A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop
“Nearly two days. I’ve had quite enough of this.”
Seated in the grey sedan, parked in front of the building they had under surveillance, Rhapsody was starting to get bored with this assignment Colonel White had given them. The previous day, following the information gathered by Spectrum ground personnel in Dorset, they had tracked down Captain Scarlet – rather easily.
They had been told that the English captain had hired a car and driven it to a rather quaint village in the area – a place where, usually, nothing ever happened, but which had been the scene of an unusual drama very recently – in which Spectrum had been involved.
Stone Point Village. Where Spectrum undercover agent Erik Dalton, posing as a mechanic at a Delta Garage, had been gruesomely murdered by Captain Black.
If Rhapsody or Symphony had ever had any doubt that Scarlet’s presence in Dorset had anything to do with Captain Black, it was now obvious to them that it was most certainly the case. However, what he could be looking for, they weren’t sure. Most probably traces of Captain Black’s passage, they thought, as Scarlet obviously was going to places where they knew the renegade officer had been spotted during the manhunt operation some days earlier.
According to the ground personnel that had kept track of him before their arrival, Captain Scarlet had simply driven around the village for some hours. He passed by the Delta Garage that Dalton had attended as part of his cover and where he had been murdered, but didn’t stop there. He had momentarily stopped in front of it, contenting himself with watching for a short instant. Then he went to buy some petrol for the car, and had taken the wheel again to leave the village, very quietly.
Next, he had gone to the Culver Atomic Centre, taking the same route that he believed Captain Black had himself followed a few days earlier. He didn’t enter the premises, and had merely watched the place through binoculars from a distance for an hour or so, taking notes and looking around at the grounds and gates surrounding the complex. After which, without making his presence known to the complex’s officials, he had driven away, directly to Stourford, a town not far away from there, and on a different route from Stone Point Village.
What he could be looking for there, nobody really knew, although there had been some unofficial reports that Captain Black had been seen around the place, some days earlier, while Spectrum searched for him. The only major interest in Stourford was the only hospital in the immediate area, Culver Hospital. The similarity between the names of the hospital and the atomic centre wasn’t coincidental, as the Centre had invested in the hospital as a condition of its being allowed to build the nuclear installation in the area.
He had driven around town, passing by the hospital, which was the biggest building around, but didn’t stop anywhere. Then he went directly to the town’s small inn, and took a room there, where he had stayed ever since, until the Angels’ arrival. The two women had then taken over the surveillance.
They had to wait a couple of hours before he went out again.
It began as a tedious operation, they had to admit. Scarlet seemed content with strolling around the town, rather casually, looking around and taking his time, stopping at a few shops where he had bought a few things, going into a restaurant where he ate a hefty meal, and finishing his day at the local cinema, where he had sat and watched a long, boring foreign film, apparently unaware that six seats behind him, in the dark auditorium, two young women were keeping their attentive eyes on him.
The Angels divided their surveillance by shifts for the remainder of the evening and the night, when Scarlet came back to the inn, never letting him out of their sight – or at the very least, his room, which he didn’t leave. They themselves took a room, to stay close to their quarry. The night passed uneventfully.
The next day, after an early breakfast, the tailing really began.
At first, it seemed that Scarlet was starting again to take the same casual, tourist stroll around the town as he had done the day before. But after an hour of quiet walking, he came back to his car and drove out of town. The Angels were quick to react accordingly, jumping into their grey, conveniently nondescript car to follow him out.
After a long drive on a practically deserted road, the two cars, five minutes apart, entered Stone Point Village.
Scarlet left his car in front of a restaurant and went for a walk around the place. If, according to the reports they had received, he hadn’t seemed to be looking for anything in particular the previous day, the Angels soon realised that today, his movements were more purposeful.
First, it was the Delta Garage, still encircled by police tape, preventing people from getting in, as it was still the scene of an investigation. That didn’t stop him from entering of course, and it really didn’t surprise the Angels that he chose to sneak into the place, behind the back of the policeman guarding it, instead of showing his Spectrum ID and being allowed to enter. Obviously, he wasn’t going to make this a proper Spectrum investigation – and probably didn’t want Spectrum to get involved. The two young women didn’t enter and instead watched the garage from a distance, while Captain Scarlet was doing whatever he was doing inside. He didn’t stay very long, in any case, and quickly slipped out the same window that had allowed him entry, and walked quietly away. The guard had never noticed his presence. Tutting her disapproval, Rhapsody made a mental note to report the incident to the proper authorities. After all, the police were guarding the building at Spectrum’s request – and were doing a very poor job of it.
Scarlet then visited an apartment block, which, after some checking on their portable computer, the Angels found to be where Dalton had lived for the year during which he had been stationed at Stone Point Village. There again, he didn’t use the front door, but broke in through a back window. He stayed there longer, and for a time, Rhapsody and Symphony wondered if he had sneaked out on them; they separated briefly to check the building’s surroundings, making sure there weren’t any exits Scarlet might have used. It wasn’t the case and it wasn’t long after that he came out, through the same window.
“He would have made a brilliant burglar,” Rhapsody had declared morosely, watching him as he quietly walked away from the building. Nobody but them had noticed his presence inside, apparently.
The tailing continued from there, with Scarlet visiting a few other shops – one of which he had visited the day before – then he went into a barber shop. After nearly an hour, he left and went to visit a couple of bars. Following him in their car, both Rhapsody and Symphony watched and took notes as he went from one place to the other. They would have thought that their surveillance was quite useless – if it hadn’t been for the visits to the Delta Garage and Dalton’s place.
Then, soon after lunch, Scarlet took his car, and left the village, to go back to Stourford. Once there, he made two quick stops at local bars, and then went directly to a last, specific place - that left both the Angels quite intrigued as they parked on the other side of the road, watching with curiosity as he walked inside.
Then they waited, their impatience growing by the minute. The waiting was always the worst in any tailing – at least, it seemed that both of them shared that impression.
“The hospital?” Symphony remarked after what seemed like an eternity, sucking on her lower lip. “What’s taking him so long in there? He usually spends as little time in hospitals as possible!”
“I don’t know,” Rhapsody replied, her eyes riveted on the now closed door. “The Delta Garage, Dalton’s apartment, this place… What could the connection be?”
“Dalton?” Symphony suggested. She gave it some thought. “Wasn’t the body of Erik Dalton taken to the mortuary in this hospital? I seem to remember reading that in the report…”
“You mean the real one or the Mysteron? If you mean the replicate, it would surely have been taken to a Spectrum facility.”
“Maybe not right away. Maybe it was kept here for a short time, until Spectrum could arrange for it to be picked up? We should check that out with Lieutenant Green.”
“Good idea. But what if it isn’t that? What else could interest Captain Scarlet in this place?” Her brow furrowed thoughtfully. “It’s the Culver Hospital. Built with Culver Atomic Centre money for the centre employees.”
Symphony snorted. “Their way of making peace with the locals. For building a nuclear centre in this area.”
“I’m afraid there’s been a lot of talk about shenanigans between local authorities, and businessmen to get the Centre built,” Rhapsody admitted with a shake of her red head. “It’s been all over the newspapers. Bribery and corruption, you know the sort of thing. But there was nothing conclusive enough to hold up in a court of law.”
Symphony gave a deep sigh. “Well, that’s all very interesting, but unfortunately, I don’t see how it could explain Captain Scarlet’s interest in…”
“Here he comes.”
Both women watched as Scarlet stepped through the doorway of the building and stood there for a short instant. He seemed to consider his options, looking around quietly. His eyes, scanning the area, didn’t stop once on the inconspicuous car parked at a safe distance. He didn’t seem to notice its two occupants.
That made Rhapsody scowl in disbelief. She had a hard time believing he had not yet noticed that he had been followed since the preceding day. Yes, of course, the security agents who had kept him under surveillance at first had been discreet. And of course, she and Symphony were good at their job. But the problem was that Scarlet was good too. It seemed impossible that he didn’t suspect he was being tailed.
The Angels watched as their quarry, after a few seconds of reflection, seemed to take a sudden decision; turning his back on the spot from which they were watching him, he left the doorstep of the hospital and started marching down the street towards his car.
“There he goes again,” Rhapsody mumbled.
“What could he be looking for exactly?” Symphony asked pensively for the nth time. “Wouldn’t I like to find out…”
Rhapsody gave her colleague a doubtful look. “I don’t think the colonel’s orders imply anything to that effect… Our job is to simply follow Captain Scarlet…”
“ ‘Take note of where he goes, what he does and who he talks to’,” Symphony said in a semi-impersonation of their commander. “But Rhapsody – our mission would be FAR easier if we knew what it’s all about.”
“Don’t you think I’m telling myself the same thing?” Rhapsody replied grimly. “The colonel didn’t tell us anything. As if he didn’t want us to know all the details.”
“I hate working like this,” Symphony sighed. “I did too much of that when I was in the U.S.S…” She nodded towards Scarlet, whom they could still see walking down the street. “That’s a colleague, a friend of ours, we’re tailing here. Not only that, but someone who’s already ‘died’ a number of times in the line of duty... often to save one of us. I know the colonel must have his reasons, but it still feels so wrong.”
She felt Rhapsody grab her shoulder as they saw Scarlet stepping into his car and turning the ignition key. The vehicle made a u-turn into the street. “He’s leaving,” the English Angel remarked.
“I see that,” Symphony replied. “And I have had enough.” Under Rhapsody’s inquiring eyes, she pushed the door open and stepped out of the car. “I want to know what’s going on. And I think we’ll have a better chance of finding anything if we separate. While you continue to follow him, I’ll go search the inn and check his room.– see if I can find any clues.”
“Uh, Symphony…” a hesitant Rhapsody started, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea…”
“Rhapsody, we’re getting nowhere. We can’t stay in the dark any longer. I think it’s vital that we know more if we want to continue this mission.” She gave a rueful smile. “I promise I’ll be careful.”
“When I hear you say that, I can almost hear him,” Rhapsody remarked, nodding towards the departing car. She gave a sigh. “All right. I do agree with you that we need to take further steps.” She turned the key in the ignition. “Do be careful,” she advised her partner.
“You too. We’ll keep in radio contact.”
“Good luck, then. See you later.” Rhapsody pulled away and started following Scarlet’s car. Left standing there, Symphony watched as the two vehicles headed down the main street and once again took the road leading out of the town. Then, she turned and trotted down the street, in the direction of the inn which was barely ten minutes’ walk from where she was.
* * *
Captain Scarlet’s car had left Stourford and was heading south-west, keeping to the speed limit. Rhapsody was following at a safe distance behind, all the while wondering where he might be going, and if it really had been that good an idea to leave Symphony on her own in town. She shrugged the thought away. Although impetuous, Symphony was also a careful girl – normally – who took her job seriously. All she wanted to do was check the hospital and Scarlet’s room. Surely, there was no danger in that?
All things considered, Rhapsody much preferred to see her in town than alone here, in this car, on the road, following Scarlet. That would have been where she would have taken more risk.
And what about me? How far am I willing to go to know what’s going on? Rhapsody had to admit she was the kind of person who was prepared to take risks too. If that wasn’t the case, neither she nor Symphony would be in Spectrum.
She had been following Scarlet’s car for some time now. To all appearances, he was going back to Stone Point Village. How strange, she reflected, to go back there, barely two hours after leaving. What could he be up to?
Lost in her reflections, and her visibility limited by the sun shining in through her windshield, she suddenly realised, in the space of a few seconds, that her prey was not in view anymore. She blinked. What the…? He was just in front of me a few seconds ago! Her car passed by a clearing by the side of the road, that she noticed from the corner of her eye. She braked sharply and her car skidded to a halt. She put it in reverse and backed up a little.
Stopping the car, she looked with curiosity at the clearing she had just seen. Scarlet’s car was there, apparently empty, pulled onto a safe, even and grassy spot, right next to a deeply rutted path leading behind the trees. The trail looked as if an army tank had opened it, with deep caterpillar tracks in the ground, and some tyre marks on top. Rhapsody considered her discovery for a moment, rubbing her chin.
Not caterpillar tracks, she suddenly realised. No, these are the tracks left by the tyres of an SPV. She remembered the report she had read of the hunt for Black. How he had stolen the SPV from Stone Point Village, driven it to a certain spot and then turned around to avoid Spectrum and police barricades. This might very well be the spot, she realised.
She looked thoughtfully towards the abandoned car. Looking around to make sure there wasn’t anyone in view, she stepped out of her own vehicle and approached cautiously to look through the driver’s window.
No, Scarlet is definitely not here, she thought, heaving a sigh on discovering the empty interior. She looked around once more. Still no one in sight. Where is he?
In the soft earth, she could see footsteps, going from the car she was standing next to, and following the SPV tracks. She nodded her understanding. Of course, he couldn’t drive his car in there, she reflected, following the path with her eyes. It would have got stuck in that mud sooner or later.
The door of the car wasn’t even locked. Cautiously, she opened it and looked inside, searching for anything that might help her investigation. She sat behind the wheel. At first glance, there wasn’t anything unusual.
A paper map lay folded on the passenger seat. Rhapsody picked it up and unfolded it to examine it closely. It was a tourist map of the immediate area, probably bought at a shop in either Stourford or Stone Point Village. There were red marks on it, Xs marking various spots from Stourford, to Stone Point Village, and to the Culver Atomic Centre. Rhapsody realised that one of the Xs marked the exact spot where she presently was. On the map, there also was a red line going from that point to another, in the woods.
Right behind those trees.
Carefully, she folded the map and put it back. She checked the car’s interior one last time, left a little something under the dash, and stepped out of the car. Then she carefully walked down the trail, following the footprints left by Scarlet.
The trail certainly was an easy one, even though the ground was uneven and muddy – as it had rained during the morning, there were puddles everywhere, and her feet were nearly sucked into the ground. She felt for sure she had ruined her shoes in all that dirt. Not that she cared much about that; it wasn’t only her professional side that was taking over, but also the curious side of her. Wherever Scarlet had gone, she wanted to know. And if it meant getting down and dirty herself, well, she was ready to do just that.
The end of the trail clearly showed that the SPV had turned around at this place. So she had been right. What a surprise…
Scarlet wasn’t in view anywhere. Just where could he be? she asked herself in annoyance, looking around.
A sound to her left made her turn around, and she looked with attention. It seemed to come from behind another copse of trees. Carefully, she walked in that direction, doing her best not to make any sound, pushing through the branches and looking about, in search of her missing quarry. She found a big enough clearing ahead and stopped before actually walking into the open, looking in puzzlement. From where she was standing, she could see new, parallel marks deep in the ground.
She had just started to figure out what those marks were when she suddenly became aware of a nearby presence. She was startled to unexpectedly discover a tall, dark-haired man who was standing only inches away from her. She jumped in surprise and gasped loudly, only just managing to stop herself crying out.
He stood there, looking sternly at her.
“Can I ask you what you’re doing here?” Captain Scarlet asked in a deep, icy voice.
Rhapsody regained her composure, leaning against the trunk of a tree, her heart still pounding wildly. “You nearly gave me a heart attack!” she complained, her voice a mix of anger and relief. “Giving me such a scare…”
“Serves you right,” he grumbled. “You’ve been following me since yesterday.”
Rhapsody blinked. Although she had to admit she wasn’t that surprised. “You knew?”
“Of COURSE I knew!” he seethed. “What do you think? I’ve been on to you since yesterday afternoon.” He gave her a disgusted look. “I just knew Colonel White wouldn’t let me go without any surveillance, but I never thought that he would put you girls on to me…”
“We ‘girls’ happen to be the best equipped to do the job, Captain,” Rhapsody replied, bristling at his remark.
“Well, I’ll give you that,” Scarlet said icily. “You managed to follow me around for a few hours before I even noticed you. I knew someone was following me, but I couldn’t see who it was. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Rhapsody replied in an equally acerbic tone. “Now would you mind telling me where we are?”
He snorted. “You’re the detective. You work it out.”
She narrowed her eyes in irritation and looked around, thoughtfully. She pointed in the direction of where she knew the road was – although she couldn’t see it. “Well, considering all the evidence I’ve found so far, and if I recall the report concerning the manhunt for Captain Black a couple of days ago, this is where he left the road in the stolen SPV and hid himself behind these trees…” She hesitated slightly. “… where he found Symphony, who had landed her plane there to investigate.” She pointed toward the deep ruts in the ground. “These are the tracks left by its landing gear.”
Scarlet raised a brow. “You’ve kept yourself informed, I see.”
“Why did you come back here?” Scarlet didn’t care to answer; Rhapsody looked closely at him, before nodding thoughtfully. “You’re looking for clues that Captain Black might have left.” He kept silent. Suddenly, he turned around and started walking toward the trail, with the obvious intention of leaving. She followed suit, as she continued: “Did you find anything?”
“Now, why would I confide in you?” he snapped, without even turning to look at her.
“Captain… Paul… you don’t have to be defensive with me, I’m just here to…”
“You’re here under Colonel White’s orders,” Scarlet said, as they reached the SPV tracks and started making their way back to the road. “Spectrum have been tailing me since the minute I left the carrier – you’re keeping tabs on me and reporting everything to the old man. And you tell ME I shouldn’t be defensive?” He snorted derisively. “What is it, does the colonel think I’m up to something?”
“Maybe he’s concerned that you might end up in trouble?” Rhapsody offered.
“Oh, I bet!” Scarlet grunted. “You’re giving him too much credit, Rhapsody. You can’t be that naïve!” He stopped suddenly and she nearly bumped into him. He looked at her closely. “What exactly did the colonel tell you?” he asked, his tone still abrupt enough. “Did he tell you why I left Cloudbase?”
“Why are you so angry with him?” Rhapsody countered.
He shook his head and started walking again, more rapidly. Rhapsody nearly had to run to keep up with him. “If you ask that question, then he didn’t tell you. I might have known he wouldn’t confide that secret to my ‘watchdogs’. He’s just using you as his puppets.”
“I’m nobody’s ‘puppet’,” Rhapsody avowed between her teeth.
“You follow his orders blindly, what does that make you?”
“Why don’t you tell me what the problem is, then?”
He grumbled and shook his head. Obviously, Rhapsody reflected, he wasn’t going to tell her what he thought of Colonel White. Or the reason why he was here. She gave a deep sigh.
“Yes, I’ve been sent to follow you,” she admitted.
“You’re not alone,” he noted. “Symphony is with you.”
“Oh, all right! You found us out… We would have been surprised if you didn’t! But I assure you – our assignment was only to keep our eyes on you. Make sure you were going to be all right, and that you didn’t get into trouble.”
“Paul, you’re after Captain Black, aren’t you? These days, he’s trouble with a capital ‘T’! I’m sure you don’t want to find yourself facing him alone if you were to find him!”
“And you’re my back up, are you, Rhapsody Angel?” Scarlet replied derisively. “You and Symphony?”
Now that was rather insulting. Rhapsody preferred to let it slide. They had now reached the side of his car, and they stepped onto the road, where he turned again to face her as she spoke.
“Don’t be mean, Captain. In truth, nobody knows why you’re here to begin with.”
“And Colonel White sent you to find that out. Do you also think I’m up to something?”
“How can you say such a thing?” she protested. “I’m your friend.”
“That’s what I thought, yes.” He saw the hurt and outrage displayed in her eyes, and regretted his words almost immediately. But he wasn’t ready to let his defences down yet. “You say you’re my friend? Well, if you are, Rhapsody, you will return to Cloudbase with Symphony, and leave me alone.”
There was so much contained anger in his tone that Rhapsody didn’t quite know how to react at first. She looked up into his eyes, hesitating a little, then shook her head.
“Paul, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that. I don’t know what you’re up to. If only you would tell us so we can help you, I…”
“Forget it!” he snapped categorically.
“Then I’m afraid I can’t go. I have my orders.”
He grimly glared at her, his brows furrowed deeply, and his blue eyes flashing hotly. He huffed his disdain loudly, and turned his back on her, to walk with an assured long stride towards her grey sedan. She scurried after him, quickly. Having reached the car, he turned briskly around to face her, forcing her to stop in her tracks as she came near him.
“Fine. You say you have your orders. You won’t listen to me.” Only at this moment did Rhapsody realise that his right hand was holding a knife. A Swiss Army knife, with a rather big and apparently very sharp blade. She blinked in surprise – just as he swung the blade straight into her front tyre. She heard a small explosion as she started to protest.
“Are you crazy?” she shrieked, looking in disbelief as her punctured tyre slowly deflated.
“If it’s the only way to stop you following me, then you’re leaving me little choice!” Scarlet snapped at her.
Oh well… she thought, looking with resignation at the wide hole on the side of her now flat tyre. It’s not as if I am not able to change one of these... Then she saw, with alarm, Scarlet puncture another tyre. The second explosion nearly made Rhapsody jump.
“You ARE crazy!” she yelled angrily, lunging toward Scarlet, grabbing his arm to force him to face her. “Exactly what do you think you’re doing?”
“Stopping you from following me around,” he replied casually, folding the blade of his knife and putting it back into his pocket. He walked to his car, with Rhapsody staring after him in disbelief. “If this is the only way to get a few hours’ peace, so be it.”
“You mean you’re going to LEAVE ME here?!”
“What do you think?” Scarlet opened his door and sat behind the wheel. He gave a last glance at Rhapsody who seemed to be rooted to the spot. “I hope this car was provided by Spectrum and that it’s not a hire-car. Because you just lost your deposit.”
Only then did Rhapsody emerge from her deep surprise, to take a step forward. “Just a minute, you…”
“Go back to Cloudbase, Rhapsody.” Turning the ignition key, Scarlet slammed his door and pressed the accelerator. The car jumped backward onto the road, and then lurched forward, raising a spatter of mud behind, and leaving the young red-haired woman on the side of the road, fuming, watching its loud departure without being able to stop it. She had been so taken aback by Scarlet’s surprising behaviour that she didn’t react in time.
“That… That man… that…” The rest of Rhapsody’s imprecation died in an outraged cry of frustration, as she kicked one of her damaged tyres. “He’s going to pay for that!” she promised herself.
She considered the direction taken by the car, which had already disappeared from view. She came back to her car, still fuming, and yanked open the driver’s door to get behind the wheel. She pressed a few buttons on a control panel, causing a small radar screen to pop out of the dash. In the background of the screen was an electronic map of the immediate vicinity. She examined the little yellow blinking light on it, pointing the moving position of the small bug she had stashed in Scarlet’s car. He’s going back to Stone Point Village, she realised, remembering from the map she had seen in his car the point that he had marked which was of interest to him in that direction.
She got out of her car and pondered her situation, looking in the direction in which Scarlet’s car had disappeared. Stone Point Village was the nearest civilised spot. At least one hour by car. And on foot… God, she wouldn’t be back before dark, that was certain! Unless she was lucky and found a vehicle on the way, whose driver would be kind enough to give her a lift. There wasn’t much chance of that, she reflected, as this road wasn’t a busy one.
Sighing, she took her personal communicator out of her bag; she’d have to contact Symphony to tell her of this new development, before starting on her way.
The sound of an engine coming from her left made her turn in that direction; she saw a transportation lorry coming her way, at a rather high speed. Well, talk about luck, she thought with satisfaction. Perhaps she wouldn’t have to walk all the way to Stone Point Village, after all. Surely, seeing her car down the road, obviously in some kind of mechanical trouble, the driver would stop to lend a hand; it wouldn’t be very civilised to leave a young woman to cope all by herself in such a deserted area.
She stood behind her car, a couple of feet onto the road, and waved to the oncoming vehicle.
It didn’t slow down. Rhapsody felt for certain she saw it accelerate instead of decreasing speed. She heard the horn honking wildly. Suddenly realising the danger she was in, she took a step backward.
The first thing that hit her was the sudden rush of wind that knocked the communicator out of her hand – then a shower of cold and dirty water, just as the wheels of the lorry rolled into the large puddle near which Rhapsody was standing. She was soaked from head to toes in a fraction of a second, and barely had time to close her eyes and gasp under the insulting assault.
The lorry was gone and away without even slowing down, leaving behind it a mocking series of honking sounds – and a dripping wet girl, eyes wide and mouth open with complete and utter outrage.
Did she hear laughing, just as the lorry passed her by, in the middle of that blaring horn?
Slowly, her eyes dropped to the road to look for her communicator. There it was… In the puddle. Ruined. Smashed to pieces and dripping with dirty water.
Just like herself.
She let out a furious cry. She couldn’t believe it was happening to her!
She was stranded on the side of a lonely road, hours on foot from civilisation, soaking wet, alone, and with no means of contacting anyone. She couldn’t even call Symphony, and rely on her to find a vehicle to come and pick her up.
Definitely, Scarlet would pay dearly for this indignity…
* * *
Thoughtfully, Symphony Angel stood in the middle of the waiting room and looked around. The receptionist, behind her desk, was dutifully filling in a report, almost oblivious to Symphony’s presence since talking to her a few minutes ago. There were only three patients in the room with Symphony, seated and waiting patiently to see a doctor. The young woman decided to sit down herself, and settled her choice on a seat from where she would be able to see the corridor where she knew the person she had asked for would be.
Symphony’s mind wandered back to her search of Scarlet’s room, less than an hour ago. It was a quaint little room, the spitting image of the one she was sharing with Rhapsody at the other end of the corridor on the second floor of the inn. The bed had been squarely made, and nothing was out of place. It was so like Scarlet to be so fastidious with his surroundings – probably came from his strict upbringing in a military family. Although they both shared many personality traits, she had to admit she had some difficulty in keeping her things – and her room – in order. Her mother always told her, as she was growing up, that her room looked like the cross between a pigsty and an untidy archive room. She would never have made a home-maker out of her Karen – not that she really tried, of course. Although she had been successful in teaching her the art of fine cooking. It probably had something to do with Karen’s voracious appetite – and astounding capacity to not put on too much weight, no matter how much she ate.
Symphony had passed what seemed like hours checking through Captain Scarlet’s personal things, all the while feeling increasingly weary and guilty about it. What if she had found something incriminating or the like – what would she do? Thankfully, it had not been the case. Throughout her search, carefully and professionally conducted so that Scarlet would not suspect that anyone had been in his room, she had found nothing remotely interesting. It had been a boring task she had set herself to do – and she had to admit it now, she shouldn’t be surprised by the results. Paul would never leave anything behind him that would give any clue to what he might be doing, if he didn’t want people to find out. As far as she was concerned, if she had found something, she would immediately suspect that it had been planted as a diversion.
Nothing out of the usual. But Symphony was growing convinced that he was after Captain Black.
That doesn’t make any sense. Surely, Black isn’t in the area anymore. What could possess Paul to think he might be?
Her search finished, Symphony had contacted London HQ and enquired about the Culver Hospital at Stourford, wanting to know if there could be any possible link between it and the recent Spectrum operation in Dorset. It turned out that the Culver Hospital, as the most important medical centre of the area, had the only mortuary around. That was where the bodies of both Erik Dalton and his Mysteron duplicate had been taken, after the events of a couple of days ago. That was only a temporary measure, until Spectrum had cleared the last details with the local police, concerning the murder investigation – afterwards, the body of the Mysteron agent had been flown to London HQ, pending a proper examination. The body of Erik Dalton was to stay in Culver Hospital, until the police completed their report. This seemed to be just a ‘formality’ anyway, considering that Spectrum would have the final say in the matter. It would only be a couple of days before the body of Dalton would be properly and respectfully taken care of.
So, that was the connection with Scarlet’s personal search, Symphony had thought. Now why exactly would he have gone to the hospital remained a mystery.
Has he talked to anyone here? the young woman reflected. And who? Spectrum HQ had told her that the pathologist at the hospital was a certain Doctor Willard – who had started his examination of the two bodies before Spectrum had stepped in with the proper authorisations to demand the duplicate. Willard had been very compliant and had fully collaborated with Spectrum. So she had thought of going to see him and talk to him. See if she could learn a few things from him – maybe even if Scarlet had talked to him, who knows?
When she had presented herself to the receptionist at the hospital, Symphony had to pull out her Spectrum ID – very discreetly – so she would be able to see Doctor Willard. Suitably impressed, the receptionist had phoned the doctor and announced Symphony’s presence. Then, addressing the young woman once more, she had asked her to wait a few minutes and the doctor would be able to see her.
Symphony waited a good ten minutes, before she saw a tall man, with very thin features, and wearing the white coat of a doctor, come into the reception area. He exchanged a few low words with the receptionist, who indicated Symphony, and he came over to her. The young woman got to her feet at his approach.
“I’m Doctor Willard. How can I help you, Miss…?”
“It’s very nice of you to see me, Doctor,” Symphony replied, blatantly ignoring the doctor’s obvious request for her name. “Is there a place where we can talk privately?”
He nodded. “We can go to my consulting room. Follow me.” He turned, and guided Symphony through a short corridor, and then to a door that he opened wide, inviting her to step in before him. He followed, closing the door behind him.
“Now, Miss, what further service can I do for Spectrum?”
“A gentleman came here earlier today,” Symphony explained. “English, but not from around here. Tall, dark hair, blue eyes?”
Willard nodded. “You’re talking about your colleague, right?”
Symphony managed not to blink in surprise. “Yes – he came about two or three hours ago. He introduced himself to you?”
“I saw him myself – just I’m seeing you right now. Showed me his ID, just like you did. Captain Scarlet, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Symphony said musingly. “Yes, that’s him.” She was rather surprised that Scarlet had used his Spectrum identity to introduce himself to the doctor. Obviously, he didn’t have any scruples about doing so, to obtain the information he was looking for.
“I thought I had told your colleague everything that Spectrum wanted to know,” Willard continued. “Obviously, there’s something more you need from me.”
“Can you tell me what information he asked you for, Doctor?” Symphony asked, keeping an official tone. She noticed the odd way he was looking at her, and thought he was probably wondering why she was asking for the same information. She offered a faint smile. “I still have to catch up with my colleague later today,” she added non-commitally. “Maybe there is something more you didn’t tell him that could be useful to our investigation?”
“Right,” Willard said with a somewhat doubtful tone. “Of course. You can count on my full co-operation. I’ve been co-operating with Spectrum to the best of my ability, since the start of this dreadful affair. Even though I still don’t understand everything that’s going on…”
“Dreadful affair, you say?”
“You’re here for further investigations of the events surrounding the murder of that poor Mr. Dalton, of course?”
“Of course,” Symphony repeated with a slow nod.
“Such an awful thing to happen in such a quiet town,” Willard continued, with a deep sigh. He went to his desk and sat down behind it, gesturing to Symphony to take the seat in front of him. She accepted the invitation. “Who would have thought that our Mr. Dalton was one of your agents?” he added musingly.
“You know about that too?” Symphony said with a suspicious frown.
“Why of course, ma’am. They had to tell me, considering the nature of the… ‘accident’. I’m the hospital pathologist.”
“Pathologist?” Symphony shook her head. “I would not have thought that there would be such a specialist in this area – that they would call for one from the nearest big city…”
Willard shrugged. “When the Culver Atomic Centre had this hospital built in this area – as part as an arrangement with the neighbouring communities – it was agreed that the facility would offer the best of all the medical services possible. They had to, considering the… potential danger presented by the existence of the Centre. Most of the people from the area work there. We have to be ready to respond to any kind of situation that might present itself. Of course, I’m sure that security is at its maximum at the Centre but…”
“Better safe than sorry, right?”
“And, as I understand it, there was an alert quite recently, at the Centre. With that illegal intrusion?” He lifted a brow meaningfully, but Symphony didn’t reply. He shrugged again. “I was told about it. By one of my patients, who is a security guard at the Centre. He had been injured during the intrusion, and I had to treat his injury. And don’t worry, I was sworn to secrecy. Even if Spectrum had not asked me to keep silent about it, I wouldn’t tell a soul.”
“Thank you, Doctor. You certainly realise that it would create unnecessary uneasiness if word got out.”
“I realised that perfectly when Spectrum asked for my co-operation, a couple of days ago, when the body of that poor Mr. Dalton was brought into the hospital mortuary. Along with his murdering twin – after he had been killed by your agents.”
Twin. Of course, Symphony reflected. Spectrum would not have told this man everything. Only the minimum of what he needed to know, in order to obtain his compliance.
“Does anyone else in the hospital know about Mr. Dalton’s ‘twin’?” she asked.
“Of course not! I did as Spectrum told me and never said a word to anyone about it.” He paused a second. “That’s a curious affair, I must say. Who would have thought that one of your agents would have a twin brother who would also be a terrorist? And one who would go so far as to kill his own brother?”
“You were told that, Doctor Willard?” Symphony asked with a frown.
“Let’s say I guessed some of it. Isn’t Spectrum’s work to deal with terrorism and such security hazards? What else could it be?” He leaned across his desk to stare meaningfully at Symphony. “And it certainly had something to do with what happened at the Centre, didn’t it?”
“I’m not at liberty to tell you anything about what happened at the Centre, Doctor,” Symphony replied stoically. “Nor about all the details of Mr. Dalton’s murder.” She offered an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Doctor. But as far as you’re concerned, Mr. Dalton’s death may very well have nothing to do with what happened at the Culver Centre. And I really can’t tell you more about it.” She would have very much liked to know where Willard had found his information. It did seem quite unlikely that a Spectrum operative would have told him. Someone at the Atomic Centre, maybe? she reflected. Maybe rumours started running wild since the events of a few days ago. It isn’t so inconceivable that Willard would hear all kinds of scuttlebutt from Culver employees.
“Right,” Willard said, clearing his throat. “It’s me who’s sorry. I should have realised that I can’t discuss all this with you. You came for some information regarding Mr. Dalton’s death, so I should be content with giving you just that.”
“Is that what my colleague came to ask you about, Doctor?”
“Yes – since I was the one who performed the autopsy on Mr. Dalton’s body. He wanted to know the exact cause of the man’s death. Maybe he doubted the accuracy of the report I sent to Spectrum, I don’t know… It was all in there, you see.”
“What was the cause of Mr. Dalton’s death, exactly?” Symphony asked with a frown.
“It was fairly obvious, really,” Willard answered, scoffing. “The man was crushed against the ceiling of his garage, while trapped inside a car he was repairing. It has exactly the same result as when a heavy object – like a vehicle – is dropped on you. Only the opposite happened, in his case.”
Symphony kept from shivering. “Yes, pretty obvious, you’re right.”
“Your colleague seemed to think differently. He asked if Mr. Dalton was alive before being crushed to death. If he had not been killed first. He seemed a little upset when I confirmed it wasn’t the case. Erik Dalton had a very painful, very ugly death. He was barely recognisable, considering the state he was in.”
Okay, I get it, Symphony then reflected. Paul was trying to find out if Captain Black still retains some humanity. She had wondered that herself, to tell the truth, when she had been held captive by Black. Of course, it took a very short time to realise that there was nothing of Conrad Turner, nothing of the man she once knew, but only the shell of that man, enclosing someone – something – so totally alien that it scared the Hell out of her.
Something that would not have hesitated one second to kill her if it had served its purpose. Just like it had killed Erik Dalton, without any mercy.
“In comparison,” Willard continued, “his twin had a very clean death.”
“You did an autopsy on his body too?” Symphony managed to hide her surprise. It seemed rather unlikely to her that Spectrum would have permitted Willard to examine the Mysteron duplicate’s body. His answer left her in no doubt that it wasn’t the case.
“No, not really. I thought I would have to do it, but Spectrum pulled a few strings with the local police and had his body sent directly to London. No explanation given.”
That’s more like it, Symphony agreed. “What else did my colleague ask you, Doctor Willard?”
“Oh… after having confirmation that my report to Spectrum was absolutely accurate about my examination of Mr. Dalton’s body, he didn’t have much else to ask me. Except if Dalton had any friends who had come to see him.”
“And did he?”
Willard shrugged. “There was a chap – by the name of Hansen – who came in the day the body was brought in. He claimed to be a close personal friend of Mr. Dalton. He was so drunk, you had trouble understanding what he was saying. I think the police took him in for questioning, as he was claiming he had witnessed something of what had happened at the garage. I don’t know what.”
Well, if it’s something relevant, it’s probably written down in the Spectrum report, Symphony thought. “Is there anything else, Doctor?”
“No… I think that about covers it. Oh, except for the fact that your colleague wanted to see the body.”
“Mr. Dalton’s body?”
“Yes – I’m afraid I wasn’t able to oblige, Mr. Dalton’s body having been sent to London yesterday – where it was to be picked up by family members, as I understand it.”
“Of course.” So the body is already gone, Symphony reflected. The report was already two days old when I read it…
A faint knock at the door made itself heard and Symphony turned her head just in time to see one of the nurses from the waiting room open the door to peek inside.
“Excuse me, Doctor Willard…” she said in an apologetic tone, “Mr. Harris is here for his four o’clock appointment?”
“Oh, yes… Thank you, Edna.” Willard turned to Symphony. “If that’s all, Miss, I have a patient to attend to…”
“Of course, Doctor. We have finished indeed.” Symphony rose to her feet, as did the doctor, and they shook hands. “Thank you for your time. I’m sorry to have disturbed your busy schedule.”
“It was nothing. If you need anything else, please, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Symphony thanked him with a nod and a smile and turned, leaving through the door, where the nurse was standing. The doctor followed the young woman’s departure with his eyes, before addressing the nurse again. “Have Mr. Harris brought into the examination room, Edna. I’ll be with him in a minute or two.”
* * *
Walking out of the hospital, Symphony went down the steps leading to the street, wondering about what she had just learned from Doctor Willard. Just why would Captain Scarlet be interested to see the body of Erik Dalton? There was not much mystery about his death – as the doctor had pointed out himself – and it certainly had been established without a doubt that he had been killed by Captain Black
Of course, the connection to Dalton IS Captain Black, Symphony thought. But that doesn’t explain why Paul wanted to see the body. Surely, there wasn't any clue on him that would enable Scarlet to discover Black's whereabouts.
I should contact London, Symphony reflected. See if Paul’s contacted them recently about that Mysteron body they have. Perhaps that can shed some light on the subject. Scarlet was apparently searching for clues everywhere. He might have learned something from London HQ, either by talking to someone, or acquiring the report from the ground agents, concerning the recent events in Stone Point Village and the Culver Atomic Centre.
Perhaps I am clutching at straws. Perhaps there are no clues to be found by either Paul or us. But if he believes there are – we must follow the same lead.
The witness… Well, that might be a lead. Paul would want to see him, surely – hear exactly what he witnessed.
Hansen – his name would be in the investigators’ report. All the more reason to contact London, then.
As she was walking down the street toward the inn, thinking about all this, Symphony suddenly realised that Rhapsody had not contacted her once since she had left to follow Scarlet out of town. Why is that? she asked herself with some concern. It wasn’t like Rhapsody to keep such a prolonged silence during a mission. She would keep in touch with her partner, give regular reports on her whereabouts. As it was, it had been several hours since she had gone and not a word from her yet.
I hope she hasn’t run into some kind of trouble! I’m giving her TEN minutes – then I’ll call her myself.
She heard footsteps behind her – and became rapidly aware that someone was following her. Closely. Very closely. Considering what she had experienced lately, it wasn’t so surprising for Symphony to feel a little on edge. Maybe she had run into some kind of trouble, unknowingly… She continued strolling towards the inn, without giving any indication that she knew there was someone behind. Maybe she was imagining things. Maybe it just happened that this person was just going in the same direction. If that was the case, she’d soon find out.
No. Whoever it was, he or she was still following. Who could it be now, a mugger!? I have no time for this! Well, he certainly wouldn’t attack her in the middle of the road, with so many people around to see it. If it was a mugger, she’d know how to deal with him.
She had nearly reached the inn when she felt the presence of her follower so very close to her that he might be able to touch her. She swiftly turned around, on the defensive, ready to strike whoever she might find there.
She stopped herself mere seconds before actually hitting the man who was barely two steps behind her. He took a step backwards, his hands raised in self-defence, when he saw her determined and stern face, and the way she was readying herself for attack.
“Whoa, take it easy! You wouldn’t want to hit a friend now, would you?”
Symphony frowned, upon seeing the half-worried, half-amused expression on the dark face of the young man she found standing in front of her. He was offering her a bashful and apologetic smile that was completely disarming.
“Lieutenant Green? What are you doing here?!”
* * *
A pad in his hand, Doctor Willard entered the room where James Harris was waiting for him, seated on the high examination table and kicking his heels impatiently. Upon the doctor’s arrival, Harris lifted his head, and welcomed him with a faint and uneasy grin.
“How are you doing today, James?” Willard asked, closing the door and approaching his patient.
“Better, Doctor,” Harris confirmed. “Well, sort of. At least it’s some sort of improvement. My head is still hurting, but it’s not as bad as when that guy tried to crack my skull open some nights ago.”
Willard slowly nodded his understanding. James Harris, night security guard at the Culver Atomic Centre, was doing his habitual rounds when he had been attacked from behind by an intruder, and hit on the back of the head. If his attacker had hit any harder, Harris might have died from his wound. Instead, he had been left bleeding and half-conscious on the floor by the aggressor who had then set himself to try to break into a secure area of the Centre. Harris had managed to raise the alarm before he could do so; the trespasser had been chased off, and Harris was rescued, and transported to the hospital, where Willard himself had tended to him.
“I told you you should have stayed in hospital,” Willard reproached, throwing his pad on the table. “After what you had been through, you needed your rest. It was much too early to leave.”
“Without meaning any disrespect, Doc,” Harris replied, “it’s much easier for me to rest at home, in front of the television, instead of in a depressing hospital room.”
“Okay. I won’t argue with that. At least you didn’t go back to work.”
“Oh no! I won’t, until these headaches have cleared up…”
“Well, let me have a look at that bump of yours.”
Willard pressed a button on the table, lowering it a little, so he would be able to examine his patient more comfortably. “Lean forward a little, James.” Harris complied, and Willard checked the dressing covering the back of his head. He removed it to check the wound. “Well, it’s healing quite nicely,” he commented.
“It also itches like mad, Doctor,” Harris complained.
“That’s quite normal, with all those stitches, James.” Willard quietly reached into the pocket of his jacket and casually fished out a syringe, filled with a pale liquid. Having raised his head, Harris saw this, and watched apprehensively, as Willard was gently tapping the syringe.
“What’s that for, Doc?”
Willard shrugged. “Nothing to worry about, James. It’s just for the pain…”
“Great. I hate needles. But if it stops these headaches…”
“Oh, it’ll stop the headaches, all right…” Suddenly, Willard reached for Harris’s head, and before the latter could even react, he had jabbed the needle into the man’s neck. Harris gasped in surprise, but the doctor had already ejected the full contents of the syringe into his jugular vein. He went almost instantly stiff, and his eyes seemed to turn up in their sockets. “In fact,” Willard continued coldly, stepping back and watching him without any emotion apparent on his face, “you won’t feel anything at all anymore…”
Harris fell back onto the table, struggling for breath, shivering, unable to speak. His agony only lasted a few seconds, mercifully, and he gave a low rattle, before his eyes finally closed and he stopped moving.
The back door leading into the small medicine storage room opened; a tall, pallid man, dressed in black clothing, stepped into the examination room, to stare with eyes as cold as those of Willard at the dead body lying on the table. Two rings of eerie green light were slowly moving across the body, seemingly coming out of nowhere.
Willard turned to face the newcomer. “The Mysterons’ orders have been obeyed, Captain Black,” he said in a mechanical tone.
“Good, Doctor Willard,” Captain Black replied in a deep, sepulchral, alien voice that obviously wasn’t his own. “Now we have the agent we need to carry out the Mysterons’ plans…”
He raised his eyes, devoid of any emotion, from the body of the dead Harris to look past Willard. Behind him stood a new, very much alive Harris, similar in every detail to the dead man lying there, but who was now looking back at him with the same coldness and inexpressive look upon his face.
“You will hide the body,” Black instructed. “It must not be found, until our mission is completed.”
“What about the Spectrum agents?” Willard asked suddenly. “Those who came to visit me today – the girl, and Captain Scarlet? What should be done about them?”
There was a moment of silence, as if Black was pondering that question. He then turned, and put his hand on the handle of the door behind him, as he prepared to leave. “You have your orders,” he said with the same coldness in his tone as before. “They will be dealt with. They will not stand in the way of the Mysterons’ plans. They… nor anyone else. The Mysterons’ instructions must be carried out.”
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