A “Captain Scarlet” Story for Halloween
By Sue Stanhope
Three weeks ago…
“Here!” Ochre slapped the leaflets onto the table, his excitement overflowing. “Check that out!”
Cautiously, each of the officers reached forward and picked up one of the glossy pamphlets that lay in the middle of the table. After a few moments, Blue spoke.
“And this is what you called us here for?”
Ochre frowned before collecting his thoughts and moving on.
“Look we’re going to be stuck in training all day. You asked me to find something fun to do in the evening and this is it. Come on, after sitting in that stuffy base all day, we change into our civvies for a bit of spookiness! What more could you want?”
“You want to stay overnight in a haunted house on Halloween?” Green clarified. As he did so, he glanced towards Scarlet, who had as yet, not said a word, but looked as though he really wanted to. Blue picked up on the glance and smiled knowingly at his partner.
“What do you think, Paul?”
The captain stopped short of actually rolling his eyes. “I’m not keen,” he said simply.
“Scarlet!” Ochre pleaded.
Ochre leaned forward and whispered in Scarlet’s ear. As he sat back, he stared expectantly at his friend. Scarlet’s nose crumpled.
“I don’t know, Ochre.”
“Okay,” Ochre conceded, though it was hard to conceal that he was crestfallen. “I guess we could just go to a bar or something?”
Scarlet’s shoulders sagged; he hated Halloween, but even more than that right now, he hated himself for being the one to encourage that look of disappointment, no matter how hard Ochre tried to disguise it.
“Book it,” Scarlet capitulated.
“No, Scarlet, if it’s not…”
“Seriously, Ochre, It’ll be fine,” he nodded. “I’m sure it’ll be great fun.”
“I know what you’re thinking!” Ochre enthused as they stood outside the house.
“I really don’t think you do, Rick!” Magenta glanced up and frowned.
It was a creepy enough looking building, but it was basically a tourist trap with a few clichéd items placed around to make the place seem spooky. A rocking chair on the porch; clearly fake cobwebs; dim, slightly green tinged lighting all designed to make the place look eerie.
“Oh, great, there’s even a mannequin in the upstairs window, this is really over the top, Ochre,” Magenta grumbled.
“Oh, stop complaining, Magenta,” Ochre replied. “It’s Halloween, don’t ruin it!”
“There’s no mannequin,” Blue commented.
“There is, it’s…” Magenta pointed to the top left corner window, but nothing was there but curtains. Dropping his hand he furrowed his brow. “It must have been a trick of the light.”
“Shall we go in then?” Green asked. “It’s pretty cold out here, you know.”
Heading inside, they laughed at the excessively creaky sounding door as they pushed it open. Hitting the lights, they looked around the entrance hall. It was a large house and the impressive entrance hall took their breath away. It was just like every horror movie house they’d ever seen. Large and dark with mahogany panelled walls. A grandfather clock – perfect! Old style furniture, creaky floorboards, patterned rugs everywhere, paintings on the walls, everything.
“There’s got to be a suit of armour here somewhere!” Ochre laughed. “It would be so right for this place!”
“It’s pretty impressive,” Green nodded.
“Do you want to look around?” Ochre asked.
“Yeah,” Blue agreed enthusiastically. “I’d like to, it looks a lot more interesting than I thought it would be!”
Visiting room after room, they couldn’t help but be distracted by the dramatic style of the house décor. It was as if it had been decorated in the late 1800s and never altered. There was a very definite feel as they moved from room to room that time had stood still and that if they checked there watches, the hands would not have moved. There was an inexplicable feeling that they were being watched, and not just by the numerous portraits hanging in every room.
In addition to the impressive layout and general sense of eeriness, each room had a floor-standing plaque giving information on the room’s use in days gone by.
“Hey!” Green called. “Look at this! This room was used to try witches in the late 1600s!”
“Maybe that’s what you saw in the window?” Ochre chuckled.
“Yeah, yeah!” Magenta grumbled with a frown. He was still a little unsettled by the experience but refused to show it. He was certain he had seen something, at least, he thought he was certain.
Heading downstairs, Ochre led the way.
“So what this then?” asked Green.
“Basement?” Magenta piped up with a chuckle.
“I meant what did it used to be?”
“What it was is what it still is,” Ochre replied cryptically as he pushed open the heavy wooden door and switched on the lights. “The dungeon!”
“A dungeon!” Green’s eyes widened. “Wow! Now you’re talking!”
Edging his way past the others, he stood and looked about in awe.
“I’ve never seen a real dungeon before.”
Around them, on the walls hung chains and manacles, a rack for stretching, pokers, thumbscrews, iron masks and all the hideous paraphernalia used for torture in years gone by.
“Impressive!” Blue nodded appreciatively as he opened the giant casket and inspected the spikes inside. “An Iron Maiden!”
“Some of this seems a little out of place for use during witch trials,” Scarlet commented.
“Yeah,” Ochre agreed, “not all of it’s genuine, but the tourists love it.”
“What else is down here?” asked Green. “You seem to have done some research already.”
Ochre nodded. “I have and this is going to blow you away!”
He led them to the back of the dungeon where a small cell stood. It was entirely set into the wall, with old but solid looking stonework walls and a heavy wooden door similar to the one at the entrance to the dungeon. Ochre explained:
“The story here is that the witches put a spell on this cell during the trials and anyone in it on Halloween would disappear at the stroke of midnight and be taken by the Devil himself.”
Magenta laughed as he peered inside at the grim but ordinary looking cell.
“And that’s happened, has it?” he asked sarcastically.
“That’s the legend,” Ochre replied. “But I want to test it.”
Ochre took a step back and shoved Magenta into the small room, closed the door and pushed the bolt across before he even had chance to turn around. Within seconds Magenta was hammering on the door.
“Open this door, Ochre!” he yelled.
“Oh come on, Pat, where’s your sense of fun?”
“Open this door and I’ll show you!” he threatened.
“You’re not really going to leave him in there are you?” Scarlet asked. “I wouldn’t like it, and you’re claustrophobic, I know you’d hate it!”
“He’ll be fine,” Ochre pleaded with them. “And it’s only an hour.”
“And then he’s going to kill you,” Green countered. “Enjoy the rest of the night, Captain, it’s going to be short lived.”
“We’ll see you in an hour, Pat!” Blue called. “Assuming the Devil doesn’t take you!”
“Let me out of here!”
Magenta gave one final thump on the door before he realised they’d gone.
“Oh, I’m gonna kill you for this, Rick!”
Magenta stalked the length of the cell, occasionally kicking the door when he reached it. Lowering his shoulder, he tried to force the door a couple of times before he realised that he was most likely to seriously hurt himself if he kept trying. The door was solid; there was no question about it and certainly no escape would be possible that way. Looking around at the stone walls, he sighed. Tapping on numerous stones revealed nothing and merely left him with sore knuckles.
“Well,” he finally said resignedly, “looks like I’m stuck here until either the Devil or Ochre comes for me. And Ochre better pray that the Devil gets here first or it won’t be me that meets him!”
Settling himself on the floor and leaning back against the wall, Magenta was grateful that the electricity had extended to the whole of the house and that Ochre had at least left the light on inside the cell. He didn’t believe in ghosts; there was no reason to be afraid. Yet somehow he was. He wouldn’t say it, or even admit it to himself. He convinced himself that all he was concerned about is that he may be left there somehow. Even if it seemed ridiculous, the fact that there seemed no other way out was actually pretty frightening and he began to have a sense of how people may have felt being locked in that tiny cell for real.
“Don’t expect any mercy, Ochre! When I get out of here, you’ll pay. Mark my words!”
“Okay,” Blue held Ochre’s arms and stared meaningfully at him. “What you did to Pat – do you plan on doing anything to us? Because, let me tell you now, Ochre, it was funny once!”
“Funny when it was happening to someone else?” he asked to clarify.
“No, just that once,” Blue replied sternly.
“Don’t panic!” Ochre replied defensively. “I only have one experiment and that was it.”
“You are going to let him out at midnight, aren’t you?” Scarlet asked pointedly.
Ochre looked sheepish.
“Yes, well,” he sighed. “I was, but did you hear him?”
“I think the whole neighbourhood heard him!” Green returned.
“I really think he’s gonna kill me.”
“Well, how did you honestly think he’d react?” Blue asked with a touch of concern in his tone.
“I thought he’d be the one to handle it best.”
Green shrugged, Blue frowned, Scarlet glared.
“Not making any friends here, Ochre!” Scarlet announced.
Ochre’s shoulders sagged.
“Look,” Green placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, “he’s not going to kill you.”
“No,” Blue shook his head. “He’ll probably just hang you upside down until your brains fall out of their own accord.”
“Helpful!” Ochre commented with a frown. “Perhaps I should just go down there, apologise and let him out?”
“That might be best,” agreed Scarlet.
“Look,” Blue checked his watch, “there’s only forty minutes left. He’s a big boy now; he’ll be fine. Let him out at midnight or you’ll never hear the last of it. You never know, maybe there’s a part of him that wants to try it out too?”
“Are you sure?” asked Ochre, still uncertain.
“I’m sure!” Blue nodded his agreement. “Besides, if worst comes to the worst, Pat gets Brad as a regular partner.”
Scarlet couldn’t help but chuckle at the statement, encouraging a glare from Ochre.
“There,” Blue grinned, “all sorted! Now, let’s look upstairs.”
As they headed upstairs, Scarlet’s head pulled up sharply as a movement at the top of the stairs caught his eye.
“Did you see that?” he gasped.
“What?” Blue asked, his eyes following Scarlet’s fixed stare.
“There was… up there…” he pointed to the corridor at the top of the stairs. “Someone. No, nothing.”
“Did you see something?”
“No,” Scarlet shook his head, angry with himself for allowing himself to imagine things. “Of course not.”
“Do you want to check?” asked Ochre with a shrug.
“There was nothing there,” Scarlet insisted with a frown. “Another trick of the light. Come on, it’s getting late and we’ve not eaten yet.”
“I could eat!” Green grinned. He hadn’t wanted to be the first to mention it, but the training schedule had forced him to miss lunch and he was, by now, fighting back his hunger.
Walking back downstairs, Blue spoke first.
“Eventually,” Ochre replied. “Pantry, then scullery, then kitchen.”
“Scullery?” Green asked.
“It’s where they keep the skulls.”
Scarlet rolled his eyes and shook his head with a sigh. Ochre was doing his level best to keep things light and he appreciated it.
Ochre turned and stretched out his arms to halt them.
“Guys!” He paused. “This is an old house. It has rooms that defy description.”
“Pantry, I understood,” Blue commented.
“I was okay with kitchen, myself,” Green added.
Ochre sighed and turned away to continue walking.
“Let’s eat. We have pizza.”
It only took fifteen minutes to heat two of the pizzas that had been left in the fridge for them at their request. While they ate, two more pizzas warmed in the oven.
“So, Captain Blue, which is your favourite part of the house?” Green asked as he plucked a slice of pepperoni pizza from the plate.
“The White Lady of Alverton Manor,” he replied absently, staring off into the distance.
“Adam?” Scarlet asked tapping his arm.
Blue turned his head.
“What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Blue replied, puzzled by Scarlet’s question.
Ochre’s brow furrowed. “You just mentioned ‘The White Lady of Alverton Manor’. How do you know about that?”
Blue stared at Ochre, disbelieving. “I said what?”
“This place used to be called Alverton Manor, they changed it about ten years ago,” Ochre explained.
Blue shook his head. “It was probably in those leaflets you gave us.”
Ochre dropped his chin onto his hand as he leaned on the table. He wished he’d brought a leaflet with him, but he felt sure he’d discovered that detail on the Internet.
“Yeah, I guess,” he finally said.
Magenta glanced at his watch. Finally it was approaching midnight. If he was entirely honest, his hour in the cell had been an unpleasant and unnerving one. He dearly hoped that they would release him as they had promised. He’d even agree to no repercussions if they’d just let him out, such was the degree of his discomfort.
At last it was midnight and as the grandfather clock struck the hour a section of the wall at the rear of the cell slid back and to the side. Magenta’s eyes widened and he scrambled to his feet. The tale of the Devil was clearly a deception to discourage people from being near enough to see what was really happening. An escape route leading to a secret passage timed to open at midnight. Magenta guessed that the mention of Halloween was an embellishment for the tourists. But here was a way out and he wasn’t about to ignore it.
Slipping through into the passage beyond, Magenta was taken unawares by just how dark it was beyond the new doorway. As the clock finished chiming the hour, the wall slid back into place leaving Magenta in the pitch-black passageway. Gasping in surprise, he turned and gingerly felt along the stonework, but the opening was sealed. There was no way back.
Magenta’s heart raced and he took deep breaths for a few moments to try to calm it. He had waited a few minutes, in the darkness, hoping that his eyes would adjust, but he had nothing to adjust to. There was simply a complete and utter absence of light. He held his hand up within one inch of his eyes and couldn’t even distinguish an outline. Totally and suddenly without vision in a strange and unfamiliar place, Magenta tried hard not to feel unnerved, but he knew without even checking that his pulse was rising and he had very possibly made a huge mistake – possibly his last. What if he remained trapped within the walls of the house? What if no one ever found him?
“Calm down!” Magenta told himself, unsuccessfully as his breathing quickened. “Calm down, they’ll come for you, you won’t be there, but if you shout, they’ll hear you.”
Part of him couldn’t believe he was talking to himself, but then, now he couldn’t believe he’d done something so stupid as to get himself trapped in an unknown passage. Terrible thoughts of not being able to escape leaked into his mind again and he clenched his fists as he tried to concentrate.
“Help!” he yelled, hoping to be heard. Pressing his hands to the wall, he called again, even louder than before. “Help!”
After a few more minutes of shouting, he sighed.
“If they’re not there, they can’t hear me, if they are, they still can’t hear me.”
With much trepidation, Magenta decided to head down the passageway. He had no clue as to which way to head and spent a moment contemplating over left or right. Just as he considered it, to his right he saw a dim light appear, partially lighting the passage. In many ways he wished he couldn’t see it, filled as it was with cobwebs and dust. Heading along the passage towards the light, Magenta moved carefully checking how his feet moved on the uneven floor – now would not be a good time to fall and hurt himself.
Ochre opened the cell door and sighed.
“Okay,” he shrugged, “the joke’s on me. Who did it?”
“Did what?” Green asked picking up on the confusion in Ochre’s tone.
“One of you let Magenta out.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Blue.
“Was it you? Just to scare me?”
“Ochre, we’ve all been with you, the whole time. None of us could have done it.” Blue shook his head. “Are you serious?” he asked moving forward to inspect the cell.
“How did he do that?” Green asked bewildered as he too saw the cell empty.
“You don’t suppose…” Ochre began.
Blue shook his head, but with a degree of uncertainty.
“No, he’s playing a trick on us,” he tried to convince himself as much as the others. “We’ll go upstairs and he’ll be there waiting.”
“I’m not so sure,” Scarlet commented.
“Paul, the Devil did not take Magenta,” Blue insisted.
“I didn’t say it was the Devil, I just said I…”
“Well, where is he then?”
“I don’t know, Adam.” Scarlet offered a slight frown to his partner’s reaction. “Let’s go upstairs. If he’s there he can laugh at us, if not, we can start worrying for real.”
All three nodded; Scarlet had made a very real point.
Reaching the end of the passageway, Magenta was somewhat disconcerted to discover that whatever was the source of the distant light had now moved to the opposite end of the second passageway.
“Is someone there?” he called, hoping desperately that no one replied. Shaking his head as he got his wish, Magenta continued along the corridor, dimly lit by the mysterious light. He seemed to be walking for a very long time, but in reality, because his steps were so careful in the gloom, he had only travelled about fifty feet. Magenta’s eyes widened as the passageway opened out into a hi-tech room full of computer equipment and monitors. Flipping a few switches, including a light switch, he sighed with welcome relief as the room lit up around him. Several of the computers fired up and he realised that the monitors were fed from strategically placed hidden cameras around the building. Magenta, with his technical expertise, had no trouble getting to grips with the cameras and what he realised were lighting and sound effects, animatronics controls and a comprehensive set of security cameras.
“So this is how they make it appear haunted!” Magenta allowed himself a wry smile. “And oh, would you look at that!” Glancing at the monitor, Magenta could see the four Spectrum officers on one of the monitors looking somewhat confused and disconcerted. Turning a dial, he listened to their conversation.
“He’s got to be somewhere,” Blue reasoned.
“Blue,”Ochre replied with an edge to his voice, “your ability to state the glaringly obvious knows no bounds.”
“Oh, well if it’s that obvious,” Blue frowned, “why don’t you tell me where he is?”
“Captains,” Green interjected, “I don’t think this is the time to argue. What if he’s in trouble? What if he’s somewhere but can’t get to us?”
“You do mean somewhere in ‘this life’, don’t you?” Ochre asked warily.
Magenta laughed; if the house and the legend were getting to them now, how would they feel after he had finished with them?
“Of course I do!” Green sighed. “I think we should split into pairs and find him.”
Magenta watched as nods of consent abounded and he rubbed his hands excitedly.
“Oh, boy! It’s payback time!” he cried with glee as he discovered a map of all the secret passages around the house and which rooms they connected. “Am I going to have some fun?”
“Right! Let’s see,” Magenta smiled as he switched one of the monitors to a multi-room view. He watched as they split into pairs.
“Oh! How predictable!” he shook his head scornfully as Ochre and Green headed to the left towards the study and Blue walked off in the opposite direction followed by Scarlet.
“Okay, Ochre, let’s see if you find this funny!”
Ochre reached for the ornate handle of the study door and turned it, pushing gently. With a frown he pulled the handle fully down and pushed harder.
“It’s locked,” he stated with confusion.
“It can’t be,” Green replied shaking his head as he stood alongside. “We were in there only a couple of hours ago.”
Ochre nodded, accepting the logic but still puzzled as to why the door refused to move. Turning the handle once more, Ochre pushed and pulled at the door with mounting frustration.
“I’m telling you, it’s locked!”
Only feet away, Blue and Scarlet turned, curious over the commotion Ochre was creating.
“What’s wrong?” Blue finally asked, walking back to the study as Ochre struggled with the door once more.
“It’s locked,” Ochre repeated with some annoyance in his tone.
“It can’t be,” Blue insisted. “We were just in there.”
“Well you try it then!” Ochre waved a path towards the door with his left arm as he stood back.
Shrugging, Blue moved forward and as he reached for the handle, Magenta flicked a switch on the bank of controls in front of him. Blue barely had to move the handle before the door opened, easily and smoothly; gliding to a halt almost half open as Blue released the handle.
Ochre’s eyes widened in surprise, before he turned to see six accusatory eyes staring at him.
“Ochre, we don’t have time for games,” Blue scolded him. “Can we get back to looking for Magenta now?”
“But…” Ochre spluttered. “It was… I’m not playing games!”
Green frowned as he stepped through the door into the grim, overbearing study with Ochre following behind. As he did, the door slammed shut behind him.
“Grow up, Rick!” Blue yelled through the closed door before walking away.
“I didn’t do that!” Ochre turned to look at Green who appeared unimpressed. “Green, you’ve gotta believe me, I…” Ochre tapered off; it seemed useless to protest his innocence.
Out of curiosity, he reached for the handle again only to find the door firmly locked once more.
“Seymour,” he whispered.
“What?” came the tired reply.
“It’s done it again,” he said in a quiet voice, hoping that his sincerity would be obvious.
“Captain…” Green paused at a loss to know what to say. “Why?”
“Why what?” he asked puzzled by the question.
“Why don’t you want to look for Captain Magenta? Is it because we might see something we weren’t supposed to? What game are you playing now?”
“How can we believe you? Magenta thought you were innocently showing us the cell until you locked him in!”
“I told you, one experiment,” Ochre shook his head. “I… I’m serious, Seymour!”
Deciding to give him the benefit of the doubt, Green walked over to the door and turned the handle. The door moved easily and Green frowned deeply at him.
“If you don’t want to find him, that’s up to you, but I’m looking.”
“Seymour! Wait!” Ochre cried helplessly as Green stormed from the room.
Following him, Ochre stiffened as the door slammed once more as he reached it. Rattling the handle to no avail, Ochre cried out for help. He didn’t care how stupid he looked; he simply did not want to be left in that room on his own.
“Green! Please, I’m serious! Open the door!”
Green turned; there was something about Ochre’s tone, a certain edge that told him that he was really scared.
Magenta stood in front of a camera and pressed the remote with his left hand before slipping it into his pocket. He had to force himself not to laugh. The camera was now projecting an image of him apparently standing inside the mirror hanging above the grand fireplace in the large study. He could see a live image of it displayed on the monitor at the end of the control desk; it looked very effective. At the moment it was a full-length image of him in the middle distance as if he were being reflected standing in the middle of the room. Stretching out his right arm as if reaching for something he spoke. His words were picked up on the microphone, hanging hidden from view above him, the echo and reverb effects on the control desk pushed up high gave the right amount of ghostly distortion to his voice.
“Ochre!” he called.
Ochre turned, his eyes scanning the room to find the source of the voice.
“Pat?” he queried. “Is that you?”
“Rick!” Magenta called again. “Help me!”
Ochre’s eyes lifted to look straight at the mirror and the ghostly image of Magenta staring directly at him, his arm outstretched and now, perhaps even more terrifyingly, walking towards him.
Ochre’s jaw dropped and pressing his back against the door, his knees weakened as he stared wide-eyed and open mouthed at the apparition.
“No! No way. No!”
Stepping to the side, barely able to look away, he turned the handle, pulling at the door with all his strength.
“Green!” he screamed, clearly terrified. “Let me out! Please, for pity’s sake, let me out!”
Moving quickly back to the study door, Green placed his hand on the handle and, once again, at the flick of a switch and the press of a button, the door moved easily and the ghostly image disappeared. As Green pushed the door, Ochre practically fell into his arms. Sinking with fear to his knees, he gasped for breath, only remaining upright because Green was holding him.
“Captain Ochre?” Green was astonished by the sight of him, pale and trembling. “What happened in there?”
“Ma…Magenta,” he stammered. “He…” Ochre shook his head; there was no way Green was going to believe this. None of them.
Magenta too was gasping for air. He doubted he had laughed that hard in years. Was it enough? Ochre had certainly been terrified out of his wits. But hadn’t the others left him there too? Sure it was Ochre’s idea, but they had all gone along with it. He looked around the control room. It couldn’t hurt to stay a little longer, could it?
“Captain!” Green dropped to his knees to join the shaken captain as he knelt on the floor. “It’s okay,” he added with a sympathetic tone. He knew now that this was genuine; Ochre was clearly not faking this reaction.
“I wasn’t making it up, Seymour.”
“No, I know, I see that now. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” Green replied comfortingly.
“Are you?” Magenta smirked. “That’s nothing to how sorry you’re going to be!”
“What happened?” Green asked with so much concern and sincerity in his tone, Ochre was able to relax a little.
“I… I saw Magenta.”
“He’s in there?” Green glanced into the room and then back to Ochre as his heart skipped a beat as he realised that merely seeing Magenta wouldn’t scare his friend unless something was very wrong. “Wh… what… is he okay?” he stammered not wanting to ask the real question.
Ochre shook his head.
“He’s a ghost, I saw him in the mirror; he was calling out to me.”
Green sat back on his heels, momentarily reserving judgement. The idea was ridiculous, wasn’t it? But clearly, Ochre had been scared by something.
“In the mirror?” It sounded suspiciously to him as if Magenta had played some sort of trick on Ochre. It was of course true, but he assumed that Magenta was hiding somewhere in the room. The true elaborate nature of the trick would elude him.
“I’ll have a look,” he said as he got to his feet, helping Ochre up too. “You wait here and get your breath back.”
Ochre watched relieved that Green had believed him but as he moved about the study, Ochre frowned; it looked very much as though Green had found nothing. Lieutenant Green gazed suspiciously at the large bookcase opposite the mirror and frowned. It would be typical, he thought, for a house of this size and age to have secret rooms hidden behind apparently everyday furniture. Had Magenta found one and used it to torment Ochre? But it still didn’t explain how he got out of the cell. If there was one thing he felt he knew for sure, it was that that cell was solid stone – no way out.
Behind Ochre, a mahogany wall panel silently slid back and Magenta smirked as he saw Ochre waiting impatiently for Green to rejoin him. Green was taking his time. He felt terrible for at first not having believed the captain and was absolutely determined to find whatever it was that had terrified him so much. Ochre began to feel foolish. Green had discovered nothing that could explain his earlier terror and he had just about reached the decision to join him when his eyes flew open in terror as a hand clamped itself firmly over his mouth as an arm wrapped around him. Strong arms pulled him backwards through the open panel into the passageway beyond. Struggling and trying desperately to cry out through the hand, Ochre’s muffled cries carried through into the study and Green spun on his heels and ran for the source of the noise. As he reached the hallway the mahogany panel had already slid noiselessly back into place. Green looked around frantically; there was no sign of the older man.
“Ochre!” Green yelled. The hallway was large but Ochre had been there, standing right by the door. Green frowned; he had definitely not imagined that cry. Something had happened to him, something very strange was happening and he didn’t like it. He had to find Blue and Scarlet; they had to be told.
“Enjoy your little visitation from Ghostly Pat?” the Irishman whispered in Ochre’s ear.
His only reply was for Ochre to struggle in his grip once more. Ochre was muscular and strong, but even with all his strength, he was unable to break free.
“Don’t forget, Rick,” Magenta kept his voice low, “I trained with you, I know all your moves. Now,” he began with a mocking tone, “if I move my hand away, can I rely on you not to shout for help?”
“Liar!” Magenta chuckled as he dragged his still struggling friend back down the passageway. “Let’s see if we can find something fitting for you to do for the next hour, shall we?”
Blue and Scarlet had headed towards the living room and he hadn’t seen them return. Remembering the layout of the rooms, it could only mean that they were in the living room or dining room, assuming they hadn’t headed downstairs to the kitchens. Hearing their voices in the dining room, Green picked up his pace and opened the door.
“Found him?” asked Scarlet hopefully.
“No, but now Ochre’s disappeared,” he told them with a frown.
Blue returned the frown with one of his own.
“Off sulking somewhere, is he?”
“No, Captain, you don’t understand. He’s disappeared!”
“What do you mean, ‘he’s disappeared’?” Blue was confused by the use of the term. “You mean he’s sloped off because we yelled at him?”
“No,” Green’s voice bordered on shouting, “I mean he’s disappeared. One second he’s standing there, the next, I turn my back, I hear a cry and he’s gone!”
“A cry?” Scarlet asked his eyes widening. “You mean he was attacked?”
“Jumped more likely,” Blue pronounced, “by Magenta, by any chance?”
Green shook his head then shrugged.
“I don’t know, I didn’t see anything, but something really strange is happening. Ochre said he saw a ghostly reflection of Captain Magenta in the mirror calling to him.”
Blue’s eyes narrowed.
“They’re in this together! They’re trying to freak us out.”
Green shook his head. “Ochre seemed pretty shaken.”
“Nah,” Blue shook his head. “Something’s not right.”
“What if there is someone else in the house with us?” asked Scarlet.
It was plausible. Scarlet had thought he had observed a movement at the top of the staircase earlier. Was it possible?
“I don’t think so, Paul, why would someone be here?” Blue asked, shaking his head at his Spectrum partner.
“Because it sounds better than the alternative?” He frowned at his own comment, not quite believing what he was about to say. “What if this place really is haunted?”
Blue sighed; this place was really getting to all of them.
“Scarlet, they’re playing tricks on us, it’s the only possibility,” Blue tried to reassure him.
He, himself, didn’t really believe it, but he had nothing to offer as an alternative.
“Come on,” Green cut in, “let’s try the kitchen.”
All three had felt the tension mounting, the slight doubt in their minds that grew with each passing moment that this house was more than met the eye. As they descended the stairs to the kitchen they all felt a cold shiver as the unnatural chill of the room hit them like a wall.
Scarlet stopped dead in his tracks and pointed to a large bladed cook’s knife sticking out of the centre of the pine kitchen table. All eyes fell on the still quivering knife.
“No one came past us, Adam!” Scarlet pointed out. “How do you explain that?”
Blue’s mind raced. What the hell was happening here?
“Okay,” he forced himself to concentrate but the confusion in his voice was clear to all. “We check the doors… see if they’re still locked.”
“I’m checking back upstairs, if they are in this together, they’re going to have to pass one of us.”
“Green, go with Scarlet, I’ll check the kitchen.”
“On your own?” Green replied surprised by his decision.
“It’s just a trick, Seymour! It’s just Magenta and Ochre playing us.”
Green didn’t seem at all certain. It seemed a logical conclusion, but nothing else logical had happened all night – he couldn’t help but feel that maybe that would have helped.
“I’ll just be a few minutes,” Blue assured them, “wait for me upstairs.”
Green nodded and silently followed Scarlet back to the dining room.
“Comfortable?” Magenta asked with a broad grin across his face.
“Let me off this thing!” Ochre demanded, pulling frantically on the ropes lashing him to the rack in the dungeon.
Magenta pushed the lever and the ratchet moved a few notches pulling the ropes tight and Ochre’s arms and legs out straight, but without actually stretching. Magenta dropped to one knee at the captain’s side.
“Come on, Ochre!” he laughed. “Where’s your sense of humour? Besides, didn’t you always want to be a little taller?”
“Magenta,” Ochre began with a nervous edge to his tone, “you’re not going to actually use this on me are you?”
Magenta smiled, innocently at first then drawing his lips thin into a sneer. Taking on a threatening tone, he explained:
“Let me tell you what’s going to happen,” rising from his knee, Magenta leaned over his partner menacingly. “I’m going after Blue next and he’s going to end up impaled on those viciously sharp spikes of the iron maiden, after that Green is going to feel the crushing pain of thumbscrews, hot pokers and manacles and Scarlet will find out what it’s like to be locked into that gibbet over there and hung from the ceiling over a blazing fire. Then you, my dear Ochre, will grow steadily taller as I stretch you out on this contraption until you snap!”
Ochre’s mouth fell open and he visibly shook.
“Magenta… please… it’s the house… you’re not like this! We’re your friends!”
“The house?” Magenta shook his head and laughed. “What is it with you guys? This place is not, I repeat, not haunted! Ghosts don’t exist.”
“But… then why…?” Ochre’s anxiety grew significantly worse as he now believed Magenta was going to kill them out of choice. The Irishman could see the look in his friend’s eyes and realised he’d gone a little too far.
“Ochre,” his voice softened, “of course I’m not going to use it on you, you idiot! You think this phoney haunted house has somehow turned me into some sort of psycho? You’ve watched far too many bad movies!”
Magenta laughed at Ochre’s new expression – indignant.
“Then why have you tied me to this thing?” he demanded.
Magenta shrugged. “I needed somewhere to put you, the cell’s got a way out, this place is soundproof and it seemed to be by far the most amusing option.”
“Amusing to whom?” Ochre snapped.
“Me!” Magenta returned with a broad grin. “You had your fun, now I’m having mine.”
Ochre pulled hard on the ropes but it was useless.
“Magenta!” he pleaded as they held firm. “Come on, you got your revenge, now let me go.”
“But what if it starts to work?”
“It can’t work on its own and besides, it doesn’t really work anyway, the ratchets only move until they detect the slightest pull, then it stops. None of these things work. Do you really think they’d let you hire out a place that had lethal instruments of torture on display?”
“But the iron maiden,” Ochre shook his head, “Blue inspected the spikes, they were real enough!”
Magenta shook his head. “I checked it out, as you close the door, they retract. But of course, Blue doesn’t know that!”
“You can’t do that to him!”
“I can, and if you try to warn him or any of them, I’ll find a way to get this rack working and I won’t stop stretching you until you bend in the breeze! Got that?”
Ochre nodded, pouting. He felt foolish, ridiculed and lacking. The joke was most definitely on him.
Blue pushed the kitchen door open again and stepped inside. He felt his mood alter as he walked towards the table. There was, in addition to the unnatural chill in the air, a very real sense of foreboding and gloom. And, he realised, a combination of unbearable sadness, guilt and anger. The air was electric with an undisclosed tension.
“What are you doing?” Magenta muttered to himself as he observed Blue on the monitors in the control room.
On the screen, Magenta saw Blue slumped over the kitchen table apparently crying. He had heard the conversation, Magenta knew that Blue was looking for him and yet, half way through the search of the kitchen, the American captain had flopped down on a seat at the table and, resting his head in his arms, begun to cry. The sounds were soft at first as he wept gently onto his sleeve, but to Magenta’s alarm, the sounds grew increasingly louder and Blue’s whole body shook as wrenching sobs poured out of him.
Magenta grew tense as he watched him. There was no way this was related to him and it all seemed so out of character. Something was wrong, very wrong. Something was affecting Blue and he knew for certain that it wasn’t anything that was artificially created in the control room.
Blue finally lifted his head, from the angle of the camera, Magenta couldn’t see his face, but his bearing – hunched over with head hanging and wringing his hands – told the Irishman that still Blue wasn’t himself. Magenta gasped as his concern was confirmed to him when Blue reached forward and plucked out the knife still sticking into the centre of the table.
There was no time to question what was running through Blue’s mind; Magenta was already running down the secret passage to the kitchen. Pushing aside cobwebs as he ran down the dimly lit corridors, not even caring to be careful over his footfalls. Blue was somehow in danger from himself. Magenta didn’t understand how, but he didn’t care about that now, what mattered was Blue.
The passage door was only half way open as Magenta pushed through and raced towards Blue still sitting at the table but now with the knife point pressed to his heart. Both hands were on the hilt ready to push. Magenta felt the oppression in the atmosphere and to him it felt like he was running in water. Everything felt slowed down and the slightest movement ten times more difficult. Finally, after what felt like an age, he was there, at Blue’s side, tearing the knife from his hands and throwing it to the floor.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Magenta cried, shaken by the realisation of what he had just prevented.
The captain turned his head and glanced upwards. Magenta’s eyes widened as for the briefest of moments it seemed as if the transparent image of another face overlaid Blue’s own. In a split second it was gone and with it the terrible atmosphere in the room.
“Magenta?” Blue said quietly, then louder. “Magenta!”
Magenta frowned. He didn’t understand what had just happened but he knew he had to get Blue out of there. Neither did he now feel all that comfortable about leaving Ochre on his own, tied to the rack in the dungeon. Grabbing the still slightly dazed and shaken captain by his arms, Magenta dragged him to his feet and through the still open passage door. He had to find out what was going on and that meant speaking to Ochre – the only one of them who had researched the history of the house.
“What are you doing?” Blue yelled as Magenta pulled him down the maze of passages. “Let go of me and tell me what’s going on! Where have you been? How did you get out of that cell? Where’s Ochre?”
“Shut up, Adam! We have to get back to the dungeon,” Magenta replied as they ran.
“Why?” Blue demanded pulling harder against him. “What are the pair of you up to?”
Magenta sighed as at last they reached the dungeon and, pushing the entrance aside, he shoved Blue through into the comparatively brightly lit dungeon. Blue stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Ochre tied to the rack.
Turning he faced Magenta, backing off a couple of paces to find his own ground.
“You better not think you can do that to me, Pat!”
“Adam, just shut up and sit down!” Magenta ordered. “We need to…”
Before he could finish his sentence, Magenta sighed as Blue ran to Ochre’s side and started untying his left hand.
“No!” Magenta shouted. It was bad enough having one of them who wouldn’t listen to him without two.
Grabbing Blue around the arms and waist, Magenta dragged him back away from Ochre. The knot had partially been untied and it wouldn’t be long before Ochre could work it loose enough to free it. He still had to untie his other hand and both ankles yet though, but Magenta realised he probably only had a few minutes to silence the very vocal and struggling Blue. There was only one way to do this. Dragging Blue over to the iron maiden, Magenta pushed the front open with his foot and shoved Blue inside. As he closed the front section, Blue’s eyes widened and he screamed in terror. Behind them, despite knowing how it operated, Ochre held his breath.
All of Blue’s sounds silenced within moments of the maiden closing, in fact at that precise moment, the only sound was Magenta’s breathing, which came in heavy gasps as he forcefully calmed himself. The next sound came from within the casket.
“I hate you, Pat!”
Even Ochre laughed at the sound of Blue’s voice; so indignant and embarrassed.
“Yeah, I know you do, but can you just shut up and help out here? We have a very real problem!”
“Yeah,” Blue agreed, unaware that he was the problem.
Magenta turned his head to look at Ochre. He had released his left hand and was, unexpectedly awaiting Magenta’s approval to free himself. Magenta gave a brief tired nod before opening the iron maiden to let Blue out, offering him a conciliatory smile as he did so.
“You better have a good reason for this, Magenta,” he grumbled, as he moved past him to assist Ochre in untying his ankles.
“I do,” Magenta replied, gravely, “and you’re it.”
“Me?” Blue straightened up and turned back to stare at the Irishman.
“Yeah, I just stopped you from killing yourself.”
“What?” The pitch of Blue’s voice raised several tones as he conveyed his disbelief. “What game are you playing now?”
Ochre kicked off the last of the ropes and joined the others an expression of confusion that almost mirrored Blue’s own plastered on his face.
“I’m not playing any games!” Magenta insisted. “You were in the kitchen sobbing your heart out, by the time I got there you were about to push a knife straight into your chest!”
“I’m not falling for that crap!” Blue snapped. “I don’t know what you’re trying…”
“Was it the large bladed cook’s knife?” Ochre asked quietly. “And was he sat at the table?”
Magenta turned disbelieving eyes towards Ochre.
“How do you know?”
“Oh, please!” Blue rolled his eyes. “Great double act, well rehearsed and all, but…”
“Shut up and listen, Adam!” Magenta snapped. “I’m serious! If you want proof, I can give you it, it’s all recorded on tape.”
Blue fell silent. He remembered the strange feeling as he entered the kitchen, but little more. Magenta certainly seemed sincere, but after the jokes he had played on them, he was less inclined to believe him.
“Okay,” Blue nodded, “I’ll accept that something happened, but I think we should go back upstairs. If someone or something is here that we don’t know about, we need to find out who and why.”
Ochre and Magenta both nodded.
“Agreed,” Ochre spoke for both of them, “and I’ll tell you everything I know about the house.”
“He’s been gone too long, Seymour,” he consulted his watch for the eighth time in the last few minutes.
What sounded like Blue’s voice called from the kitchen.
Lieutenant Green turned a glance to Scarlet, almost requesting his permission. Scarlet nodded briefly and Green headed down the flight of steps.
Green had only stepped in through the kitchen door for the briefest of moments before Magenta, Blue and Ochre all piled through a secret door.
“What the…” Green began, a little lost for words. “Where did you all come from? Where have you been? And how… who called me?”
“No one,” Magenta began confused by the question. “We just got here.”
“Where’s Scarlet?” asked Blue.
“He’s still upstairs,” Green replied still puzzled over the voice that he and Scarlet had both clearly heard.
Blue nodded and headed immediately up the staircase.
“Where?” he called down.
Green looked up, meeting Blue’s concerned gaze.
“He was right there!”
Blue shook his head.
“Come with me,” Magenta ordered.
“He must have seen something and gone after it,” Blue pointed vaguely behind him.
“Adam, there’s a camera in every room, and another down here where they can all be viewed. We can find Scarlet from there, much easier than on foot.”
Blue nodded; it made sense.
“And, Ochre,” Magenta continued, “I really think we need to know what the hell is going on around here!”
“I’ll tell you everything I know,” Ochre replied. “I just hope it helps.”
It took only a couple of minutes for Magenta to guide everyone safely through the maze of passages that led to the control room. Three jaws dropped at the bank of equipment set up to make an already haunted house seem even more so. Each of them wondered if the owners actually realised that the house was, in fact, truly haunted.
Magenta set to work immediately choosing a different room for each monitor and a couple of others with multi-room view.
“What’s this?” Blue asked as he saw a monitor standing apart from the others with a view of the kitchen
“That’s the recording,” Magenta explained. “It’s still running. Did you want to view it for when you were in there?”
Blue chewed his lip and nodded. “Yeah, I think I need to see it.”
“Okay, Adam, I understand.”
Magenta gave the captain’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze before setting the recording back to the moment Blue had entered the room.
Blue watched the recording on the screen with a grim fascination as events unfolded exactly as Magenta had described them. Turning to face the others, Green noted his stunned expression.
“Are you okay, Captain?” the Lieutenant asked.
“I’ve seen it and I still don’t believe it,” he murmured.
“I know, it’s hard to believe,” Magenta added. “Look, I’ve checked all the monitors, panned around, everything and I can’t see him.”
“Rick,” Blue frowned, “I don’t know what’s happening here, but I really think it’ll help if we know more about this place.”
Ochre nodded his agreement.
The four men took seats in silence around a small table and, while still keeping watch on the monitors for movement, as one they turned to Ochre.
Ochre leaned both forearms on the table with his fingers outstretched; somehow he felt it helped him concentrate. Gathering his thoughts for a few moments, there was an almost imperceptible nod as he readied himself to speak.
“The house was built in the late eighteen hundreds for an English couple, Lord and Lady Alverton. They were seriously rich, I mean in today’s equivalent, multi-multi-millionaires. Alverton was one of what English society called nouveau-riche and they despised him for that.”
“What’s nouveau-riche?” Green asked.
“It’s French, it roughly translates as ‘new money’. Basically it means he made his own fortune, rather than being born into it,” Ochre explained. “Apparently it was considered vulgar at the time. They were viewed as lower class people buying their way into elegant society. To be called an industrialist at the time was quite an insult.” Ochre paused slightly before returning to the point. “Anyway, he made all his money in the railways, first in England and then in eighteen-ninety-something, they moved out to America. Of course, by then, the railway business was growing rapidly and he just got more and more successful. They were already getting older by the time they moved out and had grown children with families of their own. When Lord and Lady Alverton came out here, their children and their families remained in England. They’d had three girls, so of course none of them were part of the family business and their husbands all had their own careers already. So, a few years later, Alverton sold the business and retired.”
“You really have researched this haven’t you?” Green cut in, impressed by Ochre’s knowledge.
“Yeah, well, I really wanted to come here, so I read up,” Ochre replied.
“Anyway,” Green said, and waved, “sorry, carry on.”
“Well, of course, the same fascination with English aristocracy existed here even then and they were the toast of the all the social circles. They fitted in much better over here because of the lack prejudice over how they made their fortune. It was ironic really, everyone wanted the railways, but they disapproved of the people who became rich through it.”
“Then what?” Blue asked sensing that the story was reaching a particularly relevant point.
“Well,” Ochre sighed. “They took frequent trips back to England to see their families. Money was never a problem so they went two or three times a year for several weeks at a time. Of course, there were no planes in those days, so all travelling was done by ship, or, more specifically in their case, luxury liner.”
“Oh,” Magenta frowned, “I think I see where this is going.”
Ochre nodded. “You guessed it, after one of their trips in nineteen-twelve, they were returning on the Titanic. Lady Alverton survived in one of the lifeboats, but Lord Alverton was lost.”
“I thought all the first class passengers survived?” Green commented with surprise.
“No,” Ochre shook his head, “I thought that too. It was almost all the women and children, but apparently only about thirty percent of the first class male passengers escaped.”
“Wow! So few?” Green sighed, “I didn’t realise. Go on.”
“So, Lady Alverton returns here and, well, she just never got over it.”
“And she killed herself in the kitchen?” Blue asked.
“Yeah,” Ochre nodded.
“On Halloween?” Magenta asked.
Ochre almost laughed. “Now who’s been watching the bad horror movies? No, I think it was on his birthday, either his or hers, I can’t quite remember.”
“I think I saw her,” Magenta admitted.
“When?” Ochre asked.
“In the kitchen; like a sort of transparent mask over Blue’s face.”
Blue frowned deeply.
“That’s a little too weird for me!”
“Oh,” Green sounded surprised. “I thought you were going to say it was what you thought was a mannequin that you saw in the window, when we arrived.”
“I’d forgotten all about that,” Magenta replied. “That would be the master bedroom then.” He added consulting his room map.
“There’s supposed to be a portrait of them from when they were young in the bedroom, if you want to check?” Ochre added.
“Yeah,” Magenta nodded as he got to his feet. “I think I would. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it’ll help.”
“Well, I’m staying here,” Blue announced. “If Scarlet shows up on one of these monitors, I want to know.”
Ochre nodded. “How about Magenta and I check out the portrait and you and Green stay here and watch the monitors?”
Green nodded his approval. “Sounds good. If anything shows up, I’ll shout.”
Stepping through the door of the master bedroom at the end of the long corridor at the top of the stairs, both men felt an eerie chill in the air. The portrait they had gone in search of dominated the room and Magenta and Ochre stared intently at it.
“That’s who I saw, alright,” Magenta confirmed as he stared up at the portrait of Lady Alverton.
“Er…Pat,” Ochre began unnerved.
Magenta turned his gaze to study the second figure.
“I don’t believe it!”
“It is isn’t it?”
Magenta nodded. “He’s the image of Scarlet!”
“We should get the others, they need to see this,” Magenta said after a brief pause.
Ochre gave a small laugh. “Well, yeah, it’s significant, but how does it help us? It doesn’t tell us where he is or what’s happened to him.”
Magenta turned a hopeless expression towards his friend.
“I’m clutching at straws, Ochre, but it’s all I’ve got.”
Ochre nodded his understanding.
“I talked him into this, he didn’t want to come. When I whispered in his ear, I told him it was just to play a prank, that it wasn’t haunted. And now, well God only knows where he is!”
“I’m right here!” Scarlet yelled for the third time. “I’m standing right next to you!”
“We better get back,” Magenta sighed. “See if they’ve found anything on the monitors.”
“Magenta!” Scarlet yelled with no response. “Ochre! Why can’t you hear me? Can’t you see me? What the…”
Scarlet’s jaw dropped as his friends turned to face him and headed towards the door, passing right through him as they walked. Scarlet spun on his heels to see Ochre glance back with an expression of curiosity on his face, but Magenta continued to the door as if nothing had happened.
“What’s up?” asked Magenta, pausing at the door.
“I… I don’t know,” Ochre replied with uncertainty. “Just briefly… no, I don’t know.”
Scarlet watched bleakly as they left the room to rejoin the others. Beside him stood a high-backed chair facing the fireplace. Hesitantly he edged his hand closer to it, gasping as it passed straight through.
“Oh…” Scarlet’s voice was hollow with disbelief. “I’m dead! I’m actually dead!”
Magenta and Ochre walked back to the control room in silence. Ochre was struggling to reconcile what he had done against what he had said. There was the small matter of what he had called his experiment – leaving Magenta in the cell, awaiting the arrival of the Devil who would come to snatch him away – and telling Scarlet that the house was not haunted. How could he justify both? He had either lied to Scarlet or been very cruel to Magenta. Neither possibility made him feel like a good friend. Added to that, Scarlet was missing and very possibly in real danger. The ghost of Lady Alverton had already tried to force Blue to re-enact her death. The blade had been poised ready to plunge into his heart and only Magenta’s quick reactions had prevented it. He couldn’t even begin to think about what she may do to Scarlet. Would she kill him? Could she kill him? Had she already done it? The mere thought made him feel sick to the pit of his stomach.
“Magenta!” Ochre finally reached breaking point. “I’m sorry about the cell and I deserved everything you did to me, and if I could take it back I would. Hell, I’d take it all back if I could! It was a dumb idea to come here! How could I do all that research and not even notice that Alverton looked like Scarlet?”
Magenta smiled sympathetically.
“And if you had noticed?”
“If you’d noticed the resemblance what would you have done?”
“Well, I…” Ochre sighed; yes, even with the benefit of hindsight he was talking nonsense. “Nothing,” he admitted. “It would only have made amused me more.”
“We’ll find him, Ochre.” Magenta offered his most sincere smile. “Come on, let’s get back to the control room.”
A low moan escaped Ochre’s lips as they found the control room empty.
“This is getting ridiculous!” he cried, as he looked around the small room for the smallest sign, checking all the monitors as he did so. “First Scarlet, now…”
“Shhh!” Magenta interrupted. Nodding, he pointed to the door to the secret passage network. “I can hear them.”
Sure enough, and much to Ochre’s relief, the voices grew louder as Blue and Green approached the doorway. As they piled through, clutching the map that Magenta had found of the passageway layout, they turned grim expressions towards their friends.
“He’s not on the monitors and he’s not in any of the passages.” Blue’s head dropped in frustration. “How can he just disappear?”
Ochre shivered slightly; the hairs on the back of his neck bristling.
“Well,” Magenta began with an element of tension in his voice, “on the plus side, if we can’t find any trace of him at all, he must still be alive at least.”
“Oh, you reckon?” Scarlet’s voice dripped heavy with sarcasm.
“I’ll believe that when I see him,” Blue said quietly, but still with hope in his tone.
Scarlet rolled his eyes. “If you could see me, there wouldn’t be a problem, would there!”
“They can’t see you.”
Scarlet turned shocked by the sudden appearance of another person in the room. Another person they couldn’t see.
The voice belonged to the ghost of Lady Alverton, and was a rich, crystal cut English accent; the kind you only hear in old black and white movies.
“Catherine,” Scarlet said automatically, offering a warm smile as he saw her.
“You remember?” she replied, returning with her own adoring smile.
Scarlet cocked his head trying to understand what was happening to him; how he appeared to have unaccountable memories and thoughts. To his eyes she appeared youthful, as she was in the portrait. Inexplicably, part of him almost understood; it felt right to be in this house with her. His next words were, he believed, essentially a statement, but they emerged as a question, and one that he was uncertain he wanted the answer to. “You killed me?”
“It’s not that straightforward,” she replied cagily.
Scarlet sighed. Of course it wasn’t! Why would it be? After all, it was only his life!
“Can you not make it straightforward?”
She offered a partial smile as she reached out a hand.
“Come with me.”
“Where?” Scarlet asked, as she took his hand in hers, but the room was already fading to black and he was spinning. Spinning and falling and… nothing.
The room spun quickly back into focus in a rush of artificial light and Scarlet staggered backwards as the apparent motion left him dizzy. Falling backwards against a wall, he knocked over a lamp and sent it crashing to the floor, smashing into several pieces as it landed. Scarlet spread his arms out, steadying himself. Hitting the wall may have hurt a little, but it was better than hitting the floor. He breathed deeply and slowly as he tried to calm down. For the moment he was alone and confused in his new surroundings; nothing looked familiar to him. It appeared to be a bedroom, but not one he had yet seen in the house. It was decorated in a way that he was certain someone had hoped would be stylish, but just, at least to him, seemed far too grand and ostentatious. It struck him as particularly odd that the bed was clearly designed for two people but seemed rather too small by normal standards. Still slightly dizzy, he took a seat on the burgundy satin throw that lay on top of the crisp white, freshly laundered sheets. In front on him, a small table and chairs arrangement caught his eye, and by the wall, stood a chaise longue. There were far too many patterns in the room, the wallpaper, the upholstery on the chairs, the chaise longue and the carpet – all different, all contrasting, and definitely not to his taste. The furniture was at the same time old fashioned but appeared brand new; was it just that the furniture in the house had never been used? To his left was a partially open door. Taking a deep breath, his balance now restored, Scarlet rose and opened it fully, pausing as he realised that his hand hadn’t simply passed through the door handle, as it had earlier with the chair. Walking through into the next room, he found himself standing in a well-appointed, but small, sitting room complete with sofa, chairs, desk, cabinets and fireplace. Again, the gaudy decoration drew a frown of distaste. Then, somehow, realisation dawned.
“This isn’t the house.”
It all felt wrong, very wrong. There was an unnatural calm and stillness in the air; a tableau of half-formed images, partially animated by unseen forces. The atmosphere was thick and heavy, hanging over him like a depression. Scarlet’s head pounded and all he wanted to do was sleep. He knew he hadn’t seen the room before now, but the sensation he now experienced confused him even more – he was beginning to recognise items in the room.
His head turned sharply at a knock at the door. It looked like an interior door, but he hadn’t tried it yet. Now, he didn’t want to. He had no idea who might be standing there or what they would make of him. Would he be arrested for trespassing? He neither knew where he was, nor how he had come to be there. The woman, Lady Alverton, Catherine was nowhere to be seen. A second, more urgent knock came and Scarlet took a step back, uncertain what he should do. Hide, maybe? The decision became redundant as the door suddenly opened. Before him stood a man with slicked-back hair, in a uniform of a smart white jacket and black trousers.
“Lord Alverton, excuse me.” The man hesitated as he saw Scarlet simply staring at him. “I heard a crash, but you didn’t answer. Is everything in order, Sir?”
Scarlet’s mouth opened slightly, but no words would come out.
“Would you like me to fetch you some water, Sir?”
Scarlet shook his head, still staring, unblinking at the man.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your steward, Sir; Watkins.” The steward paused before continuing with concern in his voice, “My Lord, shall I fetch Lady Alverton? I believe she’s taking the air on the boat deck.”
“Y…yes,” he finally stammered in reply. “Please.”
“Very good, Sir,” the steward nodded closing the door as he left.
Scarlet put a hand to his head as he looked around the room. There were far too many questions and no answers. Where was he, and possibly more importantly, why on earth did that man think he was Lord Alverton? Staggering to the bathroom to splash water on his face, Scarlet watched the water running and sighed as it dripped from his eyelashes and cheeks. Glancing up, he caught his reflection in the mirror and was relieved to see his own reflection staring back at him. That did, however, confuse him further over how he managed to be so easily mistaken for an elderly English lord.
“No, it’s not obvious,” the same clear English voice, that he had heard, what felt like only minutes earlier, answered his thoughts. “But I can explain.”
Scarlet turned and, as he saw her, he stepped back to steady himself as more inexplicable memories flooded his mind. Suddenly, he recognised the room and he realised with horror where he was, but with a deep breath he pushed the information to the back of his mind; it was simply impossible. Closing his eyes briefly, he gathered his thoughts.
“Where am I?” he asked hesitantly.
“My dear, Thomas, you know where you are.”
“My name isn’t Thomas!” He insisted. “It’s…”
Scarlet appeared as though he had the name within his grasp, but it kept eluding him.
“It’s…” he tried again. “Damn it! What have you done to me?”
Scarlet pushed past her and, heading back into the sitting room, flopped down heavily on the sofa as he scoured his memory, searching for his own name. He heard the rustle of her skirt as she sat next to him and took his hand once more.
“You don’t understand,” she began slowly.
“You’re damn right I don’t!” he snapped. “I know this doesn’t feel right to me, but I don’t know why. I’ve forgotten my own name for pity’s sake!”
“Thomas, no! Please listen to me!”
“My name isn’t Thomas!” he snapped.
“Yes it is!” she countered. “You are Thomas Alverton! Or…” she paused briefly, “you are now.”
Scarlet cast a bewildered eye towards her.
“What do you mean, I am now?”
She gazed on him with pitying eyes. The man was probably scared for his life; she understood, but soon, just as with his name, he would forget everything and simply be hers.
“When I saw you, I knew I could be reunited with my husband through you. His spirit is in you… you are my Thomas.”
Her voice almost cracked as she gazed on the face of the man she recognised as her husband before reaching out a hand to caress his cheek. The touch of her hand felt electric and Scarlet reacted without thinking. Cupping her hand in his, he kissed her palm.
“Oh, Catherine!” he whispered.
Lady Alverton smiled. The spirit of her long dead husband had been given this one single opportunity to return to her. They may have been distantly related, or it may have been pure coincidence, but the striking resemblance Scarlet bore to the deceased lord had given Lady Alverton’s ghost enough energy and hope to return to that fateful night aboard the Titanic, when her husband had died. With every passing second Scarlet’s own memories, personality and spirit were being suppressed, only to be replaced with those of Lord Alverton. She had waited, aimlessly and agonisingly for a chance to press her lips to his once more, but this opportunity was more than she could possibly have hoped for. This time, with Scarlet acting as host to her husband’s spirit, she would change history. She would not stand aside, oblivious to the danger, and allow him to die in the icy Atlantic waters. He would live, she would live; nothing could tear them apart this time.
For the briefest of moments she considered the effect of this on the visitor to her home. It seemed wrong to use him in this way, but, while she felt the passionate pull of guilt, the fear of going through all this only to lose her husband a second time, was simple unbearable. It would be Scarlet’s life to trade for her husband’s. It was regrettable, but to her, the end more than justified the means.
“It’ll be dawn in just over an hour,” Ochre commented, turning a worried expression to the others, “they’ll be expecting us to leave.”
Blue’s eyes met his; the determination on his face there for all to see.
“I’m not leaving this place until we know what’s happened to Paul, even if I have to buy it, I’m staying here!”
Ochre nodded his understanding and approval, immediately joined by Green and Magenta.
“I’ll check their site on the Internet,” Ochre offered, “get some contact details. No matter what, I think they should be warned.”
Blue checked the monitors again as Ochre logged in to the site. Jotting down the relevant numbers, he was just about to close the browser when something caught his eye.
“What!” he cried wide-eyed, staring at the monitor astonished by what was written on the screen.
All eyes turned and Green and Blue spoke at the same time, almost in unison.
“What is it?” added Magenta.
“Remember what I told you? About the death of Lord Alverton on board the Titanic? It’s now saying they both survived!”
“But that’s not… how…?” Blue stumbled over the words. “Scarlet?”
Scarlet pulled back away from Lady Alverton as she drew him in to a kiss. For the briefest of moments, it had felt right, and in that moment he sensed the other spirit within him, taking over memory by memory. Scarlet fought to retain control, but it felt as though somehow, his own spirit was the weaker of the two.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“My dear, I just want my husband.”
Scarlet shook his head and rose from the sofa.
“And my life? I want that!”
Lady Alverton turned her eyes down; she had no reply. She knew she was effectively robbing Scarlet of his own life, but it was too late to change her mind now, it was set. Her heart was set.
“Where are you going?” she cried, as Scarlet headed for the door.
“I need to get out of here! Away from you!”
“We’re on board ship.” She smiled pityingly. “There’s nowhere for you to go.”
Scarlet frowned bitterly. He remembered vaguely knowing where he was and the steward referring to the boat deck. He would find out exactly where he was and how to get away; it was his only chance.
Slamming the door behind him, Scarlet found himself in a very long corridor; the ship was huge. Making a note of the room number, he looked to his left and right. To his right, as far as he could see, where more rooms, but to the left, only a few yards away, he could see a staircase. Scarlet stood at the bottom of the grand, sweeping stairway and gazed at it for a few moments; it looked familiar to him, but oddly, he felt that what he sensed were his own memories, not those of Lord Alverton. He walked up, slowly, trying not to draw attention to himself. As he looked around, he noticed that everyone was dressed very elegantly; the men in woollen suits and derbies, and the women in close fitting jackets with long skirts, some wore hats too, but they appeared more decorative than functional. Occasionally, someone would nod to him or say good afternoon, to which he merely mumbled a reply. He felt very out of place but he also appeared to be the only one who thought so. Everyone who addressed him by name called him Lord Alverton, and it was really starting to distress him. Dressed, as he was, in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, it was inexplicable to him how he, as a man in his mid-thirties, could conceivably be mistaken for the English lord.
As he reached the top of the staircase, he looked up at a massive glass dome covering it and bathing him in natural light, from what, he realised, was a sunny sky with a few light clouds.
To his left and right he saw doors that appeared to lead outside. Heading to the right, the steward at the door opened it for him.
“Good afternoon, Lord Alverton,” he greeted him politely.
Scarlet merely nodded; all he wanted to do was to get outside. The ship was travelling at speed and the wind that whipped up under the covered section near the door was a chill one. Stepping out into the sunlight, Scarlet looked to his left, first down the length of the ship, then up, to view the four giant funnels of the impressive steamer.
“Magnificent, isn’t she?”
Scarlet turned to see who had spoken. Beside him stood a man of medium build, with a large moustache.
“Ismay,” he introduced himself. “This is my ship. Breathtaking, isn’t she?”
“It’s the Titanic,” Scarlet murmured bleakly.
“Quite so. Not just beautiful, but unsinkable too.”
“What’s the date?”
“April fourteenth,” Ismay replied, trying not to react to what he saw as the gentleman’s strange behaviour.
Scarlet nodded. “Then it’s tonight.”
Ismay regarded him with a curious expression.
“I’m going back to my room; won’t you excuse me, Mister Ismay?”
“Of course, good afternoon, Sir.”
Scarlet nodded as he headed back inside. He would have remembered the route anyway, but he felt he knew it from more than one use. He was losing control; Alverton was taking over. By the time he reached the cabin and opened the door, he felt as though his body wasn’t his own and that he was merely nearby, listening in on other people’s conversations.
“Catherine,” he began. “We need to talk.”
“Thomas?” Lady Alverton looked up from her seat on the sofa.
She hadn’t moved since Scarlet had left. There was really no need to chase after him, he was already forgetting his own memories and quicker than she thought too. Now her husband had come back to her, he was taking control over his host; soon, there would be nothing left of him.
“Catherine,” Alverton shook his head, “what you’re doing is wrong.”
“What I’m doing is bringing us back together; how can that be wrong?”
Alverton took a seat next to his wife on the sofa.
“My dear, tonight, the ship will founder and sink. Can you really justify killing this young man just to have a few more hours with me?”
“No! No, Thomas, you don’t understand,” she cried taking his hands, “this is another chance for us, not just a few more hours. You can get into a lifeboat, you can save yourself.”
Alverton shook his head.
“I cannot go before the other men.”
“Don’t be such a fool, Thomas!” she cried. “There were other men in the lifeboats. Lots of men. I need you, Thomas! Please, I can’t lose you again!”
Alverton looked thoughtful for a few moments.
“His name is Paul. He and his companions are military men. They’re worried about him.”
“Don’t! I don’t want to hear it!”
“How do you think they’ll feel when they realise he’s dead?”
“I know exactly how they’ll feel!” Catherine snapped bitterly. “I mourned you for a year. Each remembrance hurting just that little bit more. My birthday, our anniversary, your birthday, Christmas and finally this night. And then what? Then I had to do it all again! I had been strong for a year and all my energy was gone. I couldn’t see how I could do it again and again for the rest of my life.”
“So you took your life?”
“If you weren’t in it, it was no life at all,” she replied, her voice cracking as the weight of her emotions caught in her throat.
“So,” Alverton sighed, “you have planned this, what is your intention?”
“It’s very simple.” She nodded. “You get into a lifeboat with me tonight and we live out the rest of our lives together.”
“I can’t do that, but more than that, I can’t let you do this.”
“You can’t let me do what?”
“You know that for me to survive, this man’s spirit will have to leave its body?”
Catherine looked down again and nodded.
“My dearest Catherine, you know that murder is a sin, don’t you?”
Tears dropped from her eyes, dampening the sofa cushions.
“I didn’t think, I didn’t want to, I just want to be with you.”
Alverton leaned in and raising her chin planted his lips softly on hers for a few precious moments.
“I can’t go through with this, for your sake. You understand, don’t you?”
Catherine stared up at her husband and began to notice physical changes in his appearance. Slowly at first. His grey hair began to darken, the circles beneath his eyes began to lighten and smooth out. She watched with her heart breaking as her husband’s features changed from that of an old man, to how he had looked when he was younger. She stared, with tears standing in her eyes, as his cheeks filled out and the wrinkles flatten to reveal perfectly smooth skin – a few minor changes and within moments, it was once again Scarlet sitting beside her. Her husband was gone; she had lost him again. She stared harshly, as Scarlet became suddenly aware. He had heard the conversation and how upset she had become and clearly still was.
He knew it wasn’t a good time to say anything to her, but he was running out of time. It was already after four in the afternoon, the ship would sink that night and he had no idea how to return.
“How do I get back?” he asked quietly.
“You don’t!” she snapped unhappily, raising the handkerchief to her eyes once more.
The hairs on the back of Ochre’s neck prickled. It was an odd sensation that he had felt numerous times whilst in the house. He had put it down to nerves and thought little more of it but now the sensation was growing and he visibly trembled.
“Are you okay, Ochre?” Magenta asked as he looked over at his friend.
Ochre looked up, and gasped as he saw a figure standing in the corner of the room. The others turned their eyes in the direction of Ochre’s disbelieving stare but saw nothing.
“What?” Blue queried. “What is it?”
“Can’t you see him?” Ochre replied, unable to tear his eyes away.
“Who?” asked Green, glancing quickly between the corner and Ochre.
“Your friend should be returning to you soon,” the ghost of Lord Alverton reassured the captain. “I’m truly sorry for what has happened.”
“Where is he?” Ochre asked.
“Who?” Blue asked, only to be shushed and waved to be silent by Ochre.
“I’m afraid my wife was a little overcome. You see, it’s my birthday today and my darling wife called me back when she saw your friend, he looks so like me when I was his age, it’s quite unnerving.”
“Where is he?” Ochre asked again.
“He’s with my wife for the moment.”
“He’s aboard the Titanic…”
“Ochre!” Magenta called. “Who are you talking to?”
“Shh!” Ochre replied curtly. “When will he be back?”
“I’m sure it’ll be very soon. We’ve talked, Catherine and I, and reached an understanding. I’ve told her that I want her to return him to you, and said my goodbyes.”
“Well, what if she won’t do it?” Ochre asked, surprised by his certainty.
“She is my wife, she will do as I ask,” Alverton replied, equally surprised to be asked the question.
“It doesn’t work like that!” Ochre replied with alarm in his tone. “Women don’t just do what they’re told; they have minds of their own!”
This statement seemed to surprise Alverton more than anything, but he was from an altogether different time.
“She will do as I ask.”
“But how do you know?” Ochre asked, his certainty over Scarlet’s safe return draining away with each second.
Alverton thought for a moment.
“Because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Oh, and she’s so keen on the right thing?” Ochre snapped. “Just like when she took him?”
“There’s nothing more I can do.”
“Wait!” Ochre cried desperately, as the ghost faded before his eyes. “I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it!”
“What!” Blue yelled, turning him around.
Ochre didn’t know where to begin. It all sounded so bizarre and implausible.
“Who were you talking to? Where’s Scarlet.”
Ochre’s brow furrowed as he prepared to tell them something he knew full well they wouldn’t believe. Hell, he barely believed it himself.
“Scarlet’s on the Titanic.”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t’?” Scarlet got to his feet, pulling her up with him.
“Let go of me!” she cried. Despite what she had done, she was still surprised by his reaction.
“Only if you do the same!”
“What do you mean?”
“You know damn well what I mean!”
Scarlet was interrupted by an urgent knocking on the door.
“Send me back!” Scarlet insisted. “I’m no use to you now.”
As the knocking grew louder, Scarlet grew more agitated.
“Send me back!”
“Thomas will return, I know he will. He won’t leave me again.”
“He’s gone! You know he’s gone. Are you blaming me? Do you want me to die here too?”
“If you hadn’t fought him, he’d still be here now! You as good as killed him! It’s all your fault!”
“Lady Alverton!” The voice called from outside. “Are you all right?”
“No!” she screamed. “Please help!”
“What!” Scarlet stood back away from her. “What are you doing?”
Scarlet heard the key in the lock and panicked. Looking around the room and seeing no other way out, his eyes fell once again on Lady Alverton.
“Don’t do this!”
The door burst open and three crewmen and an officer raced in. Immediately, two of the men seized Scarlet’s arms while the officer addressed Lady Alverton.
“Lady Alverton, perhaps you should sit, shall I fetch the doctor? Lord Alverton?”
“He killed him!” she cried pointing at Scarlet.
“That’s not true!” Scarlet cried desperately, as he struggled violently in the four-armed hold. He had almost freed one arm when a heavy blow to his abdomen sent all the air rushing from his lungs and he sagged in their grip.
What could he say? Alverton was already dead? She had brought him here from the twenty-first century? He would be locked up immediately as a mad man; they’d throw away the key!
“Take him to the brig,” the officer ordered with a stern expression, before turning to comfort the distressed Lady Alverton.
“Catherine!” Scarlet called, as he was dragged away, hoping it would strike a chord with her. “This is wrong, you know it! Please!”
She turned away without a word as he was pulled through the door and taken below decks.
The luxurious trappings of first class gave way to the much more modest appearance of second class. As they proceeded further into the depths of the ship, Scarlet noticed the stark furnishings of the steerage class and crew quarters were in harsh contrast to the plush comfort of the Alverton’s suite on B Deck. Finally, he saw his new accommodation – the brig. Pushed inside the eight foot square cell, Scarlet gripped the bars, pleading to be released and to be allowed to speak with her again, all to no avail. He watched hopelessly as the crewmen walked away and returned to their duties. He checked his watch again. It was five-forty-five; he had, maybe, six hours to live.
“What do you mean he’s on the Titanic?” Blue asked, with his hand seizing Ochre’s arm.
“I don’t really know, that’s just what he said,” Ochre replied, looking briefly at his arm and wondering if Blue was ever going to release his grip.
“What who said?” Magenta asked, standing and facing Ochre as Green crowded around too.
Ochre took a small step back, trying to ease out of Blue’s ever tightening hold, but the hint was not taken.
“Adam, that’s gonna bruise, you know.” He nodded to his arm.
“Who did you speak to?” Blue asked, ignoring him.
Green could see Ochre’s discomfort and stepping around behind Blue, reached over to peel his fingers from the captain’s arm. Ochre offered Green a grateful smile, while Blue seemed oblivious of what had just happened.
“It was Lord Alverton. I’m amazed none of you could see him, he looked as solid as any of you guys.”
“Alverton!” Magenta gasped. “His ghost? Here?”
Ochre shrugged. He had seemed so real to him, it didn’t even seem to occur to him to be odd.
“Well, what did he say?” Green prompted. “That was a pretty long conversation you had.”
“Well,” Ochre began, “it seems we weren’t the only ones to notice how similar Scarlet and Alverton looked. Lady Alverton took a shine to Scarlet and, well…”
“Took him?” Magenta asked.
Ochre shrugged. “Yeah, I don’t know how, but he’s with her. He says he’s coming back soon, but I’m not so sure.”
“Why?” asked Blue with concern.
“Well, he just said they discussed it and he told his wife to send him back. So he just assumes she will.”
“Huh!” Blue flopped down into a chair. “I can’t say I’m all that convinced.”
“Apparently, she was particularly upset. A combination of Scarlet looking like Alverton, and that it’s his birthday today too.”
“Never mind that!” Blue snapped. “We’ve got to find a way to get Scarlet back!”
“How?” Ochre reasoned. “I mean it’s not like we can just pop back in time over a hundred and fifty years is it?”
“Get the owners on the phone! This must have happened before.”
“I seriously doubt it, Adam. They’ll think we’re just making it up.”
“Okay, okay!” Ochre tried to sound calm, but Blue’s agitation was getting to them all.
Scarlet had long since finished yelling; no one was listening to him. He’d shouted until he was hoarse and received no response at all. He doubted that anyone was even there. Now he sat on the tiny and very uncomfortable bunk, with his knees drawn up and his back resting against the wall. He glanced nervously at his watch; it was eight-ten. He remembered reading about the Titanic years earlier. Most of the information, he freely admitted, he couldn’t recall, but there were a few significant details that now preyed on his mind. The ship had hit the iceberg sometime around eleven-forty and the lower decks and filled rapidly. From the number of flights of stairs they had dragged him down, he presumed that he probably couldn’t be much lower in the ship without being underneath it. He checked his watch again – three and a half hours.
“Hey!” he yelled again. “Anyone?”
A large, well-built man loomed into view as he walked down the narrow corridor.
“Stop shouting,” he snapped, “you’ll be heard well enough by the judge when we reach New York.”
“You’re not going to reach New York,” Scarlet advised.
“Is that so?” the officer countered.
“In three and a half hours, you’re going to hit an iceberg. It’s going to do too much damage, the ship’s going to sink.”
The officer eyed him suspiciously.
“And where did you hear that nonsense?” he asked, not taking his eyes from Scarlet, rather as if he were watching a card sharp cheating.
“I didn’t hear it, I know it!”
“So, you’re telling me that at…” the officer checked his watch before continuing in a disbelieving tone, “twelve-forty-five, we’re going to strike a berg?”
“Eleven-forty,” Scarlet corrected.
“It’s nine-fifteen, you said three and a half hours. Can you not even count?”
Scarlet glanced urgently at his watch. For a few moments, the discrepancy confused him, and finally he realised.
“Daylight saving!” he cried. “I forgot! We only have two and a half hours.”
“You don’t impress me, mister! We have a full account of how you killed Lord Alverton and tried to attack Lady Alverton in their suite. When we get to New York, you’re going to hang! We have no one on board unaccounted for, so I can only assume you’re a stowaway. Well, now you have a room of your own. Enjoy it; you’ll be in one similar to this for the rest of your, admittedly, short life.”
Turning to leave, the officer turned his back on Scarlet, as he headed away. The rest of his life was only going to be two and a half short hours. It really didn’t matter how indestructible he was if he were to remain locked in the brig while the ship sank. He had to make him listen.
Reaching quickly through the bars, Scarlet pulled at the collar of his jacket and yanked him back towards the bars. He only intended to pull him back and try to reason with him, but, surprised by the action, the sailor was dragged off balance and cracked his head hard on the bars either side of Scarlet’s arm.
Scarlet’s eyes widened in alarm, but knew he had to take
advantage of the situation, he rifled through the officer’s pockets for a key.
Unable to find one, he
“Officer Pitman!” one of the crew called.
Scarlet looked up and pulled his hand back through the bars as four crew members approached and pulled the dazed form of Officer Pitman clear of the bars.
“It was an accident!” Scarlet tried to explain, but he knew from the expressions on their faces that they didn’t even want to believe him.
“Oh, it’s far too easy for accidents to happen down here,” one of them mocked, as he opened the cell door and all four stepped inside. Scarlet, now on his feet, was forced backwards towards the opposite wall.
Staring at them, Scarlet knew without question that they were more than ready for a fight. They stood between him and the open door of the cell. He would fight; fight for his very life.
Lady Alverton sat alone in her suite. The words her husband had spoken to her were rolling over and over in her mind. How could she accept that he was right? That boy was her only chance to be with her beloved husband again, and she had been denied that one precious pleasure. All the advantages of wealth couldn’t replace him and she would have happily traded it all for more time with her husband. Of course, that wasn’t an option. The only option available to her had been refused her, and, most devastating of all, refused by her husband. At first she worried that after all this time he had stopped loving her. She simply couldn’t cope with the thought and had lashed out at the only person she could blame. When the ship’s Third Officer, Pitman, had arrived at her suite, she was bitterly angry and had named Scarlet as her husband’s killer, knowing even as she said the words that she was lying. Reflecting on it now, she realised that she had condemned him to death; locked in a cell as the ship sank. Who would risk their lives to save a murderer? Of course, she knew he wasn’t, but she also knew that the prejudices of the age would damn him in the minds of those in authority, without trial or evidence. Why? Because he was a stowaway and she was a lady of means. It wasn’t fair. He seemed a pleasant young man, not even a thief, let alone a murderer.
Her husband was right. She knew it. And she knew he loved her; she only had to look into his eyes to see that. That last kiss had been beautiful and still tingled on her lips. Yet he wouldn’t stay – for her sake. Now, she knew what he meant, but she hated it. It wasn’t her spirit, or her needs, or even her conscience that he was concerned about, but her soul. She hadn’t been with him in the afterlife and that had tortured her more than not being with him in life. It was as if she simply couldn’t find him. Perhaps it was punishment for killing herself, she couldn’t know for sure, but whatever the reason, if she did nothing else, perhaps this time she would be able to make that right? If she couldn’t have him in this life, maybe there was a chance for them to be together in the afterlife? Glancing at the clock on the mantel, she knew she didn’t have long.
Scarlet knew how to handle himself in a fight. He had trained for situations like these for all of his adult life. He planted his feet firmly and set his balance. He’d taken on four before, and knew from experience that it wouldn’t be easy. Scarlet waited for one of them to make the first move, but the four of them had spread out in a semi-circle around him.
“Come on!” One of them taunted. “You think you’re tough, taking down an officer when his back’s turned? Try us!”
“Four on one?” Scarlet retorted, with a forced but, he hoped, convincing laugh. “You think that’s brave?”
“Okay.” Still fancying his chances, the one who had spoken nodded and gestured to Scarlet to come at him. “Just you an me, then?”
The three other men stood back, but remained close enough to be intimidating. Scarlet was left with the strong impression that should he overpower his opponent, the others would be quick to step in. It was still very much an unfair fight, but there were no other options – this was the best he could hope for under the circumstances. The man in front of him did nothing but goad him, trying to force him to make the first move. Scarlet wasn’t sure why, but time was running out and he had to escape. With a sudden burst of energy, he lowered his shoulder and slammed into the man standing opposite him. Clipping his left arm and shoulder, it was enough to catch him off-balance and spin him out of his way. He didn’t have time for a fight, the Spectrum captain just wanted to get out of the cell. Almost at the door, Scarlet was tackled from the side by one of the other men. Lending all his weight to the tackle, the man allowed himself to simply fall with his arms wrapped around his target. As a result, Scarlet was simultaneously pushed and pulled to the floor and, with his arms pinned, he landed awkwardly, unable to break his fall.
“You coward!” One of them shouted. “Running away!”
“I don’t need a fight, I need to get out!” Scarlet yelled in return, as he struggled against the two men now holding him down.
“Well, none of us gets what we want, do we?” The crewman Scarlet had shoved aside replied sourly. “Still worried about the odds? Let’s see if we can reduce them.”
With a simple jerk of his head, the crewman signalled to the others. Scarlet was pulled to his knees, with one of the crewmen stuffing a rag into his mouth as a crude gag. Two of the men stepped forward, grinning sadistically, as both of the remaining men each held one of Scarlet’s arms behind his back and pushed a foot firmly down on his ankles. Scarlet was held firm, unable to fight back or even shout for help as punch after punch was rained down on him.
“There.” The first crewman pulled the rag from Scarlet’s mouth as he slumped in their grip, poised on the brink of unconsciousness. “Now it’s four on none.”
As the men released his arms, Scarlet slipped to the floor, barely aware as the men left, locking the cell door behind them. It was nine-fifty-five; less than two hours remained.
“Yes,” Ochre sighed with exasperation, “I do know what time it is, but this is an emergency.”
“The house? What’s happened?” The curator sat up in bed imagining the whole building on fire.
“No, no, the house is fine,” Ochre assured him, believing this would make him more accessible, but it only served to irritate him more.
“Then what is it?” he snapped.
“One of our friends is missing.”
“What do you mean missing? Are you sure he’s not just hiding? It is Halloween, he’s probably playing a trick on you.”
“No, we’ve seen ghosts, Lord and Lady Alverton, she took him and… hello? Hello?” Ochre waved the handset at the others. “I told you they wouldn’t believe me.”
“Give me the phone,” Blue growled, snatching it away from Ochre, who was more than happy to let him try.
Pressing the redial button, Blue waited for a reply, only to receive the same angry voice that Ochre had dealt with. But, he decided, Ochre had been too polite.
“Don’t hang up on me!” Blue ordered, as an opening greeting. “We’re not playing a prank, this is real! Our friend is missing, this house has something to do with it and we think you know what, so I suggest you get your ass down here right now and help us get him back!”
Blue rested the handset back down on the cradle.
“Is he coming?” Ochre asked hopefully.
Blue sighed. “He hung up.”
“Then we’re on our own with this?”
“No,” Blue sat down and put his feet up. “I’m going to give him five minutes to get comfy, then I’m calling again, and again until he comes here.”
“He’s more likely to just have us arrested,” Magenta interjected.
Blue shrugged as he checked his watch.
“Captain Ochre,” Green began, “check the site, see if there’s anyone else we can call: related links, interested groups, ghost hunters or Titanic Societies, anything. Someone that may be able to help us.”
Ochre nodded and opened up the site once more. As the page refreshed, a single comment in one of the paragraphs caught his eye.
“Oh no!” he cried. “I think this is worse than before!”
“What?” Blue asked nervously, sitting forward in the chair.
Ochre turned and pointed vaguely behind him at the screen.
“Now it’s saying they both died, drowned. Both of them.”
“What!” Blue cried, his eyes widening as he leapt up and read the words for himself. Turning back to face Ochre, Blue’s brow furrowed and he gripped his friend’s arms, his earlier bravado gone.
“Ochre… I… I don’t know what to do. We have to get him back; we have to change what it says!”
Ochre nodded, equally bewildered, equally helpless.
The cold seeped through, stirring Scarlet’s conscious mind and slowly bringing him back to full wakefulness. He groaned as he remembered the vicious attack by those four cowards who held him helpless as he was beaten into unconsciousness. Rolling onto his back, he allowed his right arm to flop to his side. As it landed, the small splash and the feel of water on his fingers brought him suddenly fully alert. Sitting up his eyes widened. Quickly glancing at his watch, he saw that it was twelve-forty-five.
He gasped at the realisation that he had been unconscious for over two hours, and probably would be still, had it not been for the water seeping in around him. The floor of the cell was covered in approximately half an inch of water, and he was perhaps even more surprised when he realised that the terrible grinding noise, that it was generally assumed the iceberg had made as it scraped along the lower part of the hull, had not been what had woken him. Oh, but this water, this freezing water could wake the dead. Pushing himself to his feet, he shivered and gripped his arms in a self-hug in an attempt to warm up.
He had never felt water this cold before, not that wasn’t already ice. But he knew that the salt in the water lowered the freezing temperature and that it may fall below zero without freezing. Zero was bad enough though! His clothes were already soaked and he could already feel it affecting his concentration and mobility.
Edging to the bars, he peeled his arm away from his body and curled his fingers around one of the bars for balance.
“Help!” he called. At first, his voice felt quite weak from the cold and he had to dig deep within himself to use precious energy to shout louder. Calling repeatedly for a few minutes, his teeth chattering between shouts, it soon became apparent to him that no one was even there. No one could hear him.
Blue picked up the phone again, determined that this time he knew how to get the curator to the house.
“Hear me out!” he said quickly, before the curator had chance to say anything.
“I’ll hear you, then I’m having you arrested! You think you can call me at five thirty and…”
“Listen! I’ll give you five hundred dollars if you come here right now and help us.”
“One of your party is really missing?”
“Yes! Please, we need your help. The site’s now saying they both died on the Titanic. She’s changed history, she’s taken Paul and…”
“What did you say?”
“I told you before, Lady Alverton, she’s got him, he’s with her on the Titanic,” Blue’s voice sounded increasingly frantic.
“What does ‘hmmm’ mean?”
“It means I’ll be right there.”
Blue stared at the phone as it went dead.
“Hung up again?” Ochre asked miserably.
“He’s on his way,” Blue replied with a relieved sigh.
It was just as she remembered it. First Officer Murdoch had just lowered the first lifeboat and even she could see that it was only half full. There would be a full enquiry after the few survivors reached New York. One of the main questions posed was why, of the sixteen lifeboats mounted on the davits and the four collapsibles, only five were lowered with anything approaching full capacity, especially as the crew were aware that even fully loaded, there wasn’t enough room to hold even half the number of passengers and crew. Of course, the answer was simple enough. It was cold, it was dark, and the lifeboats were tiny and frightening. Above all, the popular opinion was that God Himself could not sink the Titanic and people believed that statement wholeheartedly. She herself had left the ship only on her husband’s insistence – a mere formality, he had told her. How wrong he had been, how wrong they had all been. She had spent the last hour trying desperately to convince her friends, acquaintances and anyone who even walked past her to get into the boats, they all ignored her; one commenting that if she were so certain the ship would sink, why didn’t she get into a boat herself and stop bothering people.
“Well,” she said to herself sadly, “I tried my best, they refuse to be saved, but there is one person on this ship that should not die. Must not.”
Turning to head back inside, she pulled aside a crewman on his way out to the boat deck.
“Pardon me, but where might I find the brig?”
“The brig, ma’am?” replied the shocked crewman.
“Yes, tell me.”
“Please, ma’am just get into the lifeboat, you’ll be fine.”
“Tell me!” she ordered.
The crewman frowned; he had things to do and this silly woman was asking stupid questions. Briefly giving her directions she headed off, hoping she wasn’t yet too late.
On one of the monitors, Magenta noticed the main door to the house opening.
“He’s here!” he cried, leaping to his feet and heading out to the entrance hall with the others.
“Which one of you called me?”
“I did,” replied Ochre, extending a hand. “Rick Fraser.”
The curator nodded his greeting and shook Ochre’s hand. “My name’s Barnes.”
“Which one of you yelled at me?”
Blue raised a hand and looked up apologetically.
“Don’t worry, son.” He smiled. “You’re friend’s missing, in your shoes, I’d yell too. Now, show me this change on the website, and I want to see a picture of your missing friend.”
Ochre led him to the computer and showed him the changes that had appeared on the site and a photo of Scarlet taken during a particularly disastrous camping weekend they had taken together, that Blue had posted on a personal website. He watched nervously as Barnes chewed his lip.
“Okay, tell me everything.”
It took Ochre a good ten minutes to cover all the strange happenings and discoveries they had made, and afterwards a silence hung in the air. They still half expected him to simply laugh at them and call the police, but instead he nodded.
“Let me tell you what I know,” he began, pulling up a chair. “As you know, Lady Alverton survived the sinking but lost her husband. But what the site doesn’t mention is that she was utterly distraught and over the eighteen months until she killed herself, had tried very hard to connect with her dead husband’s spirit. She repeatedly called in all the renowned psychics of the day, and none of them could help. When it became too much for her, she killed herself. But even in death she couldn’t find him and roamed the house, constantly searching. Recent visits from psychic mediums have told us that she believes that it’s some sort of punishment on her and she’s searching for a way to go back and put things right.”
“Well,” Blue cut in, “that’s exactly what she’s done and she’s taken Paul with her.”
“He does look strikingly similar to Lord Alverton as a young man.” Barnes replied. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think you’re right.”
“Yes, thank you.” Blue’s agitation was growing once more. “We believe we’re right too, but what can we do about it?”
Barnes simply stared; somehow he knew he should have been prepared for the question, but now it was asked, he simply didn’t have a response.
Scarlet sighed with relief, as finally he heard footsteps approaching.
“Please!” he begged as he saw Third Officer Pitman. “Let me out, the water’s coming in - there’s not much time.”
Pitman reached the cell and stared with a mixture of uncertainty and concern. Drawing a gun from his pocket, he pointed it at Scarlet.
“How did you know?” he asked. “Tell me!”
Scarlet backed away from the bars before realising there was nowhere he could hide.
“Look at you!” Pitman continued. “Your hair, your clothes! I’ve never seen anyone like you before, and, believe me, I’ve seen a lot of people.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Scarlet muttered.
“Try me!” The Officer waved the gun, clearly upset and agitated. “You knew before it happened that the ship would strike an iceberg. What now?”
“She’ll sink, with over half the lives onboard lost.”
“This ship’s unsinkable!” Pitman insisted.
“Yes, I know that’s what you think, but she will sink. Please, let me out.”
“God couldn’t sink this ship!”
“It’s not God that’s doing it. It struck an iceberg, too much water’s coming in, and she’s going to sink!”
“So.” Pitman pulled back the hammer of the gun. “This is your work?”
“No!” cried Scarlet. “Who do you think I am?”
Pitman didn’t reply as a chair crashed down on his back. As he slipped with a grunt to the floor dazed by the action, Lady Alverton ran forward, lifting her skirt a few inches to trail above the increasingly rising water level. Scarlet now stood at the bars, the water at mid-calf, his feet numb.
“Lady Alverton!” he cried, glad to see a familiar face and one, it appeared, that was now helping him.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “I am so sorry about everything. I truly am, but perhaps helping you will also help me?”
“I hope so,” Scarlet replied unselfishly. He looked down at the dazed officer and noticed that his gun had slipped from his hands. “You have to find the gun, so I can shoot the lock.”
Lady Alverton stared briefly; intoxicated by his resemblance to her husband. As she stared Third Officer Pitman rose to his feet. Turning, he stared wide-eyed as behind Lady Alverton, the bulkhead started to buckle and groan.
“Lady Alverton!” he cried. “You must come with me!”
“No!” she pulled away and watched as, with a moment’s hesitation, he ran, leaving her alone with Scarlet.
“The bulkhead’s going to break, you have to…”
“I have to help you,” she interrupted.
A sickening grinding sound of metal on metal assaulted Scarlet’s ears, it sounded to all intent and purpose like an agonised scream as the tortured metal tore away from its housing. Lady Alverton took his hands through the bars. As she did it was as if all that existed was her and Scarlet.
As she spoke, the bulkhead collapsed and bitterly cold water poured in like a burst dam. Again, just like the time before Scarlet’s world swirled and darkened.
“You don’t know, do you?” Ochre asked unhappily.
“I… I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of anything like this. I…”
Barnes was cut off by the crackle of the monitors, as for a split second they darkened before coming back to life again.
All eyes turned back to the monitors, scanning them to see if anything had changed.
“There!” cried Green, pointing to the master bedroom.
Sure enough, beneath the portrait lay a dark, huddled form. Only the fortunate camera angle identified it as Scarlet.
All of them raced to the bedroom; Blue entering first and dropping to his friend’s side and pulling him onto his knees.
“Paul!” he cried. “Oh God, he’s soaked!”
Scarlet turned his eyes upwards, his face pale, his lips almost blue.
“I’m cold, so… so cold.”
“He’s freezing! Grab that blanket!” Blue ordered.
Within thirty minutes, the fire was lit in the bedroom, and Scarlet was bent over sitting with blankets wrapped close around him while his clothes dried.
“Are you okay, Paul?” Ochre asked.
Scarlet nodded before looking up and fixing Ochre with a serious stare.
“No more Halloween, Ochre.” He offered a thin smile. “I really have had enough now.”
Ochre grinned at his friend, just grateful to have him returned safely.
“The site still says they both died on the ship,” Green commented, checking the site with the curator.
“She did.” Scarlet nodded. “She died sending me back. There was no way she could have got out.”
The back of Ochre’s neck prickled in the same way it had immediately prior to seeing Lord Alverton. Looking up, he saw two spirits, smiling, arm in arm. His mouth widened into a broad grin.
“They’re together now, at last. Happy Birthday, Lord Alverton.”
“So,” Magenta noted, “she did kill herself on Halloween – his birthday.”
“No,” Ochre replied distantly, his eyes still fixed on the happy spirit couple. “They both died on the Titanic, just over a hundred and fifty years apart.”