Scarlet nearly had to carry a very tired Rhapsody all the way back to the place where he had left Green in Edgar’s care. The zookeeper wasn’t alone anymore, when they reached him, Syrn was now with him, having come with a Landrover to pick up the wounded man. It was fortunate that the path was wide enough, and that the clearing where the attack had occurred was accessible by the motor vehicle. Scarlet helped the two other men gently put Green onto a trolley, and then into the jeep, where they made him comfortable, and covered him with a blanket. Rhapsody sat near the wounded and unconscious lieutenant, holding his hand and trying to give him some comfort. She was completely exhausted, her eyes surrounded with large dark circles, from her exertions in the woods. Syrn put a blanket around her shoulders and enquired how she was feeling. She was too tired even to answer.
Back at the mansion, Green was ferried away to a room where, Syrn told him, Doctor Stein would treat him. Although he would have wanted to tag along, Scarlet was not allowed to, under the pretext that he would be in the way. He didn’t insist too much, as he was trying very hard to hide the bloodstain on his collar, and the fact that he had been injured too. It would stir up too many questions, if Doctor Stein or his assistant witnessed the accelerated healing of his wounds. Furthermore, he didn’t want to leave Rhapsody alone too long. With the help of Edgar, he brought her back to her room, where he didn’t even have to insist that she rest. The moment her head touched the pillow, she seemed to fall asleep. Edgar left them alone, and Scarlet watched over her for a time, making sure she was all right. When Edgar came back to see him, after an hour, Scarlet inquired about Green’s state.
“I don’t have much news, Captain,” Edgar answered, looking down. “Only that Doctor Stein and Mister Syrn are now with him, treating his wounds. It seems it’s going well...”
“And Jaak is with them too?” Scarlet asked, remembering how Stein had praised the young man’s gift for treating injuries.
Edgar contented himself with nodding, without answering directly. Scarlet then announced his intention of going briefly to his room to change into his uniform, and to make a report to his superior. When asked, Edgar agreed to stay by Rhapsody’s side, while he was gone, in case the young pilot woke up and needed anything.
As soon as Scarlet was gone, Doctor Stein came into the room with his medical bag to check on Rhapsody. Edgar, standing next to the bed, upon seeing him arrive, looked at him expectantly. “Doctor…?”
Stein motioned him to be quiet and approached Rhapsody’s bed. He put his bag on the bed, took her hand and checked her pulse, calculating the rhythm of it with his watch. Feeling his touch, the young woman’s eyes opened tiredly. He smiled down at her. “How are you feeling, my dear?” he asked her with a smooth voice.
“I… Confused, I suppose,” she answered, hesitantly. “Doctor… How is Lieutenant Green?”
“The lieutenant is quite fine, don’t you worry.”
Behind Stein, Edgar let out a sigh of total relief. It went unnoticed by Rhapsody, who went on: “He didn’t look very good at all, Doctor… You were supposed to treat his wounds… Why aren’t you with him?”
“I ALSO had to check on YOU, Rhapsody. You gave us quite a scare, you know?” Stein smiled reassuringly. “And I hardly left Lieutenant Green alone. Mister Syrn is with him at the moment.” He could still see the worried look in the young woman’s eyes. “Now, don’t you concern needlessly, young Fräulein,” he murmured. “Your friend will be fine, you can be sure of that.”
“Doctor… Was he attacked by the same creature that attacked me the other night?”
Stein’s eyes glowed in the semi-darkness of the room. Rhapsody could see she was probably right in her assumption. She went on: “What is this creature, Doctor?”
“So you remember it now,” he murmured.
“Vaguely. But… I keep having nightmarish flashbacks…” Rhapsody shuddered, obviously unsettled by the mere thought. “It tore into me. It could have killed me.”
“It could have. But it didn’t, Rhapsody,” Stein said, his voice as soft as ever. “You’re getting better. Can’t you feel it?”
“I just feel tired,” the young woman answered, lowering her gaze. “It seems I can’t get enough sleep. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Not anymore, anyway.” Stein paused a short instant. Then, slowly, with measured movements, he removed the bandage from around Rhapsody’s arm. She looked on as it was revealed at last to her, fully expecting to see some ugly scars on it, still covered with a dark crust of dried blood. She opened wide eyes of surprise when she saw the smooth, almost unmarked skin, with only four thin and fine red scars running over it, the surrounding skin only slightly reddened.
“I… I don’t understand,” she whispered. “I remember that beast clawing into my arm… I remember the pain, so terrible…” She looked down, disbelievingly, at her nearly healed arm. “Those scars… It looks as if that attack happened weeks ago.”
“They will be completely healed soon, Rhapsody,” Stein announced to her quietly. “And there will be no trace of them.” He shook his head. “No sense in not telling you about it. You would have found out really soon. So you see, you don’t have to worry anymore. You’re going to be fine. And your friend, the lieutenant, will be too.”
“Would you explain to me, doctor…”
“I can’t. Not right away. I’m sorry.”
“It;s got something to do with that creature, hasn’t it?”
Stein didn’t answer. Rhapsody kept her eyes on him, searching for an answer on his face. She couldn’t find one, this time. She swallowed hard, not sure if she had to tell him about the rest of her suspicions.
“Doctor… Is that creature a werewolf?”
She repeated the exact word Scarlet had used, earlier that night, when describing the creature. She couldn’t believe she even had the nerve to ask that question. She thought he would tell her she was only talking nonsense; and he would probably be right at that. But, strangely, he remained calm, and didn’t respond as she anticipated.
“I told you: don’t you worry about a thing,” he simply said.
“My God,” she murmured, realizing suddenly. “You mean to say…”
“I mean to say: yes, your ‘condition’ had to do with this creature,” Stein interrupted her suddenly. He opened up his bag, and fished out a syringe he showed the young woman. “And also to do with this serum.”
“What is it?” she asked, uncertainly.
“Something you’re deeply in need of, my dear Fräulein,” Stein answered, narrowing his eyes at her. “And seeing your little escapade of tonight, I’d dare say it’s more than about time you had another dose.”
“Doctor, I don’t understand,” Rhapsody sighed. “Would you care to explain…”
“I will do it quick, then, my dear,” Stein cut her off abruptly. “Before your friend, the captain, comes back. Because it’s very important that the treatment I’m giving you must be kept a secret. It’s highly experimental, you see. And there are other… factors to consider.”
“What ‘factors’?” Rhapsody’s voice still sounded unsure. Admittedly, she wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of keeping something from her fiancé. Stein somberly shook his head, before taking her hand reassuringly.
“Now, I know it sounds worrying, my dear, but you’ll see, everything will be fine in the end. You just have to trust me. I have everything in hand…”
Upon reaching his room, Captain Scarlet took a shower in an adjacent bathroom and changed into his uniform. Then he searched for his radio-cap, in order to inform Cloudbase of the incident. Oddly, he couldn’t find it anywhere; he was sure he had left it with the rest of his uniform, as he usually did, but it wasn’t there. For a good ten minutes, he searched around and came out empty-handed. That was puzzling, and certainly frustrating. Not wanting to leave Rhapsody alone any longer, he gave up the search for the time being. His report to Cloudbase would have to wait. In the meantime, he had to find out more about Lieutenant Green’s state. He just hoped Stein really knew what he was doing. But then, seeing how expertly he had already treated Rhapsody, maybe Scarlet was worrying for nothing.
Discreetly throwing away in a trashcan the pyjamas that had been given to him, so nobody would notice the blood stains on them, Scarlet made a detour to the room where Green had been taken. When he knocked on the door, Syrn came to answer him and only told him that the lieutenant was fine, but needed his rest now. Scarlet was allowed to see him for just a minute or two. He found him lying on a bed, his face very pale, the heavy bandages on his chest still showing some traces of blood. He was apparently sleeping, his breathing shaky, but normal enough. Scarlet called to him softly, but there was no reaction. Syrn explained that the lieutenant was under the influence of very strong painkillers and would be unconscious of the remainder of the night.
“You don’t have to worry anymore,” Syrn added, “Your friend will be all right. He’s out of danger.”
Scarlet gave a sigh. “That’s quite a relief, Mister Syrn. Thank you.”
Seeing that Doctor Stein and Jaak were not there, Scarlet nearly enquired where they were, but he refrained. It would sound somehow nosy, he feared, especially after they had cared so well for Rhapsody and then Green. Leaving the lieutenant’s side, now that he was reassured about his state, Scarlet hurried back to Rhapsody’s room. He felt he had left her far too long, and he was eager to see her again.
The young woman was sleeping and had not moved. Edgar was still there, but he hurriedly left as soon as the captain arrived. Curious, Scarlet thought, but not concerning himself overmuch with Edgar’s departure; he gazed at his fiancée sleeping so soundly. The preceding day, she seemed so weak, hardly able to stay awake and speak. During the night, she was running around in the woods, as if she had been in perfect health. And now, she was so very quiet again. Tenderly, he reached to caress her cheek; she stirred a little in her sleep and mumbled. He then gave just a ghost of a smile and drew a nearby chair closer to the bed. Since he could do little more than wait, he decided, he would not leave that spot, and would keep watch over the recuperative sleep of the woman he loved.
The following morning found Captain Scarlet in the same room, looking through a window, thoughtfully. While the rest of the night had been uneventful, Rhapsody stirred and agitated herself in her bed, as if she had trouble sleeping. That worried Scarlet a lot. He was wondering if, by any chance, what had happened during the night was forcing her to recall something, subconsciously. So many unanswered questions about this whole affair, he mused grimly. And with Rhapsody’s fleeting memory, it wasn’t easy putting the pieces together. She hadn’t told him the reason for her aircraft’s crash, for example. She didn’t remember that, or the attack. If something could somehow trigger Rhapsody’s memory, maybe he would learn more about this affair. There was one thing, however, that Scarlet was certain about.
The thing… the savage beast that tore into Green… that MUST be the same one responsible for the attack on his beloved Angel. The way she had paled when he had told her about a ‘werewolf’ – even though werewolves were a complete and utter fantasy – he could have sworn she was reliving something.
Edgar had not elaborated on the subject. Since he had helped Scarlet get Rhapsody into her room, he had quickly disappeared. The captain asked himself if he had not gone away quickly, on purpose, to avoid having to say more. Scarlet suspected something was going on on this island. Something Xander Stein, Syrn, and the others didn’t want to tell anyone. Damn this pretence of research on canines… There was something else. That made him wonder if his missing cap had not somehow been stolen. He couldn’t prove it, however. And certainly, he wasn’t eager to accuse his host of hiding something.
The slurred voice coming from behind him made Scarlet turn around. Rhapsody was slowly coming to, and was looking straight at him. He approached her bed, smiling. “Hi! How are you feeling this morning?”
“Like I slept on a bed of nails,” she answered, sighing, and blinking several times, trying to chase away the last remains of her sleep. “How long was I out…?
He checked out his watch. “Nearly five hours.”
“You stayed with me all that time?”
“Of course, Angel. I was so worried about you. You didn’t look at all good last night.”
“I certainly looked a lot better than poor Seymour.” She tried to sit up in bed, and Scarlet approached to help. She thanked him with a nod. “I’m all right, Paul. I can manage.” She settled herself comfortably. “How is he, anyway?” she murmured after a pause.
She was speaking of Green, of course. Scarlet sighed. “I saw him last night. He was unconscious, but otherwise, apparently fine.”
She nodded again. Her hand reached for Scarlet’s cheek, and then down his neck. She frowned. “And you?” she asked with concern in her voice, eyeing him carefully.
He shrugged. “You know how it is,” he said, faintly smiling. “I’m all right. Not a trace left.”
She seemed to have to make sure for herself and conspicuously checked his neck for the faintest mark – she could see none. Curious, Scarlet thought, surely she would know already that she would find nothing… He let her do as she pleased; however, feeling she somehow needed that visual confirmation.
Rhapsody then sighed and went to get off the bed. “Would you get me some clothes, please? I would like to go and see Seymour.”
“Are you sure you’re able to walk, Angel?”
She chuckled, somehow sadly. “I was able to RUN through that wood, last night. I should think I’d be able to walk to Seymour’s room today…” Scarlet then nodded his consent, knowing better than to argue with her.
That was a surprising and very curious occurrence…
Scarlet stood next to Lieutenant Green’s bed, with Rhapsody at his side, looking down at the man he had seen nearly mauled alive by some kind of savage beast, walking on two legs, and bearing little resemblance to anything human or animal he had ever seen in his life. Right after this attack, Green had seemed much more dead than alive. When Scarlet had next seen him, a few hours later, he looked on his way to recovering quite nicely, but was still very pale and weak from loss of blood. Scarlet had figured it would have taken some weeks to recuperate and be back on his feet and ready for duty.
Now, not even five hours later, Scarlet had to reconsider his personal assessment of the lieutenant’s state.
Green was still weak, yes, but it was so obvious he was feeling much better than the last time Scarlet had seen him. Now he was awake, with his mind still a little fuzzy, and his eyes drowsy. The colour had come back to his cheeks and his breathing was more normal, seeing the regular rise and fall of his still heavily bandaged chest. His voice was a little slurred but coherent and clear; it was probably due to the painkiller that had been given to him. In fact, a bemused Scarlet noticed, he looked EXACTLY as he had seen Rhapsody the day before. With the noticeable exception that he remembered the attack he had been victim of, and the beast perpetrating it.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better, Lieutenant.” Rhapsody, in a bathrobe, had sat down near Green’s bed and was comfortingly holding his right hand. He answered back with a very faint, but genuine, smile, squeezing her hand to show he still had some strength left.
“I thought I had bought it,” he said quietly enough. “That creature…” he shuddered suddenly, looking vaguely into space. “…It sure did a number on me.”
Indeed, it did, Scarlet was musing, standing behind Rhapsody and looking down at the younger man in perplexity. But looking at you now, it doesn’t seem like it anymore. He raised his head to look toward Doctor Stein, standing on the other side of the bed, checking on Green’s pulse. The young Jaak was at his side, putting on a new bandage on the lieutenant’s left hand.
“What IS that creature, Doctor?”
Stein looked at him, over his glasses. Scarlet could see the annoyed glitter in his eyes. The doctor’s hesitation only lasted a second. “Captain… can I speak to you for an instant? In the other room, please.”
Scarlet nodded his agreement. Leaving Rhapsody with Green, he followed Stein out of the room and into an adjacent one. It looked like some kind of pharmacy, he noticed, checking around. There were all sort of bottles, and small boxes, neatly lined up on shelves, and a worktable in the middle of the room, rolls of bandages on it. Stein closed the door behind him and turned toward the Spectrum officer.
“Captain… I don’t know if you have noticed, but the simple mention of this creature seems to be an upsetting notion for the lieutenant. And not to mention to Rhapsody. I would advise you NOT to talk about it in front of them.”
Scarlet’s eyes opened wide. Stein’s tone was blunt, not at all the quiet and soft one he had heard from the doctor so far. The transformation was very surprising. Even more surprising was the fact that Stein would try to tell him to be considerate toward his fellow Spectrum agents. There was something very fishy here; Stein’s tone was not showing any concern about Rhapsody and Green. No, there was something else.
“What are you trying to hide, Doctor?” Scarlet asked, his tone as sharp as the doctor’s.
“I’m not trying to hide anything, Captain,” Stein defended himself.
“Yes, you are. And it’s about that creature, isn’t it?” The Spectrum captain tilted his head to the side, watching the doctor. “What is it, exactly? I don’t know, it looked like… a werewolf or something.” He closely watched Stein for a reaction. He could see none so far. “What do you make of that?”
Stein scoffed loudly. “Don’t be ridiculous! There is no such thing as werewolves! It’s folklore, myth, not based on any fact…”
“What about lycanthropy?” Scarlet replied. “Isn’t that true that some actual werewolf reports are probably in fact cases of the lycanthropy disease, where the poor, unfortunate sick person thinks of himself as a wolf and acts accordingly?” Again, Scarlet narrowed his eyes at the doctor. “You’re a zoologist, studying canine species, Doctor… Surely, you have an opinion on this?”
“I’m a scientist, Captain, and I base my research on FACTS, not crazy fantasies.” Stein marked a paused, slightly hesitant to continue. “Captain,” he finally said with a sigh. “I admit, there IS something on this island…”
“You don’t say…”
“And this ‘something’… this ‘creature’, as it pleases you to call it, is infected by a very dangerous virus. One I’ve been testing on my animals for many months now, and…”
Scarlet stopped him right away, the concern now showing on his face. “A virus, you say? What kind of virus, exactly?”
“I… My research is backed by private interests, Captain. I’m not at liberty to give details about this. My sponsors would not approve…”
“Damn your sponsors! I want answers now! Is this virus contagious?”
Stein sighed. “Contagious enough, I’m afraid,” he said gloomily. “A healthy subject can contract it by direct contact with an infected one.”
“Green,” Scarlet then realised, blanching. “And… and Rhapsody.” He saw Stein nodding grimly.
“Yes, Captain. They’ve been infected by the virus, the moment this creature injured them.” He checked Scarlet closely. “And maybe you have it yourself. Edgar told me you had been wounded as well? He said he saw blood on your neck…”
His hand moved toward Scarlet to check his assumption, but the captain nervously stepped back. “Edgar made a mistake, doctor,” he quickly answered. “I was not hurt. It was Green’s blood I had on me, nothing more.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do you see any wound?”
“No, I must admit. Sorry, Captain. I had to make sure.”
“And I have to make sure of something myself. I’m going back to Cloudbase. And Rhapsody and Lieutenant Green are coming with me. I want them to be examined by our doctor.”
“No!” Stein protested. “Captain, you MUST leave them here!”
“And WHY should I do that?” Scarlet snapped back angrily. “If they are infected with some kind of unknown virus…”
“Captain, I’m the ONLY ONE who can help them with that! You MUST let me take care of this.”
“Right. And in the meantime, you don’t want to tell me what exactly is going on!”
“Captain, the only thing that should be important to you is… I’m their only chance.”
“Somehow, I doubt it. You DON’T want them off this island, that’s for sure. But what is your EXACT motivation?” Scarlet stared suspiciously at Stein, a doubt suddenly crossing his mind. “Doctor… By any chance, did you see my radio-cap?”
The door opened at that moment, and Rhapsody poked her head in the room; there was a flash of anger in her eyes, as she looked at the two men, standing there, staring at each other, neither of them wanting to give in.
“What’s going on here?” she said with a whispered tone. “Would you keep your voices down? Lieutenant Green has just fallen asleep. You’ll wake him up if you carry on shouting like that! He needs his rest.”
“I’m sorry, Rhapsody,” Stein answered, his eyes not leaving Scarlet. “I was defending myself from some kind of accusation your friend here was making.”
Rhapsody seemed perplexed. She stepped into the room, carefully closing the door behind her and walked toward the two men. “What kind of accusation?” she asked.
“I just asked Doctor Stein if he knew where my radio-cap had disappeared to,” Scarlet answered, still locking eyes with Stein. “Last night, I wanted to contact Cloudbase, to report the incident with Green. I couldn’t find my cap anywhere.”
“And now, you’re accusing ME of having it?” Stein scoffed.
“Seeing as you don’t want to see us leave… Maybe I can assume you don’t want ANYONE to find out what’s going on here? It would be inconvenient for you if I reported to my superior, right?”
Rhapsody gave her fiancé a reproachful look, hearing his harsh words. “Captain, I think you’re being too suspicious… Doctor Stein’s only concern is for our safety.”
“You don’t know what he’s been telling me,” Scarlet replied.
“I heard a lot of your conversation. You’ve been shouting loud enough. But I already knew. He told me about the virus.”
“You…” Scarlet looked at her with complete surprise. That was unexpected. “You know?”
“He told me, yes. And he also told me the importance of me and Green staying here, so he can cure us.
“I have developed a serum,” Stein explained. “The effects of it are already working very well in Rhapsody. The lieutenant is responding well to it too.”
“Captain, you have to give him some time.” Rhapsody hesitated a little. She didn’t like to disagree with Scarlet, but in this case, she felt she couldn’t do otherwise. Doctor Stein had explained to her, the night before, more about the effects of the ‘virus’ than he had just told Scarlet. And she didn’t want for Paul to know all about it. She didn’t want for him to be concerned and worry way too much. He had a tendency of being that way with her, since their engagement.
But now, he seemed rather upset that she should take sides against him. Upset and annoyed. He could hardly believe it. “You AGREE with him?” he said, in an incredulous tone.
“Captain,” she whispered. “He knows MORE about this virus than anybody else in the world. I don’t think even Doctor Fawn could help us better.”
“And you TRUST him?” Scarlet’s tone was obviously stating that HE didn’t trust Stein as far as he could throw him. That was probably because he could feel there was a lot the doctor was hiding from him. Rhapsody nodded confidently. Scarlet shook his head, still unsure. “He could still be of help on Cloudbase,” he noted dryly, eyeing Stein.
He was looking for a compromise; any reason to get Rhapsody and Green off this island would do. But even this one didn’t seem to be enough to change the doctor’s mind. He already had an answer for it.
“I need my research materials, Captain. It would be much better if I could work here… It’s only a matter of days, you know.”
“Days?” Scarlet spat, angrily. “How can you be so sure?”
“I know that for a fact.”
Scarlet nodded. He was not out of arguments yet. “Fine. I’ll ask Doctor Fawn to come here, in that case. He’s one of the best doctors in the world, Doctor Stein. He could be of assistance to you.”
“If you don’t mind, Captain… I already have an assistant. And I would prefer to work alone, instead of accepting a complete stranger…”
“Tell the truth, Doctor: you’re afraid of what your sponsors would say if another scientist became involved with your oh-so-secret experiments.”
“Paul!” Rhapsody protested vehemently. He turned back to look at her, his eyes blazing with anger. Now he really was upset at her. Not because she had called him by his name, but because she was admonishing him in front of that man.
“That will be enough!” he growled, turning again towards Stein. “I’m calling Cloudbase and I’ll ask for Doctor Fawn to come down here. That’s my final word. And that’s the ONLY condition under which Rhapsody Angel and Lieutenant Green will stay. Take it or leave it.”
Stein didn’t answer, seeing as he didn’t have any more choice. But the look he cast toward the Spectrum captain spoke volumes. Scarlet left him standing there and went towards the door, passing by Rhapsody without even looking at her, and opened it.
“Where are you going?” she asked, calling him, not wanting to let him go that way, so obviously angry with her.
He turned around. “To the helicopter,” he answered, with a sharp edge to his voice. “I’ll remind you, I don’t have my radio-cap, so I’ll be using the chopper’s onboard radio.” He shook his head, staring at her, a dissatisfied glitter in his eyes. “Don’t be too trusting toward him, Rhapsody,” he grumbled, nodding in Stein’s direction, not even trying to hid his discontent and the distrust he felt for the doctor. “He’s not all he seems, you know. I can feel it.” He cast Stein a disgruntled and ominous stare. “Ask him where he put my radio-cap,” he said finally, before walking out.
He didn’t even heed Rhapsody’s call. He stopped briefly, to glance at a still sleeping Green and at the young Jaak, standing next to the patient, looking back at him with fiery eyes. Apparently, the young man had heard the ruckus in the other room, and he probably agreed with Doctor Stein. Scarlet couldn’t care less. He didn’t even address the young man and walked out of the room. Jaak’s eyes followed him, the fire in his eyes burning even more, as seconds passed. He listened to the sound of the Spectrum officer’s steps going away, and the anger within him grew…
As did the sound coming from deep down in his throat.
Rhapsody stood motionless, staring almost blankly at the door. Her lips were close to trembling with sadness. It was eating her up inside. She felt rough. She felt bad that she had hurt Scarlet by not supporting his decisions.
She turned to look at Stein who had neither spoken nor moved since Scarlet had left the room; his eyes, almost dead and emotionless, remained planted on the Angel. She couldn’t stand the silence in the room, or the look he was giving her. There was nothing left to say now, nothing left that she felt she could argue without feeling weak in the knees.
She sighed and went to the door, looking briefly back at Stein who still stood rooted. She shook her head and opened the door to step out to where Green and Jaak were. Normally she was quite a strong woman, but this time around, with all the stress of the last couple of days, the tears pricked at her eyes.
She did not address Jaak at all, not a word or a gaze as she went for the other door, going in silence out into the corridor. The young man bit his lip tentatively, looking down at Green. He took a deep breath and decided he wanted to speak with her now. He quickly rushed from his seat to the door and out after Rhapsody.
He caught up with her out on the long landing above the central grand staircase.
“Rhapsody,” he called softly to her.
She turned to him and he stopped.
He saw the weak look on her face, and he felt if he said anything wrong, tears would soon break through her beautiful face, an image like crackling fragile porcelain.
He approached her slower, almost with great caution. “Are you alright?”
She looked down at the floor, taking in a breath and then looked into his eyes. “I’m tired and fed up. I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing… but it just seems right.” She waved a hand and let it drop to her side, a tormented and tired gesture. “Oh, I don’t know, I’m confused. I dare not speak anymore without thinking I’ve rubbed salt into the wound, so to speak.”
Jaak reached out to touch her shoulder, softly. “You’ve done nothing wrong. You should go with what you want, nobody else should have to tell you otherwise. I support that.”
She watched his solemn face and managed a gentle smile. “I know that, I’ve always believed that.” The smile faded. “But…”
He frowned, hiding something dark behind his eyes. “It’s Captain Scarlet. I heard you arguing. You’re afraid to debate against him.”
Her eyes widened. “No! I’m not afraid, it’s just…” She paused, thinking what to say. “… Well, we are close, very close. I just don’t like to fight my point with him if it divides us like this. Deep down, I know he’s right but I had to fight my point, for what I was standing for.”
“I can understand the love you have.” She knew he had caught on, it must have been that obvious from what he had seen of them. “But love is much more than the surface. It’s deep.”
“Yes, I know.” This was almost faint on her part.
“Most of us are alike, like me and you, something deep connects us,” he said slowly.
“What do you mean?” She met his tone, baffled.
“He has hurt you.” A glint in his eyes made her shuffle back slightly. “I know how to heal that burn. You can feel it. Know it.”
“I… I really don’t understand.” She was subconsciously afraid. She wasn’t in the least bit sure of what he meant.
“You will.” He smiled, putting a hand up to her cheek. “I pray for you, Rhapsody. I hope your fate isn’t as dark as mine, but I will always be here even if he isn’t.”
She could have leapt away with a rush of fright but managed to gently pull back, watching his reaction, which was almost sad. What scared her most was that, inside her somewhere, she understood the words. She backed away until she was standing on the first set of steps leading down.
“I have to go…” Her words trailed with her as she began to walk down, still watching him. He was calm, achieving a blank face even though she could actually see the darkness in the eye, showing up some emotion. Mostly disappointment.
If she had run for the main doors, she would have felt foolish; that’s what she wanted to do, but she lightly trod across the floor, finally looking away from him. She pushed open the door and left. A soft hum echoed as the door closed behind her.
The only sound that could be heard was something of a sad whimper. Jaak stood, looking down, letting his sadness be known.
Scarlet had been in an irritable temper before, but now it had deteriorated into a fuming bad mood. After he had left Rhapsody and Stein, he had gone off back through the mansion to the guest room he and Green had occupied, to try and confirm if both radio caps were gone. He had never thought of checking for Green’s first off.
The only thing on his mind at the moment was Rhapsody and the way she had acted, it had made him angry and yet dejected. He knew her to speak her mind and defend what she thought, but turning against him, to be so unthinking, just made his stomach turn in resentment. A tough woman, but a stubborn one at that. Reminded him of himself sometimes.
Stein had turned her against him and it infuriated him. It became his motivation to tear up the room, not caring if anything was damaged, not considering it his problem. It was how he felt in this deep bad mood of his.
He still had no luck in finding the cap and there was nowhere else it could be.
He came to the conclusion that Stein didn’t want him to call his base. Everything was becoming weirder by the second and he didn’t like the situation one bit. He abandoned the room, not bothering to tidy up. He had much more important things on his mind.
He was mounting his own little investigation, but first, he needed to contact Cloudbase through the Spectrum Helicopter, his only other method of getting through to base. It was up to him now if he wanted to get himself, Green and Rhapsody off the island of oddities. Nothing felt safe anymore.
Before he knew it, he was out in the open yard, walking briskly between the cages of Stein’s little zoo. The animals were quiet, just fed, and the smell of fresh meat tainted the air. Scarlet couldn’t care less, really. But he did however stop when he heard his name called in a near whisper through the cages, next to the storage shed. Appearing from the shadows behind it was Edgar, carrying a broom. He looked about them, nervously.
“Edgar?” Scarlet was confused by his strange behaviour.
“I’m glad to catch a word with you while you’re alone, Captain.” The Estonian man glanced to the side then looked into Scarlet’s eyes; his own were passive. “I’m thankful for it, I don’t know how much I can take.”
“What are you talking about?” This had the captain intrigued. Could he be stumbling across something now, which Edgar would tell him? He was sure he had his suspicions well placed.
Edgar brushed back the thin layer of hair matted on top of his head.
A nervous gesture, which Scarlet noted.
He spoke, keeping his voice reasonably low. “Everything is not what it seems. This virus business, there is some truth to it, but Stein is hiding the whole truth.”
“So, what is this virus then?” Scarlet asked. “What do you know about it?”
“This virus is much more than it seems, not just an infection. The things about it are unbelievable. Even if I told you, it would sound stupid. Maybe I’m trying not to believe it myself, but I know I have to…” He went quiet.
Scarlet prompted him on. “Go on, I need to know. Not for my sake, but my friends.”
Edgar seemed to feel a cold chill over his shoulder; looked up past Scarlet and paled. He toyed nervously with the broom. “I can’t tell you more. It’s not safe.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “We’d both be in too much danger. The clues are there, you’ll see. Go quickly.”
Scarlet half-turned and followed Edgar’s gaze. A figure had been watching them from an upstairs window, but had disappeared before the captain had got a chance to look. When he turned back to Edgar, he was gone. He looked about. The Estonian had slipped away in silence.
Maybe it would be better if he kept out of the matter, Scarlet thought.
He continued on his way towards the deck where the Helicopter was. He absently stared out across the island, trying to clear his head.
The sun was moving behind some light grey clouds and the light kept creeping through at certain times, but at one instant, a beam of light cast across the island, only for a few seconds but long enough to strike a glint from something on a cliff face, catching Scarlet’s eye.
He stopped abruptly.
Strange, he thought, What could that be?
Something urged him towards it, a notion within him saying that it was something important. He walked away from where the helicopter was docked, going back the way he came, but turning off halfway down a rough, dusty path leading across the shoreline.
The water about a foot or so below him gently flowed back and forth against the mud-clad sides of the island, making a soft rushing noise as it washed up against it. No other real sounds around him except the chirping of birds flying overhead.
No wolf sounds like the nightmare he had experienced when Green had been injured. He shook off the thoughts. It was a blessing the creature wasn’t close, he felt pretty much alone on the path that began to weave up, becoming steeper as it started to climb up and become part of the cliff side.
It didn’t take him long in his trek up towards the place where he had seen the glint of light. When it flashed brightly again, it confirmed he was heading toward the right spot, and he carefully stepped around the narrow edge to get to the entrance of a small cave.
The rocks were slippery underfoot, but he didn’t quite lose his balance. He took a hefty step to get into the darkish cave, dusting off the front of his uniform. He instantly paused like a freeze frame, staring mesmerised at the object right in front of him.
He couldn’t believe his eyes. A cannon! He had estimated it was just over a hundred years old, from around the Second World War. He recognised it to be a German 88mm, used for both field artillery and as an anti-aircraft weapon. It must have been kept in fairly good condition by the looks of the paint job, and the fact that it was pretty much intact. Being interested in history, especially past wars, he found he knew a lot about the weaponry, and he knew a LOT about something as complex as the cannon was. It was sort of his speciality.
He touched it, leaning over it. The smell was so fresh, like the paint had been touched up recently. A fresh top coat had been applied that had made it shine in the sun. And that wasn’t the only recent work with it. As his hand came to the front, a black powder smeared on his fingers.
“Gunpowder,” he said aloud, very shocked.
It had been recently used, maybe a day ago. He was getting a little suspicious.
Scarlet decided he’d talk to Stein about it after he’d made a call to Cloudbase. Things were beginning to piece together slowly but surely.
He brushed the gunpowder off his hand and left the cave carefully, retracing his path back along the cliff, his pace quickening slightly.
He noticed the wind was picking up. The sky was beginning to show some dullness and the vibrant blue that had begun the day was turning dark.
Some bad weather maybe coming our way, he assumed.
Trees began to gather around him as he walked briskly back. The leaves rustled heavily above him. The branches swung in the strong breeze, sweeping roughly in all directions. The weather was deteriorating slowly but surely, growing cooler every minute.
As he came back onto the dusty pathway, he slowed to a stop, staring at the figure that had just appeared in front of him.
Rhapsody stood, hands clasped ahead of her, looking at him with softened eyes. Scarlet didn’t speak; he folded his arms across his chest. He was still sore about earlier.
“Paul?” Her voice was meek as she approached him slowly. He was just standing, looking at her quietly, enough to make her shudder. “Paul, look, I’m really sorry about what happened back there. I shouldn’t have spoken to you the way I did.”
He raised an eyebrow and was about to speak when she raised a hand to his mouth.
“Let me finish,” she said softly. “And I know, I am too gullible. I should have believed you in the first place, rather than Stein.”
“Why didn’t you?” he asked, a little too snappily.
“Because I really thought he was right. I believe that he was helping, but I just feel wrong now. Please Paul, I do understand the way you feel and you are doing your best to help us.” She sighed. “Oh, I don’t know what I believe, I feel so confused half the time.”
“You have the right to believe what you want. It shouldn’t matter if you have to go against me or not, but I just don’t trust Stein,” Scarlet said pleasantly.
She lifted a smile. “I can always trust you, I know that. I’m sorry.” She lowered her head.
He placed his hand under her chin gently, to raise her head to meet his affectionate gaze. “I’m sorry too, I was just as bad. My temper got the better of me.”
“I know you and your temper. I put up with you often enough,” she teased.
“You can’t deny that you aren’t the same way sometimes.”
She smirked. “Then we’re even.”
“All forgiven?” she asked.
“Forgiven and forgotten.” He opened his arms to her. “Come here.”
She beamed, feeling his passion reach out to her. She was glad he wasn’t angry with her, accepted his invitation and wrapped herself against him. His arms folded around her body and pressed her close. She let out a happy sigh with Scarlet looking down on her contentedly.
She looked up his way, gazing into his eyes. He leaned his head towards her and touched her lips in a soft embrace. They stood like that, exchanging a kiss full of passion that seemed as if it would last an eternity with the warmth rising around them.
Eyes were watching them, narrowing at the sight. They were angry. The breathing of the mysterious figure was low, almost a rumble in the throat. The figure pushed away from its hiding place in the bushes, barely making a sound. The only thing on its mind was hate.
Scarlet pulled back, breaking their embrace. Rhapsody looked disappointed.
“I’m sorry, Angel,” he said. “We’ll save this for later. We have much more important things to think about and do.”
“Like what?” She frowned. “What do you know which I don’t?”
“Well, I don’t think I know much more. As you know, my radio-cap has gone missing and I later discovered that Green's has too. And I think our dear Doctor friend has something behind it. Also I found something pretty fascinating in a cave over those cliffs. A cannon.”
Her eyes widened. “ A cannon! Are you serious? You don’t see many of those around.”
“I know, and even more amazing that it’s a World War II cannon. It is in good condition and has been recently used.”
She thought about it for a moment, rubbing tired eyes before speaking again. “Those cannons were weapons used in the middle of last century. I mean, actually finding one that would actually work is extraordinary. And you say it has been recently used?”
“Yes. And I think we may have found what shot you down.”
It was a lot for the Angel to take in; she tilted her head, speaking slowly. “You really think the Doctor shot me down with that, on purpose?”
“I’m afraid it’s a possibility.” Scarlet watched her face drop.
“I trusted him, it just seems so wrong.”
“We can only make assumptions, Angel,” he said softly. “But I have this strong feeling.”
She took a slow breath, letting the idea sink in. There was some sense behind it.
“Now, we have to get back to the helicopter,” Scarlet continued. “Cloudbase needs to know what is happening.”
“Right, I’ll come with you,” Rhapsody nodded.
Scarlet didn’t argue, he was actually glad to have her stick close and away from Stein. He took her arm lightly and they both walked down the path, leading back out to the side of the mansion. The dock was just ahead of them, through the trees.
They both walked across the dock towards the helicopter. Scarlet got inside with Rhapsody lingering at the door, looking up at the now brownish coloured sky. The clouds had become thicker, an even darker grey.
Scarlet slipped on a headset, placing the microphone by his mouth. He activated the radio, setting the frequency. He tried sending out a call.
“This is Captain Scarlet calling Cloudbase, do you read me?” There was a soft buzzing over the radio. Nobody seemed to be answering. Scarlet frowned, not hiding the fact this was starting to worry him. He tried again. “This is Captain Scarlet from Helicopter S61 calling Cloudbase, are you receiving me?” The buzzing flowed on, no voices answering his call, just the same hum in his ears.
Rhapsody stared at the radio. “Keep trying. Maybe another frequency will do. The signal might be blocked by the mountains.”
“Good idea.” He flicked through waveband after waveband, trying to get through. But still nothing.
“It’s hopeless.” Rhapsody leaned back in a huff against Scarlet’s seat. “I think it might be this storm that’s about to hit us.” And as if on cue, a high-pitched roll of thunder grumbled in the sky.
“Or someone has tampered with the radio,” Scarlet blandly said.
The Angel froze up and turned to look up at him slowly.
“Who could have?” she inquired.
“Could have been anyone,” Scarlet said, climbing from the cockpit. A flash of lightning appeared overhead. “Come on, we don’t want to be stuck out here in a storm. Let’s take shelter back at the mansion and find Stein. He has a few things to explain, that’s for sure.”
She agreed. They left the dock and headed back towards the mansion.
They came into the gardens, out into the front courtyard and towards the main double doors. The animals were restless in the small zoo, letting their temperament be known.
Other than the animals being in the mood they were, Scarlet thought it was awfully quiet.
A chill in the wind crept across their shoulders. It had picked up in the time Scarlet had been on the cliff till then.
He reached a hand out to the handle on the front door.
It was such a sudden strike, which he had never expected to come.
Scarlet felt as if his skull had almost caved in on itself as something smashed into the back of his head with such a fierce force. He cried out as the tremendous pain overtook him in one nauseating sweep, rippling through every nerve ending in his body. His hand slipped away from the Angel’s.
Rhapsody screamed out in the background. The sound was an awful, painful ringing in his ears. He felt himself being struck again; the pain was just as tormenting as the first but he couldn’t find enough energy to cry out again. All he could feel was the muscles in his legs simply give up.
He didn’t see his attacker at all as he fell against the door, sliding down against it. He could feel the thick steams of blood trickle down his face from the devastating injury pounded into his head. His vision was practically gone; all that was left was a distorted mess of black and grey spots.
When he was finally left in darkness, all he could hear was Rhapsody’s screams fading off, like he was falling far away from her. She was struggling against someone, screaming his name in vain.
He couldn’t help her. He couldn’t feel anything anymore.
Then there was nothing.
End of Part 2
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