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!” Wilf cried happily. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Gramps, really.”
Wilf held the phone away and told Sylvia, “See? She’s fine.”
She tried to take the phone, but Wilf fended her off. “Where have you been, Pumpkin? We’ve been worried.”
“I’m sorry. I stayed the night at a hotel. A lot has happened and I was too tired to go home.”
“Oh, baby, tell me what’s going on.”
“There’s too much to tell on the phone. I’m sending you a car. Get Mom and come and meet me at the Sofitel. Okay, Gramps?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll get there.”
“Thanks.” He thought he heard a sniffle. “I’m afraid I’m going to need you.”
They’d all pounced on John when he returned to the office with Martha. “What did Jack want?” Rose demanded.
“Why did you need the chopper?” Owen asked.
John held up his hands. “I can’t tell you everything now. Jack found something we needed to see. We went and saw it and came back. That’s the short and long of it. Jack has promised to explain, but we need to go over to the hotel.”
He looked at Owen and shook his head sadly. “We need to take Retcon. I don’t know how much we’ll need, but we should be prepared.”
“Why?” Gwen said.
“We’ll know when Jack tells us.”
“I mean it, Kathy,” Jack said firmly. “You follow my rules or you don’t come”
“Jack, be reasonable. I can’t agree if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“You can come only if you stay quiet. This isn’t going to be pleasant. I won’t have you making it worse. If you start making demands, you’ll be escorted out.”
“I’m being generous here. Last night I wouldn’t have let you come anywhere near. This is your one chance. Don’t blow it.”
“All right. You win.”
Donna waited in the lobby, talking with Sergeant Davidson. He was there to assist, should assistance be required. “I told him to wait until 2:00,” she said. “He’s usually prompt.”
“Is that him?” Andy nodded toward the lobby doors.
Donna smiled. “Lance!” she called, waving. “Over here.”
“Donna!” He came over quickly and kissed her forehead.
She saw that he looked strained and there were dark circles under his eyes. Well, she didn’t look very spiffy herself. “Hi,” she said.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Not quite yet. Come on, we need to go to a meeting.”
Lance frowned. “What kind of meeting?”
“Please, Lance. It’s important.” She tugged at his hand. “Come on.”
He hesitated and then followed her. She led him past Ianto without acknowledgement, just as Jack had instructed her to do. There had been a sadness in his eyes that had filled her with foreboding. She tried not to let it show on her face as she led her fiancé down the hall.
Jack watched the door as Ianto came in. His slow nod was the last confirmation that Jack needed. He knew now, but knowing and proving were two different things.
He was sad because what he was going to do would hurt someone he’d come to like very much. He only hoped that the recovery would come quickly. He and Ianto had discussed it before they had come down. Ianto was sad, too. He came up to the front of the room by Jack and took his seat at the small table. All six of the guards were there in the room. Jack was taking no chances.
He surveyed the others. John and the Torchwood people sat at two tables on the left. Donna and her family, except for Hart, were at one table on the right with the two detectives at another. Further back in the corner sat two representatives of the Swan foundation, Martin and Garrett. “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,” he thought.
Jack stood. “Thank you all for coming. I need to tell you a story. It’s not a nice story, but I can’t help that. Before I go on, however, I’d like to clear something up. It’s a bit irrelevant to the main story, but it annoys me and I want to be rid of it.” He signaled Stone, who opened the back door to admit the two policemen with Hart between them.
Sylvia stood and shrieked, “That’s my husband! What are you doing? Let him go.”
Hart looked at her and shook his head. “Sorry.”
“Detectives, you may have wondered why this person was so slippery. You never really got to question him, did you?”
Kathy shook her head slowly. Jack nodded. She was following the rules. “That was because Mr. John Hart is wanted in several states for fraud. His specialty is getting older women to marry him and then taking them for all they have.”
Sylvia sat down. “What?” she whispered faintly.
“He’s made quite of a career of it.” Jack went over to the prisoner and reached behind his head. “He uses a bit of stolen alien tech to make himself attractive.” Jack pulled his hand away with a small silver disc in it.
Hart seemed to shrivel. Before he had been a well-set-up young man of thirty-five or so. Now he looked like a man in his late fifties with a paunch and drooping shoulders. Jack took the disc over to John and gave it to him. “I think you’ll find it’s a Drenian glamour button. I almost got it eight years ago, but Hart managed to make off with it. I’m not sure whether he was on wife number twelve or thirteen at the time. He never bothered to divorce any of the ones still living, so I don’t know how many counts of bigamy there’ll be against him. I’m sorry, Mrs. Noble, but you were never Mrs. Hart.” He turned to John. “I never would have known you were here except for that stupid stunt with Ianto. Why did you do it?”
His weary blue eyes looked up at Jack. “I thought Donna had told you about me. I was going to hold him hostage to get you to get me out of the country.”
“You were always too vain for your own good.” Jack waved him out. The policemen disappeared through the door they had come in.
“Now that that’s cleared up,” Jack said, “I can get back to my story.” He walked over to John’s table. “Tell us about the Phimenta, Doc.”
John sighed. “They’re like the gangsters of the nineteen-twenties only with modern tech. Their specialty is smuggling. You name it, they smuggle it. Arms, drugs, anything they can find a market for. We’ve broken up ten gangs in the past eight years, but we can’t seem to get rid of them. They have a skin deep filter that allows them to appear human for a time, but they can’t keep it up for long. It takes a lot of energy. Do you want me to describe what they look like in their natural form?”
“No,” Jack said quickly. “There’s no point in making everyone nauseous. Suffice it to say, they aren’t pretty.” He went back to Ianto and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Ianto and I met when I was breaking up a smuggling ring run by the Phimenta. He was stalked and almost killed by several of them. It gave him a kind of sense for them. He thought that he sensed the Phimenta in Suzie’s apartment the night she was killed, but it was so faint that we didn’t think it was relevant.”
He pressed Ianto’s shoulder again. “After we got rid of the actual Phimenta, we still had clean-up to do. Since Phimenta can’t appear in human form for long periods of time, they use human agents. Ianto spent a couple of months cleaning up the moles in the European offices of Swan. They were turned over to Torchwood London, standard procedure for humans aiding and abetting hostile aliens.”
Once again Jack moved to the Torchwood table. “Enter a Torchwood Agent named Suzie Costello. She had a brilliant mind when she cared to use it, but she was lazy and too interested in her own pleasures to be really effective. After she failed as a field agent, she became one of Torchwood’s liaisons, where she did fairly well. Her particular talent was knowing when an alien was lying to her. She used this to pinpoint hostiles and was very good at bringing them down. However, it turns out that she didn’t always turn them over to Torchwood. Some she made use of. Nothing very big – she didn’t want to be noticed. Money seemed to be her primary aim, although she did use a lot of advanced cosmetics. That accounts for the oddities you found on her body, Martha.”
“She really was like a patchwork quilt,” Martha said. “All different ages of tissue.”
“Enter another character. An older man – a biochemist. He’s very sharp and a rather nice man. A little naïve when it came to women, but a good father and a caring husband. He has revolutionary ideas when it comes to drugs for treating PTSD and Torchwood sees to it that he gets a subsidized grant from the Swan Foundation. He doesn’t need to work. Some of his discoveries have made him a wealthy man. However, he is happier working, so he does.”
Jack had worked his way back to Donna. “I’m sorry,” he said to her. “This next part is going to be rough. Just hang in there, all right?”
Donna swallowed and nodded. Jack squeezed her hand for just a minute. “So now we have two of the three players in our story. The third is a young man. He’s a mole for the Phimenta but they haven’t used him much. He isn’t employed by Swan in the shipping operations. He’s employed by the Swan Foundation. The Foundation is philanthropic and doesn’t produce anything that the Phimenta can smuggle, but they leave him there because one never knows what will be useful in the future. Occasionally, he is able to direct their attention to some research that produces something they can smuggle, so they leave him in place.
We can only guess how the Torchwood agent and the young man meet, but they do. My guess would be through the biochemist, since that is where their lives touch. In order to get closer to the biochemist to see what he is working on, the young man starts up a relationship with his daughter. She works in the same place he does so it’s convenient.”
“No,” Donna said. “Please, don’t say it.”
“I have to, Donna. I’m so sorry. Lance Bennett keeps himself abreast of Dr. Noble’s work so that he knows what but not why. It’s only when he discovers that the work is going to be used at a secret Torchwood facility that things start to get interesting. The Phimenta have been trying to find the location of this facility for years. It would be quite the coup for Mr. Bennett to give them the location. However, Suzie isn’t stupid. She’s shrewd enough to know that if Lance somehow gains that information, then Torchwood will show no mercy. Suzie is too fond of her life and she won’t risk it.
“This is the status quo until Dr. Noble tells his daughter he is going to be out of town for two weeks. Donna guesses that Torchwood has something to do with it and confronts him. From clues he’s gathered, Mr. Bennett guesses that Dr. Noble is going to be taken to this secret place and he can get the location that way.”
Andy Davidson got up and moved his chair so that he was beside Lance. Donna moved to the other side of the table. Jack continued, “I’m not sure why he stowed away in the car. Maybe he couldn’t get a tracker to work. At any rate, he hid in the back of Suzie’s car when she was taking Dr. Noble to the facility. Sometime during that journey, he came out of hiding. Perhaps that’s what scared Dr. Noble or perhaps they had an argument. Whatever happened, Dr. Noble suffered a fatal attack. He died.”
“No,” Donna moaned. “He’d had a weak heart for years. That’s one of the reasons he left my mother. She was causing him so much stress he was afraid he would die from it. Are you sure, Jack?”
He went over and took her hands in his. “I’m sure, Donna. I found his body today. He’s been dead for a month. I’m so sorry. So sorry.”
Wilf put an arm around her and she cried softly into his shoulder. There was no sound in the room other than her weeping. Jack let it rest a moment and then started speaking again. “So there they were with a corpse on their hands and no idea what to do about it. They hid it off the road and returned to the city. But Suzie saw a chance to grab at some money, so she told Lance to get her some or she’d turn him in to Torchwood.
“Lance didn’t have that kind of money, but he knew there was a box with fifty-thousand dollars in it at the Foundation. He scrambled the security cameras and took the money, leaving the box intact. I think he expected to replace the money before we noticed it was missing. He gave it to Suzie to keep her quiet long enough for him to figure out what he needed to do. Self-preservation demanded he kill her, but it had to be done so that no suspicion could fall on him. He couldn’t tell the Phimenta what had happened, so he had to work on his own. He made a disguise out of a white wig, glasses and a lab coat. If anyone saw him, they wouldn’t look past the disguise to the face beneath. He took whatever tech he needed to scramble the security cameras at Suzie’s apartment, went in and shot her. He probably took the opportunity to search for the money, but he didn’t find it. She had hidden it very well.
“So there was Lance with the money gone and Suzie dead and his fiancée wondering what has happened to her father. Then he gets a phone call. Suzie and Alex Hopkins were friends. She probably trusted him as much as she trusted anyone. We found a camera in her bedstead. Possibly he learned from that, or from some other source that Lance had killed Suzie. It would have been the perfect blackmail opportunity. I don’t think Alex would have passed it up.”
Owen spoke up. “There’s a paralytic that the Phimenta use. It takes away control of the voluntary muscles unless there’s an outside stimulus.”
“Thank you, Owen. So if Lance could use the paralytic and get Alex to somewhere private, say a storage closet, he could finish the job and get on a train. If anyone sees him, it will be as the thin man with white hair.”
There was silence again. Finally Kathy held up a hand. Jack nodded to her. “How much of this can you prove?”
“Not very much,” Jack admitted. “But I can prove Lance Bennett is in close association with the Phimenta. Ianto can sense it on him. He just confirmed it tonight. Torchwood has tests that can be run to show how long he’s been exposed and how long it’s been since he was with one.”
Another silence. It was broken by the shaky voice of Lance Bennett. “It’s true. It’s all true.” Everyone turned to look at him. “I don’t care anymore what Torchwood will do to me. The Phimenta will kill me for sure. They wanted that drug that Dr. Noble was working on and now they won’t get it. I have nothing to give them. It’s what they do to tools that are no longer useful. They eliminate them.” He looked across at Donna. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t all pretend. I don’t expect you to believe me, but I like you, Donna. You’re a great person. Always too good for me.”
Donna rose slowly to her feet and looked down at him. She turned away and said quietly, “Gramps, take me home, please.”
After they had gone, with a weeping Sylvia trailing after them, Jack looked at John. “It’s Torchwood’s decision now. Do what you need to do. I’ll leave you Dwyer and Peters. Ianto and I are going back to our rooms.”
“Jack”, the Doctor said quickly, “Thank you for helping out.”
“Sure. Just don’t ask me to do it again.” Jack pulled Ianto to his feet and held him. “Ready to go?”
The announcements of the Swan Foundation Grants went off without a single problem. Ianto was relieved. He’d had quite enough excitement for one trip. He and Jack were almost ready to go back to Cardiff, but they had one last day to do some of the things they’d left hanging.
They met John and Rose for lunch. “So what did you decide to do?” Jack asked.
John said, “We used a little Retcon to make it a bit easier for the parties involved not to be overwhelmed by things they couldn’t handle. I gave Donna and her grandfather the choice, but they declined just as you thought they would. I gave it to Sylvia though. What a horrible woman.” He shivered.
“How much did you wipe?” Jack asked, not bothering to suppress his grin.
“Only enough to get the last few days out. We left her the memories of Geoff’s death, and gave her new ones about divorcing Hart. I didn’t want her to chase after him wherever they decide to send him.”
“Ianto, your Swan people only remember that the theft was solved and the criminal punished.”
Ianto nodded. “That’s all they need to know. I don’t want them distressed.”
“On your recommendation, Jack, I did not Retcon Kathy Swanson. I hope that it will lead to a better relationship with her.”
“No harm in hoping. Seriously, Doc, she’s a good cop. She just needs to get that chip off her shoulder.”
Rose cleared her throat. “Funny thing about Andy Davidson though. When we went to see him we found that he had left the force.”
“Oh?” Ianto said in his best innocent voice.
“Yes. He told his superiors that he’d been offered a very good job in the private sector that involved a lot of traveling.”
“Did he?” Jack said, as innocently as Ianto. They smiled at each other.
“He does appreciate my coffee,” Ianto said.
“And he did ask politely.”
“Not to mention he looks good in a suit.”
Rose laughed and they all joined in. “If you continue to raid New York’s finest, you’ll get your visas revoked.”
Ianto shook his head. “Rest assured that we will not recruit any other member of the police force here. They jump to conclusions.”
After the lunch, they went to see Donna. She was pale and looked very tired. She welcomed them, though. “Gramps has been staying with me,” she said. “We sent Mother off on a cruise.”
“She should enjoy that,” Jack said.
Wilf shook his head. “She was driving us crazy. So we’ll enjoy it more than she will.”
They shared a laugh. “So, Donna,” Ianto began, “you can take as much time as you need. I just need to know if you want to go back after you’ve recovered.”
She sighed. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. I would like to, but I don’t know if I can. There are memories.”
“Well, perhaps you would consider this proposition instead.” Ianto leaned forward. “Our PA Lois is going to have a baby. She and her husband want to settle down in Wales and not travel. That means we have an opening for someone. Someone like you.”
Donna’s eyes grew wide. “You mean I’d travel around the world with you?”
“Exactly.” Ianto gave her clasped hands a squeeze. “Take your time and think it over. When you’re ready, if you are, call us.”
She nodded and for the first time, Ianto saw a bit of the old Donna fire. “That includes coffee, right?”
“Absolutely. Coffee every day.”
“I’ll definitely think it over.”
They returned to the hotel room a bit early and took the opportunity for some recreational activity. Later, they snuggled together, quietly enjoying each other. Ianto said softly, “Are you going to miss New York?”
Jack replied, “Maybe a little. Probably not, though. That life is behind me. I’ve got the one I want.”
“You’ll miss your friends, though.”
“Some. In case you hadn’t noticed, things get a little crazy around them.”
“Why all the questions, Gorgeous? You know that I’d rather be with you than anyone else.”
Ianto looked up at him, his beautiful amazing husband. “Sometimes, I think I’m not exciting enough for you.”
“What?” Jack sounded astonished. “Sweetheart, you’re way more than just exciting. Living with you is like riding a tornado. I can barely keep up.”
“Are you saying that I swept you off your feet?”
“I swept you off your feet.”
“I swept first.”
Jack appealed to a higher authority. “Myfanwy, tell your tad that I did the sweeping.”
Myfanwy jumped onto the bed. She licked Jack’s face and then barked at Ianto. “See?” Jack said. “I win.”
“You’re so ridiculous.”
“And that’s why you love me.”
“Yep, that’s it.”
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