Series 3 — Episode 20
by Malcolm Hulke
Designed by Richard Harrison
Directed by Laurence Bourne
Production No 3621, VTR/ABC/3352
Production completed: January 30 1964. First transmission: February 8 1964.
TV Times summary
In which Steed goes horse-racing and Cathy becomes the favourite for murder
When Steed puts Sebastian the Second into the famous stables of George Meadows, he finds the cause for many recent killings. The stables hide a dangerous assassination syndicate, who use the stables and a bookmaker’s office to hide their activities. They blackmail young jockeys and stablehands into a life of crime and train them to become killers. Taking care of Johnson’s crime school, Steed and Cathy reveal Major Pantling to be the crime boss and bridle his ambition.
Johnson (Derek Newark) slips on some brass knuckles, telling ffordsham (Geoffrey Whitehead) to keep watch. When Kirby (James Donnelly) appears, Johnson demands payment for an outstanding betting debt and beats him up until he collapses. ffordsham stops him, apparently too late as Johnson says he’s dead and they scarper. As soon as they leave, Kirby gets up again with a grin, and straightens his tie…
Stable owner George Meadows (Arthur Pentelow) and Jockey Club Steward Major Pantling (Basil Dignam) are trying to name a new filly1 when John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives, representing the Foreign Office and concerned about the security arrangements surrounding Sebastian the Second, a stallion belonging to a visiting sultan. He has to show them an official letter of authority as they’re worried about people trying to fix races by doping horses.
Meadows’ daughter, Ann (Lucinda Curtis), arrives with the post and is asked to show Steed the stables. Johnson is in charge of the stables and orders Brown to come with him, greeting Ann and Steed on their way out. Ann tells Steed the stables are secure — no-one could get in, not even a policeman, and the stablemen are all absolutely loyal to her father.2
A short time later, the bookmaker Tony Heuston (T.P. McKenna) gives Brown a package for his next assignment and Johnson waits behind to tell Heuston about Steed’s arrival, but Heuston is unconcerned. ffordsham is shown in and shoved into a chair by Johnson; Heuston smiles at him and tells him he was unwise to make bets he couldn’t cover. He implies they can frame him for Kirby’s ‘murder’ and says ffordsham has to work for him again.
FFORDSHAM: And collect more debts for you?
HEUSTON: No, no, no, nothing so crude. I run another business. Far more refined. We need men like you — strong on lineage, and a little light on principles.
FFORDSHAM: I don’t think I’m interested.
HEUSTON: I’m afraid you have no choice. You see, we kill people to order. A man like you would be useful, good manners, public school accent, acceptable anywhere. You’d be highly trained, and grossly overpaid. Now go away and think about it.
Returning from a ride, Ann and Steed find Lynton Smith (John Lowe) waiting for Meadows — his brother Gerry’s trial is next week and he wants time off. Pantling enters and explains to Steed that Smith’s brother was also a jockey at the stables until he disappeared, only to turn up in South America, caught trying to kill a tycoon there.3 Lynton discovered Gerry was heavily in debt to bookies, he’d found Gerry’s notebook of horses and how much he was losing. Pantling carefully asks if he knows who Gerry owed money to. When Smith says that’s what he’d like to find out, Pantling writes him a cheque to cover his expenses — an act of largess that Steed suspects,4 especially as Ann tells him Pantling used to complain about living on his Army pension until about two years ago, when he started buying horses.
At the track the next day, Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) and Steed place their bets and Steed chats up the tote girl (Marjorie Keys).5 Steed wishes Smith luck as he walks to the mounting yard, then tells Cathy there have been at least twelve unsolved, motiveless murders of important men in as many months, and he suspects a connection with Meadows’ stables because of Smith’s brother — they’ve protected like a fortress, perhaps to hide someone inside rather than keep dopers out.
CATHY: But if these stables are as security-bound as you say, how do you propose to get in there — I mean by yourself?
STEED: Well, there’s one thing I’ve observed, they’ve got this procedure for checking you in. But they don’t seem to have one for checking you out again.
CATHY: Are you fond of bran mash?
While they’re talking, Johnson & ffordsham enter the stables behind them unnoticed.
Ann is watching the races at Heuston’s office and is horrified when Smith falls from his mount. She wants to leave but he coolly tells her Smith’ll be fine. At the track, Smith is taken into the Stewards’ office by two ambulance men. The attending doctor turns and gives him an injection — but the doctor is Kirby!
Johnson presents ffordsham to Meadows as a new stablehand, no longer the Honorable, he now wants to earn a living and learn a trade. Steed enters and is shown Smith’s stirrups which were sliced through with a razor before the race. Meadows says he was sure they were alright when he gave Smith a leg up in the Parade Ring. In twenty-five years as a trainer, he’s seen nothing like it, putting it down to the doping ring, now trying to nobble riders rather than horses.
Steed questions this, Lower Depths wasn’t the favourite so the motive may be personal. He recommends they keep the police out of it and Meadows meekly agrees. Meadows phones ahead to make sure they let Steed enter the stables and he waits for dark… with caviar and champagne.
HEUSTON: Mrs. Gale, have you ever worked for a turf accountant?
CATHY: No. But I’ve been a racegoer for a long time.
HEUSTON: Well I’m very glad there aren’t more like you about. We’d be out of business. Tell me, do you know this one; when would a punter definitely win by backing every horse in a race?
She easily answers his question and asks for a job as winnings don’t last forever; Heuston is impressed and puts her in charge as he has “another concern that is taking up more of his time”.8 Meanwhile, Meadows and Pantling are becoming suspicious of Steed as he didn’t want to involve the police.
Brown sets up a classroom for Johnson in the harness room, and is then knocked out by Steed when he finds him in the stalls. Steed then watches from the loft as Johnson instructs the stablehands in the use of poisons.
Cathy meanwhile is dining with Heuston, who reveals he was trapped into bookmaking but came to love it, and more recently has been trapped into doing other things he doesn’t like.
CATHY: I can’t see you doing anything you didn’t want to.
HEUSTON: Well, there are those occasions when one has no alternative. It’s either that or…
CATHY: Or what?
HEUSTON: Well, take now for instance. I have to leave you.
Back at the stables, Johnson is demonstrating a dart gun hidden inside a pair of binoculars. Heuston arrives at Johnson’s masterclass and pays the stablehands, then tells Johnson it’s time they used ffordsham.
Next day, Heuston pressures Meadows about Steed, saying Brown told them Steed was in the harness room. He reminds him he’s involved in their assassination ring and when Meadows protests that the stables are still his, holds out the spectre of revealing his £10,000 gambling debt.9
A bit later, Cathy is visited by Pantling, wishing to raise his maximum credit. She’s about to decline the request when Heuston arrives and approves it, then tells them he has private business to attend to; after they have gone, ffordsham enters and Heuston tells him to kill Steed.10
Meadows has disappeared, and Ann is worried. Pantling tries to reassure her and asks if she’s spoken to the police, then quickly backtracks when she considers doing so, and tells her to leave it to him.
Johnson is also worried, and bursts into Heuston’s office and stops in surprise when he sees Cathy. Heuston ushers her out then tells Johnson she has brains but doesn’t know about them … yet. He suspects she may be trying to, so he orders Johnson to check up on her. In return, Johnson tells Heuston that Meadows tried to turn them in to the police last night with a gun, but was accidentally killed when things got rough after Johnson disarmed him.
HEUSTON: You fool, Johnson!
JOHNSON: I’m sick an’ tired of being treated like a serf! They think they can treat everybody like animals.
HEUSTON: You are still a fool! Where’s the body?
JOHNSON: Well, he’s all set to go on a journey. Don’t worry, no-one’ll find him. But it does rather change the situation, dunnit? I mean, now your girlfriend, Ann will ’ave to be told the truth, won’t she?
Steed arrives at Meadows’ but Ann won’t let him into the stables without her father’s permission, she goes out with some bandages, dropping one on the way. Steed picks it up and is trying to force the drawer of the desk when Pantling walks in, so he quickly pretends to have been admiring the desk while folding the bandage.
Steed says Ann was a bit upset and Pantling explains that Meadows is missing, then pulls out a letter he claims to have received in the morning post — a suicide note which asks Pantling to run the stables until Ann is of age.
He admits Steed to the stables, where Steed finds Meadows’ body under some straw in a horse float near Sebastian’s stall. As soon as he uncovers the body, a revolver is trained on him…
Ann visits Heuston and is told the truth — her father is dead and both Heuston and her father were terrorised into working for the organisation running from the stables. An organisation that kills for money.
HEUSTON: You know, it was fun when it started, because of the money. But after a time, you know, anyone who steps through that door may be my Trojan Horse; because just like the wooden horse that the Greeks let the Trojans drag into their city, the person coming through that door may look alright — but they may have been ordered to kill me.
ANN: Then you’re not the head of this organisation?
HEUSTON: No Ann. I’m one step down the pyramid, and I never know who my killer will be if I ever step out of line.
Ann turns a gun on him and he thinks she’s part of the organisation, “the most innocent Trojan Horse of all” but she’s just trying to learn what her father had got involved in. Cathy enters and asks Ann for the gun, then knocks out Heuston as he tries to grab it. Heuston dealt with, Cathy asks Ann to phone the police.
Kirby returns from Paris and requests entrance to the stables about the same time that Pantling enters Heuston’s office and finds Cathy searching the filing cabinets — he is friendly and asks her to accompany him to Meadows’ stables so they can discuss something with her friend Steed.
Johnson learns over the phone that Heuston has been picked up by the police and orders ffordsham to kill Steed, but Kirby comes in and ffordsham realises he’s been hoodwinked. They struggle and Johnson is shot, once by ffordsham, and again by Steed when he tries to draw his own gun. Steed deputises ffordsham on the spot and makes him pick up Johnson’s gun.
Pantling is directing Cathy towards the harness room when Cathy spots Meadows’ body, and he draws a gun on her, saying it has been a “strange day all round”. When they enter the stable, Steed points a gun at him and the boss is disarmed.
A few days later, ffordsham is assisting Ann with running the stables, she’s now in charge and has hired new stablehands. Steed has been given Sebastian — he shows his new “four year old” to Cathy, who promptly looks the gift horse in the mouth and tells him he must be joking.
- Trying to name the new filly — Tax Collector out of Silver Virgin — Major Pantling suggests ‘Silver Boy’, then ‘Shining Money’, Meadows suggests ‘Revenue Girl’ (sadly already used); Steed later suggests ‘Impossible’ (although the script has Steed suggest the name ‘Pay As You Learn’). ⭮
- The first of many red herrings in this episode. ⭮
- This is of course Steed’s real reason for being there but he feigns ignorance. ⭮
- This starts out played as another red herring but it has legs on it to stay the course. ⭮
- The tote girl’s lines in the script are labelled as LIZ but the name doesn’t seem to be used elsewhere. When she asks if he’s there to play the field he grins and suggests six o’clock; she deflects by saying the last race is the five-thirty. After placing his bet, he tells her he’ll be at the Mens Enclosure at 5.45 and asks her to join him. ⭮
- He is to kill Patrice du Bois, major shareholder of the house of Suchet. ⭮
- Heuston also sets her a test: when would a punter definitely win by backing every horse in a race, and Cathy replies that would happen if for instance there are ten horses. You add one to the odds of each of the ten horses, and then you take the reciprocal of those ten numbers — if the sum of those reciprocals is less than one, you must win. ⭮
- Heuston offers her £70 a week, mostly tax free, but she demands £100 — big money in 1963 when the average wage was £11–14 a week. Heuston’s offer would be the equivalent of £1,460 in 2023, and her counter £2,085 so big money in any age. ⭮
- £10,000 in 1963 would be £208,500 in 2023. ⭮
- He hands him a photo of his building, his car (which seems to be the same Peugeot 304 they used for Kirby’s Parisian target), and a photo of Steed with the horse Sebastian. ⭮