This short Christmas story features words from a traditional Christmas carol, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was created by Gerry Anderson. Other characters are my own.
In the series licensed by Carlton International Media, Captain Black is seen lurking in a graveyard. It is not known whether his earthly remains were discovered on Mars and returned to Earth for a burial, but in my story, this is what happened and his ‘death’ was blamed on radiation sickness.
A 'Captain Scarlet' story for Christmas
by Polly Amber
Two young men hesitated in front of locked iron gates that guarded a gloomy, overgrown cemetery. One of them hung back, he looked distinctly nervous. "I don't think we should . . ." he began.
His companion mocked him. "Scared?" He waved his arms up and down and made whoo-hooing noises "Scared of all the ghosties and ghoulies, are we?"
The bolder of the two men grabbed the steel bars of the gate, and pulled hard. The gate remained shut. The man swore. "It looks like we'll have to climb over it."
"Look, let's not bother, what if someone catches us? Is it worth it?"
"Is it worth it? We could save a couple of hundred."
"No, without a word of a lie, they gave me two hundred euros to spend on flaming holly!"
"Well I suppose they intended for us to buy it from a garden centre, not nick it from a graveyard."
"I'm being resourceful. My wife has spent the last six weeks attending evening classes to learn the art of floristry. Now I know I'm only a glorified errand boy, but I figure it doesn't take much to knock together a bit of holly and some fancy looking dried flowers to make a floral display fit for a king."
"I think the hotel manager would probably sack us if he found out."
"Ah, but he didn't exactly give me any specifications, did he? All he said was 'go out and buy some Christmassy-looking flower arrangements to decorate the dining hall.' I went to the garden centre, but the price of the holly, especially the good bits with berries on, was extortionate. Then I remembered this tree in the cemetery, I figure it could do with a bit of a trim anyway." He spat on his hands, grabbed the bars and hoisted himself to the top of the gate. He was a slim agile fellow, who landed on his feet like a cat. "Come on what are you waiting for?" he called to his partner in crime.
The other man was not so agile; he huffed and puffed as he climbed over the gate, and he stumbled awkwardly in the pitch darkness. His colleague strode forward purposefully, but suddenly stopped in his tracks, "Blimey, it looks like this one turns in his grave." He stood facing a gravestone which was listing at such an angle he had to lean over sideways to read the inscription. "Colonel Conrad Turner 2029 - 2068."
"Let's just get this over with and then get out of here," his nervous companion suggested.
"You are scared... whoooo."
"Look, there's a decent-sized holly bush over there, It has plenty of berries on it too. Just get what you want and then let's go."
His companion started to sing, "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, tra la la la la la la la la."
"Shut up, we don't want to draw attention to ourselves; we are nicking this stuff you know."
"It's only a bloody holly bush, nicking a few branches doesn't make us grave robbers does it. I mean it's not as if I'm going to start digging up old Colonel Conrad here."
"You would be in for a bit of a shock if you did. He's the guy who went to Mars. I heard he got attacked by aliens."
"Rubbish; there was nothing up there, he must have died of radiation or something like that."
"No, that's what they wanted us to think, there was something up there, I'd bet my life on it. Why do you think we have a great big military base in the sky?"
"You mean Spectrum Cloudbase?"
"Yes, he was one of their lot. He was on a top secret mission. I think they were looking for alien life forms."
"You watch too much science fiction." The bolder of the two men took out a pair of secateurs, and started to cut branches from the holly tree overhanging the headstone of the late Conrad Turner. He even balanced on top of the stone to lop off a higher branch, which was heavily laden with blood-red berries.
The nervous man stepped onto the grave and squatted, to read the rest of the inscription "It doesn't say anything else about him. I wonder what happened to him."
"Do you believe in those rumours about aliens watching us then?"
"I don't disbelieve them. Maybe he did find life on Mars, maybe aliens invaded his body. Perhaps juvenile alien life forms are living underground and feasting on his rotting corpse, just waiting for the right moment to break out of his body and take over the world."
"Yeah, whatever... ouch this stuff is bloody sharp . . . look I'm bleeding."
"It's a holly bush," retorted the other man, "and holly has prickles."
"I'll cut a few more branches off and you can stuff them into the sack, you've got thicker gloves than me." The brash young man jumped down from the headstone and held the sack open while his partner cautiously placed the holly inside.
"Careful, don't knock the berries off."
"Good evening, Earthmen." a deep booming voice seemed to come from behind the gravestone of the late Conrad Turner. The two men froze. The bolder one started to laugh nervously. "That was you, right?"
The other man did not stop to answer; he threw down a branch of holly and ran. His companion stood his ground. "You daft pratt, you can't fool me, you got your mate to play stupid tricks on me. That's why you went on about aliens and all that."
The other man had already leapt over the gate with a new found vigour. He turned and shouted to his friend to run "Behind you," he panted. "Run… he's behind you."
"Who? The nasty ghostie?" laughed the other man still believing he was the victim of a practical joke. When his friend carried on running as if in fear of his life, he turned round, and came face to face with the palest, sickliest looking man he had ever seen. This man was clad from top to toe in black. He gazed into pitch black soul-less eyes.
"Holy shit, who the hell are you?"
"I am Conrad Turner, and as for hell, I live in it."
This time the brash young man did not laugh, he felt a sudden urge to empty his bladder. He could feel Conrad Turner's icy fingers tighten around his neck. His face reddened and his eyes bulged, then he fell senseless to the ground.
From a distant church came the sound of a choir practising for the Christmas carol service,
'The holly and the ivy
when they are both full grown,
o-of all the trees that are in the wood,
the -e holly bears the crown.'
In the stratosphere above England's capital, Spectrum’s Captains Scarlet, Blue, Magenta, Grey and Ochre received a summons to a conference with their commanding officer, Colonel White. Captain Scarlet was the first to respond; he came in rubbing his temple "I knew I could feel something. It's another Mysteron threat isn't it?"
"As usual, your keen senses have picked up the Mysteron presence," noted Colonel White
"Do we know what the threat it is?" asked Blue, following closely behind Scarlet.
"No, not yet. They have requested that all of Spectrum's most senior officers be present before they make their next move known," answered White.
Captains Magenta and Ochre took their places. The last to arrive was Captain Grey. When they were all seated at the circular conference table, Captain Scarlet inquired, “What now?”
"We are all here," announced Colonel White. "Do you have a message for us?"
In spite of the severity of the occasion, Magenta allowed a smile to cross his lips. The Colonel was reminding him of his eccentric, elderly aunt Bernadette, who used to hold seances in Ballykilly.
There was an ominous silence. The assembled men expected to hear the booming artificially- created voice, used by the Mysterons to communicate their intentions, but to their surprise the assembled men heard the sound of a Christmas carol. They listened in amazement to a heavenly sounding choir.
Magenta laughed, "It's a Christmas Carol!"
Blue looked puzzled "I don't understand Sir."
"What can they mean?" pondered Ochre.
"Perhaps they want a truce this year. They have been observing us for the last three years, maybe they have decided they like Christmas," suggested Magenta.
Colonel White snorted. "I wouldn't like to bet on getting a Christmas card from them. I don't trust them an inch."
"Well that wasn't really a threat was it?" voiced Magenta.
"He could have a point," agreed Ochre "The Mysterons are watching us all the while, maybe they are fascinated by our Christmas festivities."
"Yeah, perhaps we should invite them over for sherry and mince pies," drawled Grey sarcastically.
"So what do we do?" It was Captain Scarlet who spoke directly to Colonel White.
"I am at a loss," admitted White. "Maybe the Christmas carol carries some veiled threat, perhaps there is a cryptic clue in the words. Can anyone remember all the words to this carol?"
"Allow me." Magenta stood up and in his best tenor voice he began to sing, "The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown. O-of all the trees that are in the wood, the-e holly bears the crown."
"Is that it then?" asked Blue.
"No, there's more," Magenta went on to sing the next two verses, "The holly bears a berry as red as any blood, a-as Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do all sinners good. Oh the rising of the su-un . . ."
"Yes, yes that will do." snapped Colonel White.
Magenta sat down "Pity, I was starting to enjoy that."
"Never give an Irishman the chance to sing," mocked Blue.
Magenta shrugged "It's just a carol, where's the threat in that?"
"It's called the Holly and the Ivy." explained Scarlet "We all know what holly is. It's prickly and people use it to decorate their homes at Christmas time."
"The holly bears a berry as red as any blood." mused White
"Yes, there is a reference to drawing blood," noticed Scarlet "But I've never heard of anyone being killed by a branch of holly."
"Unless they fell off a ladder while they were trying to pin it to the ceiling," put in Magenta.
"What about ivy? That's poisonous, isn't it? We have poison ivy back home," voiced Blue.
"I think the berries are poisonous, but the ivy we have over here doesn't give you a rash if you touch it," Scarlet explained.
Colonel White furrowed his brow. "I really don't know what to make of this, If it is a threat, then to whom?"
"I think that's what we have to try to work out," answered Scarlet.
In the last week before Christmas, the employees of one of London's most up market hotels were busy decking out a huge dining hall, with seasonal floral decorations. A pale looking young man was arranging an impressive display of holly, ivy, dried flowers and pine cones. A second man sidled up to him.
"So you went back for the rest of the holly then?"
The other man seemed rather distant and unfocussed. "Oh . . . yeah."
"What happened to you? I haven't seen you for the last three days. When I rang your house, your wife said you were ill."
"I fell over in the graveyard and pulled a muscle in my leg," was the other man's monotone reply.
"I feel a bit of a fool running off like that. I really thought I had seen a ghost," his colleague admitted. "Who was that spooky-looking guy? and why did he creep up on us like that?"
"He was out walking his dog, when he heard us talking. He decided to make us jump."
"He did that all right. If I ever see him again, I'll give him my dry cleaning bill." The man then held up one of the decorations. "Not bad, did you say that your wife made it. Those flower arranging classes must have paid off.
The other man said nothing
"Are you alright mate? That must be one hell of a hangover you're nursing, you look like death warmed up!"
Captain Scarlet was enjoying a few days furlough at his parent's home in Winchester. His mother reacted to the news that her only son was on call again over the Christmas holiday, with unconcealed disappointment.
"Oh Paul, I was hoping you might be able to spend Christmas Day with us this year."
"I'm sorry Mother, but duty calls."
"That's three Christmases in a row. Don't they have some sort of rota?"
"It doesn't work like that. We are all needed when there is a Mysteron threat, Christmas will be cancelled for all of us."
Mrs Metcalfe sighed, "It's such a shame. I had hoped we would get to meet that nice young lady of yours."
"I would like Dianne to meet you too, and I would especially like to sit down to one of your excellent Christmas lunches, but sadly it's not to be."
"I know you can't talk about your work Paul," said his father "But your mother finds it hard to understand."
"I know, I'll try to make it up to her, and get her something special this year."
"I think she was rather hoping you would get Dianne something special this year."
Scarlet was aware that he was blushing; he knew what his father was getting at. Every year the conversation seemed to steer round to who had got engaged, married or had babies. The burden of being an only child seemed greater with each year he remained single. He knew his mother longed for a grandchild, but he would never be able to tell her why he could not provide her with one. Only his father, a man from a staunch military background, had an understanding of the ultimate price a military man was required to pay, in the service of his country. His father knew that the flesh-and-blood son he had raised as Paul Metcalfe, was lying cold in an unmarked grave in a top secret locality. He now accepted that the heart and soul of his son were living inside the reconstructed body of the young man, who was relaxing in an armchair by the fireside.: A young man who was the living replica of his deceased son. What had been the hardest thing to accept was that his son had been duplicated by the very beings responsible for his death - the Mysterons: sworn enemies of Earth.
Captain Scarlet quickly steered the conversation round to the subject of work. " I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I will have to go back to base this afternoon. I can't possibly say what I will be asked to do over Christmas, we have had a terrorist threat and we have been put on alert. I will try to get away if I can."
"I can't help worrying about you," admitted Mrs Metcalfe.
General Metcalfe draped an arm around his wife's shoulders "Don't you go worrying about Paul he's practically indestructible!"
In a neat suburban semi-detached house, a young woman was carefully arranging winter flowers. She stood back to admire her handiwork. She placed her floral creation on the windowsill of a large bay window in the living room. She then noticed a police car drawing up outside her house; she felt her stomach somersault. She watched the two officers, one male and one female, get out of the car and walk slowly up the garden path. All manner of thoughts raced through her mind; what had Jack been up to now? She grabbed her flower arrangement and ripped out all of the holly. She glanced around for somewhere to hide it and made the split second decision to conceal it behind the sofa. Surely the police had better things to do than pursue a person for stealing a few branches of holly.
There came the expected knock on her front door. She opened the door with a fixed smile "Hello, What can I do for you?"
The female officer spoke first, "Mrs Susan Lewis?"
"Yes, I'm Susan Lewis."
"Can we come in, Mrs Lewis?" asked the policeman
"Yes of course." Susan showed them in to the living room, hastily looking around to see if she had missed any stray sprigs of holly.
"Mrs Lewis . . ." began the policeman,
"Will you sit down Mrs Lewis," the policewoman gently requested.
"Is something wrong? What's wrong?"
"It's about your husband Jack. When did you last see him?"
"This morning, before he went to work. I helped him load his van with the decorations. He hasn't had an accident has he?"
The two officers exchanged concerned glances. "Where was he taking the decorations?"
"He works at an hotel, we both do. I'm a waitress but it's my day off today. The hotel is hosting a big do on Christmas Eve. I don't know much about it, but I think there will be some important people there. My husband does a few odd jobs for them, you know, repairs and a bit of decorating. I do a bit of waitressing and some flower arranging to make ends meet." Noticing the solemn looks on the officers faces, Mrs Lewis paused before venturing hesitantly, "Jack hasn't done anything wrong, has he? He was given some money to buy some floral arrangements to decorate the dining hall. He hasn't really done anything wrong; he brought the flowers cheaply from the market. He gave the rest of the money to me and I made the arrangements, and mine are just as good as the fancy designers who charge a bloody fortune."
The two officers looked sombre, Mrs Lewis became agitated. "Look, he only nicked a few branches of holly. That's hardly the crime of the century; I know it was wrong of him to nick it from a graveyard."
"It's not about the holly, Mrs Lewis," the policewoman replied. "I'm afraid we have some bad news for you. Your husband's body was discovered in the churchyard early this morning."
"No! No, that's ridiculous! How could it be my husband? My husband was here this morning. He left just before nine o’clock. He'll be at work, I'll prove it, I'll phone him."
"Mrs Lewis, I need you to identify your husband's body. It was found partly concealed in some bushes, quite close to the holly tree he was taking the branches from," explained the policeman. "I'm afraid your husband was strangled three days ago."
"NO! NO! That's not true! It can't be!" Mrs Lewis collapsed with heaving sobs.
The Spectrum helicopter picked Captain Scarlet up later that afternoon. He felt rather relieved. Captain Blue sat at the controls beaming, as Scarlet scrambled aboard. "Thanks, Adam." His next question was all too predictable, "Any more clues from you know who?"
"Colonel White is still chewing things over; He thinks the threat might be aimed at royalty. You know, that bit about 'bears the crown.'"
"The holly bears the crown."
"Yes. It could refer to a king or queen," suggested Blue.
"Most of our nations now come under the world presidency, only a few countries have retained their royal family."
"One of them being dear old England," put in Blue.
"Well, we have to keep hold of our royal family to keep the American tourists happy," retorted Scarlet.
"Colonel White is trying to trace the movement of the world's royalty. The King and Queen of Denmark will be at home, I'm not sure about the others. Colonel White has been speaking to the world president, to arrange for our security to be tightened up, wherever the world's royal families have official duties to perform over the Christmas holiday."
"What about our own King and Queen? Do we know where they will be?"
"You'll have to ask the Colonel when we get back."
Captain Scarlet did not even have time to unpack his bag, before the epaulettes on his scarlet tunic were flashing with a white light. He left his quarters and stood on the moving walkway which took him to the Control Room. Computer genius, Lieutenant Green greeted him cheerfully. "Hello, have you enjoyed your furlough?"
"Yes, thank you, Lieutenant Green," Scarlet replied formally. Scarlet stepped off the walkway and perched on a stool opposite the Colonel. "You wanted to see me, Colonel White?"
"Colonel White, Captain Scarlet, I have something here which might be of interest to you," called Lieutenant Green excitedly.
"What is it, Lieutenant?"
Lieutenant Green pressed a button, the teleprinter chuntered into life and spewed out a sheet of paper. Lieutenant Green handed his findings to Colonel White.
"This is a police report, Captain Scarlet. A man's body - believed to be a Mr Jack Lewis, has been found murdered in a churchyard."
"Undoubtedly, the man's wife is adamant that her husband has been alive for the last three days. That's three days after he was murdered. Look at this picture: this is the spot where the body was concealed. Look at the grave stone . ."
"Captain Black!" exclaimed Scarlet.
"That proves the Mysterons are up to something," answered Colonel White. "I believe the late Jack Lewis is now a Mysteron replica. Destiny Angel and Captain Magenta are flying to London to speak to the police and Mrs Lewis."
Captain Scarlet voiced his thoughts. "What do the Mysterons need this man for? He doesn't hold a position of any importance."
Lieutenant Green interrupted. "I'm getting more information on Jack Lewis… twenty-four years old, married, living in South London. He had a couple of minor convictions in his teens, one for receiving stolen goods. . . Oh and he works for the Ivy Hotel in Mayfair."
"What does he do?" Scarlet asked.
"Odd jobs mostly. He trained as a carpenter."
Colonel White pressed a button on his desk, to switch on the intercom connecting his operations centre with the Amber Room, where the Spectrum pilots, collectively known as the Angels, stood by to await orders to launch.
Rhapsody Angel, Dianne Simms, answered.
"Rhapsody, I have an undercover mission for you. Can you join Captain Scarlet and me in the operations room?"
"Yes sir, I'll come at once."
Dianne gave Captain Scarlet a shy smile; the Captain gallantly stood up and pulled a chair out for her. Colonel White could not miss the signs of attraction their body language conveyed.
"Lieutenant Green has some interesting information for us, Captain Scarlet," informed Colonel White.
The jovial-faced Caribbean officer clasped a file, which he placed in front of his Colonel. "Sir," he said, "I have here a schedule of all the events, where the King of England will be present."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Rhapsody, Captain Scarlet, you will see that on December 21st the King will visit a children's hospital. On the 23rd, he will he will attend a special festive luncheon at the Ivy Hotel in London…”
"The Ivy? The holly and the Ivy!" exclaimed Scarlet.
"Yes Captain. I believe the King of England is the Mysteron's intended target. I want you and Rhapsody Angel to mingle with the guests at this luncheon. Captains Blue and Grey will be present in an official capacity, but you and Rhapsody Angel will attend as a couple, you will be out of uniform and you will refer to each other by your Christian names.
"Very good, Sir," replied Rhapsody.
"Captain Scarlet?" interrupted Lieutenant Green "I thought you would like to see the guest list."
Scarlet took the sheet of paper from Green's outstretched hand. His eyes scanned the names on the list. The guest list consisted mostly of top ranking military personnel, a few Lords and civic dignitaries - and General and Mrs Charles Metcalfe. "My parents have been invited, Colonel, I hope this won't present a problem with my cover."
"On the contrary, as you and Rhapsody are there as guests, it will give you both credibility to have people there who know you."
December 23rd - the streets of London thronged with last minute shoppers, Spectrum Captains Grey and Blue were assigned to carry out a thorough search of the Ivy Hotel. They brought with them a team of Spectrum Security guards. Every inch of the hotel was to be searched before the royal party arrived. Blue was on his hands and knees, crawling underneath the dining tables looking for any suspicious trailing wires which could indicate a hidden bomb. There was nothing. He checked out the ten foot high Christmas tree, immaculately decorated in red and gold. He even lifted up the skirt of the fairy on the top, just to make sure. Captain Grey was feeling along the tops of the doors; between them they scanned the hotel dinning room. Eventually, Captain Blue reported to Colonel White that the hotel appeared to be clean. Fearing an assassination attempt, Colonel White instructed two Spectrum security guards to be posted at each doorway; all guests were to be checked in with a Mysteron detector - including Captain Scarlet. They had been told of Captain Scarlet's undercover presence and they knew that his re-constructed body could not be photographed. The guards also carried Mysteron guns which emitted high pulses of electricity - the only thing proven to kill a Mysteron.
Captain Magenta and Destiny Angel were searching for Jack Lewis, who was now certainly in the hands of the Mysterons, but he seemed to have vanished off the face of the Earth. At twelve o’clock Captain Ochre at the controls of a Spectrum helijet, touched down on the heli-pad at Buckingham Palace. Two Angel Interceptor jets circled above.
"The King has entered the Spectrum helicopter," reported Melody Angel.
"Maintain surveillance Melody," instructed Colonel White.
It was a short hop in the helicopter, to the immaculate lawns of the Ivy Hotel. The staff stood in regimented lines; they bowed respectfully as the royal party alighted. The king walked through the two lines of assembled guests smiling and shaking hands. Captain Scarlet stood tall and handsome in his black suit, Dianne was radiant in a long aubergine-coloured gown. All eyes were upon the royal party, except for Scarlet and Rhapsody; their eyes darted back and forth, scanning the crowds. Flanking the Royal party, were the Spectrum bodyguards led by Captain Ochre; he nodded to Scarlet and Rhapsody. Scarlet noticed the king was approaching; he was practically within touching distance. Rhapsody Angel dropped a graceful curtsey. Scarlet bowed his head; as he did so a sharp pain pierced his temple; it was accompanied by a vague feeling of nausea.
"One of them is here." he whispered to Rhapsody.
From behind a large fir tree, a black clad figure watched in silence.
The royal party were enjoying pre-dinner drinks with the guests. Scarlet had left Rhapsody talking to his parents, while he sought out Captains Blue and Grey. He found them on the terrace.
"A Mysteron is here," he told them. "I can feel it."
"Could it be Lewis?" asked Blue.
"Possibly, search the kitchens again"
Blue's epaulets suddenly started to flash "Go ahead, Captain Magenta."
"Captain Blue, Melody and I have landed on Dartmoor."
"Dartmoor? Have you found something?"
"Yes. I've found a body; I think it could be the Mysteron replica of Jack Lewis."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, as sure as I can be, the body is in a pretty bad state. Some foxes must have got at it."
"So if it is Lewis, he has obviously served his purpose and the Mysterons have disposed of him," said Scarlet. "They must have another pawn, but who is it? It could be anyone in that room."
"Ah, there you are, Paul." It was Mrs Metcalfe. "How's the headache now?"
"I have some headache pills if you would like one."
"No thank you, I'm fine . . . really."
"The guests are going into the dining room; you and Dianne will be sitting with us. I've been sent to fetch you." Mrs Metcalfe linked arms with her son and led him back to the dining room.
"I'm so thrilled you could be here today I had no idea you had been invited, and you didn't let on when you last visited." She kissed her son lightly on the cheek. "I'm very proud of you, and I think Dianne is a lovely girl."
When the guests were seated, the Royal party were shown to the top table; the presence of the security guards was evident. Captain Scarlet's table was right next to the top table, to the delight of his mother. The first course, a pate, was served and eaten without event, there followed a light raspberry sorbet.
The hotel kitchens were a hive of activity; the food had been cooked to perfection and all hands were required to arrange the food onto silver salvers. The chef was barking orders to his staff. They were scurrying around like worker ants. A lone figure stood at the back door of the kitchen, unsure of whether she should come in or not.
"Susan!" called the head waiter "What on earth are you doing here? I didn't think you would be back until the New Year." He walked over to the pale young woman and gave her a sympathetic hug. "We are all so sorry . . ."
"I know," replied Susan "I just couldn't stand being in the house on my own. I know I can't bring him back, but I need to be doing something."
"We could do with the help," said one of the cooks. "That's if you're sure you're feeling up to it."
"I'll give it a go," she replied.
The main course arrived, a huge honey-glazed turkey. Captains Blue, Grey and Ochre were rather envious of Scarlet and Rhapsody. It smelled delicious, as his stomach growled with hunger, Blue hoped there would be some leftovers. Captain Scarlet pushed his plate away and put his hand to his head.
His mother noticed and began to fuss over him "Is the headache back again? Here, have one of these." She handed him a white tablet. Scarlet excused himself and slipped out of the dining room. Blue had seen him leave and followed.
"Paul, what is it?"
"One of them is here, I'm sure of it, but where?" Scarlet was becoming frustrated "If it's not Jack Lewis, then who can it be?"
Scarlet and Blue searched each room again, but as they walked past the kitchen, Scarlet felt another stabbing pain in his temple.
"The kitchen . . ." Blue and Scarlet burst in and pushed the chef aside; he was most indignant. Blue ran the Mysteron detector over him and the kitchen staff, but they were clear.
Rhapsody Angel Dianne Simms sat opposite General and Mrs Metcalfe; she wondered whether she should excuse herself and assist Captain Scarlet, but Mrs Metcalfe was deep in conversation with her, and she did not want to appear rude.
"I do hope Paul isn't coming down with flu," said his Mother.
"I'm sure he'll be fine, he just needed some fresh air." replied Rhapsody.
"He hasn't touched his turkey and if he doesn't soon come back he will miss the Christmas pudding."
Mrs Metcalfe had noticed a flurry of activity just outside the main doors leading to the dinning room. The chef headed a procession of the hotel staff. He proudly bore his creation - the biggest Christmas pudding she had ever seen. It had been liberally soaked with brandy and was about to be set alight and placed before the Royal visitors. Before the brandy was ignited, a young waitress plucked a sprig of holly from a nearby flower arrangement and placed it on top of the pudding. The assembled diners applauded as the chef walked into the dining room bearing the flaming pudding.
"Oh look, there's Paul." Mrs Metcalfe beckoned to her son to come over and sit down. To her surprise and horror, she saw him sprint across the dining room and scoop the flaming pudding from the silver salver. He beat out the flames with his bare hands, before tucking it under his arm like a rugby player. He then ran to the French windows Captain Grey had opened for him, and ran out into the garden. To the surprise and bewilderment of the royal party and assembled guests, he flung the pudding into an ornamental lake. There was a loud explosion, a column of water shot up in to the air, then pieces of soggy Christmas pudding and a few unfortunate goldfish rained down upon the immaculate lawns of the Ivy Hotel.
The royal guests were whisked away to safety. Captain Grey addressed the other guests, telling them not to panic, but urging them to leave the hotel immediately. Captain Blue found Captain Scarlet nursing his injured hands. "How did you know it was the Christmas pudding?"
"It wasn't the pudding. It was the sprig of holly on the top. The holly berries were made of semtex; they started to melt when the pudding was set alight. The fake berries were secreted in the displays made by Jack Lewis's wife Susan."
"So Susan Lewis was a Mysteron agent."
"I didn't know that until ten minutes ago. When we were checking out the kitchen staff, Susan Lewis gave us the slip. No-one expected her to be here today so she was not on the official rota. She turned up unexpectedly. Then I spoke to Captain Magenta; he called to tell me that another body had been discovered on Dartmoor - a young woman, her body was found in the wreckage of her car. The police thought that she had committed suicide in her grief. We know that the Mysterons had to find another pawn when Jack Lewis had been discovered."
Blue noticed a crowd beginning to form around Captain Scarlet; people were hailing him a hero.
"I say that was awfully brave of you," said the hotel manager. Captain Scarlet looked uncomfortable.
Mrs Metcalfe hurried over to her son with an ice pack. "Oh Paul, your poor hands, they must be terribly burned. Here let me see, you will probably need medical attention."
"I'm fine, there's no need for any fuss."
Colonel Metcalfe took his son's arm and ushered him to a waiting Spectrum helicopter. "I expect you would rather be away from here now that your job is finished."
"Yes thank you, I am being asked some rather difficult questions.
Captain Blue addressed the crowd, "A man has been injured and requires medical attention, and so can I ask you all can keep away from the helicopter. We will shortly be taking off."
"Here, let me put this ice on your hands, it will help," offered Mrs Metcalfe. She gently extended her son's arms, but when she opened his hands she found that the skin on his palms was only slightly reddened. "This is amazing; I thought your hands would be horribly burned."
"I'm fine, Mother, please don't worry. I was working undercover, that's why I had to leave the room. Now I have to go back to Cloudbase to file my report, but hopefully I will get that turkey dinner. And hopefully, it will be cooked by the best cook I know." Captain Scarlet kissed his mother on the cheek before boarding the helicopter with Captain Blue and Rhapsody.
Merry Christmas to all.
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