Donna tried not to think about what Donna had told her. Or what Delia had told her. Or Alfred, or Christian or Fanaka or basically anyone. She was doing something that she suspected anyone would argue her out of. But she was doing it anyway, because it needed to be done and there were few people around doing what needed to be done.
"One chicken and beef kebab, extra cheese, chilli sauce, Mr Theopoulos," she said, striding into the kebab shop.
Stavros Theopoulos smiled and paused in his restocking of his ice-cream fridge. He gestured Donna to a seat, and waved at his counterhands to serve her. "Donna, isn't it? Not usual to see any of the Handy Pavilion crowd in my shop. You don't like me, or something?"
"You're a ringleader of a weird cult that worships the Pyramid," Donna said.
"We have witnesses."
"Do you? So what if you do. It's a free country."
"Is it?" Donna said. "I haven't checked today's news yet. Good to hear. Anyway, you've probably heard that the DIY Barn people have been making a comeback?"
Theopoulos shrugged, straightened his back and collapsed an empty Paddle Pop box.
It took Donna a moment to say the next words. They turned over in her mouth, heavy and bitter before she could get them to her lips: "But they're enemies of the Pyramid too."
"I see." Theopoulos stopped for a moment and frowned in deep thought. "Are you proposing an alliance?"
"I am suggesting that it is our mutual interest to stop the Barn."
Theopoulos shook his greying head. "It is in our mutual interest to keep the Super Centre free of rats, but I'm not setting traps in the Storage World basement and you're not buying baits to put in my ceiling. Mutual interest doesn't automatically imply mutual action. My question is, are you proposing mutual action?"
The kebab was placed in front of Donna. She wasn't hungry, but she ate it anyway. It was more than a little annoying that it tasted so good. Nice fresh salad, meat spicy and not too greasy…
"I ask," Theopoulos continued mildly, "because I know who you are. Not personally, I guess. But I know who your mentor was, and that tells me a great deal about who you are, doesn't it? And it shows. You're trying to leave a sort of implied half-suggestion on the table, but it doesn't suit you. And frankly, it doesn't suit me. I prefer to work in the shadows, but if you want me to fight in the open, you'll have to tell me openly."
Donna stood and made for the door. "This was a mistake."
"A moral error, but not a strategic one," Theopoulos said. "You were right to come to me. I wish I'd thought of coming to you. The Barn is a threat to us, but you people aren't. You run around like clowns, having silly little adventures, thinking to do my masters harm. As if you could! If you had known anything about the true nature of South Hertling, anything at all, you would have hidden from it in terror."
Donna stopped in the doorway, her hand on the handle. Before her was the carpark of the Super Centre all in the deep shadow of the Pyramid. She wanted to push the door and walk out, but the weight -- the great weight that had rested on her shoulders since Sadie's death -- felt a thousand times heavier that day. It pushed her arm down from the handle, where it hung limply by her side.
"Screw it," she said.
Turning, she saw Theopoulos stop dead, confused, in the middle of his monologue. His employees behind the counter carried on slicing onions, as if nothing was happening. Perhaps, Donna thought, they were zombies or golems. Or perhaps they were just what they looked like – kids in their late teens who, quite understandably, didn't give a crap about cosmic battles.
"Screw it," she repeated. "Okay. If that's what you want. Fine! Deal with the devil wannabe it is. A temporary alliance to fight the DIY Barn."
She held her hand out to Theopoulos, ready to shake. Theopoulos looked at the proffered hand as if it were a stick of dynamite. "Conditions?" he asked.
"We work together to defeat the remaining Barnlings," Donna said. "When we're agreed that the threat is past, there is to be no conflict between our forces for a minimum of three days. After that, I guess we'll see."
Stavros Theopoulos stared at Donna with uncertain eyes. "I was assuming that I was going to say some creepy things to rattle you a bit, but then you'd have to come back when things got worse."
"Are you authorised to make promises on behalf of the Handy Pavilion?"
"I'm in charge," Donna said. "By default, anyway. You can try to talk to someone else, but you'll just get a vaudeville routine."
Stavros nodded, shrugged and shook her hand.
"Deal, sucker," Donna said.
"You do manage to take the fun out of things," Theopoulos sighed. "Oh, and you can call me Stavros if we're to be allies, even if it's only temporary."
Her kebab was still on the counter where she'd left it. She picked it up and took a bite, and found it good. "Stavros it is. Now, how shall we get on?"
"I have a good idea of where their headquarters are," Stavros said. "You get your friend at the music shop to whip up some of his holographic disguises and we can send some spies in."
"Of course," Donna said, pretending to have the slightest clue what Stavros was talking about. She stopped a moment to think. "Stavros, given the choice between good and evil, why have you chosen evil?"
Stavros smirked. "You weren't interested in my 'horrifying true nature' speech," he said. "But you want the the 'Good? Evil? Your ideas are too narrow!' speech?"
"You're right, Stavros," Donna sighed. "Some other time, I guess."