Dressed To Kill
Steed's Tale -
"Dressed To Kill"
- Chapter 02
In which Steed falls into enemy hands
... and Emma is put in a gilded cage.
Emma is unconscious from the sleeping gas. I have been holding my breath for several minutes waiting for them to open the door to get us. I am holding very still, trying not to give away my ploy. After all these years, I have never tried to see how long I could hold my breath. My Amberite endurance comes in handy, once in awhile. However, it is becoming a real strain; I have held it for over five minutes. Another five minutes pass and my lungs are burning, I feel very light headed. Even more so, from already breathing in some of the gas.
Finally, someone comes in and picks us up. I continue to feign unconsciousness. Two men drag me out, down the hall, and unceremoniously dump me on the floor in the hallway. I slowly let the air out of my lungs, through the nose. I sample the air, I draw in some of the gas. I peer out under my eyelids and have a limited view of our situation. They left the door open and they are wearing gas masks. Mother is not wearing one. There are six men with Mother, carrying firearms. Two over me and two on each side. The two men next to me have graciously volunteered to be body shields.
To maintain my ploy, I had to drop my umbrella. It would have been obvious I was awake, if I held onto it. My bowler is still on, and I have my snuff box palmed under my thumb. Forget it though, snuff in the face is pointless against someone wearing gas masks. Mother moves closer to inspect us. "Are you sure they are unconscious?"
"Of course, we left them in there for fifteen minutes."
"Did you check?" His voice is contemptuous. He has no tolerance for underlings who don't use their heads. They have no idea what they are up against and they are treating me like someone of no consequence. They will soon learn never to make that mistake again. Mother is certain to miss the agents of old, he may soon miss these agents as well. "Are you sure they are unconscious?"
"No." Taken aback that the possibility even existed.
Mother is hanging from the ceiling. "At least, tell me that you took their weapons!"
"No." They are uncomfortable that Mother is this concerned about the unconscious figures on the floor.
Mother shakes his head in disgust. The agents that dragged me out, reach down to check me. As quickly as I can move, I reach up with both arms. I grab them by their collars and crack their heads together, hard. The gas masks will soften most of the impact. They are out cold and more compliant. I get up and hold them apart, shielding me from the two pairs of agents. The two by Mother hesitate for a second, not wanting to hit their partners.
This gives me the time to throw a limp body at them, hard. As the throw began, Mother reaches back and starts swinging frantically to Emma's side, behind the two men. "Shoot him you morons!"
The impact knocks them off their feet and hit the floor solidly. The two over Emma are startled. They were watching Emma and froze for a second, concerned that Emma may attack them while I have their attention. I repeat my throw with the same results. Steed - 6, Mother - 1. "They don't make agents the way they use to."
Mother drops to the floor and pulls a dagger from his sleeve, holding it to the throat of Emma. I take off my bowler preparing for a throw. He moved faster than I expected.
"We are at an impasse, Mr. Steed."
"Are we? What was the meaning of the attack?" I can't use the bowler effectively, I need to get my arm back a bit more.
"Insurance for what?"
"It seems that we can no longer trust you."
"Because you decided to gas us, and I naturally defended my self?"
"You left our organization after many years, under very mysterious circumstances; retired as you said, for family business. You more or less dropped of the face of the Earth for some time. You return, just as mysteriously; waltzing in here expecting us to share information; as if nothing has happened? Surely, you don't consider yourself that trustworthy or us that gullible. Do you? How do we know you are really Steed?"
I finger the bowler. There is very little chance to debate my point. Others will come soon. It is unlikely that I can get him with the bowler, before he uses the knife.
"I would hate to have to injure the lovely Mrs. Peel. I am aware of your tricks Steed, I won't hesitate to use this dagger. Note that we were using sleeping gas, we had no intention of injuring or killing you; unless we have to."
"I have no intention of letting you kill Mrs. Peel, after all she has done for the organization."
"It is really up to you."
"What do I have to do to end this stalemate? Surrender, be gassed again, and then what?"
"I would suggest you breathe deeply, the gas is still entering the hall. You have been breathing the gas for some time. I think I can hold out longer than you can."
A possibility presents itself. "There is a way that I can convince you, who I am and that my intentions are honest and forthright; as they usually are. It would require that I slightly touch you."
"As long as the only thing I have to keep you sedate, is Mrs. Peel; I have no intention of letting you touch me. I know you are much better than I am at hand to hand combat. Even if you are the real McCoy, it doesn't mean you are still loyal. Times and loyalties change, Mr. Steed."
"So, the elimination of the Creed invasion didn't convince you that I was still fighting for Queen and Country?"
"Well it did seem a little too convenient that the Creed suddenly appeared from nowhere and Steed rushing back to remove them. It is something I would have arranged, if I was returning to gain everyone's confidence."
"Point taken. Although, it saddens me that you would think that I was behind those monstrosities. You have no idea what we went through to eliminate them, so many people were lost."
I continue. "Very well, there is another way. I need to show you something. Something I would have shared with you 'after' our transaction. May I get it out for you? Slowly, of course. They are simple playing cards."
"Slide them along the floor."
I reach inside to remove my Trump deck. I take out a Trump of myself and slide it along the floor, spinning.
He picks it up without taking his eyes off me.
"Mother, it will be important that you concentrate upon the card as if you are looking at me. I will stand back further, I have no intention of attacking you."
"Drop your bowler, first."
"Very well." I comply. "It is important that you try."
"Is this some hypnotic trick?"
"Not at all, nothing so mundane."
"The picture is a fair likeness."
"Let me know when it becomes cool to the touch, that means it will work for you."
"Have I ever lied to you before?"
"That depends on who you are."
He seriously thinks that I am an evil Steed impersonator, or the real McCoy gone bad. This is hopeless. I glance at the bottom of my deck I still have in my left hand. How is lady luck gazing upon me today? It is a Trump of Eric. I would rather surrender to Mother and take my chances with him, than ask that bastard for help. Special note to self: At next opportunity, sort through deck. Separate into two decks and have only favorable cards available. Unfavorable ones can be kept somewhere unimportant. The less used cards eventually pop up when least desired.
"Mother, you should concentrate upon the card more." I am becoming tired.
"I really don't see what the point is, Steed."
"Look; it is a communication device. I want to talk with you through that card. Listen, it has very advanced electronics in it. It is one of the items that I confiscated from other cases, working with my family."
He looks at me as though I have gone mad. Perhaps I have. He looks at the card, examining it for how it works. He looks at it from the edge, bending it. "It feels flexible, like paper; I don't feel anything like electronics in it."
"It is pasteboard, covering very advanced electronics. Designed by one of the many 'tomorrow, the world' scientists that I encountered. It contacts the person on the card, you have to focus your mind on it."
"I thank you for the gift. I will be certain to examine it and give it my full attention later."
I reach down and take a gas mask from one of the unconscious figures, and put it on. "End of stalemate. I plan to stay awake to 'discuss' this further."
"More guards will be coming soon, Steed. You are good, but you can't take on the entire organization. Even if you can, I still have Mrs. Peel. If I find myself falling unconscious, I will cut before I go. Look, if you are Steed. For what it's worth, I regret that I had to do this."
"I regret having to injure perfectly good agents, they 'are' only unconscious. As you know, there are always other options. I will give you a gas mask, so you will stay awake. As you said, you would hate to kill the lovely Mrs. Peel."
"Kick one over, then turn around."
I comply. As he puts the mask on, I tap the bowler with my foot and it flies into my hand; I tuck it behind my back in the waistband, in case I get the opportunity to use it. I turn around again "This was, of course to show you my good faith. I would still like to convince you, try the card again."
"Look, it seems to me that concentrating upon anything other than you; would be a bad move on my part."
I hear sounds in the distance, more people are coming. I only have a few minutes before they arrive. My plan was to make mind to mind contact with Mother, gently, to convince him - thoroughly. I could reach out with pure Psyche, but there would be an instant where he would be aware of an invasive presence. That would give him enough time to kill Emma 'before' I could gain control of his mind. Another dead end.
"If you are Steed, you have always been a loyal agent. Therefore, I am ordering you to surrender."
Damn, hitting me in the morals. That hurt. I hoped he wouldn't resort to that. "Very well, Mother." I hold up my hands, in the proper gentlemanly fashion. "What are your terms?"
"Take off the gas mask and inhale deeply. I promise you that neither you or Mrs. Peel will be harmed or killed. If you really are Steed and Mrs. Peel, you were my very best agents. The agency 'does' feel some loyalty to you. If you are not, this is a very convincing imposture, I would like to learn how it was done."
"Very well, Mother. I accept your terms. We are the genuine article and still loyal, believe it or not. However, if Mrs. Peel is harmed in any way - you will answer to me for it; friend or not. Understood?"
I remove my mask, put my Trumps away, and inhale several times. I feign passing out, keeping some awareness to listen and try to learn something before I actually pass out. Minutes pass and other agents arrive.
After some instructions, he calls out. "I'm still not sure Steed is unconscious. He should have inhaled enough gas. It is not safe to hypo him. We are going to have to transport them separately. That way, even if he is still awake, he will cooperate; not knowing where Mrs. Peel is." We are being moved and the last thing I hear before I drift off. "Call the village, let them know we have two to deliver."
My mind drifts, lingering over the word 'village'. What village? Darkness.
When I wake up, I find myself in a plain nondescript room. The bed is quite comfortable. The haze is clearing as I remember the last thing I heard. 'Call the village, let them know we have two to deliver.' Can it be that I am already there?
I sit up. I am already dressed, but these are not the same clothes I wore. Only a cheap copy. The bowler and brolly is nearby. None of my personal effects are with me. Everything of value was taken, they were quite thorough. The clothing, bowler, and brolly are substandard in design and quality. That is hardly cricket.
I get up and examine my new quarters. It looks ordinary enough. I learn more of my confines, by what is missing; than what is there. There are no clocks, no knobs on the television, speakers with no stereo system, and no supplies in the kitchen cabinets. The utensils are all plastic, I guess they don't want us to have any sharp objects. I locate monitoring devices. One is a sensor that opens the door, when approached. The other is a cleverly hidden camera. I can see that I will spend very little time in this flat.
The desk has writing materials, including stationary labeled: 'From the desk of No. 9'. A button is on the desk. It has a curious symbol on it. White with a black penny-farthing bicycle with a '9' on the center of the larger wheel. What does the number nine signify? Am I to believe that I have been assigned '9' as some sort of identification? If so, I don't plan to wear it. The very idea of wearing a button on a suit is plebeian!
As I mentioned, the kitchen is bare. This means they assume that I will have to get what I want and I will stock up on what is needed for a 'long' visit. That is, 'if' I plan to stay here; which I definitely do not!
I step to the door and it opens automatically. It is time to view the confines of my present environment. A sign by the door reads. 'No. 9 Residence'.
As I step outside, it is a bright sunny and comfortable day. To the left is a Cafe` and beyond is a Labour Exchange. To the right are some shops. Across the lane is an address platform, a bandstand, a cement pool, and a grassy lawn. The interesting bit about the lawn, is a chess board that is approximately ten meters square. Large enough for a person to stand in each block. An elevated platform is on both sides.
The architecture of the buildings I can see are fascinating. Beautiful and quaint; almost as if it were built by someone with a whimsical bent. It looks like the place people would go to on holiday. Hardly the type of place I was expecting to be sent. I see people walking around. I recognize some of them. I recall that some were captured, some were reported missing, and some that I thought were dead. Most are wearing those wretched buttons. This must be spy hell.
I decide it is time for tea, then I will search for Emma. My mouth is dry after that sleeping gas. I stroll over to the cafe`. It has an outdoor dining area; tables with umbrellas. I find a table to my liking, with a lovely view of the bandstand, a large building with a green dome, and a bell tower in the distance.
Since I stepped outside, I have heard the music from the bandstand. Most of the selections are German compositions.; that of 'oompah' bands. Charming but tedious after awhile.
A waiter comes out wearing a black and white striped shirt and black slacks. Horizontal stripes with one of those buttons, No. 73. Oh please! Where are the fashion police? "My good man, who is in charge here?"
"No. 2, of course."
"Where may I find him?"
"No. 2 will find you."
"He is probably a busy man. I would like a cup of tea. Unfortunately, my pockets are empty."
"You 'are' new here, everything is taken care of." He marches off, like this is a common occurrence. Soon, he returns with a cup of tea. "Will you require anything else, No. 9?"
"Thank you, no." What a wretched way to be identified, I am uncertain how he knew I was given No. 9. I drop in three sugar cubes and stir anti-clockwise. Sipping gingerly, I nearly gag. This is positively awful! It is some generic herbal blend, probably caffeine free. Hardly what would be classified as tea by any civilized nation, probably violating several Geneva conventions.
If their tea is like this, I am afraid to speculate on their wines. Some things are better left unasked. Suffice it to say that this is intolerable! I am getting out of here! I leave the cup behind. A cart nearby, has bottles of various beverages: sodas and bottled water. I see the waiter and get his attention, pointing to the cart. He nods. I take a bottle of water. All labels are simple and generic. I drink the water to cleanse the palate of that vile brew. It does the job and also replenishes bodily fluids. I place the empty bottle in a container marked 'For Plastic Recyclables - Do Your Part To Keep Your Village Clean'.
As the waiter goes inside, he says. "Be seeing, you." He gestures with a salute by making a circle with forefinger and thumb, looking through the circle. It gives the impression of being watched. By him and others?
I have noticed that it is unnaturally clean here, 'everything' shines. Not even a piece of paper to litter the landscape. I am tempted to drop something, to see if an army of janitors arrive to pick it up.
Time for a walk to investigate the confines of this village. What are the boundaries of this gilded Bastille? Where are the warders and how do they keep track of the prisoners? One question at a time, old boy. Getting some morning air sounds splendid. Regardless of appearances, this 'is' a jail. The warders are hiding, wandering around among us, and observing us through monitors. Of that I am certain. There must be monitors everywhere, cameras and microphones everywhere. An expensive set up, but the most efficient way to run things. It feeds the rampant paranoia that agents already possess.
Coming up the lane is a familiar friendly face. "Mrs. Peel, how wonderful to see you! Any idea where we are?" She is not wearing her leathers, just a simple knock off outfit; something she would not normally wear.
"They call it the Village."
"I gathered that, from Mother. A quaint place, but their tea leaves much to be desired."
"Everyone addresses each other by number. What number did they give you?"
"I think I should be insulted, I am No. 72."
"My dear, I am insulted for you! The waiter was No. 73. I consider you infinitely more important than him, he can't even serve a decent cup of tea. We 'must' speak to No. 2 about this gross miscarriage of justice. By the way, did they leave you anything of value?"
"Nothing, but these rags. At least they left you with a replica of your clothes."
"A semblance yes; but shoddy workmanship. Look at the sleeves, they are too short. Their tailor should be shot. No, thrown from that bell tower. Well, never mind that now; adapt and survive. Let's see if we can find a way out of here, this is a vacation spot that I won't recommend to my travel agency."
"Let's investigate the boundaries and look for weaknesses. My preference is to just disappear into the Shadows, if that is possible." That is exactly my intention. Find a suitable area, bring up the Pattern, and shift our way out of this place. I would like to retrieve our possessions first, retrieve the Bentley, pick up our clothing at the tailor, and head for Chaos. It will leave Mother with another disappearance, serves him right. The blighter should have known better than to put us here, in these rags.
"Steed, do be aware that they have something here called 'Rover'. It guards the boundaries."
"How cute. What is it? A dog or a machine?"
"From what I heard, it's a giant beach ball."
"Sounds like bad science fiction. A beach ball, indeed! That explains why there are no knives in the kitchen." I could still use my brolly. "Have you seen how they monitor us?"
"There are cameras everywhere."
"As I surmised, then we are currently under surveillance as we speak."
"Thank you for confirming my suspicions, my dear. I can't wait to 'miss' this place."
I plan to make sure that Mrs. Peel is the real McCoy and not a replacement, before I try to use the Pattern to make our escape. I can use mind to mind contact, the way we did during Trump contact. If she is a replacement, I will know for certain; and I don't want to give anything away until it is time. If it is a trick, I wouldn't want to let the warders know I have figured it out. I want to leave here with the real Emma.
"They 'do' expect us to make a few escape attempts, everyone does."
"I will try 'not' to disappoint them."
"I didn't think we would." Her classic smirk.
"I hope that one attempt is sufficient. I don't want to be late for our party. Let's reconnoiter and see if someone blocks our progress. Is there anything else you learned?"
"Well, the place is an island. Noteworthy features: a giant chess board using human pieces, a stone boat on the beach, and the village is surrounded by water, mountains, and woods. They have a charming retirement community and an even more charming cemetery. The stores are very accommodating and provided a map of the village." She shows me her one possession. "They even have phones and taxis, but they only work within the village."
"Mrs. Peel! I am impressed with your investigation. That is only one of the 'many' reasons I couldn't let Mother kill you. When we have time and have some privacy, I will let you know how things went with Mother."
"I can 'guess' how it went, Steed." In her dour voice, she motions to our surroundings.
"I 'do' deeply regret bringing you into this. Mother was not overly cooperative, he thought we had defected. And I thought we had more clout than that. Oh well, things change." I try to look deeply hurt. After reviewing the map, we take the path past my apartment, past the shop, and continue along due west.
We hear a phone ring and a voice calls out. "Phone call for Nos. 9 and 72."
"Since they have been observing us, they heard our plan. They are ready to talk to us now. I am curious who No. 2 is and where our possessions are. The sooner we talk to No. 2, the sooner we can bid a fond farewell to this spy's retirement paradise."
She smiles broadly and hands me the phone.
"Thank you, my dear." To the phone. "Yes."
"No. 9? This is No. 2. I hear that you wish to speak to me."
"Yes, we wanted to find out why we are here."
"Why are any of us here?"
"Not in the metaphysical sense. Why are we here in the Village?" Wonderful, our warder is a smart ass; just like any other 'tomorrow the world' megalomaniac. How gauche.
"People who come here either know something they shouldn't, or don't know what they should."
"I see. Does this mean we can leave when we either forget something or learn something?" I like to tweak noses.
"You are here for the rest of your lives, No. 9. Learn to enjoy it."
"I see." I shall do no such thing, you pompous twit.
"The sooner you accept that, the smoother things will go for you."
"Well, in that case; things may be more enjoyable around here, if you served a better quality tea. There should be a rule against serving generic, herbal, and decaffeinated 'swill' to prisoners."
"I will see what I can do, No. 9."
"And don't even get me started on these clothes. I would also like a face to face discussion. Phones are so impersonal."
"Certainly, No. 9."
"Where do I find you."
"I am in the green dome. A taxi will bring you to me." A taxi arrives before he can finish.
I hang up the phone. "Let's humor them, we are expected to stay here for the rest of our lives." We get in the back of the taxi. It looks like a golf cart with a striped canvas awning. We reach the green door in less than a minute. A walk would have taken less effort.
As we get out of the taxi, the driver gestures and says. "Be seeing you."
"Perhaps, old boy. Perhaps." We walk to the door. A sign on the door reads. 'No. 2 Residence'. The door opens as we approach, inside is a waiting area. On the other side of the waiting area is a large set of steel double doors. Very secure and imposing. They open as we approach.
There is a ramp leading down to an expansive room, with high walls and swirling lights; very dramatic. A large ball blocks a table covered with phones and computer terminals. The ball revolves; it is a chair with a large hole in front and black interior. Also, someone is in it. It must be No. 2, but who is it? Emma shares my curiosity. She crosses her arms, as we stand at the top of the ramp. After all, we haven't been asked to enter yet. These things 'must' be done properly.
I lean on my umbrella, the shoddy version. I hope it doesn't bend, that would be embarrassing. As flimsy as it is, I could still drive it 'through' someone. It has been quite awhile, since I have served 'shish kebob'. I may start with No. 2.
Well. Let's have a better look at the warder.