Three Women: Rain (Suzie Costello)

And it was raining on that day and damn the reason why

The serpent swallows its tail; a woman stands limply as if hanged by the neck; flame leaps from a crumpled letter; somewhere a violin is playing la Valse.

Wrinkled fingers scratch futilely at an old oak door; the shuttered windows are open — rain bursts in to fill the midnight blueness of the room; outside in a car's headlamps a woman covers her nakedness with soft hands.

The child plays with her mother's toys; fingernails are painted french blue, lips scarlet as a clown's nose. The security camera whirs on its axis. The world is silent save for the cry of the violin and the relentless battering of the rain.

The stubbled lawn outside shimmers with water. Lambent eyes from the street lights blur in the thick moist air. A driver is screaming over the noise of the engine but the woman does not hear. All is lost to the harshness of the blood tide and the muzzled quietude of the pills she has taken.

In the distance a siren wails. The child looks up and smiles with red-rimmed teeth.


Ms Costello had an air of imperturbability about her, Jack thought. Though of course it wasn't likely to last much beyond her introduction to the first weevil. He glanced again at her résumé and the small notes he'd made in the margins. Mother died when she was young. Father living locally. No siblings or apparent significant others (tick). Good post-doctorates (tick). Nice legs too (tick). She'd compliment the Welsh boy with his hairy ankles well, if he ever came back. Jack decided if he was going to have to spend most of the day in a concrete bunker he may as well make sure the furniture was attractive.

Behind him a pair of small speakers blared out an old Clash track. He tapped his pen to beat. "They've all given you glowing references. In fact— " Jack leaned back and put his hands behind his head, "I can honestly say I've never read such gushing praise from UNIT before."

She raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. "And what does that tell you, Captain Harkness? That I bribed my way here?"

She really was a cool cat, even if the rumours were correct and she turned out to be a lesbian. Very elegant. "It tells me you have a problem with authority and they were glad to be rid of you." To his disappointment she didn't cross those long legs.

A snort. "I object to having to carry out asinine orders made by stupid little men wallowing in testosterone.

That hit a nerve. Obviously a man-hater. "So you don't like men much?" He flicked the mouse button and retuned the radio to something more classical. Had she ever known a man? Probably, but it would have been a clinical coupling whilst she yearned to return to her partner. Someone small and mousy, he surmised. With blonde hair and earth-mother breasts.

"I've never cared for stupid people of either gender. But UNIT, being another bastion of male bonding, is primarily made up of Colonel Blimps. Not many women make it into command, even now." She stared straight at him, nostrils flaring slightly, with a look of utter disdain. "Or do you assume all intelligent women are dikes?"

"No, no. Not at all." Jack spluttered as his phantasy deflated, suddenly feeling as if he was the interviewee. He looked down at his bureau for inspiration, wondering what sort of impression the alien Victoriana gave. Untidy desk, untidy mind? A hand toyed with a Sontaran probic vent. It still stank vaguely of cinnamon. "I've, uhh, sent out for some pepperoni pizza. Unless you'd prefer something vegetarian?"

"Vegetarian! Who do you want as your second in command? A tree-hugger who'd rather empathise with the enemy than treat it as a potential threat? Or someone who would do what was necessary and pick up the pieces afterwards? I'm not a liberal arts graduate armed with a clipboard and the collected works of Freud."

"So you shoot from the hip?"

"That's an extremely phallo-centric remark. One I'd expect to hear from that doctor of yours." Finally she shifted slightly in the seat, smoothing down the creases on her skirt.

For a moment Jack's mind was in two places at once. "Oh, you mean Owen Harper. I, ah, heard you two introducing yourselves."

"His hand accidentally brushed my bottom. At the same time my scalding cup of whatever passes for coffee around here accidentally spilled over his crotch."

"Yes," Jack said absently, "I mean to do something about that."

"Sexism in the workplace?"

"No. The coffee."

She laughed lightly. Faked of course, he could see it in her eyes. This one was a cross between Miss World and Rosa Klebb. In a few years she'd probably be after his job, and be welcome to it too. Still, she had the technical qualifications. Plus a bit of strident feminism would keep Harper in his place. Of all the team members he'd shortlisted he suspected Harper would be the most difficult to keep under control.

He put on his best 'welcome to the team' face. "Everything's in order. When would you like to start?" She stared blankly at him.

"Ms Costello?"

"Oh." She looked apologetic. "I was listening to your radio. I have a fondness for Ravel."

Jack tried to make sense of the melodies. "It's a waltz, right?"

The woman shook her head slightly. "Most people make that mistake. It's more of a danse macabre." She smiled brightly at him. "I'm sorry. You were saying?"

"When would you like to start?"

"Give me an hour or so. I'd like to walk around the town and get my bearings first."

"It's raining cats and dogs up there. You'll catch your death."

"I've always found the rain comforting." Again, that Mona Lisa smile. "It washes all your troubles away."