Part 8: Children of the Sanctum

by Soldeed [Reviews - 5]

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  • All Ages
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  • Action/Adventure

Chapter Nine

Hazelbrook’s smile broadened to a grin of mocking triumph at the three stunned faces lined up in front of him. Colonel Stark, his expression a mixture of disbelief and outrage, was first to speak.

“Lord Hazelbrook, do you truly imagine we will let you get away with this? This woman is a member of UNIT. There is no question of leaving her here with you.”

Hazelbrook made no move to speak. He seemed to know that Angela would do it for him.

“Colonel, I’m sure you got my letter. I’m no longer a member of UNIT. I’m not your responsibility any more.”

Her voice was regretful, but defiant. She blinked, betraying some nervousness, but her eyes remained steady. Stark glared at her.

“Doctor Castle, come back to the hotel with us. Whatever pressure this man has placed you under, we will deal with it. Giving in to him is not the answer.”

Angela merely shook her head. “I’m sorry, Colonel. I’m not coming with you. Lord Hazelbrook has invited me to live here in the Sanctum and I’ve accepted. It’s my choice.”

The Doctor broke off his unwavering study of her face and spoke up: “I just know you’re about to explain what brought about this sudden change in your point of view.”

Angela turned to face him. He didn’t miss the slight tightening of Hazelbrook’s hand on her shoulder, but she spoke with the simple sincerity of the true believer. “Everything I’ve wanted all my life is here. I have purpose. I believe in what we’re doing here. This is what I want to do.”

“That is not an explanation,” said the Doctor coldly. “Just what is it you’re doing here?”

“That’s a secret,” she replied. “I can’t tell you.”

Hazelbrook beamed, hugging her protectively closer to him. “Well spoken. Now why don’t you go back to your work? I’ll finish up here.”

She paused in the doorway, seemed about to slip away without another word, then stopped. “Goodbye, Doctor. It’s been...” She seemed unable to finish the sentence, so looked away to Stark. “Goodbye, Colonel.” She looked past him at the bulky figure of Crombie. “And you, Sergeant. Thank you for all the cups of tea.”

“You’re welcome, Miss,” Crombie replied, and there was an unmistakeable catch in the soldier’s voice.

Angela disappeared into the dimly lit interior of the sanctum. Hazelbrook moved into the centre of the doorway, blocking it with his body. “So,” he said affably, “if there is nothing else, I’m sure you’ll be wanting to be on your way. Just to be clear, all three of you are now banned from my property. Harassing me is one thing, but I can’t have you upsetting my new initiates.”

Pale with anger, Stark ground out his reply from stiffened jaw muscles. “This isn’t over, Hazelbrook. I don’t know what you’ve done to her, but I will find out. Whatever letters you make her sign, that woman is a member of UNIT, and I will not abandon her.”

“Yes, yes.” Hazelbrook waved a dismissive hand. “Very impressive. Now on your way, if you please, or I shall be forced to call the local constabulary.”

Stark’s lips twisted and for a moment he stood stock still, then spun round with a crunch on the gravel and marched back to the car, followed closely by Sergeant Crombie. Hazelbrook turned an inquiring eye on the Doctor, who remained just where he was, contemplating the man in the doorway as though planning on staying there for hours.

“In case there was some confusion,” Hazelbrook said, “that included you, Doctor.”

The Doctor didn’t move, and took his time before speaking, his voice distant with thought. “You’re a clever man, aren’t you, Hazelbrook?”

Hazelbrook was startled enough to fall back into his habitual manner of bluff amiability. “Oh, well, I don’t know about that, you know? I do my best.”

The Doctor didn’t smile or shift his expression in any way. “But taking Angela was a stupid move. Stark would have played it by the book but he’s out for your blood now. What made her worth that risk?”

Hazelbrook collected himself and his mind became unreadable, hidden behind his fixed smile and bristling moustache. “Do you really need to ask me that, Doctor? Your dismay at losing her is clear enough. Why wouldn’t I be keen to recruit her? Or perhaps it’s not losing her that upsets you. More the fact that she rejected you and chose to follow me instead.”

Anyone else would have shrivelled under the look of chilly disdain the Doctor turned on him. Hazelbrook continued smiling into the silence which followed, but his smile became more fixed with each second that passed. At last the Doctor seemed to lose interest in him and turned his back, wandering off towards where Stark and Crombie sat waiting in the car.

“I shan’t threaten you, Lord Hazelbrook,” he said over his shoulder. “I think it’s implicit.”

He didn’t look round or say anything else, but Hazelbrook stood in the doorway and watched in an uncharacteristic contemplative silence as he climbed into the car and was driven away through the gate and out of sight down the hill.

* * * * *

As they swept around around the foot of the hill, the Doctor twisted around on the back seat to ensure that they were hidden from view by the trees and then leaned forward to speak to Stark.

“All right, Colonel, let’s talk. How serious were you when you said you weren’t going to abandon her?”

Stark didn’t reply immediately. He slowed the car to a halt and turned around, his hard face set firm. “Believe me, Doctor, I was serious. I have a dozen men travelling up from London as we speak. Plenty to mount a raid on that place.”

The Doctor paused, momentarily looking almost impressed. “I may have misjudged you. You’d raid the sanctum without legal authority?”

Stark grimaced and gave a reluctant nod. “Legal authority’s the problem, yes. I’ll have to call the minister and get his permission.”

The Doctor sighed, sinking back into a pose of lethargic derision. “And if you don’t get it?” he asked sceptically.

“Well... then I’ll go over his head. I’ll get on to Geneva.”

“Oh, super.”

Scornfully the Doctor turned away from him and hurled open the car door. He scrambled out and began hiking back up the hill towards the trees which clustered around the sanctum walls. Stark leaned across the seat to shout after him.

“Doctor, if you’re caught doing something illegal don’t rely on me to help you.”

“Seems I can’t rely on you to help with anything,” the Doctor tossed his reply back over his shoulder. “Do your thing, Colonel. Call the minister, get on to Geneva. I’m going to find Angela.”