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he last vestiges of sunlight left 13 Paternoster Row. A coach pulled up in front and a hooded figure emerged.
The figure spoke, ‘Thank you, Parker, I won't be needing you again tonight.’

‘Yes, m' lady,’ the driver said and drove off. The figure entered 13 Paternoster Row and removed its hood as usual.

‘Jenny!’ Madame Vastra called out, ‘I'm home. Is dinner ready?’
 
‘Yes, ma'am,’ Jenny replied from the dining room. ‘A beautiful roast duck is waiting for you.’

‘Good,’ said Vastra , ‘I've been starving all day.’ Jenny took the hint.

‘No luck today, ma'am?’

‘None whatsoever, I'm afraid. There's been a depressing lack of crime around here recently. How am I supposed to be an adventuress if there aren't any more adventures to go on?’

‘With all due respect, ma'am, Jack the Ripper was quite a catch. It will be difficult to top that one.’

‘Yes, I know, but still I wish there was something that could shake me from this awful boredom.’ It was then that they both heard a familiar sound emanating from the drawing room.

‘Ma'am, is that-‘

‘Yes, Jenny, I believe it is. He's back.’ Vastra smiled as she led Jenny into the drawing room. Sure enough, the blue police box was waiting for them. ‘Doctor! We were wondering when you'd return.’

The TARDIS doors opened and the bow tie wearing Doctor emerged. ‘Well then,’ he said, ‘Let's not waste any time. What adventure have you got planned for me?'

~~~

o, no adventure at all, then?’ the Doctor asked.

‘No, I'm afraid not,’ Vastra replied. They were both sitting at the dining table feasting on duck while Jenny poured the wine. ‘Ever since we last met, nothing much has happened around here.’

‘I see. I wish I could say that will change but if I recall correctly, 1889 was a rather dull year.’

‘And I presume you don't have anything in mind for us, either, Doctor?’

‘Nope,’ he said. ‘You've repaid your debt to me; so as far as I'm concerned, you're off the hook.’

‘Thank you. You'll be glad to know there's no lingering resentment over the deaths of my sisters. How are your companions doing, by the way?’

‘Well, let's see. Amy and Rory are living happily ever after in 21st-century London. Or, so I hope, it’s been a while since I’ve seen them both.’

‘I'm glad to hear that.’ Jenny said. ‘They seemed terribly shocked when that River woman told them she was their daughter.’

‘I should think so. Oh, did River get you both home without any problems?’

‘Yes,’ Vastra said, taking a sip of wine. ‘That method of instantaneous time travel is not as much fun as the TARDIS, but it did the job.’

‘Good. She's doing fine as well, despite the fact that she's in prison.’

‘What was her crime?’
 
‘Murder.’
 
‘Who was the victim?’
‘Me.’

‘WHAT?’ declared Vastra and Jenny simultaneously.

‘Long story short, I'm alive and well, she's serving time to maintain the illusion that I'm dead. Count yourselves lucky that I'm trusting you with this information.’

Vastra and Jenny exchanged an awkward glance. ‘Very well, Doctor,’ Vastra said, ‘Let us toast your good health.’

‘Isn't that what villains say before they poison people?’ the Doctor asked.

‘I suppose I'm still getting used to human customs,’ Vastra replied. As they sampled the wine, Jenny retrieved a letter that had been pushed under the door during the conversation. She quickly handed it to Vastra.

‘Who is it from?’ the Doctor asked.

‘Lady Quentina Grantley,’ Vastra replied. ‘A wealthy widow, whom I once saved from certain death at the hands of a murderous thief. She's one of the few people I trust with my appearance.’

‘What does it say?’

‘She wants Jenny and myself to come to the Grantley mansion tonight. Apparently, there is to be an important meeting with “otherworldly implications”.’ Vastra looked at Jenny who in turn looked at the Doctor. He leapt up from his chair in excitement.

‘Excellent!’ he cried, clapping his hands together. ‘It looks like we may be in for an adventure after all!’

‘Are you sure you want to come, Doctor?’ Vastra asked. ‘She may not take kindly to strangers.’

‘Don't worry. I'll show her my credentials. Plus, we can get there a lot faster in the TARDIS.’

‘Alright, then, I'll get my cloak." As Vastra left the room, Jenny approached the Doctor.

‘Did you enjoy your duck, Doctor?’

‘I certainly did. Just like mother used to make. So, how are things with you, Jenny?’

‘Oh, more of the same I suppose. Cook dinner, wash the dishes, do the laundry, make sure the house is spotless. The life of a servant isn't glamorous you know, Doctor.’ She sighed and lowered her voice. ‘Sometimes I feel like she doesn't appreciate everything that I do for her.’

The Doctor nodded. ‘I understand. My friend Charley grew up with a maid named Edith who didn't feel she was appreciated either. But thanks to a life-changing event, Charley came to see just how much Edith had meant to her as a child.’

‘Do you think that's what it'll take for her to appreciate me? A life-changing event?’

The Doctor shrugged. ‘Who knows?’ he said.

~~~

he TARDIS materialized in an alleyway behind the Grantley mansion. The Doctor, Vastra and Jenny emerged and cautiously looked around.

‘I'm sure the old girl will be safe here,’ the Doctor said as he locked the TARDIS doors.
 
 
artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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