Prompt: The Thin Man – Released in 1934, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, Dashiell Hammett’s wise-cracking, crime-solving couple
Word Count: 31,921
Character/Pairings: Jack/Ianto and just about anyone from the Whoniverse at large
Spoilers: Way off the map, so nothing I can think of
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the computer I typed this on and the way these words are spun together. This is a work of fan fiction and no one, least of all me, wants to be stepping on copyrights.
Summary: Captain Jack Harkness, former Torchwood agent, brings his husband to his old stomping grounds of New York City to meet his friends. He didn’t anticipate walking into multiple crimes, missing people, and a general mess. What’s happened in Torchwood?
Special Thanks: To my wonderful betas cjharknessgirl and faithharkness for sticking with me and helping me push this out of my fingertips. Without their encouragement, this would have stayed in limbo for all time.
Donna Noble marched with a determined step down to her father’s laboratory, accompanied by her fiancé, Lance Bennett, who was seriously attempting to slow her down. “Look, Donna,” he said, “if you go in there mad, he’ll go on the defensive and you’ll never get your point across.”
“Oh, yes, I will. What is he doing to go haring off just before the wedding?” She reached the door and yanked it open. “Pops!” she roared. “Where are you?”
A tall thin man with a shock of white hair came out of an inner room. “Is that you, Donna?”
“Of course, it’s me. Does anyone else call you ‘Pops’? Now what do you mean about being out of touch for two weeks? The wedding’s right after Christmas, remember?”
Geoff Noble drew himself up with dignity. “I’ll be back for Christmas.”
“Yeah, well, you’re so punctual,” she replied sarcastically. “You showed up two days late for the engagement party.”
“That was your mother. She gave me the wrong date.”
“She says she didn’t.”
Her father sighed. “Donna, since the divorce she’s had nothing good to say about me. You know that.”
Donna relaxed. “Okay, it does sound like the kind of stunt she would pull. She and that lousy, good-for-nothing husband of hers.” She walked over to him. He opened his arms. “It’s just that I want you there. I want you to give me away. Where are you going?”
Geoff kissed her on the top of her head. “I can’t tell you, Carrot-Top. It’s hush-hush.”
Donna’s eyes narrowed as she looked up at him. “It’s Torchwood, isn’t it? And that scarecrow Suzie Costello? I don’t trust her.”
Geoff laughed and released her. “You don’t like Suzie because you want to ogle Captain Jack again. Well, sorry, baby, but he’s not with Torchwood anymore. I asked about him.”
She blushed. “Not in front of Lance, Pops.”
“I don’t mind,” Lance said. “You’re marrying me, not him. Whoever he is.”
“He used to be Pop’s liaison with the Torchwood group. Now, he’s got this Suzie person. Does she know where you are going?”
“Yes, of course. If you need to get in touch with me, you can call her. She knows where I will be. I have a new discovery and I think it will work miracles. So, I have to go.”
Donna pouted and punched him lightly. “All right. But you be sure to be back by Christmas. I’ll kick her practically-non-existent butt up to those fancy Torchwood offices if I need to.”
This time both Geoff and Lance laughed. “Come on, sweetheart. We need to get back. There’s a rumor that one of the family will be showing up at New York Swan for the New Year’s grants announcement. All the higher-ups are nervous. We’ve never had a personal visit before,” Lance said.
“Oh, piffle.” Donna sniffed. “The Joneses are just people. We do just as good work as the London office does. Maybe, the ‘family’ is finally recognizing that.”
“Let’s go before the Swan Foundation realizes its best admin is playing hooky. They can’t run that place without you.”
“Damn straight.” She turned again to her father. “Remember, be there.”
“I’ll remember. Love you, Carrot-Top.”
“Love you, Pops.”
Rose Tyler burst into her boss’s office. “Look, Doctor!” she said breathlessly. “It’s a letter from Jack!”
“A letter?” John Smith took the envelope from Rose and stared at it. “I didn’t know Jack could still write. He always did everything by email.”
“Stop insulting him and open it!”
“All right. All right. Calm down.” He reached for the letter opener and neatly sliced the vellum envelope. He pulled out a card that looked like an invitation and a folded page with it. Rose came around the desk and looked at the card. In a simple elegant print, it said:
Captain Jack Harkness and Dr. Ianto Jones Harkness
Invite the Torchwood team to a
Hotel Sofitel Ballroom
“Kind of swanky for Jack,” Rose said, giggling.
John opened the note. Rose read over his shoulder. He didn’t mind; she’d just read it later if she didn’t now. It was written in Jack’s bold hand.
Yeah, I know I don’t usually write on paper, but Ianto wanted this to be a little more formal, so I’m doing it for him. Not an unusual occurrence these days. I do lots of things for him.
Finally we’re going to make it to NYC to do the tourist thing. We’ve been trying to work it in the schedule for a while, but we’re both pretty busy. I’ll explain more when I see you. I don’t want writer’s cramp.
Ianto wants to meet my old friends and I want to show him off, so we’re having a big party to which all of the Torchwood office is invited. Spread the word. Ianto thought we should send individual invitations to everyone, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea. I don’t know who’s still there and didn’t want to put my foot in it.
We’ll get there late on the 22nd, and I wanted to ask you and Rose to have dinner with us on the 23rd. We can talk without the ravening horde. I do miss my old colleagues, but I know their habits. If we want quiet and calm, we’re going to have to find it outside of the party. I’ll call you that morning to set it up. If you’ve changed your number, you can find us at the Penthouse Suite in the Sofitel. We stay up high for a reason. If we have dinner, I’ll Reveal All, I promise. Some of it is not for public consumption. I figure an old hand like you can keep a secret.
See you soon,
Rose sighed. “It’s just like he’s talking to us, isn’t it? I’ve missed him.”
John grinned. “I wager all of us who knew him have. He is a pretty unforgettable character.”
“Yeah.” Rose leaned on the desk and regarded him. “I wonder what this Ianto is like. I’m very curious to see the paragon who stole our Immortal from us.”
“I should be the aloof and disinterested boss, but I’m not. I want to see him as much as you do. Be careful not to use that nickname for Jack until he says it’s okay. We don’t know what he’s told this Ianto.”
“How many times has Jack cheated death? Fifty? Sixty? What else can we call him?”
“Captain. He loves it. I take it that you want to go to dinner then?”
“Wild Thanatox couldn’t keep me away.”
Dr. Owen Harper sipped his coffee appreciatively. Nothing but the best for Suzie Costello. He wondered if she had someone who came in and brewed it for her. It wouldn’t surprise him.
She sat across from him, her green cat eyes watching him drink. “You’re going to have to hurry, Owen,” she said, her low voice a purr. “You’ll be late.”
He snorted. “Not like anyone but Rose would notice. There’s not much going on.”
“Yes, but…” Suzie stretched languorously, “You’re still competing for top spot. I know you are. You and little Gwennie and Mickey the Mouth. All of you trying to fill the shoes of the Immortal and none of you with enough guts to pull it off.” She stood and came around the table, dropping a kiss to the top of Owen’s head. As she moved toward the kitchen, she laughed again. “I’m so relieved not to be in the pack.”
“You left out Rhys and Alex,” he said mockingly. “Or don’t you remember them? You come in so seldom these days…”
The sound of a key in the lock had them both turning. Owen had drawn his gun before the door opened. A tall, skinny, white-haired man stood there gaping at him. “Oh,” Owen said, recognizing him as one of Suzie’s “pets”, as she called them. “Sorry, Dr. Noble. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
He looked unconvinced. “Dr… er… Harper, is it?”
Suzie swept out of the kitchen. She had somehow managed to get Owen’s bag out of the bedroom and into her hands in the scant seconds since the first scratch of the key in the lock. “Here you are, Dr. Harper,” she said, smiling easily as though they were just work acquaintances. “I think you’ll find the reports in order.”
She crossed the room to take Noble’s arm, leaning into him. “Dr. Harper came by to get the latest information on Quiet Grove,” she said. “I was just telling him that you might have something new for him when you come back.”
Following Suzie’s lead, Owen picked up his bag. “That’s right, sir. New research?”
Noble was still eying him suspiciously. “I need to conduct some controlled experiments. I’m not ready to publish yet.”
“Torchwood is very grateful for anything that you can do to help those poor souls. I’ll look forward to hearing about it.” He went to the door. “No, don’t see me out. I’ve got to get to the office.” Owen scooted out the front door.
When he was a few feet away, he fished out his cell phone and activated the enhanced listener function. The voices in Suzie’s apartment were muffled, but he could just make out the words.”
“… silly, Geoff. You’ve seen Owen here before. He has his reports now and that makes him happy. We have the morning to ourselves before I take you out there.”
There was a silence – probably Suzie filling it as only she could – and then Noble’s voice: “All right, sweetheart.”
Owen found himself wanting to gag. Did people actually talk like that still? Sheesh.
Noble again: “Look, Suzie, I need you to ask about my consulting fee.”
“Torchwood will get you the money, Geoff, dear. I told you not to worry.”
“I need it now, Suzie. My daughter’s getting married and I want to give it to her as a wedding present.”
Owen couldn’t repress a snigger, drawing a curious look from one of Suzie’s neighbors as he went past. Suzie had a very elastic definition of whose money it actually was when it came into her hands. Torchwood paid its debts promptly, but of course, her patsy wouldn’t necessarily know that. He doubted the poor sap had seen a penny of it since Suzie had taken over for Jack.
“I’ll get it for you,” Suzie was cooing. “I don’t have it here, but I’ll get it. Don’t you worry. Now, tell me all about this new drug you have…”
This was what Owen wanted to hear, but a rather large man who might have had “Security” tattooed on his forehead came out of the elevator. He’d probably been alerted by the nosy neighbor. “I’m on my way,” Owen said into the cell phone and then snapped it closed. He gave Mr. Security Guard a wave as he went by. He’d be back later to pry the secret out of Suzie.
Donna most definitely did not want to see her mother, but her grandfather had called. He was one of the few people that she had no defense against. She had asked him repeatedly to come live with her, but he had remained adamant. “She needs me more than you do, Pumpkin.”
Maybe. She still didn’t want to do this. Stepping into her mother’s condo was like diving into a scummy swimming pool. Taking a deep breath, she pressed the doorbell.
A few moments later, the door was opened by one of Donna’s least favorite people in the world. He gave her his best mocking grin and saluted. “Well, if it isn’t our own fiery angel? Welcome, Donna dear. Want to give Daddy a grown-up kiss?”
“Stick it where the moon don’t shine, John,” Donna said, as she gave him a shove, perhaps a little harder than necessary. “I’m here to see Gramps.”
“Language, Donna.” John waggled a finger at her. “I’ll have to spank.”
“In your dreams, sewer breath.”
She was saved any more innuendo by the appearance of her mother. Sylvia Hart, nee Noble, could have been a very nice-looking older woman – as it was she looked like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”. Her blonde hair came out of a bottle, her make-up was too heavy, and she was dressed like a teenager. Donna wanted to gag. “Donna, dear, how nice to see you. I’ve been meaning to call you for a little chat.”
Sylvia’s “little chats” usually degenerated into a whine festival, which Donna did not need today. “Maybe later, Mom. Gramps called me. Where is he?”
With a sniff, Sylvia said in the tone of the long-suffering, “He’s in the back courtyard with his telescope. What he expects to see with all this light, I don’t know.”
Privately, Donna thought it was just a convenient excuse. She thanked her mother and went down to the courtyard. It was small and well-kept with a fountain providing background. Wilf was there, peering into the eyepiece of his telescope. “Hey, Gramps,” Donna said softly.
Wilf lifted his head and grinned at her. “Hi. Come look at this.”
She crossed to the scope and bent down. After a moment, she focused on something that looked like miniature comets. “It’s a meteor shower.”
“Yes. But we’re not supposed to be having one, according to the astronomy magazines.” Wilf clasped her hand. “You think maybe it’s aliens?”
“Um…” Donna sank down on the bench beside her grandfather. “Might be. Rumor has it that’s why Torchwood exists. To deal with aliens. Find it hard to believe myself, but there are lots of weird things in this place.”
“I think I’d rather face aliens than the riffraff in this city.”
“Me, too. So, why’d you call me?”
He sighed. “Money, of course. Your mother has run through her allowance again. She tried to borrow from me yesterday.”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Donna got up and began to pace. “Pops made her a good settlement. He didn’t have to give her anything, you know? She forfeited her alimony when she married that slime ball John Hart. She has no claim on anything of his.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know, Pumpkin. I’m just worried, that’s all. She gets into a panic and your dad’s been out of touch for a while. I’m afraid that Hart fellow will get her involved in something messy.”
“Pop’s only been gone a week. He promised to be back before Christmas. He’s gone off for some Torchwood secret thing.” She sighed. “I don’t even know what this Torchwood is all about and they seem to be taking over my life lately. There was a group of them in the Swan office yesterday, including that Costello women. Getting the VIP tour.”
Wilf smiled. “Did you ask Lance about it?”
“Not yet, but I will. He and his supervisor were conducting the tour. He had to go to a dinner meeting tonight.” Donna patted his hand. “Was there anything else? I want to get out of here before Mom starts bending my ear with all her complaints.”
That elicited a laugh from her grandfather. “That’s why I’m out here.”
“Love you, Gramps.”
“Love you, Pumpkin.”
Gwen Cooper took a quick survey of her tablemates. It was odd that they were all in the office on the same day when it was slow, and Dr. Smith and Rose had urged them to take a long lunch. Now they were sitting in one of their standard eateries and had just finished their orders. Gwen hardly waited until the waitress’ footfalls had faded before she leaned forward and said, “Okay, who’s going with whom to this party of Jack’s? Rhys has already asked me,” she added fondly. Rhys Williams was solid and real, a rare treat in the half-surreal world they lived in.
Rhys blushed and ducked his head. “She was crazy enough to say yes. And no, Owen, I didn’t give her anything out of your wizard’s den first.”
Owen scowled at him. “You’d better stay out of my autopsy bay, Williams, or I might have to sterilize you. Not in a good way.” He leaned back against the booth wall. “Gwen, why do you have to drag us all back to high school with your girly gossip?”
Gwen stuck her tongue out at him. Alex Hopkins spoke up. “I’m taking our resident computer genius. Isn’t that right, Tosh?”
Dr. Toshiko Sato flushed a bright red. Gwen knew she hated to be the center of attention. She looked like a trapped animal as her eyes flickered over them all. “Yes, thanks,” she whispered and lowered her eyes to her hands.
Sighing, Gwen hoped that this was the beginning of the end of Tosh’s infatuation for Dr. Owen Harper. She’d had a crush on him for a while, but Owen flitted from one woman to another like the proverbial honeybee. If this was another game between Alex and Owen, Gwen would have to break heads. There was a reason the two of them were never paired on missions.
Dr. Martha Jones put her elbows on the table and leaned onto her hands. “I’m going by myself,” she announced. “I don’t need an escort.” The younger medic grinned at them all. “Those days are gone.”
Beside her, Mickey Smith looked somewhat put out. “Hey, Miss Independence Day, I thought we…”
“Never assume,” Martha replied sweetly. “If you can’t find anyone else with transportation, I’ll give you a lift. But, you pay for the gas.” When the others laughed, she shrugged and said, “What?”
“So, Owen,” Alex said, his tone brittle and sarcastic, “that leaves you odd man out. Again. Are you going to drag in one of your chippies? Or maybe one of your boy toys?”
Owen didn’t change position, but his voice was even sharper than Alex’s. “As a matter of fact, I’m bringing Suzie Costello to be a cat among all you pigeons.” His smile was almost malevolent.
Gwen tried not to gag. “Excuse me,” she said brightly. “Bio break.” Without waiting she got up and trotted away from the table. Fortunately, the restrooms were near the front door, so Gwen could step outside to clear her head. God, Owen was such a jerk.
He was going to bring the Torchwood Tramp to the party. Suzie rarely came into the office now. Rose had said that she was more useful as a liaison than as an agent, but most of them knew the real motive. Almost no one would work with her in the field. They didn’t trust her. Gwen was one of them with good reason: Suzie had nearly caused Rhys’ death.
Suzie would sleep with anything breathing that came across her path, steal your last quarter to call her current bedmate, and leave you on your own when she was supposed to be your backup. She was tricky, manipulative, and… highly intelligent. That was why she hadn’t been Retconned and dumped long before, Gwen supposed.
She saw someone walking across the street and froze. There was Suzie, just as though Gwen’s thoughts had conjured her up. Gwen stepped back into the shade of the doorway, but Suzie wasn’t paying any attention to her. Instead, she was walking up to a young man that Gwen vaguely recognized. Oh, he was the man from the Swan Foundation who had given Gwen, Owen, Alex and Suzie the tour of the laboratories a couple of days ago. What did Suzie want with him? Gwen decided she didn’t want to know and went back inside.
The buzzing in the office had reached a fever pitch, which wasn’t helping Donna’s headache at all. It was December 23rd and her father wasn’t back yet. She had called his lab and his apartment and his cell until her fingers were sore. No response to any of her messages. No returned calls. Nothing.
She shoved her phone into her pocket and sighed. People all around her were chattering away, speculating on whether or not they’d get to see the family member who was going to make the New Year’s announcements. It wasn’t like they hadn’t seen him in pictures or on the TV, so Donna wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. Sure, he was worth about a million billion dollars, but it wasn’t like he was a movie star or anything. There were lots of rich people in New York.
Donna’s phone chirped and the area around her desk was suddenly silent. She was sure all eyes were on her as she picked up the receiver. “Yes, ma’am?”
Her boss’ voice was cool and even, but she could hear the underlying quiver of excitement. “Donna, could you come up to the J1 conference room for a few minutes? And don’t worry – it’s nothing bad.”
“I’ll be right there.” She put down the phone and stood. Her workmates gathered on either side of the aisle in the direction of the elevator. “I’m going to see the boss,” she said, sounding way more confident than she felt.
As she passed, the buzzing roared up behind her. God, what a bunch of sheep they were. And why the hell was she so nervous? She used the ride up to straighten her hair and clothes. The conference room was just to her right when the elevator arrived. She knocked lightly and the door was opened. She took a breath to compose herself and stepped inside.
The face of an angel.
That’s the thing she noticed first and for a minute she couldn’t see anything else. Gentle blue eyes, a perfect button of a nose, and full lips. He was tall – she had to raise her eyes. When he moved, she nearly jumped. She expected him to be a sculpture or something. “Miss Noble?” he asked, in a musical lilting voice with a British accent.
“Ianto, sit down and stop dazzling the poor woman.”
That voice was vaguely familiar. As… Ianto…? backed away, Donna could see other people at the table. Her boss, Elaine, the head of security, Martin, and the head of the foundation, Garrett. What was going on?
Another man approached her and smiled. That smile brought the vague memory forward. “Captain Jack Harkness,” he said, offering his hand to her. She took it. “And the Adonis here is my partner Ianto Jones Harkness.” Glancing at the other man, his smile widened into a grin. “I told you to turn off the dazzle. Manners. Ianto.”
“You’re a great one to talk.” Ianto offered his hand to her as well. When she took it, he raised it to his lips and gave it a quick brush. “I have Welsh manners and I’m allowed to dazzle if I want. Would you like to sit, Miss Noble?”
As she sat, things finally clicked into place. Ianto Jones. The public face of Swan Industries and the member of the Jones family that everyone was expecting. Only his name was Harkness now, it looked like. He was so young! He looked older on television and in his pictures. God, what had she done that merited a call to this conference?
And Captain Jack. He hadn’t changed from when she had seen him five years before. He’d been Torchwood then. But, he wasn’t Torchwood any more, was he?
The Captain leaned forward and spoke to her. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Ianto coughed. “Lame,” he said from behind his hand.
“You knew my father,” Donna offered.
“Geoff, right? Geoff Noble?”
Garrett cleared his throat. “Perhaps we should stick to the matter at hand?”
Jack and Ianto heaved identical put-upon sighs. Jack spoke again. “Donna, we’re looking into a problem with the Christmas children’s money. Normally, Martin would handle it, but I’m sort of his boss and I was in the neighborhood. I understand you were one of the ones that counted it when it arrived?”
“Monday before last,” Donna confirmed. The funds were for distribution for kids in the hospital with cancer. “There were five of us.”
“Can you tell me exactly what happened?”
“Well, the money came in an armored car and was brought to the room. Mr. Martin locked the door with us and one of the guards inside. I was given two hundred $50 bills to count. As I counted, I put them in stacks of twenty and banded them. When all of us were done counting, we put them in the box we use to distribute them. I wrapped the box in white paper and put a red ribbon on it. Elaine here took it and we all marched to the admin safe and put it inside.”
“Why did you wrap it?”
“Because I’m the best wrapper here.”
To her surprise, both Jack and Ianto chuckled. “How’s your hip-hop?” Ianto asked.
Donna decided she liked him. “Tip top,” she countered, which set all three of them off.
Jack sobered. “So… um… was that the last time you saw it?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I had to put some confidential papers in the safe two days ago. I saw the package then.”
“Did you notice anything different about it?”
She frowned. “The ribbon was crooked.” She’d been annoyed. Ribbons she put on were not supposed to stray sideways. “I pushed it back into place before I closed the safe.”
“Thanks.” Jack looked across at the others. “Well, that may narrow it down a bit anyway. Monday to two days ago.” He reached under his chair and pulled out the unwrapped box. Opening the lid, he showed it to Donna. It was full of blank paper.
“But… but that would…” She was at a loss. Someone from within the foundation had stolen the fifty thousand dollars meant for kids with cancer. It made her stomach turn.
“It’s the first time in a long time that someone has stolen money from the foundation,” Ianto said, his voice now grim. “We’re replacing the money now, but we have to investigate. Whoever it is needs to be turned over to the police. Only you and your boss are clear. Security cameras show you both arriving after the guard was monitoring the safe and leaving before guard left. As part of his routine, he inventories the safe when he arrives and no one took it out while he was on duty. You didn’t come back to the office at all during off hours. Others with access aren’t quite so lucky. We hope to have your cooperation in this, Miss Noble.”
“Whatever it takes, sir.”
Jack stood and escorted her to the door. She took a risk. “Captain, I need to talk to you about my father. If you have time.”
He shook his head. “I don’t right now,” he said, pulling her further outside the door. He reached into his pocket and handed her a card. “That’s an invitation to a party tomorrow night. You and a guest. Come talk to me then, okay?”
She gave him what she hoped was an impressive smile. “Okay.”
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