Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are Mark-1 Productions Ltd
and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Written in response to the 'Villains' Combi Challenge.
Colonel Jeremy Sangster from It's Only A Beautiful Picture, killer dog and garden

The Landlady's Tale

I was tucked up cosily in an armchair, alternating between my book and watching the birds feeding outside in my small garden, when I heard a door bang and a moment later the furious ringing of the bell on the bar. Sighing, I abandoned my peace and quiet and went through to see what the fuss was.
         In the bar was that nice Mr Bodie who'd been staying here and that new policeman he'd struck up such a friendship with. That was my doing; I'd suggested they pal up since they were both strangers here.
         "Betty, make up my bill, I'm off!" Mr Bodie said this with an expression of glee on his face. Well, I could hardly blame him, it's not very exciting down here and he'd already stayed longer than most salesmen we get passing through.
         "Yeah, he's free to go," Sergeant Doyle said and he laughed inordinately; the words seeming to strike him as particularly funny.
         "Ha, bloody ha, Doyle and whose fault is it I was detained in the first place? You were too busy hobnobbing with those police buddies of yours."
         "Not my fault if you look like a shady character, mate,"
         Mr Bodie glared at the other man but didn't seem inclined to pursue the conversation. He moved to the door leading to the stairs. "I'm going to get my stuff and then we can blow this village." He disappeared and I heard him clattering up the stairs.
         "We?" I turned to the other man. "You're going too then?"
         To my surprise he looked slightly shamefaced and offered up a crooked smile. "Yeah, well you see, we're not quite what we appear."
         This was getting more confusing but also intriguing. I had picked up my notepad to begin totting up Mr Bodie's bill but instead of doing that I looked at him. "Really? Tell me more."
         All the time he'd been here, Sergeant Doyle had been friendly enough, to me and to the other bar staff, but always irreverent and acerbic in his observations, especially about his colleagues and superiors at the station. I thought he must be bored after the bright lights of London. It had crossed my mind that he might not be a very good policeman but that was none of my business really. It wasn't as if we had much crime around here.
         Instead of telling me what he and Mr Bodie really were, his next words seemed to be at a complete tangent.
         “Look, I don't mean to be nosey but...what's your stake in this place? Do you have money in it?”
         Entertaining he might be but this was going too far and I opened my mouth to tell him so, but he forestalled me.
         “Colonel Sangster was arrested this afternoon.”
         I gaped at him. “The Colonel, arrested? Whatever for?”
         I don't know what I expected as an answer. I'd probably have been equally surprised by anything from a backlog of parking tickets to murder. The Colonel could often be heard sounding off about what he'd like to do to the occasional young vandal or hooligan that crossed his path. To hear him speak, you'd think that anybody who bent, let alone broke, the law should be clapped in irons. Didn't stop him turning a blind eye to that Sam Armitage who works for him. I thought guiltily of the new camera sitting on the small table by the window of my sitting room just waiting to be snatched up to catch a shot of the more unusual birds that came to feed. I know I shouldn't have bought it but I'd never be able to afford such a good one myself. I had persuaded myself Armitage was telling the truth when he said he was selling it on behalf of the Colonel. But then what would the Colonel need with the odd fifty pounds here and there?
         “Art theft mainly,” Sergeant Doyle said. “But we can throw in smuggling and probably make a charge of conspiracy to murder stick as well.” He grinned momentarily at my expression. “So I was just wondering how you were fixed here. Is he the landlord?”
         His voice and expression were softer, more concerned than I usually heard from him. He seemed more...intelligent than I'd previously thought. With his hint that the two of them weren't what they seemed and this change in personality I was suddenly unsure I knew anything about them at all. A wild thought struck me, was he even a policeman? And even if he was, what did that make Mr Bodie who was clearly working with him in some way? Not quite the strangers I thought they were, that's for sure.. I wondered if I should be angry at being lied to but I put the thought aside for now and tried to collect my wits to answer him.
         “He owns the land, this pub, yes, but the licence is in my name.” Then as the point of his question sunk in; “What do you think will happen? Will I be able to stay here, stay open?”
         Mr Doyle shrugged. “I dunno, love. Don't see why not though. We haven't taken to stripping a bloke's assets just because he's banged up.” Then quietly but more viciously; “More's the pity in some cases.”
         I was going to ask him what he meant but just then Mr Bodie came back into the bar, bag in hand, and I quickly totted up his bill, tore the slip out of the book and handed it to him. “There you go, don't want to hold you up, I can see you're keen to be on your way.”
         “Can't wait,” he replied, a big grin all over his face. Then realising his enthusiasm might be less than tactful, he said quickly. “Not that it hasn't been great here. All those cream teas were brilliant.”
         I shook my head at him. “Get on with you. You want to get home and why not. As long as everything was all right for you.” Although I meant that sincerely, it was also bit automatic. It was dawning on me that these two men had been here for reasons other than stated and the condition of the room or the quality of the dinner wouldn't have mattered much to them one way or another.
         “Oh yeah, everything was great, thanks Betty.” His words were said absently as he scanned his bill. “Blimey, I had a few more drinks than I realised. Oh well, Cowley should be so pleased we didn't lose his precious Strayton Four that'll he sign any chit.”
         “Yeah, you hope.” Mr Doyle said. Then as Mr Bodie continued to look at his bill; “Will you come on? I thought you wanted to be out of here. Much longer and we'll hit what passes for rush hour around here.”
         I eyed him suspiciously and he wouldn't quite meet my gaze but a smile quirked around his lips nevertheless. Unless I missed my guess, Mr Doyle had persuaded Doreen, my barmaid, to put his round of drinks on Mr Bodie's tab on more than one occasion.
         “OK, OK, I'm coming.” Mr Bodie scrawled a cheque and passed it across the bar to me. He picked up his bag then caught me by surprise as he leant across the bar and gave me a smacker of a kiss on my cheek. “See you, Betty!” Then he was gone, all exuberance, just like a schoolboy at the end of term, delighted to finally have his freedom.
         Mr Doyle grinned, winked at me, said; "Look after yourself, Betty," and was gone after his friend. A moment later I heard the screech of tyres and saw a flash of red as the estate car pulled out of the car park, followed swiftly by the roar of a powerful motorbike.
         Suddenly the place was very quiet.

I made my customary inspection of the bar. Making sure the ashtrays were all clean and out on the tables, that none of the barrels needed changing and so forth but all the time I was running over the things Mr Doyle had said. No more Colonel Sangster laying down the law. The law as he saw it anyway. That would take a bit of getting used to.
         Then I didn't have any more time for contemplation as the bar filled up with all the regulars. We were full much earlier than usual and there was only one topic of conversation. I kept hearing snatches of talk as I served drinks and collected glasses.
         "No more reading the lesson for our Colonel then." That was Bert Jones, our church warden. He'd never liked the Colonel and had resented his prominence in church matters.
         "At least that awful dog won't be worrying any more sheep. I had two dead ones only last week." Pete Bailey, one of our local farmers.
         "Apparently the police found a Picasso and a Monet in his study."
         "Millions and millions they were selling them for."
         "Gold goblets, the lot, they found up there, at the manor."
         "Secret agents sorted him out. You know, like that James Bond bloke."
         The stories only grew in the telling; I didn't know what to believe. Mention of secret agents made me wonder though. Was that what Mr Doyle had been hinting at? They'd both seemed so nice, so ordinary.
         The pub was so busy the evening flew by and it was closing time before I knew it. The place was slow to empty and I had to call time frequently and insistently before the last of the customers was gone and I could lock up. One wag wondered why I was bothered since the police would all be otherwise occupied.
         I poured myself a glass of wine and wandered through to my small sitting room at the back of the pub. I sat in my armchair and looked out across the garden. Too dark to see anything now but in daylight I had a lovely, picturesque view across the river. I could even see the manor house where the Colonel and his strange associates lived. Had lived, I corrected myself. I could see the house quite clearly, it was ablaze with lights. The police, presumably, still searching for more treasures. Or bodies. The thought made me shiver, it all seemed so unreal. But Mr Doyle had implied the Colonel had had people murdered. Mind you, I wouldn't put anything past that Sam Armitage and his dog. A killer that dog was if ever I saw one.. And that Mr Tibbs. A gentleman he appeared to be, on the surface, but I never took to him. Something in the eyes, no warmth there at all, even when he was smiling.
         The talk in the pub was that they had all been arrested. All except that Miss Gresham, Sarah, I think her name was. Apparently she got away. She was a stuck up madam. Never had anything to do with us in the village, didn't even do her shopping here. We only saw her Sundays in church and if she did speak she was clearly looking down her nose at us.
         The Colonel was patronising, true, but he at least had the excuse of being upteenth generation lord of the manor. Not that it made it any easier to take his arrogance. I never liked it when he strode into the pub as if he owned the place. Well all right, so he did own it, but I run it and I run it well. He should respect that. Still, he won't be able to lord it over anybody where he's going now. If they really charge him with murder, he won't be back here for years and that's if he dares show his face again when they do let him out.
         I drained my glass and made my way up to bed wondering what fresh revelations the next day would bring.
         As I drifted off to sleep a thought struck me. I wonder if the brewery would allow me to change the name of the pub? After all, they wouldn't want the bad publicity that went with the Sangster name, would they?
         The Marlow Inn, maybe. Now that has a nice ring to it.

© Sue Tier 2005