Shortly before Storage Universe closed for the evening, Ms Lebeaux the Centre Manager stopped by. Delia was away at a trade show so she chatted to Donna for a while before going home, leaving a spice-scented plastic bag on the counter. Curiously, Donna didn't follow her to give it back, but she took it in into the back room of Storage World. There she opened the trapdoor to the oubliette and brought the evening meal down to Ms Shan.
The oubliette was about the size that Ms Shan's office had been, back at the Handy Pavilion. It was sparsely furnished with a camp bed and a single chair. Ms Shan sat on the bed in her combat fatigues, talking to Vincent Pizano the lawyer.
"…so it's been decided that the traffic camera at the Wellington St intersection was definitely too badly damaged to give admissible evidence," Vincent said. "So any of your staff who wasn't picked up by the police is all but home and dry. Unfortunately that's only about half a dozen people, total."
"Dinner's here," Donna said.
"Did Claudia… did Ms Lebeaux…" Ms Shan began.
"You know she can't take the risk of coming down," Donna said, severely. "You know she wants to. You both have to wait until the heat is off." She realised that she was being unnecessarily mean to Ms Shan, but the sight of Vincent always put butterflies in her stomach. Maybe the lawyer knew something, finally.
"Donna, I'm glad I got to talk to you," Vincent said. "The DPP is going to challenge your bail conditions after all. You'll probably get the summons tomorrow, but heads up that you'll need to be in court sometime next week."
"And Fiona?" Donna said.
Vincent removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Not for the first time, Donna noticed that without his glasses, Vincent looked like a skinny, bearded version of Captain Stellar. "Still no sign. All the other former Handy Pavilion staff are accounted for – in gaol or free. Alive or dead. In one particularly memorable instance alive, dead and in gaol. Still trying to figure out that one. But Fiona… MIA."
Donna stifled a sob. Fiona – talented, nervous, powerful, guilt-ridden Fiona – had been her best friend. Not to know what happened to her…
"Tell her about the Barnlings," Ms Shan said between forkfuls of Thai curry. Donna noticed that she was starting to get fat. Not enough exercise and too much takeaway food, probably.
Vincent nodded. "I've been trying to tell all the Pavilionites, so pass this around. Up until now, none of the Barnling had been able to get bail. The Barn's parent company has finally ponied up for a decent lawyer, and a bunch of them are out now. If they're smart they'll just go lie low, but…"
"But keep our eyes open? Got it."
Donna waited while Vincent finished explaining dull legal matters to Ms Shan, who responded with a stream of dull questions of her own. Donna's mentor, the late Sadie McGregor, had taught Donna a lot about justice but very little about the law. She listened with a bored lack of interest until Vincent put his papers back into his briefcase and said his goodbyes. Ms Shan looked wretchedly lonely. The fugitive life didn't suit her, and Donna could only guess at how much she missed Miss Lebeuax.
Donna saw Vincent out of the Storage Universe and locked up. Vincent hopped into the passenger seat of a Mercedes driven by another well-dressed middle aged man, who kissed him on the cheek as he sat down. Donna sighed. Was she the only person who had no one? She didn't want a lover; not really. She was still getting over her addiction to the most horrible sort of hentai pornography, and she didn't think she could cope with a real person until it was out of her system. It was not a lover she needed. She needed friends.
The Pavilion. She needed the Pavilion back.
She looked across the grey carpark at the cold, lifeless hulk of the Pavilion, once so full of life. One day. One day, when the Barn had been crushed and the Pyramid (probably) thwarted because it was (almost certainly) evil, then maybe the Pavilion…
Maybe the Pavilion what? The surviving staff members were mostly in gaol, or headed there. Donna herself had been charged with Riot – up to fifteen years imprisonment if found guilty. Heaven only knew what Ms Shan would be charged with if the police ever found her. Even if head office reopened the Pavilion, they'd surely hire new staff.
Donna squared her shoulders and marched over towards BBQ Imperium. What was it Sadie had said? "The time where things are bad is both the most tempting, and the worse time to give up," she quoted. The words felt awkward on her lips. When Sadie had said things like that, it had sounded like a great mind imparting important moral truths. In Donna's voice it sounded like a cliché a teacher might use to encourage a student who'd just failed a test.
Outside the Imperium, Christian waited by his aging Honda. "Found the clock," he said. "It's unobtanium, but…"
"What's she doing here?" Donna said, gesturing to the car. Christian didn't turn and look, presumably because he knew that it was Gwen Harper in the passenger seat.
"She's helping us," he said. "Yes, I know why you don't want her help. I understand. You believe in right and wrong and what she did was wrong. But you believe in redemption too, don't you? You wouldn't be talking to me if you didn't. Besides," he added quickly as Donna sought for words with which to say 'no', "Gwen was the first one to access the power of the Skull. She can help. Be that pragmatic, at least."
What would Sadie do?
Glare at Christian with those pale blue eyes of hers until he wilted, probably. And then done what he suggested.
"Okay, then," Donna said. "Both of you can help me deal with the Evil Brownie. Where do you have him stashed?"
Christian grinned from ear to ear. "Oh, Donna," he said, "I think you're going to like the answer to that one?"