• title card: ASHES OF ROSES superimposed on a fire engine rushing by (recreated by Richard McGinlay)
  • Publicity still: Denise does Carol’s hair, unaware that Carol is subtly questioning her

Series 1 — Episode 9
Ashes Of Roses

by Peter Ling and Sheilah Ward

Production No 3373, VTR/ABC/1170
Production completed: March 4 1961. First transmission: March 4 1961.

TV Times summary

The girls of a hairdressing salon are oddly involved when The Avengers are on the trail of an arson gang

The following episode summary is written from the original scripts as this episode is now lost. There may have been changes made during filming.

Plot summary

Mendelssohn, a known arsonist, has been hired by the Beronnes to burn down their hairdressing salon for the insurance. Steed asks Carol to help him investigate and she’s electrocuted. The next day, one of the girls at the salon is killed and Carol is later captured by the arsonist and Mrs. Beronne, who reveals she planned the whole thing. Steed’s timely intervention prevents Carol from being burnt alive and Dr. Keel sternly warns him not to risk other people’s lives again.

show full synopsis

show plot summary


A bitter, cold, wet night at a secluded timber yard; the night watchman returns to his hut and pours himself a welcome cup of coffee. Hearing a noise he stiffens then goes to investigate. Joe, a thug in a raincoat, slips behind the door when he’s gone and coshes him upon his return. Another thug enters and scatters wood shavings around the watchman’s body then Joe pours kerosene on them and sets them on fire. A short time later, fire engines rush to extinguish the blaze...

Act 1

Maurice Roffey (Edward Dentith) receives a visit from John Steed (Patrick Macnee) who is posing as an insurance assessor. Roffey runs the company that owns the timber yard and Steed has heard that the company was on shaky financial ground before it trebled its fire insurance right before the blaze. Roffey is annoyed but provides the details Steed asks for. He is somewhat taken aback when Steed casually mentions Mrs. Pritchard, the watchman’s widow, and blusters that maybe the man caused the fire by dropping a cigarette.

A phone call rescues him somewhat from Steed’s questions. He is furtive when he answers the call and jots down a number. Seeing him immediately pocket what he wrote, Steed borrows the notepad and, taking a pen, asks him to confirm his movements before the fire. Once back at his flat, Steed shakes pencil shavings on the note and rubs it to reveal the number Roffey wrote down, WEL 9291, and calls it to discover who’s on the other end. Steed is somewhat taken aback to hear the voice of Linda Chapman (Barbara Evans) on the other end, announcing he’s reached Jacques Beronne’s Hairdressing and Beauty Salon.

He hangs up and Linda chats to Jean Lewis (Maureen Beck), one of the junior assistants, about how the studio has gone downhill over the last few years. Jean mentions that the hair dryer in number seven wasn’t working properly so Linda lets her use number five instead - but warns her not to go out with Jaques. Jean protests but Linda tells her it’s a bit obvious, and Denise is after Jacques as well, despite Mrs. Beronne being ruthless. Jean is crestfallen that he likes Denise but Linda tells her nobody likes Denise, they just flock around her. Olive Beronne (Olga Lowe), pretty much on cue, stalks in and growls at Jean for standing around gossiping when she could be cleaning out the washbasin in number three, and Jean retreats sullenly.

Olive reminds Linda to take the appointment book to Jacques, who is talking to Johnny Mendelssohn (Peter Zander). Jacques Beronne (Mark Eden) is a bit dismayed at the lack of appointments but positively alarmed when Linda mentions Steed’s call as he’d mentioned Roffey’s name. Linda is upset when they both demand to know all about the call.

Steed drops in at Dr. David Keel’s surgery with a very large dog, where the doctor is about to make his rounds - but it’s Carol he’s come to see this time. Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) is suspicious, he doesn’t want Carol getting into any trouble.

STEED: ..I’m going to treat her to a slap-up hair-do at one of the most exclusive salons in the whole of London.
KEEL: And ?
STEED: Well, and incidentally she might just be able to pick up some information of which I happen to be in need.
KEEL: And now we’ve got to the point.

Keel relents and tells Carol not to let him talk you into anything stupid. Carol Wilson (Ingrid Hafner) is delighted but no fool, and asks what the job is. Steed tells her about the £100,000 fire at the timber yard and reveals the watchman was an insurance agent, so there’s no way he caused it. Roffey has a cast iron alibi but a lead has led to Jaques Beronne so he wants her to get a shampoo and set. Carol is shocked and excited, Beronne’s is so expensive she would never go there herself! Steed asks her to find out who might have called Roffey by dropping his name in conversation and to watch the reactions.

Carol arrives at the salon and hurriedly improvises the pseudonym “Stone” after seeing the word TONE on a poster. She pleads for a shampoo and set despite not having an appointment - she wants to impress a feller that night before he emigrates to New Zealand, and this is her last chance. Linda smiles and summons Denise (Heidi Erich) who was going to be doing Jean’s hair - Jean can wait, so Carol can take her place in number five, waiting for Denise to finish a perm.

Carol thanks her effusively and says Mrs. Roffey said they’d look after her, which makes Linda look at her sharply. Carol enters the cubicle and tries to eavesdrop on the other customers but Avril (Nina Marriott) catches her trying to open the ventilator between cubicles just before Denise returns. Linda, worried after the reaction to the phone call that morning, had told Jacques about her dropping the name and Jacques decides to give Denise five minutes before he goes to have a word with Carol himself. He enters when Denise is setting her perm and introduces himself, then casually mentions he doesn’t remember the customer who recommended her to them. Carol smiles and says she only got married last year, maybe they knew her by her unmarried name. He departs and Denise turns on the noisy dryer, shouting at her to switch it to medium when it gets too hot. After a few moments flicking through a magazine, Carol reaches for the switch but when she presses it there’s a violent crack and a flash. Carol slumps in the chair unconscious.

Act 2

Carol lies on the sofa in Steed’s flat, being fed hot, sweet tea by an administering angel in the shape of Steed who insists it’s “the answer for cases of shock”. He muses that the drier was clearly tampered with, the switch on a live terminal and whoever fiddled with hadn’t counted on it shorting out immediately. Steed then subtly manipulates Carol. 1

CAROL: Oh dear....just think what Dr. Keel’d going to say.....
STEED: Yes...Er...I suppose he’ll have to be told? - he’ll forbid you to leave the surgery again without an escort
CAROL: Let’s not tell him!

Carol apologises for being so blunt with her attempt to mention Roffey but Steed dismisses it; he is more interested in the dryer. They couldn’t have known she was coming as she had no appointment so if it were fixed, it was for someone else. Carol recalls she had taken the place of Jean in the cubicle.

STEED: Well, I’m delivering you back to the doctor. I’m going to do some checking up on Jean and Denise.
CAROL: (SMILES) You’re going to enjoy that. Denise is quite a dish!

Steed arrives at the salon at closing time, claiming to be looking for an old flame called Beryl. Denise, who is the last one there and locking up, is impressed with his expensive car and flash suit and happily accepts a lift, quickly ending up back at Steed’s flat. Steed suddenly drops the innuendo-dripping charm and demands some answers, questioning her about Roffey and, more pointedly, about fixing the dryer to kill Jean. Denise denies it and says Madame had the motive -

DENISE: Yes - the boss’s wife. Or perhaps she is the boss.
STEED: And why doesn’t Madame like Jean Lewis?
DENISE: Simply because Jacques does, quite a lot. And she’s daft enough to let him do what he likes.

Having learnt what he needed, Steed takes her back in his arms; she looks into his eyes and smiles triumphantly.

Next morning, Steed drops by the surgery to make sure Carol is all right and he tells her about Jean’s affair with Jacques. The salon is going downhill and is losing money fast, which it has in common with Roffey’s timber yard, so maybe Beronne is the one who contacted Roffey. Carol muses about talking to Jean but Steed refuses, saying she’s done her bit. As soon as he goes, she calls the salon to make a booking...

Steed arrives at the salon, asking Linda if he can see Mr. Beronne on business. Linda says he’s busy but will go and see, interrupting Beronne who is with Johnny. Linda says there’s a gentleman to see him but Steed has already entered the door; he looks at the two men and says it won’t take a moment but Beronne refuses to see him. Realising he’s put Linda in an awkward position, Steed bows out. Returning to Linda’s desk, he is alarmed to see Carol waiting for her four o’clock appointment and leaves the salon angrily. Jacques is delighted that “Miss Stone” has returned and offers her massage at no charge.

Steed calls his boss, One-Ten (Douglas Muir), and tells him Beronne was in a business meeting with and “old friend of theirs”, Johnny Mendelssohn and asks that he be checked up on.

Jean is expertly giving Carol a massage and they chat about the accident the day before. Carol tells her that the dryer had been tampered with to kill Jean rather than herself, which shocks the girl. Carol asks her if she knows something about the salon that she shouldn’t. Jean is worried and writes her address on a card, asking Carol to come round at half past eight, it’ll be safer to talk there. When she whisks aside the curtain to go and retrieve Carol’s thing, Olive Beronne is standing there, scowling. Jean gasps and Olive simply says she was trying to find an empty cubicle before turning and walking away.

Act 3

Steed and Carol drive to Jean’s flat where loud music is blaring from the windows but Jean doesn’t answer the doorbell. Steed picks the lock but when they enter they find Jean lying on the bed, strangled. Carol gasps in shock but recovers when Steed orders her to ring the police while he checks the flat. He’s hoping to find a diary but they turn up nothing. Grabbing the phone, he tells the desk sergeant the address and what they’ve found, saying he’ll explain it all later. He then has an idea about establishing where Jacques is and rings his number, but is astonished to learn from the maid that the Beronnes are making a getaway, heading to Paris on the Night Ferry, having left for Victoria Station ten minutes ago. He goes to head them off, leaving Carol in charge of the flat until the police arrive, warning her not to let anyone in except a copper in uniform.

Shortly after he leaves, the doorbell rings but when she asks who’s there there’s no reply. Cautiously edging up the steps she hears the coal cellar door slam and she runs back, finding Denise in the flat. Denise initially thinks Carol has killed Jean, then tells her she came to see Jean because she thought Jacques would be there as he’s broken a date with Denise a few days earlier. Carol tells Denise that the Beronnes are escaping to France that night, and it occurs to Carol that Jacques is giving himself an alibi. She asks if the salon has a night watchman...

On the train, Olive takes charge, telling the worried Jacques to stop thinking of Jean and dispose of the large case in left luggage. Finding him unable to even do that, she goes to do it herself, barking at a sleeping car attendant (Gordon Rollings), as Jacques heads for the Pullman car for a stiff drink. Carol meanwhile has resolved to go and check the salon to see if the Beronnes set a timed fuse to set fire to the salon and she leaves poor Denise in charge of the flat.

Steed arrives at the station, obliviously passing Olive on the concourse before tipping the attendant to let him into the Beronne’s compartment. He’s searching their luggage when Jacques returns, who threatens to call the police. Steed smiles and says he will call the police when he’s ready, and asks if Jacques knows that Jean is dead - strangled for not keeping her mouth shut. Jacques claims he has no idea what he’s talking about so Steed says, “Perhaps Johnny Mendelssohn knows”. Steed explains he met Johnny in ’49 when he was a forger - then a dope peddler - and now an arsonist. Mendelssohn made the mistake of calling Roffey from Beronne’s office.

There’s a knock at the door and the attendant announces that the lady gave him a letter - but it’s for Steed! Inside is a left luggage ticket and a crestfallen Beronne confesses it contains cash and their most expensive salon equipment. Olive killed Jean because she was jealous of her. Steed’s eyes blaze in anger as he realises Beronne had known all along and was an accessory to the poor girl’s murder, and hits him in the jaw, knocking him our cold. He opens the door and tells the attendant to tidy the compartment up, “the police will be very glad to take him off your hands”. He departs, leaving the attendant staring at Beronne lying on the ground.

Carol creeps into the salon where she is promptly caught by Joe and Johnny. She claims to work there and returned because she left her purse behind. Olive arrives, telling Johnny the job is off but is startled to see Carol. She demands to know who sent her. Carol retorts that Olive killed Jean, which surprises Johnny, and he’s taken aback when she orders him to tie her up and set a fire to get rid of Carol. Olive says it the only chance they have left but before they can finish the task Steed appears and threatens them with a gun. Johnny sneers he won’t use it as the whole place will go up. Steed is attacked from behind by Joe, who has returned with an extra can of petrol 2, but Steed gets a shot off as they trade punches and the fire takes hold.

Keel admonishes Steed:

“No danger at all”, you said. “Nothing at all will happen to her - I give you my word.” “Fresh air will do her good” you said.
I suppose you know you’re both lucky to get out of there alive? This was the first early night I’ve had for weeks.

Carol comes to Steed’s defence, saying he was very brave and saved everyone from the fire - Olive is in hospital and will face a murder charge when she gets out and the others are all behind bars.
Keel sighs, giving up on his first early night in weeks, and asks if there’s anything else Steed wants before he drive Carol home. Steed winces and says, “Well, not for me old boy.” He looks at his dog and adds, “There is one little thing. She usually has er ... goes for a walk about this time, you know.” Carol smiles and says she’ll wait as Keel leads the dog outside.

  1. Reminiscent of his manipulating of Venus Smith in series 2.
  2. Well, I think so... the camera script just says “(PUNCH UP)” but doesn’t really explain why.

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