4: There's No Art to Find the Mind's Construction in the Face
Professor Kerensky was having a nightmare.
It was the same dream, the one in which Count Scarlioni lost his temper and did terrible things. On so many occasions Kerensky had seen him angered but the Count always managed to calm down again, to take a deep breath and smile that off-putting, disarming smile. But in these dreams the Count roared, he bellowed, his green eyes seemed to burn through Kerensky as he cowered. ‘You will now see how I deal with fools!’ the monster that had been the Count said.
Suddenly he was awake, gasping for breath. He reached a hand out towards the bedstand, searching for his glasses. His clumsy hand knocked them to the ground and he sighed wearily.
He had slept terribly ever since his arrival at the château. At first it was just the anxiousness with which he approached the task Scarlioni had employed him to undertake that kept him awake at night. But now, weeks in, the pressure under which he felt placed and the combination of a lack of food and too many stimulants to keep him working around the clock meant that every minute of sleep was fitful.
He could not see the clock but he knew that it was still light outside from the bright glare behind the drawn curtains. As usual there was the sound of activity throughout the house. There was no point in getting up. When the Count wanted him again, he would surely be sent for.
He closed his eyes and hoped the nightmare would not come again.
The Countess stood at the lounge window looking down on the courtyard below, watching as the new men, hired swiftly to replace the ones Hermann had killed, herded the Doctor, Romana and Duggan towards the house.
She smiled and went back to the couch, lighting herself an unhealthily long cigarette. The doors opened and Hermann strode in. ‘Excuse me, my lady,’ he said, ‘but the people you wish to speak to are here.’
It was sometimes hard for her to hide her contempt for Hermann, especially when he had a habit of relaying information she already knew. Often she wanted to snap at him, to scorn his ignorance, but if she ever wanted to effect her plan of making away with her husband, Hermann would be a more worthy ally than an enemy. ‘Thank you, Hermann,’ she answered. ‘Show them in.’
As Hermann bowed and exited, the Countess noticed the bracelet sitting on the table in front of her, and mindful of not wanting to lose it again, placed it back inside the elaborate carved wooden box. Just as she finished locking it shut, the Doctor was shown in at gunpoint by Hermann. Duggan and Romana followed close behind. The Doctor, hands raised, gave the Countess a smile; then Hermann gave him an unexpected shove. The Doctor spun, stumbled and then tripped over his scarf. He crashed to the ground and disappeared from sight.
A moment later his head appeared over the top of one of the Louis Quinze chairs.
‘I say,’ the Doctor exclaimed, ‘what a wonderful butler - he's so violent!’
He crawled on his knees over to where the Countess now stood. ‘Hello, I'm called the Doctor...’ he pointed, ‘that's Romana,’ he pointed again, ‘that's Duggan,’ he pointed at her, ‘you must be the Countess Scarlioni,’ and then he pointed at the chair from behind which he had emerged, ‘and this is clearly a delightful Louis Quinze chair, may I sit in it...?’
Without waiting for a reply, he leapt to his feet, spun and fell into the chair with such precision that it would have fallen apart otherwise. ‘I say,’ he said to no one in particular, ‘haven't they worn well?’
He turned and called, ‘Thank you, Hermann, that will be all.’
Hermann ignored him and remained where he was.
‘Doctor,’ purred the Countess, as she crossed the room to the fireplace, ‘you're being very pleasant with me.’
The Doctor grinned, almost modestly. ‘Yes, well I'm a very pleasant fellow!’
The Countess took another puff on her cigarette, and her tone hardened. ‘However,’ she continued, ‘I did not invite you here for social reasons.’
The Doctor nodded gravely. ‘Yes, I could see that the moment you didn't ask me to have a drink... well, I will have a drink now that you come to mention it!’ He sprang to his feet and hurried over to the drinks table where he poured himself a glass of cognac from the crystal decanter.
‘Do come in, everybody!’ he called. ‘Romana, you can sit down over there...’ He indicated the couch and Romana sat on it. ‘...And Duggan, now Duggan, you sit there!’ He pointed at the other Louis Quinze chair. Duggan sighed exasperatedly but sat anyway.
The Doctor winked at the Countess. ‘Do sit down if you want to, Countess. No? All right.’
He looked around. ‘Duggan, would you like a drink?’
Duggan shook his head and grunted something unpleasant that could only have been a ‘no’.
‘Oh well,’ the Doctor shrugged. ‘Romana?’
She shook her head. ‘No thank you, Doctor,’ she replied politely.
‘Suit yourselves, then.’ The Doctor returned to his chair, glass in hand. ‘There,’ he said, raising the glass in a toast before taking a sip, ‘now isn't this nice?’ He sat down waiting for a reply but none came.
The Countess waited until she was sure her guest had nothing left to say, glaring at him intently all the while. ‘The only reason you were brought here was to explain exactly why you stole my bracelet,’ she reminded him coldly.
The Doctor's response left little doubt in her mind that his answer had been well thought-out.
‘Ah, well that's my job, you see,’ he said with another of his engaging grins. ‘I'm a thief...’ He began the whole infuriating pointing procedure again, ‘...that's Romana, she's my accomplice...’ His voice rose, as an indication to the others to play along with his bluff. ‘And this is Duggan. He's the detective who's been kind enough to catch me, you see, that's his job. Our two lines of work fit together beautifully...’
The Countess interrupted him with a sigh. ‘I was rather under the impression that Mister Duggan was following me.’
Another pre-planned answer. ‘Yes, well you're a beautiful woman, probably, and Duggan was probably trying to summon up the courage to ask you out to dinner...’ The Doctor winked at Romana and Duggan. ‘...weren't you, Duggan?’
Duggan grimaced, and rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
The Countess was becoming annoyed. Deciding to abandon the informal approach, she turned from the fireplace and snapped, ‘Who sent you?’
‘Who sent me what?’ exclaimed the Doctor, doing his best to look bewildered.
‘Who sent you here!’
‘Nobody sent me here. Your men made me come!’
‘Who sent you to Paris?’
‘Oh, Paris! Why didn't you say Paris in the first place?’
‘Answer the question!’
‘Nobody sent me! I came of my own accord.’
The Countess spoke through clenched teeth. ‘Doctor, the more you try to convince me you are a fool, the more I am likely to think otherwise. It would be the work of only a moment to have you killed...’ Her eyes strayed to Romana. ‘...put it down!’
Romana had found the elaborate box the Countess had left on the table. She frowned, and looked up at their hostess. ‘It's one of those puzzle boxes, isn't it?’
The Countess nodded, thin-lipped. ‘It's a very rare and precious Chinese puzzle box,’ she confirmed, ‘which you won't be able to open, so put it down!’ There was a note of desperation in her tone as she recalled her husband's words - if anything should happen to that bracelet...
Romana ignored the instruction, and deftly turned the box over in her hands. There were several clicks as she pressed it and then slid the lid off. As it clattered down onto the table she removed the bracelet and held it up for all to see. ‘Oh look!’ she exclaimed delightedly, like a child who had just been given a new toy.
‘Yes,’ said a voice from across the room. All eyes turned to its direction. Count Scarlioni stood in the doorway, as casual and radiant as ever. The Countess noticed tacitly that his skin was clear, his complexion unblemished. He took a few steps into the room. ‘Pretty, isn't it?’
‘Very,’ Romana agreed. ‘Where's it from?’ she enquired.
‘From?’ the Count echoed, smiling as he approached her. ‘It's not from anywhere,’ he said evasively. ‘It's mine,’ he stated coldly, snatching it from her and turning back to his wife. ‘And who are these delightful people?’
The Countess smiled slyly. ‘My dear, these,’ she said indicating the Doctor and Romana, ‘are the people who stole it from me in the Louvre.’
‘Oh!’ Scarlioni's eyes lit up, and he turned back to observe their guests.
The Doctor gave him a cheery wave. ‘Hello there!’
‘Well, well, well,’ Scarlioni murmured. ‘How very interesting. Two thieves enter the Louvre gallery, a gallery which contains some of the most priceless works of art in the world, and come out...’ he frowned, ‘with a bracelet!’ He fixed the Doctor with a quizzical expression. ‘Couldn't you think of anything more...interesting to steal?’
‘Well,’ explained the Doctor, ‘I just thought it was very pretty.’
Scarlioni raised an eyebrow, which the Doctor took as an indication to elaborate.
‘Lovely elaborate design, wonderful craftsmanship... very pretty. Very, very pretty.’ He paused for a moment before adding, ‘Of course, it would have been much nicer to have stolen one of the paintings...’ He grinned. ‘...but I've tried that before, and all sorts of alarms and things go off, which disturbs the concentration...’
Scarlioni was laughing. ‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘yes, I imagine it would.’ The man before him was clearly an imbecile. ‘So,’ he summarised, ‘you stole the bracelet simply because it was pretty?’
‘Yes!’ exclaimed the Doctor, and gave the Count an inquiring look. ‘Well I think it's pretty...don't you?’
Scarlioni chuckled. ‘My dear,’ the Countess whispered, ‘do be careful. I don't think he's quite as stupid as he seems.’
‘My dear,’ the Count replied succinctly, ‘nobody could be as stupid as he seems!’
He turned back to address their guests, smiling broadly. What were the chances of this man knowing what the bracelet really was? ‘This interview is at an end. I think you've told me all I need to know.’
‘Good!’ The Doctor jumped to his feet and placed his glass down next to the discarded puzzle box on the table. ‘We'll be off then! A quick stagger up the Champs Élysées, perhaps a bite at Maxim's... what do you think, Romana?’
Romana stood up. ‘I think perhaps we'd better check it's all right with Maxim first,’ she began.
It was clear that the Count didn't care what Romana thought. ‘I think a rather better idea would be if Hermann were to lock you all into the cellar. I should hate to lose contact with such...’ He paused, searching for an appropriate adjective, ‘...fascinating people.’
Whilst the Count was speaking, Duggan had quietly and unobtrusively got to his feet and moved behind the imposing figure of Hermann. In the belief that he was unnoticed, the detective snatched up a chair and prepared to strike Hermann over the head with it. This would surely be one of the greatest escapes of all time.
He hadn't reckoned on the Doctor.
‘Duggan!’ he hissed. ‘What are you doing?’
Duggan stuttered, lost for words as all eyes turned in his direction and he realised how stupid he looked holding a priceless antique chair in mid-air.
‘Put it down!’ the Doctor ordered sharply, and shook his head in astonishment as Duggan obediently lowered the chair to the floor. ‘For heaven's sake, that's a Louis Quinze!’
‘But...’ protested Duggan.
‘Just behave like a civilised guest!’ the Doctor snapped, and bowed politely to Scarlioni. ‘I do apologise, Count,’ he muttered humbly.
‘Oh no, that's quite all right,’ Scarlioni assured him.
The Doctor turned to the butler. ‘Now then, Hermann if you'd be kind enough to show us to our cellar, we'd be terribly grateful...’ His voice tailed off as he, Romana and Duggan were shown out of the room at gunpoint.
Count Scarlioni watched them leave, then wandered over to the drinks table and poured himself a cognac. ‘What a charming man,’ he mused aloud.
The Countess nodded. ‘Stupid, but yes, very charming.’
The Count poured a second glass and handed it to his wife. ‘Not quite so stupid,’ he corrected her. ‘There's something about that man...’
‘Do you think he knows what the bracelet really is?’
The Count shook his head. ‘I doubt it.’ He held up the bracelet and eyed it thoughtfully. ‘You really should be more careful with your little trinkets, my dear,’ he advised, slipping it on to her wrist. She smiled and took another puff of her cigarette.
‘After all,’ he added with a smile, ‘we do have a Mona Lisa to steal...’
Their glasses clinked together in a toast to their endeavour.
‘So tell me, Hermann,’ said the Doctor as they were directed down the cellar stairs by the surly revolver-wielding butler, ‘how long has the château been here?’
‘Long enough,’ grunted Hermann.
‘Really?’ The Doctor did his best to sound enthusiastic. ‘That long? Restored four or five hundred years ago, something like that?’ he ventured.
‘May have been,’ came the customary grunt.
‘Good! I like indirect answers.’ The Doctor reached the bottom of the staircase. ‘Very stimulating,’ he said in reference to the château while surveying their new surroundings, ‘very stimulating. This would be the cellar then, would it?’
Hermann sighed. Why he had been allowed to kill those two henchmen but not this infuriating trio was quite beyond him. ‘Doctor,’ he said, ‘your boring conversation does not interest me in the slightest. If you would be so kind as to end it, I will resist the urge to disobey my master's orders and kill you.’
‘Now you'd get into quite a bit of trouble if you did that Hermann, and we both know it,’ the Doctor reminded him.
The burly butler disagreed. ‘Not necessarily. I could say you tried to escape.’
The Doctor ignored this threat and his attention fell upon Kerensky's over-conspicuous machinery. ‘Good grief!’ he exclaimed. ‘A laboratory! Are you locking us into a laboratory?’
Hermann opened a small barred cellar door. ‘In here!’
The Doctor's face fell. ‘I'd much rather stay out here,’ he said, wandering over to Kerensky's equipment. ‘This looks so interesting.’
‘In here, I say!’ demanded Hermann.
The Doctor reluctantly obeyed and followed Romana and Duggan into the tiny cell. In the dim light from the laboratory they could see a lantern perched on a small table. ‘You may light it if you wish,’ said Hermann as he tossed the Doctor a matchbox.
Romana wrinkled her nose in disgust. ‘How long's this thing going to last us?’ she asked.
‘Two hours... maybe three,’ Hermann replied.
‘What happens after that?’
Hermann sneered. ‘After that,’ he said menacingly, ‘you won't be needing any light.’ He slammed the door. They heard a key turn in the lock, and then the sound of his heavy feet stamping back up the staircase.
Duggan had been swallowing his fury since they had left the lounge. ‘Now what do you think you're playing at?’ he demanded of his fellow inmates.
‘Ssssh!’ whispered the Doctor, and handed Duggan the matchbox. ‘Light the lamp.’
Duggan looked in the box. ‘There's only one match,’ he objected.
‘Then you'd better get it right!’
‘Get it right?’ Duggan shook his head in disbelief. ‘You tell me to get it right? We could have escaped at least twice if you hadn't...’
‘Exactly!’ cried the Doctor, and then brought his voice back down to a whisper. ‘What's the point in coming all this way just to escape immediately?’ He grinned. ‘What we do is, we wait...’
‘We let them think they've got us safely locked up...’
‘And then we escape!’
‘Light the lamp.’
Duggan removed the single match and tossed the box into the darkness. Realising that he needed it to light the match, he felt around on the floor and retrieved it. Eventually he succeeded in lighting the lantern, and the cell was illuminated.
The Doctor reached into his pockets and produced his sonic screwdriver. Going over to the door, he aimed it at the lock, but nothing happened. The Doctor frowned.
‘Well?’ asked Duggan.
‘It's not working!’ the Time Lord replied, surprised.
Duggan sighed. ‘You and your stupid ideas...’ He snatched the sonic screwdriver from the Doctor and starting striking the door's lock with it.
The Doctor wrenched it back. ‘Don't!’ he cried indignantly.
‘Well what else are we meant to do with it?’ Duggan wanted to know. ‘What use is it?’
‘It was very useful against the Daleks on Skaro...’ the Doctor muttered, recalling the recent events that had given rise to the need for a holiday.
‘Oh, never mind.’
Duggan gave a despairing sigh and leaned against the door. ‘Great,’ he said. ‘Just great. That's all I need - locked in a cellar with no way out, and two raving lunatics for company!’
A whirring hum interrupted Duggan's musings. The Doctor pushed past him and held his sonic screwdriver to the lock. ‘It's working!’ he exclaimed delightedly. The lock clicked, and the Doctor pulled the door open. He gave Duggan a wicked grin. ‘Would you like to stay on as my scientific adviser?’
‘Doctor,’ called Romana, standing at the far end of the cell.
‘The horizontal length of these stairs is about... six metres, isn't it?’ she enquired, pointing at the ceiling.
‘I suppose so,’ said the Doctor, not in the least bit interested. ‘So?’
‘Well, this room runs alongside the stairs, and it's only two point seven three metres in length - approximately. Interesting, isn't it?’
‘Fascinating... shall we look at the lab first?’
Once outside, Duggan made for the stairs. ‘Right, let's get out of here.’
‘No!’ hissed the Doctor. ‘There's bound to be a couple of guards at the top of the stairs!’
‘Exactly.’ Duggan clenched his fists. ‘I'm about ready to thump someone.’
‘Wait, let's look at the lab first.’
‘What good does looking at the lab do?’
‘In the last few hours,’ said the Doctor, ‘I've been thumped, abducted and imprisoned. I've found a piece of equipment which is not of Earth technology and I've been through two time-slips. I think this lab might have something to do with it!’
Duggan frowned. ‘What about the Mona Lisa?’
‘What about it?’
‘Do you think that the Count and Countess are out to steal it?’
The Doctor gave this some consideration. ‘Yes.’
‘I don't know about you, but I'm going to stop them.’
The Doctor sighed, and moved to obstruct Duggan from mounting the stairs. ‘They're not going to steal it at five o'clock in the afternoon!’
‘Why not?’ Duggan wanted to know.
‘Because the Louvre is still open! But while we're here, why don't you and I find out how they're going to steal it, and why?’
‘Ah!’ The light dawned for Duggan.
‘Or,’ finished the Doctor, ‘are you just in it for the thumping?’
Duggan shook his head. ‘I'm in it to protect the interests of the art dealers who employed me...’
‘Yes, yes, I know,’ cut in the Doctor, ‘but mainly for the thumping, yes?’
The Doctor attention focused on Romana, who had collected a few tools from the laboratory and was carrying them into the cell. He turned to Duggan and whispered, ‘What do you suppose Romana's up to?’
‘I don't know.’
‘Nor do I,’ the Doctor admitted, ‘but it looks intriguing.’
‘I don't care!’ Duggan declared. ‘I'm going!’ He strode purposefully towards the staircase and was halfway up when the door at the top began to open. Cursing silently, he rushed back down the stairs and he and the Doctor hurriedly scrambled into hiding in a shadowy alcove under the staircase.
Professor Kerensky closed the upstairs door behind him and began his weary and reluctant descent of the stairs. As he had expected, once the Count decided he had been allowed the minimum rest period, someone was shaking him awake and ordering him back to work. He was still dressing himself as he shambled his way down the stairs, pulling on his lab coat and glasses. He reached the foot of the stairs before taking a grubby handkerchief from his pocket and blowing his nose. Stuffing the handkerchief back in his pocket, he wandered over to his equipment, sighing. He was at a loss as to why the Count was so anxious to finish everything; the machine only needed a few more modifications. Would one extra day matter that much?
He went over to the incubator and took out an egg. It was gleaming white, perfectly shaped. He held it carefully in both hands, moving delicately over to the machine that dominated the laboratory. He placed it gently on the pad in the centre of the machine and stepped back. He crossed to the main control bank, began the start-up process and then returned to stand in close proximity to the machine, so that he could observe the egg in careful detail. Duggan stepped quietly out from the shadows and raised a fist to club Kerensky down, but the Doctor pulled him back. They watched silently as the points of the three projectors began to pulse with light.
The egg was enveloped in a green glow, then it began to shudder and the shell cracked. A tiny chick emerged, resplendent in its coat of yellow down. The chick squawked and as the green glow increased in intensity it began to grow. Slowly at first, but within a minute it was a fully-grown hen.
Kerensky watched with only mild interest. He had seen it all before.
‘Which came first?’ said a voice from behind him, ‘the chicken or the egg?’
Professor Kerensky whirled around to see the grinning face of the Doctor. ‘Who are you?’ he demanded. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Me?’ The stranger shrugged modestly. ‘I'm just the Doctor,’ he said, ‘and what you're doing is terribly interesting - but you've got it all wrong!’