The taxi stopped outside a pub. “This is our stop” Peggy smiled. Everyone clambered out. Delores looked up at the building,
“This really isn't the best place for children”
“That may be” Peggy agreed, “but I'm sure they'll be fine. You'll like Dugan and the rest”
Peggy had no sooner entered the building when a cheer rose from the far end of the room. Dum Dum Dugan stood and raised his full mug.
“Miss Union Jack!” he cheered
“I've asked you never to speak of that” Peggy's voice was firm, but she smiled nonetheless.
“Right-O” he nodded. The group parted and made room for the four newcomers.
“We've got a bit of a sticky wicket here” Peggy continued, not letting Dugan stop to ask what she referred to, “There's been a Hydra plant at the Home Office, and it's our job to flush him out”
“Has father been bad?” Tasha asked tentatively
“No, sweetheart” Delores bent down so mother and daughter were at eye level, “Sometimes- well- sometimes, people make mistakes. We've just got to make sure he doesn't make anymore. A lot of people could be hurt because of that”
“Oh” she seemed to understand
“Let's get situated” Peggy ushered everyone to the table, “We've got a lot of work to do, all of us”
The men rushed to put more chairs around the table. Tony looked up at Dugan’s hat.
“I like your hat” he smiled, “Why does it look so funny?”
“It’s a bowler hat” Dugan nodded, “It’s called that because—because—“ he glanced back at the others, “why do they call it that?”
The other soldiers just laughed
“Enough of this” Peggy was in full alert and ready for action, “We want to disarm him, capture him, but do not hurt you unless absolutely necessary” she glanced from man to man, “do you all understand that?”
A chorus of yeses and nods came from the group.
“So, we'll charge in there and--” Dugan began
“No” Peggy scowled at the men, “what did I just say about disarming him. If you burst in there like a pack of wild animals, someone will get shot, possibly will die, and I don't want that to happen. Are we clear?”
Again, the group nodded solemnly
“Now then, someone else with a slightly more cool and level headed idea”
Dernier said something in French. Jones laughed and translated for him, “He said why do we not show up with flowers and chocolates from the Mrs.”
“A bit like the Trojan Horse from mythology” Peggy thought aloud, “I like it”
The team discussed some more, finally coming up with a plan. Delores was included in the details, but the children were chiefly left out.
Luckily, as the group was leaving the bar, a mother and daughter were making their way down the pavement. The girl, about ten, was carrying some stuffed animals consisting of a rather fat teddy bear, a tiger, and a donkey.
“Oh Mummy, can we play with her?” Tasha asked expectantly.
“I don't see why not” Delores quickly agreed, hoping to get on with her part of the action plan.
“Hallo” Tony stuck his hand out.
“Why hello there” the mother smiled. The girl obviously had her arms full with her stuffed toys.
“I'm Tony, and this is my sister Tasha” he went on, “May we play with – those toys?” he glanced eagerly at the soft dolls.
“Ah-- of course” she nodded, “This is my daughter Madeline”
Madeline agreed, and whispered, “Lets play nap-time” to her stuffed animals. Tony and Tasha thought that was odd. Madeline held out the donkey to Tasha, then the tiger to Tony. The sibling smiled at each other. It felt like it had been so long since they'd had any time to play. The four headed to a nearby park.
With the children engrossed in playtime, Delores, the Howling Commandos and Peggy headed for their next stop. They bought a bouquet of roses, and a box of chocolates.
“I don't see how this will help” Delores sounded confused
“It's not the flowers and candy” Dugan explained, “It's what we're – um-- going to – uh”
“It has to do with what we will do with them” Jones finished
Peggy was already at work, as she pulled out two vials in her pocket.
“You came prepared with that?” Dugan looked genuinely surprised
“Not exactly” Peggy explained, “This” she held up on vial, “came from something I'd nicked from Clarice”. Peggy poured the contents from the vial into the flowers.
She held out the other vial, “This is only to be poured in right before you hand over the flowers” she instructed, “Ammonia”
“Yes, right before” Delores understood. She glanced down at the box in her hand, “and the chocolates?”
“Those are if the flowers don't work” Peggy went on, as she plucked each chocolate from the now open box and injected each one using a small syringe she'd pulled from her cavernous purse, “This” she explained, “is a powerful paralytic designed by Dr. Samberly from the SSR. One should put your husband into a catatonic state” she looked over at Dugan, “eating more than one would probably kill someone, even of your size” she warned.
“Yes Ma'am” Dugan nodded in agreement.
Once they'd neared the house, Peggy pressed the flowers and chocolates into Delores' hands
“You know what to do” she reminded.
“I can't do this – not alone” Delores fretted.
“Fine” Peggy resigned herself to helping out, “let's take care of this once and for all”
“Darling” Alex called from inside the house, “Is that you?”
“Uh-- yes” Delores called back, now in the foyer with Peggy.
Alex came bounding down the stairs, “Oh, had you gone out?”
“Yes, I've uh-- taken the children out for some playtime. They were so miserable being in the house all afternoon”
“But Ms. Margaret is with you” he frowned at Peggy.
“Oh” Delores sighed
“I've just come for some of the children's things. You know how they wish for something to play with, even outdoors” Peggy lied quickly
“Yes, yes” Alex nodded absently, “Well, go take them their toys, and I suppose we'll see you at supper time tonight” he sent her off.
Peggy glanced at Delores, silently urging her to continue with the task at hand, and then left the house. She rushed back to the park and found the children still playing with the other little girl and her soft toy menagerie. The girl's mother sat on a bench, looking on.
“What does a Tigger do?” Tasha asked, eyeing the stuffed tiger doll.
Madeline clapped her hand over the stuffed animal's mouth, “Oh, so many things” she laughed.
“Children” Peggy broke up their festivities, “I'd like you to come with me”
“Oh, but we're having a lovely time” Tony whined, “and she was telling us the most wonderful stories”
“That's fine” Peggy smiled, “but we really need to get moving”
“Can we at least have something for tea?” Tony rubbed his stomach, “I have – a rumbly in my tumbly”
“He learned it from her” Tasha glanced at Madeline. The other girl simply smiled demurely.
Peggy, Evelyn, and the children trooped back to the bar, “Three glasses of warm milk, please” Peggy asked the barkeep, who stared back at her in disbelief. Then, using the telephone, she rang the Banks' residence.
“I'm sorry” Alex answered the phone, “Delores can't speak with you at the moment” there was a pause, “How about you bring the children back. It must be close to their tea time”
Peggy feared the worst had befallen Delores. Not knowing what had occurred in the time she'd been away, she simply said, “Oh, I'll see that they're back soon. We've decided to have a little tea outside. A picnic if you will”
“Splendid” came the reply, “Do be home by supper time”
Peggy ended the call and glanced at Tony and Tasha. Could their mother have been killed at the hands of their father? She hoped not, but would not doubt Alex to do such a horrible thing.