A ‘Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons’ story for Halloween
BY CAT 2
“Excuse me, Captain Grey?”
I look up and spot a young woman staring nervously at me. She’s wearing a greenish blue tabard, which should give me a clue, but it still takes me a couple of minutes to place her.
“Lieutenant Aqua.” I can’t remember her real name, at least not properly. I think it begins with a V.
“Yes, sir.” She smiles and my heart sinks as I realise what this is. She’s new here, one of the latest batch of recruits to Cloudbase. Either no one’s told her yet or they have, but she thinks she’s the exception to the rule.
“I was wondering, sir, if you would like some coffee,” She leans forward slightly, her eyes informing me that it’s not coffee she’s talking about.
I don’t know what I say. I don’t think I say anything or at least not words, but thankfully Magenta’s there.
“Don’t know about Grey, but I’d love a cup,” he says, getting to his feet quickly. “I’ll help you carry it back, alright?”
His hand is on her arm and he’s guiding her out of the room before she can protest. I go back to my report, but my mind isn’t really on it.
I know what he’ll be telling her.
Poor Captain Grey, a widower. His wife ran away from him. Killed herself, killed their child. He’s never got over. Never dates, never even looks a woman in that way. Don’t go that way, it’ll only hurt you.
They’re wrong. About everything. I’m not a widower. My wife is still alive, just somewhere I can’t follow her to. She’d didn’t kill herself and she didn’t run away from me. My Brandi would never leave me.
I can feel Blue and Ochre’s eyes on my back, even though they’re supposed to be going over the duty rota. Watching me with that mixture of sympathy, concern and worry that people reserve for those who’ve lost someone.
I can’t stand it.
“Got to…” I mutter, jerking my head toward the exit. Even to my ears my voice sounds thick and strained.
Ochre nods, though Blue keeps his head down. Perhaps he feels embarrassed because Lieutenant Aqua’s been temporarily put under his charge, the time for her to acclimate to life on Cloudbase. He probably thinks he should have done something, said something to make her leave me alone. But honestly, what could he do?
I walk into the men’s communal bathroom; thankfully it’s deserted and I pause, leaning against the basin, breathing hard.
It’s been over five years now. Even if Brandi did leave me, most countries would stop counting her as my wife by now. Then again, we were never most people.
Most couples meet through friends or work or something like that. We met through a disaster.’
The Embleton Ferry disaster to be precise.
I was on leave from the WASP and had come up to the coast with my best friend, Alec Lewis, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Relaxation was never my friend, and despite being a single man, I didn’t fancy the usual round of the bars and clubs. So when Alec casually suggested that I could come home, with him and Vicky, I jumped at it.
Alec Lewis and Vicky Bell were one of those couples who are just made for each other.
In many ways, they were polar opposites. Alec had joined the coastguards at 18 and didn’t have two GCSEs to rub together. Vicky, on the other hand, would end the war as one of the foremost forensic pathologists, in the UK, if not the world. She’s most famous for her reconstruction of the skull of Ron Simpson, which led to the arrest and conviction of his killers by WGPC, but back then she’d just got her first job as a forensic scientist, with some lecturing thrown in on the side, while she worked towards her Professorship. I never quite got to the bottom of how they had met or what honestly bound them together. But there was something. You only had to look at Alec’s eyes when he spotted an envelope with her handwriting on it or see the way Vicky hugged him on the station platform.
The house we were staying at was only a couple of hundred yards from the sea front and I spent most days down on the beach, mostly, I admit, to avoid becoming a third wheel. I didn’t have anything to worry about as it turned out, Alec and Vicky were that contentedly wrapped up in each other that my presence wasn’t really of importance to them either way. And Vicky was – is, I suppose; she was still alive last time I heard - one of those women who just because they are happy in love don’t need everyone else to be.
I remember coming back from one of my walks and hearing Vicky speculating whether she should have asked a girlfriend to come up here as well, or try and introduce me to one of the girls she worked with, but it was idle wondering of what was the correct thing to do, rather than anything definite. Alec told her not to worry.
“There’s only one woman in Brad’s life,” he said, pulling her on to his lap. “And that’s the sea. There’s no room for any other woman.”
I shut the door behind me then, deliberately making as much noise as I could. They gave me no sign that they were aware I’d overheard the conversation and I just said something about it blowing a hoolie outside and a storm brewing out at sea.
A storm. Well that was a bit of a misnomer. The storm that night was actually nearer a hurricane. Got compared to the great storms of 1987 and 2020. Trees were uprooted. Houses lost their roofs and I think the death total was about 30. Excluding the 32 lost on the Embleton Ferry. She must have left port before the storm and just got hit by a wave big enough to overturn her about half a mile off shore. Or perhaps something else got her.
First I knew about it was phone calls and hurried sounds of Vicky trying to dress quickly in the dark in the next room. Then Alec knocked on my door and told me a ship had run aground. They’d called Vicky because of her links with the police. Was I up for helping with the rescue too, as the guys were short-handed?
I said of course I was.
We struggled with Vicky down to the shore in the dark, the wind whipping at us like a fury. They’d launched the life boat, but without any real hope. She was too near to the shallows and almost upside down. Best bet of survivors was going to be pulling them from the sea onto the beach, rather than trying to get them from the ship.
The most the life boat could do to help us was to launch the old maroons, so that in the light of the flares we could at least stand a chance of knowing what we were doing.
We battled for hours, waiting for each rocket to go up and then plunging into the water, grabbing at anything that looked vaguely human and pulling it on to shore, trying to stay upright as the waves punched and kicked at us. They say there were over a hundred souls on the ferry. We saved about 50, got another 10 bodies. 11 more were washed up in the weeks that followed and there’s still nearly 30 unaccounted for.
I was wrestling with a big guy, at least six foot, when a wave hit me, knocking me under. I struggled, disorientated, unable to tell which was up or down. I felt a hand on my ankle, pulling me towards what looked like a light and I started to follow, when a huge pair of hands grabbed my shoulders.
I fought, but the hands held tight. Dimly, I realised I could hear or perhaps more accurately sense the vibrations of voices calling. I managed to get loose enough to reach a hand down and grab the arm on my ankle, just as another pair of hands grabbed at my other arm and pulled.
I broke the surface like a whale, the force knocking me, Alec and my hanger-on down into the surf. Vicky was beside us in an instant, with a paramedic beside her. She knelt beside Alec and me, scolding us for scaring her, though we could hardly hear it over the storm.
I turned around coughing as another maroon went up and that, bathed in the pink light of the rocket, was the first time I saw her. The paramedic had pulled something black, seaweed, I thought, away from her face and she was like a babe taking her first breath. Gasping slightly, she turned towards me.
In therapy, afterwards, they tried to get me to tell them what Brandi looked like. Most of it was simple enough. Height about five ten, maybe five eleven, pale skin and red hair, that proper red, rather than the ginger that most people mean when they say that.
She wasn’t particularly pretty, I suppose, but when she turned those eyes on you…
I still can’t describe them. One moment they would be grey, like a storm cloud, the next as blue as the Mediterranean and then as green as an emerald. The eyes made her beautiful and they were what stole my heart.
I’d have laughed at love at first sight before that if anyone mentioned it, and even Alec and Vicky wondered aloud if the fact that she was naked might have something to do with my interest.
I didn’t care.
I’d worked on the beach for an hour more after they pulled her out, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I hitched a ride on one of the ambulances and somehow or other sweet-talked the nurse on duty into letting me into her room.
She was lying in that bed like some fancy painting in an art gallery. I only meant to look in, to see she was alright.
That I could justify to myself, there’s always one casualty in these things which gets to you. But there was a chair right by the bed. I only meant to sit down for a moment, but… the next thing I knew, light was pouring in through the window, a beautiful day with no trace of the storm and Brandi was sitting up. She smiled at me as I opened my eyes.
“Good morning.” And it was.
She didn’t know her name. Didn’t know who she was or where she came from. Alec was the one who called her Brandi.
He said it was after some old song which talked about a woman having eyes that could steal a man away from the sea.
“And she’s done that to you,” he said, hitting my shoulder. It was a joke, but it didn’t sound like one, not really.
The hospital didn’t mind. They had about five Jane Does on the wards and another five in the morgue. Brandi seemed to like it too.
I didn’t mind what her name was. I loved her.
I know that sounds stupid. Alec certainly thought it was. He tried to warn me against falling in love with a woman who I knew nothing about.
“She might already be married. She might be in love with someone else. She might be a terrorist.” He shook his head. “I just think you’re taking a heck of a risk, Brad.”
I understood what he meant, but there was nothing I could do. I loved Brandi. Completely, utterly, insensibly…
“Bradley?” I glance up as Magenta enters. He smiles at me. “Blue and Ochre were starting to get worried. I said I’d check on you.”
“I’m fine.” I grimace at him. “Guess I must be coming down with something.”
As we’d both just had a physical the day before and Dr Fawn is a fine physician, the odds of that are slim, but Magenta let it rest.
“Yeah.” He shifts his feet. “Blue apologizes for Aqua. He said he’ll make it so that you’re not on the same shifts for the next couple of weeks.”
I shrug, not certain what to say. It’s not the girl’s fault, but I can’t pretend I’m looking forward to dealing with another set of pitying looks for a few weeks. It’ll be bad enough with the guys I count as friends.
Magenta stands in silence for a moment or two and then sighs. “I’ll let Blue and Ochre know you’re O.K,” he says softly. “Just try to come out before the shift ends, huh?”
He leaves before I can reply.
What happened next surprised everyone including me. I’d never being an impulsive guy, certainly not where love was concerned, but I was enthralled by Brandi. By her eyes, by her smile, by her beautiful voice. Three weeks later after the storm, I asked Brandi to marry me. And to my joy and delight, she accepted.
There’s just one name in the bride’s box on our marriage certificate. We had to get a special licence, something that probably wouldn’t have being possible if I hadn’t just being offered Stingray posting. Alec was my best man; Vicky acted as Brandi’s bridesmaid.
They both thought we were completely and utterly insane, but I didn’t care. And neither did she.
The first months of our life together were the happiest of my life. I had a charming wife, and I had been assigned as commander to a brand-new, very sophisticated combat submarine: Stingray 1, which was to be the prototype to a new line of underwater craft. The work was hard, I don’t deny that, a lot was expected from me. The hours were insane, sleep a luxury item. There were strange activities going on at sea in those times – suspicious craft had been seen, attacking civilian and World Government ships. We didn’t know who it could be, but that needed to be investigated. So I had to be there, at sea, patrolling, away from home during long weeks. But at the end of it, I had her. In letters, in video calls, in emails, even just a picture could somehow or other convinced me that, as far as I could be from my wife, things weren’t so bad. I would always come back to her.
In 2055 Alec was killed. One of those stupid things that happen at sea, that no one can predict or prevent. He was up top with a Submarine, when a wave caught him off guard. Before anyone had time to think, time even to yell “Man overboard” he was sucked under by the propeller of his own ship. They said it was quick. I like to think that they were telling the truth.
I heard later that Vicky howled like a wild animal when they told her, before she broke down completely. They’d never made their union formal; I think I remember Alec saying something about not rushing into things. Personally I don’t call a ten year courtship rushing things. Sometimes I wonder if they waited because of me and Brandi, but that’s a dark path to be avoided.
Vicky had loved Alec and he had loved her. And now she was alone.
Brandi volunteered to leave our small apartment in Marineville and go stay with Vicky, which I was grateful for. Vicky’s parents had died a year or so before and her sister lived far away – in Honk Kong, I think. She held a very important post in the food industry, and couldn’t really get away from work too long. She’d had a hard enough time getting time off for the funeral. Beside, I think she didn’t really get along with Vicky. She never really approved of Alec, for some reason.
I avoided thinking about what Vicky might make of it. She needed someone to be there though, and Brandi was the only one who could.
Brandi wrote to me. At first, every time seemed fine. She said that Vicky was upset, angry and distant. Vicky didn’t write. I wasn’t surprised.
It was maybe five weeks later that it began. At first, it was nothing much. Brandi sounded more distant, less confident in her calls. She changed the subject when I tried to ask her about it.
Then Marineville’s vicar’s husband, Pete, contacted me.
“Might be good if you come home,” he said, in a slow drawl. “Vicky and Brandi… it would be good if you come home.”
I asked him what he meant and he sighed. “It’s just two women, who don’t really like each other, whose only real link was through their men when they’re not there... It’s not good for them to be alone together.” He paused and added. “Especially under the circumstances.”
He sighed again. “Come home, Brad. Your wife needs you. And so does Vicky, even if she won’t admit it. Lucy’s already called Commander Shore. You’ll get the leave without any difficulty.”
I wanted to go home that night, but a military organisation like the WASP is rarely considerate of a man’s wishes. Beside, I was in the middle of a mission. Even with Reverend Lucy’s intervention, and Commander Shore’s best intentions, it took me over two weeks to get the leave.
Vicky lived in a small village up along the coast. She and Alec had purchased the house together, but I’d only visited it briefly once before, for Alec’s funeral.
I called the house as soon as I was certain of the schedule for the bus leaving Marineville and got Pete, who was visiting. He sounded pleased to hear from me and said he’d pass on the message. Pete was a reliable guy, as you’d expect from a minister’s husband, which was why I was surprised when the train pulled in to just see Vicky standing in there.
I almost didn’t recognise her. She’d lost a lot of weight, making her face look (as clichéd as it sounds) haggard. Her hair was unwashed and unbrushed and in spite of the sunshine, she was clutching an old, almost threadbare woollen cardigan around her.
“Where’s Brandi?” I asked.
“Back at the house.” Vicky looked her shoes. “I didn’t give her Pete’s message.” She looked up again, chewing on her lip and said quickly. “I need to talk to you, Brad. It’s urgent.”
“Alright.” I tried to keep the unease out of my voice as she led the way out of the station and on to the path which led to the beach.
We walked in silence. There was too much between us to say. I wanted to ask how she was, but I could see that. I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but that wouldn’t make things any better. As we hit the sands, Vicky said in a rush, “Alec wrote to me a lot.”
I nodded. Alec had written to Vicky almost every day, it had seemed.
“He loved you.”
“I know.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “He wanted me to keep looking for information on Brandi. Said that there was something odd about her. Said he just had a feeling.” She sighed. “While he was away and…” She swallowed. “Since his death, I’ve had a lot of time to think. To investigate.”
I nodded, confused. “Alright.”
Her fingers beat a nervous tattoo over her crossed arms. “No one matching Brandi’s description shows up in any database, anywhere. In the last year we’ve known her, there were no warrants out for anyone answering her description. However alone she might have been in the world, someone must have missed her.”
“Not if they were dead too,” I said, staring into the distance. The sea was calm today, a greyish green. But we both knew how quickly it could change.
Vicky continued, as though I hadn’t spoken: “That much Alec knew. That much I told him. I didn’t get the other results until later.”
She turned to me. “What do you know of Selkies?”
I stared at her.
“Please? Humour me?”
I shrugged, remembering my Scottish grandmother’s tales. “Seal people, aren’t they? Women who are seals in the water and people on land.”
She nodded. “In most areas, they’re similar to the swan women in Germanic legends. If you steal a selkie’s coat, then they are obliged to remain as human being. According to the legends, they make excellent wives.” She laughed a slightly hysteric sound.
I watched her, concerned. That much pain, that much grief, it can do things to you. Going mad from grief isn’t just a figure of speech.
Vicky continued. “Where I’m from, around Embleton, the legends are a little different. More akin to the mermaid, luring ships and men to their doom. Dragging them down to the ocean bed.” She glanced at me. “You think I’m mad.”
“I think you’re in a lot of pain,” I said gently.
Vicky nodded. “So would I. Except…” She paused. “You remember the black thing covering Brandi’s face when she was found?”
Vicky shook her head. “It wasn’t seaweed.” She dug into her bag, holding out a file, marked with the insignia of the WGPC London Crime Lab.
I opened it. The first page told me that I wasn’t going to understand it, too many long words with letters and numbers that seemed to have being thrown randomly together, but there was a pink post-it note stuck to the top.
If you ever get the name of the practical joker (You’re being very mysterious about this, Vicky) who set this up, let me know. As I told you on the phone, as far as every test Prof Ross and I have run can tell, it’s Seal skin, but the DNA is human, and matches the reference sample you sent us. Ross is spitting feathers that he can’t figure out how they’ve done it.
Everyone was really sorry to hear about Alec, and Commissioner Flack asked me to remind you that if you want to get away from it all for a while, then there’s always a place for you here. He is honestly less of a jerk than that makes him sound.
Not sure if you’re back at work or not, so sending this to your home.
You’re in thoughts constantly.
I lifted my head to stare at her.
“That’s what I thought.” Vicky ran her hands through her hair again. “It’s what I still think, but the London Lab is the best in the world. That’s why I sent it there, to confirm what my own tests told me, what I was starting to suspect.” She gazed at me desperately. “I can’t explain it; it turns everything I think of on its head, but…”
I held up a hand to stop her. “What’s that noise?”
Her face almost spilt in relief. “You can hear it too?”
“How can anyone miss it?” I asked, listening again to a weird wailing bark that seemed to be coming from the sea.
“Brandi says that she can’t hear it.” Vicky shook her head. “But I’ve seen her face when it starts and I know she’s lying.” She paused and added softly. “It’s louder at night, almost like they’re calling for someone.”
We’d come up to the concrete steps that led up to Vicky’s back gate and she began hunting around in her pockets for the key. Then almost immediately, we both realised that we didn’t need it. That the gate was banging in the light summer wind.
“I shut it,” Vicky muttered, turning to me. “I swear I shut it.”
But I was thinking of the last part of the note: ‘Sending this to your home’ and looking across the sands, my mind running over the last bit of the legends. That when the women found their seal skins, they had to return to the waves.
In the sand, clear and fresh, were bare footprints.
“Call the police,” I muttered, pushing Vicky to one side and hurrying down the steps.
“And tell them what?” Vicky demanded. “Brad? Bradley!?”
But I was deaf to her yells, hurrying after the footsteps as they widened, climbed up to the bit of headland that jutted out.
She was there. Standing there, gripping the black thing against her. How had none of us noticed that night how well it fit her, how it fitted against her body like a glove or a dress?
I looked in her face and saw the truth.
“Brandi?” I whispered, barely able to make out the words.
“I’m sorry, Brad.”
I wanted to say so much. To tell her that I didn’t care that she wasn’t…that she was still my wife and I loved her. But then I noticed how close she was standing to the edge.
The tide had come in here, though it wasn’t that deep. You could just hear it hit the base of the banks.
“No,” I whispered. “No, please, don’t.”
“I have to.”
“No, Brandi, please.”
She smiled at me. The same smile that had captivated me that first time. And then she turned.
I ran towards her, but she was quicker than me. Like a dolphin, like a seal, she leapt and was lost to me.
I was there, trying to follow, but hands were grabbing at me, pulling me back, though I fought and struggled against them.
Distantly I heard someone saying, “She’s gone. The currents got her.”
The autopsy revealed that the woman, they pulled from the bay 6 weeks later was at least two months pregnant. According to Vicky, that coincided with Brandi starting to act strangely. She kept repeating that she had no idea that Brandi might…
The coroner was very gentle with her.
Almost as gentle as everyone was with the grieving widower, who kept insisting that the body they pulled out of the water 6 weeks later wasn’t his wife. That Brandi was a Selkie and had returned to her own people. That he didn’t know who that dead woman was, but it that wasn’t his wife!
They all knew I worked hard in the WASP, overexerting myself perhaps, trying to live up to the expectations everyone had in me. And now my wife had killed herself right in front of me. That could disturb the best balanced mind.
Prenatal depression is not as common or as well-known as its postnatal cousin. But it is recognised enough for the coroner to bring in a verdict of “suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed” on the thing which they pulled out of the harbour, without many questions.
After all, there was the evidence of the two coastguards who had pulled me back from the edge. Walking home, after their shift, they had seen us both on the cliff. Seen Brandi jump.
There was the evidence of others that Vicky had spoken to them, hinting at something being badly wrong with Brandi. Pete admitted that most took it for jealousy, that Vicky had guessed Brandi had been pregnant, as he had, and that she despised her, for having a husband who was alive and a child growing in her, while Alec was dead. But there was no doubt that she had been worried about Brandi, that Brandi had been seen to act oddly. Other in the village had noticed that they had seen Brandi less in the last few months, that when they had, she had seemed uneasy or upset. A couple remembered seeing her crying without reason.
There was Vicky’s own evidence that she hadn’t told Brandi that I would be home later that day, that she had left her alone in the house, because she wanted to talk to me about Brandi’s behaviour. To see if I felt there really was something odd in Brandi’s behaviour, or if it was just her. If the grief was disturbing her mind, making Vicky see ordinary behaviour as unusual.
And the body… after 6 weeks in the water, it was barely recognisable as human. O.K. the hands were too badly eaten by crabs and fish for prints and the damage to her face was too extensive, but there had been no other reports of women with that shade of red hair missing in the area.
I sometimes wonder who she was, but it never seemed especially important.
People thought I needed professional help, so I would come to term with my loss. In the weeks afterwards, I tried to tell my story to the doctors, the therapists, but no one believed me. No one would listen. Only Vicky knew the truth, but I think she was too afraid to admit it. Too scared of losing her grip on reality.
So I read a lot about it instead. About Selkies, and swan maidens and men who fell in love with women who really were animals.
They were depressing reading. The men either spent the remainder of their lives hunting for their wives, or waiting for them to return.
I couldn’t do that. But I couldn’t give up on Brandi either.
In the end, it didn’t seem to matter much, so I told people what they wanted to hear and they were satisfied.
I returned back to the WASP and to the sea.
I kept hoping… I knew something was there, beneath the waves, undersea people maybe, Brandi’s people, or something else… But hope was soured by the years.
Then I flung my back out and they confined me to a desk for nearly three years. Thought I was going to go mad again, but Spectrum got in touch and I left the sea behind. Then the Mysterons arrived on the scene, and fighting them took most of my time.
But I never forgot her. Haven’t given up on her either, not really.
Vicky sold me the house not long after I was released from the WASP. Every leave I get, I go there and walk along the seashore. I leave the gate unfastened, even in the fiercest storms. I swim out as far as I can manage, further than is safe most of the time.
Sometimes I find shells left on the beach in the morning. Sometimes I feel a seal and her pup swimming alongside me. Sometimes I hear that strange barking call again and I know that she’s nearby.
And one day, I know, she’ll come back to me.
Because she stole me away from the sea, so the sea stole her back. But the sea, while she’s a cruel mistress, as every sailor knows, also always eventually reveals her secrets.
And eventually she’ll give Brandi back to me.
There is major flaw with this story, and that’s that seals don’t like Bermuda. There have only being 4 seen since 1870s, so the presence of seals in this story is down to Global warming, and not me getting 'New Captain Scarlet' Captain Grey mixed up with 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons'.
Thanks to Hazel and Chris for helping me to sort it out and betaing.
Any comments? Send an to the site