Original series Suitable for all readersMedium level of violence

Dead Ringer


A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story


By Chris Bishop & Sue Stanhope







“I’m unable to re-establish contact with Captain Scarlet, Colonel.”

Raising his eyes from the file he had briefly consulted, White looked over to Lieutenant Green. Since they had abruptly lost radio contact with Captain Scarlet, minutes ago, the young man, seated at his communications station, had been pushing buttons and trying many channels of communication used by the cap microphones.  Green’s efforts to restore the link had been frustratingly unsuccessful.  He shook his head. “He’s probably having trouble with his communicator.  I don’t have a single signal.”

White acknowledged the report with a nod.  “Well, then, I expect he’ll find a way to contact us eventually.  And report back to Spectrum New York when his business with Mister Riordan is finished.”

“Could he be in trouble, Colonel?”

Colonel White turned in the direction of Captain Blue, who, like Captains Ochre and Grey, was seated on the raised stools in front of his circular desk, and had been waiting patiently to continue the briefing.  Blue seemed a little concerned over his regular partner’s radio silence – and subsequent failure to answer calls from base.  Of course, Blue, like all the others, knew of Scarlet’s whereabouts at the present – going to Magenta’s old syndicate territory to find some answers to those questions Spectrum Intelligence were wondering about.  Why they needed to concern themselves over another of Martin Conners’ whims was beyond Blue, to be honest.  The man always was synonymous with trouble – and in the worst possible moments.

“I don’t think we need be worried for now, Captain Blue,” White replied.  “There’s nothing that might lead us to believe that he may be.  The mission Captain Scarlet had set himself to do is a simple one, and he should be through with it quite quickly.  Especially now that he knows we have a Mysteron situation at hand.  I’m sure he’ll prefer to deal with more urgent matters like that, rather than concern himself with some triviality dreamed up by Special Agent Conners…”

White feigned not to see the mocking smiles spreading on each one of his senior officers’ faces.  It wasn’t an easy job, seeing as they were making a poor job of concealing it.  He looked down at the folder open in front of him. “We’ll give Captain Scarlet an hour to turn up.  If he fails to report by then, we’ll send a search team after him.”  He raised his head once more, cleared his throat and looked at his officers one by one.  “But right now, we do have more pressing business to attend to, and that, gentlemen, cannot wait.”

They each nodded their agreement.  They all knew the situation, each of them having heard the threat over the speakers in different parts of Cloudbase. 

The Mysterons now wanted to eliminate the man who was to become the new Supreme Commander of the WGPC – the World Government Police Corps.  That was a post which Captain Ochre himself, as Richard Fraser, had been offered, years ago, and that he had turned down in favour of a rank in Spectrum senior staff.  That wasn’t a publicly known fact however – as far as the world at large was concerned, Detective Commander Richard Fraser had been killed in a car bomb assault, just prior to his appointment as Supreme Commander.  It was but a subterfuge concocted by Fraser and Spectrum Intelligence, so he would be free to engage in his new existence within Spectrum, with a clean slate, without any hindrance from his earlier, rather bumpy life. Now officially dead, WGPC Richard Fraser shaved the beard he had been sporting so many years, disappeared from public view, and took on the new identity of Spectrum Captain Ochre.

As Fraser was pursuing his career within Spectrum, the post of WGPC Supreme Commander was allotted to the then WGPC Deputy Commander, Alec Crandon.  It was to be a temporary assignment, as Crandon, like his predecessor, was contemplating retirement; however, he maintained his position for the next four years, doing an even better job than would have been expected.  Now, Crandon was finally stepping down, and had announced his definite decision to retire.  A new World Government Police Corps Supreme Commander would need to be nominated.

Enter Commander Ian Stewart, WGPC New York.

Stewart was a rough and tough as nails cop from the old school, whose reputation, like that of Richard Fraser, preceded him.  Crandon himself had approved of his nomination.  Considerably younger, more energetic, totally incorruptible, often in the thick of the action, there was no doubt that the WGPC would have, in him, a good man as Supreme Commander.

If ever he reached that post.  And it was now for Spectrum to make sure the Mysterons wouldn’t succeed in their threat to kill him.

Following standard procedures, Spectrum’s closest ground facility – in this case the offices in New York – had contacted the target and provided him with immediate safekeeping, assigning a team of security ground agents who would be in attendance for his protection.  They would not let Commander Stewart out of their sight, or permit him to leave his house, and would await the arrival of Cloudbase officers, who would then take control of the operations. Which would be soon after this quick briefing in the Control Room, during which Colonel White would give their assignments to his assembled officers.

“At the moment, a security team, led by Lieutenant Tan, is keeping Commander Stewart securely inside his home in New York,” White said, consulting his notes.  “Their instructions are to wait for you to arrive, Captain Grey, in an MSV that will take Commander Stewart to our rebuilt Security Building in New York.”

“S.I.G., Colonel,” Grey said with a brief nod.   So far the assignment wasn’t looking too difficult.  But he was presuming the Mysterons would probably not make it easy for them.

“Commander Stewart will have to stay in the Security Building until tomorrow, eighteen hundred hours.  You will then take the MSV again and escort him to the WGPC Headquarters in New York, for the swearing-in ceremony, which should be held at exactly eighteen thirty.”

“After that,” Captain Blue concluded, “ according to the Mysterons’ own specifications for the threat, he should be safe from them.”

“Exactly, Captain Blue. The Mysterons will try to assassinate him before that time. That’s why we’ll have to be very vigilant, until Commander Stewart is in office.”

“I bet Stewart doesn’t really appreciate the prospect of being babysat by Spectrum,” Captain Ochre then remarked with a faint chuckle.

“Indeed, he doesn’t, Captain Ochre,” Colonel White admitted, glancing in the former policeman’s direction. “He told me, in no uncertain terms, that the WGPC could take care of its own without any need for Spectrum to interfere in matters that aren’t any of its concern.”

“That’s Stewart, all right,” Ochre said with a smile.

“The present Supreme Commander of the WGPC, fortunately, wasn’t of the same opinion. He strongly ‘suggested’ to Commander Stewart that he accept our protection.”

“Commander Crandon is certainly aware that dealing with the Mysterons is strictly Spectrum’s mandate,” Blue agreed.  “He’s much wiser.”

“That he is,” Ochre admitted.  “Why he’s supporting Stewart’s nomination as his replacement is beyond me, though.  With or without Crandon’s support, it would surprise me if Stewart would make it easy for Spectrum.  We’d better expect him to be a difficult assignment.”

“You seem to know Commander Stewart very well, Captain,” Grey remarked.

“Yeah, I know him.  We met often when I was in the WGPC.”

“Can you tell us about him?”  White asked. 

“Well…  All in all, he’s a good guy…  Almost perfect for the job he’s going to undertake…”

Grey chuckled. “The perfect one for the job being you?” he remarked.

“Hey, I’ll remind you I nearly became WGPC Supreme Commander, four years ago,” Ochre pointed out. “I should think that would allow me to judge quite adequately who would get the job.”

“Or so you say.”

“Never mind that,” White cut in, with a warning glance to both Ochre and Grey.  “Why ‘almost perfect’, Captain Ochre?”

“Well, he’s a good police officer,” Ochre explained, shrugging.  “Dedicated, morally upright, restless…  He often goes out in the field and has the reputation of always getting his man.  He’s a brilliant detective, as well as a good leader of men, but…  Well, there’re those annoying…  flaws in him.”

“Flaws?” Blue asked.

“Yeah.  You see, that guy thinks he’s so smart, it’s positively exasperating.  He’s so stubborn, you have no idea!  He always has to have the last word in ANY argument – no matter if he’s right or not.  He always thinks he’s right, anyway, so there’s little point arguing with him.”

White shot the American an unbelieving look, while Blue and Grey exchanged a perplexed glance. Curiously, Ochre’s first description of Commander Ian Stewart was similar to Ochre himself.  Their surprise wasn’t complete yet, as Ochre continued:

“I mean, well, he’s not ALL bad.  He looks after the men working for him.  Very protective, in fact.” Ochre shrugged. “And he plays by the regulations,” he stated firmly. “Well, when it suits him.  And when he’s working on a case…” he smiled, as he considered this to be a good point, “… he gets down into the minutiae.  He’ll go on a hunch and if he’s got an idea about something he’ll hold on to it like… like a dog with a bone.” Ochre’s voice tapered off as he realised that this too had ended up sounding like a weakness rather then a strength.

“Yeah,” agreed Blue, holding in the laugh that threatened to burst from him. “That can be really annoying.”

There was only one person in the room who didn’t seem to realise that Ochre was describing himself and, embarrassingly enough from the others’ viewpoint, that person was Ochre. 

“Annoying?  You don’t know the half of it!  He has this REALLY irritating hobby…” No-one in the room could believe their ears at that last statement. If they didn’t know better, considering the present situation, they would have thought that Ochre was leading them on.  “He collects stamps,” Ochre continued.  “From what I’ve heard, he's got millions of them, EVERYWHERE!”

“No kidding,” Blue grumbled, almost scoffing.  “And what, now you’re going to tell us that the stuff he uses to stick them in books isn’t very agreeable to sensitive noses?”

Ochre pointed directly at Blue, nodding enthusiastically.  “You know someone who does that too?”

“Something very similar, Ochre,” agreed Blue, nodding pointedly.

Ochre frowned lightly.  All eyes were upon him.  He had believed that they were simply interested in what he had to say, but now he saw the expressions of disbelief and amusement on their faces – even the colonel’s.  And now, as it began to dawn on him exactly what they were thinking, he could almost hear the barely restrained laughter from his fellow captains.  He bit his lower lip as he could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks in a flush of acute embarrassment.

“How can you…?” he stammered, looking at his colleagues with what looked like a mortified expression.  “He’s nothing like me.  I mean really, the man’s a…”

“Captain Ochre,” Colonel White interrupted him,  “I think you’ve given us a fairly detailed description already. Perhaps we should continue?  There is a Mysteron threat to deal with here.”

“Yes, Sir,” Ochre agreed with a quiet sigh.

“As it’s fairly apparent that you and he are…  acquainted, Captain Ochre, I don’t think it wise for you to meet with him.  I would like you to go with Captain Blue to Spectrum Headquarters, New York and make the necessary security arrangements for the forthcoming swearing-in ceremony.  Lieutenant Green?”

The colonel raised his voice to address the young communication officer who was seated in front of his station.  Green swiftly snapped in his commander’s direction. “Yes, Colonel?”

“I need a computer expert to go to the Maximum Security Building with Captain Grey. One who would know about the modifications and updates to security that Captain Magenta introduced.  Since Captain Magenta isn’t in attendance, the task now falls to you.”

Green’s face beamed with a totally delighted expression.  It wasn’t that often that Colonel White would permit him to go down to the ground.  He welcomed every opportunity.

“S.I.G., sir,” he said in a cheerful tone that conveyed his gratitude for his commander’s decision.

 “Right.  Captain Grey and Lieutenant Green, I want you to collect Commander Stewart from his home and escort him to the Maximum Security Building.  Captain Grey, Lieutenant Tan of the New York Headquarters is currently in charge of the security operation and he will hand over to you on arrival. However, he will remain on hand at all times in the Maximum Security Building.  Lieutenant Green, I have arranged for Cloudbase main computer to be manned by Lieutenant Sienna, while you’re away.  He will be here shortly and you’ll be able to go.  That will be all, gentlemen.”

Rising from their seats, the captains saluted and headed toward the door, shooting an amused look in the direction of the widely-grinning Lieutenant Green who was presently looking as if he couldn’t sit still.  No doubt, he couldn’t wait to leave and follow them out!

“Come on, Ochre!” Grey slapped his friend on the back as they headed down the corridor. Ever since he had realized the fun his colleagues had made of him, Ochre had sported a very grim, almost pouting look.  “You have to admit, that description you gave sounded a lot like you.  And they were your own words!”

Ochre snorted at the mocking remark. “He’s nothing like me, you’ll see,” he grumbled.  “And when you do, you won’t be laughing.  THAT I can guarantee you!”


* * *


“Come in!” Patrick Donaghue called, replying to the knock on the door of his office, without looking up from the papers he was reading.

Josh Kirby entered the room, a little hesitantly, the unfamiliar surroundings and man seated at the large walnut desk near the window unnerving him slightly.

“I got the rest of the papers you wanted, Mister Donaghue,” he announced as he walked to the desk, holding a slim file in his hand.

Donaghue finally looked up and frowned at the thickness of the file.

“Is that all you have?” he asked impatiently.

“There’s actually quite a lot in here,” Kirby replied in defence of their information gathering skills.

“Does it have a full schematic of the building?”

“No,” admitted Kirby with a sigh.

“Guard duty rosters?  Alarm systems?  List of personnel?”

“There’s a list of senior personnel,” Kirby replied with a shrug. Donaghue snatched the file from Kirby’s hand and opened it, to get a quick look into it.  He grumbled with dissatisfaction. 

“Not good enough, Josh, I need more than that.” Donaghue looked up at Kirby, his stare harsh and unyielding.

“Yes, Sir, but, well, isn’t this a bit much?  All this effort for a Plan B?” Kirby began.

“What are you talking about?” snapped Donaghue.

“Well, Sir, I mean you haven’t even tried your first plan yet, it might work fine,” Kirby protested. “With all that detailed preparation you already put into it and the instructions you gave Sean concerning that bomb of his…”

“Was O’Rourke able to build that bomb following the specifications I gave him?” Donaghue interrupted suddenly.

Kirby eagerly nodded. “That he did, sir.  And he says it’ll work like clockwork.  So to speak.”

“That’s perfect, then.  Maybe we won’t need Plan B, Josh, maybe Plan A will work perfectly.  But it might not. And in that case, we have to be ready.  We’ll only get two chances.”

“With respect, Mister Donaghue, we’ll get lots of chances and easier ones at that.  Does it really matter if we do it before or after he’s sworn in?”

“It matters to me!” Donaghue growled in reply before checking down the file again.  “Now, who is Captain Brealey?”

“He’s our contact at WGP,” Kirby replied, happy to finally have something to say that he thought Donaghue would be pleased to hear.

“Better,” Donaghue grunted.  “And according to this, an acquaintance of Ian Stewart. I want to speak to him.”

“I’ll ask Jeff to contact him,” Kirby replied with a slight smile, turning to leave.


“Sorry, Sir, Jeff Tyler.  Brealey’s his contact.”

“Not any more, he’s my contact.  Give me the phone number to contact him.”

“I don’t have it, Sir,” Kirby admitted with a degree of embarrassment. “Like I said, he’s Jeff’s contact.”

Donaghue rolled his eyes and looked up at Kirby.  The cold expression, unlike anything Kirby had ever previously witnessed, made him squirm uncomfortably in front of him.

“How Fisher ran a shoddy operation like this is beyond me. But it’s about to change.  Understand?  Now get Tyler here!  He and I are going to have a little chat.”

“Yes, Sir, he’s in the building, I’ll send him right up.”

“And get Mister Riordan too, I want to see him immediately afterwards.”

“He’s over at property number four, Sir, it’ll…”

“Immediately, Josh!”

“Yes, Sir,” Kirby nodded vigorously.  “Is there anything else?”

“No,” Donaghue frowned at him, looking back down at the papers before him. “For now.”

Kirby frowned.  It was a time of change for them all, but only hours earlier, he had enjoyed a senior status which now seemed lost.  Donaghue had Riordan and it seemed to Josh Kirby that once his usefulness was at an end, Riordan would step in fully and take over in the coveted position of right-hand man.  He realised in that moment that it wasn’t the power he enjoyed; the way Fisher ran things, he had none. In reality, Kirby had been little more than a personal assistant and first line of defence, rather than a second in command but he liked his job and he was good at it.  The idea of being sidelined now, and by a well-known coward like Riordan to boot, was not a happy one.

Donaghue felt the atmosphere in the room.  Having retained the real Patrick Donaghue’s skills and knowledge, the Mysteron agent knew that this particular situation had to be handled carefully.  For the threat to be carried out smoothly, he required the assistance of the Syndicate members.  At least at this early stage, he needed to retain their loyalty.  Josh Kirby, although relatively mild when compared against the likes of Harper and Tyler, was an integral part of Fisher’s old regime.  People respected him and would be likely to follow his lead.  So far, he had confirmed his loyalty, but a little incentive, Donaghue decided, would cement that loyalty.

Kirby had almost reached the door by the time Donaghue looked up once more.  Using all of his retained people skills, the Mysteron agent called him back.

“Josh,” he spoke kindly, “I’m sorry, I guess I’m a bit edgy over this plan. It’s risky, and it’s got to go smoothly or people are going to end up in jail or worse.”

Kirby turned and forced a worried smile. He was a hundred miles away from realising that the welfare of his gang members was the last thing Donaghue could be concerned about.

“Come here, Josh,” Donaghue requested quietly.

Returning to the desk, Kirby waited, not quite knowing what to expect.

“Mister Riordan has always been my right hand man,” began Donaghue.

Here it comes! thought Kirby miserably.

“… But he never got involved in the day-to-day running, the data, the files, the detail.  You follow me?”

“I… think so, Sir.”

“Josh, you know more about this Syndicate now than anyone and one this size takes a lot of running.  I used to do it all myself. I couldn’t do that now.  I need someone I can trust and who is up to the job.  I fear Mister Riordan… lacks certain skills required.  In other words, I think he doesn’t have what it takes.  But you, Josh…”  Like a well-drilled actor, the duplicate Donaghue made a dramatic pause, and watched with satisfaction as he saw Josh Kirby’s growing interest and anticipation appearing on his face.  And then moved on: “You did a great job for Fisher, Josh, and I suspect, knowing him, that he seriously undervalued your skills.  So…  I’d like you to carry on.  What do you say?”

“You can trust me, Mister Donaghue,” Kirby replied with a broad grin.

“I know I can, Josh.”

“Sir,” Kirby began with some hesitation, “what are you working on, exactly?”

“When I’ve worked it out, I’ll explain everything, but for now, get me Tyler.”

“Yes, Sir,” replied Kirby turning to leave once more. 

Donaghue watched him as he closed the door behind him.  A cold, calculating smile crossed his face, realising he had made another small step toward carrying out the Mysterons’ instructions.

It was only a few minutes later when a second knock at the door disturbed Donaghue from his thoughts and the scheming plan that was taking form in his mind, while consulting his papers.  Closing the file, he looked up.

“Come in,” he called again, sitting back in the chair.

The door was pushed open and Jeff Tyler entered the room, casually. Tyler had been one of Ben Fisher’s men and, therefore, something of an unknown quantity for Donaghue; but he was skilled at evaluating people, his first impressions of them had rarely been wrong.  Dropping a small carry-on bag by the door, Tyler approached the desk.  Donaghue did nothing but stare at the man; it was a practised, calculated stare and had often proved invaluable in assessing the people he was dealing with.  Tyler stared back, unflinching, unblinking.

“You wanted to see me?” Tyler finally broke the silence.

Okay, thought Donaghue, arrogant and disrespectful.

“We have a contact in the WGPC.  Captain Brealey.  I want his phone number.”

“You want to see him?” queried Tyler.  “I can get him for you.”

“Perhaps it’s the way I’m saying it?” Donaghue spoke, shaking his head with a sigh.  “I want his number,” he repeated emphasising each word.

“That’s not the way it works, Mister Donaghue, he…”

“… Will speak to me if he wants to get paid.  End of discussion.  Give me the number.”

Tyler sighed. In truth, it wasn’t Brealey who was the problem.  Tyler enjoyed the power of being the only one allowed to contact him.  Even if he withheld the private number, there were any number of other ways for Donaghue to contact him.  It would only take a little longer.  But Tyler didn’t fancy his chances of staying alive if he crossed Donaghue so soon after the deaths of Fisher and Harper. The man seemed totally ruthless – so different from what he had heard of him from the past.  And completely unpredictable.

“Sure.” Tyler leaned forward on the desk and jotted the number onto a pad. “There.”

“Good.” Donaghue looked up at him once more. “What else?”

“What else? What?” asked Tyler, puzzled.

“You have something else to say.”

Tyler raised his eyebrows; it was a statement not a question, he wondered what he’d done to make it so obvious.

“Well, yeah, I do, but I…”

“Out with it, I don’t have all day!” Donaghue snapped.

“It’s about you.”

“What about me?” Donaghue narrowed his eyes.

“Some time ago, Fisher told us that Carlotta put a price on your head,” Tyler replied, referring to Anton Carlotta, the Chicago Mob Boss who had, only a few months earlier, attempted a take-over of Fisher’s Syndicate.

“What of it?” asked Donaghue suspiciously.

“Well, I happen to know that there’s someone in the organisation who would be more than happy to try to claim that bounty.  For a price, I could deal with the situation,” Tyler shrugged.

Donaghue laughed briefly and nodded.  “And what would that price be?”

“I’m not a greedy man, we could say an even two million.  You get to stay alive and I get a nice bonus.”

“Two million?” Donaghue rose from his seat and rounded the desk.  “How about you get zip and,” he paused to check himself over theatrically, “hey, I’m still alive!”

Tyler scowled in annoyance.

“It’s your call, Mister Donaghue, but don’t say you weren’t warned,” Tyler grumbled as he turned to leave.

As he reached the door, instead of opening it, he quickly locked it.  Turning on his heels, he spun around, drawing his gun as he did. Catching Donaghue totally off guard, Tyler fired quickly; the gun barely produced a sound of huffed air as the bullet impacted into Donaghue’s chest, sending him crumpling to the floor, where he lay still.

Tyler smiled to himself as he unscrewed the silencer from the end of the gun barrel. Nobody had heard the commotion in there so he didn’t have to worry about the rest of the gang bursting in and surprising him.  He was rather pleased with himself over the way things had gone without a glitch. Of course, Donaghue had refused his offer, but it was really of no concern, as he was certain of at least one prize; five million dollars would set him up for life.  But perhaps there would be even richer pickings to be had.  Somebody had to take over the Syndicate, after all. And why not him?  He considered himself as capable as any other.

Tyler knew he might not have much time before someone would eventually come in for some reason or other.  Reaching into his bag, he grabbed a Polaroid camera and moved toward Donaghue.  First checking for a pulse, just in case, he smiled maliciously at being unable to find one; there was no question, he was definitely dead.  Aiming the camera, he pressed the shutter. Anton Carlotta would require proof before handing over such a large sum. A picture of Donaghue’s dead body would convince him.  Picking up his bag once more, Tyler stood by the rear door to the office waiting eagerly for the picture to develop, not wanting to leave before he was certain he had the proof he needed.  The picture started to form on the square of photographic paper he held in his hand.  He grinned as he watched it, then reached for the handle of the rear door.

“I don’t think you got my best side, Tyler.”

Tyler turned in panic and horror at hearing Donaghue’s voice. The latter was now standing straight, looking implacably at him. He didn’t appear at all like a man who just had been shot down.  Only the small stain of blood in the middle of his chest was serving as proof of what had just happened.   Staring at the man he was certain was dead; all Tyler could do at first was stammer.

“B-but how…?  You were dead!”

Donaghue laughed.  “Oh yeah?  Well, I obviously got better!  But you?  You’re going to stay dead!”

Tyler threw down the carry-on bag and reached for his gun, but Donaghue’s was already in his hand.  A single shot was all it took to silence Tyler as he slumped to the floor bleeding heavily from a shot to the head. 

Donaghue could hear the commotion outside the office as they tried to break in to the locked room.  Casually, he replaced his gun in its holster and reached for his jacket to hide the gunshot wound, which had clearly pierced his heart.

Only seconds afterwards, the door splintered on its hinges and burst open.  In the doorway stood Kirby, O’Rourke and Riordan.

“Mister Donaghue, are you all right?” asked O’Rourke with concern.

“I’m fine, Sean, thank you,” he replied with casual ease.

“But Tyler?” Kirby voiced the question for them all.

“Tyler was a traitor who thought he could cash in on Carlotta’s bounty money.  I thought I’d made it perfectly clear that I wouldn’t tolerate anything less than absolute loyalty, but I guess some people need more convincing than others.  If anyone else tries the same stunt I’ll be happy to oblige them in much the same way.  Understood?”

The question was followed by a series of nods and murmurs, all of them keen to express their loyalty and avoid the same fate as Tyler.

“Now, as you’re all here, I can tell you about our next move.  Gentlemen, we are going to pull off nothing short of a coup.  Something that will hit the headlines and for its sheer ingenuity and audaciousness will be talked about for years to come.”

Donaghue’s introduction to the scheme drew their attention like moths around a light.

“There’s only one man good enough to put a halt to our operations. A man who already had been a thorn in our side in the past, as I’m sure you well know.  He’s about to receive a promotion that will make him even more of a problem in the days to come. Therefore, we remove that man from the picture, before he gets the chance to make life unbearable for us.  Gentlemen, today…  we will kill Commander Ian Stewart.” 

Donaghue was greeted with open mouths and wide-eyed expressions.  Only Josh Kirby remained unmoved.  He listened to the discomfited mutterings and slowly looked at each of them in turn.  None of them were willing to speak out of turn, for fear that it be interpreted as disloyalty. Every one of them knew Ian Stewart.  The New York WGPC commander who had caused so many problems to the Syndicate over the years. They were well aware that, in the past, Stewart had done everything in his power to stop Patrick Donaghue’s operations, get his hands on him and gather proof of his illegal operations in order to arrest him.  But as far as they could tell, he had come up with nothing.  It was probably the only stain on his otherwise spotless career. 

In the past, Patrick Donaghue had done nothing against Commander Stewart – he knew he was after him, but didn’t seem to be bothered with that.  He was always considering himself smarter than Stewart – or any cop for that matter – enough anyway to keep everything out of their reach.  And he had always considered Stewart a worthy opponent.  He respected him.  Yet now he wanted to kill him.

And… he wanted to do this today?

Seeing the uncomfortable and uncertain expressions obvious in each of his men, Donaghue smiled reassuringly at them.

“Josh will reunite the rest of the gang and he’ll start explaining the plan. Sean, you’ll go with him, gather everyone.”

“Yes, Mister Donaghue,” O’Rourke eagerly answered.

“I’ll come in a short while. Matt, you’ll stay with me, I want to speak to you alone.”

Riordan nodded and took a seat near the desk as Donaghue gave some last minute instructions to Kirby.  Distracted by the sight of Tyler’s dead body lying only feet from the desk, Riordan’s eyes were drawn to it.  As he turned his head, he noticed something lying on the floor near the discarded carry-on bag.  Casting a furtive glance behind him and seeing Donaghue still in deep discussion with Kirby, he headed for the body.  Pulling the white corner of what he now realised was a photo, he was surprised to hear Donaghue’s voice behind him.

“Everything all right, Matt?”

“Uh, yeah,” he replied uneasily, pushing the photo into his jacket pocket.  “Just checking him.  You know, making sure he’s dead.  Not just hurt.”

“Oh, he’s dead all right, I made sure of that,” replied Donaghue emphatically.

Riordan sighed and hung his head; he barely recognised his friend, especially now. Statements like that would have been impossible to imagine coming from him, only three short years earlier.  Riordan got to his feet and turned to face Donaghue, watching as he lit a cigar. Everybody else had left, and they were now alone.

“You seem a little distracted, Matt.  What’s on your mind?” Donaghue finally asked.

“What have they done to you, Pat?  Spectrum, I mean.  You were never like this.”

“I’ve learned to kill bad guys.  Tell me, Matt, the men I’ve killed, were they good men?  Will you miss them?”

“That’s not the point!” Riordan sighed hopelessly.  “You never killed before, never!  And then there’s…” Riordan broke off, unsure if he should continue.

“Yes, Matt?  Then there’s what?” Donaghue’s tone had become slightly aggressive.

“We’re holding a Spectrum officer prisoner, Pat.  That’s bad any way you look at it.  He knows you, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does,” Donaghue spoke with indifference as he blew out a cloud of wispy grey smoke.


“I’ll deal with it, Matt, personally.  You have no reason to worry.”

Oh great!  thought Riordan.  Now I’m REALLY worried!

“I’m going to deal with it now, as it happens.  Matt, I want you to stay here for a little while.  Josh needs help getting some important information on the WGPC offices.  I need a building schematic, and a few other small things.  I told him you’d hack in and get it for us. That won’t be a problem, will it?”

“No, Pat, that won’t be a problem,” Riordan sighed.

“Good.  Then I’ll see you at, what do you call it?  Property number five?  Later?”

Riordan nodded. “I’ll leave as soon as I’m finished.”

Riordan watched as Donaghue headed into the outer office; turning once more to stare at Tyler’s body, he couldn’t help but shiver.

Once out of the room, Donaghue beckoned to O’Rourke and Kirby to approach him.  The two men had already reunited five of the gang’s junior members, who were presently entering what served as the conference room in the building.

“Josh, I count on you to tell the boys everything that they need to know about the plan,” Donaghue spoke in a business-like tone.    “In the meantime, I have a little business to attend to.  I need a driver.  A man I can count on.” 

“Yes, Sir.  Billy will do.  I’ll have him get the car,” Kirby replied. 

“Thank you, Josh,” Donaghue replied absently.  “And… Josh?” he frowned with distaste, “can you get rid of Tyler and sort out the mess?  Oh, and I’ll need a new door.”

“I’ll get right on it, Mister Donaghue,” Kirby replied, reaching for the phone to contact one of the Syndicate’s drivers.

“A minute, Josh, I have another little job for you,” Donaghue interrupted him, quietly pulling Kirby by the arm to a corner of the office. “Mister Riordan, he’s getting a bit jumpy.  Nothing to worry about I’m sure, but he’s always been the nervous type, you know that.  I want you to watch him, closely.  Don’t let him be on his own.  It’s not in his best interests at the moment.”

“Sure, Mister Donaghue, whatever you say,” Kirby agreed enthusiastically. “You know you can count on me.”

I bet, Donaghue told himself inwardly, with a knowing nod.  “Good man. Sean, you’ll be coming with me.”

“Sir?” Sean O’Rourke asked with uncertainty evident in his tone.

“You’ll have an important part to play in the plan, as I told you earlier, and I want to give you the last details of it.  Right after my… business is finished, we’ll go join the others at the rendezvous point.”  Donaghue turned to Kirby as if to make sure he had well understood his instruction.  Kirby nodded to the affirmative.

“We’ll all be there, Mister Donaghue.

“Good. We’ll catch you later, then.”

Placing the cigar back into his mouth, Donaghue went with O’Rourke to get a few things from his office, before heading out to tie up some loose ends.


* * *


Captain Grey drew the MSV up outside the apartment block just off Central Park West.  There was no need to check if it was the right one, the number of Spectrum security guards posted in and around the building was an instant giveaway.  Grey nodded thoughtfully; they seemed to have the place well protected, with guards posted at every vantage point and the road cordoned off; there seemed to be no way to gain unauthorised entry.

“So,” Grey turned to Green with a smile, “I guess this is where we find out if the rumours are true.”

“You mean, what Captain Ochre said?” asked Green with curiosity.

Grey chuckled. “Yeah!  If you can believe that anyone can ‘out-Ochre’ Ochre!  The way he tells it, he’ll be a cross between President Roberts and General Ward of the Frost Line Outer Space Defence.”

“Oh, I remember him!” replied Green. “He had the colonel pulling his hair out!”

“Yeah, he wanted to blow the Mysteron Complex up all over again!  He was a nightmare to deal with.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have the two combined?”

“I can see how that would be a serious problem,” agreed Green. 

“I can’t see him being as bad as Ochre suggests, my guess is that they don’t get on for some reason,” Grey laughed.

“Sour grapes, you mean?”

“Something like that,” replied Grey unbuckling his harness.  Looking up, he could see Lieutenant Tan approaching the MSV.  “Ah, good, here’s Tan.  He’ll be able to update us on the situation.”

Lieutenant Tan had been standing at the main entrance to the apartment building when the MSV arrived.  Standing at an inch under six feet tall, he cut a striking figure. Born Armando Spinnetti, in Florence, Italy, straight from college he had attained distinction at the Giardello Military Academy in Rome, subsequently working in the Italian diplomatic corps, and gaining himself an outstanding reputation in security.  Joining Spectrum almost from its inception, Spinnetti trained at Koala Base before transferring to Spectrum’s New York Headquarters on his commission with the rank and colour code Lieutenant Tan.  More than satisfied with his work, only six months earlier, he had been offered the role of Chief of Security at the newly rebuilt New York Maximum Security Building, upon its completion; he eagerly accepted the position, which was something he seemed almost born to do.

Opening the doors, Grey and Green climbed down from the MSV; Grey extended a hand to the approaching Lieutenant.

“Lieutenant Tan,” Grey beamed a smile at him.  “Good to see you again.  What’s the situation here?”

Grey fully expected to hear a report solely concerning the steps taken to secure the Commander’s safety and the success of that operation thus far.  Instead he was somewhat taken aback to see Tan’s exasperated expression as he shook his head with a sigh.

“Captain Grey, can I be straight with you?” he asked with a pained frown.

“Sure, Lieutenant. What’s up?” Grey asked leading the agitated Lieutenant to one side.

“He’s driving us crazy!”

Grey raised his eyebrows at so blunt an admission.  Tan continued:

“He’s stopped short of abuse but I honestly think he would if he could get away with it.” The exhaustion was evident on Tan’s face. “I just wish I could hand him over to you completely!”

Grey frowned; Lieutenant Tan was not given to overreaction, it was more in his nature to understate a problem.

“What’s his problem?” asked Grey.

“He doesn’t see why he needs Spectrum security.  Says his own guys at the WGPC can do just as well, if not better.”

“And he can order them about too!” Grey replied astutely.

“Got it in one, Brad –  er…  Captain.”

Grey smiled, Tan really was flustered if he managed to forget protocol.  “That’s okay, Armando,” he said patting the younger man’s arm sympathetically.  “I’m warned.  Let’s see if we can’t tame the tiger.”

“Good luck, Captain!”

Grey headed back towards Lieutenant Green; the expression on his face was stern and gave little away.

“Is there a problem, Captain?” asked Green with a quizzical look.

“Nothing we can’t handle, I’m sure,” he replied cryptically.  “Come on, let’s go in.”

Grey headed the small group of three Spectrum officers, his face set in a grim mask of determination.  On reaching Commander Stewart’s apartment, Grey and Green flashed their Spectrum passes  to the security guards standing in front of his door and were allowed to enter.  Grey was first struck by the contents of the living room into which they stepped.  On the walls there were collections of stamps set in frames.  Books on stamp collecting adorning the shelves, a magnifying glass and a couple of magazines on the subject rested on the coffee table.  In fact, everywhere Grey looked there were stamps.  Everywhere.

“Oh God!” Grey muttered under his breath.  “He IS Ochre!”

Lieutenant Green, looking around with wide-opened yes, was thinking about the same. Replace the stamps by model planes and the picture would be perfect!

“Who are you?”

The voice came so suddenly and was so abrupt that Grey was caught completely off guard.  The voice was so severe, it was almost like being addressed by Colonel White on a bad day.  Losing all his resolution, Grey suddenly found himself struggling to reply.

“Er…Sorry, Sir.  Captain Grey, Spectrum and this is Lieutenant Green.” 

“And I’m supposed to trust myself to a guy who doesn’t know who he is?” Stewart snapped as he rose from the deep armchair in which he had been sitting.

“I didn’t see you there, Sir.”

“You fill me with the utmost confidence, Captain.  If you can’t even see me, I dread to think how you would see any would-be assassins.”

Grey counted to ten.  Behind him he could hear Tan breathe a ghost of a sigh and knew exactly how he felt.

“Now, Lieutenant Tan, for the benefit of your near-sighted friend, perhaps you would explain that I neither want nor need Spectrum protection.  My men at the WGPC are more than capable of handling the situation.  Now I will ask you, very politely, to leave my home and let me get on.”

“With respect, Sir…” began Grey.

“A sentence that begins ‘With respect’ usually contains none whatsoever,” Stewart interrupted irritably.

“With respect, Sir,” Grey nevertheless continued,  “you have been threatened by the Mysterons.  That is not something to be treated lightly.”

“I am not treating it lightly, Captain. Are you suggesting that my men are a joke force, only capable of performing the most menial of tasks?”

“No, Sir, not at all.”  Grey was starting to realise how Tan had so quickly reached the end of his tether.  The man was infuriating in the extreme, twisting words to his own ends. “I’m merely suggesting that as we at Spectrum have greater experience with the Mysterons…”

“An assassin’s an assassin, Captain.  It’s not the first time a Commander of the WGPC has been targeted by some crank.  You may recall the unfortunate Commander Richard Fraser of some years ago?”  Grey kept a set face, and Stewart continued, shrugging. “Well, unlike him, I’m not going to take any chances.  My men can take the responsibility, for which they are more than capable.  Now, if you would, Captain, I’d like you to escort your men off the premises and return to your respective offices.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Commander,” replied Grey sternly; having decided that he and the rest of the Spectrum officers had taken enough abuse from the man.  “You have been threatened by the Mysterons, that makes it Spectrum’s business by Presidential Order.”

Grey noticed Stewart open his mouth to argue and continued quickly:

“If you still object, Sir, you can take it up with the World President, but I doubt that he would share your concerns about the organisation he helped to found.” Grey paused for a moment, watching Stewart’s reaction, then added, “Sir.”

Stewart glared at Grey; the pair stared at each other, unblinking for a few moments before Stewart spoke again.

“What is your plan, Captain?” he asked finally.

“We have a Maximum Security Vehicle downstairs, Sir.  We intend to take you to the Maximum Security Building.”

“You mean the place the Mysterons blew up about two years ago?” Stewart scoffed loudly.  “That’s your idea of protection is it?”

“Sir, that was before we knew anything about them.  We are much more prepared, and we have methods to detect and kill their agents now. Since its reconstruction, the Building is much more secure. And one of our men has spent a considerable amount of time making additional security improvements.  You will be quite safe, Sir.”

“Very well,” Stewart grumbled.  “Seeing as I don’t really have a choice…”

“I’ll wait while you get ready to leave, Sir. Lieutenants Green and Tan will accompany you in the MSV passenger cabin.”

Stewart sighed heavily as, accompanied by a Spectrum security guard, he headed for the bedroom to pack a bag while Grey waited in the living room.

Grey turned to Tan and rolled his eyes.  “Good thing he agreed to come on his own! I wouldn’t have wanted to drag him down there.”

Tan smiled; it was hard to know if Grey was being serious or not, but he had to admit, it was a thought that had crossed his mind too.

“I’ll meet you downstairs in a little while,” Grey continued with a sigh.

“S.I.G.,” Green grinned as he turned to leave with Tan.  Heading down the stairs once more, Green turned to Tan with a knowing smile.  “That was a serious battle of wills up there.”

“Actually,” replied Tan with a straight face, “I think it was more a battle of ‘won’ts’!”

The pair laughed quietly as they returned to the MSV, glad the confrontation was over with, for now at least.


* * *


This was getting out of hand.

WAY out of hand, Matt Riordan was thinking as he was working frenetically on his computer, in order to find the information that Patrick Donaghue had requested of him. 

As he had said to Donaghue, it wasn’t a problem.  He had easily found what he was looking for.  And more, even.  But as he was downloading the information onto a disk, he was wondering why he was doing it.  Why he had accepted so easily to follow those orders, even though he knew it could very well signify the death of one man.

Because you’re a coward, Matt, that’s why!  he told himself angrily.

He knew that Donaghue would never take no for an answer, and he was so very afraid for his life. He had no doubt in his mind that his ‘old friend’ would kill him as easily as he had killed Jack.  Or Fisher.  Or Tyler.  Or like he was preparing to kill that Spectrum officer he was detaining at the warehouse.  He would not hesitate for one instant.

Riordan had seen how Donaghue had been in action up until now.  So ruthless, so unpredictable, and cold.  So unemotional. It was exactly as if he wasn’t feeling anything anymore.  The way he was looking at all of them, he didn’t have any consideration for anyone.  They were mere tools to be used for his own purposes.  

That wasn’t the Patrick Donaghue Riordan knew.  The man that he was in the past, even though he was head of one of the most significant mob organisations of the New York area, he was a caring one, considerate, and one who would have never accepted that his men would kill on his behalf.  That was what set him apart from all the other gang bosses in those times.  They were all cold and ruthless killers.  Donaghue was not.  His were always clean operations, and nobody would get hurt.  At least, physically, if not financially. 

Riordan permitted himself a faint smile of amusement upon remembering that old, rich – so very rich – financier from Wall Street – a self-made successful businessman who said to anyone willing to listen to him that he had made an household name of himself when he had started his business at twenty, with only a thousand dollars in his pocket, and by taking no prisoners in the market – the man had been known as a ruthless, heartless businessman who had driven many competitors and less fortunate companies into the ground, leaving nothing for their owners to survive on.  The arrogant, self-satisfied son-of-a-gun had publicly proclaimed that his computer systems were completely protected from any attempt to hack into them.  That was a challenge Pat had been unable to ignore.  He hacked into the systems, cut through all the security devices implanted in them and had drained the man of all his assets.  Then he had generously deposited an amount of a hundred thousand dollars in a personal account set up in the man’s name, and had sent him a note, telling him that now he could start his business again with a hundred times what he had when first he did forty years ago.  The daring exploit had made the front page news at the time – with everyone in the business world wondering who had been able to do that – and trembling that he would start again, with any one of them.

Those days were gone now, Riordan realised bitterly.  Pat Donaghue had become as ruthless and bloodthirsty as any of his mob competitors of the time.  If not worse. 

How could he have changed so much, and so quickly?  That was still a mystery to Matt.  He finished the job on his computer, and sat down on his chair, thoughtfully.  Some months ago, the last time he had encountered Pat; he was apparently still the same.  Aside from that burning anger he was feeling for Ben Fisher, that is, but even that was quite understandable, considering all Fisher had done to him in the recent past – added to which, he was holding Pat’s sister Sarah as a hostage, to force Pat to do something for him.  Pat had sworn to Fisher that if he ever used his family against him again, he would kill him, but that was the limit of Pat’s ruthlessness at the time.  Probably Fisher got the message, because he never attempted to approach Sarah Donaghue again.  Not that it would have served him, anyway, since he had no reason to use her anymore.  But Matt Riordan was sincerely asking himself if Fisher wasn’t really afraid of Pat at the time.  He would probably never have the answer to that question.

What happened between that time and today? Matt was asking himself, his brow furrowed.  Pat was still a Spectrum officer then – and apparently a very dedicated one, loyal to his friends and his job.  There wasn’t really a good explanation for his present behaviour, that was really troubling Riordan.  He couldn’t explain it to himself.

Turning around on his seat; Riordan looked out through the window of the office, set on the second floor.  Down there, in the dead-end alley behind the building, he could see a dark, impressive car which had been brought up in front of the service door, of the other wing, that Riordan could see very well.  Billy Brennan, one of the gang’s minor members, had stepped out to open the rear door, just as Pat Donaghue came out of the building from the service door, his long, expensive coat almost flapping in the wind at each step, casually smoking a cigar that he threw away just before getting into the car. Behind him, Sean O’Rourke following, getting into the car on the other side. Riordan shivered almost despite himself when Billy closed the door and took his place back at the wheel, driving the car away.  All of Riordan’s thoughts instantly went to the Spectrum officer the gang was keeping captive at the warehouse.  He knew that Donaghue was going there to see him.

To ‘deal’ with the problem.

Riordan shivered anew.  He knew exactly how Donaghue intended to deal with it, and he didn’t like it at all.  It was one thing that Pat had killed Fisher and the others – they were criminals, rivals, killers, probably they deserved to die, not withstanding the fact that there wasn’t really a need for it.  Nobody would really miss them, and certainly nobody would cry over them.  But a Spectrum officer?  Now that was more serious.  It was plain, cold-blooded murder of a man whose function was related to that of an international policeman – more, a member of an anti-terrorist organisation.

Riordan didn’t want to get mixed up with that, but what could he do?

“For God’s sakes, Pat,” he mumbled with a deep sigh. “What happened to you? Did you snap under pressure at Spectrum? Have you gone completely crazy?”

He grimly watched as the car disappeared from his view, after turning the corner of the alley. He sighed again, heavily.  Pat was going to kill a Spectrum officer – one of his own colleagues.  And after that, he was planning to assassinate his old adversary Ian Stewart – a man that he had tremendous respect for, despite the fact that Stewart tried to arrest him.  And apparently, now Pat would kill him without a second thought.  Riordan felt as if he could do nothing but look on helplessly – all the while hoping that he too would not become a victim of Pat’s madness.

In frustration, Riordan pushed his fists into the pockets of his jacket.  He felt something inside the right one.  He then remembered the picture he had picked up from the floor, not that far away from the dead body of Tyler, and had quickly hidden in his pocket to avoid Donaghue seeing it. 

He got it out, merely out of morbid curiosity, wondering what it could be about.  When he turned it in his hand to check the picture, he frowned deeply.

It showed Patrick Donaghue, sprawled on his back on the floor of the very office Riordan was presently sitting in.  With a red dot of blood staining the white of his expensive shirt.  Dead centre in the chest – where the heart would be.

What’s that supposed to mean? Riordan asked himself, not understanding any of it.  The date and time stamp on the photo told him that it had been taken barely an hour ago – at about the moment of Tyler’s death.  Pat had said that Tyler had tried to kill him to collect on Carlotta’s bounty money.  Did Tyler actually shoot Pat and then take this photo as some kind of proof?  But… Pat didn’t appear wounded earlier… 

A bullet proof vest, Riordan decided.  He was wearing a bullet proof vest when Tyler tried to kill him.  Then Pat surprised him and killed him, and…

No.  Where was that blood stain coming from, then? 

Well… they do it all the time in Hollywood, no?  Sachets of fake blood on actors’ chests, to make believe they’re dead and…

That sounded so stupid!  Would Patrick Donaghue REALLY go to such extremes to make an enemy believe he was dead, in order to shoot him?

Quite unlikely.  How more absurd could that be?

Riordan couldn’t find a logical explanation for the photo – although he was quite sure there was one.  There MUST be one, he added inwardly, rather unnerved.  And the person who would be able to tell him about it would be Patrick Donaghue himself.  But Riordan wasn’t that eager to ask him about it…  There was something very disturbing about that picture, and he was sure it was hiding something terribly wrong concerning his friend…

That’s it, this is the last straw. I have had enough of all this! Riordan suddenly decided that he wouldn’t stay around to wait for the ship to sink under his feet.  He had to get out of all this, and put a good deal of distance between himself and Patrick Donaghue.  Away, as far away as he could get.

Mars would be far away enough! he thought grimly. He grabbed for his jacket, hanging on the back of the chair he was working on.  He wouldn’t go through the front door.  The men in the other room would see him go; maybe they wouldn’t ask anything, but Riordan didn’t want to take the risk… Who knew if Pat hadn’t asked them to keep their eyes on him? 

He would take the back door; which led directly outside.  Quietly opening it, taking care not to make a sound, he stepped out and walked down the narrow flight of stairs and out into the dead-end alley where he had seen Donaghue get into a car a short while earlier.  Riordan’s car was parked in the street, just beyond the alley.  He only had a short walk before reaching it.  He looked over his shoulder often, making sure nobody was following him – or watching him.

Nobody in sight.  Riordan let out a sigh of relief only when he finally reached his car.  He fumbled a moment with his key, searching the right one to unlock the door, and when he finally found it, he literally jumped behind the wheel. 

His key stopped short at the ignition.  Something flashed into his mind.  Something that was making him fight with his conscience.

“Scarlet,” he muttered under his breath.  “Can’t leave him in trouble…”

He reached for his cellular phone in his inside pocket and hurriedly dialled a number – ironically, it had been Pat, some months ago, who had given it to him.  He never thought he would use it again – and this time against his friend.

He hoped the number was still working.  He waited, rubbing his sweaty hand against his lap.

“Spectrum New York Headquarters…  How can we be of service?”

Riordan’s heart jumped in his chest when he heard the female voice at the other end of the line.  He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath.

“It’s me who can help you,” he said quickly, trying to render his voice as firm as possible – but obviously failing to do so.  “I have information that you might be interested in.”

“Your name, sir?” the voice asked patiently.

“Never mind my name.  That’s not important.  You have a missing officer at the moment.  Captain Scarlet.  I know where he is.”

“Would you like to talk to an investigating officer, sir?”

“Never mind the investigating officer.  You have to act fast!  He’s in danger…  They’re going to kill him!”

“Sir, if you would just wait a short instant, I’ll transfer you to…”

“Lady, I don’t have an instant!  My name is Matt Riordan, and my life may also be in danger.”  Riordan closed his eyes again. Why did I have to tell her my name? he thought with irritation. He opened his eyes again. “Look.  I’m telling you they’re going to kill him.  If you act quickly enough, you might be able to save him.  They’re in a warehouse, on the harbour docks, by the Hudson River.  The number is…”

A sudden movement at his left, on the other side of the door window caught Riordan’s eye.  His heart jumping, he quickly cut the communication, and hid the phone, hoping he was swift enough.  About that same moment, the rear door from his side opened wide and someone climbed in to sit down.  Looking over his shoulders, Riordan saw Cody Flint, one of Kirby’s trusted hired hands, seated right behind him, very casually.  Riordan started to protest:

“What the hell…”

The sound of another slammed door made him turn to his right; Josh Kirby himself had just climbed into the car, settling himself comfortably. Riordan’s face became awfully pale, upon seeing the large sneer widening on Kirby’s face.

“Hello, there, Matt,” Kirby asked with an even, almost cold tone, turning to Riordan.  “What’re you doing here all alone?  I thought you were in the office, working for Mister Donaghue?”

“I… needed some fresh air,” started Riordan, knowing, even as he spoke, that it sounded like a dull explanation.

“And you get into your car to get it?” Kirby asked innocently.

Riordan somehow got a hold of himself.  There was no way he was going to let himself be intimidated by Kirby. “I wanted to get myself a drink,” he replied in a dry enough tone. “Is there a law against that?”

“No, not really.  But I’m pretty sure Mister Donaghue wouldn’t want for you to get drunk JUST before going into that important operation of his.”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” Riordan replied with an exasperated sigh. “It would be between Mister Donaghue and myself.”

Kirby’s face became implacable for the space of an instant.  Then he sat back on his seat and a new, very thin smile appeared on his lips.  “Quite right, that.  So…  why don’t we go see him right now, then, see what he thinks about it?”  He casually pointed to the ignition key.  “Switch it on, Matt.  I’m letting you drive.  You know the way, don’t you?”

Riordan kept himself from scowling.  He couldn’t see any way for him to get away.  He knew that Flint behind always carried a gun – and he would have bet anything that Kirby was armed too, and so willing to shoot him if he only felt that he needed to.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, turning toward the wheel.  “I know the way all right.”

With an impending sense of doom, he turned the key.


* * *


Each blow felt like it was being dealt by a hammer.

At least that’s how it felt to Captain Scarlet, as he was given the worst punishment he ever remembered receiving.  What was worse was that he couldn’t even defend himself.  Given the chance, he would have tried to answer his assailant in kind.  Even if that the latter was bigger and obviously stronger than him, Scarlet could hardly be considered a wimp – six foot one, strong enough himself, and he had had military training in all forms of combat to stand his ground against any adversary – and eventually win.  But in the kind of situation he was facing at the moment, there was little he could do.  And it didn’t look as if it was going to improve.  Quite the contrary.

He was in a large room, all made of wood – walls, floor, and high ceiling, with studs supporting the whole structure.  No windows in the place, only a door at the far side of the room, which was closed.  As far as Scarlet could tell, by the collection of ill-assembled objects and tools lying everywhere around the place, it looked like it had been, in its time, a storage area.  That was all he had been able to figure out; he had been unconscious when he had been brought there and he didn’t even know how long it had lasted.  He had been awakened rather roughly, by the contents of a bucket of very cold water, to find himself stripped to the waist of his uniform, in his undershirt, and tied to a very uncomfortable wooden chair, hands behind his back and ankles roped to the chair legs.  There were three men in there with him – one of them, the size of a mountain, he recognized as the man who had attacked him at Matt Riordan’s place. 

As soon as he opened his eyes, and as he was still trying to focus on his surroundings and trying to get his bearings back, the questions started.  And Scarlet obstinately refused to answer any of them.

And that’s when the pain really began.

The man-mountain had started hitting him.  Over and over again. Punching, slapping, back-handing…  His hands were enormous, and heavy and every time he used them, it was as if he was putting all of his weight behind them.  The two other men were watching stoically at some distance, not involving themselves with the beating, but stopping the punishment from time to time, to ask Scarlet the same questions they had already asked him:  what was he doing in Matt Riordan’s apartment?  How did he track him there?  What was it Spectrum was looking for?   It was rather frustrating that the captain wasn’t willing to answer, even after what seemed like long hours of interrogation.  It was worse that he was keeping completely silent.  Not even a smart comeback from him, not a single word.  It was as if he had gone totally mute.  The only sounds he was allowing to come out of him were the grunts and groans following each of their huge friend’s blows.

Scarlet wasn’t very surprised when he overheard the name the others gave to the monster of a man who was hitting him, blow after devastating blow.  Ox. Strong as his name was implying.  Scarlet had heard of him.  And had seen the results of his skills when the man had attacked and beaten Captain Grey nearly to a pulp.  Grey had been forced to stay in Cloudbase sickbay for days – Doctor Fawn believing he had been the victim of a group attack – and that he had probably been hit with clubs or baseball bats.  Scarlet had hardly believed Grey when he had reluctantly told him the truth – considering that Grey was a man more than able to hold his own in a fight. 

Now Scarlet knew perfectly how Grey had felt.

Ox was an enforcer of the Donaghue gang. Captain Magenta had admitted that – ashamedly enough – when Grey had revealed the name of his attacker.   For Scarlet, learning the name of the strong man had led to the realization that the last image he had seen before being knocked out wasn’t a dream – however improbable it apparently was. His mind was having considerable difficulty focusing, with the punishment he was receiving, to be able to concentrate on the problem, and it wasn’t very clear yet, but he had a fairly good idea how it might have happened.

Finally drained of his strength by the punishing blows, Scarlet fell unconscious again – probably knocked out by one of the man-mountain’s powerful punches.  Again, he was awoken when cold water was poured over his head. Shivering under the icy shower, he opened his eyes tiredly to look numbly around. The two other men had gone away, leaving him in the care of his huge tormentor. His whole body hurt in places he didn’t know he had. The backrest of the chair was pressing painfully against his armpits, and he couldn’t even move them to ease the discomfort.  He could feel his wrists burning, the ropes binding them having deeply abraded them, not allowing his retrometabolism to, at least, heal them fully.  His healing ability was of little consolation and help in the present situation, under the continuous assaults of the man who had been hitting him.  It was nothing short of a miracle that nobody had noticed that many of the wounds inflicted on him were already healed.  But then again, Ox had not stopped long enough to look closely at his handiwork on his prisoner’s bruised and bloody face and upper body.  He never noticed that his fists were inflicting new injuries over the previous ones, as they were fading.  That made Scarlet’s dazed mind wonder, at some point, if the man was all that bright. 

“Come on, now, Spectrum,” Ox growled, standing at his full height over the officer, whose body was now resting limply on the wooden chair.  “If you know what’s good for you, you’d better tell me something…  Anything that we want to know.”  He cracked the fingers of his right hands in an ominous way, so to get his captive’s attention.  Scarlet could barely react.  He had trouble thinking; he could feel blood running down his left temple, where Ox had hit him repeatedly.  He was sure he had a concussion. He made an effort to raise his heavy head in the direction of the man,  shooting him a look that was so very cold and determined, despite the mess he knew his face was in.  Ox didn’t appear impressed in the least.  He violently backhanded his captive, sending his head to one side.  Scarlet felt a shooting pain reverberating through his skull. 

“I can go on like this all day,” the huge man continued, shaking his head.  “Is that what you want me to do?”  He crouched beside the groaning captain, and took a handful of hair, pulling his head up, and forcing a moan out of his lips.  “You won’t like that, I can tell you.  ‘Course, I can also kill you, with my bare hands…  An accident can always happen.”   Scarlet’s breathing was heavy, and he was obviously in a lot of pain.  His head felt numb in Ox’s grip and was threatening to fall forward.  The big man got closer to his ear. “I’m normally a nice guy, Spectrum,” he whispered, threateningly, “but there’s something you ought to know about me:  I HATE guys in uniform.  Police, Spectrum…  They’re all symbols of authority I can’t bear.  What makes it WORSE for you:  I also hate Brits.  So you can say you’re still in for a hard time.”

He violently released his grip, and was somehow surprised when his captive found the strength to keep it straight enough to stare at him again, in complete and cold silence.  Ox’s immediate answer was a punch that forced Scarlet’s eyes down.

“You want to play tough, Spectrum, I’m more than happy to oblige!”

Ox raised his fist again, furious to see this man able to resist him this way when others would normally fall down and play dead. A quiet voice suddenly made itself heard, stopping him in full swing.

“You can stop now, Ox, it’s useless.”

Ox raised his eyes from the limp form seated in front of him and looked in the direction of the door.  He had not noticed that somebody had opened it a minute or so earlier.  Now he could see a dark silhouette standing in the doorway, looking at him, and quietly smoking his small cigar. 

“That’s a tough one, sir,” Ox said lowering his arm.  “I’ve never seen anyone standing against me like he does. I can’t get anything out of him.”

“I know, I don’t blame you.”  Patrick Donaghue entered the room fully, just as Scarlet was slowly raising his heavy head to look in his direction. “You could hit him ‘til Kingdom come.  It wouldn’t do you any good.” Despite the obvious pain he was in, there were daggers in the Spectrum’s officer’s eyes.  Donaghue coldly gazed down at him, before blowing out some smoke and taking his cigar in his hand.  “Now, if you would excuse us a moment, I would like to talk to the good captain.  Alone.”

“You’re sure, Mister Donaghue?” Ox asked with uncertainty.  “Is that safe?”

“Now what could he do, trussed up like he is? Please, Ox.  You know I can take care of myself.”

“All right, sir.  I’ll be in the other room if you need me.”  With a sigh, Ox took his jacket, lying on a small toolbox nearby and directed his steps toward the exit.

“Close the door on your way out,” Donaghue instructed him, looking down at the captive, who had lowered his aching head.  “I don’t want to be disturbed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Scarlet heard the heavy steps fade away, then the door close. A few seconds passed, before another sound made itself heard.  “You must excuse Ox,” the voice of Pat Donaghue remarked in a business-like tone. “He’s really a great guy…  He’s just overzealous, when it concerns business. At other times, you’d like him.”

Scarlet grunted. “I doubt it.”  Those were the first words he had pronounced since he had been taken prisoner. The sour taste he was feeling in his mouth trickled down into his throat and that made him cough, causing a new pain in his chest.  He didn’t know how many ribs Ox had broken.  A few certainly.  He raised his eyes, and turned his head, to briefly look in Donaghue’s direction.  The latter was quietly staring down at him, chewing his cigar, obviously thinking.

“I didn’t realize Patrick Donaghue had ever smoked,” Scarlet mumbled, lowering his gaze, and giving a sigh as he was trying to get his breathing back to a normal rate. Donaghue calmly shook his head and removed the cigarillo from his lips, while walking with a slow and casual step to position himself in front of Scarlet. 

“Oh yes, that… Well, no, I hardly smoked.  This brand of cigars only, and only occasionally.  It gives a certain look, don’t you think?”  Scarlet barely glanced up to him.  Donaghue shrugged and threw the cigar on the floor, before stepping on it.  “Anyway, I stopped, about three months before joining Spectrum…”

“YOU didn’t join Spectrum,” Scarlet mumbled in reply, fighting to regain his focus.

Either Donaghue didn’t hear him at all, or heard and ignored the allusion.  He approached and crouched down in front of Scarlet, and stared closely at him.  He stretched out his right hand to raise the Spectrum officer’s heavy and tired head and turned it to the side to check on the open and bleeding wound just under the hair-line.  He narrowed his eyes as if he was examining it with an expert eye. Scarlet didn’t even have the strength to draw away.

“Already healing,” Donaghue said with an approving nod. “It’s amazing how you retained the retrometabolic power to help with any injury you get…”

Scarlet then found enough energy to pull away from Donaghue’s touch, with obvious disgust. “You ought to know,” he said, looking up to him with blazing eyes. “You’re a Mysteron, right?”

“Nothing gets by you, does it, Paul?”  Donaghue replied very quietly.

“Don’t call me that,” Scarlet spat.  He narrowed his eyes, his mind now fully functioning, and the situation becoming clearer.  “You were duplicated following that accident in Vermont,” he murmured.  “When Magenta drowned in that lake.”

“You got it, champ.” 

“Those men at the scene,” Scarlet continued.  “One in dark clothing… Captain Black, of course.”  Donaghue nodded again, very slowly.  Scarlet grunted with irritation.  “I knew something was wrong.  I should have trusted my instinct!”

“You should have, maybe,” Donaghue agreed.  “But, what difference would that have made?”  He rose to his feet.  “Would that have saved your friend?”

Scarlet didn’t reply.  So, obviously, this Mysteron duplicate of Magenta was unaware that his original was alive.  He didn’t know what impact that might have – on either the real Magenta, the duplicate or even the situation.  But he certainly wasn’t about to reveal the truth.  He didn’t know what kind of advantage it could give to Spectrum. If any.

“You came here to New York and took over Patrick Donaghue’s old gang from Ben Fisher,” Scarlet remarked matter-of-factly. “I bet he wasn’t easy to convince…”

“Oh, he was, really,” Donaghue answered matter-of-factly.  “All it took was one bullet. He was… well, standing about where I am, when he finally stepped down.” 

“You killed him.”

“Of course. There was no other way.”

“Why?” Scarlet snapped. “You certainly didn’t take over out of interest.  It isn’t the Mysterons’ way.  What are you up to?  What’s your mission?”

“You mean you don’t know?” Donaghue asked with a faint frown. When Scarlet answered only with a deep silence, he slowly shook his head. “I noticed you did seem surprised to see me at Matt’s place.  So I guess you weren’t there to investigate my… mission at all, right? ‘Only the accounts’, Matt told me.”  He sighed, moving around to Scarlet’s right. “Okay, I was careless when I accessed those accounts.  It never occurred to me that would raise Spectrum’s interest at all.”

Scarlet nodded his understanding.  For what it was worth, Martin Conners had been, somehow, right about Patrick Donaghue having accessed the accounts.  He just didn’t have any idea that it was in fact a Mysteron duplicate of Patrick Donaghue.

Scarlet wondered which was scarier:  the fact that there was a Magenta duplicate around, or that Conners had found a clue that something odd was going on…

“It did,” he replied with an icy and firmer tone to Donaghue’s remark. “What did you need that money for?”

“I needed liquidity for a few things,” Donaghue replied with a casual shrug.  “Transportation, weapons, equipment, clothes…  You didn’t think I would try to take over my old gang again, wearing a Spectrum uniform?”  He gestured toward the outfit he was wearing.  “I had to look the part.  What do you think, not bad, uh?  Carnation and all…”

“What are you up to?” Scarlet asked again. “You obviously need the gang’s resources for your mission.”

“Oh, that I do. You mean, you really don’t know what the target is?”  Donaghue replied.  “The Mysterons didn’t make a secret of it, though.  And you’ve got to appreciate the irony…” He chuckled softly.  “Even I can appreciate it.”

Donaghue turned around, to walk toward a dark corner of the room, followed by Scarlet’s curious eyes.  While the Mysteron agent crouched down to take something from under a large canvas, the Spectrum officer tested the strength of his bonds.  They were solid, and bit even deeper into his flesh.  There were no way he was going to free himself from them. 

Donaghue got to his feet, a rattling sound accompanying his movement.  Scarlet looked on as he came back in front of him, bringing a long and sturdy chain, that he let fall noisily at the captain’s feet.  Scarlet briefly looked at it, before staring back at the Mysteron; the latter’s face was now implacable.

“I’m sorry, Captain Scarlet,” Donaghue said, his voice now cold.  “But the Mysterons still consider you a dangerous liability.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Scarlet asked with a frown.

“Kill you,”  Donaghue shrugged, with a near indifference, then pointed at the chain at Scarlet’s feet, “then weigh you down with these…” He leaned over a trap door cut in the floor, next to the chair.  He pulled on the large metal level to open the door and Scarlet then stared straight at a watery surface, about three feet below the opening. He shivered, almost despite himself.  “That’s the Hudson River down there,” explained Donaghue with the same business-like tone.  “This place is called ‘The Drop’.  The reason why is obvious.  Actually, it was Fisher who ‘affectionately’ called it that.  I’m afraid you’re going to keep company with that scum at the bottom of the river.”

“What, no cement shoes?” Scarlet noted with dry sarcasm, trying to render his voice firm. In truth, he wasn’t looking forward to be thrown through that trap at all, and drown into that murky, filthy water.

“That would be too cliché,” Donaghue replied. “Beside, cement takes time to dry.  Time I can’t allow myself to lose.”  He drew a pistol from his pocket and pointed it at Scarlet. “I won’t have you suffer needlessly, Paul. You were a true friend. Out of all the others from the senior staff, you were the first to accept me freely, without any condition…”

“STOP talking as if you were Patrick Donaghue!” Scarlet lashed out angrily, pulling on his bonds.  “You are not him!”

“Right,” the Mysteron agent replied very coldly.  “Like you are not Paul Metcalfe?”  That made Scarlet hesitate a second.  He kept his face hard, as Donaghue levelled the gun at him. “I am truly sorry to have to do this, whether you believe it or not.”

In a split second, just as he saw the finger squeeze the trigger, Scarlet made a last desperate attempt and pushed violently against the chair’s backrest with the hope of making it tilt enough for him to escape the bullet that was meant to kill him.  He heard the detonation at the same instant as the chair started falling, and almost right away, felt the searing pain of the bullet’s impact.  He was still conscious enough to feel himself crashing to the floor, his head roughly hitting the surface.  But it only lasted a very short second.

Then he saw and felt nothing else but the darkness and the cold surrounding him.














Other stories by Chris Bishop


Other stories by Sue Stanhope


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