Yeah, the episode title for this one is particularly bad. I am not very good with titles, but this one is especially embarassing. Many apologies, but I am not going to edit it. If I start editing my old fanfics, I will never finish anything, and that way lies madness. 😉
The Masque of the Baron
EPISODE FOUR: in which there is (finally) some violence
The Doctor walked briskly down the streets of Paris, retracing his steps to the TARDIS. It was vital that he get to the delicate scanning equipment on board. There was something very odd going on and there was no way the Doctor was going to let it simply happen.
–Ah, but it’s not so simple, said a tiny voice in the back of the Doctor’s mind.
“No?” he replied, vaguely aware that he was talking to himself and not really caring.
–No. And you know it, replied the voice. –One death does not a villanous plot make.
“True, but it was an odd death.” The Doctor frowned into the darkening Parisian night. It was very late. Behind him, a lone car turned off the road, and the night was again silent.
–Not really. It may have been a crime of passion.
“But on the other hand, it . . .” The Doctor broke off in the middle of retorting to himself. He’d heard a sound. The sound was repeated, and the Doctor recognized it as a the firing of a pistol fitted with a faulty silencer. And he heard it again. And again. He ran, searching the source of the sound. It had to be nearby.
He was not disappointed. Rounding a corner, he spotted three teenage boys huddled by a garbage bin. He shouted at them, and they looked up. “Merde!” one of them shouted. “Allez!” And they scattered like frightened birds.
There was a groaning sound from beyond the garbage bin. The Doctor stepped closer and saw a young man, bleeding heavily from wounds in his leg, arm, chest, and stomach. He’d be lucky if he lived ten minutes.
“It’s all right,” said the Doctor, crouching by the young man. “I won’t hurt you.” He saw that the young man was tall and neatly dressed, possibly a student. But his eyes were glazed with pain, and his breath came in short, ragged bursts.
“Monsieur . . . ,” he gasped, painfully. “Ou est . . . ou est les . . .”
“Where are your attackers?” the Doctor asked, mentally shifting into French. “Don’t worry. They’re gone now.”
“They . . . they have killed me, I think,” said the young man.
“Why?” asked the Doctor.
But the young man shook his head, causing himself to cough painfully. A trickle of blood ran down his chin. “I don’t know. They took . . . they took my money . . . and . . .” He coughed again. “They said . . . they said . . . I do not matter, I’m not . . . important to the Baron. . . but they took my money.” A spasm went through the young man, causing him to gasp in agony. “And then . . . they killed me.”
The Doctor closed his eyes in sorrow, then took his head in his lap. “Don’t worry,” he said, stroking the dying man’s brow in a vain effort to comfort him. “Brave heart.” And then the man died.
Slowly untangling himself from the dead man, the Doctor stood, a grim determination on his features. Whoever this Baron was that the killers mentioned to the young man, he had no right to decide who is important.
“Everyone is important,” muttered the Doctor, gazing off into the middle distance. As a consequence of his distraction, he started when he felt a tapping on his shoulder.
He spun around, raising his umbrella defensively, only to find that it was the young lady who’d been following him around. “Well,” he said, his voice tinged with barely veiled anger. “I really think you’ve got some explaning to do, Miss Johnson.” And he rapped the ferrule of his umbrella on the pavement to emphasize his point.
She looked extremely nervous, and kept glancing about. “I just . . . well, I was just wondering . . . can I help?” And she indicated the young man’s corpse.
“Well,” replied the Doctor, “there’s not much anyone short of a Guardian could do. Can’t you see he’s dead?” He stared at her, astonished by her bald-faced play-acting. “Just what do you think you’re playing at, Miss Johnson?”
She opened her mouth, but before she could answer, a voice called out. “Terri!” it said. “Are you all right?”
The Doctor turned towards the source of the sound. Jogging from the corner was the young man who had identified himself as Adam Pierson. “Oh, bother,” said the Doctor. There was no way he could go to his TARDIS now, not with these two meddlers around. Meanwhile, Terri called out a greeting.
The Doctor scowled. “Well, well, well,” he said. “If it isn’t Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” he muttered, quite loud enough for both of the humans to hear.
“I don’t think that was called for,” said Adam, annoyed.
The Doctor scowled at him. “Well, what do you expect?” he said, indignant. “You’ve been following me around all day and refuse to explain why!”
Terri looked sidelong at Adam. He returned the gaze. After several seconds of tense silence, Adam turned back to the Doctor. “We’re curious about these murders as well.”
“That hardly explains why you’ve been following me.”
“I know,” replied Adam, curtly.
The Doctor looked into Adam’s eyes as he had before. But this time Adam did not shrink away but gazed intensely back. It was as though a mask had dropped from his formerly soft, warm features, revealing a cold hardness, as of a rocky shoreline, worn down to its unforgiving core by the weight of millenia. The Doctor found himself startled. His brows knit together. All of a sudden, Adam reminded him of his own kind.
But that was not possible. The Doctor would have known immediately if Adam bore the telepathic presence of a Time Lord.
Shaking himself back to reality, the Doctor turned away from Adam and looked instead at Terri, who was looking very worried. “Yes,” said the Doctor. “Well. What was it you wanted, child?”
Terri spluttered at this. “What? Child? I’m twenty-six, I’ll have you know!” Adam poked her in the ribs, hissing at her to shut up. “What?” she said, looking up at him. After a few moments, she seemed to realize something and did shut up.
Adam spoke. “Terri wanted to ask you what you might know about the murders.”
The Doctor frowned at Adam. “And why do you want to know?”
“We’re . . . private investigators.”
“Very well,” said the Doctor. “I suppose that nothing will dissuade you, so you might as well come along.” With that, he spun around and began marching off in the direction of the TARDIS.
After a few paces, he realized that Adam and Terri were not following. Pausing, he called back, “Well, come on!” He was gratified to see them catch up to him a moment later.
Elsewhere in the darkening City of Light, two forces met.
In an underground chamber, the leaders of two adolescent gangs snarled at one another. Their followers (naturally) followed suit. But the tension in that vast, long-forgotten segment of the Paris sewer was unnatural. Ordinarily, such a meeting would have had an air of pride, rivalry, and powerful loyalty to one’s own side. But tonight the air seethed with equal parts anticipation, thrill, and fear.
A booming sound echoed through the chamber, and all was silent.
“Children, listen to me now!” called a voice. The voice was strong, stronger than it had been in seven years. The teenaged gangs turned as one body to watch the speaker. It was Michel, standing proudly on a high stone catwalk. There was none of the earlier pain in his form. He had gotten his nepenthe. Indeed, he had gotten something infinitely better than his usual nepenthe.
The bringer of his dark purpose stood quietly behind Michel, smiling quietly to himself. Yes!, thought the Baron. Things are moving perfectly, better than any masque before. Michel had spoken to eight gangs thus far, and had roused each into a frenzy. They were each convinced that Michel was their prophet, come to bring the final reckoning of youthful might over conventional law and order.
“Children of the night,” called Michel. “Children of poverty and sorrow, despair no longer! For today is our day, our day of truth and unconquerable right!”
The dark Baron watched, pleased beyond words, as Michel roused the teenagers into a fighting frenzy. True, Michel, not being as expressive — or indeed as literate — as Robespierre, had required extensive coaching on this speech. But the Baron enjoyed writing these words almost as much as he enjoyed watching their effect on the rabid crowd.
He was less pleased when he saw the older, more experienced leaders step out of the crowd and challenge Michel. There was, however, a contingency plan to deal with this. All it required was to kill the leaders.
The Baron smiled, fingering the hilt of his broadsword. Tonight, another kill, another appetizer to whet his hunger for the main course, the sacrifice.
He threw back his head and laughed. Loud, long peals of laughter bubbled up horribly from the dark Baron’s lips. When he lowered his head again at last, he saw that everyone had gone silent and was staring at him in fear. He bowed before Michel, giving the impression to the ignorant fools below that he was Michel’s servant, and lept down from the catwalk.
He fell ten yards, landed on his feet, and grinned at the two gang leaders. He licked his lips. The two boys were each over six feet tall and both were very strong. One pulled out a bowie knife. The other drew a black combat knife from his boot, not taking his eyes from the Baron. They were strong, experienced street fighters.
They never stood a chance.
In an instant, the Baron had drawn his broadsword and swung it across, grinning like a mad demon as the blade flickered faster than either of the boys could follow. The one with the bowie knife swept it up in a vicious arc that should have severed the dark man’s windpipe, but that cut through air instead as the broadsword sliced unnoticed through the boy’s gut. He gasped once, then fell to the ground, bleeding quickly to death.
Meanwhile, the combat knife was moving lower, slashing at the dark man’s midriff, taking advantage of the Baron’s motion as he killed the other boy. But somehow the Baron’s sword had already come clear of its first victim and lept out to parry. It struck the knife with such force that it was knocked clear out of the boy’s hand. The boy scarcely noticed it leave his hand before he felt cold steel sliding into his chest and through his heart. He spasmed once and died.
The Baron’s strange, bicolor eyes glittered madly. He pulled his sword free, wiped it on the first boy’s jacket, sheathed it, and then climbed up the sheer face of the wall to return to Michel’s side. There was no want of attention for Michel after that. The Baron’s lunatic smile never once wavered.