The offices at Strazer and Loukum seemed very … human. The Doctor stood the other side of the
street, watching people in suits coming and going. He’d scanned the place
again, but couldn’t pick up anything odd. Either the law firm was innocent and
the exchange of details had simply been an error in communication somewhere, or
whatever was going on was being hidden extraordinarily well.
Oh well. He wasn’t going to find out by standing out here. He braced himself and strode into the glass and chrome lobby.
“Hello,” he said to the receptionist, as politely as he could muster; after all, she was probably not personally involved. “I want to speak to the person in charge.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Just tell them the Doctor’s here to see them,” he said clearly.
“Just the Doctor, please.”
“Just a moment, please.” She picked up the phone and dialled an extension. “Mr Strazer, there’s someone to see you. He says he’s called the Doctor.” After a moment she frowned. “Erm, no, it’s just him.” After a moment she took the phone away from her ear. “What do you wish to see him about?”
“To ask why Strazer and Loukum have offered to work both for and against me,” the Doctor said.
She relayed this. “Erm, I’m sorry, sir, Mr Strazer—er—is very busy and can’t see you—”
“Now look here,” the Doctor said, leaning on the desk and fixing her with his best I’m-a-Time-Lord-and-can-do-very-scary-things-stare. “I realise you’re just the messenger and I don’t want to get you into trouble here. But either you make me an appointment with him or I will find a way in myself. Tell your boss exactly this: I am the Doctor and I am not leaving until he has seen me.”
The receptionist repeated the message with trembling hands, paused, nodded, and then put the phone down.
“M-Mr Strazer is busy all day, b-but,” she added hastily as the Doctor’s frown deepened, “Mr Loukum will be free in twenty minutes, if you’d be so good to wait.”
He considered. If the men were partners, this was probably not a bad compromise. “Fine.”
She looked relieved as he settled in the waiting area and stared flicking through brochures.
Everything looked ordinary. But everything did not feel ordinary—then again, whether that was down to his own paranoia, was uncertain.
He phoned Sarah Jane. “I’ve got an appointment with Mr Loukum in fifteen minutes,” he said quietly. “How are things looking back there?”
“Rani’s over there now, hasn’t been in touch in a while,” Sarah Jane replied. “What are you going to say to the lawyer when you meet him?”
“Haven’t decided yet,” the Doctor replied. “I’m improvising.”
“Argh, I think my brain’s about to explode,” Rani said, stretching. “Can we do something else for a while?”
“’Course. You’re the guest, you choose.”
Rani made a show of thinking, but inwardly whooped—this was the moment she’d been waiting for.
Between them they half-emptied Jenny’s wardrobe of all her best clothes, and began going through them.
“Wow. I like this one,” Rani said, holding out a sequined vest-top. “Where did you get this?”
“It was a Christmas present. Hey …” Jenny paused. “I didn’t really figure you for the clothes-and-makeup sort.”
“Well I spend most of my time round my best friends, who are both boys. They’re great, but from time to time I miss being girly.” They both giggled.
“Can’t say I’m really ultra-girly either, but … I have to admit, it can be fun sometimes. Hey Rani, you should try this one, it’ll look amazing on you.”
“Okay, only if you show me the sparkly one.”
“Deal!” They swapped clothes. “Um—I’m a bit rusty at this—should one of us go—”
Alarmed, Rani shook her head. “Nah, we’re all girls here. It’s not like we’re stripping off our underwear.”
“Good point. It’s just that, I think I was nine the last time I dressed up … feels like a long time ago anyway.”
“I probably was too, don’t worry.” Rani started undressing, careful to keep Jenny in the corner of her eye. As Jenny pulled off her t-shirt, Rani’s heart skipped a beat.
No navel. There it was, the proof in black and white. This really was the Doctor’s daughter.
The question was, what did she do now?
Jenny didn’t seem to notice what Rani had, and after a few outfit swapping they moved onto hair and makeup. Rani offered to do Jenny first, and as she brushed the blonde fringe back, inspiration struck.
“You don’t have pierced ears?”
Jenny fingered a lobe half-heartedly. “No. I have a few clip-ons, don’t wear them much though.”
“How come you never got them pierced?”
“No particular reason, I don’t think. I begged my parents when I was seven and they said I was too young. Then a couple of years later a friend got hers done, and they got infected, which put me off for a while. I’m less squeamish now, and I’d like to get them done, I guess I just haven’t got round to it. Is it very painful?”
“Nah. I was told, pinch the back of your hand, and it’s about that, maybe a tiny bit more, but it only lasts a moment. Have you ever considered getting anything else pierced?”
Rani shrugged. “Nose? Navel?”
Jenny laughed. “I don’t fancy the nose, somehow. Knowing my luck I’d get a cold right after it was done.” Rani laughed.
“What about your bellybutton?”
“Dunno. Haven’t really thought about it. Could look a bit tacky, don’t you think?”
“I think there’s clip-on navel rings as well,” Rani suggested, “you could see how it looks before you got it done.”
“Do you have anything pierced? Besides your ears.”
“No, my dad would never let me. He’s a headteacher, so … What’s your dad like? Is he mega-strict?”
“Only sometimes. He’s a big believer in curfews and groundings, but as long as I abide by whatever rules he’s laid down then he’s a big softie. Mum’s much the same.”
Rani bit her lip, grateful Jenny couldn’t see. How to break it to a girl that her parents were fake?
“Doctor? Mr Loukum will see you now.”
The Doctor put the brochure aside and made his way up to the directed office, knocked firmly on the door and opened it without waiting for an ‘enter’.
A smartly-dressed man stood in the office, smiling insincerely. “Ah, Mr Doctor.” He extended a hand.
“Just Doctor,” the Doctor said, not taking it.
Mr Loukum lowered his hand. “Doctor. Do come in, sit down.” As the Doctor did so, Loukum continued, “Now, what can my associates and I do for you?”
“I understand you offered to represent me in court. Though you probably have me down in the system as John Smith.” Mr Loukum said nothing, just looked at him expectantly, so he continued. “Though it’s come to my attention that you are also acting as the prosecution. In the same case.”
“Let’s not beat around the bush, Doctor. You and I both know that’s not why you’re really here.”
The Doctor was caught off-guard at that one. “I beg your pardon?”
“My associate Mr Strazer has informed me that you believe we are involved in some, shall we say, shady doings.”
“Well then he’s admitted his own involvement,” the Doctor said, straightening up. “Because he wouldn’t know if he was innocent.”
Mr Loukum chuckled. “If you’re here for answers, Doctor, then you’re in the right place.”
“Work out who the Browns are.” Loukum opened the door again. The Doctor didn’t move.
“I want to know what Strazer has done to my daughter and I want it fixed!”
“All in good time, Doctor. I understand this is difficult for you. But we’re not the enemy. We want the same things here.”
“Do we? And what are they?”
“Well, to bring your daughter back, of course.”
“So …” His breath caught in his throat. “She really is my Jenny.”
The admittance made his head spin. “Why. Tell me why.”
“Like I said Doctor, all in good time. Would you like my assistant to show you out?”
“No,” the Doctor said quietly. “I think I can remember the way, thanks.”