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.
Part 4Donna sat at her desk, but she wasn’t actually working – just staring at her monitor. She’d heard the news about Suzie Costello. She felt irrationally guilty, as though she had somehow made the woman die just by an idle wish.
A polite cough broke the spell. Lance was leaning on her desk. She tried to give him a bright smile, but she didn’t think it went over too well. “Hi, baby,” he said, stroking her cheek with his finger. “You’re taking it rough, yeah?”
“I’m not… I wish… I just wish my last thought about her hadn’t been so… so nasty.” Donna finally managed to get into words the strange mixture of feelings that was overwhelming her. “It makes me seem petty and small.”
“Hey, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t like her when she was alive, and you don’t have any reason to feel bad because she got herself killed. I only saw her for that little bit when she was here for the tour and I’m glad I didn’t have to repeat the experience.”
Donna smiled a bit more naturally. “I know. It’s just… weird.”
“Weird things happen. Isn’t that why that bunch she belonged to exists? Torchwood?”
“I just came down to ask if you’ve heard anything from your father.”
She sighed. “Nothing. I haven’t tried to call him today. I’ve been kind of out of it since I heard. Yesterday, I got a message saying his voicemail was full.” Donna shook her head. “Where the hell is he?”
“I’m sure we’ll see him soon.” He stood up and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. “I had another reason for coming down. You’re not going to like it much.”
“I’m not in the mood for liking anything today. What is it?”
“My aunt in Westchester? She apparently fell in the nursing home yesterday, so I need to go up there and sort it out. Rotten timing, I know. So I won’t be able to go to your party tonight.”
Lance’s aunt in Westchester was not someone Donna especially enjoyed being reminded of. It wasn’t that she was very demanding – she had only surfaced three times in the two years Donna had known Lance – but her timing really sucked. If Donna ever met her face-to-face, she was going to give her a day planner and tell her to schedule her “accidents” better. “Thanks,” she said sarcastically. “That makes my day ever-so-nicer. What about tomorrow? Are you staying up there for Christmas, too?”
“No, thank God. I’m coming back tonight. I just don’t know when I’ll be able to get away. I’ve got a few things on my desk to clear up and then I’m out of here. You go to your party and have fun.”
“Tough to do without you.” She gave him a little push. “Go on, get it over with. Call me when you get back.”
He laughed. “See you tomorrow. Merry Christmas, my darling Donna.”
That was it. They were closing down the office early anyway. Donna gathered up her purse and coat and went down to the lobby. She couldn’t sit still and let everything batter at her. She’d go see her grandfather. She could talk to him.
She was almost out the door when she looked up to find herself on a collision course with Jack Harkness. He flashed that amazingly sexy smile at her. “Ah, Ms. Noble! Just who I was coming to see. Glad I caught you. Would you care to join Ianto and me for lunch?”
Donna was definitely not feeling sociable, but she wanted Jack’s help in locating her father. “Okay.”
Jack took her arm and threaded it through his. He led her out the door and down a little way to a large black limousine at the curb. A man in a suit opened the door and Jack handed her in courteously. She felt absurdly like a princess being helped into a magical coach. Dr. Harkness was there and gestured toward a seat. He was smiling gently, but it widened as Jack slid in beside him. “It’s cold out there,” Jack complained as he put his hands under his partner’s coat.
“Augh!” was the response. “I’m getting you glove warmers for Christmas. It’s bad enough I have to deal with your cold feet in bed.”
“You should be glad to make your husband’s toes toasty.”
“That’s a mental image I don’t need – you holding toast in your toes. It’s disgusting. Wouldn’t you agree, Ms. Noble?”
It was easy to smile at this conversation and Donna allowed herself to do it. Actually, a little giggle escaped as well. “I don’t want to argue with the boss,” she said. “So, yes, it’s pretty gross, Dr. Harkness. And the name’s Donna.”
“Only if you call me Ianto.”
“And,” Jack broke in, “you don’t have to agree with him. I don’t and I still have my job.”
“You’re too cute to fire. You’d pout and you know I can’t resist the pout.”
“It’s my only sure defense.”
“Are you always like this?” Donna asked.
“Usually, we’re worse,” Jack said, flashing her that trademark grin. “People complain we use up all the oxygen with our witty banter.”
“Only that’s not the term they use to describe it,” Ianto added.
The limo pulled up at a restaurant whose name gave Donna pause. She wasn’t dressed for this. As though reading her mind, Ianto said, “We’ve got a private room. Don’t worry.”
She felt a bit surreal as the maître d’ escorted them to a room in the back. She examined the lush furnishings while trying not to stare as Jack and the two men from the car swept the room with equipment and professional eyes. As far as she could tell, Ianto was content watching Jack do his work. He must be used to this, she thought, and tried to imagine what it must be like to not be able to grab a hamburger without a full security check. It would drive her mad.
After they had their orders sorted, Jack started the conversation. “Look, Donna, there’s something going on with Suzie Costello, Torchwood, and Swan and your father seems to be in the middle of it. You told me yesterday you needed to talk to me about your father. Today, I get information that may link him to the murder. What do you know about what’s going on?”
It was as though the words had let through the fears that had been lurking in the background of her mind. Tears threatened to pour and she shook her head to hold them off. “I don’t know! Dad’s been missing for a couple of weeks! I don’t know where he’s gone – just that it had something to do with Torchwood and that Costello woman. Lance and I are supposed to be getting married on the 27th and Pop’s not here and I don’t know what to do except scream…”
Ianto pressed a glass of water into her hand. “Go ahead and scream. The room is soundproof. And then drink this. You’ll feel better.”
She did. All the tension, all the worry, all the misery she had built up let itself out in a shriek to wake the dead. Jack and Ianto covered their ears, but didn’t flinch away. When it was over, she gulped half the water down in one swallow and took a couple of deep breaths. She smiled weakly at Ianto. “Thanks. I do feel better.”
He smiled encouragingly back. “We all have our coping mechanisms. Jack goes to the gun range and blows holes in things. I go down to the Swan Archives and organize historical documents. You looked like you needed a good yell.”
Jack patted her hand. “Ianto knows everything. I swear he’s psychic.”
“If I were, you wouldn’t be able to sneak up behind me. He’s a Ninja, Donna.”
Jack mimed swinging a ninja sword. “Captain Ninja Jack, at your service.”
Donna laughed. It was a relief to do that as well. “You two are nuts,” she said. “Don’t change.”
“We won’t,” Jack assured her. “Feel up to talking now?”
She told them everything she could remember from her last visit with her father. Jack asked what she had come to think of as “cop standard” – whether she had noticed anything unusual in his face or manner and whether she had seen anything out of place – both of which she answered in the negative. “Do you think your fiancé might have noticed anything?” Jack asked. “What’s his name again?”
“Lance Bennett. He’s in Public Relations. I doubt he saw anything that I didn’t see, but you can ask him… Wait, not today. He has to run up to Westchester tonight. He’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Did you say he was in PR?”
Ianto’s question caught her off-guard. When she looked at him, he seemed puzzled. “Yes, he’s the one in charge of company tours.”
“What is it, Ianto?” Jack’s voice was sharper than she expected.
Ianto said, “I thought I met all of the PR people yesterday, but I must have missed him.”
“He was probably in a lab, showing someone around,” Donna said. “He spends all day doing that. Okay, I’ve answered your questions. Now, you tell me what’s got the cops thinking Pops may have something to do with this.”
With a warning about confidentiality, Jack told her what he had learned from Detective Swanson, ending with, “Do you have any idea why your mother would go and see Suzie?”
“None whatsoever,” Donna replied, with a shake of her head. “I didn’t even know she knew her. I’ll see what I can find out. Maybe my grandfather would know.”
They both beamed at her. “Great!” Jack said. He gave her his mobile number. “Call me if you find out anything. We have a party to prepare for this afternoon, or we’d go with you. Now, how about dessert?”
Gwen was shutting down her workstation when Rhys showed up. She’d spent the morning cataloging the things they had removed from Suzie’s apartment. Now, she wanted to go home and get some sleep. After being awake for twenty-four hours, she badly needed the rest if she was to show up at the party tonight. There was no way she was missing that.
“Finished?” Rhys asked. “Want to grab some lunch?”
She came very close to refusing, but decided she had to eat. Not that she didn’t want to spend time with Rhys. He was her best friend and a lot more. She was just weary. Truth be told, she wanted to spend some time examining her mixed feelings about Jack Harkness before she saw him again.
Enough of that, Gwen told herself, and picked up her purse. “As long as it’s quick. I need to go home and pamper myself to perfection for tonight.”
“We’ll go to Vic’s across the street and I’ll take you home in a taxi,” he promised. “I’m still on duty until 5:00, so I’ll have to come back here.”
“You’re a lifesaver, my dear.”
The snow that had been threatening all day had begun to feather down and there were fewer people on the streets than usual, even for a holiday. Rhys stopped to hand a woman her dropped package and keep a boy from falling over on the ice. Gwen smiled fondly. That was Rhys all over and one of the many reasons she loved him.
The bar was only half-full. In one of the booths, Owen Harper sat, nursing a drink. As luck would have it, he chose that moment to look up and see them. With an expansive wave, he gestured for her and Rhys to join him. Rhys led them to the table while Gwen considered going home instead.
She’d had a fling with Owen back when she started at Torchwood, just after she met, and started going out with, Rhys. It was over quickly. She’d soon learned that it was the excitement of the chase that was Owen’s thing and he went after his next victim while they were still sleeping together. Gwen had pulled out of the relationship and gone back to Rhys – steady, dependable Rhys. He was her rock. Without him, Torchwood would have driven her mad within a year.
“Hello, lovebirds,” Owen said, raising his drink in a toast. His tone was just sarcastic enough to set Gwen’s teeth on edge, but not enough to goad Rhys. Even Owen appreciated the danger of an angered Rhys. “Going Christmas shopping?”
“Did all that,” Rhys said. “Online. Don’t like going to stores with the crowds.”
“I’m going to take a nap,” Gwen said with a fake smile. “Don’t want circles under the eyes.”
“Oh, that’s right. You went to the murder scene last night.” Owen put a creepy overtone to the word “murder”. “Was it lurid, as they say in the pulps?”
“It wasn’t nice,” she answered with a bit of a snap. “She’s dead, Owen. Someone choked her and then shot her. Did you expect anything else?”
“Okay, okay, sorry if I offended your sensibilities.” Owen signaled the waitress and she came to take orders. Once she had departed, Owen said, “I understand the great and powerful hero, Captain Jack Harkness, was there. Why? Didn’t he desert us for his ‘one true love’? Seems like he wants his old job back. Hubby getting tiresome?” he snarked.
“Owen!” Really, the man was a douche bag, Gwen thought irritably. “As a matter of fact, John asked him to come and take a look. He brought his partner along.”
Rhys looked at her. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“Didn’t think I needed to. Didn’t you hear it from Mickey or Martha?”
“Nah. I was on a retrieval this morning. Nothing but pieces, but there were some active bits. Finicky business and took some time. When I got back, they had already headed home.” He shrugged. “Kind of surprised you were still there.”
“Martha did the autopsy. Mickey had to go out on another call. Tosh was analyzing. I got stuck with inventory.”
“So,” Owen said, “how much had the lovely Suzie managed to sneak out with? She always was a clever one.”
“A lot, including a few things I couldn’t find in the lists. I set them aside for Alex to go over later.”
“I bet the Doc isn’t happy about that.” Owen sounded almost gleeful. “He hates it when things go on under his nose. And now, give. What’s Jack’s old man like?”
Gwen did not want to do this. Owen would bombard her for an hour and she wasn’t up for it. She decided to be perverse. “Well, Owen, he is very attractive, well-mannered, and observant. Jack didn’t seem to find him tiresome at all. In fact, they flirted with each other the whole time they were there. A happy couple.”
She knew Owen did not like to hear about happy couples. Whatever had soured his disposition obviously had to do with an ex. His response was quick and cutting. “And didn’t that just chap your ass, Gwennie, dear?”
“Hey!” Rhys sounded tetchy. “Enough of that.”
Things might have accelerated out of hand, but Owen’s mobile rang. He gave Rhys a defiant look and answered it. “What, Alex?”
Gwen looked at Rhys. “Don’t let him rile you,” she said softly. “You’re my choice, remember?”
Some of the anger died out of his eyes. “Sorry, Gwen. He knows how to push buttons.”
“What the hell…?” Owen’s voice had risen to a volume loud enough to cause people to stare. “I’m not your mommy, Alex! Clean up your own damn messes.” A pause and then, “Oh, all right! This time I’ll help your sorry butt out, but not for your sake. You owe me big time for this. Asshole.” He rang off and took a couple of deep breaths.
It was a risk, but Gwen asked anyway. “What’s wrong?”
“Alex ‘the Jerk’ Hopkins is what’s wrong,” Owen half-snarled. He seemed to be wrestling to get himself under control. “He’s decided to stand Toshiko up tonight and wants me to step in – since I’m now ‘partnerless’ according to him.”
She had to fight down her own wave of disgust. There wasn’t much to choose from between Owen and Alex, true, but that seemed especially crude. “What are you going to do?”
Owen frowned. “I’ll take her, of course. I’m not a complete swine, you know.” Gwen didn’t know, and Rhys’ face didn’t imply too much faith either. “Look, I don’t mess around with people like Tosh. She’s fragile and she doesn’t know the game. I’ll pick her up, maybe buy her some flowers, take her to the party and drive her home like a first-class gentleman. Nothing else.”
Gwen stared at him hard, but he didn’t crack. She relaxed a bit. Owen might be a pig, but he seemed to have a grasp on which lines should not be crossed. “Just try to let her have a good time, okay? What’s bitten Alex?”
“How should I know? You know him – it could be anything from a hangnail to a major dimensional shift. All he said was that something had come up and he didn’t think he’d be finished in time.”
Rhys leaned forward. “I’ll be watching you. Remember that.”
Their food arrived and they ate in an uneasy truce.
“…And that’s all I have, Doc.” Jack’s voice floated easily out of the speaker on John’s desk. He and Rose were there, but they had put up a shield to keep anyone else from overhearing. “So why is Geoff Noble tangled up in Torchwood again? It doesn’t have anything to do with that mess from Harwoods, does it?”
“No, that was over and done with years ago,” John said slowly.
Rose said, “I’ll run a check to be sure but as far as I can remember, no evidence was left. We put you on Dr. Noble for a couple of months after to be sure and nothing ever turned up.”
John spoke up. “I’ll find out why he was at Suzie’s apartment. Maybe he was doing some more work for us?”
“Possibly. Anyway, you might want to run checks on the whole family and that guy Donna’s engaged to…” There was a muffled noise in the background. “Oh, right. Lance Bennett. He works at Swan. Donna also has a stepfather she’s not too fond of. I don’t know his name.”
“I’ll get on it,” Rose promised.
“Just don’t spend too much time. You don’t want to be late.”
“Jack, we really should…”
He stopped when Rose grabbed his chin and turned him to face her. “If you think,” she growled, “that you are getting out of taking me to this party, you are sadly mistaken, Dr. Smith.”
“You tell him, Rose!” Jack hooted from the other end of the line. “Don’t be a twpsyn, Doc. That’s Welsh for idiot.”
In the background, they heard a faint, “He should know. He hears it enough.”
Rose ruined her stern expression by grinning, much to John’s relief. “I wouldn’t dream of asking Rose to miss the party,” he said hastily. “We’ll be there.”
“See you then.” Jack hung up.
Rose shifted so that she was leaning on the desk. “It won’t hurt you to relax for an evening.”
“I know. I know, Rose.” John sighed. “I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that something is really wrong. It’s times like this that I miss Jack the most.”
She gave him a little push. “Remember what I said. Leave Jack alone. He found what he wanted and that’s all there is to it.” She stood and went to the door. “He went after it. He got it. He’s happy. I’m happy he’s happy. You might want to try being happy for him, too.” With that, she disappeared.
Donna hesitated at the door of her mother’s condo. Once again, she was faced with doing something she didn’t want to and on a day when everything felt wrong. However, she had to know. She knocked.
This time the door was opened by her grandfather. He took one looked at her and wrapped her into a hug. “Oh, Gramps,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I need to talk to Mother.”
“Good luck,” Wilf said sympathetically. “No one’s been able to get any sense out of her since she got home last night. Did she really find a body?”
“That’s what I need to ask her about.” She sighed. “Something really weird is going on. It involves Pops somehow. I want to know why she went to Suzie Costello’s apartment last night.”
“Well, let’s give it a try.”
Sylvia Noble was stretched out on her over-stuffed sofa with an ice pack over her eyes. To Donna’s displeasure, Hart was there and holding her hand. He gave Donna his usual lecherous grin, and then spoke to Sylvia. “Look, dear,” he said, his voice dripping with so much honey that Donna was sure she was going to drop into a diabetic coma. “Donna’s come to make you feel better.”
Her mother sat up so quickly that the ice pack flew off and hit John on the knee. Donna tried not to snicker, but the temptation was almost too much. Sylvia opened her arms wide and cried, “Oh, my baby! It was horrible! Simply horrible!”
Sighing, Donna permitted herself to be wrapped in an embrace. Really, her mother was such a drama queen. She pulled back after a stifling minute and said, “Tell me about it.”
“She was lying on the bed and there was blood. Blood on her chest! Her eyes were open and staring and her face was twisted in an awful expression. It was…”
“Horrible. I got that.” Donna was trying to be patient, but it wasn’t easy. “Back up a little. Why did you go to Suzie Costello’s apartment?”
“Oh.” Sylvia’s gaze shifted to John and then down at her hands. “Why does it matter? I was there and she was dead and I screamed…”
“Mother!” Donna snapped. “Why did you go? Tell me. How did you know where she lived?”
“Well, we thought…”
“John and I. Isn’t that right, John?”
John didn’t look very excited about being included, but he nodded. “That’s right. Your mother and I made the decision.”
“Okay, so you’re both responsible. So why did you go there?”
“It’s… everything’s so expensive now and John has such exquisite taste and my allowance is running out and your grandfather…” She pronounced the word as though it were poison. “Your grandfather – my own father – won’t loan me anything to tide me over.”
“And exactly how many times have you paid back any of my ‘loans’, Sylvia?”
“Dad, you know I…”
Donna held up hands to both of them. “Let’s get back on track. Why did you go?”
“I… I… To see if she knew where your father was, all right? I need the money. Whenever your father has gone gallivanting off ever since the divorce, it’s always had something to do with that Torchwood place. I called her and she said she would see me.”
Donna frowned. “And just how did you get her number? She’s not in the phone book. I checked.”
Sylvia started shifting her eyes again, a sure sign she was trying to think of a way to get out of the question. Donna growled, “Mother!”
“John told me,” she burst out. “He had some contacts and found the number and gave it to me.”
John shrugged. “I know people.”
Donna didn’t doubt that. He probably had hundreds of shady acquaintances. “All right, Mother. The police will probably be here soon to question you some more.”
She was back to drama queen. “Haven’t they done enough? They questioned me all night.”
Wilf snorted. “You were home by 10:00.”
“It felt like hours!” she sniped back. “It was brutal! After the shock of it all…”
Not another squabble. Donna couldn’t take it. “Oh, just shut up. Both of you.” She might have gone on but the doorbell chimed. She left them to answer it. There were two of them, a nice-looking woman and a man with red hair. Donna knew they were police. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did.
“Hello,” the woman said, displaying a badge. “We’re looking for a Mrs. Sylvia Hart.”
Great timing. Donna opened the door wide. “Come on in. She’s just in there.” Donna followed them in. As they started talking, she noticed John was no longer in the room. Where had he gone? Her suspicions roused, she went into the bedroom that led to the courtyard. The sliding door wasn’t completely closed. She closed it and sank down on the bed. What the hell was going on?
It was close to 6:00 pm when Alex Hopkins reached Grand Central Station and found the table he had specified to his contact. In the middle of the bustling holiday travelers under the bright lights of the rotunda, he felt safe. He wasn’t a stupid man. No meeting in a dark alley or a closed car for him.
He spotted his quarry when he was about twenty yards away. He waved congenially. This was going to be the beginning of a lucrative partnership. He knew he could do so much more for them than Suzie had. He was, after all, a full Torchwood Field Agent with full access to all the protocols. He’d never seen anything that would give him enough satisfaction for compromising his reputation, but this… this was the big time.
Alex smiled as he gestured at the other chair. “Have a seat.” He looked up and down. “Nice disguise. If I didn’t know better…”
Those were his last words. He stopped speaking when he saw the gun.
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