Doctor Who – Phantom of the French Opera (2nd rough draft)
Van Turner, 2013
Started: March 8, 2013
Finished: February 2, 2015
Revised: March 8, 2017
This is my third attempt (I think) at writing a Doctor Who story, the first two attempts having been when I was a teenager in the late ‘80s. This is by far the most complete Doctor Who story I’ve written and one of the most challenging stories I’ve written. It took considerably longer than it should have done. I actually had to do research for this story, as I wanted to write a Doctor Who story set in New Orleans that involved an unsolved mystery. In my research, I came across two: the factual French Opera House fire and the urban legend Jacque St. Germain. I decided to play with time a little and put the two together.
I should mention that I’ve never been in the house at the corner of Royal and Ursulines so the description I write here is entirely fictional. And, of course, my description of the inside of the Opera House is entirely fictional. Also, for all that I know O’Flaherty’s closed after hurricane Katrina, I don’t know when demolition began to build a new restaurant in its place. I should probably apologize for having taken extreme creative license with all these structures.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say thanks to the kind, patient people at the Historic New Orleans Collection for their invaluable assistance in the research for this story. I’ve never done research for a fiction piece before and the HNOC provided me with material much needed for historical background. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. I highly encourage everyone to visit the HNOC in the French Quarter. Details at: http://www.hnoc.org/
This work is dedicated to my wife of nearly twenty-five years, Anna Turner. She has been my rock of support for this and so many projects and has been exceptionally patient in allowing me to indulge my inner Who.
Cold. That was the first sensation that entered his subconscious mind. He was cold. Again. Like the last time. And the time before that and so on… And there was softness under his head, back, and legs. His head was on a pillow and there was something soft covering him. It was of the same texture as the softness under him.
It was quiet. A quiet so deep it almost had presence. It was like an old friend. He opened his eyes to the darkness, knowing it would be there, waiting patiently as ever. Darkness so black it felt solid, though he could see just fine. There was the smell, the musty moist smell that was as ever present as the darkness and the quiet. The quiet, the darkness, and the smell; the things that never changed.
He raised his hands up in what he knew was an incredibly confined space. His hands quickly met a soft texture, silk he thought, under which was a harder surface. He pushed up with all of his strength, pleased to find that he was strong again. Being physically weak, having to burn up valuable blood had become such a bore. But allowing himself to age had allowed him to blend in. A lesson well-learned, he thought.
The surface his hands met offered considerable resistance. Sealed, he thought. One day he would remember to put that in his will. Do not seal… He pushed harder, burning blood to add to his physical strength and with the sound of something metal breaking echoing hollowly the surface against which he pushed pivoted up and to the right.
He sat up slowly in his casket, for that’s where he was, in the dark, dank space, his hands feeling above him for the concrete ceiling he knew was there. This was a familiar place and so much better than in-ground burial. That was never pleasant no matter how many times…
He paused for a moment, reflecting. How many times had this made now? He’d kept count for a while, then stopped a long time ago. Ridiculous myth, that, having to count things, he thought.
He reached over the edge of his casket and, with some difficulty in the small space, pulled and clambered over the edge and out of the box. It was a beautiful casket, a dark mahogany with brass fittings. Another one wasted, he thought as he edged his way around to the bronze door set in the concrete wall. So much extravagance spent on something that couldn’t, by nature of being dead, care less. Such a curious tradition, yet so many societies have done it for so long…
He pushed against the cold metal doors only to discover that they were locked from the outside. This was said to prevent vandalism and theft. There was another psychology behind it as well to do with easing of minds and hearts. He gathered his strength again and pushed harder than any living human should be able to. The lock shattered and the doors opened onto the night.
He stepped out of the mausoleum into the night-darkened cemetery. His knees buckled and he staggered back against the single occupant tomb, holding himself up against the concrete structure. He looked around to get his bearings and waited a moment to get his strength back.
As he paused, he began to feel sensation again; the mild breeze, cold on his skin, the slight mist lightly dampening his clothes. The smell of dirt, grass and masonry finally came to his nose. Then he stood, dusted down his grey funeral suit and walked calmly, if a bit stiffly, toward the main gate.
He was weak from the strange occurrence that had happened to him and the subsequent healing process he’d undergone; and from the exertion of evacuating his tomb. He needed to feed. This was a good-sized city and there were almost always people out and about. He just needed to make sure his prey wasn’t missed for a while and never found.
The wrought iron railing gate was locked but it was only a moment of exertion to break the gate open. Pulling the gate closed behind him, he left the sparsely tree-covered cemetery with its granite and concrete tombs lined up like houses in a residential neighborhood city block. Cities of the dead, Mark Twain had called them. And this city had several, was famous for them, among other things.
He walked past the poorly lit cemetery, down the poorly lit, broken sidewalk, lining the brick and wrought iron rail wall of the cemetery. There were very few stars out or at least few that one could see from the city through the oak trees that had bullied their way through the sidewalk in places. But no sign of the moon, either.
It wasn’t a long walk to the tavern. It was, in fact, almost right across the normally busy street. Had this been in daylight hours, it would have been teeming with traffic passing back and forth on the wide, four-lane street. He crossed to the warmly lit tavern, which sat fairly close to the street, only the sidewalk separating them.
It was a two-storey building made to look vaguely like an English tavern and, in some context, pretended to be one. Through the large multi-paned window, he could see several people, some playing pool or darts, some playing video poker, some even dancing while someone else was trying their skill at karaoke. Almost all were drinking. All he had to do was to wait until someone came out alone.
As he gazed into the tavern, he glanced only momentarily at the ghostly image in the window. It was only an afterthought to cease casting a reflection. It had taken a while for him to be able to cast a reflection continuously and automatically but it wasn’t an effort to stop and the image faded away.
He didn’t have to wait long before someone left alone and headed towards the car-lined curb to a parked car. She looked to be in her early twenties, was about average height, slender built with long red hair. She hadn’t dressed very warmly against the increasingly cool, misty night.
He wasn’t interested in her looks or her dress sense. As silently as darkness he came up beside her. She only just saw him out of the corner of her brilliant blue eyes. But by then, it was too late. She saw a pair of dark eyes, darker than anything she’d ever seen and she knew, she knew in the way a gazelle knows when caught by the lion, knew that she was going to die.
But she didn’t. When she woke the next morning with a splitting headache and dog-tired and no memory of how she got home, Theresa Brown of Cleveland, Ohio, pharmacy student at Xavier University, attributed her condition to too much alcohol and a hell of a hangover. But she was alive. Now where on Earth did she get those marks on her neck?
Eric Howard turned the key to lock the door of his house on his way out. He turned the black doorknob and shook the old red painted door to make sure it was locked. Not that it mattered much as the top half of the door was a single pane of glass in the wooden frame, which rattled ominously when he shook the door. The light blue checked curtains were pulled across the window all the same.
Eric walked away from the door across the covered patio of the double shotgun house of which he rented half. The other half was occupied by a couple of students who were sharing the space and splitting the rent. Smart guys, Eric thought.
He walked up the sidewalk of Broadway Street toward St. Charles Avenue, the street here being lined with more shotgun houses and ancient oak trees, the roots of which had broken the sidewalk in several places making it necessary to step either over or around the obstruction. Mother Nature making an attempt to reclaim her own, he had thought several times in the past.
Eric briefly wished he’d worn his boots instead of sneakers. His boots would have offered better ankle support, would have been warmer and would have offered better protection against puddles of questionable content in the French Quarter, his destination.
School had been a bear (and the bear ate him) this week and Eric was looking forward to relaxing in the Quarter before going on shift tonight. And for all that school had been out for a week, his Master’s thesis was an ever-present project and he was also helping his professor grade undergraduate papers. No rest for the wicked, he thought.
Eric had worn blue jeans and a brown leather baseball jacket over a khaki v-neck sweater. It was actually almost chilly out, odd for New Orleans, even in December. New Orleans tended to have four seasons: almost summer, summer, still summer and Christmas. Winter hadn’t truly come this year yet. Last year it was on a Thursday. The days had definitely gotten shorter, though and the nights were at least pleasant, he thought as the light breeze passed harmlessly through his long black hair, which was pulled back in braids.
Eric reached St. Charles Avenue and crossed to the wide expanse of grass in the middle of the street. Here and everywhere else in New Orleans that expanse was called the “neutral ground” instead of a median like most other cities. Two sets of train tracks ran up the middle of the neutral ground. He stood at the yellow sign marking the stop, where only a handful of other people were waiting, and prepared to wait for the streetcar with his money already in his hand.
Eric didn’t have to wait long before hearing the familiar grumble and pop of the green streetcar line and the number 963 car slowly rolled to a stop, metal wheels squealing protest against the brakes, the doors opening at either end with a clatter. The large dark green rectangular contraption with rounded corners had a row of windows about a third of the way down from the roof and an antenna-like mast rising at an angle to contact with the power line that ran over head and followed the tracks.
A couple of people exited the rear and walked around the front of the streetcar and while he, along with the handful of people also waiting, entered the car from the doors at the front.
The driver rang the bell and started the streetcar rolling as Eric dropped his money into the receptacle but before Eric had found his seat. Walking on the moving streetcar was something like finding your sea legs. You had to sort of anticipate the rocking motion and use it to your advantage. Eric used the metal handles on the wooden bench seats to steady himself, nodding to fellow riders as he swung into a seat on the port side of the streetcar.
As he sat, from behind him, Eric heard two women talking about the latest event from last night’s news.
“Mary said hers were just sitting at the table, eating dinner,” said the one woman. “A man, a woman and two kids.”
“Louise said she had an old black lady folding laundry.”
Eric had heard the news as well. A series of strange occurrences happening around the city, the greatest concentration seeming to be in the Quarter, people were seeing what seemed to be ghosts. This had been going on for weeks and getting worse; more people were seeing them. So far none of the scientific community had been able to explain the occurrences.
Eric wondered if it wasn’t some mass hoax or something in the water. Or something they’d all been taking. Ghosts? Really?
He was tired, though, from grading his students’ papers. Eric was studying for his master’s in history at Tulane University and, even though school was out for the Christmas break, he, as a student teacher, still had work to do. He was looking forward to relaxing in the French Quarter for a bit before going to work tonight.
He then shifted to try to get comfortable in the wooden bench seat, his jacket a cushion between himself and the hard surface. He pulled the ear buds for his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, slipped them into his ears, relaxed a bit and let the rocking motion of the moving streetcar help him unwind as it always did.
Eric’s brown eyes weren’t actually watching the traffic on St. Charles or seeing the old houses and many mighty ancient oak trees that lined the street as they passed by, his dark-skinned reflection barely viewable in the glass of the streetcar window. He was daydreaming and the streetcar had only gone a few blocks before his relaxation was interrupted by the sound of the X-Files theme playing in his ear. It was his ring tone playing over the music he was listening to. Someone was calling him.
Eric looked at the screen of his phone to see who was calling. His heart sank a bit as he recognized his employer’s number and answered, “Hello?” in what he hoped wasn’t a voice that sounded too aggravated.
“Eric, need you to come on in to work,” said the heavily New Orleans accented voice in his ear. Eric had always thought it sounded almost like someone from the Bronx. “We need to go over details for the Amestring house tonight.”
Eric couldn’t get too irritated. He was excited about tonight. His curiosity peaked at the mention of Amestring’s house. He liked the house. Situated at the corner of Royal Street and Ursulines Avenue, the house had been one of several he’d wanted to use as a topic for his Master’s thesis, “Unsolved Mysteries of New Orleans.” Sadly, his instructors had turned down the idea.
The house had been closed to the public several months ago after the previous owner had sold the house and moved away, apparently on a whim. Finally bought several weeks ago, the new owner had recently contacted the tour company Eric worked for with the news that he was going to be opening it for private tours. One such event was for later tonight and he, Eric Howard, was the tour guide.
“Okay. I’m on the streetcar, passing up Jefferson now. I’ll be on Canal in about thirty minutes.” Probably closer to forty-five, he thought to himself.
“Okay, see you when you get here.”
They mutually disconnected and Eric went back to listening to his music. History student at Tulane and part time tour guide in the French Quarter; he couldn’t have asked for better, he thought as the streetcar rattled and popped its way up St. Charles Avenue.
It was dark in the short alley that ran between the buildings. What little light there was came in from the open courtyard at the far end of the alley. The courtyard was open to the sky for all that there were apartments around most of it, and ivy growing abundantly all over. A dry fountain stood in the middle of the courtyard, dry save for some trash and leaves.
The windows that faced the alley were boarded up and the doors were barricaded closed to dissuade would-be looters. Some trash littered the alley. From outside, one could just hear the sounds of traffic on the streets outside. A brass band played somewhere, the trombone almost clear, even in here. But inside, all was still. There was no wind and there was a light mist which was reduced to almost nothing by the short buildings that made up the alley.
Then there was a sound, a whisper just barely audible. A weird roaring electronic groaning noise whispered from somewhere. It got louder quickly and filled the courtyard as the air shimmered and something began to take shape. The wind kicked up and sent the leaves and trash swirling around.
The noise and wind reached a peak as something blue slowly appeared from nowhere. There, standing in the courtyard, was a large blue box where there had been empty space only a moment before. The box was about four feet square and quite tall and had panels like wainscoting on each side. It had two six-light windows each of the four sides toward the top and a flashing light on the roof. Above the windows but below the roof on each side was a built-out section with a lighted sign that read POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX. One side had handles, as if for doors. Below one of the windows, on the left side, instead of a blue panel, there was a white section that appeared to be a sign with a handle. The TARDIS had arrived.
Suddenly the right hand door was snatched open and a man stepped quickly out into the gloomy darkness of the courtyard, slamming the door behind him. He was young looking, tall, and thin with a mop of longish brown hair combed somewhat over to one side. His blue eyes took in the scene around him in an instant and were then on the odd looking instrument in his right hand. It was box-shaped, but tapered to fit the hand and had some buttons and knobs set into it, along with a screen.
The man spun around in place, waving the box around, peering intently at the readout, listening to the soft ticking the device was making. His dark tweed jacket fanned out behind him as he spun, his hair going a bit askew, his face slightly puzzled and concerned.
“It’s alright, Clara,” he called, looking only slightly back over his shoulder to the box. “It’s safe. You can come out.”
A petite woman with long brunette hair stepped out of the box and looked around. She had brown eyes and a pert, slightly upturned nose. Her knee high black leather boots splashed in a puddle and she frowned at the thought of her feet getting wet.
The woman looked up expectantly to the man in the black skinny jeans, with his mischievous grin, his eyes sparkling. Her eyes narrowed as she realized that her short sleeve shirt and mini skirt was wrong for the local weather. It was chilly out.
“So, where’s this, then?” she asked, an eyebrow raised quizzically.
“I don’t know,” he said looking around. “We got pulled off course. Not many things can pull the TARDIS off course,” he said stuffing his scanning device under an arm, then his hands into the pockets of his jeans, rocking back and forth from heel to toe.
“Doctor,” Clara addressed him, “you said we got caught in a rift?”
“Yes,” said the Doctor. “A time rift. A weak point in the fabric of time. It’s like a cut that’s healed,” and in a flash of movement the Doctor whirled around, whipping the scanner from under his arm and was peering accusingly at it. “There was a distortion in the rift. Like someone has tried to take off the bandage. That’s what drew us off course. It’s gone now.”
“But we’re still going to try to find who’s been peeling back the bandage?”
The Doctor turned back to Clara, eyes sparkling with mischief. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
“Mind if I go back inside and grab a jacket?” Clara asked. “It’s a bit chilly out here.” Without waiting, she dashed back inside the TARDIS but was back out almost immediately, a waist length denim jacket thrown over her shirt.
The Doctor locked the TARDIS door and they walked out of the courtyard and up the alley to a pair of green wooden doors, passing the boarded up windows and doors on either side of the alley. There was a heavy chain run through holes in both doors, securing them closed.
“Listen,” said the Doctor, leaning towards the doors. Clara leaned forward as well and both of them put an ear to a door. Beyond the doors, they could hear the murmur of motor vehicle traffic.
As they stepped away from the doors, the Doctor pointed to the heavy chain.
“The lock is on the outside. I’ll have to cut the chain.” He pulled a black and gold rod-like device with one bulbous end, his sonic screwdriver, from his inside coat pocket and pointed it at the chain. At the press of a button, the bulbous tip glowed green and it emitted a high-pitched warbling sound. After only a few seconds, a link in the chain snapped and the chain swung freely from either door.
The Doctor pushed the links of the chain back through a hole in one of the doors and soon it swung easily outward. He pushed it open just a bit and peered cautiously out. Seeing only a few people much farther up the narrow street, he stepped quickly out onto the sidewalk, followed just as quickly by Clara. They both stood for a moment letting their eyes adjust to the late afternoon gloom.
“I smell water,” said Clara, wrinkling her nose.
The Doctor, in turn, sniffed the air a bit and agreed. “Coming from that way,” he pointed along the short end of the street they were on. They walked to the corner and suddenly the Doctor exclaimed, “Toulouse Street!” pointing at the black street sign.
Clara looked somewhat wide-eyed back at him. “And that means we’re where?”
“New Orleans!” he was almost hopping now. He’d pronounced it “New Or-leans,” as in it leans over. “We’re in the French Quarter of New Orleans.”
Clara had never been to America before. From twenty-first century England, she’d been to planets far away but never here. So close, yet so far away.
They rounded the corner and instantly realized that this was more likely the traffic they’d heard inside the alley. It was much busier on Decatur Street with throngs of people walking up and down both sides of the street. And there was the vehicle traffic moving slowly along the street.
“Where’s the water smell coming from?” Clara asked, hurrying to catch up with the Doctor whose long legs and quick pace had Clara jogging, almost running.
“The Mississippi River isn’t more than a couple hundred yards from us,” he said pointing across the street. He stopped so suddenly that Clara ran into him. He turned and peered at a newspaper displayed in the door of a newspaper bin.
“Friday, December 21, 2012,” he said, reading the dateline from the front page of the Times-Picayune. “Just in time for the winter solstice.”
“Or the end of the world,” said Clara, grinning.
The Doctor turned to face her, looking alarmed. “Do you know something I don’t?” his eyes searching hers.
Clara gave him a mischievous look. “The Mayan calendar?”
“Rubbish,” the Doctor said, dismissing the idea with the wave of a hand. “I helped them write their calendar and that is not what that was supposed to mean. And a very dear friend’s birthday is December 21.”
Directly across from where they were standing was a parking lot and to the left of that was Jackson Brewery. The Doctor turned full circle, passers by paying scant attention to this behavior. It was the French Quarter; strange behavior was the norm.
“I used to know this great little place…,“ he began as they started down Decatur deeper into the French Quarter.
After several minutes walking they came upon Jackson Square with its enclosed courtyard, tall black wrought iron fence around it, and large statue of Andrew Jackson in the middle of it. Behind the courtyard, one could just see the spires of St. Louis cathedral through the trees in the park.
Clara looked down the narrow street which ran between the park and the last building they’d passed. There were people seated at tables, selling paintings, telling fortunes, selling flowers, and playing music, all against the fence encircling Jackson Square. On the other side of the street, she could see shops along the continuous wall with a broad, covered sidewalk in front of them.
Across from the park was a small concrete amphitheater. A crowd had gathered to watch a group of people perform what looked like a cross between dancing and gymnastics. The crowd was mostly seated in the concrete rows that made up the three-sided bowl of the amphitheater.
Above and behind the amphitheater, a couple of people were trying to use the pay-use binoculars mounted on a post. And up the street from the crowd was a café with a green and white striped awning.
The Doctor led Clara across the busy street, past the three mule-drawn carriages that stood in front of Jackson Square, to Café du Monde, where the Doctor surprised Clara by ordering two orders of beignets and café au laits. Clara sat gratefully. The Doctor had kept her almost running from the moment they stepped out the TARDIS.
Their order arrived and they were soon both fairly well dusted in powdered sugar from the warm beignets. Clara wondered how anyone could drink coffee this strong. They took their time eating, watching the crowds of people come and go and somehow never stop.
“The last time I was in New Orleans,” the Doctor began, wiping powdered sugar mustache from his mouth, “I was helping Jean Lafitte hide from English Redcoats on his way to help Andy Jackson…”
Jack Amestring woke with a start. Not that he was actually asleep; he never truly slept. What woke him was the loud clatter of a pocket watch on the glass countertop in his antique store and art gallery.
Jack looked across the shop from where he was slouched, holding himself up on the back of a step ladder where he himself had nearly dropped his latest acquisition. That would have been a shame. The oil on canvas painting in its ornate mahogany frame had been difficult to acquire. The former owner hadn’t truly wanted to part with it and had needed persuading…
Alice Singleton, his indispensable assistant manager, was sitting wide-eyed and open-mouthed in disbelief at the counter, the pocket watch forgotten where it had fallen. Jack had known this moment would eventually come. He knew what she’d seen and was in a conflict over how to handle it.
Jack knew he could simply kill her but he genuinely liked Alice and didn’t want her death at his hands on his mind. He also knew that he could just make her forget. He wasn’t especially fond of the idea of messing with her memory as he wasn’t sure just what the long term effects might be. He didn’t care about the effects it had on all the others. This was a gift of his that he’d only used on her occasionally. Still, it beat the messy alternative. And besides, where would he find another assistant manager of her skill and gift of gab?
“Are you okay, Alice?” a voice asked her.
Alice looked to find Jack standing beside her though she didn’t remember having seen him move from his step ladder. The portly blond, mid-thirties looking woman, with dark eyes behind the simple black frame glasses, looked up from her work where she was researching the one of the items in the pile of antiques on the counter.
“Sorry, Jack,” she said sheepishly. “I was daydreaming,” shaking her head, clearing cobwebs from what could only have been a hell of a daydream. She could have sworn she saw the hands of the pocket watch moving backwards and when she looked up to tell Jack… It was all hazy now.
What neither of them had seen was the minor chaos outside. The ghosts had come back. People and vehicles by the dozens only barely visible appeared from nowhere; going to and fro on business only they knew. They passed harmlessly through buildings and living people alike. This alarmed some people, those who hadn’t seen the ghosts before. And there was some minor chaos as people panicked and began to run. The ancient vehicles and horse-drawn carts that appeared caused a few fender-benders.
And then they were gone. As suddenly and as quietly as they had appeared, they vanished.
Alice had come to him in response to the employment listing he’d posted online. She had been recently let go from her job with a big box retail store after a management downsizing and had come highly recommended. She considered herself very lucky. It wasn’t every day that you came across a job like this.
The space in which Jack had opened his fairly large antique shop and art gallery hadn’t been closed long before he had transformed it into what it was now. He had owned for over a hundred years and he made a mental effort to assure that the locals never noticed. The former shop had been a tourist trap knick-knack shop for several years. Jack closed it and sold all the goods at auction or donated to charity. It had been a furniture store before that.
Alice’s job with Jack was definitely a choice find: a management position with all the rights and responsibilities entitled thereto. She did have to wonder why he’d hired someone who knew so little about antiques. But the job had come with something she didn’t expect out of a French Quarter shop – fantastic regular pay. She didn’t question Jack’s hiring practices too closely. Something she had to give Jack real kudos for was his ability to sell.
That man could sell the proverbial snow to the proverbial Eskimo, she thought, remembering a customer who had left with a shaving kit. He’d been another customer claiming to have come in “just to look around” and had left having bought something. And he was another one who’d left with something akin to confusion on his face, as if to wonder why he’d bought this…
Alice’s primary task was inventory. It never ceased to amaze her just what Jack had in the shop. It was up to her to find out as much as possible and to arrange for an appraisal service to authenticate and value the items. She wasn’t too surprised to find that most of the items were very old but it puzzled her that many of them had some mystery involved.
The shop itself was what might be considered fairly large. Jack had hired contractors to remodel the space, following French Quarter Neighborhood Association regulations. He had to keep the large windows and the double doors with their large square windows and the original architectural features but they’d allowed him to update the lighting so it was a bright, well-lit space.
“Had me worried there, Alice,” said Jack, turning back to his work in the antique shop. This was an endeavor on which he had embarked a few weeks ago. He’d seen the rise of the T-shirt shops in the French Quarter and had wanted to put in something more tasteful. In that effort, his shop had actual antiques and real art.
The open space had rows of off-white square display cases, all of the same height, just below eye level for an average height person. They were each topped by clear glass cubes the each held an individual antique item: vases, coins, watches, eyeglasses, shaving kits, opera glasses, jewelry, and vanity sets. The walls were lined with a mix of antique and modern art, mostly paintings but also a fair amount of photographs, mostly black and white. The main counter was in the middle of the space, a small off-white square fortress with long, enclosed glass displays.
Jack passed the reflective surface of a display case and thought about the image he saw there, the minor effort it cost him. He looked to be in his mid forties with an aristocratic, European face, a Roman nose and wavy graying dark hair. Maintaining the reflection had become as automatic as breathing. If one needed to breathe, he thought. Though there had been times he’d forgotten…
“I think it’s time to call it a day,” Jack said. “Go home, get some dinner.”
“Yeah,” said Alice as she stood somewhat groggily from her chair.
Somehow she brushed the pocket watch off the counter and flinched, expecting the clatter of metal on the tile floor. It never came. Jack set the pocket watch on the counter without expression. Somehow he’d caught the watch, yet she never saw him move. The hands of the watch had been running backwards, the memory was right there…
Her train of thought derailed when Jack asked, “Are you coming for the tour?”
Alice knew Jack’s house was on some historic tour and had been of a couple of these when she was younger.
“Maybe next time,” she smiled as she gathered her purse, having thrown a light, jacket over her smart dress shirt and skirt. “I gotta help the kiddo with her homework.”
“Have a good night, then,” Jack said, closing the door behind her.
Jack had lived in New Orleans for a while, since the beginning of the twentieth century. He’d witnessed so much history in this city since coming here. And he’d come to truly enjoy life here. It had been so long since he could honestly say he enjoyed living. Jack had made a life for himself in the French Quarter, his home the large house farther down Royal Street, at the corner of Ursulines Avenue.
The Quarter provided pretty much everything he needed and Jack truly didn’t need much. Sure, summer was a beast with its long, hot days but he was used to that and could schedule his needs accordingly. He only had to be careful that his needs went mostly unnoticed and unsuspected.
See, for Jack to meet his needs meant that someone might have to die. It was said to be the only way a vampire could live, through the deaths of others. It didn’t matter if it was the next door neighbor or the neighbor’s Dachshund, Jack had to feed and that meant someone or something had to die sometimes. The circle of life, he thought cheerfully. Not that he would feed from a dog, mind. And Jack almost never killed anymore, modern crime-solving techniques and all. He had simply to feed enough to live.
Jack thought about his long life and how things had progressed here. It had been nearly two hundred years since he’d come to this country. He’d started in Europe, simply, but had gotten the attention of a nobleman, who’d taken him under his tutelage. There he’d mastered painting, music, woodworking, politics, and so many other things.
And then it was a quick rise to court where his ideas had gained certain notoriety. Part of European society had believed he was an alchemist of extraordinary talent and that he possessed an elixir for eternal youth. They certainly noticed that he didn’t appear to be getting any older, after a while. Some began to believe he was something evil and he’d had to flee. Having taken ship to the new world, he disappeared from the face of Europe and had come to America.
After spending a considerable amount of time wandering the country, he'd come to New Orleans and had immediately blended in. Jack set up his shop and had lived his life in relative anonymity. Though there had been that incident with the girl on the balcony. He’d had to disappear for a while.
Now, he had been back in his house, after convincing the previous owner to sell, and back in his shop, too, or at least the location, and something extraordinary was happening to him, something he couldn’t explain. It was what Alice had seen. He knew he had faded almost out of existence for a moment and he could almost hear voices, voices he knew he’d heard before. And he could just about see people and places that were familiar but were from another era of his life.
What is this strange thing that’s happening to me, he thought to himself. Can I control it, wondering if he made a conscious effort if he could disappear. But where will I go he wondered.
As Jack pondered, he turned off the lights, set the alarm, gathered his overcoat and left the shop. Locking the door behind him, he set off toward home. Legend had it that a vampire had lived in the house. What a surprise he had in store for his guests…
The smell of a bus hit Eric as he waited at the street corner for the light to change so that he could cross the busy street. Not that having the light in his favor would guarantee safe passage. Rumor had it that pedestrians didn’t have right-of-way in New Orleans. Not true, of course but he wasn’t taking any chances.
Eric looked down Canal Street toward the Mississippi River and, from his vantage point at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Canal, he could see the tour buses lined up three deep in front of the a hotel. The doors of the bus closest to the hotel opened with a squeal and its occupants began to file out onto the brick-bordered sidewalk. They stepped blinking at the approaching nighttime darkness.
Eric looked back up the other end of Canal as the light changed and the busily passing vehicles slowed to a stop – most of them. A couple decided apparently that either they couldn’t stop safely for the light and went on through or that the light didn’t apply to them and blew through it.
And then he saw them: the ghosts that appeared from nowhere, the antique cars jockeying for position on the busy street, the horse-drawn carts in amongst them. For a moment, nobody moved. Traffic stopped as people realized they weren’t alone. Surprisingly, there were but a couple of minor fender-benders as drivers were distracted.
Then, all of the apparitions vanished. Just as suddenly and as quietly as they had appeared, they were gone.
Canal Street was a four-lane street divided by the streetcar tracks, two lanes on either side. Eric and the handful of people who had gathered at the corner hurriedly crossed to the neutral ground, and then to the French Quarter side of Canal at Bourbon Street, all somewhat in shock at what had just happened.
Eric shook his head hard, trying to clear the images but there was no more blaming drugs. He was clean and he’d seen them along with everyone else. He didn’t really have time to ponder over it, though. He had to get to work.
Some of the crowd followed Eric as he walked up Canal toward the river. The light changed and traffic started moving again. The rest of the crowd, some local, some tourists, continued up either Bourbon Street or farther up to Decatur.
Eric turned left at Royal Street, leaving the noise of Canal behind and catching the pungent smell of the Mississippi River. He continued toward Toulouse, his intention to turn there. His work office was on Decatur and, though he could have continued down Canal to Decatur, he liked Royal Street with its antique stores.
Little did he realize it was possibly both the best and the worst choice he would make.
The Doctor and Clara had left Café du Monde at a dead run. They saw the clock above the order window run backwards and the ghosts appear from nowhere. At the same time the Doctor’s scanner started pinging.
They ran up Ursalines, then turning at Royal, heading back toward Canal, following the scanner, dodging the many wandering people with many an “excuse me” and the occasional “coming through.”
They had only one collision.
Eric allowed this tall, lanky guy in the Indiana Jones jacket to help him up as the cute brunette who appeared to be with him was making apologies.
“We are so sorry,” Clara was saying as she dusted down the athletically built, dark skinned fellow.
“It’s only that I was distracted by a passing mind,” said the Doctor absently, looking around as if he’d lost something. “A very powerful mind.”
“I’m fine,” said Eric as he checked himself for damage. “I’m leading tour of haunted places in the Quarter in a few minutes. Eric Howard, tour guide extraordinaire,” he introduced himself.
“I’m Clara and this is the Doctor and we’re on rather important business,” Clara explained.
“And it’s gone again,” said the Doctor, now peering at his scanner. Then he looked again. “Oh no!” he exclaimed, holding it out in both hands. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” He shook the scanner vigorously and looked again.
“What’s wrong, Doctor?” Clara asked as Eric looked on, bewildered. Several people walked by barely sparing the Doctor even a glance.
“It’s broken. The temporal disturbance detector is broken,” said the Doctor putting it back in a jacket pocket. He ran a hand over his face and leaned back against the wall of a building.
“Hey, that’s not my fault,” Eric started, wondering if this guy was going to make trouble over his gadget, whatever it was. “You were the one running.”
“Eric, Eric, Eric,” said the Doctor pushing himself off the wall and draping an arm around Eric’s shoulder. “It’s okay. No one said it was your fault. Quite right.” He pulled Eric in closer. “It’s just that we were trying to find a temporal anomaly, an erratic one, one that seemed to be getting stronger, one that could potentially destroy this city and that device was the only way I had of detecting the anomaly.”
They stood together for a moment before Eric extricated himself from this truly weird dude.
“So … do you want to come on the tour or not? Last house has a vampire.”
“A haunted house tour in the French Quarter?” the Doctor glanced at Clara who stood with one hand on a hip, giving an exasperated look.
“Normally, I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” the Doctor started, “however, I have to repair my detector. Clara, on the other hand would love to go, wouldn’t you, Clara?”
Clara just gave a narrow-eyed look.
“See, Eric, how excited she is to take your tour?” the Doctor grinned. Then he pulled Clara to aside, more serious now. “Go with Eric on the tour while I go back to the TARDIS and repair my device. There’s something else I want to check, something I’m missing. I won’t be long and you’ll be fine.”
Clara rolled her eyes and said, “Alright. Fine. I’ll go on the tour.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed the Doctor, beaming. “I will see you in a bit.”
As the Doctor hurried back up Royal, Clara turned to Eric.
“I suppose I’m going on your tour.”
“Great,” said Eric. “I have to go to the office first and change into my costume.”
“Costume?” asked Clara.
“You’ll see,” grinned Eric as he led her in the opposite direction of the Doctor.
The Doctor rushed through the TARDIS doors to the huge six-sided control console, to the old black leather bag sitting on the floor under it. He lifted the bag onto the console and dug out a couple of tools. He then took his broken disturbance detector from his pocket, along with his sonic screwdriver, and began disassembling the detector.
The Doctor stopped his tinkering for a moment to ponder. Earlier, as he and Clara had run down Royal Street, he had caught a mental glimmer of something not quite right. And then it was gone. It felt familiar, like a mental signature he’d felt before but he couldn’t place it.
“I know I’ve felt a mind like that before,” the Doctor said aloud to himself, pulling the monitor screen around the time rotor, peering at his youthful face in the screen, the reflection barely visible in the interior lighting of the TARDIS control room.
“That’s the trouble with being this old,” he said to his reflection. “It’s all the things you forget.”
He continued his tinkering for a few minutes before jumping up, holding the detector out in both hands out in front of himself.
“Eureka!” he exclaimed, grinning like a school boy. “Not only has that fixed it but now I can use it to trace the residual distortion energy for longer.”
He stuffed the detector back in his pocket and turned back to the computer console built into one the TARDIS console panels.
“Now where did Eric say they were going?” he said as he pulled up a map of the French Quarter. “Something about a…”
The Doctor stood straight up, eyes slightly widened as the realization struck him.
“Vampire,” he finished quietly. “That’s the mind I felt before. And I let Clara go straight to it.”
The Doctor hurriedly began searching on the computer screen for the tour’s route. Having found the house, he started racing around the console, pressing buttons, turning knobs, pulling levers and finally pulled the big lever that sent the TARDIS into flight.
“Hold on, Clara. I’m on the way!”
Clara waited not so patiently in the small space that wasn’t truly an office with its only furniture a podium that held the tour company’s appointment book, a stool at the podium, and a metal filing cabinet. An artificial tree gave homage to someone’s attempt at decorating. An overhead fixture dimly lighted the space and even the fully open roll up metal door fully open didn’t add to the light, as it was fully dark out now.
Eric came through the only interior door, the room beyond the unisex bathroom.
“Ta-dah!” Eric exclaimed as he spun around, his red lined black cape nearly knocking the appointment book off the podium. The cape was part of an ensemble that looked like it belonged more on a magician than a tour guide. Complete with top hat.
Clara failed to suppress a smile and a laugh at Eric’s ridiculous garb.
“And for your next trick, you’ll pull a rabbit out of your hat?” she grinned.
“No,” Eric said, also smiling. “For my next trick I shall require the help of a lovely assistant,” he said, offering Clara his arm.
“Oh, very nice,” Clara said, nodding approvingly as she took his arm and they exited the small space to greet the handful of people who had signed up for tonight’s tour.
“Let’s go meet a vampire,” said Eric, not realizing that was exactly what they were about to do.
Eric, after giving a brief spiel about the haunted history of the French Quarter, led the group up Decatur to Toulouse to give a speech about O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel Pub and the murder suicide that had happened there in the 1800s. He then continued leading them from one location to the next, stopping at each one to give its supernatural history.
The tour ended with the group standing at the corner of Royal and Ursulines. Eric was in full form as he spoke about his favorite residence in the French Quarter.
“And it was from this balcony that the woman,” he paused dramatically, “jumped? Or was she pushed? Maybe tonight we will finally find out. Tonight, we have a special treat for you all. Mr. Jack Amestring has been kind enough to allow us to tour his house.”
Jack heard them outside as he waited by the door. He didn’t really need to have waited. He could feel them in his mind. He thought about that for a moment and reflected on the mind he’d felt earlier this afternoon on his way home. The fellow had just about run him over as he ran. But it was a mind like unlike any other he’d ever felt. It was old, ancient even. And somehow alien. That was as much as he got before he realized that very mind was trying to get a read on him as well and Jack had had to close himself off.
Well, enough of that. He’d worry about it later if he had to. He had guests to attend. With a flourish, Jack opened the double door to admit the crowd.
“Good evening,” he said to the gathered crowd. “Please, welcome. Come in,” Jack said, leading the group inside but standing by the doors until everyone was inside.
Clara looked around the entrance hall and followed from into the first room with its high ceiling, and marble floor, dark wood paneling and ornate chandeliers. She and several other members of the tour jumped when the doors shut, the sound echoing hollowly across the large open room.
“Come, welcomed guests. Please, if you will follow me, I will lead you through the house,” said Jack from a set of wooden doors on the other side of the room.
“And this is the dining room,” said Jack as they entered the room with its long table with its many chairs and a buffet that took up almost a whole wall.
“Legend has it that all the police ever found was bottles of blood left behind after St. Germain fled the scene of the crime,” said Eric theatrically, gesturing in his cape.
“If you would all be so kind to follow me,” Jack started, “I will show you the bedrooms and, if you’re very nice we can go to the attic where those bottles were found,” he grinned.
Up the stairs they went and into the bedrooms. And, as promised upon good behavior, Jack showed them all into the attic. It was accessed by a pull down ladder and the space was large but mostly empty and fairly dark.
“Here we are at last,” Jack said once the group was all assembled in the attic with its sloping ceilings. “Now the fun can really begin.”
Faster than anything any of them had ever seen, Jack had grabbed an older gentleman by the hair and had pulled his head back. In seconds, he had bitten into his neck and had fed from him.
Everyone was frozen into immobility for only a moment before the screams started and people started running, trying to get out of the attic. Clara ran to Eric who was trying fruitlessly to find someplace to hide. A couple of more forward thinking souls tried to set to the ladder but Jack blocked them, feeding form one and letting the young girl drop lifelessly to the floor before going after her boyfriend.
“Eric,” Clara grabbed him by the shoulders. “We have to get out of here!”
“He’s real,” said Eric, wide-eyed. “The vampire is real.” Then it really hit him. “He’s Jacque St. Germain!”
“Yes and we’re on his menu! Get a hold of yourself and come on!”
Clara grabbed Eric’s hand and made for the ladder just as Jack dropped another morsel about to get away and was between them and the ladder in a blink.
“Now, now,” Jack chided. “No fair trying to leave yet.”
Clara and Eric continued to back away from Jack as he advanced slowly on them. The roof halted their retreat.
“Ah. No balcony this time,” said Jack as he was deciding which one he’d have first.
What was that noise? And where did that breeze come from? he wondered, interrupted by the strangest noise he’d ever heard.
Jack turned from his prey to watch in amazement as a large blue box materialized from thin air in a raucous noise and awful wind. Clara jumped up and down in place, nearly hitting her head on the roof. Eric just stood by her, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Jack glanced back at his prey then started toward the box. He jumped back as the door opened and the Doctor stepped quickly out.
“Hello,” said the Doctor. “I’m the Doctor. And you must be the vampire.”
“I am indeed,” said Jack. “I’ve had many names, the latest being Jack Amestring.”
“Clara, Eric, everything alright over there,” the Doctor called to them.
“No,” said Clara, “Doctor, he’s killed all these people and we’re next.”
“Look again,” said Jack, gesturing to his victims. “They’re not dead.”
“What?” said the Doctor, confused. He rushed passed Jack to the older gentleman, the first victim. A quick examination revealed Jack was telling the truth.
“He’s alive,” said the Doctor, looking up to Jack, relieved.
“They’re all alive,” said Jack. “I haven’t killed anyone in decades. No need, really.”
“A vampire who doesn’t kill?” Clara approached him slowly.
“Not any more. I’d probably get caught, be arrested and spend several human lifetimes in prison,” Jack explained. “Provided the court didn’t sentence me to death row. No, I just feed enough to stay alive and make them forget. They will all wake up feeling hung over,” he said gesturing to his victims. “No real harm done. Of course, I have to make all of you forget now.”
“It won’t work on me, Jack,” said the Doctor. “I’m not human.”
Jack turned slowly toward the Doctor. “Not human?” he said incredulously. “What are you, then?”
Jack reached into the Doctor’s mind. And with that, with what he saw there, Jack went slightly mad.
“No!” he said, horror dawning on his face. “It can’t be! You’re dead! You’re all dead! Time Lords! Daleks! Vampires! All dead! How can you be here?! You can’t be here?! Why are you here?! Are you hunting me?! Is that it?! You’re hunting me down! The last of the Vampires! Well I won’t be hunted! Do you hear me?! I am the hunter! I am not the prey! I won’t let you destroy me!”
The Doctor, Clara, and Eric all watched as Jack raged and saw him begin to fade away. At the same time ghostly images of things from the attic, many long since past, began to shimmer into a strange half-existence.
“Jack! Stop!” shouted the Doctor.
“Doctor! What’s happening?” asked Clara, coming to his side, Eric not far behind.
“Jack is causing the temporal disturbance,” said the Doctor. “Look,” he held out his detector. The needle was locked to one side, the screen flashing red.
“Can a vampire cause a temporal disturbance?” asked Clara.
“He can if he’s time sensitive,” said the Doctor. “Happened all the time in the Time War, time sensitive vampires all over the place. He can cause all sorts of trouble, especially if he doesn’t know how to control it. And, if I had to hazard a guess by what’s going on here, I’d say Jack doesn’t even realize what’s going on.”
Outside, all hell seemed to have broken loose not just in the French Quarter but all over the city of New Orleans. People and vehicles from the past appeared almost a solidly as those living in the present. An already crowded city instantly doubled its population in people and vehicles. Panic ensued as people began to run. There was many a car crash.
On the Mississippi River, a steamboat suddenly appeared in front of a freight ship on its way to the port. Many of the crew jumped into the river as their ship passed harmlessly through the steamboat. Those still on the ship continued to direct the ship to safety and began efforts to rescue their fellow crewmen.
In the attic, Clara and Eric, under the Doctor’s direction, began reviving Jack’s victims and sending them down the stairs and hopefully home.
“Jack!” the Doctor called. “Concentrate! Focus on my voice! Focus on this time and stop this!”
Jack didn’t seem to have heard him. He seemed to be oblivious to what was going on around him or, if not oblivious, not concerned.
“Doctor,” said Eric. “Is Jack really causing all of this?”
“There’s a fairly stable time rift that passes through the city. Jack has disturbed it and it’s leaking. If he doesn’t stop, it will open completely and destroy the city.”
“How can we stop him,” asked Eric he stepped through a chest of drawers that appeared from nowhere.
“Jack needs to calm down and concentrate on this time. This will all calm down. If he thinks of another time, he will time travel there.”
At hearing this, Jack knew what he had to do. Jack looked directly at the Doctor and caught his eye.
“Good bye, Doctor!” said Jack. Jack closed his eyes and concentrated. And vanished.
“No, Jack!” shouted the Doctor but Jack was already gone.
Outside, all returned to normal as the ghosts disappeared.
“Where did he go?” asked Clara.
“Quick! Into the TARDIS! If we hurry, I can connect the temporal disturbance detector to the TARDIS navigation circuits and follow him.”
The Doctor and Clara raced through the doors, Eric right behind them, the experienced travelers not having noticed the addition. The Doctor had connected the detector to the console and was setting co-ordinates when Clara poked him on the shoulder.
Eric was standing just inside the door, eyes wide in wonder, a reaction they’d seen from others before.
“How in the world…?” Eric started, not sure just how to express his incredulity. “This can’t be real. It’s gotta be some kind of hoax. I know hoaxes and… This ain’t a hoax, is it? What… How… It’s incredible!”
Eric looked at the Doctor and Clara, grinning.
“You’re really alien?” he asked.
“I’m not,” said Clara. “He is.”
“This is all real,” Eric continued.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, smiling. “And we’ll be arriving shortly. You’re in for another surprise.”
Eric wondered just what the Doctor meant. He was soon to find out.
It had been a very pleasant evening, Jacque thought as he danced with the young Italian girl, what was her name? Angela? Anita? Andrea! That was it. Andrea. Wouldn’t do to call her by the wrong name, now would it? Of course, it didn’t really matter much either, not with what he had in mind for her. If only she knew.
Andrea, too, thought it had been a fantastic evening. Andrea Marino was the stereotype image of a young Italian girl. She had the dark hair, though in a bob cut, the dark eyes, and the olive complexion that instantly marked her as Italian, whether she was or not. The invitation to dinner had come as a complete surprise to her. She’d raced home from the greengrocery as if in a trance and had changed out of her day clothes into the simple but elegant dress she now wore.
Dinner, though, instead of at a restaurant, turned out to be in Jacque’s house. Who was she, with her large family, newly emigrated from Italy, to question this elegant gentleman who himself appeared to be from the old country?
Jacque had indeed come from the old country, just not from Italy, and not as recently as Andrea. It had been a much longer time ago since Jacque had come to America. He’d lived in this house for almost twenty years, having convinced the prior owner to sell. In that time, he’d opened a small business just up the street and had watched as the population of the French Quarter grew as immigrants from Europe began to filter in and mix with the locals.
He’d also seen the results of draining the canal that ran behind the Quarter, as well as the installation of telephones and a public waste water system. Cars were slowly infiltrating an area that was only ever meant for foot or horse traffic. Yellow fever several years ago, a world war just a few years ago, and influenza in just the last year had each taken their toll on the population. Now, the government had in mind to tell people they couldn’t buy liquor, a law that was to go into effect next year. What next, women’s suffrage?
Dinner had been a simple affair, the table simply set, the food light and the wine heavy. Yet, Andrea couldn’t remember having seen Jacque eat, though he had drunk a darker red wine than she had.
Now they were dancing - in Jacque’s bedroom, the Victrola playing something classical. And even with the fireplace merrily lit and with Jacque close, his arm across her back, Andrea was cold, cold and wondering when she came to be in this strange man’s bedroom. Curious she didn’t remember going up the stairs.
And they were dancing. When did we start dancing? she asked herself. How long have we been dancing?
Jacque spun Andrea with one hand and she followed as if she had no choice, no will of her own. It was in that spin that she saw it. Or, rather didn’t see it, see the impossible.
In Jacque’s immaculate bedroom with its dark wood bed and matching furniture there was a low dresser with a large, wood-framed mirror. That mirror reflected everything in the room, including her. In the back of her bedazzled mind, Andrea knew that Jacque should have been in that mirror. He was right beside her and she was reflected perfectly. Where was he?
And, in that moment, she was awake and in control of herself again for what she had seen shook her to her core, at some primal level. Andrea untangled herself from Jacque and began backing slowly away from him, her eyes wide with fear and disbelief as her mind tried to figure out how he didn’t show up in the mirror when he was right beside her.
Jacque was puzzled but only for a moment. The look on Andrea’s face and in her eyes was one he’d seen countless times over his long life. This young girl knew she was dead. But how? How had she realized? Then he noticed where she was looking and turned slowly toward the mirror and back to Andrea.
“Well that was careless of me,” he said quietly and with some self admonishment. As he was facing her, Andrea watched as Jacque’s reflection slowly appeared in the mirror.
“Better?” he asked his mouth quirked in only the slightest smile.
“How…” Andrea started, her mind still struggling with what was happening. Her slowly backwards pace halted by the French doors. Her mind changed gears from puzzled to panic as she realized she was trapped.
“Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?” Jacque said lightly with some laughter in his voice.
Andrea, still facing Jacque, fumbled with the door handles as he slowly approached. She managed to get the doors open as he closed the distance.
“Come back inside,” said the soft, insistent voice. It was strange but Andrea could’ve sworn she didn’t hear his voice with just her ears but in her mind as well. And all she could see was his dark eyes, eyes that penetrated hers, and into her mind. Andrea felt as if she were drowning in those eyes.
The next actions happened very quickly but felt to her as if they took a life time. The door against which she was leaning opened under her weight. The sensation of falling backwards woke her from Jacque’s spell and she looked right into the face of a monster. Large, blood filled eyes, hideously large teeth and breath the smelled of rotten meat.
Andrea, quite accidentally, used her backwards momentum and turned around to run out onto the narrow balcony on the second floor of the house. The balcony overlooked the sidewalk and street below. There were only a few people out on the cold night. Feeling this creature right behind her, Andrea’s fear of it overcame her fear of falling and, in a single movement; she was over the intricate wrought iron railing and in an awkward heap on the sidewalk.
That fall seemed to take forever but was truly over in the blink of an eye. The moment her feet hit the sidewalk in her little black pumps she knew her right shin was broken. The sharp pain was incredible and she didn’t have to see it to know it was bad. She could feel herself bleeding from the compound fracture.
Andrea sat up slowly on the sidewalk, using her hands to get into a sitting position.
“Help me!” she called as three passersby were already hurrying toward her.
“Lady, are you okay?” one man asked as he tried to get his hands under her arms to help her sit up.
“What happened?” asked another fellow as he tried to help the first by going to Andrea’s other side.
“He’s a monster!” Andrea cried, now beginning to feel the effects of her shattered leg. Her stomach was turning and her head was spinning.
“Who, darlin’?” asked man number one.
“Him!” she balled. “The owner of this house!”
“Did he push you?” asked man number two.
“No! You don’t understand. He’s a real monster!”
“Lady, you gotta get to a doctor,” said man number one. “Somebody call an ambulance!” he called to the assembled crowd of onlookers, now having gotten larger as people had come out from neighbors’ houses. Some of them heard part of what Andrea said about Jacque.
“This is Jacque St. Germain’s house,” one passerby said. “He should be inside. Let’s get him out here to see what’s going on.”
“Somebody call the police, please!” cried Andrea, gritting her teeth against the pain. “I want to press charges.”
Jacque watched the scene below from his bedroom balcony, hoping no one would look up and see him standing there. It had been careless of him not to cast a reflection. It was a practice in which he’d gotten too comfortable.
It’s always the little things I’m forgetting, he thought.
Before anyone could see him, he quietly left the balcony to go back into the bedroom. He crossed the room and out onto the landing. He was down the stairs and going back through the immaculate kitchen in record time. Miraculously, no one saw him leave the house through the back door and make his way down the narrow alley that ran between the backs of the buildings.
The Doctor, followed closely by Clara and Eric, stepped out of the TARDIS, which had materialized right on the sidewalk on the corner Toulouse and Royal. As Eric stepped out of the TARDIS and onto the sidewalk, he immediately realized that in addition to the impossibility inside the box, two more impossibilities had occurred. He recognized the street, even in the streetlamp-lit night. But something wasn’t right. Or, not so much that it wasn’t right, it was different.
“We moved,” he said in a hushed voice, as if afraid to say it louder for making it real, his eyes trying to see everything at once: the open, evening sky, the curiously dressed passersby, who didn’t appear to have noticed the TARDIS arrive, the building that were the same, yet somehow different. Then he realized what was different.
“We moved and we traveled in time!” he said excitedly, spinning around, sort of crouched, eyes alight with wonder, big goofy grin on his face. A couple of people looked his way with wary stares as they went to wherever they were going.
“Yes. What gave away that we time traveled?” the Doctor asked Eric, leaning in toward him, eyes twinkling mischievously.
“Streetcar tracks,” he said pointing to the tracks and to the power lines overhead. There haven’t been streetcars in the Quarter since the sixties. And those clothes,” he said indicating to the people who had passed, “are definitely early twentieth century.”
“And do you know where we? What year?” Clara asked Eric. She turned to the Doctor to ask, “How are we going to find Jacque? We can’t very well go door-to-door asking if they’ve seen a vampire.”
Eric studied the people for a moment and the few cars, boxy with what looked wagon wheels, lined up parked against the curb, as they continued down the street. He also wondered about finding Jacque in a city this size.
“Late nineteen teens, early nineteen twenties,” he said, answering Clara’s question to him, not guessing at all.
“Very good,” smiled the Doctor. “December 4, 1919, according to the TARDIS.”
“A red-letter date,” said Eric, surprised by what he considered to be his good fortune.
“What’s special about…” Clara started to ask but was interrupted by the sound of a police siren from farther down Royal Street.
They looked at each other for only a moment before racing down the street to arrive in front of the house at the same time as four police officers.
“The same house?” Clara asked in clear disbelief.
“It seems Jack is a creature of habit,” said the Doctor with a momentarily straight face. Then he grinned almost sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Clara rolled her eyes at him as they approached the scene of two men helping a woman to stand and a crowd of onlookers. The four policemen pushed by them and through the crowd to the woman the men were helping stand.
“Ma’am, Patrolman Gene Williams,” the balding cop introduced himself to Andrea. “Can you tell me what happened here?”
Andrea, who was barely conscious now, looked weakly up and told the policeman what had happened in the house, what she had seen.
“And I had to jump to get away from it,” she almost cried, would have had she not been so weak.
“A monster?” said the second cop incredulously. “Ma’am, have you been drinking?”
The Doctor overheard the exchange and Andrea’s description of what had happened and stepped forward to intervene but Eric held him with a hand on his shoulder. The Doctor caught the warning shake of Eric’s head and stepped back, eyes wondering.
“The police can take care of this,” Eric said. “This is supposed to happen.”
“Hendrix, Roberts,” Williams called to two of the other cops. “Go inside and find Mr. St. Germain. Gandolini, you and I can start searching the area.” He turned back to Andrea, who had now passed out. “The ambulance will be here in a minute and they’ll take her to Charity,” he told the two men holding Andrea upright. Then he and the cop he called Gandolini left the crowd to begin their search as Hendrix and Roberts went inside the house.
“She won’t make it,” Eric said quietly.
Clara looked at him, stricken horrified.
“She’ll die at Charity Hospital according to legend,” Eric explained.
“Poor girl,” said Clara sadly. Then of the Doctor she asked, “how long has Jack been here to do this?”
“This Jack has been here for years, hasn’t he, Eric?” the Doctor said.
“Since about 1903.”
“What do you mean, ‘this Jack?” asked Clara.
“I mean, he’s here again,” said the Doctor. “He’s here twice, there are two Jacks in this timeline.”
“Doctor, if there are two of them, shouldn’t we stop him from meeting himself?” asked Eric.
“Top of the class,” said the Doctor beaming. “That, we most certainly must do. Eric, where does legend say Jack went after this?”
“It doesn’t. It says he vanished. The police will find bottles of blood in the house but they never find Jacque St. Germain.”
“Well that’s not very helpful,” said Clara crossly. “How could he have escaped?”
“He could have gone down the alley,” said Eric. “There’s an alley that runs behind these houses. It goes from one of the block to the other.”
“So we have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the right end,” said Clara.
“No, we don’t,” said the Doctor. “There he is,” as he pointing to the figure that had just crept from beside a building farther up the street. The Doctor, Clara and Eric took off at a run after him.
Jack watched himself from the corner of a building as he came from the alley out on to St. Philip Street. He paused at the corner, looking back toward the house with the crowd that had gathered there. He remembered quite well what had just happened there and found the experience more than just a little surreal. This is bizarre, even for me, he thought to himself.
Jack momentarily lost track of himself as he spotted the Doctor, Clara, and Eric in the crowd and decided to change his own personal history. He left the corner having seen himself a bit farther down Royal and ran to catch up with himself. He remembered where it was he went next and what he did to elude capture. What if instead…
Jacque walked confidently down the street yet close to buildings out of the light from the street lamps as much as possible. About halfway down the block, he realized that he was being followed and quickened his pace.
Jack realized that his earlier self had made him and likewise quickened his pace, chasing himself down the street and cut across from one corner to the other when Jacque turned right at Toulouse, thinking to himself the whole way just how insane this was. I’m chasing myself, he thought almost maniacally. This can’t happen, yet here I am.
The Doctor saw them turn and hurried to catch up, his companions close behind. Jacque risked a look back over his shoulder to see who was following him. And almost tripped. Impossible! He told himself, now running toward a massive four-storey building at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse. It took up almost the whole block and had four columns at the front. He ran to the large double doors and finding them locked, smashed them open and ran inside.
Jack was almost right behind him, realizing that something was wrong. This was not the direction he had run before. Last time… He didn’t have time to ponder as he now realized that he was also being chased. He glanced back only for a moment before darting inside the building.
“Doctor, wait!” called Eric.
“We have to stop them meeting,” said the Doctor, running ahead.
“But we can’t go in here,” panted Eric as he followed the Doctor into the building.
“Why not?” asked a winded Clara, right behind Eric.
“This is the French Opera House,” said Eric, as that explained everything, stopping to catch his breath.
“It burned!” he said at Clara’s blank look. “That red-letter date I started to tell you about, the French Opera House burned December 4, 1919.”
Clara’s eyes went wide with the realization.
“We have to find the Doctor and get out of here!” she said, once again running, this time with Eric behind her.
They quickly followed the Doctor into the auditorium of the Opera House. Even in the darkened room, with what little light there was coming from the now open doors, Clara could tell it was an enormous space. There were five levels of seats counting those on the ground floor. Those closest to the stage appeared to be a little fancier that the rest. And the stage…
Clara’s train of thought stopped there as she realized that she and Eric had caught up with the Doctor. And also with Jack. And Jack. The two Jacks were identical in the face. Their hair was styled differently and the clothing was different but they undeniably the same person. And the one from 2012 had the one from 1919 trapped in the opera pit.
“Get away from me!” snarled Jacque as Jack came closer. “What are you?”
“Don’t you know?” pled Jack. “I am you. You will become me.”
“Jack, you can’t do this,” said the Doctor from behind him. “Please, come back with us to 2012. I can help you stop the temporal phasing.”
Jack turned to the Doctor, furious and scared.
“What said I wanted stop?” he asked. “I can go anywhere I want to in history.”
“I can’t let you do that, Jack,” said the Doctor evenly. “I’ll have to stop you trying.”
Jacque had heard this exchange in bewilderment.
“What are you talking about?” he cried. “What happens to me?”
“You’re time sensitive,” said the Doctor. “An immortal being living this close to a time rift must have caused it. And your heritage.”
“My heritage?” Jacque cackled. “What does my heritage have to do with this nonsense?”
“It’s not nonsense,” Jack pled to him. “It’s true. We can travel in time. I’m from the year 2012. I came back here to stop you from running. We can go anywhere in history. Think about the things you’ve done that you would change if you could. We can! We can change our history!”
“No!” shouted the Doctor. “You can’t. You’ll create one paradox after another. You’ll cause a massive rip in the fabric of reality. You shouldn’t even be here at the same time, especially this close to a time rift.”
Jack took a couple steps closer to Jacque to his earlier self.
“Come. Let me show you,” Jack said to his younger self, reaching out for him.
“No!” shouted the Doctor as Jack’s hand touched Jacque’s shoulder.
“Get out!” the Doctor shouted to Clara and Eric. “Run!”
But as they turned to run they realized that nothing had happened. They reached the door and looked back to see a massive ball of light where the two Jacks had just been. Eric felt something akin to static electricity, that sensation you get when you pull on sweater fresh from the dryer on a cold, dry day.
“Out!” said the Doctor, urgently. “Now!”
As they ran from the building an explosion blew out the windows and the concussive force knocked them all to the street. The three travelers picked themselves up as thick, oily black smoke started boiling from the windows of the French Opera House.
“What happened?” Eric asked, watching what for him was a moment in local history as the French Opera House burned. “What happened to the Jacks?”
“The time rift must have absorbed the temporal energy,” said the Doctor, motioning for he and Clara toward the TARDIS. “Time we were off,” he said as he opened the TARDIS door and ushering them inside.
“The rift absorbed the temporal energy or most of it. That explosion was backwash from the rift.”
“But that ball of light, what was that?” asked Eric as the Doctor started the TARDIS in flight,
“That was Jack,” said the Doctor. “He must have tried to hold the temporal implosion.”
“Is he dead? Are they dead?”
“One of them is, definitely,” said the Doctor evenly. “Both of them should be. What does your urban legend say?”
“That Jacque St. Germain disappeared, never to be seen again,” Eric answered as the TARDIS took flight into the Vortex.
“Well, I’d say you have your answer,” said the Doctor.
But Eric somehow wasn’t sure he did.
“What about all the stuff that happened in 2012? If Jacque did in 1919, none of that will happen, will it?”
“It’s already happened,” said the Doctor as a bell chimed from somewhere in the control console. “We’ve arrived. New Orleans, Saturday December 22, 2012, just a few hours after we left.”
“Good bye, Eric,” said Clara, smiling as she gave him a hug and an air kiss. “It was a great tour.”
“Thanks,” said Eric. He shook the Doctor’s hand in parting, asking,” I can’t tell anybody about this, can I?”
“You can,” said the Doctor. “No one will believe you, of course,” he patted Eric on the shoulder. “Make it part of your spiel, add something for the urban legend junkies to speculate about,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Eric nodded, grinning. “Absolutely!” With that, he headed for the open door, waving over his shoulder as he went. “Good bye, Clara, Doctor. Take care.”
As the Doctor set the TARDIS in flight again, Clara turned to him, asking, “Is Jacque really gone? Couldn’t he have time jumped somewhere else?”
The Doctor thought about the question for a moment, then looked back to her.
“You know, with his ability and being so close to the rift, it’s just possible. Of course, with that massive temporal backwash, we can’t track him, not even with my detector. If he survived, there’s no telling where he could’ve ended up. Maybe even someplace like,” he paused, grinning, “Transylvania in the eighteen hundreds.”
“Surely not,” Clara grinned back.
“Stranger things have happened, Clara. Stranger things.”
And Clara thought it was a stranger thing indeed to travel with the Doctor.
Journey Into Darkness… Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans, by Kalila Katherina Smith. De Simonin Publications, 1998.
Madame Vieux Carre’, The French Quarter in the Twentieth Century, by Scott S. Ellis. University Press of Mississippi, 2010.
The Streetcars of New Orleans, by Louis C. Hennick and E. Harper Charlton. Firebird Press (Pelican Publishing), 2000.
New Orleans 1900 to 1920, by Mary Lou Widmer. Pelican Publishing, 2007.
John T. Mendes Photograph Collection, The Historic New Orleans Collection
"Prohibition," by Samuel C. Hyde. KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 7 Feb. 2011. http://www.knowla.org/entry/847/&view=summary
New Orleans Vampire Tour, http://www.trustedtours.com/store/new-orleans-vampire-tour.aspx
New Orleans Haunted History, http://students.cis.uab.edu/lesdgray/germaine.html
Count of St. Germain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_of_St._GermainComte Saint-Germain, Reginald Merton, http://www.alchemylab.com/count_saint_germain.htm