Series 4 — Episode 7
The Murder Market
by Tony Williamson
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
A businessman meets a woman for a blind date and she immediately shoots him.
He’s not the only one though, and the Avengers are called in to investigate a spate of similar deaths that seem linked to the Togetherness introduction agency.
The agency facilitates the murder of inconvenient relatives for its members, while providing alibis for them by making sure they’re seen elsewhere at the time of death, the attractive Barbara Wakefield being their chief assassin.
The Avengers fake Emma’s death at Steed’s hand, then defeat the members of the agency in their offices. Steed and Mrs Peel depart in a hearse.
A businessman, Jonathan Stone, (Edward Underdown) meets a woman - Barbara Wakefield (Suzanne Lloyd) - for a blind date in an Aquarium and she immediately shoots him, water pouring from the tank behind him, punctured with bullet holes...
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) tells Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) that Stone was the eleventh apparently motiveless murder in the last six months, the prime suspect in each case with a perfect alibi. Each victim had a photo taken at the same studio before their deaths so Steed goes there while Mrs Peel visits Stone’s widow, posing as a journalist asking for background detail and a recent photograph of her late husband. Mrs Stone (Naomi Chance) is cagey and says she doesn’t have a photo of her husband but her brother-in-law, Robert Stone (John Woodvine) says there are some in his desk. She checks but claims not to find any; Robert is visibly perturbed by her lie. Steed meanwhile visits the fashionable photographer Fred Beale (John Forgeham), who is struggling to get an advertising shot just right. Steed lends the model his bowler and umbrella and Beale is elated, but claims never to do portrait shots - except for clients of Togetherness Inc., an exclusive marriage bureau.
Steed gets Emma to check whether the previous victims were married while he visits Togetherness, where the secretary (Barbara Roscoe) entices him in with her ample bosom and offers him champers and wedding cake. The proprietor, Adrian Lovejoy (Patrick Cargill), is busy congratulating a happy couple - a towering woman and mousey man (Penelope Keith and Colin Vancao). Lovejoy drags Steed away from staring at his secretary and asks for personal details to determine his “emotional and physical compatibility rating” (sound familiar?). Lovejoy is pleased to hear he was a Major in the Guards but dismayed to hear he was expelled from three public schools. He asks what work Steed does then apologises when Steed appears baffled. Steed smiles and replies, “Tried working once, didn’t work out. Too much like work”. Steed says he’s not fussy but would like someone with a good seat - on a horse, plays bridge, mixes a dry martini, and whips up a passable soufflé.
Lovejoy’s partner, Walter Dinsford (Peter Bayliss) rushes in nervously, clutching the file for Mr Henshaw which he wants Adrian to look at urgently. Lovejoy angrily says he’s busy with Mr Steed and Dinsford scampers off. He catches Henshaw (John Moore) at the door, where he’s just appeared to announce he’s leaving; Dinsford ushers him out and Lovejoy dismisses the incident.
That night, Steed breaks into the Togetherness Inc offices and searches them, eventually finding Henshaw’s address on a notice board hidden behind some sliding panels. He rings Mrs Peel and tells her to go there immediately then hangs up as he hears footsteps. He overhears Lovejoy and Dinsford arguing about Henshaw; Lovejoy phones the ‘managing director’ and learns Henshaw has already been taken care of. Sure enough, when Mrs Peel arrives at his flat she finds an abandoned romantic dinner for two and an overflowing bath - with Henshaw drowned in it. Miss Wakefield runs for the front door and escapes, but not before she and Emma get a good look at each other. When Mrs Peel reports back, Steed is convinced the bureau is implicated and tells her they should have found him a match - she quips she’d have to be a mix of Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc. Steed smiles and says he thinks it’s time she thought of marrying again.
Lovejoy tells Steed to meet Miss Wakefield at noon, they will both wear red carnations. He asks Steed to sit for a portrait and Steed offers to send him some photographs in the mail. On the way out, he passes Mrs Peel, who is signing up. Lovejoy is about to usher her into his office when the managing director rings, so he bustles her off to have her photograph taken. He tells the director Steed is just their type and he has, of course, sent Barbara on the date. Steed meets Barbara at the Aquarium and for a moment it looks like he will share Stone’s fate - but she simply adjusts her hat.
Mrs Peel has her photo taken by Beale, and sees Robert Stone asking Beale questions. Meanwhile, Steed discovers Barbara is from Toronto and she learns he’s the black sheep of the family and will only inherit a large sum if his favoured cousin dies. Lovejoy discovers that Mrs Peel wants a man who is mature, intelligent, cultured - “with stamina!” - of independent means. A title is not necessary, she’s really “more interested in the man”. She departs, passing Miss Wakefield in the lobby and the murderess immediately tells Lovejoy and Dinsford she was at Henshaw’s apartment. Back at Steed’s flat, Mrs Peel plays his tuba and he practices golf while they exchange notes. Steed heads off for a wedding-cake tasting with Dinsford and Lovejoy, where Lovejoy tells him he hasn’t the finances to keep Miss Wakefield in the manner to which she is accustomed. Lovejoy insinuates a sporting accident may rid Steed of his troublesome cousin; Steed laughs and says he doesn’t like the thought of hanging from a rope, he’s always preferred soft collars. Dinsford suggest that if he eliminated someone else’s “problem” while they eliminated his, they could both have water-tight alibis. Steed agrees that he’d use the services of an organisation that could arrange it “like a shot” but wonders how such a thing could exist, undetected, where people could come and go and meet at will... “A marriage bureau, in fact”, Lovejoy enjoins.
Mrs Peel arrives at Steed’s flat just as he pops open a bottle of champagne, a gift from his new employers for services about to be rendered. Mrs Peel declares “we have them” but Steed wants to get to the top - he tells her they supply the means and photo of the victim, raises the pistol and says, “It’s you my dear”. Lovejoy is delighted with Steed and say they may use him again. He’s even more delighted when Steed arrives and returns the pistol, already used. He plans to pop the question to Barbara and honeymoon on the riviera while his dear cousin becomes his dear departed cousin. Lovejoy insists on verifying Steed has completed his task - at gunpoint. Steed takes him to the crypt where Mrs Peel is lying in state and there Lovejoy suggests he become a regular assassin for them. Steed insists on meeting the managing director first. He lingers after Lovejoy departs and tells Mrs Peel to stay in the coffin until the evening. She groans, until he gives her a bottle of champagne, but hew warns her against “hiccoughing in the coffin”. Lovejoy returns to the office, humming happily, but loses his humour when told by Beale that Steed was at his studio the other day, saying he’d been recommended by a client. Steed is surprised to have a visit from Lovejoy and his henchman - they are going to bury Mrs Peel that afternoon.
Mrs Peel, bored and mildly tipsy, is dancing around the crypt, sipping champagne when she hears footsteps approaching. She leaps back into the coffin before the pall bearers and Lovejoy enter, and is carried out to the graveside. Steed and the staff of Togetherness Inc are the mourners, along with a woman wearing a black veil. Steed sees Robert Stone watching from a distance. In the hearse on the way back, the woman removes her veil and introduces herself as the managing director - it’s Mrs Stone! Meanwhile, Robert enters the Togetherness offices and is searching Lovejoy’s desk when Mrs Peel appears, pointing a gun at him. He’s astounded to see her then hastily explains he’s trying to find his brother’s killer. They start searching and have just found the date book, recording Barbara meeting with Jonathan when Barbara walks in and holds them at gunpoint. She calls the other villains in - Robert amazed to see Jessica in their midst. Mrs Stone hisses, “Fools, both of you!” as they realise their suspicions about Steed were well-founded. She says they’ll take care of their visitors first and tells Dinsford to back the car up to the entrance. He departs but is surprised by Steed in the lobby. Jessica Stone meanwhile tells Emma and Robert that Jonathan and she ran the perfect organisation, but he wasn’t content, and started dating the girls from the client list - so she used his own organisation to kill him. Steed hears Lovejoy leading the prisoners out and dons a top hat to take a place in a display. As they pass, he kicks out, disarming the henchman, then leaps down on the captors. Mrs Peel and Robert join in the fights and Steed sends Emma off to take care of Mrs Stone and Barbara, who are burning incriminating documents. The villains are defeated and Barbara, in one desperate last attempt, leaps at Mrs Peel, but is caught by Steed. “Congratulations!” smirks Emma; “Best Man”, replies Steed, and she laughs.
The Avengers depart in the hearse, Steed chatting away in the back and he straightens up his tie while Mrs Peel drives. She can’t hear a word until he opens the glass panel and asks if she agrees. “Every word”, she replies and keeps on driving.
|Production dates:||23-Nov - 4/12/64||Drinks|
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
|France||11/04/67||(Coeur à coeur)|
|Italy||7/08/69||(Lovejoy & C.)|
|Spain||---||(El mercado de los asesinatos)|