A New Book! “The Extravengers”
Here it is, boys and girls! This is the long awaited – by me, anyway – definitive spankophile’s fan fiction homage to Emma Peel and John Steed. They have been oh so cleverly and judiciously renamed Ella Teal and Jon Reed, but you and I and the fence post know about whom we’re talking. About.
So put on your miniskirts, your go-go boots, your bell bottom jeans, and your zip-up, pointy-toed Beatle boots straight from Carnaby Street–or your six-button Pierre Cardin worsted suit with shoes and bowler in coordinated colors, if you really want to get into it — and join me on a trip to a place that time forgot, and that memory and longing serve only to improve.
Click to find The Extravengers on Amazon. Barnes & Noble’s should be up soon.
Here is the sales blurb for the book, followed by the first chapter.
With all my love,
(Many thanks to Amanda Bonner for the photo and cover design!)
A half-century ago, The Avengers TV show blazed across the Atlantic and into the heart and mind of a very young Devlin O’Neill. Now he presents his extravagant homage to this classic programme and its iconic characters.
The scene has shifted to Neverwasnia, O’Neill’s vast and magical private world, where his players are able to live out their fantasy roles, guided by the stern hand of an expert spankophile and master storyteller.
Jon Reed and Ella Teal, the dedicated professional and the talented amateur, are back, in dazzling black and white and living colour. They take up where they left off fifty-some years ago, as once more a dastardly mastermind appears to challenge the pair’s calmly superlative and ultra-British skill and aplomb.
The smoothly wicked arch-villain in this latest epic performs at his fiendish worst, abducting young, comely women from the very Ministry that employs our heroes, and Reed and Teal must again put themselves in harm’s way in order to save the country from evildoers. Shockingly, Ella’s bum is the primary target of this handsome scoundrel’s nefariousness, which leaves our Mrs. Teal wide-eyed with amazement, as well as anticipation.
Come with us now to the sparkling clear landscapes and foggy, frightful moors of far off, but oh so close, Neverwasnia, and read a tale you thought never could be told.
Mrs. Ella Teal eyed the mat in her home gym, mind focused, muscles poised but relaxed. After three deep, measured breaths, she strode out and into a routine that consisted of two rolloffs to a back handspring, followed by two layups. It would have appeared to the casual observer, had one been present, that she performed flawlessly. Mrs. Teal was never casual about her workouts, however, and frowned at a slight wobbliness in her left leg at the finish.
An exasperated sigh escaped her rose pink, bee-stung lips, and deep hazel eyes flashed annoyance at the glitch, bringing back to her mind the tiny flaw in the chemical formula she had been working on all week. She was close to a breakthrough in the development of an inorganic fertilizer that would oxidize almost completely over the course of a growing season, so as not to cause unwanted phosphorous runoff into streams and lakes.
Tightening the band that held her long, auburn hair in a ponytail, she shook off the feeling of exasperation. Once more she addressed the mat, clearing her mind of all but the routine at hand. The right sleeve of her unitard had ridden up, baring her forearm almost to the elbow. She shot it down to her wrist, unwilling that such a small distraction should cause a problem with her performance. With the requisite three breaths, she once more launched her long, lean, lithe body into the performance. Her heart beat joyfully as every muscle carried out its assigned tasks to perfection.
The gym filled one corner of the immense loft space she called home. She shared the apartment with her husband, Silton Teal, Ph.D., at least during the times when he was not traveling on diplomatic business. Their home filled the entire seventh floor of an eight-story former warehouse located in what was slowly becoming a gentrified portion of a seedier neighborhood in Verstalls, the capital of Neverwasnia. Workers were, even then, completing the renovation of the floor above, turning the former storage space into two fairly lavish apartments. Mrs. Teal had purposely timed her workout to coincide with the workers’ departure, so the sound of a horrendous crash took her quite by surprise only moments into her next routine.
The remains of a casement window, which, until that moment, had been securely in place high up the gym wall, clattered and tinkled to the gym floor. Mr. Jon Reed, special agent attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and also attached to a rappelling line, followed the casement into the gym.
At the line’s farthest extension, he unsnapped the hook that held the bitter end to a stout leather harness, then executed a midair pike plus a half overhead turn, and landed, feet first, in the middle of the ten foot square trampoline that sat just below where the casement had been.
Smiling and bouncing slowly in quite a dignified posture, he tipped his dark gray bowler to a stunned and frowning Mrs. Teal. Rather a lot of broken glass also had landed on the trampoline, and it jangled merrily in time with his rebounds. Mrs. Teal stood, arms crossed beneath her bosom, while he did a full midair somersault off the trampoline and spiked his landing perfectly.
As the dust of the crash settled, and Mrs. Teal glared at Mr. Reed’s disarming smile, a small paper rectangle wafted its way down toward her. With an eye roll, she reached out and snatched it from the air as suddenly and fiercely as a mongoose bites a hooded cobra.
Mrs. Teal, read one side of the calling card; We’re needed, announced the other.
Reed quickly discarded his rappelling harness and leather gloves, and brushed a few sprinkles of shattered glass from the sleeves of his perfectly tailored, six-button, Fond Street suit jacket. Mrs. Teal brandished the calling card at him like a stiletto.
“We are quits, Reed. I thought I had made that abundantly clear a year ago.”
He smiled his most charming, most disarming smile, and stepped forward to offer his arm.
“You are looking so very well, my dear, and your gymnastic skill continues to astound. Oh, and I must say that your ensemble does, indeed, become you.”
She sighed and, once again, rolled her eyes. “What do you want? Apart from a bit of random voyeurism, I mean. And why did you think it necessary to make such a startling entrance? That is, if I’m not treading on the official secrets act.”
His smile widened. “You do remember your training, then. Good.”
“That is not an answer. Now talk.”
He chuckled, said, “Excuse me a moment,” and walked to the wall beneath the window he had just smashed to pieces.
A slender cord dangled from the gaping hole above, and he pulled on the light nylon line. From the battered sill above fell a slim black umbrella, furled, its handle composed of a lacquered brass dragon’s head. He slipped the cord off his favorite gentleman’s prop, twirled it twice over in his fingers, and once more looked at Mrs. Teal. Her scowl deepened.
“Well? You’ve made your entrance, Reed. Now I want to know what you intend to do about the damage to my home.”
“Oh, that. The Ministry will take care of it, of course. I’ve already sent you the proper forms. Just fill them out and bung them back to Meely in Disbursements. She’ll have some lads round here tomorrow to sort it out.” His head tilted and his smile broadened. “That center pane was cracked, in any case, did you notice? I’ve done you a favor, after all.”
She turned away, her arms still tightly crossed, then quickly turned to face him again, eyes blazing. “Straight up, now. Why the action film sequence?”
He nodded and thumbed his left lapel to disclose his miniature body camera. “Annual fitness report, my dear. I was missing a tick mark in the Hot Pursuit Dramatic Entry box. You don’t mind, do you?”
Her eyebrows lifted an inch. “And if I did?”
His grin brightened the room. “Did you say something about a drink?”
“I did not, but you know where the drinks are.”
“Most kind, my dear. After you.” He pointed to the door with his umbrella, then smirked when she shook her head. “No?”
“No. You are far too fond of ogling my backside, and this unitard leaves very little to the imagination. I would rather you precede me.”
Eyes wide, Reed doffed his hat and bowed over it. “My dear, I never would so objectify a colleague, you must believe me.”
Mrs. Teal’s laugh sparkled about the gym as she shook her head. “That is arrant nonsense, and you know it, Jon Reed. Go on, then.”
Disappointment clouded his face. “Are you sure? After all, ladies first.”
She shook her head. “Voyeuristic vandals first, in this instance. After you.”
He adjusted the steel-rimmed bowler on his head as he walked toward the door. Mrs. Teal grabbed a big towel from a stack next to the exit and wrapped it around her waist like a skirt as she followed him out.
A high wall separated the gym from the loft’s main living space, but, apart from a large bath and steam room at the far end, only the furnishings delineated sitting, cooking, and sleeping areas in the apartment. The bed rested on a raised platform set against an outside wall. Small casement windows had been removed and replaced with wide, polarized picture windows overlooking the neighborhood, open to the sun and moon. Electrically operated curtains could cover the windows at the touch of a switch, and the entire bedding area could be masked from the rest of the house, also by automated draperies.
Reed headed straight for one of two large refrigerators and opened it while Mrs. Teal, without a word, disappeared behind a heavy arras that screened the wardrobes and dressing room. She had doffed the unitard and was slipping into a pair of cream-colored knickers trimmed in lace when Reed’s voice called out.
“Mrs. Teal, I don’t find any of the sixty-six in here. Are you out?”
Shaking her head, she snugged her breasts into a lacy bra and fastened it behind. “You drank the last of the sixty-six when you were here the last time,” she called.
He chuckled and pulled a bottle from the refrigerator. “We drank that, as I recollect. In any case, I’ve still two and a half cases in my cellar. I’ll bring a few bottles next time I come. Meanwhile, we’ll have to make do with the sixty-eight.”
She pulled hose up long legs and secured them with garters, then slithered into a sea-foam green dress whose skirt reached to just above her knees. It was a favorite of her husband and Reed’s, both, a fact of which she was well aware. Mrs. Teal had been through this course before and, although she never knew exactly what to expect when Reed showed up, things always turned alarming eventually. It was best for her to find out as much as she could from him before the fireworks began, and this was a good way to soften his resistance.
Then, too, she had not heard from her husband in well over a month. He worked in the diplomatic corps, so prolonged absences, and even prolonged silences, due to communications shutdowns during tricky negotiations, were not unheard of. This absence, however, reminded her far too much of the first time Dr. Teal had gone missing. He had disappeared from her life for almost three years, during which interval she had come to know Reed well—perhaps too well. She had thought that episode of her life over, but now she was not at all sure.
At any rate, regardless of Reed’s shocking and unorthodox re-entry into her sphere of knowledge after an entire year’s absence, she had to know what he wanted and, more importantly, what he knew about her husband. She undid the ponytail and brushed out her hair, did a quick repair job on her makeup, and pulled aside the arras.
“There you are, my dear,” Reed said, and punctuated the greeting with the pop of a cork.
Bubbly fizzed into a pair of crystal flutes, and he met her in the middle of the huge room. Crystal sang its pure tone of celebration when the glasses tinked. They sipped, and Mrs. Teal nodded toward a settee. Reed bowed, and went to stand beside the sofa until Ella had seated herself, then he sat next to but a discreet distance from her.
“Is the sixty-eight that disappointing, Reed?” she said, her eyebrows raised high as she peered at him over the rim of her glass.
“Oh, no, not at all. It’s only that one has certain expectations of the olden days.”
She smirked. “Does one, indeed? And are you here to take me back to our olden days? The days when one was constantly in peril from some dastardly, evil mastermind or other?”
He put a hand to his chest. “Why, whatever gave you that idea? I am here only to offer you an opportunity to serve your country and your king.”
Her eyes rolled, and she drained the glass. “All right. Tell me the worst.”
“You are so edgy and suspicious, my dear,” he said, smiling as he topped off both glasses. “It’s a simple missing person case, that’s all.”
Nibbling her lip, she nodded. “My husband?”
Reed’s head cocked a bit, then he shook it. “He, uh, is not actually missing, Mrs. Teal, although—”
“Although what, Reed. Tell me, or I swear I will saturate that Fond Street suit with premium bubbly, see if I don’t.”
Leaning back, aghast, he waved a hand. “Steady on, old girl, steady on. I’m willing to tell you. I’m wanting to tell you. I’m waiting to tell you.”
“Enough music hall shtick, Reed. Get to it.”
He sighed. “Well, it seems that while Dr. Teal is not missing, he has, in fact, gone astray.”
“What do you mean? What’s happened to Silton?”
“Now, now, it’s all right. Apparently there was a foul-up to do with airline connections on his way to Farwegia, and he wound up in East Aridia.”
Ella covered her eyes with both hands. “They hate him in East Aridia, ever since—”
Reed cleared his throat. “Yes, well, shall we not think about the worst? The diplomatic corps’ best people are on this, and even though the East Aridians completely disavow any knowledge of his whereabouts, the top brass seem to think progress is being made.”
“Balderdash. He’s been dropped down a hole somewhere, hasn’t he?”
“No, no, not at all,” Reed said, patting Ella’s trembling hand. “The Kaliff is always very gracious to his guests, even if he considers them enemies.”
“So, if they do have him, he has a comfortable bed to sleep in between ruthless interrogations?”
His head shook vehemently. “Please believe me that every effort is in train on his behalf.”
She snorted. “He embarrassed the Kaliff five years ago simply by speaking an inconvenient truth. East Aridians can hold a grudge.”
“Perhaps, perhaps. In any case, that is not our lookout at the moment.”
Bright hazel eyes narrowed, she glared at him. “Perhaps it isn’t yours.”
He shrugged and pushed the glass to her lips. “Would you sooner sit and fret about issues beyond our control, or help me with a small task to distract yourself?”
Ella maintained the glare, the glass still at her lips, as she considered. She knew well the benefit of exercise when confronted with any problem that seemed insurmountable. Dozens of times, her gymnastics, and the focus they required, freed her mind sufficiently to leap into the creative space necessary for completion of an unrelated task. Thinking of her gymnastic workout, she set down the wine glass and took three deep breaths.
“Very well, then, about this other missing person. Anyone I know?”
Reed grinned and set his glass down beside hers. “Possibly. He made a small splash in the press a year or so ago. Desmond McSteel?”
Her bottom clenched involuntarily, and Ella covered the reaction with a shrug. “Yes, of course. A novelist of sorts, isn’t he?”
“Of sorts, yes. One of his books was filmed for the screen a few years back, and there was some small hubbub about it, as I recall.”
“So I recall, as well,” Ella said, picking up her glass and draining it. “So it is he who has gone missing?”
The fizzy wine did little to quench the dryness in her mouth. Reed felt similarly dry as he, too, drank and watched the flush grow brighter on Mrs. Teal’s cheeks.
“It is, indeed, he, and we have been assigned to look for him.”
Ella frowned. “Why Special Branch?” She blinked. “And, furthermore, why the two of us? I resigned a year ago. Or don’t you recall?”
His charming smile glowed once more. “I do, indeed, but Aunty Bee thought you could use a few days out of the house. As do I, by the way.”
Her lower lip protruded in a fierce pout. “Billinda Evenstar, MP, KC, and whatever other alphabet soup she has added to her non-existent business cards, can go and soak her head. Who is she to order me about when I don’t even work for her?”
“You won’t run a few simple errands, even as a personal favor to me?” Reed said as he dribbled the last of the bubbly into her glass.
“You think you can prey upon my helplessness, don’t you? Just like last time.”
“My dear,” he said, his eyes wide as he raised his glass to her. “I never prey. It’s against my religion.”
She rolled her eyes. “You really are awful, Reed. Your being well dressed won’t keep me from tossing you out on your ear, you know.”
“Except you haven’t, and you must admit you are intrigued, at least by the thought of applying that marvelous mind of yours to something more concrete than quarks and imaginary particles,” he said with a slightly restrained smile, and once more drained his glass.
“Yes, of course. Shall we begin, then? The search, I mean?”
Ella sighed. “Where do we start?”
“His house, I would think. Wouldn’t you?”
“It’s as good a place as any. How long did you say he has been missing?”
“I didn’t, but more than a month. His housekeeper, Mrs. Swithins, says he often disappears into his garret for days at a time, scribbling away, and she is used to that.”
“So what makes her think he isn’t still in there?”
Reed smiled. “She leaves a fresh bottle of single malt whisky on the table outside his door every other day. When three bottles had gone untouched, she knocked, but had no reply, so she took a chance and let herself in.”
“Indeed. Shall we go and talk to her?”
“I was going to make tea.”
He stood and offered his hand. “I’ll buy you a steak at McCaffery’s, shall I?”
Smirking, she rose to take it. “You mean, the Ministry will buy me a steak.”
“Tools of the trade, my dear, tools of the trade. And I know you love their cellar.”
“You love their cellar. I’ll get my wrap.”
“It’s hanging on a peg next to the outer door. The chartreuse felt with the dark gold fringe that goes with this dress? I took the liberty. I hope you don’t mind.”
Ella sighed, shook her head, and accepted the hand he offered.
“I do hate that I’ve become so drab and predictable.”
“Not at all! You constantly keep me on my toes, my dear. Shall we go?”