Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Jackie looked out of the restaurant window at the River Thames, softly lit by pastel coloured gravity globes floating a few feet above the water. She sighed deeply and took another sip of wine, knowing that it was her second glass, on top of a cocktail she had at the bar before coming to her seat. All she had eaten was some watercress soup and a bread roll. She had hoped Christopher would be there to join her before she finished the first course that she ordered just so she wouldn’t look stupid sitting there with an empty place setting in front of her.

Her mobile phone rang. She knew it was from her husband. In the past hour she had debated whether to be angry, tearful or sarcastic with him when he finally made contact. In the end she was none of those things. She didn’t want to be angry because she liked this restaurant and didn’t want to make a scene. Tearful would be just as embarrassing in front of the waiters, and she was too tired now for sarcastic.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he said in a genuinely apologetic tone. “I’m not going to make it tonight. The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs is filibustering parliament.”

There was a time when Jackie didn’t know what filibustering meant and would have made a comment about it that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Carry On film. But she had learnt a few things about Christopher’s work and fully understood what it meant to him and to the romantic dinner for two that they were supposed to be enjoying.

“I don’t know how long this will go on for,” he added. “There’s no point in you waiting at the restaurant any longer. I’m really sorry.”

“I’m wearing my new blue dress with the silver thread shot through the fabric,” she told him. “I’m dripping with diamonds. And I’m wearing the silk lingerie you bought me underneath it all.” She added that last part in a low voice so that only he could hear her. “Just for you.”

“That is a much more tempting prospect than listening to that idiot rambling on about foreign policy,” Christopher admitted. “But if he ever does shut up we have to take a vote. It’s going to be close, and if I’m absent it will reflect badly on the whole Cabinet.”

Jackie did fully understand. It wasn’t the first time he had been forced to sit late in a parliamentary session. But usually she was at home with Rose and Susan or Brenda or Carya to talk to and she didn’t miss him so very much. Being stuck at the restaurant had been lonely and embarrassing. She really did feel like crying.

“The waiters have been really polite,” she said. “But I think they need this table for another booking, soon. I might as well go home.”

“I’m going to send Geoff with the limousine to pick you up,” Christopher said. “Martin can drive me home in a pool car whenever we’re finished. Don’t wait up, but I WILL come home. I promise you that. I love you, Jackie.”

“I love you too, Christopher.”

There was nothing more to say. Jackie closed the call and waved the waiter over. That was something else she had learnt to do since becoming part of a very different social strata than her native Powell Estate offered. The waiter came to the table with the hand held machine that displayed the bill for soup, bread rolls, one cocktail and two glasses of wine. She tried not to wince when she saw just how much it was for so very little food and coolly keyed in the pin number for Christopher’s account. The bill was paid. She went back to the bar and ordered a glass of tomato juice to try to counter-balance the alcohol she had consumed while she waited for the car.

When it arrived she still felt light-headed but she walked in a straight line out through the door that the maitre-d held open and slid into the back of the limousine with her legs together in the way women born to travelling by limousine seemed to know by instinct. Only after Geoff had closed the door and got into the driver’s seat did she kick off the high heeled shoes she was wearing and lean back wearily against the headrest with her eyes closed and the sound of the limousine’s engines soothing her into a light doze.

It was ten o’clock when the vote was finally carried by a very small margin in favour of the government and the long day’s sitting wound up. Christopher headed to the car pool where Martin, his CPO-cum-driver, was waiting to drive him home. He was weary and disappointed with the way the evening had gone and wanted nothing more than to get home, cuddle his wife and sleep quietly at her side. The part of his mind not still seething with annoyance about the way the shadow minister had wasted everyone’s time was thinking about what sort of present he could buy Jackie tomorrow to make up for the missed dinner date.

He had almost reached the car when he reeled with a jolt of precognition that filled his two hearts with dismay. The main part of the parliament building contained so many electronic anti-espionage shields that his telepathic senses were effectively blocked, but the car pool was open on one side and all at once he felt it deeply.

“Jackie!” he whispered. He put his hands over his eyes and tried to focus on the moment he was living in, not the fearful premonition that had overwhelmed him. As his vision cleared he was aware of Martin running to him from the car and Moira Greenwood calling out to him urgently.

“Jackie,” he said again as both of them reached him.

“Yes,” Moira said. “But how did you know?”

“I….” He swayed dizzily. Now he was sensing multiple telepathic messages coming at him. He felt his father’s Time Lord ident as well as his daughter and his three grandchildren. They were all trying to reach him from different places because they had heard what he hadn’t yet heard. “She’s not dead. Tell me she isn’t dead. She can’t be….”

“We don’t know,” Moira told him. “Your car was found in Southall. Your driver….”

“Geoff?” As worried as he was about his wife, Christopher’s concern extended to the man he had employed to protect her.

“He’s not dead,” Martin said. “He was shot, but it was a through and through. He’s going to be all right. Sir….”

“Your wife was nowhere to be seen,” Moira added. “The police are assuming it was a kidnapping.”

“Why would anyone kidnap Jackie?” Even as he asked that question he knew it was a foolish thing to say. He was a Cabinet Minister. He was from a wealthy family. That was two reasons to begin with. Then there was the fact that he was a Time Lord. That opened up a whole other set of reasons to threaten his family.

“Christopher, come back upstairs,” Moira told him gently. The police will need to talk to you.”

“No, I need to go home. The police can talk to me there.”

“Wait until I can arrange an escort car, then,” the President of the British Federation said to her friend and colleague. “Let me protect you, if we couldn’t protect your wife.”

He accepted that much. After all, the kidnappers had managed to overcome Geoff and snatch Jackie. They could as easily do the very same thing again. He let Martin open the back door of the car for him and he sat wearily. He was aware of the escort slipping in behind as they left the car park. Armed men kept close guard over him all the way home.

When he reached Mount Lœng House there were already police cars on the drive. Their lights flashed ominously in the dark. Martin brought the limousine to a halt in front of the house.

The door was opened by Grahams. In his whole life, Christopher had never unlocked his own front door. There was always somebody there to open it for him. This time the butler’s greeting to him was solemn.

“Your father and step-mother are in the drawing room, sir. The policemen are monitoring telephone calls from your study.”

“Thank you, Grahams,” he answered. “My son… does he know, yet, about what has happened?”

“No, sir. Your father said to let the children sleep.”

With police lights flashing outside the house, what chance was there of that? Christopher stepped into the drawing room. Rose was sitting by the window looking red-eyed and tearful. Christopher wondered if she had been told to stay away from the window for security and had ignored the advice deliberately. The glow of a flashlight passed behind the curtains as he looked. He and his father were seeing their income taxes well spent this evening with the police presence around their home.

He only hoped as much effort was being put in elsewhere.

“Come and sit down,” The Doctor said to him gently. He, himself, got up and went to the drinks cabinet. He poured a measure of whiskey into a glass and gave it to his son. “The police will need to talk to you. Do you feel up to it?”

“No,” he answered. “Besides, what can I tell them? I wasn’t there. I only wish I had been.”

“Then they would have had two of you to ransom off,” The Doctor told him. “The police don’t want you to tell them anything. They want to tell you things.”

“Such as?”

“Such as how hard they are working to resolve this ‘situation’ in a satisfactory way,” The Doctor answered. Rose made a sound somewhere between a hiccup and a growl. She plainly didn’t think her mother being kidnapped was merely a ‘situation’.

Christopher didn’t, either.

“The Detective Superintendant in charge of the ‘situation’ also tried to give me some backhanded advice about ransoms. He isn’t allowed to tell either of us what to do with our money, of course. But he did mention, quite casually, that in the majority of kidnap cases, those who pay the ransom are more likely to get their loved one back safely.”

“So we should pay?” Christopher asked then jumped visibly, slopping the glass of untouched whiskey in his hand, as his father let loose a very rude Gallifreyan swear word.

“Like hell we’re paying,” he added.

“Why not?” Rose demanded, anger flashing in her red-rimmed eyes. “Why not pay for my mum’s safety? We’re rich enough. Whatever amount they ask, we can pay it easily enough. If it was one of your children you’d pay right away. You value your children. But wives, they’re expendable. You’re both on your second wives. You can always get a third…. What does my mum matter to you, really?”

“Rose, that’s not it at all,” The Doctor answered. “How could you even think it?”

“You’re always making jokes about her,” Rose countered. “When you heard what had happened, you actually said that you pity the kidnappers trying to keep her against her will.”

“Did you really say that?” Christopher asked his father.

“Yes, I did,” The Doctor admitted. “It was in bad taste, I know. I’m sorry, to both of you.”

“It’s… probably true,” Christopher admitted. Rose looked at him and some of her anger abated. She half-laughed as she imagined her mother’s sharp tongue cutting into those who were holding her captive.

“Rose,” The Doctor continued. “I care about Jackie, I really do. But I care about all my family. And that’s why we CAN’T and WON’T pay a ransom. We’re a big family. You and me and our children, Christopher, Susan, Chris with his wife and son, Davie with Brenda and the twins, Sukie... even young Tristie and his girl. None of them would be safe if I paid a single penny to a kidnapper. We’d be getting ransoms every week. Don’t you see that, sweetheart?”

“All I see is that my mother has been grabbed by somebody. She might be hurt. She might be dying.”

“Rose, stop thinking that way. Remember this IS your mum we’re talking about. She’s not a wilting flower. She’s a tough woman. She brought you up on her own. She fought Slitheen in her own kitchen. She knocked me for six with her right hook. She’s indomitable. She is absolutely fantastic, and she’ll be all right. I promise you.”

Rose was partly mollified. Christopher took heart from his father’s words, too.

“We will pay no ransom,” The Doctor insisted. “We will not give in to threats. Nor will we put our trust in the police. Davie is already trying to find out what he can. He has scanned the place where the car was attacked. He’s checking on a possible lead. If he hasn’t found her by morning I will be very surprised. He’s as smart as me, and then some.”

“Then all we can do is wait?” Christopher asked.

“Wait and hope,” The Doctor told him. He was trying to sound calm and reassuring for his son. He knew just how broken up he was. He knew exactly how much Christopher loved Jackie. Yes, he had made jokes about them. His son had married his mother-in-law. Either he joked about that or went mad working out how it could happen. But he knew that they loved each other and he knew that Christopher needed him now as he had never needed him before.

Jackie was in a dark place – not her mental state, but the room she found herself in. There were no windows, and as far as she could tell there had never been any. There was a narrow bed that she had woken up in when the combination of two glasses of wine, a cocktail and whatever was in the cloth they put over her face to knock her out finally wore off. She had a headache to beat all headaches and a dry mouth, but otherwise she was unharmed.

She didn’t feel scared. She had been earlier when the car was being pushed off the road. She thought she was going to die in a car crash. She had still been a little bit drunk and she remembered shouting something about Princess Diana, of all people. When Geoff was shooting at the kidnappers it was frightening. She knew that Geoff and Martin both carried guns. They were Christopher’s CPO’s, after all, but they were discreetly concealed under their jackets and this was the first time she had experienced one of them in action. She had screamed blue murder as the masked man reached into the car to her. But now she wasn’t scared at all, just very angry about the whole thing.

She held onto the anger when a door opened in the blackness and a torch shone in her eyes. She tried to look past it at her surroundings. The room she was in was about the size of her kitchen back in her flat on the Powell Estate, and she was right about there being no windows. Air came in through a vent near the top of one bare wall and that was it.

Her kidnapper was wearing a mask – a rubber Halloween ghost mask. It glowed in the dark and might have looked frightening if she wasn’t so very angry. So would the gun that was pointed at her. She kept well back from it, but she wasn’t going to cower.

“I hope you know how much trouble you’re in,” she said. “My husband is important. He’ll see you rot in jail.”

“We know how important your husband is,” replied the sort of rough male voice that she had often heard around the Powell Estate. “That’s WHY you’re here. So that he’ll do exactly what we want him to do.”

“Don’t be bloody stupid,” Jackie responded. “He won’t pay a ransom.“

“That’s all right. We’re not in this for money. Our leader has other reasons for holding onto you. And they don’t depend on us keeping you healthy, so just shut your mouth and behave or it’ll be the worst for you.”

“What are you talking about?” Jackie demanded. “If this isn’t about money, what else….”

“What are you doing in here?” A woman wearing another of the Halloween masks blocked the light from outside. “Don’t talk to the prisoner. Don’t tell her anything. Don’t ARGUE with her. She’s a means to our end, that’s all.”

The man said nothing, but he scurried away as if the woman was in charge of their gang and he took orders from her.

“So you’re the brains of this outfit, are you?” Jackie commented. “And he’s the brawn?”

“Be quiet or I’ll let him back in here. He’s been in prison for beating up women. He seems to enjoy that sort of thing.”

“You don’t scare me,” Jackie answered, trying to make her voice match her words. “And I’m telling you as well as him, Christopher won’t pay any ransom.”

“I have no interest in money? There are other things a high up Cabinet Minister can do for us - especially one with his sort of skills.”

“What skills?” Jackie answered. “Don’t talk rubbish. Christopher isn’t going to do ANYTHING for you. So you’d better just give this up right now.”

“You’d better be quiet. I mean it.”

“You’re going to rot in jail,” Jackie said again. “All of you.”

“You’ll rot in here if you don’t shut up,” the woman answered. “If I feel like it I’ll bring you food in a few hours. IF I feel like it. I might just decide to let you starve.”

“Then you’ll suffer even more,” Jackie responded. “The police commissioner comes to dinner at our house. So does the director of MI5. Between them they’ll take you apart, you stupid, stupid people.”

The woman lunged towards her as if he was going to hit her. Jackie didn’t flinch. It was a long time since anyone had tried to hit her – several boyfriends before Christopher came into her life - but she wasn’t especially scared of that sort of violence.

The woman pulled the punch. It didn’t connect. It was meant as a warning to her to behave.

“See what you’ve done. You’ve made me act just like one of those mindless types,” the woman said.

“Yeah,” Jackie responded. “It didn’t take much. There you were telling your man not to argue with me and everything, and you fell into the same trap. I’ve been kidnapped by amateurs.”

“You’ll find out how wrong you are very soon,” the woman told her.”

“Oh just go away and let me get some sleep,” Jackie said. “I’ve had enough of your voice.”

“Beckett,” a voice called out from the corridor. It was another female, Jackie noted. “You need to come and look at Shane. His leg’s bleeding again.”

“No names, you blundering idiot,” the woman responded. She turned angrily and stormed out of the room, slamming it shut behind her.

“Sleep,” Jackie thought. “I should sleep. I will be better able to deal with this in the morning, after some sleep.”

Rose fell asleep about midnight, still sitting on the armchair by the window where the patrols passed every so often. The Doctor covered her with a blanket and then sat down again. Christopher watched him silently. Either of them could have gone to bed ages ago, but as long as he intended to stay up, waiting for news, waiting for a phone call, just WAITING, then they were determined to be with him.

Grahams stepped into the drawing room quietly and asked if they needed anything.

“Good grief, man,” The Doctor answered. “I thought you’d gone to bed hours ago.”

“I thought you might need my services, sir,” Grahams answered.

“I need you to go to bed and get some sleep. I’m grateful for your loyalty, but you should rest.”

“Please do get your rest,” Christopher urged him. “The Press will know about the kidnapping by morning and we shall need your experience of turning away unwanted visitors.”

“Of course, sir,” Grahams answered. “Then I shall bid you goodnight. Mrs Grahams and I are praying for you and your wife, of course. Perhaps the new day will bring better news.”

“Thank you,” Christopher said. He wasn’t sure that their butler’s prayers would do any good, but he was grateful for the kindness with which they were made.

“He’s a good man,” The Doctor said about Grahams when he was gone.

“He reminds me of Caolin, our butler at home… on Gallifrey.”

“Yes. We were lucky to engage a Human with that same level of loyalty and devotion to service.”


It was small talk to avoid the subject in both of their minds.

“Why haven’t they contacted us?” Christopher asked, breaking the taboo and asking the question he wanted to ask.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor admitted. “I don’t have a lot of experience of kidnapping for ransom. All my friends have been kidnapped as hostages to make me do some stupid thing, or for sacrifices to alien gods, or as vessels for disembodied entities, but simply for ransom… that hasn’t happened very often.”

Christopher took a gulp of the whiskey he hadn’t touched since it was poured. It was warm now. The ice had long ago melted. The taste burned his throat, but he needed the stimulus as his mind processed what his father had just said.

“You mean Jackie might not be kidnapped for money?”

“No,” The Doctor assured him. “I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on this time. That’s why I’m sitting here with you, instead of going out and doing something. If it was any of those other things I’d have a clue where to start looking – in the mad scientist’s castle, the cave of skulls, the moon temple at midnight. But this time we’re dealing with humans with ordinary greed and I’m at a loss. And I’m sorry for that. I’ve spent my life diving in to help other people and there’s nothing I can do for you.”

“I don’t blame you for that, father,” Christopher told him. “I’m glad you’re here. But let’s not talk about alien entities and sacrifices for a little while.”

Jackie slept for a little while. She wondered how long. Was it morning, yet? Since the room didn’t have any windows she had no way of knowing. Her watch was missing, of course, along with the jewellery she had been wearing and the silver plated combs that had held her hair in place.

It might even be the next night, she thought with a sudden shock. She might have slept for a whole day for all she knew.

She hoped not. Christopher would be so worried about her. Rose would be frantic. Garrick would be in bits, missing her.

She missed her little boy more than any of them. She remembered getting ready to go out yesterday evening – if it was yesterday. Garrick and Peter were both sitting on the bed in her room while she did her hair and put on her make up. They were both ready for bed. They were telling her about the model the two of them had constructed this evening. It was a Meccano model of a train with a working engine. They were planning an aeroplane tomorrow that would fly across the meadow. No doubt by next week they would be launching a Meccano space ship into orbit.

She had found herself remembering an almost identical evening when Rose was that age. She was with one of her cousins, Jackie couldn’t remember which one. But she remembered what they had both said. She had just finished making herself up to go out with a man she hoped might be ready to relieve the loneliness she felt sometimes as a single parent. Rose had said ‘look, she’s a lady’. The cousin had replied ‘that’s not a lady. It’s your mummy.’ Rose had answered ‘Mummies are ladies, too.’

Jackie had nearly cried with pride in her little girl.

Now she was proud of her little boy who was growing up so fast that he wouldn’t even need her in a few years.

And she missed him so much right now that she felt like crying.

But she didn’t. She wouldn’t give those people the satisfaction of knowing she was unhappy.

It was the same night, she was sure. She still had the slight headache and the disgusting taste in her mouth that she got a few hours after drinking alcohol. She really needed a glass of water.

She stood up and found the door by feel, intending to shout to her captors, demanding water. She froze as she heard two of them not very far from the door, talking to each other in heated tones. She put her ear to the door to listen more carefully.

“I’m NOT in this for money. We’re not going to send an ordinary, stupid ransom demand,” the woman was saying.

“Why not? We’ve got the woman. We know her family are loaded. All I’m saying is let’s get some of it as well as your high ideal about political power.”

“I don’t know why I brought you in on this. You’re nothing but hired muscle, you and your idiot friend bleeding all over the room.”

“Less of the insults, Beckett,” the man complained. “You wouldn’t have got this far without us hired muscle. Who do you think you are?”

“I am elite,” the woman whose name appeared to be ‘Beckett’ answered. “When we Meritocrats are in power, we will have no need for low-brains like you except for manual labour. So remember your place, Clay.”

Meritocrat? Jackie wondered where she had heard that word before. Then she remembered Christopher talking about a by-election in which one of his colleagues had been challenged by a man whose policies included taking the right to vote away from anyone who failed an IQ test and several other barmy ideas. He had been beaten soundly in the polls, but Christopher didn’t think he was as funny as he sounded. Meritocrats were crackpots, he said, but if they ever got a shoe in the door of political power it would be bad for ordinary people in Britain.

“One Cabinet Minister under duress isn’t going to bring down parliament,” the man called Clay responded. “That’s why I think we ought to get money, too. We might as well get something out of all this when your idea falls apart.”

“My idea won’t fall apart. THAT Cabinet Minister is a Time Lord. Don’t you know what that means? No, of course you don’t. He’s one of those aliens we heard about. One of the dangerous ones. He has the ability to twist minds, especially stupid Human ones. He can make the whole Cabinet resign in favour of a Meritocrat government. And when that happens, a paltry few million from his Lordship’s bank will be nothing. We shall have all the money in the country at our disposal, to use for our own ends.”

“You’re a bloody crackpot,” Clay told her. “It’s never going to work. Just send a ransom demand and be done with it.”

Nothing new had happened for hours. The phone didn’t ring. The police patrol outside was reassuring but no messenger tried to reach the house.

Then the sound of a TARDIS materialising filled the drawing room and a door appeared where there wasn’t one before. The door opened and Davie Campbell stepped out. His expression was sombre and weariness added to a generally wretched appearance.

“Sit down, boy,” The Doctor told him. “Let me get you a drink.”

“Tea,” he answered as his great-grandfather started to head towards the drinks cabinet. “I might be half-Scots, but I don’t need whiskey at this time of night.” He looked at Christopher and bit his lip anxiously. “Grandfather, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve failed you. Every possible lead drew a blank. Nothing I tried was any good.”

“Failed me?” Christopher touched his grandson’s cheek gently. “How could you possibly fail me?”

“I’ve done so many things… fought Dominators, Daleks, Rutans and Sontarans. But I couldn’t find Jackie here in London. I’m sorry.”

“That’s a setback,” The Doctor told him, pressing a hot sweet cup of tea into his hand. “Not failure. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We’re not blaming you.”

“Absolutely not,” Christopher assured him. “Sit down, Davie and rest yourself. You’ve done all you can, and I thank you for it.”

He WAS bitterly disappointed. He really had thought that Davie could have done something. He knew his grandson was as formidable as his own father and he had really expected him to find the kidnappers. Even so, he wouldn’t let Davie know how much of a blow his fruitless search had been.

The row between Clay and Becket was getting louder and more vicious. Then Jackie heard a key in the door. She stepped back as the door was pushed inwards, then with all of her strength she pushed it back. She heard an ‘oof’ and a North-London swear word from Clay, then an angry shriek from Beckett as if he had fallen against her. There was also a clatter as the gun fell from his hand, landing just inside the room. Jackie grabbed it and yanked the door open again.

Clay and Beckett, both of them in their ghost masks, were attempting to stand up again after falling in an ungainly heap. Jackie pointed the gun at them, steadying her hand carefully. She wasn’t familiar with guns, but she knew which end was which and the dangerous end was pointing at Beckett.

“Superior intellect, I don’t think,” she said. “Both of you, get in there.”

“You won’t use that,” Beckett responded.

“Want to chance your life on that?” Jackie answered. “I come from the Powell Estate. We had more gangsters there than you’ve had hot dinners, lady.”

She had never lost her working class London accent, but she had become used to speaking in a more careful way, pronouncing her ‘h’s’ properly and using less slang than she did in her old life. But now she sounded like somebody who may well have grown up in the ganglands of what the twenty-fourth century citizens called ‘old London’. There was an edge to her voice that certainly cowed the thug, Clay. Beckett needed a bit more convincing. She moved into a martial arts stance and tried to tackle Jackie. She simply swung her arm back – the one not holding the gun – and smacked the woman in the mouth. Even through her ghost mask there was a satisfying crack as the blow connected and she fell to the floor, out cold.

“That’ll do,” Jackie said. “YOU get into that room and take her with you. Keep REALLY quiet until the police get here.”

Clay did as he said. Jackie pulled the door closed and locked it. She took the bunch of keys out of the lock and put them in her pocket then she moved slowly and quietly through the building. It was a strange looking place. It seemed to be entirely underground. There wasn’t a window anywhere, only vents near the top of the ceiling.

She heard a voice and saw a light from a half open door. She looked inside and saw a man lying on a rough bed with his leg bandaged, blood seeping through from the wound beneath. He was moaning about the pain in his sleep. On a very old and tatty sofa a woman was trying to sleep under an overcoat. She swore at him and told him to shut up and turned towards the wall.

Jackie pulled the door to and heard a snick of a catch. She looked at the keys she had taken and found one that fitted the door. She locked it. That put all four of the kidnappers under lock and key.

But she was still inside this building, whatever it was. She followed the corridor, noting the old-fashioned water pipes that ran along the wall close to the floor. It looked like a basement of something big, like a school or a hospital.

She came to a fire door and a stairwell beyond it and climbed the stairs, aware of how cold the steps were under her feet. She had no shoes on, only sheer silk stockings. She had kicked her shoes off in the car, so long ago, now.

The stairs ended in another fire door that led into a large hall. Light from street lamps came through the windows, illuminating a wide floor with chairs and tables stacked up on one side and an empty stage at the end. Her guess about a school seemed confirmed.

She found an exit door. It was locked, but she looked at the bunch of keys again. Yes, there was one meant for an outside door. She turned the lock and pulled. The door didn’t budge. Her heart sank before she noticed bolts at top and bottom. She pulled them back and the door opened. A cold wind blew in. It was raining outside. Jackie didn’t care. She took a deep breath of the damp air and dashed outside, feeling hard tarmac beneath her feet, stepping into a puddle that felt uncomfortable and cold, but she was free. She ran through a car park in front of the building and into the street. She looked around and wondered what to do next. In her own time there would be phone boxes around. She could call the police. But nobody used public phone boxes in the twenty-fourth century. Everybody had mobile phones.

Her phone was in her handbag. And that was in the car along with her shoes.

She looked left and right and saw movement at the end of the street. A car had passed along a road at right angles to this one.

She ran again, and came to a main road. She recognised Shoreditch High Street, not far from the railway station.

There was a taxi rank with one taxi waiting at it. She ran, stumbling once and jarring her toes on the kerb. But she grasped the back door of the black cab and flung herself into the seat.

“Where to?” the driver asked. Jackie told him. He looked around at her closely. She realised that she must look a total mess with her hair down, her feet muddy, wearing a dress that looked beautiful for dinner last night, but in the early hours of the morning looked wrecked. “That’s thirteen miles, including a toll bridge,” he said. “Do you have enough money on you?”

“Yes,” she lied. “Just… get me home, please.”

She should have told him to take her to a police station. That would have been the best thing to do. But she just wanted to go home.

“Had a night of it, have you, love?” the driver asked.

“I… just want to go home,” she said again. “Please, just drive.”

He drove. She looked out of the window at the rain glistening on the empty pavements as the car moved through the empty streets of central London in the early hours of the morning. She leaned forward and saw a clock on the dashboard. It was past four o’clock. But she was on her way home.

It was a little after half past four when Christopher was shaken out of a dull, aching stupor by the ringing of the doorbell. He rose, but his father was already up from his seat.

“Grahams will be opening the door in his nightshirt if I don’t get there first,” he said. “Stay there. It will probably just be the police with nothing to report.”

There WERE police at the door. But there was also a taxi driver who was holding an exhausted Jackie by the elbow.

“I need cab fare,” she managed to say before fainting into The Doctor’s arms.

The Doctor expressed absolutely no surprise at that request. He reached into his pocket and generously rewarded the taxi driver. The man went on his way. The police stayed on the doorstep.

“Tell your Detective Superintendant that my daughter-in-law is alive and well and home where she belongs, and will make a statement when she’s rested,” The Doctor said before closing the door and lifting Jackie. He carried her to the drawing room. Christopher gasped in relief and reached for her. The Doctor brought a glass of brandy and pressed it to her lips.

“Uggh, I hate that stuff,” Jackie complained. “I could murder a cup of tea.”

“I’ll make it,” The Doctor told her. Rose had woken up and was desperate to hug her mum. The kitchen would be a peaceful haven while that reunion went on.

When he returned with the tea Jackie was telling Rose and Christopher what had happened. He listened without interrupting until she mentioned the name of the woman who had masterminded the kidnapping.

“Beckett?” he said.

“Yes,” Jackie answered. “That’s what she was called. Funny name, but….”

“Yes,” Davie confirmed. “That was the name of the woman who caused Chris so much trouble. Zo? Beckett This is her revenge for being cast out of the Sanctuary.”

“Well, if you want to pop along there in your TARDIS, you can have the last laugh on her,” Jackie told him. “She should still be locked up in the basement of an old building in Shoreditch – Coal Hill Community High School, it was called.”

“Really?” The Doctor laughed. “That’s a coincidence. I’ll call the Superintendant and tell him to get some men over there. You go and meet them if you want, Davie, my lad.”

“It’ll be my pleasure,” he answered. “Let’s hope this is the last of the meritocrat nonsense we have to put up with.”

“Agreed,” The Doctor answered. He turned back to Jackie. She was drinking tea and explaining again how she had turned the tables and locked up all four of the kidnappers.

“I was right,” he said. “Anyone who tried to hold onto you against your will deserves all our sympathy.”

“Less of that, you,” Jackie answered in a tone that proved she was recovering from her ordeal already.