A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop & Sue Stanhope
Walking down the corridor leading from the helicopter pad to the sickbay, Captain Scarlet grimly followed the two medics as they pushed the rolling stretcher on which Captain Magenta lay motionless. The Irish captain was still unconscious, hooked to the gurney’s monitor, which was keeping track of his vital signs. The regular bleep Scarlet could hear coming from it seemed comforting enough, but the British captain couldn’t help thinking that he would be fully reassured on his friend and colleague’s state only when he regained his senses. Blue was walking alongside him, and took note of his apprehension. He gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder.
“Magenta’s a fighter, Captain. If there is any chance for him to come out of this unscathed, he’ll do it.”
Scarlet addressed his friend with a brief glance. “Don’t try to deceive me, Blue,” he said, almost in a murmur. “I can tell you’re as worried as I am about his situation.”
Blue didn’t respond. Perhaps he didn’t have the time to, as they had reached the sickbay doors, which had slid open in front of them. The two medics pushed the stretcher in and Scarlet and Blue were about to follow, when the British captain’s epaulettes flashed white, stopping both captains in their tracks. The doors slid closed in front of them as Scarlet answered the call from the Control Room.
“Captain Scarlet,” came the voice of Colonel White, “Lieutenant Green reported that you’ve just landed on Cloudbase. How’s Captain Magenta?”
“In a stable condition, Sir,” Scarlet replied, with a more-than-obvious impatient tone to his voice. “He hasn’t regained consciousness. Captain Blue and I just escorted him to sickbay.”
“I’m sure Doctor Fawn will now take good care of him, Captain.”
Scarlet nodded, more to himself than to acknowledge his commander. “With your permission, Sir, I’d like to stay in sickbay with Captain Magenta for a while.”
“Negative, Captain. I need you to come to the Control Room immediately. I want to hear your report on this incident right away.”
Scarlet hesitated, exchanging a puzzled glance with Blue who stood waiting by his side, and addressing him an enquiring look. Blue guessed fairly easily by his friend’s expression that his request had been refused. Scarlet restrained himself from clearing his throat, then decided to insist, tentatively. “With respect, Sir, I may be able to give you a fuller report, if I’m able to add an update on Captain Magenta’s condition.”
“Doctor Fawn will see to that, Captain. I’m certain he’ll be doing a full examination of Captain Magenta and will report all the details to me afterwards. Now, Captain. I need you in the Control Room.”
Scarlet nearly sighed and reluctantly gave in. “S.I.G., Colonel. I’m on my way.” Blue could see by Scarlet’s tone, that he had guessed right about what had been going on, and that his British colleague was not very happy about it.
“Call of duty?” Blue asked with a shake of his blond head.
“Yeah, apparently,” Scarlet mumbled with bad humour. “I wonder what’s so urgent that the old man wants to see me right away?”
When he saw Scarlet turn toward him, the American captain knew exactly what he was about to ask him. He had his answer ready before his friend could utter a word about it.
“Don’t worry, Paul. I’ll stay here. I’ll fill you in on any change in Pat’s condition.”
Scarlet expressed his gratitude with a faint smile. “Thanks, Adam. If he wakes up, I want to know right away.”
“Of course. Now go, before the old man sends someone after you.”
Scarlet nodded and headed reluctantly but briskly towards the Command Centre. Blue thoughtfully watched him go, before turning around and once more pressing the button to open the doors to sickbay. As they slid open in front of him and he entered, Blue’s thoughts suddenly went to Captain Ochre, surprised not to find him already waiting inside. Blue considered it rather strange that his compatriot shouldn’t be here at the moment. Magenta was his regular partner, and despite their respective, opposing backgrounds, the two men had become friends – sort of, when the two weren’t quarrelling over any trivial subject they could find to occupy them. The pair had saved each other’s lives on many occasions, frequently putting their own lives at risk in the process. It was true that as Spectrum officers, this sort of behaviour was part of the job, but as with Scarlet and Blue, there was a deeper underlying, undeniable friendship that transcended the call of duty. Blue mused over the pair’s incessant bickering and considered the possibility that on some level they still needed to maintain the cop/gangster relationship by taking opposing standpoints. It was also possible that they did it on purpose just to yank the other’s chain from time to time. Whatever the reason, it seemed to help the pair retain their edge.
But at the moment, oddly enough, Ochre wasn’t there, at his friend’s side, and that had Blue puzzled.
As the doors slid closed behind him, he wondered what could be keeping Captain Ochre away from sickbay.
* * *
Captain Scarlet strode into the Control Room to be greeted first by Lieutenant Green. As he stepped onto the moving walkway that brought him to Colonel White’s round desk, Scarlet was perplexed to see Captain Ochre standing at ease in front of their commander, his cap under his arm, with another man, dressed in civvies, seated by his side. Scarlet noticed the scowl on Ochre’s face and frowned himself when he recognised the profile of the man with him. It was no wonder that Ochre seemed so discontented at the moment.
Scarlet stood in front of White and saluted him crisply. “Reporting as ordered, Sir.”
“Captain, we were waiting for you,” White said, his voice still formal but kind enough. “I trust you have fully recovered from your ordeal?”
“As usual, Sir,” Scarlet replied, directing a sideways glance at the man seated near him, who seemed more preoccupied with consulting the file laid on his knees than to acknowledge his presence. “It’s Captain Magenta who worries me at the moment.”
“How is he, Captain?” Ochre then asked, nodding in his colleague’s direction. Scarlet could feel the concern in the American captain’s tone. Ochre was preoccupied, that was so very obvious. If he wasn’t in sickbay right now, by Magenta’s side, it was certainly because he had no other choice but to be in the Control Room at the moment. Scarlet was willing to bet a month’s pay that this had something to do with Spectrum Intelligence Special Agent Martin Conners’ presence there. He was as certain of that as he was that this man was also the cause of his commander’s insistence on seeing him right away.
“It’s still uncertain, Captain Ochre,” Scarlet answered with a shake of his head. “But the doctors’ prognosis in Vermont was encouraging. They have seen his condition before. The sooner he revives, the better we’ll know about his exact situation, though.” He offered a faint smile. “He was very lucky.”
“Very lucky indeed,” Colonel White had to agree. “I instructed Doctor Fawn to give us immediate news if there is any change in Captain Magenta’s condition, gentlemen. We’re all concerned about him at the moment, and I’m sure we’ll all be reassured when he revives. Hopefully, very soon.” He pressed a button and two stools rose from the floor. Both captains sat down, and Scarlet removed his cap. Only then did Special Agent Conners acknowledge Scarlet’s presence, with a mere nod.
“Captain Scarlet,” he muttered.
“Special Agent Conners,” Scarlet answered with the same brief nod. Conners didn’t even seem to notice it. He already had his nose plunged back in his file. Scarlet absolutely despised the man. As did Captain Ochre, AND, most assuredly, Colonel White. But there was no denying the fact that Special Agent Conners was competent in his job – or he wouldn’t be part of Spectrum Intelligence. He had proven this more than once. He was an overzealous worker, and when he was on a case, he always wanted to get to the very bottom of it. No matter how many toes he had to tread on or how many people he was going to infuriate. Even Colonel White himself who, all things considered, was his superior – the Supreme Commander of Spectrum. It was peculiar to see that Conners seemed to consider his position above even White himself, given the circumstances in certain assignments. It was a wonder that White hadn’t already chewed him out.
The main problem with Special Agent Martin Conners that resulted in him being considered a genuine jerk by most of the Cloudbase senior staff, was that they felt he didn’t belong in Internal Affairs – the branch of Intelligence in which he worked. The attitude and obvious contempt he demonstrated when he was interrogating people during his investigations was proof enough of this. He would use intimidating methods with people who were on his own side – good, honest Spectrum agents that more often than not didn’t deserve to be treated that way – in total disregard of what they were and what they stood for. To Conners, they were considered as suspect as any guilty party that Spectrum encountered in the field. There, a man with Conners’ particular aptitudes would probably find a more suitable role for himself.
Not that it would change any of Cloudbase’s senior officers’ opinion that the man was a genuine and definite weasel.
Agent Conners coming to Cloudbase never was, in the past, a good omen. Scarlet was about sure that now wasn’t different from the other times. He was wondering what could have possibly brought the Intelligence man on base this time.
He was sure he would soon find out, when Colonel White cleared his throat to address him. “Captain, if you please, I’d like to hear your account of the events in Vermont. Starting from the moment you touched down at the military airport onboard the SPJ.”
Scarlet nodded, all the while wondering why the colonel needed him to go so far back in his report. Succinctly, yet accurately, he gave the account of the events, starting from the moment the colonel had asked for, right through to when Captain Blue had come to see him at the hospital, and his conversation with the Hughes family. He made a point of telling how heroic Captain Magenta had been in saving both himself and the baby, putting his own life in danger not once, but twice. Colonel White nodded gravely upon hearing the report; all the while, Captain Ochre waiting silently and rigidly. As for Agent Conners, he was taking notes in his folder, his face not showing any emotion.
What could he be up to, anyway? Scarlet asked himself, stealing a glance in the Intelligence Agent’s direction. He simply couldn’t see the reason WHY Conners had to be present at this meeting.
“Thank you, Captain Scarlet,” Colonel White finally said as his younger compatriot finished his account. “That is a very precise account of the events. I think Mister Conners can only agree with that.” That was a puzzling statement, to say the least, and Scarlet couldn’t help but notice the condescension more than obviously apparent in his commander’s tone of voice. In the same way, he noticed the scowl on Ochre’s face.
As for Conners, his features stayed impassive. He didn’t even raise his eyes when he addressed Captain Scarlet, apparently reading from the notes he had taken: “Captain Scarlet, if we are to believe your report… You and Captain Magenta were separated from each other for quite a while, weren’t you?”
Scarlet kept himself from frowning. If we are to believe your report… Is that weasel accusing me of lying? And why?
“Immediately after leaving the plane, we took a Patrol Car and drove together to the Security Building,” he quietly answered, repeating what he had already said in his report.
“And not once between the plane and taking the car did you leave him alone?”
“No, Mister Conners. We were together all the time.”
“Mmm… But at the Security Building? You had to go your separate ways?”
“In order to perform the test, yes. I left Captain Magenta with Chief of Security Gomez and his team, so he could put in place the last of his modifications for the Building.”
“I thought the modifications had already been made?”
“There were some last minute updates to bring in. And Captain Magenta also needed to brief the security team about them. Needless to say, I couldn’t be present for that, or the test would not have been effective.”
“Yes, of course, Captain. Did you have to wait long before you were called in to… shall we say, ‘break in’ to the Security Building?”
“About half an hour.”
“So for this half hour, and for the duration of the test, you were separated from Captain Magenta?”
“Mister Conners,” Colonel White suddenly cut in, with obvious irritation, “we have already established that Captain Magenta was with Chief Gomez during all that time.” He nodded towards Ochre. “Captain Ochre already checked that out with Mister Gomez.”
“That’s right,” Captain Ochre confirmed then, his tone barely concealing his contempt for the man seated by his side. “Captain Magenta stayed at Chief Gomez’s side upon leaving Captain Scarlet – and stayed there for the duration of the exercise. He wanted to make sure his improvement would be successful in stopping Scarlet stealing that data disk.” The American captain permitted himself a faint smile that broadened into a grin as he spoke. “Sorry, Captain, but I rooted for Magenta on this one.”
“Well, he did prove his system was as good as he claimed it was,” Scarlet replied with the same grin.
“Captains,” Conners then interrupted, “please, if you would care to stick to the subject that concerns us…”
“Mister Conners,” Scarlet answered with as courteous a tone as he was able to muster, considering how tired he was growing of the Intelligence agent’s apparently needless and pointless interrogation, “I would gladly continue to answer your questions, but perhaps I would give better responses if you would tell me exactly what it is you’re investigating.”
“That’s not for you to know, Captain,” Conners replied rather abruptly.
Scarlet frowned, hearing that. He conspicuously turned toward Ochre, whom he had the feeling knew much more about what was going on. “Remember to tell me all about it later on.”
Colonel White restrained a disapproving frown, although he had no trouble at all understanding Scarlet’s present reaction. He was answering insult with insult. His obvious disdain for Conners’ presence when he had addressed Ochre was about as rude toward the Intelligence man as Conners himself had been towards him. Conners nearly wheezed with outrage; turning red with anger in a matter of seconds. “Captain Ochre, need I remind you that you are presently bound to secrecy. Under no circumstances are you to discuss…”
“That’s enough!” Colonel White slapped his open palm on the top of his desk, cutting off Conners’ remonstration. The latter turned in surprise toward the Spectrum commander, while Scarlet and Ochre sat back quietly, crossing their arms, waiting for the colonel to continue. “This is the control room of a military base, Mister Conners, not the interrogation room of a police station! May I remind YOU that you are addressing Spectrum senior staff officers. Not criminals. Save the heavy artillery for the enemy!”
“Colonel White…” Conners started to protest.
“I won’t ask you again, Mister Conners. As for you, Captain Scarlet…” White turned toward his number one agent just in time to see the wide grin on his face – just before it disappeared. He didn’t mention it. “I want you to address Mister Conners with all the respect due to him.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Scarlet answered stoically. He’s already receiving far more respect than he deserves, he thought sarcastically.
“Mister Conners, I have to agree with Captain Scarlet that if he knows what this is all about, he will probably give you better answers to your questions. And, perhaps, some input on the situation.”
Conners gave his consent, although reluctantly. “All right, then,” he said with a sigh. “Here’s the situation, Captain: at the moment, I’m conducting a special investigation on Captain Magenta, on behalf of Intelligence Internal Affairs.”
“That much I had gathered, Mister Conners,” Scarlet replied dryly, glaring at the man. “What do Internal Affairs have against Captain Magenta?”
“As Patrick Donaghue,” Martin Conners started to explain, “Captain Magenta managed to accumulate a considerable amount of money, during his, ah, fruitful time as head of a mob syndicate in New York State. That money had been put into various international accounts, where it evaded police investigations, throughout all of Mister Donaghue’s… shall we say ‘episode on the wrong side of the law’?” He feigned not to see Scarlet and Ochre’s warning glares and moved on. “When Patrick Donaghue enlisted with Spectrum, the wealth he had accumulated from his criminal activities stayed in those accounts – and for years everything has been left untouched. There hasn’t been a single deposit, nor withdrawal, ever since. That is, until recently.”
Scarlet frowned. “What are you saying?”
“Over the course of the past months, there have been several withdrawals from these accounts,” Conners continued. “Some very massive withdrawals, I should add.”
“How do you know that?”
“Spectrum Intelligence has been keeping tabs on these accounts. You know, just in case Captain Magenta should decide to use the money for his own ‘personal use’?”
“You pinned down those accounts when the police were never able to find them?” Ochre said in surprise. He then scoffed. “We could have used some of your guys in the WGPC at the time!”
“What do you mean by ‘his personal use’?” Scarlet asked. “Was Spectrum Intelligence afraid that Captain Magenta would eventually go back to his old life?”
“That money has been amassed from criminal operations, Captain Scarlet. Captain Magenta never talked about those accounts, although Spectrum Intelligence knew about them. HE knew we knew, yet he apparently wasn’t bothered about it, because he never touched it for years, probably as a part of his ‘going straight’. It’s a considerable amount of money, Captain. I’ve seen the files and I find it hard to believe that someone with such expensive tastes as Patrick Donaghue could suddenly be content with living a much less materialistic lifestyle as a Spectrum captain. Don’t you? I believe it reasonable to think that one day, he would want to access those accounts again, enjoy some of his ill-gotten gains…”
“Considering the recent events, I find this in very poor taste,” Scarlet remarked. “That you should investigate Captain Magenta when he’s in sickbay fighting for his life after…”
“Captain,” Colonel White then cut in, “supervision of these accounts is standard procedure on the part of Spectrum Intelligence.”
“Sir, you don’t think that Captain Magenta could have made those withdrawals? And, on top of that, he would use the money to do something illegal?” Scarlet replied. He turned a hostile look towards Conners. “Well, I, personally, should think not!”
“Captain Magenta was the only one to have the access codes,” Conners quickly added, not letting Colonel White answer the question. “We had to keep ourselves informed if he ever tried to use them.”
Scarlet appeared sceptical, refusing to accept Conners’ harsh accusations. He gave a perplexed look in Ochre’s direction, as if asking him if he believed any of this. Ochre simply shrugged negligently. Apparently, he wasn’t giving any credit to the Intelligence agent’s declarations. As if wanting to prove his point, Conners consulted his notes. “There are a number of occasions when Captain Magenta COULD have had access to those accounts. From here on Cloudbase, for example. Although we can’t find any information from the computers’ databanks that he had. But then again, Captain Magenta is an expert at handling computers. He would be able to cover his tracks.”
“Or perhaps there are no tracks to cover,” Ochre muttered under his breath.
“I take it you were unable to find out where those operations were originating from?” Scarlet asked.
“They were made via very circuitous routes, suggesting that whoever it was knew, or at least suspected, that the accounts were under surveillance, and made allowance for that. Because of that, no, our experts couldn’t trace them back to their sources. Save for the last one. And that one was not from Cloudbase.”
“I asked Lieutenant Green to check the databanks, just in case,” Colonel White then added. “So far, he hasn’t found anything.”
“So much for your theory, Mister Conners,” Ochre remarked bitterly.
“So far.” Conners saw Ochre and Scarlet already starting to protest, and moved on quickly. “That’s why I was hoping you would give me some clues concerning the last withdrawal that was made, Captain Scarlet.”
“How could I help you with that?” Scarlet asked with a frown.
“It was made in the last few hours, during Captain Magenta’s last stay on the ground,” Conners explained. “That would have been during your mission in Vermont. Certainly, he would have not tried this while with you, but if at any point he would have been left alone…”
“Which was not the case,” Ochre cut in. “If not with Captain Scarlet, he was with Chief Gomez. We already established that.”
“You said earlier that you had been able to pinpoint from where that last withdrawal had been made?” Scarlet added.
“Pinpoint is a very specific term, Captain,” Conners said with hesitation. “All that Intelligence experts were able to gather was that it originated from somewhere on the American East Coast.”
“That’s a lot of ground to cover,” Scarlet mused. “And since Captain Magenta was around those parts at the time, you thought you had him.” He snorted. “Do you know at what time that withdrawal was made?”
“Again, it’s not precise. Around seven o’clock, seven thirty, local time.”
Scarlet snorted again and turned toward Colonel White. “Well, there you have it, Sir. Captain Magenta couldn’t possibly have done what Mister Conners suspects him of. At that time, he was heading straight to the hospital, and was already fighting for his life.”
“Guess you can scratch him off your list of suspects, Mister Conners,” Ochre remarked, with a wide smile of obvious satisfaction.
Conners closed his folder. “Maybe so. Or maybe not. The hour is not exact, unfortunately. What I do know for sure is that somebody has tapped into those accounts. If not Captain Magenta, someone else. Someone who has the access codes.”
“What about what Captain Ochre told us earlier?” Colonel White asked.
Hearing the colonel mention his colleague’s name, Scarlet turned toward the latter, with a puzzled look. Ochre sighed deeply. “A couple of months ago, when I went to the ground for my nephew’s funeral… Captain Magenta came with me. At the cemetery, he was contacted by Matt Riordan.”
“One of the guys who was working with him in the Syndicate,” Scarlet recalled, nodding.
“Right. Well, it seemed like Riordan’s new boss, Ben Fisher – who’s taken over Magenta’s old syndicate – was in dire need of capital.” Ochre paused as he remembered something. “Incidentally, Mister Conners, it was Captain Magenta who ruined him by emptying his Syndicate’s account – as well as those of Mark Abbott and Gabriel James – with an encrypted code. Hardly the actions of a man who was considering returning to that way of life. Anyway, Fisher tried to get Riordan to reinstate the Syndicate’s money but there was some trouble and he couldn’t do it fast enough for Fisher’s liking. So, Riordan went to the Cemetery to see Magenta, to ask him for the passwords to the encryption codes. Magenta refused to give them.”
“Yes, so you reported to us,” Colonel White agreed.
“Yes, Captain, it all appears very admirable, but we’re not talking about the Syndicate accounts, we’re talking about Magenta’s own personal accounts. He built his Syndicate up from nothing over several years. Isn’t it more than possible that Captain Magenta, whilst giving the impression of depriving them of their wealth, would then turn around and fund them with his own private money? Protecting his investment, perhaps?” Conners asked. “Have you never questioned, Captain, where the Syndicate money ended up? In yet another Donaghue account, maybe? Maybe he gave those passwords after all, then. Without you knowing anything about it?”
Ochre looked toward Conners, his barely-controlled anger at what he saw as plain spiteful accusations was unmistakable. With his fists clenched so tightly that his fingernails dug deep into his palms, he continued, speaking slowly and carefully in a determined effort to hold his temper. “No, Mister Conners. I don’t think he gave Fisher those passwords, neither do I accept that he is ‘protecting his investment’. He did everything he could to put Fisher out of business. If anyone accessed those accounts, that person would be Fisher!”
“If Mister Fisher is to be considered a suspect in this, he must have found a way to acquire those access codes,” Conners insisted, unperturbed by the anger and frustration evident in Ochre’s reply. “Of course, as we’ve already suspected, the solution may be a lot closer to home.”
Everybody turned to Captain Scarlet who had uttered that name. The British officer nodded slowly, and continued on his line of thought. “Isn’t Matt Riordan some kind of an expert in computers too? What if he had successfully hacked into those accounts for Fisher?” He was Magenta’s right hand man for many years, he would almost certainly have been aware of them, more so than Fisher.”
“Riordan never was as competent as Magenta with a computer,” Ochre remarked, with a sigh, knowing only too well the flaw in the argument would be jumped on by Conners. “The reason why he came to him for the passwords was that he hadn’t been able to hack into the code Magenta used to empty the Syndicates' accounts.”
“Yes, but that was password-protected. These are just simple bank accounts, perhaps not so difficult in comparison? With a lot of work, and enough desperation, he may have been able to succeed. Consider what Ben Fisher would have done to him if he wasn’t able to access those accounts. If nothing else, Riordan has a strong survival instinct. That transcends even whatever friendship he might have had for his old boss, Patrick Donaghue.” Scarlet turned to address Conners. “What’s more, Fisher’s syndicate – and that includes Riordan - is established in New York City. On the American East Coast, Agent Conners.”
“You may be on to something, Captain,” White agreed with a slow nod. “Fisher and/or Riordan could be our culprits. Still, we have no proof of this.”
“Could be easy enough to find out,” Scarlet replied. “Maybe by sending someone from Spectrum to have a talk with Mister Riordan and see what he has to say on the matter.”
“Do you think he would talk?”
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a try. Considering the man, we may strike gold.” Scarlet then addressed his commander. “I’m volunteering for this, Colonel. Matt Riordan knows me, so maybe I can get him to open up.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if I were to go myself, Colonel?” Martin Conners interrupted. “This is my investigation. And I do have experience in interrogating suspects.”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. Of that I have no doubt, he thought with humour.
“Mister Conners, for you to interrogate Mister Riordan, we would have to bring him in,” Colonel White remarked. “At the moment, we don’t have any charges on which to arrest him.”
“Then maybe I should go with Captain Scarlet,” Conners insisted.
Scarlet shuddered at the thought. Colonel White raised an eyebrow.
“And have Riordan shut down tighter than a clam?” he deadpanned. “That’s what’s liable to happen with a man like Matt Riordan. Let’s face it, Mister Conners, you may be good at interrogating people, but in a case like this one, you have about all the delicacy of an elephant.”
Conners reddened violently, while Scarlet and Ochre were having tremendous trouble not to openly laugh at him. White continued, nodding in Scarlet’s direction. “Captain Scarlet will go alone. As he had said, Mister Riordan has already had contact with him, he knows him and he knows he’s a colleague and a friend of Captain Magenta. Which could put him at ease and perhaps win his trust. So maybe he will tell him something about those accounts.”
“You’re taking this case from me, then?” Conners said with a frown.
“Not exactly. I’m using individual strengths and competencies where they can be put to best use, Mister Conners.”
“And what does it mean, exactly?”
“Let’s face it, Agent Conners,” Scarlet said, rising to his feet. “You would not be very at ease in the field, having contact with a known mobster, on his own turf. You are not trained, nor equipped, if a problem occurred that might involve some of his mates.”
Conners hesitated; he visibly paled upon hearing Scarlet’s statement. “So you believe you might encounter problems, Captain?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Scarlet put on his cap. “But should it happen, I’ll be able to face them.” He turned to face White. “With your permission, Sir, I’ll go right away.”
“All right, Captain. You can go. And be careful down there.”
“We will inform you of the result of this operation, Mister Conners,” Colonel White said to the now silent Intelligence agent. “So you’ll be able to pursue your investigation.”
Conners nodded, a little too eagerly. “Yes, I’d like that very much, Colonel. I want to get to the bottom of this affair.”
“So do I, Mister Conners,” Colonel White answered with a grim nod.
And so do I, Captain Scarlet added to himself, saluting his commander before turning on his heel and directing his steps toward the exit.
* * *
Ben Fisher and Matt Riordan already knew that Patrick Donaghue was a Spectrum officer – and that he was going by the name of Captain Magenta. They had found out quite by accident. Shortly after learning that, Fisher had expressed every intention on blowing the lid on Donaghue; but recently, Riordan had managed to cool him off, and convince him that it was not in their interests to let it be known at large that there was, as he believed at the time, an incorruptible Spectrum officer so closely linked with the Syndicate. Riordan had successfully pointed out that it could prove disastrous to their business. What if it were to be perceived that Donaghue could be using Fisher’s newly-formed syndicate for Spectrum business, to spy on the other syndicated families? That could spell deadly danger for all of them. So Fisher let himself be convinced, and the subject never came back into conversation again.
And now, seeing Patrick Donaghue casually standing there, in his civvies and apparently waiting, infuriated Ben Fisher. He had just started getting a firmer grip on his now-extended territory – and on his new men. He didn’t need a Spectrum officer to come barging in to send all his hard efforts down the drain.
“What are you doing here?” asked Fisher in a sharp tone, recovering from the initial shock of seeing him.
Donaghue quietly crushed his cigarillo under his shoe. “First things first, Ben,” he replied cryptically.
Turning swiftly, Donaghue closed the fingers of his right hand around Jack’s neck and slammed him against the wall. With his left hand, he tightly gripped Jack’s right wrist, now holding a gun, and squeezed it until the man dropped the weapon to the floor. Throwing Jack towards the door, Donaghue spoke with utter contempt in his tone: “Get out.”
Jack rubbed his throat, gasping, glaring at Donaghue. Surely, he thought, he wasn’t going to get away with that?
“I don’t answer to you!” he snapped with a voice now deeper and almost gravelly from the choking.
Picking up Jack’s gun from the floor, Donaghue turned back to him and pointed the menacing end of it in his direction. Jack became pale instantly.
“You want me to kill you with your own gun?” he asked, not diverting his eyes from the younger man for a second.
“Pat?” asked Riordan, astounded by the threat.
“Hello, Matt,” Donaghue replied evenly, placing the gun into his pocket.
“Hey, that’s mine!” protested Jack.
“I’ll give it back to you later,” Donaghue promised with a smile that suggested to Jack that he should be very careful indeed. “Now get out!”
Forced into silence at the surprise of seeing the way Donaghue had acted, Fisher shook himself and suddenly snapped at him: “I give the orders around here, Donaghue. Or had you forgotten?”
“So give it!” Donaghue yelled in return. “Get rid of all of them. I want to talk to you.” He paused looking around the room. “In private.”
Fisher glowered at Donaghue. He had to admit, he was curious to know why he had turned up here, and out of uniform, but he didn’t want to lose face in front of his men.
“Yeah? I’ve got a few things to say to you myself, Donaghue!” Looking up, Fisher now addressed the small group: “Leave us. Josh, take everyone to the room next door, I want some privacy here.”
“Sure, Mister Fisher,” Josh replied as he started to lead everyone out.
“Not you, Riordan,” Fisher added, deciding to assert his authority once more. “You stay.”
Donaghue raised his eyebrows in an amused fashion and, closing the door as everyone left, locked it and placed the key carefully in his pocket.
“What do you think you’re doing, Donaghue?” asked Fisher, irritated by the move.
Ignoring the question, Donaghue leaned against the wall and gave a short laugh.
“Still doing it, is he?” he nodded towards Mahoney. “Was he?” he added, correcting himself.
“Doing what?” asked Fisher, surprised by the question.
“Talking to the police,” Donaghue explained.
You knew about that?” Fisher eyed him suspiciously.
“Of course I knew. He’s been doing it for years.”
“Why didn’t you get rid of him then?”
“Not the way we did things, was it, Matt?”
“Yeah, well, things are different now,” Fisher stated.
“They certainly are! A fool is running my Syndicate. You see, way back when, I knew about Mahoney’s… indiscretions, and was using it to the Syndicate’s advantage. I never let on to him that I knew, of course. He never was wary of me. And so, I was able to gather some very useful information for our operations. That’s how a wise and cunning man acts, Fisher. But not you, eh? No, you go and kill him.”
“Let’s get something straight here Donaghue, this is not your Syndicate anymore. It’s mine.”
“Really now? And what if I was to tell you I want to take it back?”
There was a silence following Donaghue’s declaration. A concerned Riordan, who was witnessing in deadly silence the way the two men were confronting each other, slowly exhaled, trying to let go of the tension mounting in him. He was indeed surprised by Pat’s statement. Probably more than Fisher himself. The latter frowned deeply.
“So that’s what you have in mind, is it? You want to come back to the business.”
“Nothing gets by you, does it, Ben?” Donaghue responded very quietly.
“Now listen to me, Donaghue: You are not walking back in here and taking over. Am I clear?”
“You’re clear, but you’re wrong.”
Donaghue stared intently at Fisher with a cold, hard stare that penetrated deep inside him, chilling him to the bone. It was a look he’d never seen in anyone before, least of all Donaghue. He was unnerved, he would even go so far as to say frightened, but he would stand his ground.
“Really? And does Spectrum know you’re here? I doubt it! I wonder if they’d be interested to hear that piece of information?” Fisher gathered himself and forced an air of superiority. But Donaghue’s dark, determined stare was making it difficult for him to maintain his composure.
“Ben, I’m taking over, I suggest you accept that fact.” Donaghue’s voice was disturbingly calm and clear, and the message very direct. Matt Riordan couldn’t help but shiver.
“One last time, Donaghue! I’m the boss around here!” Fisher yelled. “Riordan, call Josh, get him back here to escort Donaghue off the premises.”
A very faint frown formed on Donaghue’s previously expressionless features.
“You really believe that, don’t you? But as I said before, you’re wrong!”
As he spoke the last few words, he pulled his hand out of his pocket and with it Jack’s gun. Within a moment, Donaghue had aimed and fired, before either Fisher or Riordan had a chance to react. The bullet impacted between Fisher’s eyes, killing him instantly. As the body fell swiftly to the floor, Donaghue casually checked the clip to see how many rounds were remaining.
Outside the door, the sound of the shot had drawn the five men who had previously been asked to leave. A constant hammering and shouting from the adjoining room filled the air, as Riordan, his eyes opened with surprised horror, was staring down at the dead body lying at his friend’s feet.
“P-Pat?” Riordan stammered.
“Yes, Matt?” Donaghue asked casually, reinserting the clip into the butt of the gun.
“You killed him. You’ve never…” Riordan’s voice trailed off as Donaghue turned to face him.
“Prison’ll do some terrible things to your outlook,” Donaghue replied, looking at Riordan with a similar stare to that which he had, only a little earlier, scared Fisher.
“You haven’t been in prison,” Riordan spoke quietly.
Donaghue raised the gun once more and pointed it directly at Riordan’s head. The latter visibly paled.
“Ah yes… You know my little secret. But they don’t know that, do they?” he pointed out, nodding in the direction of the door. Chuckling, he lowered the gun. “You’re not afraid of me, are you, Matt?”
“No,” Riordan whispered. Then louder, “No, Pat.”
“Good. Everyone does as I say and we’ll all get along just fine. Now,” he tossed to Riordan the key to the door. “Get them in here.”
Opening the door, Riordan allowed the five men into the room once more. The shock that awaited them was great. Anyone who knew Donaghue, or at least remembered the Syndicate in his day, knew that above all else, Donaghue never killed. And that he expected the same of his men. It was an unwritten law. Now to see Fisher lying dead on the floor and Donaghue holding the gun still in his hand was nothing short of alarming.
“Mister Fisher has decided to step down. I expect all of you to give me your absolute loyalty. Is that clear?” he asked in a business-like tone.
“I’m not working for you!” barked Jack angrily, trying to rally the support of the others with him.
Josh Kirby looked from the dead body of Fisher to Jack and back again. He swallowed hard, deciding to say nothing.
“Fair enough, Jack. I can’t force you,” replied Donaghue, almost indifferently. “But here, you’ll want your gun back…”
Jack made a move forward to retrieve his gun and was immediately propelled backwards again by the force of the bullet in his chest. Donaghue continued speaking as he pumped a further four bullets into Jack’s head and chest: “…Piece by piece!”
As finally the gun clicked empty, Donaghue tossed it down with contempt onto Jack’s body then reached for his own gun.
“Is there anyone else who can’t work with me?” he asked, looking defiantly around the room.
At first there was a stunned silence. It was then followed by a general murmuring of agreement. Donaghue nodded appreciatively. “Perfect. As long as we all understand each other, everything will be all right. I’m going to my office. Matt, come with me,” he ordered as he headed for the door.
Still stunned, Riordan followed Donaghue to the door. The latter stopped suddenly, when he found himself face to face with the mountain of a man who was Robert ‘Ox’ Oxbury. Even with his six-foot-plus height and athletic physical appearance, Donaghue almost seemed like a child in front of the big man, who stood a good head higher than him. Ox was between Donaghue and the door. Another man could have taken this as some kind of a threat, but Donaghue didn’t seem impressed at all. He only seemed to be wondering what Ox could possibly want at the moment.
Ox looked past Donaghue, first in Riordan’s direction, then toward the two bodies lying on the floor. If he was disturbed by this, he didn’t show it at all. Looking down at Donaghue, he then presented his hand. “S’good to see you back, Mister Donaghue.”
“Ox.” Donaghue briefly nodded to Ox, dismissing the hand that, he knew, would crush his own if Ox forgot to be careful. Instead he put his hand on the large shoulder of the man. “It is good to see YOU too, my friend.”
“So we’re back in business now, Mister Donaghue?” Sean O’Rourke said in turn, smiling a little uncomfortably. It was easy to see that, unlike Ox who wasn’t discussing any of his ex-boss’s actions, O’Rourke was feeling awkward with him, having seen him kill a man in front of him.
“Yes, Sean, we’re back in business,” Donaghue agreed. “But a slightly different kind of business. One for which I will need your special expertise.” He looked up to Ox. “And I will need yours, Ox…” he glared over his shoulder, “…if only to keep some of these other guys in line.”
“You won’t need Ox to ‘keep us in line’, Mister Donaghue,” Kirby addressed him. “We’ve already agreed to follow your lead.”
“I expect you will,” Donaghue replied rather curtly, turning to face them all. “Because the first one of you who is disloyal to me will join them.” He pointed in the direction of the bodies. “Now, get rid of them,” he added before spinning on his heel once again.
Riordan could only offer Kirby and the others a somewhat helpless look before turning once more to follow his ex and new boss out of the room.
* * *
Colonel White stared down gravely at Captain Magenta. From earlier visits, White had noted with concern that the younger man had lain deathly still since his arrival on Cloudbase, without any apparent change to his condition. Despite Fawn’s insistence that this was perfectly normal given that Magenta had fallen into a coma following his near-fatal drowning, White currently felt neither reassured nor hopeful.
“He’ll be okay, Colonel,” came the deep voice of Doctor Fawn who had approached him almost silently from White’s left.
White turned to glance at the doctor standing at his side, and watched as he studied the readings from the equipment above Magenta’s bed.
“He’s a fine officer,” nodded White.
“You wouldn’t want him ANY other way?” asked Fawn with a twinkle in his eye. He knew how White had, on more than one occasion, been on the verge of pulling out his hair with frustration over one or another of Magenta’s more reckless schemes. Sometimes his lack of military training was frustrating for those around him but in the same way, they admired his imagination, loyalty and sheer determination.
It was so like Magenta to be self-sacrificing. His Spectrum career was liberally dotted with incidents where he had risked his life for both civilians and his fellow officers. Some of those occasions had, figuratively speaking, got him into deep water. As for the latest incident… It was a horrible way to die, or at the very least, for him to believe he was to die.
“Right now? The old Magenta would do fine,” White confirmed sadly.
“Charles,” Fawn placed a comforting hand on White’s arm. In normal circumstances, the colonel could have chastised him for the use of his first name. But at the moment, it was obvious that Fawn was only searching to reassure him. The doctor nodded in Magenta’s direction. “Look at his eyes.”
White gazed down at Magenta’s face and noticed, for the first time, some flicker of movement below the lids.
“He’s coming out of it, Charles. I believe he may be starting to dream. The monitors are showing changes in his brainwave patterns. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him from now. I’m sure he’ll wake up soon from this coma of his. It can be like anaesthetic, you wake thinking of the last thing you thought. I’ve known people to fall asleep half way through a sentence then wake after the operation and finish that sentence. If that’s the case here, he may re-enact his struggles to free himself from the car. I’ll make sure he won’t come to any harm, don’t worry.”
White nodded appreciatively; he knew that Magenta was in the best possible hands.
* * *
Patrick Donaghue smiled as he turned into the gates of the small dairy farm. Very little had changed since his last visit. Inisfree itself was a small, quaint Irish village, seemingly untouched by centuries of change. Pat Donaghue had felt at the same time at peace and yet restricted here. It was perfect for his parents, but not for him. Even his younger sister, Sarah, had elected to remain in New York when their parents had decided to return to Ireland. Maybe, Pat mused, if they had returned to Dublin, one or possibly both of them would have followed them. Sarah held a position as an editor in a prominent publishing house; nothing in Inisfree could have offered her anything even close to the opportunities available in any large city. As he drew the sleek black car to a halt at the top of the driveway, Pat laughed aloud at the idea of Sarah as a farmer’s wife. The laugh died on his lips as he considered the more ridiculous idea of himself as a farmer. He had his own business to attend to, in New York. Whether his father realised it or not. Even if he didn’t like it at all. He HAD to learn to live with that.
Pat shook his head. No, he refused to even allow the thought to start to form in his mind. THIS visit was going to be a positive one. He flatly refused to accept that he had let his father down, merely by choosing a different path in life than the one Sean Donaghue had had mapped out for him. Although, even he had to admit, the path he had eventually taken was unlikely to make any parent proud. He accepted that, but at the very least they could speak to him civilly, couldn’t they?
Taking a deep breath, Pat stepped from the car. Taking another deep breath, he took in a lungful of fresh country air. It was invigorating. Okay, he thought with a smile, there were some advantages to living here, after all. Taking in the scene around him, Pat sighed with near contentment. The farm was as peaceful, warm and inviting as ever. Just through the gates and to the left lay the large but functional farmhouse. He had no idea how old the actual building was, but certainly the style and stonework were straight out of a centuries-old painting by Constable. Opposite the farmhouse were the feed barns and stables. Sandwiched between the two, but a little set back, was the largest building in the dairy, which housed the huge milking parlour, and beyond one hundred acres of meadowland. Every day, at the crack of dawn, Sean Donaghue and his herdsmen would lead the Holstein cows to the enormous metal barn.
“Every day!” Pat found himself thinking out loud. Shaking his head, there was no doubt in his mind that he could certainly not have become a farmer like his father. The regimented routine, the strict long hours, the lack of money, it was definitely not for him. It was with a certain degree of shame and embarrassment that he acknowledged that whilst his activities were illegal, he did enjoy the wealth it brought him.
No, be positive! He sighed again. Deep down, he wondered who was more ashamed of the life he had chosen – his father or himself. He had successfully convinced himself that it was the only way he wouldn’t die of sheer boredom. There was nothing, simply nothing available within the law that would take advantage of his particular talents. If there were, he’d have snapped at the chance. But until that rare commodity, an interesting job, materialised, he would please himself. He was a free spirit and would remain so as long as he could keep New York WGPC Commander Stewart and his squads of crack police investigators at arm’s length.
Before heading for the farmhouse, Pat Donaghue checked himself in the wing mirror of his car. Happy that he looked his best, he made his way to the open kitchen door. There he saw her, where he was certain he would find her, busying herself about the kitchen, oblivious to her visitor who was watching with affection and faint amusement from the doorway. Taking a pie from the oven, Lily Donaghue turned and noticed the tall, striking young man in the doorway. Stopping dead in her tracks, she looked almost as if she had seen a ghost. Snatching a towel from the nearby rail, Pat stooped quickly to catch the pie that it suddenly appeared she would drop. Gathering her senses, Lily turned sharply to place the pie on the table. She then took the towel from her son’s hands and chided him.
“Patrick Donaghue! What do you think you’re doing, coming here and scaring the life out of me?”
His face displayed that look of surprise and shock that only a parent’s scolding can induce in a son. Before he had a chance to reply, she took hold of his hands and was casting a worried eye over him, forcing him to turn around so she could examine him more carefully.
“Don’t you EVER eat, young man?” she sighed turning him back to face her. “You’re nothing but skin and bone!”
“Mammy, don’t fuss, I’m a grown man!” Pat squirmed with embarrassment.
“Not grown enough!” she replied, looking up to the man who was standing nearly two heads over her. “Now sit down and let me make you a good home-cooked meal. When was the last time…?”
“Mammy, I’m fine!”
She adopted a warning tone and raised her finger, pointing first at her son, then slowly drawing it down to a chair. Knowing better than to argue further with her on the subject, Pat took a seat. In the back of his mind, all he could think of was how lucky he was that none of his associates back in New York could see him being ruled absolutely by this tiny woman in her late fifties.
And how lucky he also was that she would be there to do so. Now a home-cooked meal… That really sounded good.
“Yes, Mammy,” he sighed finally, giving in.
“Oh, Pat! It’s so good to see you!” she said, turning on her heel towards the oven. “ Why didn’t you say you were coming? We could have got the whole family together.”
“Yes, well, my cousin Kieran possibly finding out what I do for a living and arresting me would probably bring down the party mood, don’t you think?”
Lily took a deep breath, and turned again to face her son, her eyes heavy with disappointment.
“You’re still…?” she paused, searching for the right words that would permit her to not actually say exactly what she was thinking.
“I’m still,” nodded Pat in agreement. “Mammy, I’m okay. It’s not what you wanted, I know, but I’ve never hurt anyone.”
“Look at your Mother!” came a harsh voice from the doorway behind him. “She looks hurt to me!”
Pat closed his eyes sadly. The very last thing he wanted was an argument with his father; now it seemed inevitable.
“Sean!” Lily snapped. “Give him a chance. Come and say hello to your son, he’s come so far to see us.”
“I saw your fancy car out front,” Sean Donaghue announced as he approached. His tone had not much improved from earlier. He was angry and bitter and there was no attempt made to disguise that fact.
“It’s just a rental, Pappy. I came for your birthday. It’s your sixtieth, how could I not come?” Pat tried to smile, but it was obviously forced.
“So for my sixtieth birthday, you’re bringing shame on the family?” Sean almost spat with disgust.
“Sean, that’s enough of that! You’re as bad as each other. Now, please, at least try!” Lily pleaded.
Sean glanced at his wife. With her eyes, she begged him to be reasonable. Offering him a smile as she saw his features soften, Lily took hold of one of both her son’s and her husband’s hands.
“Now then, Pat, how long will you be here?” she asked brightly.
His first thought was to reply ‘As long as I’m welcome’ but he stopped himself in time; the comment would have sounded inflammatory.
“A few days, I’m staying at a hotel in Killarney, it’s only a…”
“Nonsense, Pat, you’ll stay here, sure you will,” Lily announced transferring his hand into that of his father’s. “Now you two catch up while I make us all some dinner.”
Father and son stared awkwardly at each other for a few minutes before Sean, after clearing his throat, spoke again.
“We’ll get out of your way then, Lily.”
Taking a deep breath, Pat followed his father into the fading early evening sunlight. Across the meadows, the setting sun lit the sky with stunning folds of deep gold and russet. Pat Donaghue stared at his father’s back while the latter lit his pipe as he watched the sunset. Pat felt tense. He wanted to believe that it didn’t matter, that nothing his father could say or do would affect him but he knew in his heart that he was already affected, by even the things he might be thinking as they stood awkwardly silent in the garden.
“I bought you a gift,” Pat broke the silence.
He drew his lips into a thin line, as Sean’s reply was a single mocking laugh and a tired shrug of his shoulders. Without even turning, Sean took the pipe from his mouth and spoke quietly.
“Would you like to see?” Pat continued, ignoring the question.
Sean turned. He looked tired, sad. “Where?” he asked unenthusiastically.
“Come with me.” Pat smiled, glad of the reaction. It wasn’t a positive reaction, he didn’t try to fool himself about that, but it wasn’t altogether negative either.
Eagerly, Pat led his father to the stables where, whilst he had spoken with his mother, a special surprise had been left for his father.
As they entered, Pat was brimming with anticipation. Whatever his father’s opinion of him, surely he would appreciate the gift? He had spent quite some time choosing this particular present, after all, he thought, his father would only be sixty once.
“Happy birthday, Pappy,” he grinned as the pair entered the stables.
“A horse?” Sean was lost for words as he cast his eyes over the impressive-looking animal.
Pat stood to the side to let his father approach the previously unoccupied stall. Before him stood a magnificent chestnut stallion with a white blaze on his forehead. Its large chest, straight back and long straight limbs were an immediate giveaway to Sean that this was no workhorse. Sean put his hand up to pat its neck. He had to admit, if only to himself, that it was a fine horse. It looked strong yet calm and graceful.
“Do you like him? His name’s Pellinore. He’s…”
“A racehorse!” Sean shook his head. “A racehorse? What am I going to do with a racehorse?”
“Well, you always wanted …” Pat began. He was at a loss. This gift was something he had given a lot of thought to. His father had said on a number of occasions in the past how he would love a racehorse and now the one question he had asked had made it seem like such a ridiculous idea.
“This is what I’d expect from you, Pat. Flashy but no common sense! What am I supposed to do with it?”
“How about, just enjoy it?” Pat snapped back, irritated at the rejection of his efforts.
“Enjoy it? Do you realise how expensive it is to keep a racehorse? No, of course you don’t! Money means nothing to you, does it?”
“Hey! That’s not true or fair! When we were poor in New York, I wanted nothing more than to get us out of that. I worked hard but it got me nowhere!”
“I stand corrected!” Sean shook his head angrily. “Money means EVERYTHING to you, but you know nothing of its value! At least, what little money we have, we’ve earned.”
“Oh, here we go again!” Pat rolled his eyes and leaned back against the wall folding his arms.
“Don’t be insolent with me, young man!” Sean growled, glowering at Pat’s disrespectful stance and attitude.
“What is it? What exactly do you have such a problem with?” Pat pushed away from the wall and stalked past his father to stand beside Pellinore’s stall once more.
“What do I have such a problem with?” Sean spluttered, hardly believing that the question had been asked. “My son, my only son, is a crook! And not just any old run-of-the-mill crook. No, he’s an internationally known and wanted gangster! And you have the nerve to ask me what I have a problem with!”
“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic!” Pat snapped back in return.
His reply was a series of short, painless but humiliating slaps across both cheeks.
“Remember who you’re speaking to, boy!” Sean growled as he stared Pat squarely in the eyes. “ I’m not one of your hired lackeys, you know. I’m your father!”
Pat could feel the tension running through him. His fists closed into tight balls as he held his composure. Positive. This visit would be positive.
Pat watched as Sean turned back to the horse. Agitated by the raised voices and obvious tension in the stables, Pellinore had begun to whinny and stamp. Sean reached up a hand to Pellinore’s face and neck, patting and stoking soothingly. Pat watched in awe as the horse responded immediately, calming and settling within moments. Even Sean had never seen anything like it; it was as if the horse and he had been together for years. Pat smiled at the scene. The tension seemed to melt away from all of them; it was time to restart the conversation.
“Pappy,” he continued quietly, “I just came to celebrate your birthday. You always said you wanted a racehorse. I thought you would be able to go out in the fields and ride him… There’s plenty of space around. I thought you’d like it.”
Sean took a deep breath and cast an admiring eye over the horse. It was really a superb animal.
“Pellinore? Of the Arthurian Legend?” Sean’s voice was calmer now.
“Yes,” Pat grinned. “I knew you’d like the name.” His father always had a fondness for Arthurian myths. Stories of gallant knights, and daring feats; of heroes, of honour, out to save the people from evil and destruction. Pat had heard many of stories told by his father when he was a child. He still remembered most of them.
“You’ve put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you?”
Pat nodded. These few brief words made the first peaceful conversation he had had with his father for quite some time.
“You want to give me something special for my birthday, Patrick?” Sean asked quietly.
Pat nodded again, this time with a slight smile. He felt the tension in himself ease slightly.
“Then come home, give up living the way you do. Your mother and I, we’d be prepared to forgive you for everything. Just, please, a normal life, Patrick? Is it too much to ask?”
“Come home?” Pat opened eyes wide with surprise, apparently not counting on this. “But, there’s nothing here for me…”
“Nothing?” his father queried angrily.
“I-I didn’t mean nothing as in not ‘you’, I meant nothing for me to do!” Pat spluttered as his father’s dark glare was aimed at him once more.
“And what you do now is ‘something’, is it? That’s your choice of career, is it? The people you mix with are scum, Patrick!”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about, Pappy. My Syndicate isn’t like what you see on TV. They’re intelligent men, the vast majority of what we do doesn’t even involve contact with people. They’re not violent, they’re just ordinary people.”
“But what about the minority? What about that, Patrick? Then you’re violent?”
Pat stared back, his face pale and drawn.
“Do you carry a gun?” Sean continued.
“Do you want me to answer that?”
“You just did.” Sean shook his head sadly. “And don’t tell me I don’t know!” he suddenly yelled. “I know you want to make out that you run some kind of fairy tale legitimate business, but I know the scum you work with and what they get up to!”
“They’re not scum!” Pat yelled back in their defence.
Pat was stopped dead in his tracks. Gabriel James, admittedly one of the more unscrupulous members of his Syndicate, had indeed proved himself worthy of Sean’s epithet. Some time back, he had taken quite a shine to Pat’s sister, Sarah. They had met quite accidentally, during a visit to her brother; James had shown up unexpectedly at Donaghue’s Manhattan apartment. Pat wasn’t really happy about this, as, as a personal rule, he had always seen to it that his family would never be mixed up with any of his business – or encounter any of his associates. Unbeknownst to Sarah, with business concluded, James had shown an unhealthy interest in her, only to be warned off by Pat. Refusing to take no for an answer, James had pursued Sarah, and despite frequent rebuttals, decided that more forceful tactics were needed. Only three months earlier, Pat had received a frantic message from Sarah that James had forced his way into her house. She had managed to barricade herself into the bedroom but was terrified of what he may do. Pat had raced there immediately and been in time to find James pinning Sarah to the bed, with his right hand around her throat. Sarah had never seen her brother fly into such a violent rage. She had, in fact, been forced to beg him not to kill James.
Now Pat was standing there, silent, stunned in the knowledge that his father knew all about the attack on his sister and that he was being held responsible.
“Where did you hear that name?” Pat asked feebly.
“From Sarah, of course. Are you going to insult me further by denying it?”
“No.” Pat looked down with a regretful sigh.
“Is that all you have to say? You allow one of your thugs to attack my daughter and you have nothing to say?”
Pat’s head snapped up in alarm. “Allow him? I had nothing to do with that! I STOPPED him!”
“If it weren’t for your ‘career choice’ this would never have happened!”
“So it’s MY fault?”
“Yes it is! Can you think of who else is to blame for Sarah meeting up with such scum?”
Pat clenched his teeth. The meeting was accidental. He had never intended that Sarah meet James, he was the last person he’d ever want her to meet.
“I dealt with it!” Pat snapped with a harsh stare, as he thought of how he had come so close to handling it differently. If Sarah hadn’t managed to calm him, things could have been so very different.
Sean could only stare; he didn’t want to ask how, but he didn’t want to not ask either. He’d never seen his son looking so cold and dark before. It was a subject he had always avoided thinking about before. Pat had often claimed, like he had earlier, that he had never hurt anyone. But the question had presented itself yet again and in a most terrifying way. He had to know if his son was a murderer.
“You killed him?” Sean asked, his voice barely reaching his normal speaking volume.
Pat was torn from his reverie by the sound of his father’s troubled voice. The expression of distress on Pat’s face did more to settle Sean than even his words.
“No! Pappy, how could you think…?”
“I don’t know you any more, Patrick! I find out from Sarah that she’s been attacked by one of your men! And you say you’ve ‘dealt with it’. What am I supposed to think? This is not normal behaviour, Pat.” Sean’s clenched his fists in frustration. “I don’t steal, I don’t lie, and I don’t cheat! How can I know what you do? I don’t know you any more. I know your cousin better than I know my own son!” The pitch in Sean’s voice rose dramatically as he became increasingly upset.
Pat rolled his eyes at the mention of his ‘perfect cousin’ in the Garda, the Irish National Police Force.
“Kieran! Sergeant Kieran Donaghue. Can he do no wrong?”
“At least he makes an honest living! Damn it, Pat, that horse makes a more honest living than you!” Sean’s voice cracked, as he gestured frenetically in Pellinore’s direction. He sounded as if he may be on the verge of breaking down.
“Pappy!” Pat moved forward, suddenly hearing the faltering in his father’s voice, and alarmed at the burst of emotion.
Sean shoved away the helping hand his son was presenting him. His eyes were burning with anger. “Get off my land, Patrick, I want nothing more to do with you!”
“Pappy?” Pat replied, dumbfounded by the absolute rejection.
“Get out!” Sean yelled. “I don’t want you here again. Ever! You’re no son of mine!”
Too many emotions swirled and jostled for place in Pat Donaghue’s mind. He was unable to react, or even to move. He could only stared as his father walked threateningly towards him.
“Get out!” Sean yelled again, pushing his son towards the door of the stables.
With one last shove, Sean drove his son out of the stables and turned his back on him, hiding from him the tears that streamed down his face. Pat could not have known the pain in his father’s heart as he walked slowly away to his car, but it seemed unlikely to him that it was greater than his own.
* * *
It had not taken long after Colonel White’s departure for Captain Magenta to receive a new visitor. One who showed himself even more worried about the Irish captain’s health than the Spectrum Commander-in-Chief. Frankly, Doctor Fawn wasn’t that surprised to see him arrive there. After all, over the past years, Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta had developed a friendship that, years earlier, during their respective professions, neither of them could have ever thought possible. Most probably, either would have scoffed at the idea, or snorted derisively over it. But now, either one of the two men would risk his career or lay down his life for the other. Without any reservations.
After providing Ochre with the same reassuring words he had offered Colonel White, to ease his concern, Doctor Fawn had quietly left the American captain to watch over his friend. Ochre didn’t take the chair set next to the bed; he had preferred to stand right there, looking down at Magenta’s set face, silently, like a still statue. He stayed there long minutes, oblivious to anything around him, listening only to the regular bleeping of the monitors that Magenta was hooked to.
“Come on, you worthless Irish crook,” Ochre finally murmured with concern and obvious edginess in his tone. “Doctor Fawn said you were gonna be all right. Don’t make a liar out of him… Wake up already, damn it! You've had enough beauty sleep.” He hesitated a few short minutes, to listen to the beeping monitor, as if hoping he would hear a change following his harangue. He didn’t hear anything new. “It’s just like you, isn’t it? You had to go and play hero, and then end up like this, while WE have to meet up with our dear friend, Special Agent Conners. If I weren’t so worried for you, I would say you’re the lucky one to have missed him. But he’s gone, now. Went off Cloudbase just after Scarlet. So I guess you COULD wake up now. You’re safe. ” He pricked his ear again, scrutinized his friend closely. With no more change than before. He sighed deeply. “You’ve always been thick-headed, haven’t you?” he grumbled. “Why don’t you listen to me?”
He heard a soft movement behind him. Turning around, he saw a petite figure standing in the doorway of the room.
“I came to get news of Captain Magenta. Still no change?” Destiny Angel entered the room, and quietly came close to the bed. Standing next to Ochre, she looked down in concern at the sleeping Magenta. “He’s so quiet,” she said in a whisper.
“Doctor Fawn said that he may come out of his coma soon,” Ochre said with a shrug, answering the French Angel pilot’s earlier question. “I don’t know, I’m no doctor… But I’ll sure be relieved when he finally does open his eyes and say something.”
“You and all of us,” Destiny said with a nod. She took a step forward and reached for Magenta’s hand and squeezed it in hers. “Come on, Pat,” she told the patient with a soothing tone. “Please. We’re all waiting for you to wake up…”
“… And get back to your old tricks again,” Ochre deadpanned behind her. She looked over her shoulder, as if with every intention of reprimanding him. But she saw the concern on his face. She then simply gave another nod.
“He’ll be all right,” she sighed, looking down at Magenta again. “He’s a strong man. He’ll wake up soon.”
“Yeah,” Ochre agreed, with an assured voice. “I’m sure he will.”
He looked down as Destiny took the seat next to the bed. At first he didn’t think anything of it; she was there because, like him, like all the others, she was Magenta’s friend, and was deeply concerned over him. But then he noticed how her hand hadn’t left Magenta’s, and how her eyes were still set on him. Ochre arched a curious and perplexed brow. Maybe he was imagining things, but…
Ochre’s epaulettes flashed white, pulling him out of his reverie. Answering, he heard the voice of Lieutenant Green. He was called to the Control Room.
“S.I.G., Lieutenant. I’m on my way.” The cap mic returned to his visor, and Ochre addressed Destiny, who had not moved from her place. “Destiny, I must go. If there’s any change while you’re with him…”
“I’m not planning on going anywhere for a while,” the Angel pilot cut in. She nodded. “I’ll inform you.”
Ochre thanked her and left sickbay; he directed his steps toward the Control Room, all the while wondering what could be calling him there right now. Surely, it couldn’t be because Captain Scarlet’s investigation was already through and that he had reported in. He hadn’t been gone long enough for that. And from what Ochre had gathered of Matt Riordan, he doubted very much that the New York gangster would have confided in him quickly and revealed if he or Fisher were behind all that deal with those accounts. Riordan was some kind of a coward. If he thought a revelation like that would put his life in danger, he would not give it easily.
At that point in his reflections, Ochre suddenly heard a nearby speaker hiss loudly. That made him stop in his tracks, and he turned to the speakers, full of dread.
“This is the Voice of the Mysterons…” Ochre closed his eyes and let out an annoyed sigh. “…We know that you can hear us, Earthmen… Our next act of retaliation will be to assassinate Commander Ian Stewart, prior to his appointment as Supreme Commander of the World Government Police Corps. Commander Stewart will never reach this high office!… We will be avenged!”
Ochre scowled, hearing the threat. Now, that’s close to home! he thought grimly. He himself had nearly become the WGPC Supreme Commander, some years ago. That was about at the same time as he had been contacted to be a part of Spectrum senior staff. He had had to choose between the two careers – a difficult choice for him. But not once, since then, had he regretted his choice.
Now the Mysterons were threatening the life of the man who was to inherit the post he himself had forfeited. There certainly was some sick irony in this.
The speaker had grown silent, just as it usually did after the Mysterons had issued their threat. Grumbling, Ochre quickened his pace towards the Control Room. He had just a hunch that, no matter what had been the reason for his earlier call, it would definitely have to wait. The Mysteron threat would now take priority. And more than probably, considering his contact and knowledge of the WGPC, his own expertise would be needed.
* * *
Matt Riordan stood in his kitchen, dolefully brooding over the events of the last few hours. Anyone who visited him might have been inclined to think that Riordan might have quite a senior position in a brokerage or law firm, so impressive was the size and decor of his apartment. In his own right, Riordan was quite wealthy; such had been the success of the Syndicate’s activities over the years. His apartment, near the centre of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, was tastefully furnished in a modern yet comfortable style. The kitchen was a large one, suggesting that Riordan liked to cook. He was, in fact, quite a good cook; Patrick Donaghue could have attested to that.
Patrick Donaghue. Just the thought of him was now disturbing to Riordan, who downed the glass of whisky he held in one gulp. The man had changed, and dramatically too. It seemed ironic to Riordan that the previously mild, witty and energetic man that he had known, years ago, in his first days as a Mob Boss, should turn into such a cold-blooded killer under Spectrum’s tutelage.
Riordan shook his head and poured himself another whisky, and swallowed it in one shot. He wanted so much to get the sight of Ben Fisher’s dead body out of his head. He looked at the bottle on the counter in front of him; it was the finest malt money could buy. It was going to take a lot, he thought to himself sadly. Picking up the bottle once more, Riordan held it poised to pour a third glass when a knock at the door made him look up. Odd, he thought, how did the caller get past the doorman?
Cautiously Riordan approached the door, picking up his shoulder holster, which was resting on the kitchen table, and slipped it on. As he entered the hallway, he stood to one side, away from the door, should a hail of bullets greet him through it.
“Who is it?” he called drawing his pistol and standing ready.
“Captain Scarlet, Spectrum,” came the reply.
Riordan was perplexed by the sound of the English-accented voice; pressing one of four buttons next to a small wall-mounted screen revealed the view immediately beyond the door. Seeing the Spectrum captain standing outside, Riordan’s shoulders sagged and he frowned, his perplexity growing. Replacing the gun in its holster, he gave an involuntary sigh of relief. It was widely assumed amongst the Mob that he had never fired it, such was his distaste for killing. Riordan had never commented on the matter but he had certainly not relished the idea of using it now. As soon as it came, however, the relief left him, as he realised that there could be only one reason for Spectrum’s presence at his door. He hesitated.
“Come on, Riordan! Open up! Or I can ask my questions from out here if you prefer.”
Riordan’s heart sank; his assumption was correct. What could he do? For the time being he had no alternative than to open that blasted door.
“All right! Give me a minute,” he grumbled, reaching for his jacket to hide his holster. Why was that Spectrum officer coming to him, anyway? What did he think he was going to tell him? Riordan had been in this game long enough to know that you stayed alive by keeping quiet, and not saying anything to any law enforcement authorities. It unnerved him slightly that Donaghue, of all people, knew that, on at least one occasion before, he had gone to Spectrum. When Fisher, Abbott and James had arranged Donaghue’s kidnapping, some months ago, Riordan had informed Spectrum of his location in order to assist his rescue. Riordan could only hope that Donaghue realised that this was but one single transgression made solely to save his friend’s life. Riordan certainly didn’t intend to make a habit of it. Especially now. He wasn’t going to be next to be killed, that was for sure.
Pulling the door open, Riordan rolled his eyes at the sight of Captain Scarlet standing, looking all too conspicuous in his bright red uniform, in front of him.
“You’ll get yourself shot coming here!” Riordan hissed between his teeth as he ushered the captain inside. “And me too! They’ll think I’m some sort of informant!”
Scarlet stepped inside, allowing Riordan to close the door behind him. The Spectrum officer stood there, simply looking at him very quietly.
“Well?” snapped Riordan.
“Am I making you nervous, Mister Riordan?”
“What do you think?” Riordan replied as he led Scarlet into the living room.
“I think you’re already nervous. I think something’s got you rattled, Riordan. Now what might that be?” Scarlet directed an accusing glance at him.
“I...” Riordan paused, wondering what it was exactly that Scarlet knew; he couldn’t possibly know about Fisher’s murder. It was far too soon. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Patrick Donaghue,” replied Scarlet evenly, waiting to see the reaction he would receive.
From Riordan’s expression, Scarlet knew he had struck gold. Certainly something was bothering him.
“Wh-What about him?” Riordan stammered.
Neither man realised that the other had in his mind a completely different scenario. All Scarlet wanted to prove was that Riordan had been using his computer skills to access Captain Magenta’s private accounts, whereas Riordan was still trying hard to recover from the shock of watching the man he called his friend callously gun down two men, right before his eyes. But neither, of course, wanted to voice his thoughts. Scarlet needed for Riordan to admit the fraud; and Riordan didn’t want to give any indication of what he knew of the two murders he had witnessed.
“Have you had your hand in the till again, Riordan?” Scarlet asked, certain from Riordan’s reaction that he was right. The man had shivered ever so faintly and was suddenly, Scarlet noted, very pale and drawn. Riordan’s brow glistened with a mist of sweat as he stood frozen before Scarlet, simply staring and silently considering his reply. Scarlet frowned and continued: “I’m not here to arrest you, Riordan, I just want to know.” He was hoping to receive a more positive response, but still Riordan maintained his silence. “Was it Fisher?”
The supplemental question only seemed to make matters worse. Still without a word, Riordan headed for the kitchen and poured himself another whisky. By the time a puzzled Scarlet had followed him, the glass had been drained.
“Want one?” Riordan asked, showing Scarlet the bottle.
Scarlet’s brow furrowed as he watched Riordan pour himself another glass. Something was plainly upsetting him. Stepping forward, Scarlet gripped Riordan’s right hand, preventing him from raising the glass to his lips.
“What’s happened?” he asked, his tone a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.
“Nothing’s happened!” Riordan snapped, roughly brushing away the officer’s hand and backing away a step. “Why should anything have happened?”
Scarlet raised his eyebrows at the outburst. “What aren’t you telling me, Riordan? Did Fisher make you do it? Has he had you emptying Pat Donaghue’s accounts? We know they’re in use again.”
Riordan stared at Scarlet with unbelieving eyes. It suddenly became clear to him that the Spectrum captain didn’t have any idea that Donaghue had returned to claim his old Syndicate, plus the lives of two of his rivals. No, he didn’t know, that was obvious now. He had come for another reason altogether.
Well, if he doesn’t know, I’m not about to tell him! Riordan told himself with conviction. Riordan prided himself on knowing when to keep his mouth shut – on more than one occasion, he believed that it may have saved his life – and this, he felt most strongly, was one of those times.
“Yeah,” he replied finally, turning his back on the captain. “It was me.”
There was something about his reactions and countenance that made Scarlet doubt what he was saying, but he couldn’t work out why he was so very nervous.
“Has Fisher threatened you? Is that it?”
“Fisher?” Riordan pinched the bridge of his nose and allowed a short anguished laugh to escape his lips. Shaking his head, he turned back to face Scarlet as he continued: “Now, why would that concern you?”
“Riordan,” Scarlet’s brow creased on hearing the obvious tension in Riordan’s voice. “What is wrong?”
“There’s nothing wrong,” Riordan replied briefly closing his eyes with a sigh. “What do you want?” he asked forcing himself to appear calm.
“Pat Donaghue’s accounts...”
“Hang on a minute, how did you know where to find me?” asked Riordan, suddenly realising that Scarlet had never been to his apartment before.
“You really thought we were just going to let you walk out of jail and back to your old ways without us keeping tabs on you?”
“You Spectrum welshed on the deal we had!”
“You’re out of jail, Riordan, THAT was the deal,” replied Scarlet calmly.
“But you’re watching me? Have you got this place bugged too?”
“We don’t care about your petty crimes with the Syndicate, Riordan. The only thing we care about is that you don’t tell a soul what you and Fisher know about Captains Magenta and Ochre.”
What I know! Riordan thought, almost rolling his eyes in the process.
“There’s no way I’m going to do that! I always keep my word. Pat must have told you that.”
“He did, but he knew you three years ago. A lot can change in three years.”
Riordan gave a short forlorn laugh and rubbed his eyes. “Tell me about it,” he murmured unhappily.
Scarlet frowned again, Riordan was definitely not telling him something. Thinking back to his earlier conversation with Special Agent Conners, Scarlet still believed that despite Riordan’s reluctance to talk, with a little coaxing, he could be made to open up. With this man, Conners’ style of interrogation would certainly reveal very little.
“What about Fisher?” Scarlet asked, remembering how Riordan had earlier reacted to the mention of his name.
“He won’t say anything,” Riordan answered, finally raising the glass to his lips and taking a sip.
“How can you be so sure?” Scarlet pressed.
“I just know, okay?” Riordan replied, slamming the half-drained glass back on the counter so forcefully that some of the contents spilled.
“All right, I believe you,” Scarlet spoke with a calm, clear voice. “Look, I just want to confirm whether or not you have been using Pat Donaghue’s accounts. There’ll be no comeback, I just want to know.”
Still wondering where these questions could be leading to, and what it was that could interest Spectrum in Donaghue’s accounts, Riordan nodded. “I emptied three of his accounts a couple of months back,” he replied, absently wiping up the spill.
“Okay, how about recently?”
Riordan considered the question. Now, realisation was beginning to dawn on him over the reason for Spectrum’s sudden interest in these accounts. He had not touched them for months. He had felt guilty about accessing them in the first place. But he had no idea what Donaghue had been up to recently, and what withdrawals he might have made. Maybe Spectrum didn’t know for sure about Donaghue, but they suspected some foul play from him. Riordan didn’t want to squeal if they had no confirmation. He had to bluff it somehow.
“Yeah, Fisher needed more. There were some foreign accounts, I dipped into them.”
“Can you be more specific?”
Riordan sighed. “Do I have to be?” Pausing as he considered Scarlet's harsh stare, he took a wild guess. “Two Swiss accounts and one in Ireland, three million from each, they’re not quite empty.”
Scarlet nodded. Conners, in his usual tight-lipped manner, had kept the details of how much had been withdrawn and which accounts had been targeted. Perhaps if he had proffered the information, Scarlet would have realised that Riordan was lying. With no reason to believe the mobster would admit to the thefts unless he had actually committed them, Conners had deemed it unnecessary to give the information to the investigating officer.
“Okay, I’ll contact my superior and let him know.”
“Is that all?” Riordan asked, astounded, unable to believe his fortune that Scarlet was unaware of the exact details.
“For the minute. But I want to talk to you after I’ve called in.” Scarlet paused as he noted Riordan’s discomfort. “Off the record,” he added as he walked into the living room, lowering his cap microphone as he closed the door.
“Go ahead, Captain Scarlet,” came the voice of Colonel White.
“Colonel, I’ve spoken with Riordan. He’s admitted raiding three of Magenta’s accounts a couple of months ago. And again, more recently, some foreign accounts: two Swiss and one Irish. He says he took three million from each of these three accounts, but that they’re not quite empty.”
Colonel White raised his eyebrows in astonishment. Just how much money did Captain Magenta have stashed away, anyway?
“Thank you, Captain. I’ll report your findings to Special Agent Conners. Hopefully we’ll get the whole thing cleared up very quickly, and we will be able to address more important matters.”
By the sound of his superior’s voice, Scarlet could tell that he already had something precise in mind. “Something has come up, Sir?”
“Exactly, Captain,” White answered grimly. “Mysteron trouble.”
“Do you want me to come back to Cloudbase, Sir?”
“That won’t be necessary. We’ll need you back in New York, for the mission. Since you are already there, I’d like you to make your way to Spectrum Headquarters, New York, and await the arrival of Captains Blue and Ochre. They’ll explain the situation to you as soon as they arrive.”
“In that case, Sir, if I may, I’d like first to stay here for a few more minutes. Riordan seems strangely nervous and I’d like to ask him a few more questions.”
Riordan moved away from the living room door; he had heard enough. Captain Scarlet was true to his word; he had only discussed the withdrawals with his superior, but Riordan had no intention of hanging around for a more meticulous Spectrum interrogation. As soon as he discovered he had been lied to, Scarlet would be even more inquisitive. Creeping to the door, Riordan quietly turned the handle and almost cried out in fright as he opened the door to see the huge figure of Ox standing just outside, almost completely blocking the way.
“Mister Riordan,” Ox greeted him politely.
“Ox?” Riordan replied in almost a murmur, dumbfounded. “What are you doing here?”
“Mister Donaghue asked me to watch your apartment, he thought you might have some trouble.”
Riordan gave him a thin smile. More likely, Donaghue was suspicious of him.
“Then you saw the Spectrum captain arrive?”
“Yes, Sir. I’ve let Mister Donaghue know.”
Riordan’s heart skipped a beat. A chill ran down his back as he realised what it could imply.
“Ox, they’ve been watching me,” he said almost desperately. “He’s come to interrogate me about Fisher. I don’t know how he’s found out, but…”
“Don’t you worry, Mister Riordan. I’ll deal with it.”
Riordan stood back as the huge form of the Syndicate’s enforcer entered the hallway, looking about him, taking in and familiarising himself with the layout of the apartment. Finally, Ox glanced in Riordan’s direction with a questioning expression.
“In there,” Riordan pointed to the living room. “He’s communicating with his superior, he said.”
Ox raised an eyebrow indifferently and headed in the direction indicated with a silent swiftness, unexpected of a man of his size. Easing the door open very slowly, he saw his target standing with his back to him, talking into his cap microphone. Edging nearer, Ox heard the end of the one-sided conversation.
“Yes, Sir. I doubt I’ll be long, just a few questions.” There was a pause whilst the other man spoke, before the red-clad captain continued: “Yes, Colonel.”
Another brief pause followed during which Scarlet heard something else over the voice of his commander-in-chief. It was little more than the ghost of a sound, but it drew his attention and compelled him to turn around. Too late to see the threatening mountain of a man, towering over him, his right hand raised, clenched.
Caught by surprise, it was all Scarlet was able to say before Ox’s crushing blow struck him over the side of the head, and forced him to his knees, his mind reeling. As he knelt swaying, barely conscious, but desperately trying to gather his senses, Ox tore the cap from his head, ensuring the radio connection had been severed, then swiftly relieved the Spectrum officer of his pistol.
Arms crossed, Riordan stood in the doorway, leaning on the frame, smiling, impressed by Ox’s thorough and swift handling of the situation. Initially, a twinge of guilt ran through him as he watched Scarlet suffer at the hands of the mob’s enforcer, but he dismissed it almost immediately, acknowledging that it would extricate him from a difficult, potentially dangerous situation. He watched with relief as Scarlet, after a second devastating blow, finally slumped to the floor at Ox’s feet. Riordan cringed. That’s got to hurt… Although he could tell from his breathing that the Spectrum captain was still alive, if barely aware.
“What did you tell him, Matt?”
Riordan shivered at the sound of that cold voice. He spun around in the doorway, to see Pat Donaghue who was now standing in the hallway only a few feet away, taking a deep puff on a freshly lit cigarillo.
“P-Pat?” Riordan struggled with the word. He knew now, more than ever, that Donaghue was suspicious of him. “Nothing, Pat.”
Donaghue heaved a curious, insistent eyebrow. “He was here a long time, Matt. What did you tell him?”
“Nothing! Well, nothing he didn’t already know,” Riordan replied nervously. “The accounts, Pat. Your personal accounts, you know? He wanted to know if I’d accessed them. That’s all he wanted.”
“That’s all?” Donaghue insisted. “He didn’t get anything else, did he?”
“No, Pat, nothing, I promise,” Riordan replied hastily.
“Did you mention me?”
“No.” Riordan shook his head.
“I knew I could rely on you, Matt.”
With that quiet statement and a cold assurance, Donaghue walked past Riordan into the living room. Ox, who was standing over the downed, barely-conscious Spectrum officer, looked over to him when he saw him enter.
“He was trying to interrogate Mister Riordan, Sir,” Ox explained.
“So I hear.” Donaghue turned his head slowly to look at Riordan, then back again at the giant man who was keeping a wary eye on the Spectrum officer, fighting to keep his senses. “You’ve done a fine job, Ox. As ever.”
The sound of that voice made Captain Scarlet painfully raise his throbbing head and turn it in the direction from which it came. He saw the tall man standing nearby wearing a stylish three-piece suit, with a carnation adorning it, and quietly smoking a thin cigar. The British captain had to blink several times to clear his fuzzy sight, thinking he was hallucinating.
No…It couldn’t be…
“Magenta?” he murmured, frowning in disbelief.
“One more, Ox, if you will.”
That cold voice was the last thing Scarlet heard before feeling Ox’s huge and powerful hand crashing down on his right temple, in one last terrible blow. The agony he felt lasted only a very short instant. Knocked unconscious almost instantly, he crumpled to the floor, with a painful groan, before falling into a pool of darkness.
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