Hearts

Chapter 5

The small body lay on the autopsy table, partly decayed by its time in the bay. Facial features or gender were almost impossible to tell now, but the remnants of the pink dress suggested it had been a little girl. The child's relative age and matted black hair, matched the description of Eliza Jacobs, the fifth child to die over the last week in the city.

Torchwood, out of general policy, would never seize the remains of a child if they could help it. This was not because of any noble intentions but more a way to avoid trouble. There were always too many complications, too many parents that wouldn't rest until they could see their child properly buried.

It was because of this that Jack and Owen found themselves in the city morgue, observing a mortician perform the autopsy. The stench of liquid decay hung heavy in the air, despite the exhaust fan. Owen observed the procedure with medical objectivity, arms crossed, dark eyes sharp. So long as he thought of it as "the body" and not what it had once been he would be all right.

Jack was not faring so well. He had his face mostly hidden by his hands, his back leaning heavily against the support of the wall. His stomach turning as he fought down the urge to bolt from the room. Normally he was fine with bodies, he could watch Owen do an autopsy on an adult without batting an eye. But this was the one sort of death he could never come to terms with. He could live a thousand years, see death in all of it cruel and kind forms, but the sight of a young life cut off still shattered him.

"So you're sure she drowned?" he asked the doctor.

The mortician nodded. "Well she has no broken bones, or any other remaining signs of violence. The fluid in the lungs seems consistent with that theory."

"But you're not entirely certain?" asked Owen, uncrossing his arms.

"She was in the water to long for her cause of death to be completely clear. I still don't see how this is related to your usual spooky dooes."

The medical examiner was a highly attractive young man in an underfed sort of Welsh way. Under normal circumstance Jack would have flirted with him shamelessly. That sort of thought was rather far from his mind at the moment though. He shifted to his usual dealing with civilians voice. "It might not be. This was simply relevant to an ongoing investigation. Contact us if you find out anything else." The medical examiner agreed and Jack and Owen headed out.

They both took a deep breath of the sea breeze and oily industrial smell that so completely infused the city as they stepped out into the cool night. Anything was better than the scent of decay. Owen lit a cigarette, the only sign that this had in fact rattled him a little bit.

He had "quite" smoking years ago when he had become engaged to his now dead fiancé. Normally he was pretty good about it, but every once in a while, often after nearly being killed, he indulged. He was careful that neither Gwen nor Tosh knew about it, otherwise they would surely talk his ears off.

They walked back towards the hub along the edge of the wharf. A sudden whiff of rotten fish clenched both their stomachs tighter.

"I didn't see any evidence of alien involvement, no rift energy, not weird injuries. It was just another accidental death. The girl probably wandered off from her parents and tried to go for a swim, got caught in the rip tide," said Jack at last.

"Five kids in a week isn't normal, not for a city as small as Cardiff." Owen finished his cigarette and crushed it under his boot.

"True, but that doesn't mean alien. It could be a human serial killer, carefully covering his tracks. Either way it falls to Cardiff's finest not us."

"You really think a human could manage this?"

"Yes." There was a cool certainty is Jack's voice that chilled Owens blood. "Torchwood has wasted man-hours and resources tracking down human killers thinking they were aliens more than once in the past. We can't neglect our purpose to deal with human crimes. Unless we find some evidence of aliens, this case if closed as far as Torchwood is concerned."

P.C Andy was very certain that it was in fact somehow Torchwood's problem. He called them every time there was a new death, which was about once or twice a day.

The victims were always young, mostly children although a few preteens, and even one young teenager. The deaths always seemed accidental but were always suspicious. The child just wandered into traffic, the child just fell of the porch and broke it's neck, the child decided to investigate the wall socket with a fork. It was as if a basic impulse control or common sense had somehow been weakened.

The deaths were too often witness by parents or teachers for them to have been caused by strangers. This was odd since parents and teachers tend to naturally be good about protecting their children from accidents, yet in every case the guardian had been distracted, or had left the room for a moment.

The media of Cardiff became quickly convince this was a serial killer, never mind that the cause of death didn't match that.

Jack quickly had to admit that, unless the parents of Cardiff had all turned homicidal against the offspring, something was up. He investigated the parents, and had Tosh scan them. Yet there was no sign of rift activity, or anything strange.

There first lead came with a call from the hospital. A seven year old boy had survived three accidents in the course of one day. First he had run into the street chasing a ball, and as often happens in such situations, he got hit by a car. Surprisingly this wasn't completely fatal as the driver saw him in time, and ended up hitting him nearly at a crawl, and the child was only injured but not killed.

He was transported to the Cardiff hospital where he was given the wrong dose of a powerful medicine by a seasoned physician, who could give no explanation for his mistake later. The child lived, barely.

Later, as the child was being transported on a gurney an orderly got distracted and it nearly rolled down a flight of stairs, before a nurse, who was quick on the uptake, stopped it. These things alone wouldn't have seemed particularly note worth on their own, but combined they did.

Owen and Gwen talked to the boy while Jack interviewed the parents. In the usual manner of most traumatized seven year olds on powerful pain medication he wasn't very responsive. He answered their questions glumly.

As Gwen spoke Owen noticed a nurse enter the room. Owen could not say why exactly but an odd sense of dread and anticipation filled him. The nurse was carrying a bad of transfusion blood. She had just rigged it up to the boys IV and was about to release the clamp when Owen grabbed her hand and stopped her.

"What the hell are you doing? That bag says A positive the boy's chart say O negative you'll kill him!"

The nurse blinked as if waking from a trance. "Oh your right." Her hands fell to her sides. Owens anger was slightly calmed by the sheer looked of distress on her face. "I…I knew that. What was I thinking?"

Tosh suddenly grabbed Owens arm. "Owen!" she hissed. "There's something moving in the corner." Owen turned. There did indeed seem to be the outline of a small creature shifting in the shadows, he couldn't make it out though.

Being the inventive sort, he threw the television remote from the bedside table at it. The shadow flickered and vanished with a sharp hissing sound. Machines began beeping shrilly as the boy went into cardiac arrest.

Owen bolted over to the boy as the nurse called for a crash cart. It didn't do much good though. Time of death was five minutes later. Owen paced the room cursing as Doctors solemnly filed out.

Suddenly he snatched up the boy's medical chart and began to read it. After a moment he flung it down on the bed. "Why was he given such a high dose of pain medication? He only weighed eighty pounds; this chart says he had enough for a grown man. No wonder his heart stopped. Where's the attending physician!"

Meekly the bispecled old man stepped forward. "I am."

"You're a senior doctor how could you possibly prescribe the wrong dose?"

He bit his nails in a very unbecoming way. "I um… I don't know. I can remember doing it but I have no idea how I could have. Now that I look back the dose is clearly wrong, but at the time the thought just didn't connect."

Owen just stared at him for a moment then stormed from the room. Tosh followed quietly. The ride back to the hub was a solemn one as Tosh and Owen described what they had encountered.

"How do we even fight something like that?" murmured Gwen.

"It might help if we knew what it was," said Ianto.

They all glanced at Jack hopefully. He shrugged his broad shoulders. "I don't recognize it. I don't know enough yet."

"We'll figure out something." Reassured Tosh.

"We'd better I don't think Cardiff can afford any more losses." Snapped Owen.

…..

Owen had to brace himself before lifting the phone when he saw the number on the caller ID. It was the hospital. It was far too early and he was far to hung over to deal with another dead child.

Slowly he lifted up the phone and placed it against his ear, "Hello? This is Torchwood" he forced out.

"This is Dr. Black at Cardiff General." The voice was warm, middle aged and female and sounded vaguely perplexed. Every other call had come from the Hospital Administrator. "I'm calling because there was a note to contact Torchwood on the medical records of Kate Calin."

Owen's hands began to shake. "What happened?"

"She's just been admitted to the Hospital. She fell down a flight of stairs at her school. She's got a broken arm, and a fairly sever head wound. She's still unconscious"

"Has she been given any medication?"

"No. The record said not to. I don't know what you lot are playing at ordering us not to treat a teenage girl. She's hurt badly she needs saline for the head wound." The voice took on a sharp accusatory tone. No doctor liked being told not to help a patient.

Owen sighed, from the papers Kate's mom had given him he knew saline was poisonous to Time Lords. "Trust me she's a special case. Don't do anything, we'll send over some of our people strait away."

"Fine."

When Jack and Owen walked into the Hospital room Kate was already sitting up, looking about groggily. The hair on the left side of her head was matted with what was clearly dried blood from cut on her head and her left arm was in a sling. A very upset Dr. Black was urging her to lie back down.

Owen waved her away and Jack guided her from the room. Owen went to Kate, who sleepily let him look her over. He quickly checked her head, what must have once been a very nasty gash was already scabbed over. He carefully felt her arm and found the bone already begging to realign it's self and knit back together. He eyes weren't even dilated, no concussion this time then.

He gave her a half smile. "We've got to stop meeting like this."

"Don't try to be funny Owen, my head hurts to much."

"I can give you some Ibuprofen for that, it should be safe." He fished in his medical bag, took out the bottle, and shook the pills into his hand. Kate swallowed them gratefully.

"Your damn lucky your half alien, that knock on your head might have killed you if you were human."

"I almost wish it did, if that would stop the pain," she sighed closing her yes. Owen helped her lie back down onto the bed.

"How the heck did you fall down a flight of stairs kid? Your not the damsel in an old movie."

She shook her shoulders weakly. "I don't know. I dozed off in a study hall, and then I was late for a class on the first floor. I ran down the stairs, then my foot hit a puddle of water, I slipped and the next thing I knew I was here."

Owen adjusted the blankets around her. "You should have known better than to be that careless, but I'm not really one to talk. Anyway you'll be better in couple days or so. I'll call your mom to come get you out of the hospital, you'll be safer a home. Take it easy and come by the hub before the end of the week and I'll take another look at you."

"Thanks Owen," she mumbled before drifting off. Owen collected his gear and exited the room where Jack was flirting with Dr. Black and very successfully distracting her from all thoughts of her odd patient. Owen gave him an annoyed glanced and he finished the conversation and left with him.

"So what did you think? Does it seem like it's related to the other deaths and injuries" Jack asked him.

"I don't think so, she's a bit older than the average victim, and despite her being in a hospital there haven't been any more accidents like with the last kid. It sounds like she was just being clumsy."

"Do you think we should we mention it to her?"

"Nah, it'll just worry her over nothing."




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