palmer looked again at the charge sheets. “They’re a bunch of nutters.”

“Aye, a right load of weirdoes,” Bob agreed. “Have you seen the last one?”

“Not yet,” Palmer replied. “I needed a break after that Master bloke. Why?”

“Well, that’s the really weird thing,” Bob told him. “The other one calls himself Master as well. Almost looks the same, too.”

“I see.” Palmer took a thoughtful sip of tea. “Well, let’s finish this first, then see what’s what.”

*****

Palmer could see what Bob had meant. The man was dressed in an immaculate suit, where the one before had worn an all black outfit. But the resemblance between the two was uncanny. The man had risen from his chair to greet the DI. “Colonel Masters, at your service,” he said. “I do hope this misunderstanding can be sorted out.”

Palmer took a moment to find his voice. “You look very much like a chap I was interviewing a while ago.”

“Really?” The Colonel seemed genuinely interested. “Are we that much alike?”

“I’d say so.” Palmer turned to the main point of his visit. “Now Colonel, you were arrested by one of my lads — who got a black eye for his trouble.”

“Yes, I feel I must explain myself.” The man paused before continuing. “I daresay you’ve heard all about that commotion in the Town Square. Well, I just happened to be there, an innocent bystander. I was just watching it all unfold before me. So caught up was I in the confusion, that when your officer attempted to restrain me, well it was just a nervous reaction.”

Palmer picked up on this. “Something to be nervous about, eh Colonel?”

The Colonel spread his arms wide. “Just a simple turn of phrase.”

“Aye.” Palmer turned back to his notes. “But the plain fact is, you did assault an officer of the law. It’s not something I can turn a blind eye to.”

“Are you sure?” The Colonel leant forward. “Because there’s really nothing to worry about. Nothing at all. You do see that, don’t you Inspector?”

The words seemed to bore into Palmer, as a pair of dark eyes filled his mind. But something wasn’t right, and he knew it. He tore himself away from the Colonel’s gaze. “I’d say there’s quite a lot to worry about, Colonel Masters.”

He ignored the Colonel’s scowl as he continued. “I’ve got a man of the cloth attempting to damage public property, and calling a member of the Medical profession into disrepute, a woman charged with assault, the victim of that assault having caused a disturbance and instigated an assault against said man of the cloth, and then there’s you, Colonel. You’ve been charged with assault against one of Her Majesty Police.

“I don’t know if you’re all mad, if you’re all in this together, or what. What I do know is that all four of you are going to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure for tonight. And that’s an end to it.”

For a moment it seemed as though the Colonel would attempt to placate the situation, but Palmer stared him down. No jumped-up Colonel was going to tell him what to do. There had been enough trouble on his patch for one night.

He turned to the Sergeant. “Lock him up!”

*****

Quite a bit of bother, as I’m sure you’ll agree. The funny thing was, the next morning, when the cells were opened to let them out, there was no one there. All four of them had disappeared, and yet the cell doors were still locked from the outside. Very odd.

As for DI Palmer, he never did get to the bottom of whatever it was all about. Even that Police Box in the Town Square had vanished, and none of the stations ever claimed ownership of the blessed thing. Probably just as well they’re being done away with. We’re being given these fancy radio things now — can’t see ‘em catching on myself.

Anyway, that’s it from me. Mind how you go. Good night all.