Lying in Wait

by johne [Reviews - 3]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Series

Author's Notes:
Written for the dw-straybunnies Twelve Prompts of Christmas. Prompt 12, "Story set in Ancient Greece"

UNIT is operating in classical Greece by means of really stretching UNIT dating.

The night was warm, but it wasn't either the temperature or the distant sound of the sea that were keeping Sarah Jane Smith from sleeping. Lying motionless on the couch, she tried to keep her breathing regular and her eyes shut. If the Doctor was right, someone was on their way to make sure this night would be Sarah's last.

Not for the first time, she wondered how much of the night had passed. Sometimes it seemed as if she'd been lying there for no more than a few heartbeats; at others, that the dawn must already have come and the sun be high in the sky. Her left leg was feeling stiff and uncomfortable, but she didn't dare to move it.

Sarah's heart leapt suddenly, and she felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck. She hadn't heard any footsteps, but she was sure there was somebody in the room, and they were getting closer. Maybe it was some tiny sound the intruder had made, or a change in the feeling of the air; maybe it was nothing more than instinct. Not even daring to breathe, Sarah sensed that someone was leaning over her...


There was a clatter as of something metallic hitting the stone floor. Almost at once, Sarah's eyes were open and she was on her feet. In a ray of moonlight from the narrow window, she could make out two figures struggling: one, from his grey hair, must be the Doctor, while the other was merely a shadowy, cloaked outline. She snatched up the woollen blanket she'd been feigning sleep under, and threw it over the other figure's head.

The sounds of struggle had obviously carried beyond the confines of the room: as she and the Doctor struggled with their unknown assailant, running feet could be heard from several directions. Two Scythian watchmen burst in, one holding a torch, the other a cudgel. The torchbearer stood back, holding his brand up to provide light, while his partner joined the Doctor and Sarah in subduing their assailant. As he did so, the Brigadier appeared in the doorway, the torchlight gleaming off his breastplate and the short sword in his hand.

"Have you got him?" he demanded.

"We have," the Doctor said. He pulled the blanket off their prisoner's head. "Or rather, her."

"Galene!" Sarah exclaimed.

Sure enough, the figure held between the Doctor and the watchman was none other than the mistress of the house, her dark curls in disarray and her face that of a Fury.

"Are you telling me she killed her own slave?" the Brigadier demanded.

"And tried to kill me," Sarah added.

The Doctor nodded. "She had something in her hand. I forced her to drop it, but it should be around somewhere. Wait," he added, as Sarah prepared to make a search. "If you do find anything, be very careful how you handle it."

The room was sufficiently small and bare that even in the flickering torchlight the search didn't take long. "Is this it?" she asked, straightening up.

"A brooch?" the Brigadier interjected. "Really, Doctor!"

"Yes, a brooch," the Doctor said. "And I suggest nobody touches the pin. Can you see, it looks slightly waxy?"

Sarah leaned forward to get a better look, but whether she was seeing or imagining the sheen on the fastening of the brooch, she wasn't sure.

"Anyway," the Doctor continued. "If you aren't convinced, give me a few hours and I'll have a full chemical analysis for you."

"Or we could just try it on a condemned prisoner," the Brigadier suggested casually.


From the upper-floor colonnade surrounding the courtyard, the Brigadier watched the Scythians escort Galene from the house. Then he turned to the Doctor.

"How did you come to suspect her?" he asked.

"The first clue was the octopus in the bath," the Doctor replied. "You remember, the one Sarah found."

The Brigadier raised an eyebrow. "How was that the slightest use?"

"Well, I started from the premise that it was related to Nicanor's death. And the most likely possibility was that he'd been the one carrying it. After all, his responsibilities included the preparation of food."

"So he was going to bring the octopus up here," Sarah said. She peered down into the courtyard. "But when he came out of the kitchen door, I suppose he saw something."

"I expect Galene was waiting for him by the bathhouse door," the Doctor said. "Or maybe she contrived a meeting. Anyway, she ordered him to go with her. Once they were safely out of sight... you remember that scratch on his arm?"

The Brigadier nodded. "You think she poisoned him?"

"That was what she was going to do to me," Sarah said. She shivered, and pulled her blanket tightly around her. "I expect she used that brooch again."

"Assuming the brooch does actually turn out to be poisoned." The Brigadier considered the scenario. "But whatever happened, in the confusion he dropped the meal in the bath."

"Or maybe the poison was already starting to take effect," the Doctor said. "Anyway, she got him back to his quarters and hurried back to the gynaikon. It would only have taken a couple of minutes; it's very unlikely anyone would have noticed her absence."

"Why didn't she fish that octopus out of the pool again?"

"She couldn't risk getting her clothes wet – that would have been impossible not to notice. And there wasn't time. Even though she'd sent the other slaves on pointless errands to get them out of the way, one of them could have come back at any minute."

"So that was why she was so insistent about sending me halfway across town with that message," Sarah said.

"Which was a mistake on her part, of course. She didn't know you can read."

The Brigadier cleared his throat. "And so, she found out tonight that Miss Smith had been able to read the 'message', and knew it was nothing of the kind. I presume you two then played out that little scene in the courtyard for her benefit?"

"Quite correct." The Doctor took up the tale. "She thought that Sarah Jane knew the truth, or part of it, and was going to tell me tomorrow. Logically, she'd try to silence Sarah first. So we set a trap for her."

"I can't say I approve of that, Doctor. To place a young woman in that position–"

"Don't I get a say in the matter?" Sarah asked, an edge creeping into her voice.

The Doctor rubbed his neck. "It had to be done, Lethbridge-Stewart. Otherwise Galene would most likely have got away with it – and it's quite possible that someone else could have been executed for the murder."

"Assuming it was a murder." The Brigadier sighed. "If that wretched brooch turns out not to be poisoned after all, I'll be spending the rest of my career scrubbing graffiti off the Long Walls. Oh, and in case the magistrate does ask, I presume you've also come up with a reason why she wanted to kill her slave and make it look like an accident?"

The Doctor shook his head. "I can think of several possible reasons, but I haven't any evidence for them."

"Then I take it you haven't looked in her room," Sarah said.

"Of course not!" the Brigadier protested. "I had no reason to."

"Well, when you do, take someone who knows about perfumes and cosmetics. I'm sure some of hers come from Persia. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she's been spying on her husband and passing the information to the Persians, and Nicanor found out about it."

The Brigadier nodded. "I'll suggest that the magistrates have that looked into. Now, I suggest that you try to get what rest you can. We've still got that business at Eleusis to look into tomorrow."

"Oh, yes, the insect-headed men." Sarah found herself yawning; the last few hours of tension and sleeplessness were catching up with her in a rush. "Do you think there's anything in that?"

"There'd better be," the Doctor said. "Your friend Myron had something of a cheek to call us in. Just because he's a member of the Council doesn't mean he has the right to call in UNIT whenever he thinks his slaves are behaving oddly."

"He suspected alien influence," the Brigadier said patiently. "You can't expect that every time someone asks for our help it'll turn out to be the Master or the Monk up to their old tricks."

Sarah yawned again, distracting the other two from any thought of an argument. "I'm turning in," she said. "Good night." She turned away, then stopped in the doorway. "Or what's left of it," she added.