"Are you quite mad?"
The expostulation was followed by a dangerous quiet. "I would remind you of your rank and that it is your superior you are talking to!" snapped Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
"I'm sorry, Sir."
Harry Sullivan watched as his commanding officer rose from the desk and walked to the window that overlooked the parade ground. Sullivan stared at his khaki-clad back, then his eyes moved to the desk top, primarily the blotter.
"Sullivan," the Brigadier continued, his tone softening, "...I do understand how you feel-"
"IT JUST ISN'T POSSIBLE SIR!"
The stiff figure at the window turned back, but before he could utter another word his medical officer continued.
"Sarah and me, we've seen a fair few outlandish, horrific things. Things no one else in the world has seen and if she can take that, what would faze her? Sarah was and is a game girl and I just don't believe it!"
Sighing, Lethbridge-Stewart returned to his seat, placing his hands on the back of it to face his subordinate.
"Sarah Jane Smith is a valued member of this organisation and I believe in her . . . "
Doctor Harry Sullivan R.N. frowned as his superior continued,
"...and that is precisely why I wish you to visit her."
Harry regained his composure and saw the Brigadier's side.
"You think there may be something amiss sir?" he asked, with a growing understanding of the pressures of command.
The ramrod-straight figure of his C.O. lowered himself into his chair. "I do, Sullivan. Aside from our personal feelings toward Miss Smith, she knows things about this organisation AND our esteemed Scientific Adviser..."
"Then why," Harry countered, "...is she in a private...(he couldn't bring himself to use the term asylum) establishment?"
"Because Sullivan, she attacked a police constable in the course of his duties!"
Harry bit-back his reply which could have seen him put on a charge.
"Were there any witnesses to this?"
Lethbridge-Stewart's moustache twitched. He knew exactly what had gone through his subordinate's mind.
"I'm afraid there were," he sighed, "...many."
Unable to sit still any longer, Harry scraped his chair back. He rose and paced to the far wall to lean on the uniform, green filing cabinets. Harry Sullivan looked out of place, but then again it was hard to say where he would look at home apart from within the pages of a boy's adventure yarn from the thirties or forties. He was tall, wearing a brass-buttoned navy blazer over an open-necked shirt and neckerchief and had the rugged features and long sideburns of many an ex-naval man. He looked out of place nearly everywhere!
The Doctor decided against crossing his ankles, he didn't feel that casual under the circumstances but asked, "Have any measures been taken to remove her to one of our establishments? The Glasshouse, for example?"
"Wheels are in motion, Sullivan. Wheels are in motion, " Lethbridge-Stewart assured him, "...but as Miss Smith's knowledge of this operation is so varied, I want you down there as soon as possible."
The gun-metal sky had been threatening all day, and the heavy cloud cover had made it airless, hot and muggy. From the prematurely dark sky, a rumble of thunder heralded the first fat, greasy drops of rain. Each one hit the ground with extreme predjudice, an audible splat every time and soon the pavement was as dotted as a Dalmation!
Chiswick Street was deserted of people, only ranks of dormant cars lining its sides. Then, a lone figure in a colourful summer dress appeared around the corner and began to tear up the avenue.
The brunette clamped a broad-brimmed straw hat to her head as she ran, urging herself onwards as her wedges clip-clopped on the pavement like hooves. Her outfit seemed in defiance of the elements, but the day hadn't started so dreadfully and the oppressive heat made her raincoat an extremely uncomfortable proposition!
"Come on, come on!" she urged herself as she hurried up the street, desperate to get to her Triumph before the rain attacked in earnest!
Sarah Jane Smith knew her Spitfire was along here somewhere but it was so low-slung she couldn't make it out among the other cars.
Suddenly she could see it on the curve up ahead and upped her speed in the unsuitable footwear, but nearly went flying as she tripped over a pair of legs that extended from a doorway to her right.
"OOW! Blood and sand!"
Sarah managed to hop and skip on without falling but staggered to a halt and turned back to the human obstacle. The rain began to fall evenly now but despite grimacing up into the clouds, she wasn't one who could happily walk by on the other side.
"Hello? Hello, are you all right?"
He was somewhere in his forties or fifties, it was hard to tell under all the grime and facial hair and his holed, threadbare jacket and trousers were the depressing uniform of the long-term homeless. Strings of greasy brown hair clung to his forehead and features and he grunted as his eyes flickered and he stared up at her.
"Look, I'm sorry - I'm in a bit of a rush," then, with a twinge of guilt,"...I've got to get out of this rain..." She fumbled in her purse and handed him a five pound note, shoving it into his grubby hand and turning into the downpour with a swirl of her now-damp dress.
"Thank you, Miss Smith."
Sarah froze to the spot at the croaked reply and turned-back to the doorway...
It was fair to say that Harry would have unashamedly described himself as happy-go-lucky, despite the Hollywood musical connotations. He'd certainly never tap danced on roller-skates or enthused others to put on a show in a barn, but was generally content with his lot. Indeed, the throaty burble of his MG usually was enough to put a smile on his face but not today.
Staring at the gates of the level crossing he dabbed at the throttle eliciting a crackling roar but it was more just impatience on his part than for the pleasure of the sound. For once, he was deaf to it.
Harry had breakfasted on his usual scrambled eggs on toast and, after a shower and shave, had dressed in a sober grey suit and trousers with a blue tie around his neck.
He stared at his reflection and saw a stranger. Would Sarah see a stranger too? He tore the tie from his throat and was soon back in the outfit she would certainly better recognise him in: blazer, flannels and neckerchief.