Li wasn’t with them on the afternoon that the portrait was finished. He had some mundane task with the wholesalers where the stock for his herbalist shop came from. He promised to meet them for tea later, though. It was a nice, crisp November day with a cold blue sky that made the Mersey waterfront a tempting place, and as both of them had the latest style of lapin fur coats to keep them warm, they walked down from the Albert Dock towards Pierhead, resting when Marion felt the need.

“It will soon be Christmas here on Earth,” Marion commented as they watched some workmen fixing up strings of festive lights. “We shall celebrate it on Gallifrey, too. Our first Christmas at Mount Lœng House. And then, of course, our anniversary party. One year since our Alliance. That won’t be as big. Just a few close friends. Remonte and Rika said they would come and visit for the weekend. And you must be there, of course. I couldn’t imagine not celebrating our anniversary without you. And Hesthor, Calliope, Isolatta… Thedera… Aineytta and Lord de Lœngbærrow, of course. I don’t think we could expect them to allow Renita to come just for an anniversary. I think I might like to pay her a quiet visit some time soon. Inbetween all the parties and excitement, I really think I could appreciate the peace of the Sisterhood of Contemplation.”

“She and her good Sisters will welcome you,” Lily assured her. Then she smiled a smile that Renita would have blushed at. “I find a different sort of peace here in Liverpool, with Li.”

“You have had such a lot of time with him these past two weeks while we’ve been coming here daily,” Marion noted. “You’re both happy?”

“Oh, yes, very. It would be frowned on by all Gallifreyan society. He is a Renegade, renounced even by his own House. And of course we are outside the bounds of the Alliance. And we would be looked at askance for enjoying physical love at our advanced age…”

“I don’t see why,” Marion commented. “I know very well that Aineytta has a Pellis flower tonic that his Lordship requests several times a week at bedtime. And they are both in ‘advanced age’.”

“Li and I don’t need any tonics,” Lily responded with a knowing expression. Marion laughed. She saw nothing untoward about their relationship. Lily was a passionate woman who had loved her husband well all of his life. Li was a passionate man who had loved so many women she wondered how he remembered their names. They were good for each other, and she was glad to have been instrumental in their coming together.

“Shall I go home on my own tonight,” she suggested. “And let you have the night together? I can give notice to my cook that you are joining me for breakfast tomorrow.”

“I think that might be a pleasant arrangement,” Lily answered with a smile.

They were both happy. Marion was pleased with the progress of her anniversary gift to Kristoph. Lily was pleased with the prospect of a night in the arms of her lover. They walked on again joyfully, arms linked as they contemplated afternoon tea at the Pierhead café while watching the Mersey Ferry come in.

They didn’t notice four people following them. Even if they did, they would not have thought themselves in any danger. They were in an open place. There were many other people around.

Then Lily gave a soft gasp as one of the people stepped up beside her. Marion, too, suppressed a cry. They had been flanked by them.

“Make any sound above a whisper and you’ll be paralysed for life,” said the rough male voice and she felt the prick of a knife even through the lapin coat and the winter clothes beneath. She knew Lily was similarly threatened. “Walk quietly. Don’t try to run. Don’t try to call for help.”

Marion felt Lily grasp her hand and squeeze it. She felt comforted by that as they were forced to walk towards the car park by the ferry terminal. There was a dark blue transit van there waiting. The driver was obviously part of the conspiracy.

The back door of the van opened as they drew close and Marion and Lily were ordered to get in and sit down. Lily looked disgusted at how dirty the floor was. She did as the kidnappers told her, though. Marion sat beside her.

The four knife wielding kidnappers sat opposite them as the van moved off. It was then that they realised that one of them was a woman – a woman they both recognised.

“Paula?” Marion exclaimed. “What is this…”

“Shut up,” Paula answered. “Both of you shut up.” She looked at the fur coats that Lily and Marion wore. “Posh coats. I want one. You, give me your coat.” She made the demand at Lily while waving a long, sharp knife at Marion. “Do it, or I’ll stick this in her stomach.”

“It is only a coat,” Lily said as she slipped it off and handed it over. “A mere possession. Do you think I care about it? Do you think wearing it makes you a lady? It most certainly does not.”

“It makes me somebody who owns a fur coat,” she answered. “Actually, I’m surprised at you, Marion. Weren’t you into all that anti-hunting and anti-fur stuff at school?”

Marion could have pointed out that Lapin fur was obtained in a cruelty free way when the creatures shed their coats naturally. But she didn’t especially want to explain to Paula that she lived on another planet where things were done differently.

“You have a knife that you say you’ll stick into me, killing me and my unborn child. Do you think you have a right to moralise about fur coats?”

“Just shut up, you snotty mare,” Paula answered. “And you,” she added to Lily. “We’re going somewhere quiet. You’ll stay there until your rich magistrate husband coughs up a nice wad of cash for you.”

“If you think we can be held to ransom…” Lily began, but the knife was waved close to her face.

“What’s he going to do? Hold out on us? Does he think money is more important than his wife and kid?”

“Kristoph is… not a man who takes kindly to threats,” Marion answered. “Nor is he one who is scared easily. You will get nothing from him.”

“Then you’re in for a bad time,” Paula replied.

“Are we?” Lily asked. “Look at you. Foolish woman. And your friends. Have you really thought this through? Do you really think you can carry this out? Have you killed anyone, Paula?”

“I said you shouldn’t have been involved,” said the man. “They know you. Should have let me grab them.”

“Doesn’t matter. When her man pays up we’re history. We disappear. Rich people can do what they like.”

Lily was right. They hadn’t thought it through. Not fully. Marion thought about it as they moved through the mid-afternoon traffic in Liverpool city centre. Paula must have talked about them to her boyfriend and his friends. One of these was possibly Billy Stett, the car thief, if he had avoided prison after all. Greed fuelled a foolish idea. But what did they expect to do now? How did they expect to get the ransom they demanded?

How would they even contact Kristoph, she wondered. He was on another planet. But that was something they certainly hadn’t factored into their plot.

She wondered where exactly they were going. There was no way to see. The back doors of the van had windows but they were blacked out, and a curtain was loosely hung between them and the driver’s cab. The number of times they stopped and started suggested busy main roads with traffic lights, and for quite a while they seemed to be going uphill. Scotland Road, perhaps, Marion thought. That had a lot of traffic lights and went uphill for quite some distance. There were miles of terraced streets with back alleys and narrow lanes in that area.

But more than that she couldn’t guess. She might even have been wrong about the direction they were going, although she doubted it. Liverpool was more or less built on one long slope down to the river. So they were heading up and away from there.

They stopped. The man who might have been Billy Stett pushed the back door open and they were told to get out. Marion noticed that they were in a back yard of an empty terraced house. The two houses either side were empty, too. Their windows were covered in boards that looked as if they’d been there a long time. The van had reversed in almost up to the back door so that nobody would see them going in.

They couldn’t see much else. But in the few moments while possibly Billy Stett unlocked a padlock on the boarded up door, Marion heard something that told her that her estimated direction wasn’t far wrong. It was something that might help them if any possibility of escape presented itself.

“Get in,” said Paula as Billy pushed open the kitchen door. They stepped from the van into a small dark kitchen and then through another door to a small, dark hallway with carpetless stairs going up to the top floor. They were told to go up the stairs. They did so.

A room had been prepared. They had planned that much. It was carpetless, again, but two mattresses were laid on the floor. Beside them a plastic three litre bottle with water and a loaf of bread. There was a bucket, the reason for which Marion guessed after a few moments thought. There were two long chains bolted to the wall with manacles at the end. Marion and Lily both had one hand manacled. They knew they would have mobility enough to move around the room, to eat the bread, drink the water. But they wouldn’t be able to reach the door or window.

Possibly Billy Stett and another man stood over them as Paula took their diamond necklaces and earrings and their watches. She looked at them and was puzzled. They were Gallifreyan, of course. They had thirteen hours. She pocketed them anyway. She wanted Marion’s fur coat, too. But since she was already manacled there was no way to get it off. She took her wedding and engagement rings, though. And Lily’s diamond rings. Marion fretted over that. Those rings were important to her. But Lily again stated that these were mere possession, meaningless to them.

And she was right. Their lives, the life of Marion’s child, were what was important. They gave up their valuables to the thieves without a struggle.

“That’s enough,” possibly Billy said to his girlfriend. “When the ransom is paid, you can buy all the diamonds you want.”

“I want these ones,” Paula answered. “I’ve never seen rocks that big. Her old man must be really loaded. Hers, too. I think we should ask for twice as much – for EACH of them.”

“Two million is enough.”

“Ask for more,” said the other man. “Two million is less than they give away on a lottery rollover week.”

“I told you, two million is right. We want this done quick. Even a rich bloke can’t get more than that out of the bank at once.”

“Where did you hear that? On some film?” Paula snapped. “Ask for more.”

They argued about that all the way back down the stairs and continued shouting at each other in the kitchen. The words were muffled but the tone of the argument was clear. Then Marion and Lily heard the sound of the van door slamming and an engine. Somebody had left. As the engine noise died Marion noted a distant sound of traffic and a closer sound that told her that they were near to one of two possible locations in Liverpool.

Lily pulled at the chain just in case and noted that it was secured tightly to the wall.

“I think…” she said in a resigned tone. “We may be in trouble.”