6: Escape Into Danger

Count Scarlioni stooped slightly as he came through the entranceway and into the room but the gun in his hand remained level. He saw the open cupboards and chuckled. ‘I see you've found some of my pictures! Quite good, aren't they?’ Then the smile evaporated and his tone was a cold, confident one. ‘By this evening I shall have a seventh.’

The Doctor frowned. ‘I don't suppose you'd like to tell me where you got these?’

‘No.’

‘Or how you knew they were here?’

‘No.’

The Doctor paused. His next question ended up sounding more like a statement. ‘They've been here for a very long time.’

‘Yes.’

‘I like concise answers!’

‘Good.’ The Count frowned. ‘I came down here to find Professor Kerensky...’

‘Oh?’

‘...but he doesn't seem to be able to speak to me at the moment.’

‘Oh!’

‘Can you throw any light on that?’

‘No.’

Duggan, tiring of this discussion, seized his opportunity. ‘I can,’ he said, and with that he snatched the lantern from the Doctor's hand and hurled it at the Count while at the same time rushing forward throwing a nice, wide general punch designed to catch anything in its path. Moments later the room was pitch black and the Count was crumpled on the ground.

There was a long silence.

‘Duggan,’ the Doctor said at last, taking a deep breath, ‘why is it that every time I start to have an interesting conversation with someone, you knock him unconscious?’

‘Sorry, Doctor,’ Duggan shrugged sheepishly. ‘I didn't expect him to go down so easily.’

‘Well if you don't understand someone you shouldn't go about hitting them!’

‘But that's my job...’

‘Duggan!’ shouted the Doctor. ‘Your job is to stop Scarlioni's men from stealing the Mona Lisa...’ He hesitated, remembered the six paintings behind them in the dark and corrected himself. ‘...the other Mona Lisa...’

They made their way out of the cellar and within moments the Doctor emerged from the door at the top of the cellar stairs that led into the main hallway of the château. He peered around the corner, saw that all was clear, and then walked casually out into the open. Romana then followed, nodding as the Doctor held his fingers to his lips and smiled. They moved quietly and both started suddenly as there was a crash behind them. Duggan smiled apologetically as he pushed aside the table he had just knocked over. The Doctor and Romana glared at him and both held their forefingers up, partially knowing that where Duggan was concerned, all was likely to be in vain if they wanted to escape in silence.

Duggan's expression suddenly altered and he tensed, pushing the Doctor and Romana flat against the wall as a gunshot rang out and a bullet whizzed past them, shattering the marble of a nearby statue and sending splinters of plaster through the air as it lodged itself in the wall behind. The three of them ducked back around the corner and Duggan took the lead.

He reached into his coat for his gun, and realised that of course he no longer had it. Cursing that he hadn't had the foresight to take the Count's revolver as they had escaped the cellar, he risked a glimpse around the corner. Behind some plants in a large vase further up the hallway he could see a slim hand holding a gun. Another bullet was fired, narrowly missing Duggan's head as he withdrew.

‘That way only leads back to the cellar,’ said Romana, indicating behind them.

Duggan stuck his head around the corner once more. Another bullet sped past.

‘Are you trying to get yourself killed?’ Romana asked.

Duggan shook his head. ‘There's only one gun. What's happened to those other thugs?’

‘They must be already en route to the Louvre,’ the Doctor said.

Duggan leapt past the exposed area of the hallway, dodging a fourth bullet as he ducked behind another antique table shielded by vases and sculptures. ‘Come on,’ he called, ‘with a bit of luck they've only got six bullets.’ Romana shrugged at the Doctor and then launched herself over towards the table as another shot was fired. Duggan looked for a suitable object and settled on a large ornate vase with delicate engravings. It weighed quite a bit, he thought as he picked it up, so should be quite adequate.

He waited until the Doctor acted as decoy for the last bullet, and then he charged down the hallway like a raging bull, hurling the vase as he went. The Doctor winced as they heard a loud resonating smash.

They emerged from their cover and went down the hall to where Duggan was standing over the unconscious Countess Scarlioni. A trickle of blood ran down her forehead and she was surrounded by fragments of shattered vase.

‘Sorry, lady,’ muttered Duggan with as much suaveness as he could muster.

‘I should think so, too!’ agreed the Doctor vehemently. ‘That was a Ming vase, Second Dynasty! Absolutely priceless!’

Duggan was singularly unimpressed. ‘What now?’

‘You're going to the Louvre to stop that painting being stolen,’ the Doctor instructed. ‘Romana, you're going with him. I'm going to visit a middle-aged Italian... late middle-aged Italian... early Renaissance, in fact. Old friend of mine...used to paint pictures...’

Night had fallen by the time the Doctor reached the Denise René art gallery, situated on the Boulevarde St. Germaine, close to the city centre. The gallery was locked up and the staff had gone home, so the Doctor got in using his sonic screwdriver.

He thought about the machine he'd seen in Scarlioni's cellar and about what had happened to the egg when he'd reversed the particle accelerator. That green face that had appeared within the energy field of the machine was somehow familiar, but he couldn't determine where he'd seen it before.

Inside the gallery he took out a torch and shone it over various pictures and exhibits. Eventually the torch beam fell on a tall blue metropolitan police box standing in one corner. The TARDIS was hardly the most out-of-place exhibit amidst the bizarre collection on display in the Denise René gallery. Turning off his torch, the Doctor took a key from his trouser pocket and inserted it into the keyhole on the Police Box. One of the double doors opened inward and the Doctor went inside.

‘Hello, K9!’ he called as he entered, ‘are you feeling better?’

A moment later the light on top of the police box began to flash, and with a wheezing groaning sound, the box faded away, leaving the darkened gallery in silence once more.

The TARDIS rematerialised and the Doctor emerged and surveyed his surroundings. All it took was a quick glimpse before he patted the TARDIS affectionately and said ‘Well done!’

The studio was a mess. It was 1505 and he was in Florence, only Leonardo would insist on him calling it Firenze. It might have been a decent-sized studio if it hadn't been for the piles of paper, canvases, easels, paint and general clutter of disorganisation that seemed to come hand in hand with Leonardo. Sunlight streamed through the windows and the chatter of birdsong outside was musical. ‘Leonardo?’ the Doctor called.

There was no reply. He wandered over to the windows as he called out again. ‘Leonardo!’ He smiled as he caught sight of the pond outside, remembering Will and Leo tossing a protesting Napoleon into the water one midsummer evening. ‘Ah,’ he sighed affectionately, ‘that Renaissance sunshine!’ Remembering that Leonardo too loved that Renaissance sunshine, he called his friend's name out the window in the hope that the painter was out in the garden.

No reply again, so he turned his attention back to the studio and thought of the fond memories the place resurrected. ‘Your paintings went down very well,’ he called. ‘Everybody loved them. The Last Supper... Mona Lisa... you remember the Mona Lisa, don't you, Leonardo?’

He paused, half-expecting a reply, but continued when none was forthcoming. ‘Oh, come on, surely you remember the Mona Lisa - that lovely girl with the foul mouth and no eyebrows? Wouldn't sit still? On my birthday? Mmmm?’

He spied something on one of the tables and picked it up. It was a sheet of parchment with diagrams on it - one of Leonardo's theoretical drawings for a piece of machinery, inspired as always by a drunken evening in which the Doctor let a little too much slip about the future. ‘Your idea for the helicopter took a bit longer to take off,’ he called, smiling at the pun, ‘but as I always said, these things take time...’

Suddenly he was aware of something cold pressing against his cheek. He turned and felt a sharp pain as something jabbed him. He took a step back and turned again, slowly this time. A man stood before him, dressed from top to toe in chain mail armour and a helmet with the beaver up so that the Doctor could see the man's beady eyes and pudgy face. And, as he had suspected, the long sharp cold object the man had been holding against his cheek was a sword.

‘Who are you?’ the soldier demanded gruffly.

‘Me?’ the Doctor smiled. ‘Well, I just dropped by to see Leonardo. He hasn't shifted, has he?’

The soldier sneered. ‘Nobody's allowed to see Leonardo. He's engaged in important work for Captain Tancredi.’

The Doctor's mouth dropped open in apparent amazement. ‘Captain Tancredi?’

‘Do you know him?’

‘No,’ the Doctor admitted.

The soldier pressed the end of his blade against the Doctor's shoulder. ‘He'll want to question you.’

The Doctor smiled again. ‘Well I'll want to question him as well, so we can both have a nice little chat then, can't we?’

‘He'll be here,’ the soldier assured him, ‘instantly.’ He applied more pressure on his sword and forced the Doctor to his knees. The door creaked open. A tall imposing figure stood silhouetted in the doorway, sunlight streaming in behind him.

The Doctor looked up and recognised the face. ‘You!’ he hissed in surprise. ‘What are you doing here?’

The reply was calm and measured. If the newcomer was as surprised to see the Doctor he did a good job of concealing it. ‘I might ask you exactly the same question, Doctor!’ said the newcomer, as he strode into the room. He was tall, wearing elegant clothes tailored from leather and his shoulder-length grey hair was swept back. But despite the different attire and slight alterations in general appearance, it was still without question the same man the Doctor had last seen in Paris, 1979.

Scarlioni.

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