15 April 2007

Oxford Ostinato - Chapter 2 Part 1

The Doctor quickly outlined his concerns to Mr Rogers and asked if they could talk to those musicians who had been close to the cellist.
"Marie was friendliest with Martin the Principal Violinist, Steve the clarinettist, and Julie the flautist," Mr Rogers said.
"We'll talk to them first then – but not in there," the Doctor said, jerking his thumb at the room where Marie had died.
Mr Rogers nodded and led them into a smaller room next door. "I'll go and fetch the others," he said.
"We'll see them one at a time, Julie first," the Doctor said. He sat down on the sofa and Saskia sat next to him, wishing the evening had turned out differently.
"Listen, I don't want to seem like I'm taking advantage of your natural abilities, nor do I want to make you feel uncomfortable, but if you get the chance to read anyone's mind, will you do so, for the sake of helping me to find out what's going on?"
Saskia swallowed a slight feeling of distaste and nodded. The Doctor held her hand for a moment. "I know you usually ask people's permission before reading their thoughts, but I don't want to get caught up in long explanations of how you can read their thoughts, or what we're doing here."
Saskia nodded again. "I understand," she said.
He squeezed her fingers. "Thanks."

The door opened and Mr Rogers ushered in a small, blonde-haired woman. Her eyes were red from crying, but otherwise she had an attractive face. The Doctor got up, shook hands with her, and introduced himself and Saskia, before leading her to the seat he had vacated.
"Can you tell us something about Marie?" he asked gently.
Julie nodded, then started to cry again. Saskia pulled a handful of tissues from a box on the nearby table and gave them to Julie, then put her arm around the other woman's shoulders. She skimmed lightly through Julie's thoughts and memories, her own mind no more than a feathery touch on Julie's. Saskia concentrated carefully on ensuring that Julie was unaware of her presence, shutting out the Doctor's voice asking questions, and Julie's answers. After ten minutes she pulled her mind away from Julie's and focused on the Doctor's voice again, using it to anchor herself back in her own mind.
"Has anyone reported these disappearances to the authorities?" the Doctor asked.
Julie shook her head. "The police only file a Missing Person's report if someone is gone for more than a few days, and since they all came back within 24 hours, and unharmed apart from amnesia, no one thought to worry too much."
The Doctor gave her a disbelieving look. "Three musicians disappear for 24 hours at a time, then come back with no recollection of where they've been, and no one thought it was worth worrying about?" he asked incredulously.
Julie shrugged. "Everyone's been stressed lately – our schedule is at its busiest for the next four months. I think we all assumed that Steve and Martin had been on a bender and were just too embarrassed to admit to it."
The Doctor's eyebrows shot up. "And Marie?" he asked.
Julie looked slightly ashamed. "She split up with her long-term partner last month. I – I thought that maybe she'd found a new man but didn't want to say anything yet." She blushed furiously.

Saskia cast a glance at the Doctor, who was gaping at the flautist in patent disbelief. She glowered at him, then patted Julie's arm. "Thank you for talking to us," she said. "I'm truly sorry about your friend's death." She got up and Julie stood up too, following Saskia to the door. Saskia saw Mr Rogers outside. "Give us five minutes before we see Martin?" she asked. He nodded and Saskia shut the door, then turned to the Doctor who was pacing backwards and forwards across the room. He looked up at Saskia.
"Humans!" he exclaimed. "Your capacity for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me!"
Saskia shrugged. "I think it's hardwired in to us," she said. "Anyway, what do we make of the fact that three musicians from one orchestra have gone missing for 24 hours, and come back with no recollection of where they've been?"
"To be honest, I don't know what to make of it," the Doctor said, frustration in both his voice and his body language.
"Then let's talk to the two men and see what I can find out from them," Saskia suggested, "though it may be harder with them."
"They might not want a strange woman putting her arm around them, assuming that it's even necessary for me to do so," Saskia answered, giving him a look that said it should be obvious.
"Oh yes, I see what you mean," the Doctor said. "Well, do the best that you can please."
Saskia nodded as the door opened and Mr Rogers ushered in the violinist. Martin was in his early twenties, though he looked younger. Saskia thought he looked tired, especially around the eyes, but he didn't seem obviously upset about Marie's death.
The Doctor introduced himself and Saskia, but before he could ask any questions, Martin spoke.
"Are you the police?" he asked, not moving from the spot inside the door where he had stopped after being shown in to the room.
"No," answered the Doctor.
"Then why should I answer your questions?" asked the young man in a belligerent tone.
"Because someone whom we were told was a friend of yours has just died in mysterious circumstances," the Doctor said, a sharp note of disbelief in his voice.
Saskia sensed that he couldn't quite believe that Martin wasn't prepared to talk to them. "Martin, we just want to find out why Marie died, and if you can answer a few questions that will help us to do so," she said.
"I thought she had a heart-attack?" he asked, clearly still suspicious of them.
"She did," answered the Doctor, "but as far as I can tell, she wasn't suffering from heart disease, so there was no obvious reason for her to have a heart attack."

Martin looked from the Doctor to Saskia, who tried to smile encouragingly at him. The Doctor was losing patience, Saskia could tell. Martin half turned towards the door, and Saskia reached out, grabbing his hand. "Would it really hurt to answer a couple of questions?" she asked persuasively.
He hesitated and Saskia flicked a glance at the Doctor, who moved to stand on the other side of the violinist. Before Martin could ask what was happening, the Doctor reached out and touched his temple. As he fell, Saskia and the Doctor caught him between them and got him over to the sofa.
"What is it with this lot?" the Doctor grumbled in exasperation.
"No idea," Saskia answered. "Are you going to talk to him or shall I just read his thoughts?"
The Doctor looked at her. "Can you read his thoughts? It would be the quickest way to get some answers."
Saskia sat down beside the violinist and took his hands in her own. She closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to sort through the rather confused images in Martin's mind. She let go of his hands a few minutes later and opened her eyes to see the Doctor hunkered beside her, looking hopeful.
She frowned. "Something odd happened to him. He and Steve went to a pub on Monday evening for a couple of drinks. They met a man there who bought them some drinks and listened to them talking about music and their life in the orchestra. Martin remembers that he and Steve left the pub with this man, and then he woke up in his digs on Tuesday evening, but he has no memory of what happened during the 24 hours between leaving the pub and waking up."
"How much did he drink?" asked the Doctor.
"Only two glasses of red wine."
The Doctor frowned. "Well that was hardly a drinking binge. What was this man like, the one they met at the pub?"
"In his late thirties or early forties. Very short black hair, dark clothes that looked a bit shabby. He was solidly built, but it was muscle, not fat that made him bulky. According to Martin's recollection of him this man didn't say a lot."
"Hmm. That's not a lot to go on. Which pub did they go to?"
"The Gardener's Arms, on Plantation Road," Saskia answered.
"Let's wake him up then, so we can talk to the clarinettist. I just hope he's more co-operative," the Doctor said.
"So do I," Saskia said wearily.
They got the violinist over to the door again, and Saskia watched as the Doctor touched his temple, waking him up again.
"What?" Martin asked, looking a little bemused.
"I was just saying that we wouldn't keep you any longer, but if you change your mind about talking to us, we'd be very interested in hearing from you," the Doctor said as he opened the door.
"Right." The violinist went out.

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