“Luke!” Sarah Jane cried in joy as she hugged her son tightly. “Oh, Luke. I’m so glad to see you. Are you all right? What did that insane woman do? She said…”
“I’m all right, mum,” he assured her. “Really I am. But what about you?”
“I’m hungry. She fed me on bread and water and horrible porridge all day. But otherwise… Oh, none of it matters now. You’re here, and you didn’t believe anything she said about me.”
“Of course I didn’t. But… come on, let’s get out of here, now.”
“I’ve got no shoes,” Sarah Jane pointed out. Or a coat. She took everything.”
“We’ll manage,” Luke answered. “But come on. I don’t know where we are, but there’s got to be a road or something nearby.”
“We’ve got to get out of this building, first,” Sarah Jane pointed out.
“Well, come on,” Luke urged.
Sarah Jane came with him. She didn’t want to stay in that dreadful room any longer than necessary. They both made their way along the corridor, carefully. They reached a stairwell and went down it quietly.
“You know,” Sarah Jane said as they reached the ground floor. “I can’t believe that there are no cameras monitoring us right now. It can’t be this easy to get away.”
“It’s not,” Luke groaned as they came through a door into a hallway with a big front door clearly leading outside. But there were two guards there, with guns.
And Miss Summers, too.
“Did you really think you could get away, either of you?” she said. “Luke, that was very clever, the way you got out of your room. It proves that I was right about you. But you’re going right back there. And this time you will drink the milk, and you won’t even think about leaving.”
“No,” he replied. “No, I won’t. Miss Summers, you’re mad. I’m not your son, and I never will be. And I won’t help you get the Methuselah formula.”
“My goodness, you really are smart. You worked it out. What it was all about. How can I possibly let you go? You are amazing. You could lead our movement. The Scientific Reform Movement. You are so intelligent, Luke. So clever. You belong with us.”
“No, I don’t,” he replied. “I belong with my mum.”
“What if you don’t have a mum any more?” Miss Summers asked him. “Kill her,” she added in a commanding voice.
“No!” Luke screamed as the two men clicked the safety catches on their guns. He stepped in front of Sarah Jane. “No, leave her alone.”
“Luke!” Sarah Jane was horrified. “No!”
“Wait,” said Miss Summers to her henchmen. “I can’t risk you hitting the boy. His brain is too important to me.”
“That’s all he is to you,” Sarah Jane said to her. “A brain. You don’t care about him. Or anyone. Have you ever loved anyone? MISS Hilda Winters, have you ever actually had a boyfriend? A girlfriend? Has anyone ever cared for you? At least I had Harry, for a while. I had The Doctor. I have Luke, now. But what do you have, Miss Winters except a cold, frozen heart that goes with your name?”
“Winters?” Luke questioned. “She’s not Miss Summers?”
“No, she’s Hilda Winters, a criminal. She was in prison for a long time, but it didn’t reform her. She should never have been allowed out. She learnt nothing when she was in there.”
“Oh, I learnt plenty,” Miss Winters answered. “I learnt that this society doesn’t deserve people like me. I learnt to hate it more than I ever did. And I vowed I would have my revenge. And I will. Once I have Methuselah, my chance to live long enough to carry out my plans. And you will give it to me, Luke. You will go back to your room and carry on with the formula, or your mother will die.”
“No,” he answered. “No, mum, stay behind me. Move towards the door. All of you keep back. If you want me alive, then you can’t shoot. We’re going. Come on, mum.”
He edged towards the front door, keeping his own body between the gunmen and his mother. She reached to open the door. Cold, fresh air blew in. It was blissful after being stuck in those rooms all day. Sarah Jane stepped backwards through it, feeling with her feet for steps. She knew there would almost certainly be some.
“Mum,” Luke said as he stood in the doorway. “Run away, now. Get away. I’ll… I’ll be all right. She can’t harm me. She needs me.”
“Luke, no!” Sarah Jane protested. “No, I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“Mum, go,” he answered her. “Now, please.”
Sarah Jane looked at him, then at the dark garden beyond the steps. She could run and hide. She could get to a road, find a phone box, get help. Luke would be all right.
“No,” she answered. “No, Luke, you’re coming with me.” She grabbed his hand and almost dragged him down the steps. She ran with him across a gravel driveway that cut her feet, across grass that was soothing. A shot rang out, but it must have been a warning. They still didn’t want to risk hitting Luke. They reached the relative safety of a stand of trees beyond the grass.
“They’ll be coming,” Luke said. “We must hurry.”
“This way,” Sarah Jane said. “I know where we are. This is Thinktank. The original house where the organisation was based. There are some outbuildings. One of them might have a phone. It’s safer than going over the wall. They’ll expect that. They’ll be waiting.”
“Ok,” he agreed. He kept hold of her hand as they moved through the trees. They came, soon enough, to a driveway. And as they hid in the shadows two Land Rovers passed by. The two henchmen were in them. They passed out through a gate that closed automatically after them.
“There,” Sarah Jane said. “The gatehouse. Let’s get into there.”
“How?” Luke asked. But that was a silly question. He watched as Sarah Jane looked around and found a rusting shovel with a broken handle. She used the still sharp metal edge to force open a casement window. She climbed in agilely. Luke followed her.
“Yes, I know. I could have had a great secondary career as a house burglar,” she whispered as she looked around the dark kitchen of the lodge house. “Oh, I do hope there IS a phone in here. It looks a bit disused.”
“There’s a light under the door,” Luke pointed out. “Somebody must be here.”
Sarah Jane went to the inner door and opened it carefully. She looked, and then closed it carefully. She went to the kitchen drawer and took out a knife.
“Don’t let me ever catch you copying this,” she told Luke. “Knives are dangerous. But just this once…”
She went back to the door and watched as the gate guard finished talking to his boss – Miss Winters - and put down the telephone. Then she opened the door further and crept forward. She jabbed the pointed end of the knife against his back.
“Don’t move,” she said. “I’ve been trying to teach my son to hate violence and weapons, but you lot have already undone all of that with your guns and kidnapping. So don’t think I won’t use this if I have to. Now, put your hands on your head. Luke, take his gun and throw it away somewhere. And then get his phone and call for help.”
Luke did as she said. He reached into the guard’s pocket and took his gun. He put it in the waste bin in the kitchen. When he returned, Sarah Jane was tying the guard’s arms behind the back of his chair with a piece of rope she had found. Luke took the mobile phone from the desk and began to dial a number. As he did so he heard a sound behind him. He turned, but it was too late. Harriet Summers was there, and she had Sarah Jane by the throat. The knife fell from her hand as Miss Summers squeezed tightly.
“Put the phone down, Luke,” she said. “Or I will snap her spine. And don’t think I can’t. I’m no feeble woman who screams and runs around. You knew that long ago, didn’t you, Miss Smith.”
Luke put the phone down on the table in front of the bound gate keeper who seemed quite unimportant at the moment.
“How did you know we were here?” he asked.
“Your shoes have a tracking device in them,” she answered. “What do you think? I’m just going to let you wander off from me? Now let’s have an end to this nonsense, right now. Luke, you’re coming back to the house with me. And so is your mother.”
“Oh, no, I’m not,” Sarah Jane answered, slightly hoarsely. “I’m not a feeble woman, either. I never was. The Doctor taught me to look after myself.” She reached her leg back, and kicked Miss Winters in the knee. It hurt, a lot. She gave a pained gasp and though she didn’t release Sarah Jane, her grasp slackened enough for her to twist and kick once again. “Luke, what I said before still stands. Violence is bad. Especially against an elderly woman.”
“You’re not elderly,” Luke replied.
“No, but she is.” Sarah Jane grasped at the forty something face of Miss Summers and dug her fingernails into the synthetic flesh. Pulling it away like that hurt. But she was past caring. She dragged pieces of the mask away, revealing the older woman beneath. Luke stared in surprise as Sarah Jane continued to fight hand to hand with her. He didn’t know what to do to help – or if he even should. His mother was right. If Miss Summers – or Winters, or whatever her name was, really was as old as that then he couldn’t just hit her, no matter how bad she was.
He didn’t have to. The front door of the lodge house burst open with a crash and two policemen rushed in. Luke immediately thought they were more fake policemen or even androids, but when he saw Brendan following them, and Alan with Maria coming in last of all, he knew better. The policemen took hold of Miss Winters and told her she was under arrest. Once she was handcuffed, another one of them released the gatekeeper and arrested him, too, for questioning about his involvement. Brendan and Luke both hugged Sarah Jane as they stepped out into the night and saw police car lights illuminating the scene. The henchmen were being rounded up and put into a van. It was definitely over, now.
“How come you got here so fast?” Luke asked Maria. “I just called your number a few minutes ago.”
“We were already on our way,” she answered. “Brendan and my dad spent all day yesterday trying to find Sarah Jane. They went to the police station and the mental hospital, and both had computer records of her, but they couldn’t actually find her. Then they went back to the police station and asked to see the actual book where prisoners are written down in when they’re brought to the police station. They said no at first, but Brendan called Jack at Torchwood and he called the Home Secretary and after that everyone got really co-operative. And it turns out the computer records were all faked. And so we guessed then that it was another kidnap. And we weren’t sure where Miss Summers fitted in at all until Jack called again and asked if we had figured out her name yet – you know, Harriet Summers, Hilda Winters. And we all felt quite stupid when we realised. Then we just had to work out where you were, and Brendan thought of the place where ThinkTank used to be. And we were nearly there when you called me. We heard everything in the car. And…”
“Maria, you’re allowed to breathe,” Alan reminded her as she ran out of words for the time being. “Come on, everyone. We’re all going home. And I hope this is the end of the matter, now. I am getting quite bored with androids and fake policemen and how many times has Sarah Jane been kidnapped this month, now?”
“Oh,” Sarah Jane said with a laugh. “Being kidnapped is nothing. That used to happen every time I went anywhere with The Doctor. It’s just like old times. But I’ll be glad to see the back of Miss Hilda Winters, and any other name she calls herself.”
“We’ll need a new school headmistress,” Maria commented.
“That’s not a problem,” Brendan told her. Apparently the old deputy head is very happy to come back and take over. She was very put out to be replaced at the last minute, anyway. That was all down to a supporter of Miss Winters working in the education department. He’s already on his way to jail.”
“Clyde won’t be happy about that,” Maria noted. “She’ll make him do that detention, after all.”
“Oh, Clyde!” Luke groaned. “Oh, I was so rude to him. It was her. She gave us all a drink of that stuff – the peppermint milk – and then started talking about us being the elite. And it all sounded right until I stopped drinking it. Do you think Clyde will understand?”
“Eventually,” Maria assured him. “After you’ve grovelled a lot.”
“Deal with Clyde tomorrow,” Sarah Jane said. “Right now, let’s get home.” She put her arms around Luke and Brendan again, her nearest family, and smiled at Alan and Maria who had also refused to give up on her. She felt a very lucky woman. She looked around and saw the car with Hilda Winters handcuffed to a police officer in the back. She wondered if she ought to feel sorry for her.