A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
Hampton Hill, South West of London.
Knelt before the hole he had freshly dug into his garden, retired quartermaster Gregory Dooley was carefully taking out of its pot the new gardenia plant he had just bought. Since he had received his discharge from the Navy, gardening had become his most cherished hobby. Nobody in the neighbourhood had a more beautiful house than his. The facade was covered with red climbing roses; the garden at the back was intimate, multi-coloured, with fountains, and drinking spots for birds. Dooley loved birds, and his flowers were selected so they would attract as many of them as possible.
Dooley put the rootball of the plant into the hole and covered it with soil which he then watered carefully. Doing so, he looked at his watch. The Admiral would not be back for an hour or so, he mused. Enough time to continue his work in the garden. Then he would have time to wash and prepare some sandwiches and refreshments for the two of them.
Dooley knew the Admiral’s whereabouts today. It was the day he never missed, visiting someone still very important to him. That was something he had been doing for years. It was a kind of tradition. Once a year, every year. And always at the same time of year.
Another tradition, started four years ago, was for the Admiral to come here, to stay at his old quartermaster’s house for a few days. He had left the city, four years before, to take a new job, he’d told Dooley. He would say nothing more about it, but Dooley had figured out that the new job had to be important enough for him to leave everything behind and go away… But he needed a place to stay when he did come back to London, even if only for a short time, and Dooley was more than pleased to invite him into his home.
How could he refuse an old comrade in arms, especially when he was his Navy captain? They would talk of the old times together, although Dooley had the distinct feeling the Admiral, far younger than he, was only reminiscing to please him.
Dooley heard footsteps approaching him and raised his head; he saw a black haired man, in his late thirties, walking down the path toward him. Dooley frowned. Except for occasional old friends and neighbours, he didn’t receive many visitors.
“Hello,” he said to the man. “Can I help you?”
The man looked around; strange looking fellow, Dooley thought. He was so pale, and his eyes seemed so cold… Maybe he was sick, or something.
“Nice garden,” the man said in a flat, almost funereal voice. “We don’t see much of it from the front.”
“That’s because I wanted it that way,” Dooley replied. “It’s much more private.”
“So I see.” The man stared back at Dooley. This fella needs a shave, thought the old quartermaster, instinctively on his guard. God, those eyes… so cold.
“Can I ask you why you’re here, sir?” Dooley asked, frowning.
“I’m here to see your friend.”
The man nodded. “The Admiral. I know he usually stays here when he comes to London.”
“And how do you know that?”
“He told me himself.”
Dooley relaxed a little. “You know him, then?”
“Of course. We worked together. We’ve been friends for years.” He stared intently at Dooley. “Not as long as you have been friends, however… You were under his command on the Drake, he told me.”
Dooley then relaxed completely. If the Admiral had told him that, then he was surely on the level. He took his trowel to dig another hole.
“Yes, I was,” he said. “What’s the matter with your voice, young man? Had an accident?”
“Of a sort.” The black-haired man took another long look around and eyed a shovel resting against a low brick wall nearby.
“So,” Dooley continued, “how did you meet the Admiral?”
“I saved his life, years ago.”
“Is that so?” Dooley looked up at him and smiled, before returning his attention to his gardening. The man moved to the shovel and quietly took it, before coming closer to the unsuspecting quartermaster, who was getting another plant out of its pot.
“I know I shouldn’t ask you this,” Dooley continued, “with the Admiral being so secretive about himself and all… but I’m curious, you see? What was it you worked with him on?”
“World security,” was the calm answer.
“Really? I should have guessed! All that rubbish about him retiring years ago from active duty from the Navy… It was all a front, I knew it. What’s your name, son? I don’t think I caught it.”
“It’s Black. Captain Black.”
Dooley didn’t see the man raising the shovel high above him before bringing it down brutally over the old quartermaster’s head. The single blow was strong enough to break the old man’s neck instantly. Dooley fell face first into the dirt, blood dripping from an open wound on the back of his head. He expired without even knowing what had happened to him.
Captain Black stood coldly over the dead body. He watched in silence as two halos of green light, coming out of nowhere, trailed across the body. An instant later, footsteps attracted Black’s attention and he raised his eyes to meet an exact copy of quartermaster Gregory Dooley, dressed in the same attire, coming towards him. The eyes of this new Dooley seemed as icy as those of Captain Black, who handed him the shovel.
“Get rid of the corpse,” he told him. “Then get yourself ready. You know what you must do.”
“Yes,” came the quiet, even response. “I know what the Mysterons want from me…”
* * *
“Here I am, Elizabeth. Like every year, as I promised. I hope it didn’t seem too long for you.”
The tall, white-haired gentleman standing before the tombstone tilted his head slightly to the side, looking down at the lettering engraved on the surface of the stone. Even though he was casually dressed in city clothing, anybody passing by would have guessed that the man had something military in him, just by looking at the way he stood, rigidly and proudly. Clasped before him, in both hands, he held three beautiful white roses.
“It’s been quite a year again, as you probably well know,” the man continued in his distinguished English voice. “So many things happened. I didn’t have much time for myself.” He sighed, smiling faintly. “If you were still here, you’d probably say I’m not a young man any more and that I should not over-exert myself. You would probably be right, of course. But you know me: I have to try and keep up with my staff. Although with some of that gang, I must admit, it’s not an easy task.”
He stopped talking for a moment, disturbed by a rustling sound behind him. Looking back, he saw the rector of the church nearby, who had just come out to sweep his doorstep. Somewhat reassured, the man turned his attention back to his meditation.
“Not a day has gone by when I don’t think of you,” he continued. “It’s been seventeen years and… well, I suppose, it has been such a long time without you.” Words caught in his throat and the man actually felt a tear at the corner of his eye. He swept it off with an annoyed gesture and cleared his throat. “I don’t know what my staff would think, seeing me like this,” he added with a faint smile. “During one of our too few informal meetings, Scarlet actually said that he thought nothing could touch me. He would probably be surprised if he was here now.” He bowed his head and crouched in front of the tombstone. “The thing I want to say, my darling, is that I miss you… miss you so terribly. That’s probably why I’m so engrossed in my job. It’s the only purpose I have left, since you’ve gone.”
He looked down at the roses, still in his hand. With a tender, almost ceremonious gesture, he put them on the grave. He cultivated these flowers all year long, in loving memory of the woman he had so cared about, so long ago. Every year, at the same time, he cut the prettiest of his roses to come here, to this little graveyard in London, where he put them on the woman’s grave.
“Don’t worry,” he added, “I’m not ready to come and join you yet. I’m still the fighter I used to be, when we worked together at the U.S.S.” He scratched his ear, musing. “I supposed that’s why that World Committee chose me to run Spectrum, three years ago. Quite a challenge they offered me. The kind of challenge you would have loved, too.” He smiled. “I often wonder how you’d fit in Spectrum… Remarkably, I suppose. And I’m certain everybody would have loved you on Cloudbase.”
The man then gently stroked the words engraved in the stone, drawing the contours with the tips of his fingers. There was sadness in his features, and also everlasting tenderness as he stood up, his eyes still riveted on the name.
“Elizabeth Somners, 2019 – 2053. Beloved wife of Charles Gray. Remember my love forever.”
The man kept silent for a few seconds before sighing and standing up. He looked down at his watch. “I must go, now. You see, I’ve got a date with a very charming young lady… Don’t be jealous, though,” he added with a broad smile. “We’re only going to a show together. She was kind enough to accept my invitation. She’s one of the Angel pilots I’ve told you about in some of my journal entries. You’d like her, Elizabeth. I think you would love all of the Angels. They’ve all got the same spirit as you… like our daughter would have inherited from you if she had been born.” He stopped a second, before adding quickly, “Of course, she would also have inherited some of my traits… That would have been a volatile combination, don’t you think?”
He smiled then, and touched the tombstone one last time. “So I’ll say goodbye, my darling. Until next year. You know I wouldn’t miss that for a kingdom. And I’m quite certain you worry about me up there. Don’t do that too much.”
Quietly, as if he didn’t want to disturb the sleeping, the man who was Charles Gray and who was known to some as Colonel White, commander-in-chief of Spectrum for three years now, stepped out of the graveyard, with a determined stride. He went to the elderly minister, who had stopped sweeping the doorstep of his church and was looking toward him, waiting.
“Another year, Admiral?” he asked Colonel White, as he approached.
“Yes, Reverend Lester. Another year,” the other man responded. He produced a couple of banknotes which he put into the priest’s hand. “Here. For your charities.”
“You’re really too generous, Charles,” Reverend Benjamin Lester said with a smile. “With all the money you’ve been giving me all these years, I could start a fund in your name.”
“No need for that, Reverend. I prefer to stay anonymous.”
“Yes. I know.” The priest narrowed his eyes. “How long have we known each other, Admiral?”
“I stopped counting. What I know is that I would never had believed you’d turn out to be a priest, when you were first class seaman on the Drake, all those years ago. And please stop calling me Admiral!”
“Only if you stop calling me Reverend,” the other man replied, grinning. “You’re staying with Dooley, as usual? How about a game of bridge with Carrington, for old times’ sakes?”
“I’d like to. But I’ve got a date tonight.”
“Oh!” Reverend Lester grinned broadly. “Now that’s interesting. A lady, I bet?”
“Yes, a lady. But don’t get too excited, Benjamin. While very charming, she’s just a girl. I’m old enough to be her father. And then some.”
“Who said age has anything to do with romance?”
White started laughing. “It’s not romance, it’s a working relationship. It just so happened we both had leave at the same time. Beside, I don’t think she’d be interested in an old man like me.”
“You’re still young enough… Find somebody who would be interested.”
“You make one devil of a vicar!” White replied, amused. “Seriously, Benjamin… I don’t have the time.”
“Ah!” Reverend Lester thought that over for a moment “Well, that’s another problem entirely. Your job.” He shook his head. “You know, I don’t know what it is you’re doing, exactly… The few times you actually permit yourself to talk about it, you’re always vague… on purpose, I know.”
“Can’t help it, Reverend. That’s a very restricted subject.”
“I don’t doubt it. And I don’t doubt it’s very important. But you can’t go on like that, living your life alone…” The vicar nodded toward the grave White had just left. “Elizabeth wouldn’t have wanted that.”
White permitted a faint smile to cross his craggy face. He would hardly call himself alone, living on an airborne base with some 700 people onboard. But he couldn’t very well tell that to Benjamin Lester. Firstly for reasons of world security, and secondly because the humour of it would have been lost on the man of the cloth. As for seeing women… Since his wife’s death, Charles Gray did try to get out of his shell, from time to time. The last time he actually let his eyes rove, it was when a certain Amanda Wainwright had received permission to come see her daughter Karen – Symphony Angel, one of the pilots of Cloudbase’s interceptor jets – just after she had been injured during a mission. But it was already a couple of years ago and at the time, Colonel White hadn’t deemed it decent to even consider a relationship with the woman. She was newly widowed, just a few weeks before, was still missing her husband terribly and had nearly lost her only daughter. White knew the feeling all too well. It had been seventeen years now, and he was still missing his beloved wife.
“I’m sorry, Reverend,” White said quietly. “But after Elizabeth, any other relationship I might have with a woman would seem rather… tedious.”
“I see what you mean,” the reverend replied, nodding his head. “She was quite a woman…” He smiled slightly. “However, that must not stop you being attentive toward this young lady you’re seeing tonight…”
“All right, all right! I won’t say another word about it!”
“That reminds me, though,” White added, looking at his watch, “I’ll be late if I don’t get moving…”
“Then go, Admiral. You should not keep a lady waiting.” Lester smiled again. “I seem to recall that’s her privilege.”
White grinned back; he clasped the hand the reverend offered him. “’Til next year, then, Benjamin.”
“’Til next year, Charles.”
“Take good care of her, will you?” White added, gesturing toward the grave. Reverend Benjamin Lester nodded his understanding and watched as Colonel White went down the garden path in front of the church, toward his rented car parked on the roadside. The vicar sighed as his old Navy commander took his place behind the wheel.
“Take care of yourself, Charles Gray… And may God guide your steps throughout your life.”
* * *
Colonel White entered the house of quartermaster Gregory Dooley almost fifteen minutes after he had left the graveyard where his wife was buried. He looked down at his watch for the sixth time. About six o’clock, he noted. He would just have the time to take a quick shower, get dressed and find something in a store to give to his date over dinner. A gentleman never showed himself to a lady without a present of some sort, he thought, and even less so when the said lady worked under his command. Not that he was afraid that Rhapsody would gossip about him to the others… He didn’t believe she was that kind of girl. Too much of a lady for that, he mused, even if she hadn’t had the title to go with it… which she actually did. He was just eager to please her, to show her a side of him that was different from that tough, hard-shell image he projected on Cloudbase.
“Greg?” he called, closing the door behind him. “Are you in there, or still in that garden of yours?”
He moved to the back door but stopped in his tracks, when he heard a voice coming from the fireplace. “Over here, Charles.”
White walked over to the fireplace and saw Dooley seated in his armchair, poking thoughtfully at the fire. Upon the table in front on him were a crystal carafe of cognac and two small glasses.
“Isn’t it a little early in the day to start that thing?” White asked, pointing to the fire.
Dooley shrugged. “Felt a bit chilly out there, earlier,” he replied.
“You’re getting old, Greg.”
“I’m a lot older than you, Charles. And anyway, none of us gets any younger.” Dooley looked up at Colonel White. “How’s Reverend Lester?”
“He seems fine. He mentioned a bridge game, between us three and Carrington as well.”
“Tonight?” Dooley asked, almost worriedly.
“Of course not. I can’t tonight.”
“Oh yes… your date. At what time should you meet the lady?”
“In about an hour… I’ll be late if I don’t hurry. Er… Would you mind if I cut some flowers from your garden?”
“For your lady friend?”
“She’s not my lady friend. She’s… Well, yes, we’re friends. Kind of.”
“Of course I don’t mind, Charles.”
“Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get ready.”
He strode toward the staircase leading to the upper floor when Dooley called him back. “What about tradition, Admiral?”
White stopped at the foot of the stair, looking back at his friend curiously. Dooley shook his head and nodded toward the carafe of cognac on the table. “Will you not join me in a glass before leaving? We always take one before turning in…”
White hesitated a second. “I really don’t have the time, Greg. Beside, I don’t intend coming in late. Maybe then.”
“Right,” Dooley scoffed. “You’re going to dinner, then the theatre, Charles. By the time you’ll be back, I’ll be long asleep. Come on… one glass before you go. That won’t take long.”
“Well, if you insist, Greg.”
White came back to the table. Before Dooley’s watchful eyes, he himself poured some cognac into the glasses and handed one to his old quartermaster. “What should we drink to?” the Spectrum commander asked.
Dooley thought for a moment. “How about ‘to lost comrades-in-arms’?”
White nodded slowly. Too many of those had actually died over the last year, while he had been stationed on Cloudbase. For the majority, he wasn’t even able to get to the funerals, as he would have wanted to. All he could do was send letters of condolence and flowers to the surviving family members.
“We’re a little fewer every year, aren’t we, Greg?” he asked Dooley.
“That’s a fact, Charles,” the quartermaster replied, raising his glass.
“Yes… you were right about that earlier: we’re not getting any younger.” White raised his glass too. “To lost friends, then.”
“To lost friends,” Dooley repeated quietly. He watched as White drained the contents of his glass in one gulp. He himself didn’t touch his.
White put his empty glass back down on the table. He kept silent a moment, not noticing the still full glass in Dooley’s hand. “Greg, as much as I want to stay and reminisce about the past and our late friends…”
“You must go, I know. Go, I won’t hold it against you.”
“Thank you. Now, if you’ll forgive me…”
White turned and hurried back toward the stair. Slowly, Greg Dooley rose from his armchair and put his glass back on the table, his eyes following the Colonel’s progress, waiting.
The Spectrum commander had started climbing the stairs and was putting his foot on the third step when the dizziness suddenly hit him. He grabbed the handrail with both hands and stopped, staggering.
“Something wrong, Charles?” Dooley asked quietly.
Colonel White stepped back down the stairs, almost tripping on the last step. He just had time to reach the wall in order to stop himself from falling. “I don’t know,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Feel hot, all of a sudden… giddy…” Leaning against the wall, he looked toward Dooley, who was staring calmly at him. White saw him through a haze, which seemed to thicken by the second. He shook himself, rubbed his tired eyes, and looked again at Dooley.
It was then that he saw the glass, still full of cognac, standing next to the one he had emptied a few moments ago.
“You… didn’t drink your glass, Greg,” White noticed, with disbelief in his voice.
“Very perspicacious, Admiral,” Dooley retorted quietly.
“My God,” White murmured, bewildered. “You… poisoned me?”
“Drugged you, actually. With very powerful stuff. Mixed with the cognac, it should have had a nearly immediate effect on any normal man. You’re a strong one, Colonel White.”
“What… did you call me?” In an effort to stand up, White pushed himself off the wall. He staggered, catching hold of the handrail again, his eyes desperately trying to keep focus on Dooley. Being called by his colour codename had brought a disturbing, horrifying thought to his mind, as he knew that his friend didn’t know anything about his connection with Spectrum. “You’re not Greg Dooley,” he rasped.
“I am… and I am not, Earthman.”
“Dear Lord, no…” White stepped back from Dooley, who was approaching him. He stumbled against a chair behind him and fell heavily to the floor. His sight was very blurred now, and his breathing was becoming very laborious. He was feeling uncomfortably hot all over.
He managed to loosen his tie, so he could breathe more easily. It didn’t help him much.
He saw Dooley standing over him, looking down at him calmly and without any expression. “You’re a Mysteron…” White realized. He could not get back to his feet, nor could he move. He felt as if he had no strength left in him. Dooley crouched next to him.
White heard quiet footsteps approaching. First, a shadow appeared in his line of view; then he saw a tall, black-haired, man, dressed in black clothing. His very pale, stone-cold face peered down blankly at the drugged Spectrum commander who recognized him instantly and went cold inside.
“Captain Black,” he croaked.
Despair then overwhelmed him, at about the same time as he mercifully lost consciousness.