Author's Note: Missing scene from "The Female of the Species", between the climactic 'fight' and the following morning. I'm adapting Drummond's character slightly because, well, I can.
SHADES OF PALE
The common observation – and misconception - about Captain Hugh Drummond from people meeting him the first time was that he was a gentle (if slightly intimidating) giant. They would be greeted with the sight of a large man, hands nearly the size of their heads and shoulders that conveyed an aura of power. His face, whilst unremarkable, would appear pleasant and sometimes a little slow. But those in the know would be quick to point out that he was not a man to mess with; the large hands were capable of snapping a neck in the blink of an eye, and the intelligent mind behind the façade worked at a speed with which few people could keep up. His senses were keen and he could discern danger five minutes before anyone else, and when he didn't want to be heard no one would even know he was there. His tenacity was legend amongst those that had fought with and against him and "Bulldog" was the sobriquet he'd earned which had struck fear in many on the battlefields and became a common curse amongst the criminal underground of London.
Even years after his training he still kept his instincts honed and ready, thanks to his run-ins with various criminals (much to the chagrin of Sir Bryan Johnstone, Commissioner of the Police) and tonight was no different as he made his way stealthily along the pavement towards his home. The fact he was covered head to toe in black dye only served to aid him as he ducked down the small alleyway and entered through the back door, left open a crack by his faithful manservant Denny. He knew his wife was waiting for him, having been brought back earlier by Denny under Drummond's instructions, but he didn't want her seeing him in his current state. The get-up was one he'd donned for her dramatic rescue and he felt she had enough bad memories to keep her going for a while without another reminder of what was very nearly the end of both of them.
It only went to show his skill that he managed to get into the shower, change and freshen up before returning downstairs without either Phyllis or Denny knowing he was even in the house, despite the fact that both of them were expecting him. Denny had retired to the kitchen, brewing tea and toast in case either of them were hungry, and Phyllis was in the front room curled in the wingback armchair by the low fire, staring into the flames. She didn't notice his entrance until he was almost next to the chair and had to remind himself to make a deliberate noise to catch her attention. Her head came up immediately and when she focused on him he had barely time to think before she flung herself at him with a cry of relief.
He caught her easily, cradling her slight body against his as she clung to his broad shoulders, nestling her head in the crook of his neck. They were silent for a moment, and he realised that whilst he'd been filling their days apart with riddle-solving and chasing clues round the countryside, she'd been captured and kept alone in a single room with very little to take her mind off her situation. She spoke easily, but the underlying tone spoke volumes of the fact that she had thought for a while that she wasn't going to see him again.
"You have no idea how pleased I am to see your beautiful face again," she told him, her words slightly muffled by his shoulder, and he marvelled how she could joke after her ordeal.
"I know the mad old bat liked to mess with people's heads, little girl, but are you sure she didn't do something to your sight?" he replied, making an effort to keep the tone as light as her.
"Darling boy," she murmured affectionately, pressing a kiss to the exposed skin above his collar. "You do have this alarming propensity to bounce back time and time again."
"Cats have nothing on me," he declared proudly, "I've taught them all I know."
She let out a sound that was suspiciously like a giggle, and he tightened his hold on her. "I don't know about you but the bed has taken on a rather dictatorial tone and is ordering us upstairs. Tomorrow marks the induction of Mr Joseph Dixon into the Ancient Order of the Froth Blowers, but for now I would rather like to close my eyes for five minutes and forget everything."
Phyllis was apparently of the same mind, as she willingly allowed him to lift her into his arms and carry her upstairs, a fleeting comment to Denny indicating their stance on late-night callers as they retired for the night.
Drummond lay in the dark, his eyes on the ceiling but his mind elsewhere. Phyllis lay beside him, the ebb of her adrenaline rush marked by a small amount of tears and a quick surrender to the tiredness he'd noticed around her eyes the previous evening. He never needed much sleep anyway, but the adrenaline was still coursing through his system and he was taking the opportunity to plan ahead. Irma was still out there somewhere and he wasn't going to let her use Phyllis as leverage again. He enjoyed games of cat and mouse, but she'd made a mistake by trying the age-old 'eye for an eye' equaliser and Drummond was damned if he were going to let the games involve Phyllis.
A line from the first letter Irma had sent came back to him – one from the Kipling poem – and he realised it was true for both women. "For the female of the species is more deadly than the male." Irma was deadly in her devotion to the dead figure of Carl Peterson, a devotion which bordered on obsession of the mad. She'd created a torture chamber to fulfil her desire to avenge Peterson and there had been a point at which everyone had felt the very real approach of death. Even Joe Dixon had commented on how it had finally struck him that they were in a room with a serial killer and he'd thought the people around him were the very last he'd see.
But Phyllis had proved just how dangerous she could be when she feared for her life. Drummond hadn't forgotten how Peter Darrell described the blood in the limousine that had been found abandoned further up the road from his Bentley. Irma herself had expressed something close to admiration when commenting on how Phyllis had killed her right-hand man. Drummond had always hoped Phyllis would never have to make a decision like that; had always hoped that he would be there to protect her and do the killing for her if absolutely necessary. But there was a very small part of him that was proud of her for finding the strength to protect herself, and for coming out of such a fight with her opponent completely taken out.
She had proved her strength time and time again, in her own quiet way. Whenever she was faced with situations in which there appeared to be no hope, she took them with a calm determination and resignation. She knew her limits, and in a room full of strong men with guns she wouldn't be able to take a step before being brought down. Dixon had described how dignified she'd been when he was first captured and she was woken and brought down to identify him. Even when she'd been strapped to the sacrificial stone and the men had watched her turn multiple shades of pale, she'd not made a fuss. Drummond had itched to go over and reveal himself to reassure her, but he'd had the plan and he intended to see it through right to the very end. Even now he refused to think of what could have happened if it hadn't gone as planned.
Phyllis murmured something and shifted beside him and he turned his head to see her blinking sleepily at him. "Hugh?" she questioned, and he tugged the blankets further over them in an effort to keep her warm. The late summer night wasn't cold by any means but the temperature had dropped and there was no adrenaline to keep her going.
"Go back to sleep, girl-of-mine," he replied, and she sank back into unconsciousness without even moving. Her subconscious desire to know he was there had been satisfied, and from that small moment Drummond's determination to stay by her side was cemented. He only required a couple of hours of sleep and he spent most of the night thinking and planning, but even when the dawn broke and movement downstairs alerted him to Denny's presence he stayed where he was until Phyllis was finally roused from her restful state. Her pale face alerted him to the fact she hadn't got over what had happened, and after their lunch with the gang – more affectionately known as the Froth Blowers – he would take her away for a quiet afternoon in the countryside.
The female of the species may well be more deadly than the male, but now and then she still needs her man.
Author's Note: I'm not so sure of the characters in this, and I had to stop myself from reverting back to writing slightly altered versions of Paul and Steve from Paul Temple, but I think I'm getting there. It's quite similar to some of my other work but it's something that's been bouncing round my head for a while and I needed to get it out before it drove me crazy...