“All right,” Jack said with the air of an ordinary office manager passing from one item on the agenda to the next at their Monday morning board meeting. “Owen, Toshiko, I’d like you to go and see Mrs Matthews of 12 Dundonald Street, Penarth. She has phoned the police eighteen times claiming that her next door neighbour is an alien. She’s 75, so she’s probably seeing things that aren’t there. But on the off chance she’s seeing things that ARE there…”
“No problem, boss,” Owen acknowledged on behalf of them both.
“Alun, Ianto, you’re going down to St. Athans to co-ordinate with U.N.I.T. about that UFO sighting two nights back. You’re ok with that?”
“Perfectly, sir,” Alun responded.
“Er…” Ianto began. “Actually… if it’s ok with everyone… I would rather check out something for myself. I don’t know if you heard, but the Electro Cinema opened up for business again on Friday night.”
“The Electro?” Jack was interested immediately.
“Fucking hell!” Owen added. “How did that slip under the radar?”
“There’s been no rift activity around it for a year,” Ianto answered. “Toshiko took it off the radar. We’ve not been monitoring it. Anyway, Friday night the new owner had a grand gala opening. Everything went perfectly to plan. It was fantastic, a 1950s Hollywood Theme Night.”
“You mean fancy dress?” Gwen asked. “You went?”
Alun laughed softly.
“Ianto was a 1930s Chicago plain clothes detective. He looked gorgeous. I was a Western sheriff.”
“You were sensational,” Ianto replied to him.
“You should have told me, boys,” Jack said. “I still have my old RAF uniform, WWII flying ace?”
“You’d have turned heads, Captain,” Alun told him.
“But…” Ianto added, getting back to business. “This morning… The new manager of the cinema disappeared. He’s been missing for forty-eight hours now, so it’s a police matter. It seems like he never went home after the gala was over. The cinema was locked up, but the police report says a film was still running on the projector. And no sign of Mr Trevor Vaughan.”
“People go missing for lots of reasons,” Jack pointed out. “Most of them are nothing to do with us. The rest are weevil attacks that we cover up! But… the Electro… if I’d had my way that place would have stayed closed. You’d better check it out. I’ll go with Alun to see U.N.I.T. Gwen, you’re today’s floater. You can go with Ianto.” He paused and looked at them both. “It sounds like an easy assignment. But there is something about that place. Be careful, both of you.”
“Jack never usually says that,” Gwen said as they walked up to the beautiful art deco entrance to the old Electro Cinema.
“Says what?” Ianto asked, wondering why she brought up anything Jack had said nearly half an hour after the briefing.
“Be careful. He never says that.”
“Yes, he does. All the time.”
“Not… like that, though,” Gwen insisted. “He really thinks there’s a problem here. He was warning us to be careful… I mean, really careful.”
“I fully intend to be careful,” he answered. He reached for the door handle and was surprised when it opened. “Are the police still here? Why isn’t somebody guarding the door?”
“Let’s be REALLY careful,” Gwen suggested. “We don’t know what’s going on here at all.”
“Yes… but the police should be here… or somebody should be. Why is it unlocked and nobody here? There’s a lot of valuable stuff here.”
They walked through the silent foyer and up the steps that brought them to the entrance to the cinema itself. The house lights were down and on screen was a series of authentic 1950s advertisements that would have preceded the feature film.
But nobody was watching. The auditorium was empty.
“Projection room,” Ianto said, turning and looking at the square window at the back through which the film was projected onto the big screen. Gwen nodded. Ianto tried the door with ‘staff only’ on it. The door opened. They climbed a short set of stairs and walked into the projection room.
It was empty. The film reel was running, but nobody was operating it.
“Why am I not surprised?” Gwen commented. “This place is a whole new definition of weird, even for us. But never mind that. We still have one definitely missing man and quite possibly some missing policemen. Because I really don’t think they would have just left the door unlocked….”
She looked at Ianto. He wasn’t listening. He was examining the film cans stacked next to the projector.
“Fucking hell!” he exclaimed. “It’s the last Jimmy Jones adventure.”
“The what?” Gwen asked.
“When I was ten, I had this big old book that my dad found at a jumble sale. It was a collection of comic strip stories about a character called Jimmy Jones – a sort of Dick Tracey style detective, only less well known. I loved the book. There were fifteen stories in all….”
He stopped talking. Gwen was giving him that look she reserved for the lost and bewildered.
“I liked them because… well, I used to imagine I was Jimmy Jones. I am, sort of. Ianto… is a Welsh version of James… Jimmy. It was something that gave me a bit of a thrill when I was a kid - having a set of stories about somebody who nearly had my name. Friday at the gala, I actually wore an outfit like Jimmy wore. It was the first time I’d even thought about it in years, but it just felt right.”
“That’s…. sweet. I never thought of you as somebody called ‘Jimmy’. But it’s sweet. Nice. So… anyway….”
“The last story in the book was called Jimmy Jones’ Last Case. But the thing was, the last chapter was missing. There was an article all about it. The Jimmy Jones stories were all written by a man called Dirk Beale in the 1950s. They were written for a weekly serial that went out in the cinema, along with stuff like Flash Gordon and Dan Dare. But he died before he had written the very last episode of Jimmy Jones’ Last Case. The five existing episodes were archived by the studio but never distributed. But… it looks like there is a copy on the nostalgia cinema circuit. Look, these are all five of the episodes.” He pointed to the stack of film cans by the projector.
“If those are the five episodes, what’s in the projector now?” Gwen asked. She picked up the empty can beside them and noted the title. “But….”
Ianto peered through the observation panel at the screen. The adverts had finished and the caption card came up with the film title and the film classification – a nice, family friendly ‘U’ for Saturday morning presentations.
“It….says… episode six. But….”
They both watched as the front credits rolled on an episode called ‘Jimmy Jones’ Last Case – Part Six – Showdown With Big Anthony’. Gwen noted that it was made with that kind of film where the colours looked brighter and more pronounced than in real life.
There was something very odd about the film that began running. It was a long scene of a Chicago sidewalk with those tall apartment blocks with steps coming down in front that she seemed to remember were called ‘brownstone’. There were shadows of two people walking along the street, and the sounds of their footsteps when the incidental music wasn’t too intense. But there were no people.
What’s going on?” Ianto asked. “That isn’t how the film should be, surely?”
The travelling scene reached the end of a block and a corner leading into a dark alleyway. Somebody stepped from the shadows, a figure dressed in a long coat and a trilby hat pulled down low.
“Help me,” the man said. “Please help me. Jones, where are you?”
“What the fuck?” Ianto reached to stop the film. He ran it back and he looked at it again. “That was… it was… the missing man… Mr… Vaughan.”
“It can’t be,” Gwen answered him. “You must be mistaken.”
“I’m not. It’s him. I remember. He’s wearing the same outfit he wore on Friday night.”
“Yes. When he spotted me in the foyer, dressed as a detective of the same era he was thrilled. He spent so much time talking to me about old films, he almost forgot he was supposed to be introducing the show.”
“So he’s into these sort of films? That would be why he got hold of the Jimmy Jones series.
“Yes. Though why he didn’t play this Friday night, I don’t know.”
“Perhaps because it’s a demonic film that sucks people into it and he didn’t want to lose his audience?”
“You really think that’s what it did… sucked him in….”
“We’ve seen people step out of films. It’s no stranger for people to get sucked into them?”
Gwen sighed. There was a time when the cinema was a place Rhys took her for a ‘romantic night out’ when his imagination stalled and he couldn’t think of anything more original. It wasn’t that long ago. Torchwood did this to her. She accepted things anyone else would consign to the realms of fantasy.
“Yes… but…” Ianto looked at the projector. He tried to switch it off and found that he couldn’t. He looked around and saw the mains plug. He pulled it from the socket and was only a little bit surprised that the film kept on running. He was still holding the plug uselessly in his hand when he saw Gwen walk in front of the projector. For a few moments her face and hair was lit by the moving images. Then her mouth opened in shocked surprise as she began to merge with the light.
“Gwen!” he yelled. He dropped the plug and dived towards her, grasping at her nearly insubstantial hand. He saw the images from the film on his own arm and then he felt as if he was being pulled out of existence.
Bottle green filled his vision as he raised his hand to his aching forehead. He could feel hard flagstones under his back and the air felt fresh as if he was outdoors. He wasn’t in the clothes he thought he was wearing, either. The bottle green, it turned out, was the sleeve of the gaberdine rainmac he was wearing. It was the one he had been wearing on Friday night when he went to the Gala Opening of the New Electro in an outfit based on the one Jimmy Jones wore in his childhood fantasy.
“Ianto!” He heard Gwen’s voice and felt her hand reach out to him.
“Ianto… this is really weird.”
“You’re telling me.” He gripped her arm as he pulled himself upright. He looked around them. They were no longer standing in the projector room of the Electro. “Oh fuck,” he groaned.
At least that’s what he meant to say. What came from his mouth was ‘Gosh darn!’
“’U’ certificate. No swearing,” he remarked. He looked around and noted the bright, over-coloured look of his surroundings. “We’re in the film, aren’t we?”
“It… looks like it. I’ve… never been to Chicago, and certainly not in the 1930s. But if I was to hazard a guess what it looks like….”
“It’s what it looked like to Jimmy Jones,” Ianto said. “And…” He pulled open the gaberdine and noted the dark blue pinstripe suit underneath and the neat shirt and tie. It wasn’t very far from the kind of clothes he usually wore to work, except for subtle differences in the lapels and the cut of the jacket. And he never wore a hat. He took the navy blue trilby that Gwen held out to him and looked at it hesitantly before putting it on his head and adjusting the angle. “I think I am Jimmy Jones.” He reached into the gaberdine pocket and pulled out a card that identified him as James Jones, Detective, Chicago Police Department. He was aware of a shoulder holster underneath his suit jacket, too. That wasn’t especially unusual. All his suits made allowance for weapons. But the gun he was carrying felt heavier than the modern semi-automatic he usually had. He reached inside and touched the cold gunmetal, then decided to leave it well alone for now.
“Well, if you’re Jimmy Jones,” Gwen said as she looked down at her own outfit. “Who exactly am I?”
She was wearing a calf length pencil skirt with a slit at the back and a tightly buttoned blouse of polka dot red and white fabric. It had a very low cut neckline and felt like it was a size too small.
“You… are…” Ianto laughed softly. “You are Lacey DeVille, Jimmy’s fiancée.”
“Oh.” Gwen blinked. “And er… Lacey’s cup size is meant to be at least three times bigger than mine?”
Ianto looked down at her prominently displayed cleavage and smiled. Ianto Jones was married to a handsome young man and no longer had any particular feelings about women and their bodies. But Jimmy Jones was heterosexual and engaged to Lacey, a former gangster’s moll who he had rescued in the very first story and who had gone straight on his behalf.
Then again, this was a ‘U’ rated film and he wasn’t allowed to do anything about it except look.
“We’d better….” He began, moving on from the subject of bra sizes. “I…”
“Lacey, come on,” Jimmy Jones said. “Quickly. Before Big Anthony sees us.”
“What?” Gwen grabbed his arm. “Ianto…. I’m Gwen, remember. Gwen… not Lacey. And you’re Ianto Jones from Wales, not Jimmy Jones from Chicago.”
“I…” Ianto shook his head as if dislodging the personality of Jimmy Jones from his mind. “Yes… I know I am… but… But we’d still better get off this street. Big Anthony is trouble…”
He looked around. The street was quiet, but it might not be for long. He walked quickly, pulling Gwen along with him. Her feet made an odd sound on the pavement. She was wearing ridiculously high heeled shoes and tottered rather than ran.
“Down here,” he said, pulling her into a dimly lit side alley. Just as he did so, two big black cars of the sort driven by gangsters in 1930s Chicago roared down the road. There was a sound of tyres screeching and voices shouting. One of them had to be Big Anthony. It was that sort of American-Italian accent rather unfairly associated with gangsters.
“Jones is in this area,” Big Anthony called out. “Find him. And his broad. Kill him. Leave her. I’ve got plans for her.”
Gwen gasped. Ianto grabbed her hand again and pulled her further down the alleyway. He wasn’t sure where it went, or if Big Anthony’s people might be waiting at the other end, but it was the only thing he could think of to do.
“In here!” A narrow door opened and a head popped out briefly to call to them in a loud whisper, then darted back in again. Ianto stepped towards the door.
“No,” Gwen protested. “What if it’s a trap?”
“What choice do we have?” He pulled her towards the door. As he did so, machine gun fire strafed the alleyway.
“Sounded like a classic ‘Tommy Gun’ - typically used by gangsters in the films,” Ianto said as he closed the door and listened to the sound of running footsteps in the alley outside.
“I don’t think this is the time for a DVD commentary,” Gwen answered him.
“No, it isn’t,” said the man who had rescued them. Gwen turned and recognised him as Mr Vaughan, the missing manager of the Electro. “Come this way. There’s a place where we’ll be safe.”
“Quickly, Vinnie,” Jimmy Jones told him. “Big Anthony’s men are everywhere.”
Gwen glanced at Ianto as they followed Mr Vaughan, aka Vinnie, along the narrow corridor and down a set of wooden stairs. He had slid into the character again. He looked just the same, except for a rather hunted look in his eyes, but his voice was American. Gwen thought he sounded a lot like Jack. She had never tried to work out what part of American Jack’s accent was from. Had he ever been to Chicago?
That was a question that would have to wait. She followed Vaughan as he pulled back what looked like a full length mirror at the end of the corridor to reveal a door. Ianto opened the door and they stepped inside before Vaughan replaced the disguise.
“What on Earth is this?” Gwen asked as Vaughan lit an oil lamp on a bare wooden table and her eyes got used to the dim light. They were in a small, windowless room with the table and an assortment of chairs as the only furniture. A muted sound of jazz piano and conversation came from one direction. Vaughan went to the wall and lifted a small panel that revealed what had to be a two way mirror. Gwen looked through into the larger, brighter room beyond where a pianist was accompanying a troupe of dancers on a small stage while people sat at mood-lit tables drinking. “Oh it’s a… what do they call it, a speakeasy, prohibition thing. This is one of the hidden places where they served bootleg whiskey?”
“The Volstead Act was repealed two years ago,” said Ianto in Jimmy Jones’ accent. “But places like this remain. Does Maggie know we’re here?”
“No,” Vaughan answered. “Best she doesn’t. The police and Big Anthony are both looking for you. If either come in, she can honestly say she hasn’t seen us.”
Right on cue, there was a disturbance in the cabaret room. A plain clothes man and half a dozen policemen in the old-fashioned uniforms of the time, with the double lines of metal buttons down their tunics, poured in. The piano player stopped and the dancers on the small stage stood hesitantly. A woman in a red evening dress stood from a corner seat and walked out defiantly to stand in front of the police.
Gwen didn’t recognise the woman, but the plain clothes policeman was Inspector Temple of Cardiff and she knew three of the uniformed officers, too. That explained why the Electro was empty when they got there. The police had been sucked into the film, too.
“Is Jimmy Jones here, Maggie?” asked Temple in another accent that sounded a lot like Jack’s,
“I haven’t seen him all week,” Maggie replied. “And your men can stop prowling. This isn’t the bad old days. Everything we sell is legit. And so are my customers.”
One of the officers, who Gwen recognised as a Sergeant Evans who started as a constable the same time she did, was moving towards the dividing wall where they were concealed. Evans was a pretty good policeman in Cardiff. If he hadn’t lost all his marbles when he became a Chicago cop, then he would easily figure out that the wall was just a thin sheet of plywood and that there was a space behind. They would be discovered.
“Jones is in danger,” Temple continued. “We need to put him into protective custody, for his own safety. If you see him, call me straight away.”
“Just get the hell out of here,” Maggie said. “You’re turning the beer sour.”
Temple stood his ground for a few more seconds, then he sighed and turned away, calling his men to leave with him. Gwen breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn’t even sure why. It might have been better if they had joined Temple. And protective custody wasn’t a bad idea with somebody called Big Anthony around.
“Ianto…” Gwen turned from the door.
“Lacey…” he responded.
“Gwen,” she replied. “Come on, Ianto, snap out of it. You’re not Jimmy Jones and I need you. And you, Mr Vaughan. You’re not Vinnie, either. Both of you… wake up to yourselves, please.”
“Lacey,” Jimmy said reaching out to her. “I know you’re scared. This has been a difficult time for you. I know. But… you know I love you.”
Then he kissed her. It was a good kiss. Ianto was a handsome and sensuous man. He kissed beautifully. But he thought he was Jimmy Jones kissing Lacey de Ville.
And she knew perfectly well that she was not Lacey.
“Gwen….” Ianto stepped back from her, touching his own lips with his fingertips as if they felt wrong and unfamiliar to him. “Gwen… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean….”
“That’s ok,” she said. “If it got you back… that’s fine by me. Even Alun won’t mind if you’ve remembered you belong to him.”
“Alun…” Ianto raised his left hand and smiled as he saw his wedding and engagement rings on his finger. Then his smile faded. “Oh, God! Alun. What if we can’t get back?”
“We have to get back,” Gwen said. “There has to be a way.”
“There is a way,” Vaughan said. “We have to finish the episode. Bring it to a conclusion. Then we’ll all be free. The three of us, and the policemen who were drawn in. Now you’re here, it will happen. We just have to let the story unfold.”
“What story?” Gwen asked, sitting down at the table and looking at the two men. “Ianto, you said you read that book when you were a kid… what was the plot of Jimmy Jones’s Last Case?”
Ianto sat down opposite her. Vaughan remained standing, looking in at the cabaret room.
“Jimmy was in big trouble. He’d been suspended from duty because Big Anthony planted some evidence suggesting he was on the take. Nobody believed it, of course, but his superiors had no choice. So Jimmy was out on his own. And then Big Anthony upped the ante. A body turned up. One of Jimmy’s regular informants. And again the evidence pointed to him. So now he was a wanted man. Jimmy and Lacey went on the run. The police wanted him to turn himself in, of course. And meanwhile, Big Anthony wanted him dead. So he’s hiding from both sides.”
“In a speakeasy!” Gwen noted. “Terrific. And how exactly is the story supposed to end? How do we move on from here? How do we even get out of this room? If Big Anthony and his crowd are still out there we’re stuck here. God, what am I saying? Why am I scared of somebody called ‘Big Anthony’. What a stupid name.”
“Because even if this is a film that we’re somehow sucked into, we can still die,” Ianto said. “I felt that before… when… when I was Jimmy. I really felt scared. Jimmy is… in the scariest situation he’s ever been in. He really thinks he’s not going to make it this time. I felt that about him. He thinks big Anthony is going to kill him.”
“You felt all of that?” Gwen asked him. “Oh, Ianto…”
“I must admit, I know how he feels,” he added. “I don’t want to get shot down by Big Anthony. And… if I do… I don’t want it to happen while I think I’m Jimmy Jones. If I’m going to die, I want to die as me, Ianto Jones. I… want to think of Alun in my last moments… not Lacey… no offence, Gwen!”
“None taken,” she replied. “I don’t want to be Lacey. I don’t like her taste in clothes.”
Ianto laughed. Then Vaughan hissed at him to be quiet. There was something happening in the cabaret club again. The music stopped. There was a soft scream from a woman and a shout from a man. Then a voice they were all familiar with now.
The scene was almost identical to when Inspector Temple came in asking about Jimmy. Maggie stood in front of him, equally defiant. The chief differences were the way Big Anthony’s men prowled the room, intimidating the guests, their guns held menacingly. And Big Anthony himself.
It was some kind of joke, Gwen realised. The sort that worked in half hour TV serials in the 1950s. Big Anthony was actually about five foot nothing and as skinny as a rake. He could have got his sharp suit and spats from a production of Bugsy Malone. But he was not a child. He was at least fifty years old, his face lined and worn, and twisted in menace as he looked up at Maggie’s face.
“I want Jones,” he said in a Chicago drawl. “I know he’s here somewhere. Otherwise why were the cops looking. “I want him, now.”
“He’s not here, Tony,” Maggie insisted. “I don’t know where he is.”
“I’m not playing games here, you dumb broad.” Anthony replied in a big voice that didn’t at all go with his stature. “I know he’s here. Either Jimmy shows himself by the count of three or you’re the first one I waste. After that I start wasting your customers until he shows his snivelling, cowardly face.”
Gwen looked around at Ianto. He stood up from the table slowly and went towards the door.
“No,” she called out to him in a loud whisper. “Ianto, no. He’ll kill you. He means it.”
“This was a serial for Saturday morning, with children watching,” Ianto reasoned. “He won’t kill me. Jimmy is the hero. Heroes don’t die in those sort of films. The police will turn up at the last minute or something. That’s how it works. But I have to stop that woman being hurt.”
“You’re not Jimmy Jones,” Gwen reminded him.
“No,” he answered. “I’m Ianto Jones. And when did you last see me stand by and see anyone get hurt when I could have stopped it?”
“No, please,” she begged him. “Ianto…” She ran to the door and physically blocked him from leaving. “No, Ianto, please don’t.”
Then Big Anthony’s voice was heard again.
“I’m going to count to three,” he said. “If Jimmy hasn’t shown himself by then, this broad is dead. One….. two….”
“Jimmy isn’t here!” Maggie screamed.
“Three!” Big Anthony said and fired.
Gwen almost screamed herself. In the bright technicolour the way Maggie’s chest exploded with blooms of red blood was even more gruesome than it might have been in real life. She fell backwards in what seemed like slow motion, knocking chairs aside and hitting the ground where a pool of technicolour red soon surrounded her body. In the cabaret room there was a shocked silence broken by a few stifled sobs from female patrons.
“Oh fuck,” Gwen swore. “Oh shit. He really killed her.”
“You swore?” Ianto said. “It didn’t come out as something child-friendly.”
“Safety is off,” Mr Vaughan said. “We’re not playing games now. You don’t understand. I’ve been stuck in this damn thing for days now. Every since I put the reel in and it sucked me into the story. It won’t stop. Every time Big Anthony comes in and wastes everyone in the club. Then the police come and waste him and his goons in a gunfight. But it doesn’t end. The film just reels back and starts again and we can’t stop it.”
Gwen and Ianto both stared at Mr Vaughan. They heard the sounds of death as Big Anthony ordered his men to waste everyone. Then there were shouts and more gunfire as the police came in, headed by Inspector Shepherd and it became a gunfight between Big Anthony’s gang and Chicago’s finest.
Then everything went black and Ianto and Gwen found themselves in the Chicago street again. Then they were running down the alley with the sounds of Big Anthony shouting and Tommy guns firing. They were brought into the speakeasy by Mr Vaughan.
“What just happened?” Gwen asked. “It was…”
“The film ran on a bit fast, getting to the point where Jimmy makes his decision again,” Mr Vaughan said. “It does that. Everything up until this point is just padding. Now it gets serious. The police have just been in. Soon Big Anthony will be back. And this time, this time at last, it’s going to be different.”
“What do you mean?” Gwen asked. “What will be different?”
“He’s different,” Vaughan answered, pointing at Ianto. “Jimmy Jones has to die. The episode is called Jimmy Jones’ Last Case. He was meant to die. It’s what the scriptwriter was going to do. Look…”
Vaughan pulled a notebook from his inside pocket and gave it to Gwen. She looked at the cover. It had the name ‘Dirk Beale’ written on it, and ‘Notes: Jimmy Jones’ Last Case.’ Inside were handwritten notes giving the bare outline of the plot of the last episode, including Jimmy giving himself up to save Maggie and her customers, Big Anthony shooting him and Lacey hugging him in her arms as he dies, while the police arrive in time to shoot Big Anthony and arrest his mob. But it’s too late for Jimmy. The episode ends with Jimmy getting full police honours at his funeral, Big Anthony’s frame up having been exposed, Lacey in a tight fitting black dress crying at the graveside….
“What a stupid plot,” Gwen commented. “This Dirk Beale… did anyone ever tell him he's a lousy writer?”
“Apparently not,” Ianto replied. They both heard the sounds of Big Anthony arriving in the club.
“This is where it ends,” Vaughan said. “Jimmy Jones dies, the episode ends, and we all get to go home.”
“Including Ianto?” Gwen asked. “If he… if he dies here… does he die for real, or will he be all right?”
“I don’t care,” Vaughan answered. “I’ve been stuck in this fucking, boring scene since one o’clock Saturday morning. I want to get back to my real life.”
“And you’ll sacrifice Ianto’s life to do that?” Gwen was appalled. “You… you bastard.”
“Live bastard,” Vaughan replied. He moved quickly, grabbing Ianto and swinging him around, pushing him up against the false wall. As he did so, he pressed a panel and a concealed door swung open. He pushed Ianto out into the cabaret room.
“He's here, Tony,” Vaughan said. “I found him for you.”
“Vinnie the Snitch!” Big Anthony turned and smiled in a slimy way that reminded Gwen of a snake. “You sold me out to Jones. Now you’re selling him out to me. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!”
Anthony fired twice. One bullet hit Vaughan in the middle of his forehead. The other hit Ianto in the chest. Vaughan fell back like a fallen tree, into the hidden room. Ianto fell onto his knees, clutching at the wound, a blood stain on his suit jacket getting bigger by the second. Gwen screamed and ran to him, despite the gangster guns around the cabaret room all trained on her.
“It’s all right, Ianto,” she told him as he slumped against her, his eyes glassy with tears, blood bubbling out onto his lips from a torn lung. “I’ve got you, sweetheart. You’re going to be all right. Ianto, you’re not going to die. I’ve got you. Stay with me.”
Ianto looked at her and whispered a name. It wasn’t Gwen. It certainly wasn’t Lacey.
“I’m sorry, Ianto, darling,” she said, fighting back tears. “Alun isn’t here. I’m the best you’ve got.”
She wiped the blood from his lips and then leaned closer and kissed him. His hand touched her cheek and he felt him respond to the kiss at first. Then his hand fell away and she knew it was too late. He pulled her head back and looked into Ianto’s dead eyes. She cried as Lacey De Ville might have cried over the death of Jimmy.
Then her voice froze. Everything froze. Big Anthony and his goons, Maggie with a shocked expression on her face, the customers and dancers around her. Then everything started moving rapidly backwards.
They were back in the hidden room again. Vaughan was telling them that he was prepared to sacrifice Ianto’s life to free himself.
Then there was a sound of glass smashing. It was the mirror in the corridor where they had come in. Then the concealed door crashed open. Gwen hardly had time to exclaim in surprise as she saw Alun and Jack striding in, both of them dressed in authentic 1930s costume, Alun as a police officer, Jack as….
Jack was dressed as Jimmy Jones in an outfit almost identical to the one Ianto was wearing. She watched in amazement as Alun strode towards Mr Vaughan and punched him in the face. As Vaughan fell to the floor, knocked out cold, Alun turned and hugged Ianto, kissing him fondly. While that was happening, Jack pressed the concealed door and stepped out into the cabaret room.
“I’m here,” he said. “Do your worst, LITTLE Tony. If you’re MAN enough.”
Big Anthony gave an outraged snarl and opened fire on Jack, pouring all six bullets in his revolver into him. Jack just smiled as he fell.
Gwen ran to him as the police burst in and bullets flew in all directions and Maggie and her customers dove for cover. She cradled Jack in her arms. He was still smiling.
“What if it doesn’t work this time?” she asked him. “What if you’re not indestructible Jack Harkness? What if you’re Jimmy Jones?”
“I’m… Jack Harkness,” he answered, breathing with difficulty. “Jimmy… Jones is a… fic…. fiction…al… character.”
She felt him die. She heard Ianto’s voice behind her, other voices, too. But she didn’t take in what they were saying. She held Jack’s body in her arms and bent to kiss his lips as she had done for Ianto. She felt him die as she did so.
“Gwen…” Ianto touched her on the shoulder and she looked up at him as Alun reached to take Jack from her and lay him down in the recovery position on the plush carpeted floor of the Electro Cinema. Gwen looked up at the screen and briefly saw a frozen image of the cabaret room with Maggie and her customers and a lot of dead gangsters, but no Jimmy, no Lacey and no policeman. Then the projector lamp overheated the celluloid and it burnt up from the centre of the picture out. She looked around and saw Inspector Temple, Sergeant Evans and the other Cardiff police, in their proper uniforms. She saw Mr Vaughan coming around dizzily from Alun’s knock-out punch and struggling to his feet.
“Arrest him,” Alun ordered Sergeant Evans. “He’s… he’s been stealing credit card details from customers. Take him away. I’ll… have the evidence against him faxed over later.”
Sergeant Evans looked at Alun and then at Inspector Temple who seemed a bit dazed and confused but nodded to him. Vaughan was arrested, protesting his innocence of the crime Alun was going to manufacture evidence for as soon as he got back to the Hub. Whatever sentence the courts passed would be fitting punishment for the cowardice he and Jack had witnessed on the cinema screen.
Gwen looked around at Jack. She smiled as she heard him take a long, ragged breath and sit up. She reached out and hugged him.
“Welcome back,” she told him. “You… did it. I don’t know how you knew…”
“We were on our way to St. Athans when Alun found he couldn’t get Ianto on either the communicator or his mobile. When neither of you responded to our calls, we turned back and headed to the Electro. We saw what was going on, heard Vaughan say about Jimmy Jones having to die. We… saw it happen. Not something I ever want to see again. Especially not with Alun beside me. He rewound the film, to make it happen differently. I figured out the only way it could happen differently. Did you know Vaughan had a collection of fancy dress costumes in a cupboard in the projection room? Including an authentic Jimmy Jones outfit?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” Gwen answered. “It looks good on you, though. Goes with your accent.”
“I feel naked without my coat,” he said. He looked at the window to the projection room. There was an orange flickering glow that indicated a fire had started – the overheated film must have caught light. At the same moment the fire alarm tripped and the sprinklers came on. “Everyone get out,” he said, scrambling to his feet. “I’m going to see if I can get my coat before the fire spreads.”
Everyone ran for the fire exit on the side alley beside the building. In the near distance was the rapidly approaching sound of an emergency vehicle siren. The alarm system must have had an automatic 999 call. As the fire engine arrived, Jack emerged from the building. His greatcoat was soaking wet from running through the sprinklers and slightly singed at the collar. He reported that the fire had taken hold in the projector room where there were no sprinklers because of all the electrical equipment. The film was destroyed. He had made sure of it by knocking over the canisters containing the earlier episodes.
“Jimmy Jones’ Last Case is closed,” he said.
“Good,” Ianto replied. “It wasn’t a patch on the earlier stories, anyway. I think Dirk Beale was losing his touch.”