“Where did Dr. Chang get a forklift in the middle of the night?” Jeanne whispered into Missy's ear.
“His family owns a store.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“He is Chinese, don’t they all own a store?” Missy shrugged.
"Easy, easy!" Nardole kept shouting while Dr. Chang unloaded the box in the middle of the refrigerator room among packages of frozen chicken nuggets and peas.
"Where did you get this funny guy from?" Missy asked. Jeanne shrugged.
"Just picked him up along the way."
"He sounds Canadian," Missy observed.
"You sound Scottish," Jeanne remarked in turn.
"I am. So?"
"So?" Jeanne repeated innocently.
"What about him?" Missy asked.
"No, I don't think he's Scottish," Jeanne said and wandered off to help Nardole adjust the box.
Dr. Chang lowered it on the floor with great care and backed the forklift out of the room through a roll-up door which led directly onto the street. Everyone gathered around the huge box that now took almost all the free space in the refrigerator room.
"Open it!" Missy ordered Dr. Chang.
"Wait, we are not opening it!" Jeanne grabbed her arm. Dr. Chang looked from her to Missy, unsure whose orders to follow.
"But I thought you wanted to share your discovery with Dr. Chang, darling!" Missy exclaimed. "The aliens, remember?"
Nardole frowned and pointed at Missy. "Does she know?"
"I know everything I need to know, Mr. Snowman," she smiled. "Let's open it, love, I've never seen an alien before!" She rubbed her hands in excitement.
"What do you mean, an alien?" Dr. Chang asked, still shifting his gaze between Jeanne and Missy.
"Get a crowbar, I'll show you," Missy purred.
"A crowbar is never a good idea," Nardole muttered.
"That’s my specimen, and we are not opening it right now!" Jeanne barked.
"That's the right decision, my love."
Jeanne's heart made a leap. She spun around.
“Help us God,” Nardole sighed.
A woman was standing under the roll-up door which Dr. Chang forgot to close. She was alive and well, with all her limbs in place. Her wild wavy hair was falling onto her shoulders hugged by a black leather jacket, just as when she used to take Jeanne along on crazy bike rides through the American desert.
“River!” Jeanne breathed out.
“That’s me, sweetie,” River smiled. Jeanne wanted to run up to her, hug her, nevermind what she had done. Missy clutched at Jeanne’s sleeve.
River suddenly lost her smile. “Jeanne, be careful. Step away from her.”
“Don’t trust her, my dear. She betrayed you once, she will do it again,” Missy implored.
“You don’t know the whole story,” Jeanne shook her head.
“Oh yes, she does.” River’s eyes narrowed as she fixed her gaze on Missy. “What happened in the ice caves was all her doing.”
“How?” Jeanne longed to believe it wasn’t River’s fault, but she remembered the men with guns behind her too vividly – and River barking orders at them to follow Jeanne, to find her in the caves. “You turned up there with your own private army, not Missy.”
“It wasn’t my army! That squad attacked our camp while you were in the caves studying the specimen. And you, Nardole, had just left to visit the village and bring back some supplies. They must have been watching us and waited till I was alone. They captured me and promised no one would get hurt if I led them to our findings. They wanted all our notes, our artefacts. My plan was to lead them into the ice labyrinth; I was pretty sure I could escape inside the tunnels, because I was the only one who had taken care to map them. You know how good I am with maps. But unluckily you chose exactly that moment to come out. I tried to convince you to be rational: no research is worth dying for. But you didn’t listen, you saw the guns and freaked out. You never cared about maps; you have always been too cocky about how brilliant your memory is, and we both know how it usually turns out. I was afraid you would get lost in the ice, and it would be much worse than facing the marauders. So in order to distract them I told them to follow you, and then I ran. They started shooting, the caves collapsed, they brought their own death upon themselves. End of story. It wasn’t my fault, Jeanne.”
It sounded pretty convincing, and Jeanne yearned to be convinced. Nardole spoke.
“I didn’t see you neither at the caves, nor at the village. You simply disappeared.”
“Sorry, Nardole, I was not sure I could trust you – if I could trust anybody. That’s why I went into hiding until I’ve figured out who was behind this affair.”
“You couldn’t even trust me?” Jeanne felt a tang in her heart.
“You are too easy to read, Jeanne. No one would have believed I was dead if you knew. Especially not her,” she nodded at Missy with disgust. “She is the mastermind behind this affair.”
“Well, thank you, you flatter me,” Missy curtsied. “Except this is complete nonsense. Jeanne, dear, what would you have done with this sleeping beauty should not Professor Song have disturbed you?”
“I would have brought it back with me to the University.”
“So,” Missy addressed River, “why would I go to so much trouble if I could just sit in England and wait?”
“Because you did not want the University to have our findings. You have other clients – who are paying very good money for an extra-terrestrial addition to their collection.”
“Oh, is that so? And you know about this because...?” Missy made a theatrical pause. “Have you ever wondered, Jeanne, how Professor Song was able to afford her extremely comfortable lifestyle? Or where she went on all her secret expeditions for which no findings have ever been published? Or why she was so interested in your non-conventional work?”
“Our government is very generous with the scientists, thank you very much,” River snapped.
“So generous that you were able to fund your last Canadian expedition out of your pocket? Luckily for you, Professor Smith is very careless with the paperwork, she never noticed any discrepancies. But I – I, on the other hand, am very thorough. Jeanne, I am sorry to tell you, Professor Song here was planning to sell your specimen to a private investor. And she was prepared to sacrifice you for profit.”
“You offered it!” River pointed her gun at Missy. “I never agreed! Jeanne, don’t listen to her!”
Jeanne wanted to cry, but her eyes and her throat were dry as sand. “You were in the caves. You were giving the orders,” she managed.
“Okay, yes, I do sell artefacts, a little business on the side, but I never planned to hurt you, Jeanne! This woman was the client, she sent the soldiers to kill us both and steal the artefact!”
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” Missy smiled under the gun pointed at her. “Colonel Saxon, Chief Scientific Officer at MI6 at your service. Professor Song, you are arrested for illicit antiquities trade, conspiring, attempted murder or Professor Smith and murder of four special forces officers sent to arrest you.”
“Try that,” River said. Something changed in her face ever so slightly, but this subtle grimace sent Jeanne flying forward to stand between her and Missy.
“Stop!” she put up her hands, as if to keep them apart.
At the same time Dr. Chang who until now had been keeping quiet and still rushed towards River. His move was not fast enough. As he grabbed her shoulder, there was a crushing “Bang!” It threw Jeanne backwards like an explosion. There was no pain, but her right hand and arm suddenly went numb and cold. She lost her balance.
That’s when Dr. Chang finally caught up with River; they rolled up on the floor.
Jeanne’s knees gave in. She wanted to stop her fall, or at least soften it. The thought was very clear in her mind, but there was nothing her body could do about it. She tumbled down.