A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop & Sue Stanhope
From the passenger seat of the Spectrum Saloon Car, Captain Magenta gazed out into the dazzling sunlight; the sun was just about to set over the mountains, just right of the road, and the light was just too annoying for Magenta’s eyes. Reaching forward, he picked up a pair of sunglasses from the dashboard and with a quick flick of his wrist, opened them up. Sliding them on, he pushed them slowly up the bridge of his nose and grinned at Scarlet, seated next to him.
"You know they're supposed to be for communication," commented Scarlet, almost rolling his eyes at Magenta's seemingly irrepressible enthusiasm.
"So talk to me," the Irish captain replied, glancing at him over the top of the dark glasses.
Scarlet smiled. Magenta had been like this all day long. Scarlet had been impressed that day, more than once, by his friend's ingenuity. Magenta had spent a great deal of his spare time over the last few months working on a project for the Maximum Security Buildings. He had been remarkably secretive about it, dropping only the occasional hint, raising an eyebrow or offering a conspiratorial grin. Nobody had insisted that he explain what he was preparing. Knowing how much of a perfectionist Magenta was, they were certain that he would do so ONLY when he was sure that everything was working to his satisfaction. He always gave the impression that he had something to prove; even though nobody felt anymore that he had to.
Now his project was complete, the new systems installed, and it was time to test it. In a rush of enthusiasm and confidence, Magenta had challenged Scarlet to break into the building as the ultimate test of the security arrangements he had made. Scarlet had scoffed at the idea but rose to the challenge. He thought he knew enough of Magenta’s security devices and how they would be put to use with the already existent system of a Maximum Security Building. Plus, the British captain was supremely confident that his own commando training would easily help him get through all the levels of security, with no major problem. A walk in the park, he had told Magenta.
The first Maximum Security Building to be updated with the new security system was in Vermont. Which was, in effect, to Scarlet’s advantage. Just the previous month, the Governor of Vermont had received a threat of a potential terrorist attack against his life, and Scarlet had taken him to the Maximum Security Building for protection. The threat had been a hoax but as a result, Scarlet knew the interior, systems and routines of the Vermont facility extremely well. Colonel White, intrigued by Magenta's seeming over-confidence in his new system, agreed to the challenge. He had arranged for the security trial to take place in the strictest secrecy. To all intents and purposes, it would be a typical day for the guards at the Maximum Security Building. If the additional arrangements that Magenta had put in place could prevent Scarlet entering on a day when they were not on an alert, then the building could truly be considered impregnable.
Scarlet's challenge was to simply steal a data disc from the Communications Room - any one would do. It would be the least demanding and the lowest risk task he could possibly have hoped for. Scarlet had indeed managed to enter, but within a mere three minutes he was under arrest. Part of Magenta's safety procedures turned out to be a series of steel doors, like a ship's bulkheads, which could slide into place when an electronic eye was tripped. Scarlet had managed to avoid two of the electronic eyes, but by trying to evade a third – which in reality was a bogus one – stumbled into the path of the real one, and finally found himself trapped in a corridor with no exit. Magenta had been vindicated and his ideas proved a resounding success.
"Okay, Pat, I can admit when I'm wrong. And even though I thought it would be straightforward, I wasn't careless. You've done a great job there!"
"Thanks," Magenta replied, grinning, returning his gaze to the scenic view around them. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Scarlet nodded appreciatively. The car was following an up-and-down curving road, into a snow-covered mountain-like country of high snow-covered pines. As far as the eye could see, there were blue-grey snow-capped mountains rising majestically to the sky, their peaks shrouded by clouds. To the left of the road, a large frozen lake, with white spots of snow glittering in places.
"Beautiful, but potentially treacherous," Scarlet agreed. "The clear night is causing the temperature to drop considerably. The road’s fairly slippery. Fresh ice forming, I guess. I'm keeping the speed down, but..."
Scarlet never got to complete his sentence as, ahead of them, an oncoming grey saloon car skidded suddenly on a bend in the road ahead. Sliding out of control, the saloon caught the Spectrum vehicle a glancing blow, forcing both off the road. Magenta caught sight of the fear on the face of a young woman in her mid-twenties driving the saloon as it careered past them.
Struggling to maintain control on the uneven surface of the embankment, Scarlet couldn’t prevent the car rolling as it hit a ridge. Flipping over lengthways, the Spectrum car slid several hundred yards upside down before hitting a boulder of hard snow, and then rolling once more, this time repeatedly. The Spectrum car finally came to a complete stop, upright and only inches from the edge of the lake.
Magenta slowly, painfully, opened his eyes. For the first few moments, he almost didn't dare move, mentally checking himself for injury. He could see a darker spot of blood on his lighter-coloured tunic, but not where it came from. A trickling sensation on his cheek and neck made him groan. Lifting his hand, he felt, with some trepidation, the gash above his ear. From the damp sensation of blood on his sweater, he realised he may very well have been unconscious for a few minutes. Turning his head, he saw to his horror that he was alone in the car; the driver's side door having apparently been wrenched off its hinges.
"Scarlet?" he croaked, reaching to release the harness that had undoubtedly saved his life.
He tried to open the door. It was jammed – stiff and buckled at the front. With a grunt of effort, Magenta finally managed to shove the door open. Climbing out, gingerly, testing for broken bones and pain, Magenta scanned the area with anxious eyes. His heart missed a beat as he saw the grey saloon not far from his own car, resting half submerged, having broken through the ice on the edge of the lake. A brief glance to the right told him that the occupant, the young woman he had caught a glimpse of earlier, had somehow been thrown clear before the car plunged through the ice. She was now lying on the shore of the lake, on a thick layer of snow. Magenta approached her. She seemed to be unconscious, and a cursory examination told him that there was probably nothing broken. The snow she had landed on had probably prevented her from being hurt. She had been very lucky, he reflected as he draped his coat over her for additional warmth. Now, he thought, rubbing his arms in the chill wind, where was Scarlet?
"Oh no!" Magenta cried. His heart leapt once more into his mouth at the sight of a red tunic floating some ten to fifteen feet out into the icy waters.
"Scarlet!" he yelled.
There was no reply and in truth, Magenta didn’t think he would receive one. Removing his tunic and boots, he lowered himself slowly into the water.
As he sank to waist-deep, Magenta's breathing became rapid and shallow, pulling in air in short, sharp gasps. The cold penetrating to his very bones, numbing yet painful, Magenta found that even the smallest movement seemed almost impossible. His mind was gradually fogging, partly due to the blow he had taken during the crash, partly due to the bitter cold. Fighting the urge to succumb to the bitingly chill waters, Magenta pushed forward. As the water rose to his chest and neck, he gasped as his lungs seemed almost to shrink in response. Fighting to breathe and to remain conscious, Magenta edged towards Scarlet, aware only of the need to keep his head out of the water. He swam closer to his colleague’s half sunken torso, feeling his muscles numbing quickly. He could feel tiny crystals of ice forming on his skin, clinging to his clothes, weighing him down. His swimming capabilities were severely diminished, and Magenta was aware that even Grey or Blue, with all their vaunted skills in that field, would struggle in the same conditions.
To his despair, Magenta realised that, very slowly, but significantly, Scarlet was drifting further and further away from him. Using all his diminishing strength, the Irish captain pressed on as fast as his aching muscles would allow. With Scarlet almost within his grasp, he realised just how far he had had to swim out to reach him and how low in the water he had dropped on the way. Pulling Scarlet over and onto his back took a supreme effort on Magenta's part; whilst successful, the operation had the unfortunate effect of temporarily pushing him lower still. Magenta gasped with shock at the sheer icy coldness of the water as it rose above the nape of his neck. As it washed over the gash above his ear, the pain that tore through his head almost overwhelmed him. He felt himself go limp; his fingers momentarily released their grip on Scarlet as he was drained of all energy. At first, due to the loss of sensation, he was unable to register what had happened; it was only as Scarlet started once more to drift away that Magenta realised it. Once more, he took hold of his friend’s limp body and despite the pain and difficulty in coordinating his movements, he kicked back towards the shoreline.
He wasn't even sure how he had managed it, but Magenta soon found himself pushing Scarlet's unconscious form up onto the bank. Hauling himself out of the freezing waters, Magenta pulled his colleague further up the bank, clearing him of the lake entirely.
Collapsing alongside Scarlet, Magenta gasped with pain and exhaustion. He was forcing himself to remain conscious, knowing he still had to radio for help and to try to prevent them both suffering from exposure. Pulling in short sharp breaths with a clouded mind, Magenta was at first oblivious to the woman's voice coming from nearby. As it penetrated the mist shrouding his thoughts, he became aware of the voice and the urgency behind it.
"Please! My baby! You've got to help my baby!"
Magenta opened his eyes and tried with difficulty to focus. The woman from the grey saloon, now awake, was standing over him.
"Please, Captain, my baby! My little Davey! You’ve got to save him!" she begged again.
Magenta pushed himself up on his elbows.
“Where?” he asked with urgency, as he peered back down to the lake. “In the car?” he added with the horror of realisation.
Furious with himself for failing to check inside the car in his single-minded attempts to rescue Scarlet, Magenta rose slowly and awkwardly to his feet. The bitter, chill wind that had seemed almost pleasant earlier in the day whipped around his soaking wet, clinging clothes. His hands and feet, almost numb, yet somehow burning with the cold, were making it difficult even to walk back down to the lake.
His mind reeled at the shock of climbing once more into the icy lake. His now blurred vision and disorientation made it almost impossible to remain focused on his task. The car rested on the very edge of the lake; swimming to it was unnecessary, but at the angle that it lay, the doors were only accessible from the water. He could see the child, in the back of the vehicle, installed in a car seat, and still out of reach of the water. But for how long?
Magenta reached for the rear passenger side door but his hands refused to cooperate. Unable to close his fingers, Magenta struggled to open the car door. It refused to budge. Whether it was due to the pressure of the water against it or simply because it was locked, he wasn’t sure but he was left with no other option than to break the window. The car suddenly slid further down into the water, followed by a scream of horror coming from the woman on the bank. The resulting wash from the jerky movement sent a wave of icy water over Magenta.
Gathering his waning senses once more, Magenta raised his elbow and brought it down heavily on the glass. Pain coursed up his arm as he made impact. It had no effect. One more try, he thought as he smashed his elbow down once more. This time he was more successful. Clearing the broken glass, Magenta reached in and unlocked the door. Water now started to flood in from the breach he had made, equalizing the pressure on both sides of the door, and finally permitting Magenta to open it. He knew he had very little time to act. But the car was so close to the bank that all he had to do was quite literally pick up the car seat and hand it to the woman. The child was now crying. Unbuckling the seat proved difficult for the captain, his fingers aching with cold and his clouded mind refusing to concentrate. Within a few moments, however, he had released the seat, but to him, chest-deep in the unbearable cold, it felt like a lifetime. Turning, Magenta handed the car seat to the woman who took it gratefully with tears in her eyes. Magenta nodded his understanding as he reached for the bank once more to haul himself out. Trying desperately to hold onto the bank, Magenta could feel the energy draining from him and doubted he had enough left to pull himself out. Extending his hand, he looked upwards at the woman.
"Help me, please."
Magenta was incoherent; the cold had affected him to the point that the words emerged as a confusing jumble of sounds. His actions, however, spoke volumes and the woman bent down to take his hand. Behind him, the car shifted once more and Magenta felt it grazing his legs. He realised with dread that he had to get out fast. He tried to grasp a handhold on the grass beneath the snow with useless, unresponsive fingers. The car shifted again and started to slide under. Magenta felt it bumping even harder on his legs, forcing him off his precarious position; he was pulled back into the lake. The last thing he heard before being dragged beneath the surface was the shout of panic from the young woman who had tried to help him, as, with horror, she saw him being pulled out of her grasp.
The cold water washed over Magenta; it was pure instinct that had driven him to take a gulp of air before going under. He could just feel something looped around his ankle, and pulling him down with the car, which soon made contact with the bottom of the lake. Magenta looked up. He could see the ice-covered surface, not that far away, maybe only a couple of yards. He turned his attention to his trapped ankle; what could possibly be keeping him down? He saw a seat belt. Probably the one he had released earlier to get the baby seat out of the car. Frantically, using what little was left of his energy, Magenta struggled to free his ankle. But he was to find even this seemingly simple task impossible. His fingers were simply refusing to work. Panic made him lose precious air that went bubbling out towards the surface. A surface so near, and yet out of his reach.
His entire body numb with the bitter cold, he could feel nothing but despair. His final thoughts were of his family as the darkness closed around him.
* * *
It was an insistent nudge that made Scarlet wake up with a start and stare wide-open into the star-spangled sky over him. He coughed loudly, and shivered, as the cold night wind came blustering against his skin. It was as if ice needles were piercing him, all over his body, causing him to feel nauseous. He had a pounding headache. A headache that was being made even more painful by the screams and cries of the person who was frenetically pulling on his sleeve, apparently desperate to wake him up.
“Get up, get up, please! He’s gonna drown! You have to help him! Get up!”
Scarlet blinked and groaned, that simple act sending a blinding pain into his head. He was confused, disorientated, as he looked around him, examining his surroundings. He saw the Spectrum saloon, lying not far away. A baby's car seat, even closer, with a baby still in it, crying. And a young woman, her face washed with tears, kneeling by his side, pulling him into a sitting position.
“Don’t you hear me? He’s going to die! You must help him!”
“What… Where?” Scarlet’s hand reached for his head. He felt the bump on his forehead. So that’s where that blasted headache’s coming from… In a fraction of a second, he remembered the accident, and looked around. “Magenta…?”
The woman desperately pointed toward the lake, where Scarlet could see a wide hole punched through the ice. Large bubbles of air were dancing on the surface of the water.
“He’s under! He saved my little Davey and then my car went down! I didn’t see him come back! He must be trapped!”
All traces of drowsiness left Scarlet instantly. Realising that his current partner was in deadly danger, he rose to his feet. He was still a little weak from his previous stay in the water, but it mattered little to him as he stumbled toward the lake. He stopped at the edge of the hole, looking down into it with horror. Then he turned toward the woman behind him, and gestured wildly toward the road. “Go! Try to stop any vehicle passing by! We need help!” He didn’t wait to hear the woman’s answer to his desperate call but jumped feet first into the icy water.
The cold got to Scarlet instantly, and he had to fight hard not to instinctively gasp, which would have expelled the precious air he was holding in his lungs. Trying to ignore the pinpricks of the icy water on his body, and the growing numbness of his muscles, he frantically searched the semi-darkness of the water. He saw the huge bubbles he had already noticed exploding at the surface and sought where they were coming from. They were rising from directly below him, not even three yards down, from the front of a car resting at the bottom. He could see its still powered headlights dully brightening their immediate surroundings, and lighting his path like an underwater lighthouse.
Scarlet’s eyes went wide with utter shock when he saw the outline of a man lying dreadfully still next to the open doors of the vehicle. He kicked wildly in that direction, reaching Magenta, who was lying face down in the mud. Scarlet noticed his right foot, entangled in a seatbelt, and understood in a second what had happened. Like Magenta before him, he worked frenetically to free his friend’s ankle, finding it so very difficult, with the numbness that was threatening to stop his fingers obeying him. Finally getting Magenta free, he took him under the arms and kicked toward the surface, desperately hoping, without really believing it, that it wouldn’t be too late.
He burst through the surface of the water and gasped to take in fresh air, doing his best to keep his friend’s head above the water. He looked down on the pale face, brightened by the moonlight above. It was completely set, the eyes closed. So deadly calm, with not even a single spray of breath coming from the nostrils. Magenta wasn’t breathing. Scarlet knew he had to act quickly.
“Pat!” He yelled into his friend’s ear, surprising himself with how forceful his cry had been. “Pat, please! Don’t be dead!”
They had emerged not far from the shore, and numerous helping hands came to pull them out of the water. Scarlet realized that the woman had been successful in flagging down a couple of vehicles passing by the road. He could see her, standing a few feet away from the activity, her baby in her arms, and staring with horror at the still body of Captain Magenta as it was laid on its back, onto the snowy bank.
Scarlet tried to drive away the hands of the many people now surrounding him and his friend, but hardly had any strength in him. He felt someone undoing the zip of his tunic and heard a commanding voice ringing in his ear, with an urgent tone: “Remove these soaked clothes! Quick, before they freeze on them!” Scarlet was bewildered when many hands again reached for him and worked to undress him as quickly as possible, removing his shirt, his boots, his socks, his trousers. He was too weak, and too cold to offer any resistance – he was only able to gasp and shiver under the cold wind. His confused mind registered blinking lights coming from the road, and a large ambulance-like vehicle stationed there, waiting. Two men dressed in white were busying themselves around Magenta, undressing him too, with the help of a couple of civilians, while a third was crouched near a practically naked Scarlet, draping him in a thick and warm blanket. “Keep that close to you, man,” he heard the medic tell him. “That’ll keep you warm. Come on, get up. Up! You must walk, get the blood moving in you…”
“My friend,” Scarlet croaked. His teeth were chattering. He was fairly sure nobody had heard him. He nodded toward Magenta, now undressed too, and wrapped in a blanket, with the two other medics working feverishly over him. “My friend… He stayed underwater too long…”
“How long?” the man asked him. “Up, I said! Come on, Captain. You don’t want to freeze here!”
He pulled Scarlet to his feet, and held him up, forcing him to walk, another man helping him on his other side. Each step was a torture to Scarlet; his bare feet protesting against the contact of the snow. His eyes couldn’t leave Magenta. He still wasn’t breathing, and was pale as death itself. The two medics were now performing CPR on him, one pushing on his chest, while the second was blowing breath into his mouth. But it didn’t look as if they were making any progress.
“How long, Captain?” the medic asked Scarlet again, forcing him to look at him. “How long was he underwater?”
“I… I don’t know, I… Minutes. Several minutes. The young woman… Maybe she’ll be able to tell you…”
“All right, walk. Walk, I said. Come with me, I’m taking you to the ambulance. We’ll have to treat you for exposure.”
“No, my friend… He needs help,” Scarlet protested, looking back but obeying nevertheless.
“We’re helping him. We’re doing all that we can to bring him back.”
Bring him back… The words hit Scarlet like a ton of bricks. He finally reached the road, where he saw a number of cars parked any which way along the path, headlights still on, some of them lighting the scene of the tragedy. There were two ambulances waiting there, and he was helped into the closer one and ordered to take a seat as far away from the open doors as possible. He couldn’t detach his eyes as the other two medics were now settling Magenta on a stretcher, and placing an oxygen mask over his face. There still seemed to be no reaction from the drowned captain. Two of the civilians who had stopped to help rushed the stretcher to the ambulance, while the medics were continuing their work on Magenta. It was organised chaos, with people watching, and speaking all at once, the blinding beams of car headlights, and the flashing lights of the ambulances, making it more difficult for Scarlet to concentrate and to escape a growing headache. The stretcher was pushed inside the compartment, the medics jumping in with it, without even so much as stopping for a breather. Scarlet felt his heart missing a beat, upon seeing how pale Magenta’s face was under the interior light of the vehicle. And his bare chest wasn’t rising, refusing to respond to the treatment imposed on it. The medics connected various monitors to him, to register any sign of life, but to Scarlet it seemed all so useless.
“Come on, buddy, come on!” the one pumping Magenta’s chest was saying. “Come on, breathe, damn it! Help us out, here! You got to make it!” He turned toward a tired-looking and haggard Scarlet. “What’s his name?”
“W-what?” the British captain asked in confusion, barely able to think. He shook himself, forcing the words out: “P-Patrick. His name is Patrick.”
“Come on, Patrick!” the man said without a break, turning again toward Magenta, pushing obstinately on his chest. “You’re going to make it, you hear? You’re not going to do that to me, Patrick! Nobody ever died on my shift! And I promise you, you’re not gonna be the first!”
“He… He’s already dead,” Scarlet murmured, the grim reality sinking in.
“No, he’s not! He’s not breathing, the pulse is gone, but he’s still there! He’s just gone very deep! And we’ve just got to bring him back. Come on, Patrick, you hear me in there? You’re going to make a liar of your friend, okay? Do that for me, please!”
All that apparently useless shouting and the all-too-blinding light were getting to Scarlet. He looked helplessly at the ashen face of his friend. He felt nauseous in the stomach. He couldn’t bear to think that he had lost another partner in the line of duty. A partner who had obviously laid down his life to save that of a child. And mine as well, Scarlet added in confusion, recalling the state he was in when he had regained consciousness earlier. I must have taken a dip in that freezing water. He must have got me out…
“I have to contact my superior…” he murmured pointlessly. He realized nobody was really listening to him; all the efforts were concentrated on Magenta. The medic who had taken care of Scarlet went to close the ambulance door and the British officer, without really thinking about it, followed him with his eyes. The last vision he had of the outside was of the young woman and her baby, as they were taken away to the other ambulance He knew he had to talk to her, to find out exactly what had happened, how this disaster had happened…
“Step on it, Joe! We may have a chance to save this one!”
Scarlet looked down with unbelieving hope at the man who had said those words, at the moment he felt the ambulance jerk forward. “What… What do you mean? My friend… He’s… he’s not…”
“I told you, he still there. I’m sure of it. I already saw that. Now you gonna let me do my job? I’ve got a life to save!”
Scarlet was ready to protest when a bleep from the monitor near him almost made him jump. He looked toward it, almost not daring to hope.
It seemed that several seconds passed by before another bleep sounded.
“That a boy, Patrick!” the enthusiastic medic cried out. “That’s the way to do it! You’re going to make it, buddy!”
Scarlet sat back in silence, looking with obvious uncertainty and complete mystification as the three medics continued to work to bring Captain Magenta back to life.
On a small promontory, overlooking the road, a dark figure was watching with cold eyes, gazing down at the gathering of cars alongside the road, and at the wrecked Spectrum Saloon car not far from the hole punched into the frozen lake. Then the eyes slowly moved to follow the ambulance, all sirens and blinking lights on, speeding away from the scene of the tragedy, toward the hospital and a nearly impossible challenge. That the ambulance was carrying two of his former friends and colleagues – one of them drowned in the icy waters of the lake – was of little consequence to the man who had been Conrad Turner – Captain Black – in a past life. He now only lived to serve his masters – the Mysterons.
He barely reacted when another figure came near him and stood by his side, looking down at the speeding vehicle, with a coldness in his eyes similar to that of Black’s. Black didn’t even turn around to acknowledge his presence.
“You know what you must do,” he told him simply, in a dead, monotonous tone.
* * *
“It’s called the mammalian diving reflex. It isn’t a very common phenomenon, but it happens when the right conditions are there. The way the doctor explained it to me: it’s when a person falls into very cold water and then the body’s systems automatically shut themselves down. Circulation stops, except for the brain, the heart and the lungs. The reflex keeps what little is left of the oxygen in the blood so it can be conveyed to the brain – keeping the body in a state similar to hibernation. The victim appears to have drowned. No breath, no heartbeat – no pulse. Seemingly dead. But he isn’t.”
Seated on the side of the bed, and pulling up his boots, Captain Scarlet had just finished his quick account to Captain Blue, who was standing just in front of the door, his arms crossed, listening silently until his friend had finished. It had been four hours since Scarlet had made the call to Cloudbase to report what had happened in Vermont. It had not taken very long for Colonel White to send Blue down to the hospital where both Scarlet and Magenta had been taken. Blue had presented himself at the reception desk where he had asked news of his colleagues and where he could find them. If he had not been surprised to learn that Captain Scarlet was ‘recovering remarkably well under the circumstances’, Blue was rather relieved to learn that Magenta’s condition had now stabilized and that his own recovery was considered satisfactory. Blue had briefly gone to visit him, to find him lying in a bed, unconscious, breathing regularly through a tube. The doctor being otherwise busy with another patient, and unable to give him further information, Blue had then gone to Scarlet’s room, to find his friend was presently dressing himself in his now dry uniform. It was then that Scarlet briefly explained about Magenta’s unusual situation.
“I tell you,” Scarlet finished, slipping his tunic on, “I really thought he’d had it, when I pulled him out of that lake. He was so pale, no sign of life… But the medics didn’t give up on him. They kept trying, and trying, giving him CPR, pumping his heart, feeding him with oxygen. When I saw the machines they had hooked him up to, finally showing signs that he was coming back to life, it gave me quite a start. By the time we arrived at the hospital, his heart was beating faster, more regularly - and I was told he would probably pull through. It was incredible.”
Blue offered a nod of understanding. “Now YOU know what we’re feeling when you pull a stunt like that with US,” he noted quietly.
Scarlet answered with a faint smile. “It’s not quite the same thing, Blue,” he replied, zipping up his tunic. He sighed heavily. “Even in the best of conditions when that kind of incident happens, the victim has to receive treatment as soon as possible. We were lucky somebody had witnessed the accident at the moment it had happened and had immediately called for an ambulance. Or Magenta may not be alive as we speak now.”
“Is he expected to make a full recovery?” Blue asked.
“It’s still not sure. He SHOULD, but, according to the doctors, it’s still touch and go. It really depends on how much damage was done to his brain. If it has been deprived of oxygen for too long…”
Blue could see his friend was rather sombre, seemingly tired, his eyes looking thoughtfully into space, with a sad expression in them. The American tilted his head to the side, with a probing expression. “You’re all right, though?”
“Physically I am,” Scarlet answered gloomily, “but inside…” He sighed heavily, and looked down at his hands. “I thought I was going to lose another partner, Adam.” Blue gave him an enquiring look, and Scarlet shook his head. “I kept reminding myself of Steve,” he said. “How similar this accident was to that other one.”
“It was NO accident that other time, Paul.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.” Scarlet tiredly ran his hand through his dark hair. “But… I couldn’t help thinking about it. It WAS a car accident, and we DID go off the road BOTH times. And Steve and I were killed. Magenta nearly drowned tonight. No. Let me rephrase that: he DID drown. And I was unable to help him.”
“You DID pull him out of the water,” Blue reminded him. “You saved his life.”
“No, I didn’t. The medics did the job. Not me. These people are real heroes. And Pat is, too. HE pulled me out of that lake, I was told. And then, right after that, went back to save the life of a baby.”
“And that surprises you?”
“No.” Scarlet shook his head sadly. “To think that he was once a wanted criminal – head of a mob organisation. Every cop in the world wanted to put him behind bars for life. He devotes his life every day to the safety of this planet… And now he’s lying in a hospital bed. After…” Scarlet swallowed hard, still unsettled by the thought of his friend and colleague’s recent ordeal. He cleared his throat, trying to get a grip on himself and looked Blue squarely in the eyes. “You know, no matter WHAT people may think about Pat, he’s really a great guy. It’s so unfair that there are still people around thinking badly of him.”
“They don’t know the real Magenta,” Blue remarked.
“They don’t know the real Patrick Donaghue,” Scarlet corrected.
Blue nodded his agreement, watching his partner as he now kept silent, still brooding over the recent events. He could see it was still troubling him deeply. He could only guess what his thoughts could be at the moment. Blue cleared his throat. The best way to draw Scarlet from his present state was to keep him occupied. And the best way to keep him occupied was to force him to think about work.
“I hope the medical personnel didn’t seem too curious about your own ‘miraculous recovery’?” the blond captain asked. “You know we don’t want your special ability to raise too many questions…”
Scarlet shook his head, standing up from his bed. He had noticed in the all-too-official tone of his friend that it was time for them to come back to business at hand. “Not to worry. Considering how quickly I had recuperated, they figured I had been far less touched by the cold than they previously thought.”
Blue raised a curious eyebrow. “Just as simple as that?”
“That, and the fact that I told them that we Spectrum agents receive special training to face these kinds of situations. They bought it.”
“Yeah, well… eventually, they will realise that Magenta would probably have followed the same training. I suppose we should take advantage of that temporary reprieve to get you out of this hospital – before they decide to perform further tests on you, if only to make sure you’re really okay.”
“I know,” Scarlet nodded. “Colonel White told me the same thing. That’s why I’m dressed now, and ready to go.”
“We should take Magenta back to Cloudbase with us,” Blue added. “If he’s able to travel, of course. I’ll have to see the doctor who took care of him to make sure of that. I’d prefer it if you don’t come with me, Captain. The further you are from any doctor, the better it’ll be in regard of your secret.”
“In the meantime,” Scarlet answered, putting on his cap, “I’ll check on that woman whose baby Magenta saved. I’d like to know what exactly happened on that road. There are some missing pieces, and I would like to be able to give the colonel a complete report.”
“As you wish,” Blue conceded. “But stay away from doctors, Scarlet.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t make Fawn jealous.”
Young Helen Hughes had been brought to the same hospital as Captains Scarlet and Magenta. She felt physically fine, aside from a few bruises and a slight concussion, due to her falling from her car when it had plunged into the water. Thankfully, the deep snow had cushioned her landing, protecting her from major injuries. She was presently in a small, quiet room, where she was to stay overnight, under observation, after she had gone into a minor shock. Her baby, Scarlet had been told, was also fine, not the slightest injury, and had been taken to the nursery, where he’d been sleeping since his arrival, as if nothing at all had happened.
Scarlet walked to the room that a nurse had pointed out to him and found the young woman half-slouched in her bed, her eyes closed, apparently resting. There was a young man sitting on a chair, by her side, whispering quietly to the baby he was holding in his arms. Scarlet understood instantly that this was more than probably the child’s father – Helen Hughes’s husband. Scarlet tapped lightly on the frame of her door; the man raised his head at the same time the woman opened her eyes. At first, she didn’t appear to see him, but when she did, she recognized him instantly and settled herself on the bed, as he walked in.
“Captain… It’s so good to see you!”
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Mrs. Hughes…” Scarlet started tentatively.
“Oh, not at all! I was just resting my eyes for a minute or two.” By the look of her eyes, she seemed so very tired, but her voice was calm, if a little slurred. Scarlet was sure that she had been given some mild tranquilliser. She didn’t seem as surprised as she ought to be to see him standing there, in full uniform, already recovered from the accident.
The man by her side stood up. He was eyeing the uniformed captain with a somewhat jittery look, as if he didn’t know what to say exactly. “Captain…” He held out his hand to Scarlet, under the baby, clumsily, then seemed to realise how awkward that gesture seemed in his situation. Scarlet nevertheless shook his hand, as the man introduced himself: “I’m David Hughes. Helen’s husband.”
Scarlet could see he was still on edge; it was likely he hadn’t yet recovered from the earlier shock of learning of his wife’s accident. He motioned to him to sit down again. Maybe he would feel less nervous if he was comfortable.
“I came as soon as the hospital contacted me about the accident,” David Hughes continued, clearing his throat. “We have a small inn on the mountain, and Helen was coming back with the groceries… If I had known what would happen, I…”
“Please, David,” the young woman interrupted him, gently, putting a soothing hand on his knee in an attempt to calm him down. “You don’t need to blame yourself for what happened. It was an accident.” It was odd to see how being the one involved in the said accident, she was also the one keeping the most serene about it, and trying at the same time to quiet her husband’s fears. As he gave her a thankful smile, she turned her eyes to Scarlet. She frowned a little, however, eyeing him curiously, suddenly realising how surprisingly well he looked.
“You’re okay? I was wondering about you…”
“I’m all right,” he confirmed, with a reassuring smile of his own. “Just a little shaken, maybe, but considering the events, not as hurt as it first appeared.”
“Captain,” David Hughes then said, “I don’t know where to start… I can’t thank you enough for saving my son’s life.”
“I had little to do with it, Mr. Hughes,” Scarlet corrected him. “It was my colleague who did it all.”
Helen could only approve with a faint nod. “He’s alive, I was told?” she asked, her slightly trembling voice showing her concern for the man who had saved her son.
Scarlet nodded. “He’s alive, yes. His condition has stabilized. It’s still a little uncertain, but he’s expected to recover.”
“I hope he’ll be all right,” Helen said with a heavy sigh. “We owe him so much! He saved Davey. He didn’t hesitate one instant to go into that freezing water to get him…” Her voice broke and she shivered upon remembering the events. She reached for her husband’s hand and squeezed it, as if trying to draw from him a little of the strength she couldn’t muster from herself. “Never in my life did I see such bravery…” She looked Scarlet square in the eyes. “You were brave too, Captain, to go after your colleague like you did. But he… He saved our son, and… I could never forget that.”
Nor could I,” David added solemnly. “And we’ll never be able to repay him.”
Scarlet offered them another reassuring smile. “I’ll be sure to tell Captain Magenta how grateful you are.”
“Magenta… So that’s his name?” David said. He nodded simply “Are all Spectrum officers as dedicated as him?”
There was a fond smile upon Helen’s lips, as she rested her head against the pillow and stared into empty space. “God bless him, then. And help him recover completely.”
Scarlet’s smile broadened. There ARE people who’ll be aware of Magenta’s true nature after all, he thought. What his friend had done was truly heroic. Sometimes, Scarlet had reflected how it could seem easy for him to put his life on the line. Well, no, it WASN’T always easy. The eventuality that one day his retrometabolism would not work was always present in his mind. He was deeply aware that maybe one day, perhaps he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But his colleagues – Blue, Ochre, Grey – and Magenta – they didn’t have to go through this. Their thoughts, their fears, were different. They knew that if they were unable to pull it off, just once, it would be final. No welcome back committee for them. But that didn’t stop them from risking their lives. Just like Magenta did, by fishing Scarlet out of the icy waters of the lake – and going back to save the life of a baby.
He didn’t have second thoughts. He didn’t hesitate one instant. He was needed, and he did what he had to do.
That was the measure of the man Magenta truly was.
Scarlet pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind, snapping out of his reverie. He had a job to do too, at the moment, and those reflections weren’t helping him any. He wanted to know more about the accident and what had happened. Maybe the young couple in front of him would find this unbecoming, and would be even annoyed by his questions, but he felt that he had to ask them.
He cleared his throat, and dived in. “Mrs. Hughes… I know it must be difficult for you… But about the accident… Could you tell me exactly what happened?”
She did seem surprised. As did her husband. They exchanged a glance.
“I’m sorry if that sounds rather rude,” Scarlet then said with an apologetic tone, “But Captain Magenta and I are due back at base shortly. I need all the information you can give me, to report to my superior what happened. If you don’t feel up to it, however, I…”
“No,” Helen interrupted him. “It’s okay, don’t worry.” She sighed heavily. “But I’m afraid all I can say is that it was all my fault,” she muttered, lowering her gaze, thinking the Spectrum captain was somehow accusing her.
She felt her husband squeezing her hand. “Helen?”
“I lost control of the car,” she explained. “I know it sounds strange, but… I wasn’t going that fast.” She glanced back to her husband to reassure him. “Really, I wasn’t, you know I how careful I am with Davey in the car.” The weary eyes she turned back to Scarlet were convincing enough. He simply nodded his assent. “Suddenly,” she continued, “the engine was racing, I couldn’t stop it. The road was very slippery, as you know and… I guess I wasn’t able to react in time to avoid a collision.”
“The engine raced?” David said with a puzzled frown.
She turned to him. “I remember you did have the car checked recently, I know,” she told him.
“Yes, I did,” David said, chewing his lip. “Apparently, the mechanic missed something.”
“A mechanical failure then,” Scarlet said, nodding.
She smiled sadly. “I suppose people must be saying that ALL the time. But it’s the truth, Captain.”
“I believe you, Mrs. Hughes. And… after that? Are you able to tell me what happened?”
“Oh… I lost consciousness and I guess I was thrown out of the car.” She felt the hand of her husband tense under hers. “When I came to, your friend was already swimming you back ashore. My car had punched a hole through the ice on the lake, and was half sunk. I was still confused, and I was looking around for Davey. By the time Captain Magenta hauled you out of the water, I realised where my baby was.” As calmly as she could, Helen Hughes then related Magenta’s valiant efforts to free little Davey from his precarious position, despite the fact that he was obviously exhausted from his earlier dip in the freezing water; then she told how, just seconds after the baby had been rescued, the car had gone under, taking Magenta with it. All the while, her husband was keeping quiet, obviously trying this way to support her.
“I was desperate,” she explained finally. “I didn’t know what to do, you see, I…” She lowered her head, ashamed of what she was about to say. “I can’t swim. If I had tried to go into the water myself, I would only have made matters worse. All I could do was call for help, but nobody answered. And then I tried to wake you. I was lucky you came to, then, in time to save your friend.”
Scarlet nodded slowly and stood up. “Magenta is the one who’s lucky, Mrs. Hughes,” he said gently. “You helped to save him. We owe you our thanks.”
“Please, Captain,” she then replied. “It is us who owe him our thanks.”
“Considering the way he put his life in danger to save our baby,” David agreed.
“He was the one in need of help after that,” Helen continued. “What I did was the only natural thing to do. It’s what anybody in my position would have done.”
“Well, apparently, NOT everybody in this world thinks the same as you,” her husband suddenly growled.
Scarlet gave him an inquiring look. There was a dark intonation of loathing in his voice that was now fairly apparent in his features. His wife waved a soothing gesture in his direction.
“David, I don’t think now’s the moment to…”
“How can you be so calm about this?” her husband suddenly interrupted her, frowning in disbelief. “This is something serious, darling. Somebody turned his back on another human being in need! It’s just pure luck Captain Magenta didn’t die.”
“Well, I’m not saying I’m not as disgusted as you over it, but…”
“What happened?” Scarlet asked. He was rather perplexed by the couple’s current conversation. They looked toward him and saw his inquiring frown. At first, they seemed embarrassed that he had to witness their antics; but David then lifted his chin, like a man who had suddenly realised he had nothing to hide.
“It’s something Helen told me, earlier,” he finally said. Scarlet could see there was some resentment in his eyes.
Helen sighed. “You remember you sent me over the road to call for help, when you dived in to save your friend?”
Scarlet nodded. “Yes, and you flagged down some cars as they passed by.”
“Well, just before that, as I was climbing to reach the road, I distinctly saw someone there in the woods. There was a man just standing there, watching the accident. I called for him to help. He didn’t even answer me.”
Scarlet frowned. “A man?”
“As I came back down, I noticed that there were two of them, in fact,” Helen corrected. “I saw the second man as they went away, turning their backs on me. The nerve… I couldn’t believe anyone could do a thing like that!”
“Can you imagine?” snorted David derisively. “They didn’t offer assistance to a person in deadly danger!”
“Can you describe those men?” Scarlet asked Helen, trying to ignore David’s remark.
The young woman frowned, trying very hard to remember, “I… can’t really recall... I was so panicky at the time, and… I was so blind with anger that somebody wouldn’t answer a call for help… It’s just… The first man I saw was dressed in dark clothing… And the second, I can’t say, I didn’t see him that clearly. I must admit, it was quite dark by the time I got back from the road. Only his outline. All I can say is that he was a shade taller than his friend.” She smiled sadly. “Nothing to go on, I’m afraid.”
“Which is a real shame,” mumbled David. “Those guys ought to be brought to justice! Why, that kind of behaviour isn’t just totally sickening! It’s criminal!”
His wife concurred. “Why, yes. It is criminal! What kind of men would stay up in the woods and look on as a tragedy happens?”
“One can only guess,” Scarlet murmured, a thoughtful look on his face. There was something nagging him, in the back of his mind, but he didn’t dare think his suspicions could be true. And what if…
He shook himself. Well, it may very well be only a dark suspicion from his overactive mind – maybe he had seen too much in his time and was going paranoid. Just in case, however, he took a card from his pocket, wrote a few words on it, and handed it to Helen. “Mrs Hughes, if you do remember something else about this accident, or those men… or anything you think may be useful – even if it’s only a small detail – can you contact Spectrum? We… That is I would appreciate it greatly.”
The Hugheses looked at him with the same questioning expression. “Of course, Captain,” Helen said, nodding vigorously. “If it can help you…” She frowned. “But it was only a dumb accident… It’s that important to you?”
He smiled gently. “It was an accident, yes, Mrs. Hughes. But I have to present as complete a report as I can to my superior.” He then extended his hand to the young woman. “Thank you very much, Mrs. Hughes. I won’t take any more of your time. You need your rest, and to be alone with your husband.” He shook hands with the young woman, then her husband, to whom he addressed an encouraging smile. “You’ve got one tough wife, Mr. Hughes.”
“I know,” the man smiled back. “And I’m SO lucky to have her.”
“I’ll take my leave, then…”
Scarlet was about to walk away, when Helen Hughes reached for his hand again, and clutched it tightly between hers. “When you’re able to talk to Captain Magenta… do tell him of our gratitude, please?”
Scarlet nodded his agreement, addressing her and her husband a last, somewhat uneasy smile.
“Take care of the baby,” he said finally. He then left them, closing the door behind him. He stood there for a moment, disturbing thoughts still brewing inside his mind. There was something in what Helen Hughes had told him… But really, he couldn’t see WHY he was so concerned.
And yet, what if he had been RIGHT in the first place, comparing that accident with the one that had claimed both his life and Captain Brown’s, some years earlier? Could there really be some similitude between the two events?
Those two men Helen had seen – one dressed in dark clothing… Could it be…?
Snap out of it, Metcalfe! There’s certainly not just one person in this world wearing dark clothes! And unfortunately, there will always be people walking away from an accident without offering assistance. That incident by the lake didn’t mean anything.
Maybe he was getting paranoid.
But the suspicions didn’t leave Captain Scarlet as he walked down the corridor. He couldn’t escape them. And so, he didn’t discard them completely.
He had the niggling impression that they would come back to haunt him in a very short time…
* * *
Ben Fisher opened the door of the lower basement room known amongst the members of his now extended mob gang as ‘The Drop’. The only furniture in the room was one solitary chair, set right next to a large trap door on the floor, which could be opened by pulling a big metal lever fixed to it. The trapdoor led straight down to the Hudson River, which passed right under the building, a storehouse used for the gang’s operations, and located on the harbour docks.
“Mr. Fisher…” Matt Riordan looked about the room apprehensively. The storehouse wasn’t used ONLY for passing in transit illicit goods. This room had another, primary, purpose. One that Riordan wasn’t really comfortable with. “Is this really necessary?”
“Tell me, Matt, you’re loyal to me, right?” Fisher asked casually, as he pulled slightly on the trap handle, as if to inspect that the door would still open up smoothly.
“Of course, Mr Fisher, I just…” Riordan stopped short as Fisher turned an accusing glare on him.
“What? Not up to the job, Matt? I can find someone who is!”
Riordan clenched his jaw. Fisher’s methods were different to Patrick Donaghue’s, Riordan’s former boss and friend, that was certain; and when Fisher threatened, he meant it. Riordan may have harboured deep misgivings about those methods and his involvement in them, but, as ever, Riordan’s powerful instincts of self-preservation would always prevent him making any move or committing any action that would precipitate his own demise.
“I’m with you, every step of the way, Mr Fisher,” he replied with a resigned sigh.
Fisher smiled inwardly; Riordan was a handy guy to have around. He had been with the mob since its inception, when Donaghue had gathered together several groups of uncoordinated and largely unsuccessful smaller syndicates to take the underworld by storm. He knew everything there was to know under Donaghue’s regime, including his Spider’s Web accounting techniques. Maintaining dozens of legal accounts, all interlinked, with money moving rapidly amongst them, had held off the World Government Police Corps for years. Yes, they knew about many of their illegal operations but had been utterly unable to find a shred of evidence to substantiate their claims. Donaghue had boasted that not one single arrest had ever been made from his Syndicate. After Gabriel James had taken over Donaghue’s operations, after the latter had mysteriously disappeared, that particular record fell almost immediately. James was ruthless enough, certainly, but Donaghue had proved that it was intelligence and sheer ingenuity that had made the Syndicate what it was up until his departure. Fisher was determined to return it to its former glory by bringing the best of both principles. He was ruthless and tough, yes, he would prove that today, but also Fisher was no fool. Whilst even he would admit that he couldn’t compete with Donaghue, whose skill and flair had been almost legendary, his own successes in the past had been significant enough to earn respect and favour from his peers. Now he ran certainly the biggest mob in history: his, the deceased Mark Abbott’s and Donaghue’s combined. He was not about to relinquish that, nor the respect he enjoyed, and certainly not because of Riordan’s squeamishness.
Fisher looked up, and his expression hardened as the door opened again and two men walked briskly into the room, dragging a third between them. Two other men followed them at a slightly slower pace. Those men now gathering in the room were the core of Fisher’s new Syndicate. Josh Kirby, his right hand man, significantly younger, but intelligent and loyal; Jack Harper, a violent thug, loyal only to himself but willing to attach himself like a parasite to almost anyone he believed could offer him advancement; Jeff Tyler, one of Fisher’s original Syndicate, who was in his late twenties, and who had spent five years in prison for armed robbery before joining up with Fisher’s mob, considering there to be safety in numbers. He was trained as an engineer, and there was very little his quick technically-adept mind couldn’t build with the minimum available to him. And finally Sean O’Rourke, who had been a member of Donaghue’s Syndicate, an explosives expert; no lock, alarm system or safe was a problem for him.
The fifth man who had been dragged into the room was Aidan Mahoney, also one of Donaghue’s men. That is, he was.
“Sit down, Mahoney.” Fisher’s voice was cold. It was so very plain that he was angry.
Tyler and O’Rourke dragged Mahoney to the single chair in the room, pushed him into it and stood menacingly, one on either side. Mahoney looked about his surroundings nervously, a cold sweat on his forehead and eyes wide in panic. He’d heard of this room; they all had, but nobody ever wanted to see it for themselves. But for the remaining six people in the room, there were few people who ever saw it twice.
Mahoney looked in the direction of the open door. So close… Could he dare make a run for it? Fisher could almost read his mind, and a cold smile spread across his lips. A massive silhouette then entered the room, very quietly; Mahoney’s hope automatically left him, when he saw the mountain of a man who was Robert “Ox” Oxbury closing the door and then taking three steps to stand like a rock not far from it. Ox was the gang’s enforcer, like Mahoney, formerly of Donaghue’s days. He wasn’t very quick in thinking, but he was certainly quick in reaction – and as strong as his nickname led to believe. There was no way Mahoney would be able to reach the door without being crushed by Ox’s huge hands.
Jack Harper leaned up against the wall opposite the chair and smirked malevolently. But for the agitated breathing of Mahoney, the room was silent. Slowly, Jack cracked the knuckles of his right hand. Each hollow pop echoed menacingly around the room. Never taking his eyes off the terrified man sitting uneasily in the chair, Jack cracked all of his left knuckles at once with a sickening resonant sound. Mahoney’s mind worked overtime as he watched Jack prepare for what he assumed would be a beating. As the last knuckle popped, Mahoney sat forward in the chair only to be pulled back viciously by Tyler and O’Rourke.
“Please! Mr Fisher!” he spluttered in panic. “I don’t know what you’ve heard but I didn’t do anything!”
“You’ve been disloyal, Aidan,” Fisher spoke slowly as he paced in front of the chair. “And I don’t like people being disloyal to me.”
“No, Mr Fisher, I’ve been loyal to you!”
Mahoney’s voice shook under the pressure of the situation. Sitting forward once more as Fisher passed him, he put his hand out as if to beg him to listen. Pulled back once more, his shoulders slammed back onto the wooden frame of the chair, his head continuing in hyper-flexion. He felt the agonising pain of something pop in the back of his neck before it flopped forward again under the action of his muscles desperate to restore a natural position. O’Rourke’s hand grabbed his hair and pulled back his head painfully, compelling him to cry out.
“Please, Mr Fisher, I didn’t do anything. You have to believe me!” he said, trying to look up at Fisher as he walked past him once more, but the pain shooting down his neck into his shoulder blades was excruciating.
“You went to the police, Aidan.” Fisher stopped directly in front of him and turned to look him squarely in the eyes. “More than once, isn’t that right?”
“No, Sir, I didn’t. I’ve been loyal!”
Mahoney lifted a hand once more, then screamed in agony as Tyler removed his gun from its holster and smashed the butt down on Mahoney’s wrist.
“Keep still!” he whispered threateningly into Mahoney’s ear.
“What makes you think I went to the police, Mr Fisher?” Mahoney whimpered.
“You spoke to Captain Brealey, you gave him information on our plans to hijack a gold shipment,” Fisher stated frostily.
“No, Sir!” Mahoney cried emphatically.
“Only you knew about that, Mahoney, Fisher growled. “Only you.”
“That’s not possible, I’m just a driver, I’m the last to know! Someone else must have done it. But not me, Mr Fisher. You’ve got to believe me!”
“We’ve suspected you for some time, Mahoney, and we set you up. The hijack plans? They weren’t true! And you were the only one to know about them. We made sure of that!”
“No, Mr Fisher. Mr Harper told me, so he knew too! It must have been him.”
“Why, you…!” began Jack in a low growl as he pushed himself away from the wall.
Fisher waved his arm in a calming gesture. Jack stopped unwillingly in his tracks as Kirby grabbed his arm to pull him back.
“Well, maybe I should tell you about your other mistake, Aidan. A deadly mistake. Captain Brealey… works for us!” Fisher reached inside his jacket and withdrew his gun. “Nobody!” he yelled. “Nobody betrays me!”
Mahoney’s eyes widened still further as he looked in terror at the gun and the wild eyes of Fisher behind it.
A single bullet was all it took to snuff out the life of the informant. Mahoney slumped onto the chair, with a last jerk, then stayed motionless. Fisher grunted with satisfaction as he returned the gun to its holster.
“Weigh him down and drop him,” he ordered, stepping to the back of the room so he could address all of the men standing in front of him. He could see the uncomfortable look in Matt Riordan’s eyes, as well as the faint glitter in both Ox and O’Rourke’s. Those three weren’t used to his methods of ‘doing business’. They were Donaghue’s men, and under Donaghue’s regime, there were no killings. Gabriel James had not been squeamish about it, and so Fisher didn’t think that O’Rourke or even Ox would disapprove of Mahoney’s execution. But Fisher was aware that these men didn’t like him that much, and the way he had taken over after James’s and Abbott’s demises. That was why this display had become necessary to Fisher. He had to show them all he was boss.
“And let that be a lesson!” he added, in a threatening and arrogant tone. “I don’t ask much. Loyalty and commitment, that’s all. I get that and you stay alive and out of jail, understand?”
The group before him answered, each in their own way, nodding or by verbal acceptance. Fisher looked at them all in turn, still only offering them little more than an angry frown.
“Good. Any one of you gives me cause to doubt you, and you’re dead. No exceptions!”
The door behind them opened and a man, dressed smartly in an expensive and stylish suit, entered the room. In surprise, they turned around, at first not reacting to the presence of this man in this place. In one hand, the newcomer was holding a small, smouldering cigarillo. With his free hand, he casually removed a pair of dark sunglasses and closed them with the flick of his wrist.
“No exceptions, Ben?” he asked nonchalantly, taking a quiet puff off his cigar.
The group’s reactions were as interesting as they were varied.
Having never met the newcomer, only knowing him by name and reputation, neither Tyler nor Kirby recognised him, or if they did they weren’t absolutely certain. Jack curled his lip in a sneer of hatred. Riordan seemed simply astonished. As were Ox and O’Rourke, each fixing a disbelieving stare on the newcomer.
Fisher was the first to vocalise his surprise, staring with wide eyes at the man simply standing there in front of them, still smoking without any concern.
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