– SHORT STORY (PART 1) –
Last year I submitted two short stories featuring Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart from Doctor Who to the South Wales short story competition. One of them, Soldier in Time has been published in the Lethbridge-Stewart Short Story Collection available to buy now from Candy Jar Books priced £8.99. The story below wasn’t selected for the book but maybe you’ll like it anyway.
It’s the late 60’sand Lethbridge Stewart is under cover, working the British wrestling circuit to try and discover what happened to a leading secret under agent.
Lethbridge Stewart – Wrestling with Shadows by Martin Gregory
The spotlight shone on the curtain as it parted. The imposing khaki-clad figure stepped out, clearing a path through the crowd as he strode toward the ring. A small man in a dinner suit addressed the crowd via an unwieldy microphone suspended from the ceiling. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, led by his valet Miss Anne, the unstoppable soldier, the butcher in a beret, he is The Colonel!”
Ten minutes later The Colonel delivered his trademark short clothesline with devastating ferocity and Silky Sam went down like a ton of bricks – dropped from a height! “Ooh!” said the crowd before The Colonel dropped his elbow on the crowd favourite. Showing the maximum sign of disrespect, he didn’t even hook his opponent’s leg as he made the pin. “One! Two! Three!” Some of them cheered. But not many. Most booed and threw things as Miss Anne scooped up her beaten, battered but victorious man and practically dragged him away.
On the other side of the curtain, Lethbridge-Stewart straightened and began to wipe the sweat from his chest and back with a large white towel. Various wrestlers and referees were milling about, crowding the small backstage space. Pipes ran along the bare brick walls and criss-crossed under the low ceiling. The whole place stank of DeepW Heat and urine.
The moment she arrived backstage Anne Travers slipped on a thick robe. “This is absolutely ridiculous!” she said as two extremely fat men in leotards walked by.
Lethbridge-Stewart guided her into the tiny cubicle that passed as their dressing room. “We’re not going to go through this again are we Miss Travers?” he sighed.
“I just don’t see how this is getting us any closer. I’m sorry.”
Lethbridge-Stewart started to button on a shirt. “Just a little longer.”
“You’ve been saying that for eight weeks! I’m tired of this ridiculous dress. And these crowds seem to be getting angrier.”
“Quite right Miss Travers they’re starting to really hate you.” A stocky man in a bright white suit and red shirt stood at the entrance of the cubicle. He looked like a stoat in a dinner suit. He was flanked either side by two ginger-haired giants with orange beards. “Excellent, excellent,” Jeremy Malacroix said clapping his hands between cigar puffs.
“I’m glad you’re ‘appy, Mr. M.”
Anne always had to suppress a giggle whenever she heard her colleague put on that cockney accent. She coughed and waved her hand to clear the cloud of cigar smoke that had wafted in her direction.
“Now then how much does uncle Jeremy owe you? Let’s see, the takings are,” Malacroix made an exaggerated show of doing sums in his head before pulling a thick wedge of notes from the inside of his jacket. “Come here my boy.”
Lethbridge-Stewart wore his very best poker face and put out his hand. He’d played this game before. The slippery promoter was watching his face, waiting for any sign of approval, that he was happy with the amount in his hand. As soon as Malacroix spotted it, he’d stop counting. The longer the cash counting continued, the slower it became. “There,” he said putting the barely damaged wedge back into his pocket. “That’s enough for both of you but there’ll be more for you next week.”
Anne and Lethbridg-Stewart exchanged a glance.
“That’s right. I want you in the ring with Koen…Koen”
“Koenraad?”he offered, trying not to show his amusement.
Aghast, Anne looked from one to the other. “But he’s twenty-six stone!”
Malacroix let out a hearty belly laugh. “I know! I know! Here’s how it’s going to work. Ko-Koen…The German, he’s gonna cream ya. Boom!” He acted out some wrestling moves, “everyone’ll be goin’ mental, it’s gonna be great! Then Andy, the Submission Machine is gonna come in, save you from a beating and that’ll lead into the following week’s match.” He was hopping from one foot to the other with excitement “Then the week after that maybe you and Andy can make a tag team against the monster. You like that? How does that sound? Sounds great doesn’t it? Anne, sounds great doesn’t it? I knew you’d love it!” He slapped his thigh and turned away to pay the next man.
“Just one thing, Mr Malacroix.”
Slowly, the little man turned and removed the cigar from his lip. “Yes,” he said in a less friendly tone.
Trying to straddle the middle vocal ground between intimidated and threatening, Lethbridge-Stewart said “Tony was dropped on ‘is head the other week. By Koenraad.”
“What about it?”
“Just a bit concerned. Tony was down for weeks after and now his memory’s a bit funny. Told me the other day he can’t remember the names of his mum or dad.”
Malacroix’s associates took a threatening step closer. “That was an accident. One time only. Tony wasn’t being careful.”
“I know, it’s just, well, I got to rely on my body to make a living.”
Now it was Malacroix’s turn to take a threatening step toward him. “You making trouble? You telling me one of my boys is taking liberties?” He puffed on the cigar and blew smoke into his face. “That man’s my star attraction. So, if you think you’re gonna stir up-”
“No, no. I was, I was just thinking.”
“You’re not paid to think.”
With the curtain pulled across the cubicle allowing her a small degree of privacy, Anne began extracting herself from the low cut sequinned dress she hated so much. It went against all her feminist principles but acting as The Brigadier’s manageress-come-valet was the only way of inveigling her into this world of sweat, socks and blood.
Lethbridge-Stewart was just thinking how good at this wrestling stuff he was getting when an mountain of a man hoved into view before him. A set of large teeth set into a friendly rictus-like grin bore down on him. A foot-like hand came down on Lethbridige-Stewart’s shoulder. “We have a good match next week, yes?” Koenraad asked in broken English.
Lethbridge-Stewart nodded. “Looking forward to it, old chap.”
The giant displayed more of those large teeth. “Good! Good!” he thundered jovially, “we make crowd explode!”
Anne came out of the cubicle wearing her much preferred trousers and jumper. “Was that Koenraad I heard? He sounded very jolly.”
“Yes,” he said thoughtfully.
“Means he either really rather enjoys hurting people or… What if he’s on to us?”
“Then that monster is going to drop me on my head, just like he did to Captain Anthony Carruthers.”
“And then you’ll be an amnesiac just like him!”
He smiled. “I’m sure it won’t come to that.”
“And you think Malacroix’s in on it?”
Lethbridge-Stewart watched the eel-like promoter counting money into the hand of a muscle-bound Japanese wrestler. Having read a sign of satisfaction in the man’s face he abruptly stopped counting and, with his entourage, wandered away. “I’d be surprised if Malacroix didn’t know everything that’s going on around here.”
Part Two of this story will appear here on 22nd August.
In the meantime limited the limited edition book featuring my story, Soldier in Time is available exclusively from the Candy Jar website celebrating 50 years of the long running character, Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart from the classic series of Doctor Who and the much-loved Sarah Jane Adventures. £1.50 from each book goes to support the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.