Original series Suitable for all readersMedium level of violence

Dead Ringer


A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story


By Chris Bishop & Sue Stanhope





Comfortably propped up in his bed, Matt Riordan was looking with a murderous stare at the TV set installed at the other end of his room.  The news coverage he was hearing right now was the latest in a long series of reports that the W.B.C. had been broadcasting since the events of the preceding week.  The present coverage was relating how the last of the now infamous Donaghue gang had been finally rounded up by the WGPC special forces, arrested and soon to be prosecuted for their numerous crimes. 

For what it was worth, Riordan thought with grim reflection, the Mysteron was right.  With Ian Stewart in office, the gang would be unable to pursue its activities. In effect, the gang was almost completely dismantled.  There were ‘survivors’ of course, who would join other gangs, or try to pick up the pieces of the Ben Fisher or Gabriel James gangs – but the ‘Donaghue family’ was finished.  There was no-one left from it.

With Ox in the hospital, Riordan had heard, still fighting for his life, with the doctors unsure if he would make it or not, he, Matt Riordan, was the only surviving member.

Some good it’ll do me, Riordan reflected.  He was heading for prison, as soon as he was fit enough to leave the hospital.  And if Ox survived, he’d soon follow behind.

What a mess it was…

Riordan looked down at the newspaper by his side, on the bed, open at the page he had been reading lately. With the catchy title of ‘Death of a notorious crime syndicate boss’,  the lengthy article on it was a retrospective of the ‘life of Patrick Donaghue’ – fictionalised at best – a young and successful mobster who had climbed up the difficult steps of his professional trade from conman to head of a powerful syndicate, all of it almost by the sole strength of his character, charisma and astuteness.  To finally die, still at a young age, when he tried to get rid of his worst enemy – the now all-powerful Supreme Commander of the WGPC, Ian Stewart.  There was a bad black and white photograph of a half-burned body hanging on electric cables, where it had fallen – a picture that had been taken at some distance from the incident by a reporter who had been sent to Stewart’s swearing-in ceremony that day.  Policemen and Spectrum officers had made it impossible for anyone to get close enough to the body to actually see the features, and that gruesome photo of the dead man was as close as they were able to get.  There was a small photo insert next to the article – a Photofit picture of ‘Patrick Donaghue’ at the peak of his career.  The photo was a good likeness, Riordan had to admit, but still, it clearly wasn’t enough to be an accurate portrait of its subject.

And besides – none of it was true.  It wasn’t Pat who had died this grisly death trying to kill Stewart.  And that the newspapers, the television and all the other media would think that it was Pat and would drag the name of his friend – who had been a good man – through the mud was a constant frustration for Riordan.

The fact that Spectrum didn’t seem in any hurry to present a disclaimer was a total injustice in Riordan’s point of view.  Pat was one of their own – he was probably killed in the line of duty, for this… murdering duplicate to take his place.  And Spectrum would let people believe he was a homicidal maniac?  How could they do that to him?  That was so unfair.

On the TV screen, the news coverage was dragging on – and yet again, Riordan heard the commentator mentioning the name of the ‘infamous criminal Pat Donaghue’.  Irritated, Riordan grabbed the newspaper and threw it towards the TV set.  Of course, the paper never reached it, and spread onto the floor at the foot of his bed.  Riordan took the remote control and tried to shut down the television set, but the batteries in the remote were either weak or dead - he couldn’t do it.  He let out a frustrated sigh.

He was on the verge of throwing the remote control at the television when the door opened to let two men enter.  Their appearance distracted Riordan’s attention away from the television.  He recognised Captain Ochre, marching up front; the shorter man behind was dressed in civvies, but there was a multicoloured badge on his jacket, and his face was displaying an implacable expression of righteousness.  Even Ochre’s bearing seemed official.  Riordan straightened up a little and put down the remote.  This is it, he thought, with an impending sense of doom.  Spectrum has come to officially  tell me I’m off to prison.  Oh well… I knew it would end up that way.  I just hope they’ll remember I helped save one of their officers.

While his civilian companion stood next to the bed, Captain Ochre stepped toward the television set to switch it off – for which Riordan was particularly grateful.  He imagined that Ochre was about as angry as himself to hear false news of his friend’s death, and couldn’t bear any more of it. 

“Mr Riordan…”  Ochre came back to stand beside the other man.  His tone was still amenable enough, but his companion’s stare was still an icy one as he looked down at Riordan.  “This is Special Agent Martin Conners, of Spectrum Intelligence…”

“Mr Conners…”  Instinctively, Riordan presented his hand – which Conners blatantly ignored.  Almost uncomfortably, Riordan looked up at Ochre.  “Captain Ochre… I would say I’m glad to see you, but under the circumstances…”  He hesitated and cleared his throat.  He didn’t know quite how to handle the situation. The best way, he thought, was probably to cut to the chase. “So…  when will I be transferred to police authority?”

“You are under Spectrum authority, Mr Riordan,” Special Agent Conners replied.  If it were possible, his tone was even more glacial than his stare.  His words rang threateningly in Riordan’s mind. He knew that he had been  under Spectrum’s protection for the last few days, and that they needed him for information and testimony.  But now that all that dreadful affair was finished, surely, they didn’t need him anymore.  He always assumed that when that happened, he would be handed over to the police and then would face trial for his criminal actions.  That he was apparently staying under Spectrum’s guard was worrying.  He could be charged with far more serious accusations – such as terrorism, although he couldn’t see how they might pin that on him.  Probably, because of his involvement with the ‘Mysteron’ Donaghue?  If they were able to do that, it could mean he would spend the rest of his life in the de Witt penitentiary. He wasn’t sure he was ready for that.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Conners,” Riordan said, as politely and calmly as he could, “I always thought that, when Spectrum was done with me, I would be handed over to…”

“You thought wrong, Mr. Riordan,” Conners cut in abruptly.  “Spectrum has not yet finished with you.  In fact, it’s only the beginning.” 

Riordan’s face paled visibly, as he watched the man open a folder he was holding under his arm. Conners addressed a sideways look at Captain Ochre, who was still standing by his side, almost rigid, waiting silently.  “Mr. Riordan, you have to understand that the situation you have been involved in must stay strictly secret.  That’s why we kept you away from prying eyes, under our constant surveillance and… protection.  No-one was able to come into contact with you and we made sure that you would not contact anyone from your end.”

“Yes…  Yes, I know all that already, Mr. Conners.”  Riordan would have given anything to at least have had access to a telephone during his ‘incarceration’.  He would not have called for his lawyer – he hadn’t even asked for one.  He would not have tried to contact a friend – he wasn’t sure he had any left now.  But he would have certainly tried to contact Sarah Donaghue.  Pat’s sister had surely heard the news and must be devastated by it.  He would have wanted to talk to her, tell her the truth, comfort her… But it had not been possible.  Spectrum made sure he would not get close to any communication device of any kind.

A glance in Ochre’s direction made Riordan wonder if the captain had not contacted Sarah on his own.  After all, Ochre was a close friend of Pat, maybe he had talked to her…

The voice of Conners brought Riordan back to his present situation.  “Mr. Riordan – I’m sure you realise that it’s imperative that this affair continues to stay a secret.  The Mysterons’ true nature can’t be revealed in its entirety to the public.  Already, too many rumours have spread around the globe – we’re just lucky enough that the majority of people consider them lies or exaggerations.  It must continue to remain that way.”

“Mr. Conners, I’m not even sure I understand completely what the nature of those… Mysterons… is,” Riordan replied.  “It’s like I’ve just fallen into a nightmarish movie…  I’m not sure I believe it, and I’m certain nobody will if I ever tell them about it!  Which would not be my first choice,” he added quickly, seeing the warning glance in Conners’ eyes.

“I’m sure of it,” Conners answered in a falsely syrupy tone.  “That’s why we must take special measures in your case, Mr. Riordan.” 

He looked down into his folder and took a paper from it, reading it silently as he did so.  Riordan saw a frown appear on his face.  That’s not good for me, he thought.

“I have to be honest with you, Mr. Riordan, this… special procedure is being carried out against my best advice,” Conners continued, producing the paper.  “This is a certificate of full immunity.  It’s not unconditional, of course.  It’ll be effective only if you agree to work for Spectrum from now on, and for as long as you continue to work for the organisation.  Of course, considering your… shady past, you’ll be on probation at first – and subjected to close surveillance, until such time as you prove that you’re worthy of our trust.  Which I doubt very much will ever happen.”

From the moment Conners had started talking about immunity, Matt Riordan’s eyes had grown wide – and had not stopped widening until the end of the Spectrum Intelligence man’s speech.  With a trembling hand, he took the paper from Conners’ hand and was now reading it very quickly, unsure if it was real.

Immunity…  But with conditions.

“What… what’s the alternative?” he asked, raising his head to Conners.

The latter raised a brow.  “There is no alternative, Mr. Riordan,” he said in a very icy tone.  “Or rather – you wouldn’t like it.  It wouldn’t be very pleasant for you.” He left the explanation hanging, and closed the folder in a very brusque gesture.  “I suggest you take that opportunity and hold on to it for dear life.  It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to become an honest man.  Not that I think you deserve it.”  He turned his back on the open-mouthed, silent Riordan and walked toward the door to open it.  “An agent will come to pick you up in two days and take you to your new assignment.  I advise you to be here. Of course, you’ll be watched to ensure that you will be…   Good day, Mr. Riordan.”

He didn’t wait to hear Riordan’s possible reply and stepped out, closing the door behind him.  Still flabbergasted by the news, Riordan kept staring at the now closed door; he barely noticed the faint smile on Captain Ochre’s face. Now that Conners had gone, the officer was starting to relax.

“Wow,” Riordan finally murmured.  “I can’t believe it…  I… I fully expected to spend the rest of my life in prison and now… that Conners offers me this.

“Mr Conners has got nothing to do with this, Matt,” Ochre then said.  His smile had broadened, and he was now removing his cap. Now he seemed completely at ease.  His eyes were brightening with enthusiasm.  “He was merely the messenger of an administrative decision.  Since you already found out a lot about the Mysterons and what they are able to do, and since you have had contact with Spectrum senior staff and know the secret identity of two of its members – that’s me and Captain Magenta – it seemed a good idea to… ‘hire’ you, so to speak.”

 Blackmail me into accepting the offer is a more accurate description, Riordan pondered.  But of course, he knew Conners was right.  It was his only chance to start anew, to have a honest life after all those years of living on the fringe of  the law, to escape the enemies he had made for himself, especially these last few days.  He knew it would mean a very different life, probably he wouldn’t have benefit of all the luxury he had been accustomed to.  But what else could he do?  Besides, he was willing to do it.

Pat had done the same.  That would be a fitting tribute.

“Captain Ochre… I… thank you for this opportunity.  I won’t disappoint you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Matt.  It wasn’t my idea.  As I said, it was an administrative decision.  You should thank Colonel White.  But I doubt you’ll ever have the chance to meet him and do that. Once you receive the proper training,  you will be assigned to one of our ground bases.”

“Where will I be sent?”

“I don’t know.  But you won’t stay in New York, that’s a certainty.  You must leave the city.  Disappear totally, so people will forget about you.  As far as everyone is concerned, Matt Riordan, member of the Donaghue gang, is better off considered dead.”

“If that’s what it takes… I can live with that.”  He looked over the dark screen of the television set and gave a deep sigh.  He had certainly picked up that Ochre had talked earlier about Pat, almost as if Pat was still alive.  Now was perhaps the chance to tell the captain what had been bothering him lately.   He started, with a slight hesitation in his voice. “Captain, I… I must say I’m… grateful for Spectrum’s intervention… but…”

But?” Ochre said with a furrowed brow.  “I sense there’s something bothering you, Matt.”

“It’s not… me, actually.  But don’t you think Spectrum ought to also do something for Pat?”  Riordan gestured angrily toward the television.  “They’re dragging his good name through the mud – the media, that is.  They’re passing him off as a murderer – they’re saying how he died a criminal’s death…  But that’s not true.  It wasn’t Pat who did all those horrible things.  Pat was a good man.  Why doesn’t Spectrum set the record straight?  They owe it to Pat!”

“Indeed,” Ochre answered with a slow acknowledging nod.  “But I’m afraid it’s not possible, Matt.”

“Another ‘administrative decision’?”  Riordan scoffed.

“We can’t tell the truth to the world.  That would be telling about the Mysterons.  Or, at least, giving further substance to the rumours that are already out there… Besides,” Ochre added quickly, seeing that Riordan, obviously disgusted by the statement, was getting ready to protest further, “it would seem that this… incident… might also have its usefulness after all.”

“What usefulness is there in letting people believe that an evil man died under the identity of a good one?” Riordan grumbled.

Ochre shook his head. He inhaled deeply, before letting his breath go very slowly.  “It could be useful when the good man wants the world at large to believe he’s dead,” he said very carefully.

At first, Riordan didn’t seem to register what Ochre had just told him; he stared at the captain without any expression on his face other than utter confusion, apparently struggling to understand what he meant.  A frown appeared on his brow.  “Wha-what are you saying now, Captain?  What do you mean?”

There was a large smile on Ochre’s face when next he spoke. “I think you understood perfectly what I meant, Matt.”

Riordan’s eyes widened with disbelief.  “P-pat…?”

“… Is alive and well.”

“B-b-but…  the Mysteron agent… the  double…”

“We call them ‘duplicates’, Matt.”

Riordan nodded vaguely, acknowledging the information, but not really listening to it. “He said Pat was dead and that he had taken his place,” he said insistently.

“He also told you Captain Scarlet was dead, didn’t he?” Ochre cut in pointedly.  “And you know that wasn’t the case.”   Ochre paused a second, before continuing, more quietly, “The Mysteron agent only thought Pat was dead.  Obviously, he was wrong.”

“Pat’s alive,” Riordan murmured, still obviously shaken by the news.  “I… can hardly believe it… How…?”

“It’s rather a long story, Matt,”  Ochre sighed.  “And a complicated one.  I’ll leave the explanation to Pat himself, when next you see him.  But the bottom line is that Pat – Captain Magenta – has been very lucky.”

“The luck of the Irish,” Riordan remarked with a smile, thinking that he himself had had some of that rub off onto him today.  He chuckled, shaking his head.  “You Spectrum officers are really a tough bunch, Captain!  I can hardly believe you want me to be a part of your organisation.  Me, a Spectrum agent?”

 “We don’t expect you to be an ‘agent’, Matt,” Ochre said with a short laugh.  “But you’ve got abilities that may be useful for Spectrum.  For example, you’re very adept with computers.”

“I’m not as adept as Pat is himself,” Riordan defended himself  with modesty.  “Far from it.”  He paused a second, as an afterthought came to the front of his mind.  “You said that Pat will explain to me when I next see him.  I… haven’t seen him yet.”  

His voice sounded sad, and indeed he was sad inside.  Knowing what he had gone through, why hadn’t Pat come yet to visit him in the hospital?  Why hadn’t he shown any sign of life at all and already come to start explaining all about that Mysteron double of his?  Unless…

“He’s all right, isn’t he?”

Captain Ochre gave a deep sigh. “Captain Magenta has been through a lot,” he confirmed, “and spent some time in the hospital.  But he has been recuperating these last few days, and should be back on duty shortly.  I know you’re wondering why he hasn’t come, but he couldn’t, Matt. And he couldn’t call you.  What would you have thought if you had heard his voice over the phone?”

“That the Mysteron double was alive, and after me,” Riordan answered with a shiver.  “But if Pat had come with you, Captain…”

“Just like you, he has to keep a low profile, avoid New York, at least for the time being.  This whole terrible affair with the Mysteron duplicate put too much of a spotlight on Pat’s former life and the Syndicate he ran.  Considering how the events have unfolded, it sounded a judicious idea now to at least use them to Pat’s best advantage.  The world at large will believe New York mobster Patrick Donaghue dead – like they believe WGPC Commander Richard Fraser to be dead.  That part of his life will now truly be behind Pat.”  Ochre shook his head, and put on his cap.   “But now that you know, and I’ve prepared the ground for him,  he’ll contact you shortly.  He’s been very worried about you, when he heard how you ended up in the hospital.”

“Where is he now?” Riordan asked thoughtfully.

“He had some… personal business to attend too.  Very important, family business.”

Ever so slowly, Riordan nodded.  Family business.  Of course, that was certainly what Pat needed to do first. He would want to see Sarah and tell her exactly what had happened. That was the most sensible thing to do.  And maybe he contacted the rest of his family in Ireland. The news of his ‘death’ must have made the headlines of many papers around the world, and even though Pat wasn’t on the best of terms with his father, he would certainly feel that he should at least tell him that his son didn’t die a criminal.

“Thank you for your visit, Captain,” Riordan said, watching as Ochre was preparing himself to leave. He lifted the document that Special Agent Conners had left him, and that he was still holding in his hand.  “And thank you… for a new lease on life.”

“It may be an administrative decision, Mr. Riordan,” Ochre said with a broad smile, “but you won’t be surprised to learn that it was Pat’s suggestion to begin with.”

That made Riordan smile in turn.  “I bet he had to plead and submit a lot of guarantees to your commander to make him accept that suggestion!”

“You don’t ‘make our commander accept’ anything he doesn’t want,” Ochre retorted.  “But he knows Pat, and trusts his judgement.”  He held out his hand.  “I want to be the first to welcome you to Spectrum, Matt Riordan.”

Riordan shook the hand, vigorously.  “Do tell Pat to take it easy.  And that I’m expecting news from him as soon as he’s able to free himself.”

“I will,” Ochre promised.  As soon as he’s back from Ireland.”

Riordan nodded. Ireland.  So he was right.  Pat had gone there to see his parents. Probably, his sister Sarah was there, too.

He wonder how it was going there, how Pat managed to confront his father.

Probably, it wasn’t the easiest thing for him to do.


* * *


The Spectrum Patrol Car stopped a few yards from the door leading to the residence of the small Innisfree dairy farm.  It had been three years, Captain Magenta reflected, since he had come to this place. Since his father had thrown him out, to be precise.  Despite the fact that he had wanted so very much to come back since that fateful day, Magenta had not found the courage to do so.  Even now, he still wasn’t that sure that it was such a good idea.  Facing his family, especially his father, after all that had happened, would be so terribly hard for him.

They thought him dead.  Well, his parents did, anyway.  How could he come to them now?  How would they react upon seeing him alive?  I’d rather face Mysterons, Magenta thought grimly.  Well… Almost.

“Not getting cold feet, are you?”

Magenta turned to face Captain Scarlet, sitting behind the wheel of the car.  His British counterpart was looking at him questioningly.  Magenta uncomfortably shifted on his seat, and stroked the back of his head with his free hand.  He was so nervous, his black hair was damp. 

“Why am I here?” he murmured.  “How can I do it? They read the papers… saw the TV news… They know about what happened in New York…  They think I’m dead!”

Scarlet nodded thoughtfully.  “That’s why you must see them,” he said insistently. “Pat, you can’t let them believe you died a criminal, a murderer, in fact. You must tell them the truth. Don’t you think they deserve that?”

“And what truth?  That I gave up my syndicate in New York three years ago to enrol in Spectrum? And that I couldn’t find the courage to even tell them that?”  Magenta grunted loudly. “I don’t even know if my father would believe me.  Heck, I don’t know if I would believe myself!  What if he feels I should have told him earlier?  What if he’s angry at me for not telling him?”

“Patrick…”  Scarlet reached to take his friend’s good shoulder, carefully avoiding the one that had been hurt recently, and squeezed it encouragingly. “It’s now or never. You have to tell them NOW.  You can’t know how they will react… until you speak to them?”

Magenta’s face hardened. He was really tempted to turn around quickly and run as far as he could from this place.  He felt that he wasn’t ready.  But his friend’s words had reached him.  Much to his annoyance. 

“Why did I ask you to come with me?” he muttered.

“Because you needed me to be the voice of your conscience?” Scarlet offered with a brief smile.  “Or perhaps it’s because I had to do exactly the same thing two years ago when I had to face my own family?”

“Before you say it, Scarlet, I really hate it when you’re right,” Magenta grumbled.

Scarlet smirked knowingly.  “You know I am.”

Magenta gave an involuntary laugh. “You HAD to say it?”

“Yeah, for two reasons,” Scarlet  replied cryptically.

“Which are?” Magenta asked in a tone that suggested he already regretted the question.

“Well, firstly –” he grinned, “–  it’s true.”

“And secondly?”

Scarlet gave an exaggerated shrug. “It made you laugh.” He watched the smile widening on his friend’s face. That had worked. “Now, go and find them, tell them.”

Magenta heaved a heavy sigh.  It wasn’t Scarlet’s cajoling that drew his noisy response, it was the sight of his sister, Sarah, who had just stepped out of the farmhouse and seen the Spectrum car, parked at some distance from it. He could see the look of concern etched clearly on her face as she ran from the farmhouse to the car, obviously wondering what was going on.

“Okay,” Scarlet began, “you can start with Sarah.”  Turning his head, Scarlet watched, dumbfounded, as Magenta tried desperately to merge with his seat, his head bowed.  By the time he looked up once more, Sarah was at the side of the car.

“Miss Donaghue,” Scarlet greeted her as he opened his door and stepped out.

“Captain Scarlet,” she replied, with a thin, forced smile. She remembered the officer.  She had met him all those months ago, when Pat had finally told her about his life as a Spectrum officer.

Scarlet looked into her eyes.  She had clearly been crying - of that, there could be no doubt.  But behind the sadness, he could see hurt, anger and disappointment. She was surely wondering what had happened for her brother to have apparently left Spectrum, to return to the mob and die the way he did.  It was all he could take.  Leaning back inside the car, he vented his frustration.


Startled by the loud cry, Magenta snapped his head up, his eyes wide and mouth open in astonishment.

Sarah’s eyes followed Scarlet’s gaze, widening as they reached the object of the English captain’s outburst.

“Pat?” she breathed.  “But…” She turned her head to face Scarlet’s sympathetic smile as she struggled to find the words. “…How?”

Slowly, uncertainly, Magenta stepped from the car, his movements akin to a hospital patient taking a first few tentative steps following a major operation.  Rounding the car gingerly, he appeared to be trying to start a sentence numerous times before finding the right words.

“You remember a few months ago when you found out that I joined Spectrum?”

Numbly, Sarah nodded as he approached her.

“Well, it’s like that… sort of…  not what you were originally led to believe.”

“How articulate you can be,” Scarlet commented dryly.

Now standing only two feet from Sarah, Magenta scowled and continued.  “There was a guy… He looked like me, used my name… That’s all. It wasn’t me.”

“It’s been nearly two weeks,” Sarah replied pointedly, stunned but angry.

“I’ve been in hospital.”

“Your hands look okay.”

“Er, yeah,” Magenta replied, puzzled by the remark.  He didn’t want to tell her about his injured shoulder and how it was still itching.  That Doctor Fawn had agreed to let him out of sickbay so soon after his ordeal was little short of a miracle.

“You could have made a phone call!” Sarah snapped, finally specifying what his apparently thick mind didn’t seem to comprehend.

“You thought I was dead, how could I call? ‘Hi, sis, how’s it going? By the way, I’m not dead…’  I would have given you a heart attack!”

“Don’t get clever with me, Patrick!” she retorted heatedly.  “We’ve been to Hell and back here!”

“It’s not like I planned all this,” Magenta replied in a similar tone.

Scarlet’s eyes widened in utter surprise as the diminutive Sarah swung a furious right hook at Magenta’s jaw,  catching him completely unawares; he spun backwards, his shoulders pressing against the shiny red finish of the car before dropping heavily to a sitting position on the ground.  Tentatively putting a hand to his jaw, he looked up, at first bewildered and uncertain.  Without having time to even try to speak, Magenta was almost smothered by his sister’s arms as they wrapped around him, Sarah  knelt at his side, tears flowing from her eyes as she murmured almost incomprehensible complaints against her ‘stupid big brother’. He stifled the groan that almost escaped his lips when in her warm embrace, she squeezed his wounded shoulder a little too tightly for his comfort.

“Pocket, I’m sorry, really, I never meant for any of this.”

Sarah pulled back, drying her eyes as she did so. “I know.” She lowered her eyes. “I’m ashamed to admit, I believed what they said on TV.”

“I should have called. Well, I tried to, in New York.  But I guess you’d already left.”

Sarah nodded.  “Almost straight away after I saw the news.  I had to come here.  Had to be with Mammy and Pappy when…  I’m sorry, Pat, I…”

“Don’t be.  I saw the news too!  I almost believed it, and I KNEW it wasn’t me!”

Sarah emitted a short awkward laugh.  “Better late than never, eh?”

“Did you… tell Pappy and Mammy about me being in Spectrum?”

“No.”  Sarah shook her head.  “After the news, I didn’t know what to think anymore… so I kept silent.”

“Right,” Magenta replied thoughtfully. “I have to speak to Pappy. Tell him everything.”

Sarah’s expression darkened once more.  “Oh, Pat, I’m so glad.  Pappy’s barely said a word since we heard.”

“That bad?” Magenta frowned.  “I knew he hated me, but…”

“Hated you?!” Sarah cried, astonished by the statement.  “Pat, he loves you.  The news… it broke his heart.”  There was a dumbfounded expression on Magenta’s face at this revelation.  She smiled as she took his hands, “but you can mend that easily enough.”

“I let him down,” Magenta admitted sadly.

“So make up,” came the simple reply.  “You’re both ready now.”

Magenta took a deep breath.  “Where is he?”

Sarah let out a deep sigh and turned her eyes downward. “Where he’s been almost every minute since we heard.”

“Where?” her puzzled brother asked.

“In the stables.”

“Stables?  Why?”

“With Pellinore, of course.”

“The horse I bought him?” Magenta, choked with emotion, stumbled on the words.

Sarah smiled again. “He loves him. And when he heard the news about your… death, it was as if that horse was the last thing that still ties in to you.”

Magenta looked towards Scarlet, silently pleading.  His English colleague took the hint almost immediately and stepped forward.

“Miss Donaghue?  Perhaps I could follow you indoors and explain everything to you and your mother… while Pat goes to talk with your father?”

Sarah smiled at Scarlet.  He was tactful, she’d give him that.  Getting to her feet, she waited as Magenta did the same and dusted himself down, methodically.  Squeezing his arm, she smiled and nodded.

“It’ll be fine,” she added encouragingly.

Magenta found himself nodding in response.  Taking a deep breath, he turned his eyes in the direction of the stables.

“Good luck, Pat,” Scarlet offered.

Magenta turned to face Scarlet and Sarah; he suddenly seemed calmer, as if the decision, having been made, was now much less of an ordeal.

“Thanks, Paul.  Oh, and Sarah?”


“Good right hook,” he replied, moving his lower jaw with his hand from right to left.

Sarah reddened at the words, her eyes widening at the memory.  “I’m so sorry, Pat!”

Scarlet snorted. “Don’t be, he deserved it!”

“Thanks, man, very supportive,” Magenta replied, with a grin as wide as Sarah’s.

“You go to the stables, Captain Magenta.  Now!”

“S.I.G…” Magenta exhaled deeply and nodded.  It was time.




It was only a short walk to the stables but each of Magenta’s steps was slow and filled with trepidation.  He wasn’t prepared.  No, that wasn’t true, he’d gone over this moment in his head a dozen times or more since the end of the mission.  In not one of the scenarios he had imagined had he allowed himself the possibility that his father would forgive him his past.  The most he had hoped for was that he was, at best, pleased to see him still alive, but there was always that nagging doubt, that terrible uncertainty deep inside of him. What if he wasn’t pleased to see him at all?

Finally, he reached the stables; he felt sick, his breathing quick and shallow.  It had been here, all those years ago, that his father had rejected him totally and thrown him off the farm, insisting that he had no son.  Numb at the words, Magenta had left the farm never to return until now.  Had he turned around only seconds after that fateful moment, he would have seen his father overcome with grief.  Perhaps if either of them had tried a little harder to put aside their hurt pride, the heart attack that almost killed Sean Donaghue only two days later would not have happened.  In her attempt to protect her husband, Lily had refused to let their son visit him in hospital, so fearful was she that another fit of anger might kill him.  To Pat, it had been a final condemnation by his father; their link, he believed, was irreparably severed.

Magenta pulled himself back to the present, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves.  The door was open.  This was it. He stepped inside.  As his eyes adjusted to the sudden comparative darkness inside the stables, a flood of noises and smells assaulted his senses only serving to bring the whole episode of his last encounter with his father back to the forefront of his mind.  He put his hands to his face as he tried once more to compose himself and force himself not to turn and run. 

From the far side of the stable, he heard a light whinny followed by a man’s voice.  The man was comforting the horse, talking to him in a reassuring, calming tone.  As Magenta stepped silently closer, he saw his father, standing, slowly grooming the horse that he recognised instantly as Pellinore. It had only been a few years, but Sean looked so much older.  His broad shoulders seemed to have sagged considerably.  Magenta was a little taken aback; from what Sarah had told him, Sean Donaghue had made a slow, but complete recovery of his heart attack.  At the moment he looked weaker, low-spirited, almost stooping – he wasn’t standing as tall and proud as the man Magenta remembered.  It was hurting him; there was no doubt in his mind that he was responsible for this dejected appearance in his father.

Closer and closer, barely daring to breathe, Magenta almost choked with emotion as he heard his father’s words and realised that he was telling Pellinore about the happier times he had spent with his son when Pat had been just a boy.

“You know, Pellinore,” he sighed, as he slowly drew the grooming brush down the horse’s sleek brown neck, “I loved that boy.  I never stopped loving him.  He was my son, and I turned him away.  Maybe it’s my fault?  Maybe I drove him to it?  He always said he never hurt anyone, what if I hurt him so much that I drove him to it?”

Upon hearing those words, Magenta prepared himself to protest loudly, to tell his father that it wasn’t the case, that he wasn’t responsible for anything at all.  But as he took a next, tentative step, and before the words reached his lips, his foot hit a bucket which was in his path.  The bucket fell over with a loud clatter, spilling water on the ground.  Startled, Sean turned to see the tall figure standing only a few feet away.  With the bright sunlight streaming through the open door, the man was little more than a silhouette, and Sean found himself squinting to make out the identity of the newcomer.

“Who’s there?  Kieran, is that you?”

Unprepared, and unwilling to give his father a second heart attack due to the sudden shock of seeing him alive, Magenta decided to try to explain slowly and with care. He swallowed hard.

“I couldn’t let you believe the news reports.  They weren’t true.”

“P-Patrick?” The word stumbled out of Sean’s mouth as he recognised his son’s voice. “But… I… is it really you?”

“Yes, Pappy, I couldn’t let you believe…”

Magenta was interrupted abruptly as his father rushed the short distance between them and threw his arms around his son in a tight embrace.  At first stunned by the reaction, Magenta’s arms hovered uncertainly above his father’s back as his anxious and bewildered mind responded slowly to the unexpected response.  It seemed an age before he allowed his arms to return the welcome embrace. He bit his lip against the growing pain in his injured shoulder – Sean’s bear hug was certainly stronger than Sarah’s.  Magenta’s eyes closed tightly and his jaw clenched in bitter-sweet agony as he felt his father shake in his arms with gut wrenching sobs, and tears flowed from his eyes.

“Pappy,” he whispered eventually, “I’m so sorry. I’d give anything to turn back the clock. I never meant for you to be so unhappy.”

“Unhappy?” Sean returned as he drew back from his son and composed himself.  “I have my son. I don’t understand how, but I have my son. How could I be unhappy?” His hands still on Magenta’s shoulders, he looked at him with a frown.  “So you didn’t die in New York?” he murmured uncomfortably.

“No,” Magenta almost whispered.  “It wasn’t me.  Pappy, the news…  it wasn’t me, not any of it.”

“Not any of it?” Sean repeated, confused by the statement.  “But your gang…”

“Not mine.  I…” Magenta struggled for the words.  “I left the mob three years ago.”

Magenta saw the changed expression in his father’s eyes and returned a puzzled glance of his own. He wasn’t sure if Sean had heard a single word of what he just told him, as he was scrutinising him from head to toes, seemingly noticing at last the way he was dressed.

“Where did you get this?” Sean asked abruptly, tugging on the deep pink tunic.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you…”

“Did you steal it?  Are you on the run?”

Sean’s tone had become suddenly angry.  There was also a hint of disappointment in it, as well as worry.  Briefly, Magenta had felt the power of the relief of his father at the revelation that he was alive.  It had brought tears to his eyes and a lump to his throat; his father loved him, there was no way he was going to allow that feeling to slip through his fingers once more, especially not because of this new notion that his father was presently entertaining of his situation.  The absurd accusation made him smile despite himself.

“No, Pappy,” he said, gripping his father’s arms and staring into his eyes.  “It’s mine.  That’s what I’m trying to tell you.  Three years ago, I left the mob to join Spectrum, but I didn’t have the guts to tell you.”

It seemed too much to take in, in only one sentence.  Sean was visibly struggling with mixed feelings.  He wanted to believe his son, but could he?  Pat had never lied to him before, of that he was certain.  Could what he was telling him now be true?

“I’m sorry, Pappy, Sarah’s known for a few months, but I begged her not to tell you.  With you all thinking I was dead, I didn’t know if she’d have said anything, but she told me that after hearing the news she didn’t know what to think, so she said nothing,” Magenta continued to speak without really knowing what to say or why he was saying it.

“Sarah knew?  And she didn’t tell us?”

“I asked her not to.”


Magenta swallowed hard. “I was afraid.”

“Of what?” Sean asked, his voice edged with confusion.

“I didn’t think it would be enough to wipe the slate clean. I didn’t want you to think that… that it was only a way to buy your approval, your affection.  I couldn’t bear to lose you again.”

Sean sighed deeply, a faint smile tugging as his lips.  “Oh, Patrick, you’re such a fool!  I always said that Sarah got all the common sense out of the pair of you.  All we ever wanted was you to lead a law-abiding life.  But look at you!” A laugh escaped his lips as he spoke.  “You go from one extreme to the other and you think that’s not good enough!?”

Magenta lowered his eyes and offered a weak smile. “I never thought of it like that.”

“I can’t believe you’re alive.  I just can’t believe it!  I prayed and prayed for your soul and look…it’s me who gets forgiven.”

“You?  What have you done wrong?”

“I was proud, Pat. Too blasted proud.  The number of times I reached for the phone and stopped myself from calling you...  I’m sorry, son, can you forgive me?”

The words came to him with a dream-like quality.  Never had he imagined a reconciliation with his father so complete and unconditional.  With a sob, he pulled his father close in an embrace as tight and emotionally charged as their first.

“So,” Sean began again, clearing his throat. “You’re a colour-coded Spectrum officer then…”

“Yes.” Magenta rubbed his palms over his eyes, but his flushed cheeks and dampened eyelashes gave him away.

“That’s a rather privileged position within that organisation, I hear. How high in the rank?”

“Pretty high,” Magenta said non-committally, an amused smile starting to draw itself on his lips.

“What do I call you?  Officially.”

“Captain Magenta.”

“Magenta?  Well, it could have been worse,” Sean laughed.  “Couldn’t you have gone for green?”

Magenta shrugged.  “It had already gone. Besides, don’t you think I’m a little tall to be dressed like a leprechaun?”

Sean laughed, taking his son’s arms in his hands to look him over again.  Glancing up, he caught sight of three figures standing in the doorway.


Magenta turned, his eyes wide with joy.


The frail figure of Lily Donaghue left the doorway where she was standing with her daughter Sarah and Captain Scarlet, to run straight at her son, who caught her in his arms and held her, tears now freely flowing onto his cheeks.  There were few words exchanged, as the two only seemed to want to bask in each other’s warmth.  Finally, Lily stepped back and looked up with a beaming smile into the face of her son – whom she felt she had not seen for an eternity but whose memory had never left her.

“When they had told me all about it,” she said to Magenta, gesturing toward Sarah and Scarlet, “I didn’t know what to believe…  And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to think you were dead and that you died like a criminal.  I knew deep inside of me that it couldn’t be true.”

“Your feeling was right, Mammy,” Magenta said with a broad smile. 

“I’m so glad that you are home, son,” Lily said in a shaking voice, hugging him once more.  “You’ll have to tell us all about yourself since last you came. About Spectrum and your new life…”

“I will, Mammy.”  He looked down at her, his eyes bright with happiness.  “Over one of those wonderful dinners that only you can make.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamed of eating those again!”

Lily started laughing, and turned towards the doorway, still holding on to her son.  Magenta felt the heavy hand of his father landing on his shoulder and looked back;  Sean Donaghue was beaming proudly, his shoulders no longer sagged, the very image of the man his son remembered him to be.  But it was only when they reached the door and Sarah, almost timidly, with a smile on her face, tiptoed up to plant an affectionate kiss on his cheek that Pat Donaghue truly felt like he was back home again.  He fought hard not to show too many of the emotions inside of him, not in front of Scarlet, who, up until now, had been keeping away, but whose presence couldn’t be ignored for long.

Clearing the lump from his throat, Magenta faced the English officer.  “Pappy, this is my colleague in Spectrum – and my friend – Captain Scarlet.”

“A good afternoon to you, sir,” Sean Donaghue said, exchanging a handshake with Scarlet

“And the rest of the day to yourself, Mr Donaghue,” Scarlet answered.                     

“I see my son instructed you well, Captain,” Sean remarked, his smile widening even more – if it were possible. 

“He is a man anyone would be proud to call his friend, Mr Donaghue.”

“Can I invite you to a genuine Irish family home-cooked dinner?”

Scarlet hesitated.  “I wouldn’t want to intrude…”

“You won’t.  Any friend of Patrick is part of this family. Please.  I’ll consider it an honour.  You’ll be able to tell us tales of our son in Spectrum.”

Scarlet raised a brow in amusement.  “I don’t know if that’d be wise, Mr Donaghue…” Seeing Sean’s puzzled expression, he continued in a confidential tone and with a nod towards Sarah and Lily,  “Some of those tales are too wild to describe in front of ladies…”

Sean Donaghue guffawed loudly, while his son started turning the same shade of colour as Scarlet’s uniform.  He felt the hand of his father patting his shoulder affectionately; looking at him, Pat had to admit that he had not seen his father like this, so relaxed, so happy and proud for such a long time.  He looked like a changed man now, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

And frankly, Pat Donaghue could relate to that.  He felt quite the same.

“Shall we go now?”  Sean pointed toward the little farmhouse standing a few yards away. 

As they headed in that direction, Captain Scarlet discreetly walked a few steps behind, allowing the family its private and joyful reunion, smiling as he witnessed how Pat now seemed so very close to his parents and sister.

The wayward son had finally come back to his home.














Other stories by Chris Bishop


Other stories by Sue Stanhope


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Dead Ringer


A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story


By Chris Bishop & Sue Stanhope