Nineteen years ago (I rounded up to twenty for the title, cos' it sounds better), I watched Forget-Me-Knot for the first time. I was so devastated and disappointed with Mrs. Peel's departure that I immediately set about writing a fanfiction to correct it. I posted it, along with its sequels and prequels where I had about three years' notoriety for my Mother Knows Best series. Then I went off to college and no longer had time for fanfic. When the great Patrick Macnee died in 2015, I revisited my story and was appalled at the sloppiness of the grammar, the glaring plot holes, and the awkward character assassination of Tara. For a fifteen year-old, it was quite an impressive undertaking, but for someone who is now double that in age, I'm embarrassed to have my name attached to it. So I decided to revise the work, getting rid of all grammar errors and plot holes and softening my disdain for Tara. The essence of the story is still the same. It is unabashedly a love story that happens to have some mystery and wild sci-fi undertones. If this is not your cup of tea, I understand. For the rest, I hope you enjoy this "20th anniversary" edition.

Teaser

A large stately hotel rose above the other buildings in London, England. A tall man donning shades entered the hotel and hurried to one of the multipurpose rooms located on the first floor. Removing his sunglasses, he stepped up to an obese man in a wheelchair.

"Ah, Smyth, you finally arrived," the fat man said.

"I left my flat as soon as I got your message," Smyth replied to his companion almost apologetically. "What seems to be the trouble?"

"As you know, we'll be hosting a party here later this evening. Several people we haven't seen in a while will be present, including Emma Peel. She will naturally hover around Steed, and the two will be inseparable the rest of the evening." He gazed at two photographs in his hands before setting them down on a table.

One of the pictures was of a gorgeous woman with reddish brown hair and an alluring smile. The other photo was of a gentleman attired in a suit and matching bowler. He had a rather puckish grin spread across his handsome face.

"We must make sure they don't discover the truth at the fete," the man in the wheelchair continued, "understand?"

"All right, Mother; you know best," Smyth droned in an almost hypnotic tone. He snapped out of is delirium and marched out of the room, determined to do his job right.

The other man, or "Mother" sighed dismally and shook his head. He wheeled out of the room after Smyth, clutching the two photographs.

Mother Knows Best

Emma Loses a Husband

Steed Gains a Wife

Cathy Shares a Memory

Tara Tries to Forget

The gathering was the usual affair for the year, the summer of 1969 to be exact. One hundred or so people were milling around in an enormous open room, the women wearing their miniskirts and outrageous hairdos, the men dressed formally and casually— no tuxedos, please! Some men, mostly the younger chaps with more spunk, were dressed rather too casually for the party, which was quite a crime for a certain well-heeled gentleman.

He stood off to the right of the room, brandy glass in hand, discussing the inclement weather for the time of year. Dressed in an expensive grey suit, he had the air of a man who knew his proper place in society and wasn't ashamed to show it. His bowler hat and umbrella, two necessities for traveling, were hanging on the hat rack near the entrance of the room and most likely would still have been with him if it were decent for such a get-together.

His charming partner for the evening was adorned in a sleeveless, lime green dress complete with miniskirt. The outfit hugged her shapely figure, and the low cut front and high cut bottom revealed a little too much skin to be entirely decent. Despite these drawbacks, the woman was looking rather lovely. Her bobbed dark brown hair had been left alone, and her eye shadow was a perfect match for the lime green dress and brought out the unnatural paleness of her blue eyes. Her little lime purse not only completed the whole ensemble, but housed a heavy brick to be used on any unsuspecting villains.

As was mentioned before, the couple was immersed in the trivial subject of the weather. They undoubtedly would have been discussing a much more fascinating topic if it weren't for the fact that a third party member was present at the moment. This lady lacked the intellectual quality that had made the other two quite partial to each other.

In fact, she had just remarked quite stupidly that she recognised every face in the room. This could have been amazing if it weren't for the fact that this was a work party for everyone at a certain company, a spy agency actually. No one knew the name of the agency, except, of course, the people who worked there, so over the years, the spies became known to the rest of the world as the "Avengers."

On this certain evening, the agents, retired and still enrolled, amateur and professional, were gathered at a fancy room at a hotel, celebrating the anniversary of the agency's founding. They were waiting for the host to show himself, as it was a themed mystery party. One of the guests was the "host" of the party and everyone had to guess who the person was based on hints. If they guessed correctly, they would win a ridiculous chintzy prize that is customary at such social functions.

The woman who had been commenting so stupidly that she knew everybody was Mrs. Diana Parker. How she had graduated from spy school was a mystery in itself, but being that all were proper British folk, they never mentioned this.

Suddenly, Mrs. Parker asked her two polite but bored companions, "Who do you suppose is the host?"

The other lady replied, "I have no idea." This was a lie, but the lady felt it was the only decorous thing she could think to say to an ignorant woman. In actuality she wanted to boast that she had figured out the mystery host's identity at the start of the evening, but no one liked a braggart, especially not her partner and mentor.

"Really, Tara!" cried the gentleman. "I'm surprised that you don't even have a guess!" Tara gave him a look, which he got immediately.

"Miss Tara King, I think you have something to do with this mystery!" exclaimed Mrs. Parker. "And the same goes for you, Mr. Steed." Tara and Steed exchanged wry glances, for they knew for certain that they were not involved in the mystery. "I must tell Mother of my discovery!" Mrs. Parker walked over to a terribly obese man who was puffing a cigar and drinking scotch as if it were water.

Yes, this man was Mother, the head of the agency. Why he chose the name "mother" was an enigma to all agents and probably himself. It was most likely a name that had popped into his head on a whim and had seemed to stick. Perhaps he had grown tired of the former bosses' irritating habit of going by number fractions. In any case, many of the agents had little idiosyncrasies like that, and over time, it was just accepted.

"Now that we're alone, is it all right to speak openly, or do you think the walls have ears?" asked Steed, smiling.

"Even if the walls did have ears, I'd have to tell you all that is on my mind." Tara looked suspiciously around before continuing. "I really want to know who you think the mystery host is. I believe it's Smyth; now don't laugh."

"Smyth?" Steed repeated with genuine astonishment in his voice.

"Yes," Tara began as enthusiastically as her British propriety could allow. "I heard from Pemberley that Shuston said that Smyth was the host. But then Smyth vehemently denied it and said it was Mitchell. Why else would he deny all accusations so earnestly and swear it was Mitchell unless he himself is the host?"

"No, Tara, it's not that simple," Steed argued ardently. "I believe the host is Mother."

"But everyone expects the mystery host to be Mother!" Tara protested indignantly. "He's the head of the ministry, so everyone automatically assumes he'll be the host of the party."

"That is the key point." Steed gave his empty brandy glass to a passing waitress before continuing, "Since everyone expects it to be Mother, their spy instincts will tell them that is too simple, and Mother would not be the host and make the game so easy. Thus they must guess that somebody else is the mystery host. Now knowing that everyone won't guess him, Mother can host the party with ease and stump all those gullible agents. Do I make myself clear?"

Tara began to nod her head, but then slowly and shamefacedly shook it. "Oh, Steed I'll never be as bright as you!" She stared at him adoringly then sighed. "Now that you've told me who the mystery host is, I don't know if I should still stick to my first guess. After all, I wouldn't have guessed correctly if you hadn't told me." She mulled over this for several moments until she concluded, "When the time comes I'll say that Smyth is the mystery host."

Steed was about to answer when the door opened and in stepped the breathtaking Mrs. Cathy Gale. She was in a plain, black shift dress, complete with a big white belt and a square buckle. Her feet were adorned with black high-heeled boots, and underneath her skirt, hidden from view, was a smart, black garter. Tucked neatly inside the garter was a small pistol. The outfit seemed to personify her outgoing yet, at the same time, restrained manner.

She walked composedly over to Steed, who grinned gregariously at his former partner in crime-fighting. "I hope I'm not intruding," she began earnestly.

"You are," returned Steed coyly. "But since you are a dear old friend, I shall forgive you."

"I hope I am not old, yet!" Mrs. Gale snapped, frowning slightly.

Tired of being ignored, Tara decided to start a conversation in which all could be involved. "Is your husband joining us this evening, Mrs. Gale?"

Mrs. Gale's face clouded over for a moment, but quickly she regained enough composure to reply, "My husband has been dead these last eight years, Miss..."

"This is Tara King," Steed supplied. "Tara, this is Dr. Catherine Gale. Former friend of the ministry. She was already a widow when we recruited her," he added sotto voce , somewhat annoyed to see that his current partner could be so inconsiderate.

"Well, that might have been nice to know," Tara hissed back.

After standing in an uncomfortable silence that seemed to have come over the two ladies in a matter of seconds, Steed tried to make the situation light by adding, "I've often wondered why you haven't remarried, Mrs. Gale. You are a very attractive, not to mention, incredibly smart woman."

"There's no one I am remotely interested in." Cathy jostled her flowing, blond hair becomingly.

Steed smiled and glanced at the pretty waitress that had collected his brandy glass earlier. "And there's no chance of me ever marrying you. I plan to be single all of my days."

"And, I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on earth," Mrs. Gale replied saucily.

Steed let out a short spurt of nervous laughter, something he did often when he had been insulted by the sharp Mrs. Gale.

"Isn't there anyone you would possibly be interested in marrying?" Tara pathetically asked Steed.

Cathy realized what a hopeless state of infatuation Tara was in, but she kept quiet. If it was one thing she had learned in the ministry, it was to remain silent unless absolutely necessary.

Steed was about to reply when he was interrupted again. This time the intruder was not Mrs. Gale, but Mrs. Parker, who had wandered back to Tara and Steed after she had been rudely pushed aside by Mother. "Mr. Steed is rather funny to talk of being single."

"Why? I could marry anyone if I wanted to. I've just never wanted to. Why have only one woman for the rest of your life, when you can have them all?" Steed winked at the three ladies clustered around him.

"Oh, Steed, you are such a cad!" Mrs. Parker cried. "Of course, you can't marry anybody! We all know that you—"

"Mrs. Parker," Cathy began edgily, " Bimba La Trife ." Mrs. Parker placed a hand over her mouth and suppressed a giggle. Then she flitted over to Mother again.

Tara and Steed stared at Cathy as if she had suddenly had a fit of insanity. Tara expressed this thought to him by whispering, "I think our poor Mrs. Gale has fallen victim to the bottle."

Steed refused to believe this of his sensible ex-partner in sleuthing. "I'm sure Bimba la Trife is just a code for something very confidential. I do recall learning a phrase similar to that when I was in training way back in the day. Now let me think . . ."

"Keep quiet," Mrs. Gale said abruptly.

Steed stopped in mid-sentence to exclaim, "Why, Mrs. Gale, you surprise me! I wouldn't expect a lady like you to behave so rudely, and to an old friend, too!"

"Sorry, Steed, but you misunderstood me. I was merely telling you that Bimba la Trife means 'be quiet' in code." Cathy placed her hands on her hips.

"You really didn't have to tell me. You know I would have figured it out. Eventually."

"I just wanted to save you the time and trouble." Cathy grimaced wryly and wandered over to the buffet table. "I'll see later, all right?" she called over her shoulder.

Steed gazed admiringly at Cathy before turning back to serious matters. "What do you think of Mrs. Parker's words?" he inquired of Tara. "Don't you find it unusual that she said I can't get married? And what about her last words before she was interrupted by Mrs. Gale: 'We all know that you—'"

Tara shrugged nonchalantly. "I think that she is drunk and talking nonsensically."

"Then why would Mrs. Gale tell her to be quiet?" Steed scrunched his forehead in deep contemplation, while Tara let his question sink into her mind.

Suddenly, a slim woman entered the hotel room's front door, the air of a queen about her. However, the regal mien did not last long, for as soon as she spotted Steed, she pounced at him as a vivacious cat might pounce on a bird. Then she uttered a sentence that was so obvious that from any other woman's lips it would have seemed ridiculous. "Steed, you're here!"

Mr. Steed's eyes seemed to light up at the beautiful woman's presence. "Mrs. Peel, how wonderful to see you again!" He scanned her figure which was clad in a lavender dress. Tiny straps were the only thing that kept it hanging on her body, and the low cut front was not at all decent for a married woman. Mrs. Peel had sensed this, so she had wrapped a lavender feather boa around her neck, hiding everything that shouldn't be shown. "I declare you look lovelier every time I see you."

"The same goes for you, Steed," Mrs. Peel replied properly and coquettishly. Only she could make a sentence have two different intonations at the same time.

"Has it really been over a year since I've seen you last, Mrs. Peel?"

"Unfortunately, yes," she replied remorsefully. She glanced around the room, searching for the bar. "Have you tried the champagne yet?"

"No, I've been too occupied to get away from this spot."

"How is it that you found time to get a glass of brandy then?" Tara asked. Her tone was flippant, but jealousy was ripping through her veins. It seemed that every woman, excluding herself, was receiving more attention from Steed. Why, he had even talked to the infernal Mrs. Parker more!

Mr. Steed cleared his throat nervously, while Mrs. Peel raised an eyebrow. "It seems you have been more busy than you realised," Mrs. Peel said dryly.

"The truth is I wasn't in the mood for champagne," Steed confessed.

Mrs. Peel made a noise of mock dismay, followed by "Tsk, Tsk, Tsk." She cocked her head slightly to the right, her reddish brown hair falling over her left eye. "Well, since you're not interested in the most marvelous invention to come out of France, I'll just go fetch a glass of champagne for myself."

Steed didn't seem to hear her, for he was too captivated by her beauty. He wished she wouldn't make herself so darn attractive, and wondered why the most beautiful women were married, obviously forgetting about Tara, the widowed Cathy Gale, and any other single woman in the room.

Mrs. Peel sauntered over to the bar, leaving Tara and Steed once more alone. "Mrs. Emma Peel doesn't seem quite as charming as when I last saw her," Tara proclaimed, venom in her usually sweet voice.

"I find that her charm has grown over the course of time," Mr. Steed argued gallantly. When he noted his companion's raised eyebrow, he added, "I see we have different opinions on Mrs. Peel, so I think it would be wise to drop it."

Emma returned with her glass, sipping and making a sour face. "This champagne is ghastly! Here, try it for yourself and see what you think." She thrust her glass at Steed but somehow managed not to spill a drop.

Steed tasted the champagne, shook his head, and sighed. "It really is dreadful. I wonder what came over Mother when he purchased this vintage."

"Steed, you'll give the mystery host away!" Tara cried indignantly.

"Don't worry, I had already figured it out before I arrived." Emma Peel directed her attention back to Steed. "Somehow I don't believe Mother knew about the champagne. Hosts don't usually cater their own party unless they want the absolute best in everything . . ."

"And Mother isn't a person who cares if his hors d'oeuvres are soggy and his champagne is too sweet," Steed finished her sentence.

Mrs. Peel didn't seem to mind his interruption. But this was understandable, since finishing each other's sentences was an old habit of theirs. She took the champagne glass back from Steed and sipped it again. "What year do you think this is from?"

"Nineteen forty-three, I dare say. Nineteen forty-three has a very sugary taste to it, very much like this awful drink."

"Really? I was sure it was 1942!"

"It certainly is not! Nineteen forty-two is bearable, but a year earlier makes it very sweet, more like soda than champagne! A perfect champagne must be mellow but with a tinkling bite to it."

"You're right, Steed."

"As he always is when it comes to wine," Tara said, trying to stake her claim in the conversation.

Emma arched an eyebrow at her and fixed her with an amused smirk. "Oh, is that so?"

Steed seemed oblivious to the tension building between his former and current partner. "I must speak to Mother about this immediately. I don't care if it will give the secret host away; this is intolerable! Excuse me, ladies." He set off in search of his boss and host for the evening.

Mrs. Peel looked at the glass in her hand and offered it to Tara. Tara, too distracted watching Steed, took the glass willingly. Automatically, she brought the glass to her lips but stopped herself from drinking it just in time. She beckoned to a passing waitress, who took the detested glass away.

Tara addressed her rival, "Do you two often share champagne glasses? It seems rather intimate, doesn't it, Emma? You don't mind if I call you 'Emma,' do you?"

Emma didn't seem the least bit fazed at this line of inquiry. "Occasionally we do, but usually we have separate straws.

"I really am not accustomed to being called 'Emma', so I would prefer if you called me Mrs. Peel like everyone else."

"Don't tell me your husband doesn't even call you 'Emma'?" After receiving no response, Tara inferred that Emma was not familiar with her husband calling her by her first name. "I feel sorry for you then, Mrs . Peel ."

"Listen, let's not pretend you aren't jealous of me," Emma Peel began placidly. "I am quite aware of your infatuation with Steed. Most every girl fancies herself in love with him at least once in her life. It would be unnatural if they didn't feel something for a brave, smart, dashing man like John Steed."

Her complacency irked Tara even more than Mr. Steed's devout attention to Emma. "Have you ever been in love with him?"

This question put Emma off guard, but she quickly regained her composure. "I admit that I formed an attachment to Steed for a while, but after someone saves your life a dozen times, it's quite natural to have feelings for them, unless you're totally heartless. Now if you'll excuse me, I must find something to wash this horrid taste out of my mouth." Mrs. Peel walked away, the air of a martyr about her.

Meanwhile, Steed was trying to tell Mother what was wrong with his champagne. "Mother, I must speak to you about this champagne; it's dreadful." He glanced at the man in the wheelchair, who was sitting behind a long table. Mrs. Parker and Mother's personal assistant Rhonda were standing next to him.

Mother looked up from his scotch. "Steed, I've been looking for you," he began grimly.

"Then you agree with me?" Steed perched himself on the edge of the table.

"What the devil are you going on about?" When Steed looked confusedly at him, he continued, "Mrs. Parker tells me you've been talking about marriage and so forth."

"Oh, Mrs. Parker, that's a wonderful offer, but I'm afraid I must refuse you. Besides, unless I am mistaken, you're married already." Steed simpered, his grey eyes sparkling.

"What are you talking about?" Mrs. Parker looked around in wonderment as if Steed might be addressing another Parker in the room.

"Steed," Mother started, nails drumming impatiently on the table, "what did Mrs. Parker tell you earlier?"

"Merely that I can't marry someone because we all know that I—"

"What? You what?" Mother leaned forward in his wheelchair, his scotch sloshing around in the glass.

"That's all; isn't that right, Mrs. Parker?" Steed glanced from Mrs. Parker to Mother, trying to read their faces.

"Yes, that's what I told Mother, but he wouldn't believe me!" On the verge of crying, Diana Parker sighed and tried to stop her trembling lip. "Then Cathy Gale appeared and told me to," she paused and began to whisper, " Bimba La Trife. "

"That means 'be quiet,'" Steed unnecessarily informed Mother.

"Cathy Gale was present? Well that makes all the difference in the world! You are dismissed."

Steed was about to protest, but he changed his mind. The ordeal with the champagne would have to wait until later. He walked over to Tara, and was surprised to find that Mrs. Peel was no longer there. "Did you frighten off poor Mrs. Peel?"

"She left on her own free will, and I think it had to do with a terrible taste in her mouth." Tara smiled beguilingly at Steed and linked her arm with his. "Well, since you are my escort for the evening, don't you think it would be appropriate if we danced or something?"

"Not now," Steed replied distractedly, "I really must find Mrs. Peel and tell her of the most extraordinary thing."

"Well, tell me instead." Tara yanked at his arm, trying to hold him back.

"Really, Tara, you're being very unfair to Mrs. Peel. I'll be able to talk to you tomorrow, while Mrs. Peel I might never see again! I won't be long, so don't worry. We'll still have time to dance, eat, and drink champagne—well we can't do that..." Mr. Steed hurried to find his friend, leaving Tara in a miserable state of pouting.

It wasn't difficult to find her, for spotting the effervescent Mrs. Peel was like seeing a beacon of light on a stormy night. She was standing by the band, conversing with the conductor about the difference between marcato and staccato . Steed couldn't help thinking Mrs. Peel was an expert on everything . Sensing Steed's presence, she abruptly stopped her conversation and whirled around. "I see you found me!" she exclaimed.

Steed wondered if it was a figment of his imagination, or if she really was delighted to see him. "So I have. I thought Tara had frightened you away, but she denied all accusations." He grinned good-naturedly and ushered her away from the conductor. "I'm often surprised at how few people hire real bands to perform at their parties anymore."

"There has been a steady decline since the beginning of the decade," Mrs. Peel added, studying her companion's face. They walked casually into the adjacent room of the hotel where it was quiet. The room was empty except for a few supplies clearly meant for the party next door, including several cases of the ill-tasting champagne. "What's the matter, Steed?" she asked.

Steed explained the strange ordeal with Mrs. Parker's insensible comments and Mother's angry reactions. He concluded with the words, "I have no idea what this is all about, but I'm determined to get to the bottom of it. It's really not like Mother to be so evasive with me, or with any of the other agents for that matter."

"To me it sounds like Mrs. Parker was saying that there is something preventing you from being married. Tell me, how's your—uh—health?"

"Everything is in working order, Mrs. Peel, I can assure you." The horrified look in Steed's eyes was enough to show Emma Peel that he thought the idea outrageous and impossible.

"Did you make any sort of monastic vow when you joined the ministry?" Mrs. Peel teased.

Steed snorted derisively. "Have you met me?"

"Then maybe Mrs. Parker is saying you are already married?"

"To whom?"

Emma shrugged. "Someone who is a mixture of Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc, I suppose."

"That would be terribly inconvenient to find I've been married all this time without enjoying any of the benefits!"

Emma smoothly changed the subject by saying "Speaking of marriage, my husband has been behaving in a peculiar manner ever since he came home almost over a year ago."

"Being that I'm unmarried, I don't know how husbands are supposed to behave. For all I know, what one wife thinks is strange behavior another woman finds perfectly normal."

"You don't call being away on 'business' nine months out of twelve a common occurrence, do you?"

"You must be joking, Mrs. Peel!"

"No, I wish I were. What's worse is when he does come home, he stays out most nights."

"I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it seems to me that there might be another woman involved." Steed cleared his throat nervously.

"Steed, don't look so chagrined. I can assure you it is not a woman, which, I admit, surprised me, too. You see, during the three months that my husband was home, I bribed my neighbor, Mrs. Wadsworth, to spy on him whenever I went out. Every time I returned to my flat, I'd get the same story from Mrs. Wadsworth: 'Your husband had a mysterious man over again. They talked for a while and then left together.'

"I even hired one of our fellow agents to track my husband down when he was gone for those long months. The ministry didn't discover anything that raised their suspicions, so they stopped trailing him."

"So he's never been near another woman the entire time?"

Mrs. Peel shook her head. "He's also never been near an airplane."

"But he's a pilot for a living!" Steed exclaimed.

"I am quite aware of that." Emma sighed and continued, "I followed him on several occasions and he always went to an office building. When I confronted him on this, he said he's too frightened to go flying since his accident in the Amazon. I suppose I could live with a husband who no longer flies, but he won't tell me what his new job is. The bedrock of a relationship is honesty and trust, but Peter isn't sharing anything with me.

"Another peculiarity has come up, which might interest you. My husband receives phone calls from someone who calls him 'William.'"

Steed shook his head. "So Peter Peel the pilot has returned and says he's neither a pilot nor named Peter."

"Furthermore, Peter, or whatever you want to call him, doesn't behave like a gentleman at all!" Emma thought to herself, It's insulting to think he wears a bowler hat and those sharp suits like Steed, considering how he isn't half the gentleman Steed is!

Steed mused, I can't believe a wonderful woman like Emma Peel could be married to a hackneyed liar like Peter Peel! He said aloud, "I think I'll have a look into this mystery, Mrs. Peel, if you don't mind."

"I was hoping you would. That's why I told you." Mrs. Peel smiled provocatively and gazed into Steed's eyes.

Suddenly, the lights turned off, and a gunshot was heard resounding through the empty hotel room. Without any words, Steed and Mrs. Peel began devising a plan. Unfortunately, before they could finish, the lights snapped back on to reveal a man in a black mask standing one foot away from them.

He brandished a revolver from his pocket and, grabbing Mrs. Peel around the neck, pointed the gun at her head! "Not a move, or Mrs. Peel dies!" he threatened menacingly. Another man, dressed similarly in black with a mask, fired his gun at the ceiling again.

Steed eyed the nearest object, a bottle of champagne, and wondered if he could grab it without being noticed. Slowly he inched near the bottle, pausing every time one of the men turned to look at them. He noticed the two men were pushing Mrs. Peel to the door, laughing wickedly all the way. A little closer , he encouraged himself.

Meanwhile Cathy was in the other room, wondering if anyone else had heard the two gunshots over the din of conversation and music. Judging how everyone was still making merry, she doubted it. She scanned the crowd looking for Steed to see if he had heard the troublesome noise as well. Then her heart sank. He and Mrs. Peel were missing.

She slipped out into the hallway and crept up to the door of the adjoining room. The door was slightly ajar, and through the crack, she could see Mrs. Peel being dragged backwards at gunpoint by two men. Mrs. Gale's own pistol was tucked away in her garter, and she wished she could storm the door and shoot them both. But she needed a distraction, or the two men would kill Mrs. Peel in cold blood before she had a chance to fire her shot. She silently cheered when she saw Steed reach for the champagne bottle.

Mrs. Peel was probably the most anxious of them all. She willingly let them push her toward the door, feigning a calm air as if being kidnapped was an everyday occurrence. Inside, though, she was quaking. She had had many close escapes from death before, but each time she was a little more afraid. I've got to kick the gun out of this man's hands , she told herself. It's the only way to get me out of this jam unless Steed can do something .

Steed snatched the bottle from the table and pretended to trip. The two men turned around, dragging Mrs. Peel along with them. Steed straightened up and smiled mischievously. "I thought you two could use some champagne before you left." With that, he rolled the bottle down the floor until it collided with one of the two men. He was sent sprawling to the floor, knocked unconscious.

Unfortunately, it was not the man pointing the gun at Mrs. Peel's head, but Mrs. Peel had expected that. When his partner fell to the floor, he turned his head to investigate. Mrs. Peel chose this moment to knock the gun out of his hand, and the revolver sailed through the air, landing by Steed.

Steed snatched the revolver from the ground before either of the men could make another move. He pointed it directly at them both, of course not pulling the trigger since Mrs. Peel was still in the man's grasp, preventing a clear shot. "Let Mrs. Peel go immediately," he ordered gruffly. His command was willingly obeyed, and Mrs. Peel hurriedly fled to Steed's side.

The man in the mask glanced askance at his unconscious partner and his revolver, which was lying nearby. He made a dash for it, but Mrs. Gale had reached the spot first and, stepping on the revolver, pointed her own little pistol at his head. She didn't say anything, but the look in her eyes was enough for the criminal to shrink back in fear.

"You're outnumbered, Sir," Mrs. Peel announced cheekily to the criminal. The man hesitated for a moment and then began wrestling with the unsuspecting Mrs. Gale!

Carefully aiming at the man and not Mrs. Gale, Steed pulled the trigger of the gun in his hands. It made a clicking noise, but no bullets shot out. Steed checked the chamber for bullets and then tried firing again while Mrs. Peel went to the aid of Cathy. The gun produced the same clicking noise. Nothing.

Emma and Cathy were able to push the man off, but even after being defeated two times, the criminal remained in the room. He walked over to Steed and proclaimed evenly, "I would like my gun please."

"Well, I'm not quite finished with it." Steed pulled the trigger again and stared in wonderment when nothing happened.

"Let me see that." Cathy Gale grabbed for the gun.

Impulsively, Steed pulled the trigger, and this time a loud bang rang through the hotel room as a bullet ripped through the air. The criminal grabbed the gun from the astounded Steed and dashed out of the hotel room, leaving his reviving partner behind him.

The remaining man in the black mask looked around him groggily from the floor. When he realised his partner had fled, he quickly scampered to his feet and, looking about him, spotted his gun under Cathy's foot. He tripped her, grabbed the gun, and fled. Cathy sat on the floor, stupefied at her assailant's quick maneuvers.

Steed helped Cathy to her feet. "We should get back to the party and inform Mother of the attempted kidnapping," he said.

The three returned to the adjacent room. Tara was the first to see them. "There you all are! We're taking votes for the mystery host." She started to hand them slips of paper but stopped short when she noted their expressions. "What's wrong?"

As Steed explained the situation to Tara, Mrs. Gale went in search of Mother to fill him in.

"I'm so sorry that I didn't help you three," Tara said, after hearing the story. "I didn't know what was going on. I—"

Steed hugged her gently. "It's all right. As you see, nothing came of it anyway. No one was injured, only shaken."

Emma Peel silently approached the twosome. In fact, she startled them when she remarked, "I see that I'm interrupting something." Instead of apologising, she launched ahead, "Steed, why do you suppose they chose to attack me and tonight of all nights when I was in the company of other agents?"

"I don't know," Steed replied. "And did you notice how the revolver wouldn't fire until I pulled the trigger three times? I believe the gun either had a malfunction, or—"

"It was built that way," Emma finished thoughtfully. "But why build a weapon that way?"

"To dissuade others from using it?" he suggested. They both stood there, contemplation written across their brows.

Tara crept away, searching for a person who wouldn't ignore her. She found Mrs. Gale and handed her a slip of paper to vote for the mystery host. As the votes were tallied, Steed and Mrs. Peel continued to talk over the perplexing episode.

Neither of them realised they were neglecting the rest of the guests nor remembered anything about the mystery host until Mother asked, "So, Steed and Mrs. Peel, you've outwitted two intruders this evening, but can you outwit the rest of the guests? Everybody else has taken a guess at who the mystery host is except you two, and they were all wrong. So who do you think it is?" He chuckled merrily, thinking he had stumped them all, but his laughter was short lived.

In their most complacent voices, Steed and Peel replied, "You're the mystery host, naturally."

Mother's face turned solemn as he announced, "Steed and Mrs. Peel are correct." He gesticulated to his assistant Rhonda, who was holding two bottles of champagne. With a prominent air he presented them with the prizes. "Here you are."

"Thank you, Mother, but I must refuse," Steed interjected politely but with a twinkle in his eye. "Bad vintage, you know." Ignoring Mother's grunts of surprise, he continued, "Now if you'll excuse me, I must escort these three ladies home. Mrs. Peel, Tara, Mrs. Gale, shall we go?"

"Lead the way, sir," Emma Peel responded in her most dignified tone. Tara and Cathy sauntered over to their "escort," and all four of them exited the room.

"Humph," was all Mother said.