A Captain Scarlet story for Halloween
By Marion Woods
Halloween was Captain Scarlet’s least favourite festival and the personnel on Cloudbase always went that little bit too far – for his liking - in their whole-hearted celebration of the event. This year he’d decided to avoid any involvement and, as he sat eating lunch with Rhapsody and Symphony Angels and his best friend and partner, Captain Blue, he made it clear he wasn’t going to join in.
His friends argued with him, encouraging him to ‘come and unwind a little’ with them at the fancy-dress party that was fast becoming a Halloween tradition on Cloudbase. He had to admit he was tempted; some of the ideas for costumes that the Angels – in particular – had come up with sounded… intriguing; but he stood his ground and argued that every time Halloween came round something weird happened.
“But it’ll happen anyway – whether you’re there or not,” Rhapsody protested. “You weren’t there when that ‘ouija’ thing happened…”
Captain Blue cleared his throat loudly, and Rhapsody blushed – they had agreed not to tell Paul about that incident.
“What ‘ouija’ thing?”
“Oh, nothing,” Blue said airily. “Patrick just overdid the special effects one year…”
“Well, I don’t like it,” Scarlet admitted. “I always feel like I’m one of the ‘weird creeps’ that are supposed to emerge from the woodwork on Halloween. I’m planning a quiet night alone… out of the action, for once. So just humour me, will you?”
“If you want to be out of the action, you could do Captain Grey’s command duty, and let Brad come to the party…” Symphony suggested.
“Hey, I may be feeling anti-social, but I’m not completely gaga…” Scarlet retorted. Colonel White generally withdrew from public gaze on Halloween too – fearing perhaps that his presence might put a dampener on the celebrations. This year he was actually off base – taking a few days’ leave somewhere. Scarlet wished he’d thought to do the same.
Symphony responded by pulling an exasperated face. “I think you’re just running away, because the idea of celebrating ‘weirdness’ makes you feel uncomfortable.” Her hazel-green eyes sparkled and she added with a chuckle, “That, or you can’t face having to dress up and ending up looking like a complete dork!”
Scarlet grinned. “True, I never have seen the attraction in making an absolute prat of myself, but if you guys want to – go ahead. You could always drop by before it starts and give me a private fashion show… I promise not to laugh – much.”
“Paul – you are impossible sometimes!” Rhapsody cried.
“Just because I don’t want to regress to my childhood?”
Captain Blue shook his head, more in sorrow than in anger and Rhapsody sulked, but he stood his ground. This year he was going to have an uneventful Halloween.
Once his duty was over, Scarlet went straight back to his quarters and shut the door. He took off his uniform boots and tunic and contemplated an evening of solitude and calm. Outside he could already hear the various bangs and squeals that signified the ‘party mood’ was starting to get a grip on the normally sombre Cloudbase staff.
Forewarned is forearmed, he thought, remembering Captain Ochre’s innocent expression as he had wished him a pleasant evening. Warily, he went through his quarters, checking for trip-wires and ‘apple-pie’ beds. Richard Fraser had a regrettably juvenile streak when it came to ‘practical jokes’. He’d think it hilarious to lay a trap for an unsuspecting colleague.
The room was clean – and Scarlet began to relax. He decided to take a nice, warm shower before he did anything else… the prospect of being completely at a loose end was a pleasing one.
After his relaxing shower, he slipped into his shorts and lay down on his bed to read through the copies of the history magazine his mother religiously sent him every month. He had quite a stack of them that he’d just never got round to reading.
An hour or so later, he started to feel peckish and made himself a supper of cheese on toast in his little kitchenette, and a nice strong cup of tea. He decided to watch the movie on TV and then get some sleep. The rest of them could play silly buggers all night, if they wanted to. He checked that his door was locked and that the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign was illuminated; then settled down before his TV screen in anticipation of a pleasant evening’s viewing.
His attention was caught by the sound of excited party-goers walking past his door on their way to the gymnasium where the event was to be held. Momentarily he felt a pang of regret.
He knew that Captain Blue was looking forward to seeing Symphony Angel’s fancy dress costume; she was going as Cleopatra, apparently, which – according to Rhapsody – involved her wearing ‘some strategically placed sequins and a net curtain’… Blue was intending to dress as ‘Marc Antony’, in a toga created from a bed sheet and lent historical verisimilitude with the addition of a short, but regrettably plastic, sword.
Any more subtle hints like that and they’ll give the game away… Scarlet sniggered to himself, although, the sight of those two dressed like that might be the only thing I’ll regret not seeing.
Rhapsody had finally relented enough to show him the costume she’d chosen for the party – a very tight, black evening dress, and a black wig that was supposed to make her look like Morticia Addams. She’d mentioned, almost in passing, that Captain Ochre was going as Gomez Addams.
Scarlet frowned and chewed his bottom lip. Rick Fraser was definitely what his mother would have called ‘a lady’s man’, and all of the Angel pilots responded to his cheerful flirting without taking him too seriously. Rhapsody, in particular, seemed to enjoy his company. Ochre’d better remember that this party is ‘just pretending’… that’s all it is. Any funny business and he’ll find himself with plenty of explaining to do.
The film started and Scarlet settled back to enjoy it, consigning his jealousy to the back of his mind. However old and creaky the film was, you couldn’t beat Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster for sheer unadulterated atmosphere and creepiness…
The music was getting very loud and the off-duty personnel were all having a whale of a time at the party. ‘Gomez’ and ‘Morticia’ were twirling somewhat sedately around the dance floor, whilst ‘Marc Antony’ was talking to a surprisingly articulate gorilla, and ‘Cleopatra’ was gyrating happily in the company of a very dashing highwayman.
Suddenly there was a roll of drums and the lights flickered. The DJ – a technician from one of the aircraft crews – announced that: “It is nearly midnight, folks, so grab your partners, because the next two dances will be the last – separated by the twelve chimes of Big Ben, courtesy of Lieutenant Green – and then the party’s over for another year!”
Everyone cheered as black balloons were released from the ceiling and ‘scary’ FX were played over the sound system.
To the accompaniment of bursting balloons, Symphony skipped back to Blue and bounced a black balloon off his blond head to attract his full attention. “Come on,” she insisted, “you’ve avoided it all night, but it is almost midnight – you have to dance the last dances with me… Edward,” she appealed to the gorilla, “tell him he has to do it…”
Doctor Fawn nodded his head vigorously. “Go and dance with the lady; it’ll do you good, Adam.”
“If you don’t,” she threatened as he still hung back, “I will do my version of the dance of the seven veils right here and now…”
“That was Salome, not Cleopatra,” Blue expostulated.
“Blue, I really think you should stand your ground – you’re quite right, disco dancing doesn’t suit the persona of a Roman General… and anyway, I’d rather see Cleo’s protest dance than watch you…” the Highwayman chipped in, with a laugh.
“Patrick, you keep out of this…” Symphony teased. She grabbed Blue’s hand and tugged him towards the dance floor. “You dance with me here and now, Harvard, and I will do the seven veils thing – just for you – later…” she promised with a wink.
Fawn and Magenta laughed as, sheepishly, Blue allowed himself to be bullied out onto the dance floor.
Not everyone went straight back to their quarters after the party broke up – in fact, it was becoming a tradition that a considerable minority of Halloween party-goers never made it back to their own quarters at all.
Rhapsody announced she was famished and the ever-obliging Captain Ochre offered to escort her to the canteen. They waved farewell to their friends and started on their way.
Blue and Symphony – the latter still holding onto her large black balloon - decided to take a walk on the Promenade Deck before turning in. Fawn and Magenta watched them go, arm-in-arm, with knowing smiles.
Sometime later, in-between planting kisses on her neck, Blue whispered into Symphony’s ear, “You won’t forget your promise, will you?” They were standing, entwined in each other’s arms, amidst the foliage.
“What promise was that?” she asked innocently.
“You were going to perform your dance routine for me…”
She giggled. “Oh come on, I was joking… you know – trick or treat?”
“That’s not how it works…” he protested.
“Yes it is!” She laughed, broke away from him and evaded his grasp to skip nonchalantly towards the corridor leading back to the officers’ quarters. At the door, and then again at the corner, she stopped and turned to make sure he was following, giving him an inviting smile before darting away again as he approached her.
Laughingly shaking his head, he followed her.
Symphony kept just far enough ahead of Blue to prevent him catching her, but not too far ahead that he didn’t bother to follow. She made her way past the Officers’ quarters, intending to lead him to her quarters. Still laughing with excitement, she turned the corner towards the main stanchion escalators, giving him a cheeky wave as she did so.
Blue was about half-way along the corridor, and debating if it was worth risking her wrath by just going into his own quarters and seeing if she came back, when he heard her scream simultaneously with the bang of a bursting balloon. He broke into a run and skidded round the corner. What he saw brought him up short, forcing a gasp of alarm.
Symphony was cowering against the wall opposite the escalators as the bulky figure of a man loomed over her.
Blue gave an outraged shout and rushed towards them, but his advance faltered as he met the louring gaze of the man threatening his girlfriend. The figure had turned to stare at the unexpected rescuer and Blue saw guilt, and what almost looked like apology, on the hideous face. Shaking off his astonishment, Blue shouted again and began to advance once more until, with a menacing growl, the miscreant lurched away from Symphony and shambled with surprising speed through the door that led to the service corridors.
Blue abandoned giving chase in favour of comforting the frightened Symphony, who threw herself tearfully into his arms as he drew close to her. He held her trembling body until she felt able to speak to him.
“It was horrible,” she sobbed. “I don’t know where he came from; he just appeared and pushed me back against the wall. He was trying to grab me and drag me away… Adam, he was terribly disfigured - lopsided and covered in scars…”
“It’s okay, älskling. I guess it’s just someone getting too carried away after the party,” Blue soothed, trying to play down the horror of what she had just experienced.
She glared up at him, annoyed at his mundane explanation of what for her had been a terrifying incident. “That wasn’t someone in a costume, Adam, that … Creature was for real!” She pushed herself from his embrace and Blue saw that her flimsy costume had been torn in the struggle, leaving a trio of long red scratches across her shoulder. “I don’t know what he wanted from me,” she said in agitation.
“Oh, I can guess,” Blue said grimly.
She shook her head. “It wasn’t like that – I mean - I don’t think it was… you know… sexual. I mean, he could’ve really hurt me.”
“He didn’t have time to start,” Blue said crisply. “Thank God I was here…” He shuddered to imagine what might’ve occurred if he had gone to his own room instead of following her. “There had better be no more such revealing costumes, Karen. Let’s not put temptation in the way of these perverts.”
“Oh, so suddenly it’s my fault?” Her eyes blazed with an anger intensified by her recent shock. “I didn’t see you complaining about my costume earlier – or Pat, either, if it comes to that - and you can’t deny you had the same ideas you accuse that guy of! Men! You’re all the same…”
“Karen…” Blue’s voice remained calm and dispassionate in the face of her mounting hysteria; but it was the wrong approach – Symphony was frightened and needed to vent her fears on someone.
“I want to go back to my quarters. I want to get out of this thing.” She demanded, frowning as she yanked the ripped fabric back up to her shoulder. “Stop goggling at me and give me one of the safety pins holding up that ridiculous toga… then you can walk me back to my place… and I’m locking the door – with you on the outside of it.”
“All right, Karen; if that’s what you want.”
“It is,” she snapped, snatching the safety pin from his fingers. “Oh, and Adam, you had better find that guy pretty soon – because I don’t think he’s going to give up trying…”
Ochre watched as Rhapsody finished her ice cream sundae.
“How can you eat that at this hour of the night…?” he smiled in bewilderment.
“Hey, I’ve been dancing all night – that’s given me an appetite -and I have to go on duty in the morning. Destiny’s there now and Melody and Harmony are on stand-by. You know, I think I’ll have to use the Room of Sleep, if I want to keep awake in Angel One.”
“Despite all that, did you have fun, Cara Mia?” he grinned.
“Oh Gomez, it was wonderful,” she gushed and laughed. “Paul’s an idiot to hide himself away… we get little enough chance to let off steam.”
Ochre nodded thoughtfully. “True enough, but you have to admit, Dianne, he’s never been very comfortable with Halloween – even before he was Mysteronised. I think it’s a British-thing… must be hard to bend those stiff-upper-lips sometimes.”
“I’m British – I bend,” she retorted, adding with a laugh, “well, normally I do. Between you and me, I think Paul’s using his Mysteronisation as an excuse – he just doesn’t like to play the fool at the best of times. But then, it always surprises me that Adam enters into the spirit of Halloween quite as much as he does… he can be stuffier than Paul on occasion.”
“Ah, but Halloween’s hallowed by ‘Tradition’,” Rick explained with a teasing wag of his finger towards her. “And Bostonians consider themselves as ‘The Guardians of American Tradition’!”
Rhapsody laughed. “That must be it then…” She sighed and gave a wry grimace. “I guess I ought to make a move – I will need to get some sleep tonight.”
“You can’t go to the Room of Sleep in that outfit, let me walk you back to your quarters…”
Smiling, she accepted his hand to help her rise from her seat and, slipping her arm through his, she minced along at his side – the dress was very tight.
The couple walked through the corridors towards the Angels’ private rooms deep in conversation. Ochre was off duty and not really feeling in the mood to go to sleep. Rhapsody – having decided to use the Room of Sleep anyway – now had time to spend and she enjoyed the American’s company, so neither was in a hurry – which was a good thing, as her costume prevented her walking very quickly.
They were enjoying discussing the party and commenting on the standard of their colleagues’ costumes when they turned into the corridor that housed Rhapsody’s apartment.
As they approached her door, the light in the corridor suddenly flickered and they were confronted by a looming human figure. The silhouette was dark, so irregular that it was obviously deformed, and its attitude was clearly hostile.
“Who the hell are you?” Ochre challenged. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know this is a restricted area?”
In response, the creature gave a deep growl and advanced in their direction. Ochre stood with Rhapsody slightly behind him. It was obvious from the way the creature tried to sidestep him that his objective was to reach the young woman. Ochre was relieved that Rhapsody realised this too – she moved to keep her companion between her and their assailant. Ochre fended off one lunge and, thinking he had the advantage, moved slightly closer, intending to attack. Annoyed, the creature swiped a powerful arm towards him; Ochre feinted and the blow went wide, but his manoeuvre had left Rhapsody unprotected. As the creature lunged towards her again, Ochre leaped in front of the startled Angel and another powerful blow caught the side of his head, sending him staggering to one side. He slipped to the floor, stunned.
Rhapsody lashed out, but her mobility was hampered by her costume and the creature had no difficulty in catching her around her waist and hoisting her, struggling and screaming, over his shoulder. With a surprising turn of speed and agility, he loped down the corridor, away from Ochre, who was finding it hard to get back to his feet.
Cursing and calling for help, Ochre staggered to the turn in the corridor, but by then the couple had vanished. With all the speed he could muster, he raced to the next corner and careered straight into Captain Blue, who, alerted by the noise, was running to see if he could help.
The two captains collided with some force and both slithered to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
“Rick, what’s wrong?” Symphony said, hastening to help Blue get to his feet. It was obvious that Ochre was badly shaken. She knelt before him, laying a hand on his arm.
“Didn’t you see them?” he gasped. “Some jerk has grabbed Dianne and carried her off…we gotta catch him…”
Blue and Symphony shared horrified glances. “What kind of ‘jerk’ was it, Rick?” Blue asked.
“A big guy, dressed in some fancy dress costume as … Frankenstein’s monster or suchlike. He pushed me aside and grabbed Dianne. I came after them as soon as I could – but they’d vanished…” He shook his dark head and rubbed his eyes. “How could anyone vanish on Cloudbase?”
Symphony held up three fingers. “How many fingers?” she asked.
Ochre squinted. “Four?” he guessed wildly.
“We need to get you to sickbay,” she replied in a voice that brooked no argument.
“What about Rhapsody?” he protested. “That jerk’s dragged her away somewhere… where could they have gone?”
“The service corridors, at a guess – that’s where he made for when he attacked you, Karen.” Blue swivelled round to look for the unobtrusive doors that led to the corridors used by the service personnel to transport items around the base, leaving the main corridors free from obstacles, in case of emergency. These corridors honeycombed certain areas of the base – and were rarely used by the field officers.
“He attacked you, as well?” Ochre asked, looking at Symphony with concern, as he allowed Blue to haul him to his feet. He kept a firm grip on his colleague’s arm to keep his balance.
She nodded. “Back at the top of the escalators… he grabbed at me, but Adam came to my rescue and he ran away.”
“We’ve got to find him…” Ochre babbled, struggling to leave Blue’s side, “before he hurts her…”
“I’ll find him,” Blue said reassuringly, as Ochre’s knees buckled underneath him. “Trust me. The best thing you can do is go with Symphony to sickbay.”
He handed the protesting Ochre firmly over to Symphony and once he was in her charge, Ochre’s intransigence evaporated. With a vague, benign smile, he allowed her to lead him away. As they started their slow walk towards sickbay, Blue heard him say conversationally: “That is a truly wonderful costume, Karen. I like it a lot; it suits you – it really does. Tell me, how did you manage to get all those little sequins to stay in place?”
Blue gave a silent snort of laughter as he saw his friend’s finger point unsteadily to one ‘strategically placed’ cluster. Trust Rick to focus on the important things in life… he mused, and then he sobered up and immediately reported both incidents over the base intercom to Captain Grey – currently in command of Cloudbase.
Grey acted with decision and alerted security teams to search for an intruder, he warned the Angels in the Amber Room to be on the alert, and finally gave Blue instructions to liaise with Captain Magenta at the junction of the service corridors and the escalators. Blue acknowledged the orders and made his way quickly to the rendezvous.
Magenta had already found time to change back into uniform and he was armed. He handed Blue a spare pistol. “If he’s harmed one hair of her head…” he said menacingly.
Blue nodded. “I know, but if we can find him quickly, she should be okay.”
“Grey’s got security teams sweeping the lower decks and they’ll turf everyone out of their quarters if they have to.” Magenta gave a wry smile. “That should cause a few red faces…”
Blue’s smile in response was half-hearted. “Better a little temporary embarrassment than someone gets hurt…” He was obviously preoccupied and Magenta gave him a concerned sideways glance.
Blue snapped back to alertness as his companion’s radio cap mic descended and he faintly heard Symphony’s familiar voice reporting.
“Captain Magenta? Are you with Captain Blue? Good, then tell him that I’ve got Ochre to sickbay. There’s a bit of a fracas on here; apparently two more women were attacked before Rhapsody – one dressed as a vampire and one as a belly-dancer. The belly-dancer is a blonde and the vampire’s wearing a long black wig…”
“Are you saying they were attacked in mistake for you and Rhapsody?” he asked.
“It’s possible,” she agreed. “It seems that their attacker didn’t harm them – he grabbed from behind, but when he saw their faces he pushed them down and ran away from them. Doctor Fawn says they are just shaken and a little bruised; but they did both saw their assailant quite clearly – and it sounds like the same creature that attacked me.” Her voice was shaky as she added, “I don’t mind admitting, Patrick, I’m scared. That thing was horrible! How can it be on Cloudbase, and what is it?”
“I don’t know, honey, but whatever it is, we’ll get it before it harms Rhapsody. Grey has teams out all over the place. Stay in sickbay – promise me, Karen – don’t go wandering about alone.”
“I promise. I’ve no desire to go anywhere…”
As the connection was broken, Magenta passed on the information and reassured Blue that Symphony was safe and would stay in sickbay until the all-clear was given. “Could this be a Mysteron attack?” he asked, but Blue shook his head with some confidence.
“I didn’t hear a threat, did you? I don’t know what this is – yet. Let’s get back upstairs. He must’ve been hiding somewhere, waiting for Karen to turn the corner ahead of me. Maybe we can spot some clues.”
“Well, when I catch the man responsible, I’ll make him wish he’d never been born,” Magenta responded with vehemence. Blue gave a distracted nod.
They hurried back to the escalators and ran up them to the command centre. As they sprang from the moving steps Magenta suddenly cried, “Blue, look!”
Blue followed the pointing hand and saw the dark bulk of the creature turning back towards the officers’ quarters. Rhapsody was still slung over his shoulder, although she was no longer screaming, and somewhere along the way she had lost her black wig. Her red hair hung down over her assailant’s back, and one arm hung limply. She appeared to be senseless.
“Rhapsody!” Blue called, and the creature turned on hearing his voice, glaring balefully at its pursuers and moving with ungainly speed into the corridor.
They raced after it, but when they reached the corridor, it was empty.
“What the hell’s going on?” Magenta said, pushing his cap back from his forehead in bewilderment. “Where can they have gone too? There are no turnings off this corridor.”
“No, but there are plenty of doors; I’m guessing he’s got her in one of the apartments…”
“Well, let’s get in there then!”
“Wait!” Blue said with authority. “If we just rush in to every room, he’ll hear us and if he feels threatened, he might harm her… Let’s see if we can work out which one he’s in – then our entrance will be unexpected…”
They advanced cautiously along, their eyes darting from side to side for signs of their quarry’s progress.
Half-way down the corridor, Blue stepped forward and with a triumphant cry picked up a false eyelash from the floor close to Captain Scarlet’s quarters.
“Either Paul’s taken up cross-dressing, or they went in there,” he said firmly.
Magenta was surprised at the certainty he heard in his companion’s voice and he ventured to disagree. “But, Blue, Scarlet was spending the night in his quarters - Karen told me – why would the maniac choose to go into the one room that was definitely going to be occupied?” Magenta’s dark eyes locked Blue’s pale-blue ones in a questioning gaze and a frown appeared between them. “You suspect something, don’t you, Adam?”
Blue gave a quick shake of his head. “No, not really…” he began.
“That’s why you suggested we come back here – you knew the guy would come here…”
“I didn’t know anything,” Blue protested. Magenta raised an eyebrow and waited for an explanation. Reluctantly, Blue continued, “I saw the guy when he attacked Karen – there was something about him…” His eyes met Magenta’s again and there was a dull fear in them. “Pat, I think the creature is Paul.”
“What? You’re crazy…”
“Well, not Paul, exactly. Remember what happened with the ouija board? Remember how there seemed to be another consciousness…A Captain Scarlet that didn’t know what had happened after he fell from the Car-Vu?” Blue faltered.
Magenta drew a sharp breath as the horror of the implication dawned on him. “So, you think this might be Paul’s ‘alter-ego’? But he’s twisted and …”
“Wouldn’t your body be twisted and broken if you had suffered all the injuries Captain Scarlet’s sustained over the years?” Blue asked sadly.
Magenta’s expressive face paled and he looked away. “Okay, Adam, we’ll do this your way…”
Blue keyed the password into the keypad and pressed his palm onto the digilock.
As the door slid open, the two men stepped in.
Standing in the centre of the room was a well-built man. His tall frame was bent and twisted, as if many of his bones had been badly broken and never properly reset. The fingers of his large, gnarled hands were unnaturally thick and the yellow fingernails were overlong, like talons. His face was a lattice of scar tissue, some deep and still suppurating; one livid gash ran from his cheek to his upper lip, pulling it back from his chipped and broken teeth in the mockery of a smile as he gently laid Rhapsody Angel in the one armchair and awkwardly brushed a strand of her long hair away from her face, before turning to face his pursuers.
Only one thing about him looked remotely human – his clear, blue eyes, which stared, with anger and disappointment, at the intruders.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Patrick muttered.
“Hold it!” Blue ordered as the man stepped threateningly towards them, a snarl on his face and a deep, intimidating growl in his throat.
Magenta pressed the light switch and the creature howled, turning his face from the light and retreating across the room to where Captain Scarlet lay on his bed, amidst a tangle of sheets.
As the light flickered on, Scarlet stirred in his sleep, muttering some indistinct words. The creature cowered close to the bed, hiding his face from the bright overhead light.
Waking with a start, Scarlet sat up in his bed and opened his sapphire-blue eyes in surprised annoyance at this unwarranted intrusion. As soon as his eyes opened and conscious thought flooded into his sleep-drugged mind, the creature vanished.
“What the hell’s going on?” Scarlet asked coldly, under the impression that he was being made the butt of another Halloween joke. He stared at the two captains. Magenta, a stern expression on his normally genial face, was in uniform, with his gun drawn; and Blue, looking dishevelled and distraught in his Halloween costume, was also armed. He stared interrogatively at his partner, but Blue wouldn’t meet his gaze. It was only then that he saw Rhapsody. “Dianne, are you okay?” he asked in concern. She was coming to, rubbing her head and looking around with astonished fear. Blue stepped towards her, crouching beside her as she sought for reassurance.
“What’s going on?” Scarlet asked again, a trace of anger in his voice. He looked at Rhapsody’s pale, confused face, expression and her unhappy expression and began to lose his temper. Whatever dumb trick is being played stops being funny when it frightens someone this badly…
Magenta responded to his imperious question with, “That’s what we are trying to discover. Did you see anyone come into your room, Scarlet?”
“No, just you three. Well, that is to say, I never actually saw you three come in – you were just here when I woke up,” he explained. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“No, it is not – at least, we don’t think so,” Magenta replied.
Blue had been whispering to Rhapsody, soothing her anxiety and trying to discover what she remembered of her abductor. As he finished, she gave a sharp intake of breath and covered her mouth with a hand to smother her distressed gasp. Then she turned her compassionate eyes on Scarlet and bit her lip, before burying her face against Blue’s strong shoulder. Solicitously, he put an arm around her.
Scarlet’s patience was exhausted. “Tell me what’s going on,” he demanded again.
“Someone…” Blue began.
“Or something,” Magenta interjected.
“… has been attacking women on Cloudbase. Specifically, Rhapsody and Symphony Angels – and two young women in similar costumes…” Blue continued. He saw alarm on Scarlet’s face as he concluded, “We tracked him in here.”
Scarlet sprang from his bed. “There’s no one here but me! And I’ve been in this room since my shift ended. Are you accusing me, Adam?”
Blue shook his head and patted Rhapsody’s shoulder, ducking his head towards her and avoiding his partner’s accusing stare. Somewhat relieved, Scarlet sank back onto his bed, but he continued to watch his friends with wariness.
Rhapsody had recovered her composure enough to sit up and say, “We know it wasn’t really you, Paul.”
“I think you had better explain yourselves,” Scarlet said firmly. “What do you mean, ‘you know it wasn’t really me’?”
Blue helped Rhapsody to get to her feet, and she continued to stare in sympathetic confusion from him to the man on the bed.
“You say you’ve been here, all the time?” Magenta was the first to find his voice again.
“Yes, of course I have,” Scarlet said categorically. “I fell asleep after I watched the movie on TV. Actually, I was having this weird dream – must’ve been that cheese on toast I had for supper. It was all about Frankenstein’s monster roaming about Cloudbase…”
He looked from one startled face to another.
“Now what are you all looking at me like that for?” he demanded.
Blue saw the others glance expectantly at him. Once more I’m expected to be the bearer of bad news… He drew a deep breath and reluctantly began to explain his theory, knowing full well, even as he spoke, that it sounded fantastical and that if Scarlet refused to believe it he had no proof to back up his theory – just his gut feeling and the harrowing certainty that he was right….
Scarlet heard him out in silence. He said nothing for some time, until Rhapsody went and laid a hand on his shoulder.
He glanced up at her sad face and tried to shrug off his depression.
“You know, daft as it might seem, what you’ve just said would explain a lot, Adam.” He met the concerned smiles of his friends and tried to lighten the mood. “It’s almost like the picture of Dorian Grey, isn’t it…? A whipping boy to bear the scars…” He glanced at his friends, but they all looked away. Even Adam wasn’t able to meet his eye. Here we go again, Paul thought with a vicious anger, Metcalfe the weirdo – the man with a monster in his soul….
He looked away. “Would you go now, please? I have some thinking to do and I’d like some privacy.”
“Paul,” Dianne said.
Silently, they left him alone. He stared at the closed door for some time and buried his head in his hands.
It was going to be a long night and he dare not risk falling asleep again…
This story came from an idea sparked by a conversation between Chris Bishop and myself. My thanks are due to her for letting me use it; as well as for her usual encouragement for my writing and her boundless enthusiasm for all things ‘CS’.
Once more, I owe my thanks to Hazel Köhler for her services as a beta-reader – and my apologies for my usual mistakes. Will I never learn?
And my thanks to you for reading it,