“Och, ye look like a proper gentleman in that get-up, Doctor,” Jamie exclaimed, surprise in his voice, as the Doctor emerged from the TARDIS wardrobe.
“No,” Victoria broke in, “no, that’s not right at all! Why, that coat is nearly twenty years out of date, I’m sure!”
The Doctor himself simply looked uncomfortable out of his usual rumpled clothes. He patted the front of his coat and trousers and frowned. “I can’t say it’s an improvement on my usual attire,” he said with some dignity.
“You would say that, wouldn’t you?” Jamie said with a rueful shake of his head, shoving his hands in the pockets of his vest as he spoke.
“Yes, I would,” the Doctor said. “My clothing is quite the marriage of form and function, I’ll have you know.”
“Form?” Jamie broke in. “Ye call that form? You should try a kilt sometime, Doctor, there’s nae a thing like it.”
“Yes, Jamie, I’m sure,” the Doctor said quickly. “Very well, then, shall we be on our way? Victoria?” He held out an arm for the young woman, which she took with delicacy.
“Oh, Doctor,” she said, “I’m certain that Mr. Fortnum won’t take you seriously in that old coat.”
“Now, now, Victoria,” the Doctor said reassuringly. “Do remember we’re nearly a decade before your time, won’t you? It won’t be quite as unfashionable as you’re imagining, I’m sure. Now, you’re quite certain neither you nor your father ever traveled to Cardiff? It would be quite awkward for all of us to encounter your younger self, or your father’s, believe me. Quite awkward indeed.”
“What would happen, Doctor?” Jamie broke in with curiosity. “I canna tell you what I’d have thought to see a lad who looked just like me back in the Highlands–I mean, I ken what I’d think now, but . . . .”
“The consequences would be quite serious,” the Doctor said gravely, “I assure you. And that is why we must all be extra careful. Victoria, are you absolutely certain?”
“Yes, Doctor,” she assured him. “Quite certain. I’d never been to Wales in my life before today. And I’m sure my father never went, at least not after I was born, and we’re a bit past that now, aren’t we?”
“Excellent,” the Doctor said. “Come along, then, Jamie. Shall we?”
“Oh, aye,” Jamie said, and as he hurried to catch up with the other two, the three of them walked out through the console room into the streets of nineteenth century Cardiff.
They had returned to the TARDIS for a quick change of clothing on Victoria’s insistence, after realizing that the device causing the odd time shifts in the city around them had passed into the possession of a wealthy solicitor who seemed, at least, to be entirely ignorant of its function. (“Oh, and he’d better be,” Jamie had said darkly when they’d learned of its whereabouts. “You canna trust a solicitor, and you know it, Doctor,” before the Doctor had quieted him with a “Hush, Jamie.”) Victoria had maintained that they were far more likely to recover the object if properly dressed for the meeting the Doctor had managed to arrange with the man, and when Jamie had taken her side, the Doctor had given in and all three of them had returned to the TARDIS (all except for Jamie, who, though he had willingly changed his jumper to a shirt suited to the time period, had staunchly refused to swap out his kilt for the pair of trousers Victoria had suggested).
“You do look rather odd like that, Doctor,” Victoria said with a smile as they started along the city street. “I’m so used to seeing you dressed in your . . . well, in your other clothes. It’s quite a shock to glance over at you and see you looking as if you belong in my own time.”
Jamie nodded. “It is, at that!” he said. “It’s nae my time, y’ken, but it’s right queer to look over and see you looking–”
“Normal, Jamie?” the Doctor asked, his eyes twinkling.
Jamie laughed. “Well, I wouldnae go that far,” he said.
Victoria laughed as well, then covered her mouth with her hand, blushing. “I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, Doctor,” she said earnestly.
The Doctor smiled. “I know he didn’t, not to worry,” he said. “Why, Jamie looks the most out of place out of any of us, I’d wager!”
Jamie scowled at him and set his hands on his hips. “And just what d’ye mean by that?” he demanded. “I’d be laughed out of the Highlands if I dressed as weak and womanish as an Englishman, so I would.”
“Ah,” the Doctor said, “but we’re not in the Highlands, are we, Jamie?”
“It makes no difference,” Jamie said stubbornly. “Ye should know that, Doctor.”
“Should I really?” the Doctor asked in a mischievous tone.
“Oof, leave it, Doctor,” Jamie said, sounding aggravated. “You’re having me on, so you are, don’t think I canna tell.”
“Well,” the Doctor said thoughtfully, “I don’t know about that . . .”
“Och, you–” Jamie started.
“Oh, you’re terrible,” Victoria said at the same time, laughing. “Leave off, both of you.” She smiled at Jamie, then turned the same smile on the Doctor. It was a very charming smile indeed, and the Doctor smiled back.
“Oh, aye, well,” Jamie said, his expression softening into a smile of his own. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. The Doctor shook his head to himself and put one hand on Jamie’s back, the other on Victoria’s, as he ushered them along to the entrance to the solicitor’s office.
“Now,” he said as Jamie rang the bell, “I want both of you to keep a very close eye out while we’re in there. As far as we know this Fortnum fellow knows nothing at all about what’s been going on here, but someone in this city certainly does, and we want the dimensional circuit before they get their hands on it.”
Both of them nodded. “Oh, aye, Doctor,” Jamie said.
Victoria added, “Yes, Doctor, I understand,” then turned to smile brightly at the servant as he opened the door. “We’re here for an appointment with Mr. Fortnum?” she said.
“Are you?” the man said. “What the name, then?”
“Doctor van Wer, and his–ah, well, my companions,” the Doctor broke in with a smile.
“Oh, do tell him we’ve arrived,” Victoria said.
“Very good, miss,” the servant said, and opened the door. “If you’ll just wait here in the parlor for a bit, then . . .” He closed the door behind them and showed them into a small anteroom. “I’ll just go up and tell Mr. Fortnum you’re here.”
“Oh, thank you,” Victoria said, as the Doctor began to look around the small room curiously. Jamie clasped his hands behind his back and peered suspiciously into the corners.
“Well, it all looks normal enough,” the Doctor said cheerfully, and sat down.
“Oh, surely there’s nothing here,” Victoria said chidingly, and sat down herself, carefully arranging her skirt.
“You can nae be too careful,” Jamie said darkly.
“I believe in this situation you’re both right,” the Doctor said. “Come now, Jamie, why don’t you sit down?”
“How d’you get that, then?” Jamie demanded, but he took a seat, still glancing about them warily. “We can’t both be right.”
“Of course you can,” the Doctor replied, “the two viewpoints are not mutually exclusive–ah, here we are!”
The servant had returned. Jamie got to his feet immediately, even as the man said, “Mr. Fortnum is in another meeting, but as you insisted the matter was quite urgent–”
“Yes,” the Doctor broke in, “quite urgent indeed, I assure you.”
“–he says he will see you now,” the servant finished. “Follow me, please.”
Victoria and the Doctor got to their feet more slowly, and all three of them followed the servant up the stairs, which creaked rather dangerously under their feet.
“It sounds like these could use some work,” the Doctor observed, “or at the very least some oiling.”
“It’s an old building,” the servant observed. “Between you and me, the master’s a bit strapped for the ready, and the rent was lower than in the old place. But don’t go telling anyone I told you so.”
“Now, that’s interesting, now, isn’t it?” the Doctor said. “We heard Mr. Fortnum was a very wealthy man, didn’t we, Jamie, Victoria?”
“Aye, so we did,” Jamie agreed.
“He isn’t wealthy at all, then?” Victoria asked with some concern in her tone.
“Not anymore, he isn’t,” the servant said darkly. “It’s what comes of speculating on the Funds, if you ask me, which you didn’t, of course. Now here you are, and don’t go repeating any of that, you follow me.”
“Oh, of course not,” the Doctor said. “Now, remember what I told you, both of you.” He smiled broadly as the servant opened the door and said, “it’s that Doctor van Wer, here to see you, sir.”
“Yes, yes, all right, Walters,” came a man’s voice, sounding harassed. “Show him in.”
“No need for that!” the Doctor said, making his own way inside. “Mr. Fortnum, I presume. I’m the Doctor, this is Jamie, and this is Victoria. How do you do?”
Mr. Fortnum proved to be a thin man with a great deal of gray hair and a lined face who nevertheless seemed to be in his late thirties. He looked rather harried. “Yes, yes, how do you do,” he said. “Pleased to make your acquaintance and all that. Now, what was this urgent matter you needed to discuss with me, sir?” He was sitting across a table from another man, a rather stocky man with a scar down one side of his chin and dark eyes, though the solicitor stood as they came in. The other man remained stubbornly seated.
Victoria made a very pretty curtsy and murmured, “How do you do.” Jamie mumbled something to the same effect, then tugged urgently on the back of the Doctor’s jacket.
“That’s him, Doctor!” he whispered. “That’s the man who tried to follow me back to the TARDIS!”
“Is he now?” the Doctor murmured, then rubbed his hands together and smiled more widely. “Now, then, Mr. Fortnum, aren’t you going to introduce us to your guest?”
“Ah, yes,” he said. “This is Mr. Johns, who came here to make me a business proposition of a sort. I’m afraid he was just finishing up when you arrived.”
The man inclined his head slightly in their direction. “Doctor,” he said coolly.
“Mr. . . . Johns, is it?” the Doctor said, rocking back on his heels. “And what sort of business proposition might that be?”
“Well . . .” said Mr. Fortnum, looking back at the man.
“What sort of business do you have with Mr. Fortnum, Doctor?” Johns broke in. His voice was deep and gravelly.
“Yes, that’s right, something about a bequest to the young lady that needed urgent attention?” the solicitor said, looking back at the Doctor.
“Yes, that, well, you see . . .” the Doctor said, “that was, you could say, my little subterfuge. As a matter of fact, I came here on quite a different matter altogether.”
Fortnum blinked. “I say, sir, that is most irregular. Surely you could have been upfront about the whole thing? Is there no bequest to the young lady?”
“Not as such,” the Doctor said. Victoria smiled apologetically. “However, it was of the utmost importance that I speak with you, and it seemed the most expedient manner in which to obtain a meeting. Am I correct in thinking that Mr. Johns here has contacted you in order to purchase a most interesting relic that has recently come into your possession?”
“Why, how did you know that?” Fortnum asked.
“Clearly he has come here in pursuit of the object himself,” Johns snarled. “I warn you, Fortnum, you cannot trust this man.”
“Oh, and he can trust ye, can he?” Jamie shot back. “Up to no good you are, I’m sure!”
“Yes, thank you, Jamie,” the Doctor said. “As a matter of fact, I do have a certain interest in the object–”
“There, you see?” Johns burst out. “He even admits it. I am certain he has come here for some nefarious purpose concerning it, to cheat you out of its rightful value.”
“And would he tell ye he’d come for it if he meant to steal it?” Jamie cried in an outraged tone.
“Indeed,” the Doctor said. “Jamie here makes quite a good point, don’t you think? Besides which, Mr. Fortnum, I can assure you that your friend has no intention of paying you the object’s full value, such as it is. I rather think he’s the thief in these parts, if we want to call each other names. He already tried to steal it from its prior owner, after all. Ah, that would be just before it ended up in your possession.”
“Are we supposed to believe this ridiculous story?” Johns cried. His eyes flashed silver, and he lunged to his feet.
“And what do ye think you’re doing?” Jamie shouted back, taking a menacing step forward. “Did ye see that, Doctor?” he asked. “His eyes–”
“Yes, Jamie, quite,” the Doctor said in a serious tone.
“Oh, dear,” Victoria said.
Fortnum seemed to share her sentiments. “Yes, gentlemen, and . . . ladies, do calm down,” he said. “What is this device, anyway?”
“An archaeological find of some value,” Johns said dismissively. “Nothing you would find of much interest, I’m sure.”
“It does indeed hold great academic interest for a number of parties,” the Doctor said. “But it seems the interest of some others is not entirely academic, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Johns?”
“I haven’t got the faintest idea what any of this is about,” said Fortnum in a despairing tone. “Is this all about that little thing? I mean, it’s hardly as big as a . . . as a prize cabbage.”
“Not even half the size, I should think,” the Doctor said cheerfully. “At least, of a prize cabbage. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell an intelligent man like yourself that size is one of the least important of an object’s properties.”
“Surely we can come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement of some sort,” Fortnum said desperately.
“Well, that’s entirely dependent upon Mr. Johns,” the Doctor said. “What do you say? Will you allow me to use that manipulator to repair those dimensional fluctuations before something quite dreadful happens?”
“Never!” Johns growled. “Not when we’re so close. They warned me about you, Doctor!”
“Oh, did they?” the Doctor asked, sounding delighted. “Well, that was quite clever of them, wasn’t it?”
“Stay back, Doctor, he’s about tae try something,” Jamie said warningly.
Johns pulled back his sleeve to reveal a metal band around his wrist set with flashing lights. He pressed a button, and the room began to fill with smoke. A piercing whistle split the air, even as the smoky air grew thick around them, and the inhabitants of the room began to cough and cover their ears. The cabinets on the far side of the room began to emit a low red glow, cutting through the smoke, and Johns began a rush toward it.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” Jamie burst out, between coughs, and lunged forward himself to grab at him.
“Do be careful, Jamie,” the Doctor called warningly, already edging toward the cabinets himself. He opened a drawer and began to poke through the odds and ends inside with one hand.
“You’ve all gone mad!” Fortnum exclaimed, before he had to double over, pressing his handkerchief to his nose.
“Not quite yet,” the Doctor muttered, still rooting through various and sundry possessions. He opened another drawer. “Keep him over there, Jamie,” he said.
Jamie coughed and struggled to pull Johns back away from the cabinets, setting both feet against the carpeted floor with determination. “I’m trying, Doctor!” he shouted, his voice choked with the smoke.
Johns let out an inhuman bellow that sounded more like an avalanche than something from a human throat and shook Jamie off as easily as he might have a meddlesome fly. Jamie flew across the room and crashed into a chair before rolling to lie still against the wall. Fortnum pressed himself fearfully against his back wall, Victoria screamed, and the Doctor looked over at Jamie with a marked concern, only to turn his attention back to Johns when Jamie groaned and lifted his head, shaking it dazedly. “Do something, Victoria!” he called, as he frantically opened another cabinet.
Victoria anxiously looked around the room, then at Johns, who was rushing toward the Doctor, took a deep breath, steadied herself on a nearby bookshelf with one hand and lifted her skirt with the other to stick out her foot.
Johns wasn’t looking in her direction, and she happened to be standing rather close to his chosen path. He tripped over her foot, and even as she exclaimed in pain, she leaned over, picked up a heavy law book resting on the bookshelf and hit him over the head with it several times before sitting down squarely in the center of his back. “Will that do, Doctor?” she called worriedly.
The Doctor smiled proudly at her. “Yes, Victoria, it will do quite nicely, I should think,” he said with satisfaction. A moment later he pulled out a small silvery, segmented device that glowed red from both ends. “Ah, here we are,” he said, and turned to Fortnum. “You really could stand to organize your cabinets a little better, you know!” he said. “Now, let me see . . .” He twisted both ends of the device, then frowned as it made a low warbling noise. “Now, I don’t think it should be doing that,” he muttered. “Well, don’t just stand there!” he added, in Fortnum’s direction. “No, you’re quite all right, Victoria, stay where you are.”
Fortnum simply blinked fearfully at him. “Well, help him up!” the Doctor exclaimed, gesturing with one hand at Jamie, who was slowly picking himself up off the floor. “Are you a gentleman or aren’t you?”
Fortnum stared at him for a moment longer, then gingerly moved to Jamie’s side. The Doctor shook his head and returned to the device. He hummed a bit, then twisted it again. The smoke began to clear, and Victoria gasped as the lights on Johns’ wristband flashed. A moment later, the room filled with a blue light so bright it burned into the eyes, and Johns disappeared, landing Victoria with a jolt on the floor.
“Ah, that’s the ticket,” the Doctor said, sounding pleased, as the light faded, and the device stopped glowing as well. All three of the others stared at him, Jamie on his feet now, if leaning on Fortnum a bit unsteadily.
“But where did he go?” Victoria asked, astonished.
“Aye, are my eyes playing tricks on me, Doctor?” Jamie asked groggily.
“I should hope not, after a knock on the head like that one,” the Doctor said gravely.
“But–but he was right there a moment ago!” Fortnum exclaimed.
“What did you do?” Victoria asked. “What is that . . . that device, exactly?”
“Why, this is the dimensional manipulator he was after,” the Doctor said, tossing it cheerfully in one hand. “Of course, it’s rather crude, but the principles are simple enough. His species were trying to escape here by means of this particular version of the technology, utilizing some . . . rather unusual energy readings in the area. Of course, it does work both ways. Tapping into the same energy, you see, enabled me to send them right back home again!”
He was greeted with three equally blank stares.
“Well,” the Doctor said huffily, “I thought it was a perfectly reasonable explanation.”
“Och, my head hurts too much for that sort o’ thing, Doctor,” Jamie said.
“So, they’ve gone, then?” Victoria asked, brushing herself off as she got to her feet, and shaking out her skirts. “Him, and all the others like him?”
“Yes, they certainly have,” the Doctor said with a certain amount of satisfaction. “I daresay they won’t be coming back again anytime soon, either.”
“Oh, good,” Victoria said, with undisguised relief.
“Aye, I have tae say that’s a relief,” Jamie said, shaking his head again. “He hit like a charging bull.”
“Oh, Jamie, are you quite all right?” Victoria fussed, hurrying over to his side. “He did hit you so very hard . . . I was worried about you!”
Jamie ducked his head. “Oh, it was nae very much,” he said. “I’m a sturdy lad, Victoria, y'ken that.”
Victoria shook her head and continued fussing over him, which Jamie seemed to have no real objection to, if the rather pleased look on his face was any indication. “I really should look into those energy readings sometime,” the Doctor murmured, slipping the device absently into his pocket.
“Ah, yes, right then, will you be going?” Fortnum asked rather unsteadily, making his way over to his desk chair and sinking down into it.
“Aye, Doctor, are we going, then?” Jamie asked, setting both hands on Victoria’s shoulders as he looked up.
“Yes, I think we will be on our way,” the Doctor said. “I don’t know that there’s much of anything for us to do around here any longer. If you’re sure you’re all right, Jamie?”
“Oh, stop goin’ on about it,” Jamie said. “I’m fine.”
“Very well, then!” the Doctor said. “Off we go. Oh, and Mr. Fortnum . . . I really would consider moving back to London and reinvesting in the family business, if I were you.” He made his way over to his two friends. “Well, then, shall we be off?”
“Why not?” said Jamie.
“Quite right, quite right,” the Doctor replied.
“Wait–now, aren’t you going to give me my . . . that–thing?” Fortnum asked, looking rather queasy at the thought of it.
“No, no, I don’t think so,” the Doctor said, his face turning severe. “Such a thing should never have been lying about here in the first place, you know. Far too easy for it to fall into the wrong hands. No, I think it’s best I keep it. Take my advice, now, there’s a good fellow. Come along, Jamie, Victoria.”
They were on their way down the stairs when Victoria said, “You know, Doctor, you were right, after all.”
“Hmm?” the Doctor asked. “About what in particular?”
“It is much easier to do this sort of thing in a shorter skirt!” she said, and laughed.
“Didn’t we tell you?” Jamie said. “Now, I hear it’s even easier tae run in a skirt that comes all the way up tae–”
“James Robert McCrimmon, if you finish that sentence I will be quite put out with you!” Victoria retorted firmly.
“That wasn’t very gentlemanly of you, Jamie,” the Doctor put in with a laugh.
“Oh, be quiet, the both o’ ye,” Jamie said. “I’m injured, remember!”
“I do think you look better in those clothes, though, Doctor,” Victoria put in, even as she patted Jamie’s arm. “Quite gentlemanly.”
“Well . . .” the Doctor allowed. “Perhaps they do rather suit me. What do you think, Jamie?”
“You look like a right bampot, so ye do,” Jamie said darkly.
“Oh, don’t pay any attention to him!” Victoria said. “You look lovely, Doctor.”
The Doctor beamed. “Why, thank you, Victoria,” he said. They started out of the house, even as Walters pounded up the steps to his master’s study behind them. Jamie groaned, and Victoria was instantly at his side again to flutter over him. The Doctor smiled to himself, and shook his head.
They were some way down the street when Jamie said, “So, Doctor, ye fed the man a likely story with all that twaddle about it being dangerous and all–admit it, you just wanted tae keep it so ye could tinker with it later on!”
“Now, Jamie, you have to admit it did cause quite a bit of trouble,” the Doctor said. His eyes twinkled, and he added with a grin, “Besides, they do say a gentleman can have it all!”