Well, firstly, this isn’t my work. It’s far better than my work 😉 It comes from an anonymous someone whom I greatly admire and adore 😉 I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
007 – Curtain Call
Flowers everywhere. And women. Anonymous women; hiding behind long coats and dark sunglasses. Hysterically crying women; calling out their rage. And praying women; kneeling calmly, eyes closed, hands closed together.
Eve felt misplaced. Or rather, everyone else was misplaced. They were intruders. They were unimportant. They were background.
* * *
Maybe if I throw myself to the side, and put my entire weight into it, I will be able to turn this ghastly piece of furniture around, and be able to drag myself to the table.
* * *
The second Eve saw the unmistakable appearance of the two operatives un-blending with the moustache-clad taxi drivers and meticulously dressed limousine chauffeurs, it was like the series of events suddenly reorganized and she realised that life, as she knew it, for the third time in a couple of months had irrefutably changed.
She made a sign to Rhys and glanced towards the agents; she noticed a shadow pass across his face. “So the honeymoon is over then, my love?”
“Yes darling, I believe it is.”
By the time she stepped into the Bentley, she was blinking furiously to stop the tears.
* * *
“Eve, I don’t expect you to believe me, but after Tracy, it has always been a matter of Queen and country. Obligations. The sinister call of duty.”
Eve couldn’t help coughing a giggle. Quite inappropriate considering the solemn situation, but his remark was totally unexpected and in any other circumstances a complete fabrication. It felt like she was listening to a well-spun tale from an apologetic schoolboy, trying to escape a well-deserved punishment. In a sense she was. At least the listening to a schoolboy part. Her daily chores largely comprised being the head mistress of a school of unruly boys, and a select few women, rummaging around the world, in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And this particular boy was her favourite. Had always been.
“You have been practising that line for a long time, haven’t you James?”
She had expected him to break out in a wide smile, wink at her and say something witty, like he always did. But he didn’t. Just looked sadly at her.
He took her hand and continued. Almost whispered.
“And for each time, I sink deeper. Feeling like a traitor. And when I look up from the abyss, the only light that I see, is you.”
Eve couldn’t believe what she was hearing. For years and years, she had been waiting for this moment. Felt a dagger in her heart every time the debriefing of a mission made it apparent that once again, he had accomplished his mission by way of his charm and wit and the seduction of first ladies and princesses. Tears filled her eyes and before she realized what she did, she wriggled her hand out of his and slapped his face.
“You have no right! Damn you, James, you have no right!”
He did not even flinch.
“I know, Eve, but I have come to realise that life is too short to keep deep secrets. God knows I have many secrets I cannot tell, but this one is my own, and I must follow my heart. My only regret is that I haven’t said this sooner.”
“I regret it too. There was a time when I would have thrown myself into your arms, girlishly expecting a rosy happily ever after. I suppose that I grew up. And yes, you should have spoken sooner.”
Finally some sort of reaction in his dark eyes.
“Rhys has asked me to marry him.”
A gasp even.
“Yes… I said yes.”
Eve couldn’t tell if it was minutes or hours, but the silence seemed to last forever. Several times, she was on the verge of breaking the engagement with Rhys and throw herself at James’s feet. Just as many times, she had to fight the urge to simply stand up and walk away. Forever. It was impossible to interpret what was going on in James’s mind. Only the occasional deep sigh gave evidence of his still being conscious.
Then he moved. Crossed legs, leaned back. Colour reappeared on his face.
“So Miss Moneypenny is about to become Mrs. Rhys Argall?”
“My warmest congratulations. He seems to be a fine man, Eve. If you take care of him the way you’ve taken care of me over the years, he will be the happies man in the world. I hope that he realises just how lucky he is.”
Ice was broken. The charm and wit was back. The loving bickering. The candid jokes and laughter. Yet, there was a bit of tension in the air that Eve had never noticed before.
“So what do you want for wedding present?”
Oh yes. This is it. Last chance.
“James, there is only one thing that I have ever wanted from you.”
Another reaction. Eve couldn’t say if it was excitement or discomfort. She could read just about any man out there, but with James, she never could tell. As for herself, she could not believe that she had said it out loud.
* * *
“Miss Moneypenny, I am sad to inform you that agent 007 is dead. His maid found him early this morning.”
If she hadn’t been offered a chair, she would have fainted and dropped to the floor where she stood. Even though she had lived in these offices for as long as she could remember, for a while she was slightly disconcerted as she didn’t quite recognize the room she was in; the bright lights blinded her and she almost drowned in a cascade of colours.
After a few seconds, nevertheless, she came to. New regime, everything new. MI6 had undergone a fundamental facelift (or a complete dismantling of old traditions, depending on whose opinion that was voiced) in recent years. Seasoned field agents had been replaced by hackers in their early twenties, fine-tuned diplomacy had been reduced to emails or snapchat, and governments fell not due to armed rebellion but because of Facebook and Twitter. So, the beautiful old Queen Anne furniture had given way for art deco, or so the interior design consultants called it – Eve figured that MI6 had become storage room for the decorators’ disposed garbage. At a hefty price.
“I realise that it may be uncustomary, but I ask you to accept my condolences. The special relationship that you had with 007 has not gone unnoticed. I appreciate that you were very fond of him and trust me when I say that he loved you dearly. You were the closest thing he ever had to a family; the older sister he never had.”
Eve had to bite her lip not to laugh through her tears. She hardly believed that James had considered her to be a sister. They had exchanged many bodily fluids but by no means did they share blood, even figuratively.
“Agent 007 was on a top secret mission, performing an internal investigation that very few knew about. Even I was to be informed afterwards and only on a need to know basis. It seems as though we have a mole. We suspect that 007’s death was connected to this investigation and that foul play was involved. Miss Moneypenny, it is most likely that 007 was murdered. I am deeply sorry.”
This did not play out the way Eve had expected. She had expected arrest and indictment but was given a consoling hug.
* * *
Weeks had passed since their goodnight kiss and Eve had started to expect that James’s promise of a special wedding gift had been nothing more than a whim in the heat of the moment and that the silence ever since was proof of second thoughts. The wedding was less than a week away.
“Miss Moneypenny, a feast for my eyes!”
Awakened from her bitter daydreaming, Eve made a little jump and found herself spirited with joy from the look of the handsome man behind the steering wheel of the vintage silver Aston Martin that had sneaked up on her from behind. “Hurry up, we have a busy schedule!”
Without really thinking, Eve entered the car and sank down in the comfortable leather seat next to James. Back on the road, she regained her composure.
“Really James, it is great to see you but I don’t think that I have the time. The wedding is only four days away and preparations are not nearly finished… And Rhys…”
“Rhys’s stag party has been sailing on rivers of beer back in Cardiff since early this morning and he will not be back in London until tomorrow evening at the earliest. And as far as preparations go, I know that you were done to the last detail a week ago and all that was scheduled for this evening was an appointment with the make-up artist. He was quite disappointed that I wouldn’t let him do me, but he agreed to reschedule your meeting until tomorrow afternoon. After all, it was only about choosing colours.”
Eve futile attempt to seem riled by James’s interruption of her plans quickly changed into confusion.
“I thought you were in Cairo?”
“Oh, Mr. James Bond checked into the Cheops Imperial Hotel late last night, diligently monitored by intelligence agents from all around the world. What is known only to a customs officer, a retired civil engineer and a Cornish family is that this morning, a Mr. Smith returned to Heathrow from a tourist trip to the pyramids.”
James’s explanation did little to ease Eve’s bewilderment – she was always the one who kept track of the agents’ travel arrangements and she would have known if 007 had made attempts to divert any pursuers. James seemed to read her mind.
“Eve, you couldn’t have known about it. Even M doesn’t know. I am conducting an internal investigation. The only one who knows is the Minister of the Interior. And now you.”
She knew better than to finish the question. She had learnt to restrain her curiosity years ago, or she would have gone insane on her first year on the job.
“So, where are we going?”
“Beluga and Dom Perignon is on ice at the Caledonian Quarters.”
Who else than James Bond would suggest a lovers’ meeting with servings of red listed fish at a secretive gentlemen’s club known for little more than its notorious no-women policy? Again, he seemed to read her thoughts.
“Don’t worry, I’m trusted with my own key. We won’t have to go through the front door.”
To no surprise, drinks were fabulous, dinner was superb, and cigars heavenly.
“I quit smoking a year ago, but please Eve, I don’t mind at all. Unless you have tried this special cuvee Cohiba, you haven’t got an honest clue as to why you ever bothered trying smoking in the first place. It is legendary.”
Of course he was right. The Caledonian Quarters mastered the art of fine wines and foods as well as spirits and cigars. And secrecy.
“I haven’t been here, Eve, as far as the Quarters is concerned. Even the Spanish Inquisition wouldn’t be capable of getting a confession from any of the staff. Breaking the trust of the members, for them would be slightly worse than the kiss of Judas. If I believed it was possible, I could swear that they actively manage to forget my name in between visits.”
Eve hoped that the night wouldn’t end at the Quarters. She blushed in the most evident manner when she put up a last show to uphold her dignity.
“Thank you, James, for a wonderful evening. I would never have thought…”
She praised her good fortune that he interrupted her.
“Eve, you didn’t honestly think that I would let it end here?”
The kiss that followed made all previous kisses redundant.
* * *
The way the investigation of the suspected murder progressed, the general view was that 007 had indeed come close to some dirty business inside the government or even the MI6 and that the mole or moles had found a way of reaching the highly regarded agent in his own home. Possibly – circumstances pointed that way – by means of a woman. James Bond was widely acknowledged as a notorious womaniser and it seemed likely that any foreign power, or criminal organisation, would use this knowledge to get to him on his home turf.
The murder scene was, however, in great disarray. It appeared as though 007 had been tortured for days and eventually left in chains to die a gruesome death. Whether the culprits had obtained any critical information or not from the agent was anybody’s guess. Agent 007 had been the subject of cruel interrogation in the past and had not, as far as anybody was aware, revealed anything but his name and favourite cocktail. Nevertheless, the MI6 was on red alert. The country was on red alert. That is, not the happily ignorant populace, but everyone with any kind of security clearance had been given extraordinary duties and reduced access rights.
Exactly how the decapitation had taken place was still subject to further investigation. The dark web hosted illicit threads that contained several exotic theories in a dozen different languages. The death of James Bond was becoming the world’s most debated secret.
* * *
Eve had never visited James’s apartment. She knew its architecture and design from the records at the MI6 – she had used her clearance to study the layout as well as photos of the interior – but nonetheless, she found the air astounding. Not quite tangible, but it filled her with a concentrated essence of every memory that she had from talking to James, thinking of him, planning his trips, fearing for his life, listening to his voice, watching his hat sail straight through the office to the hat rack…
She had a moment’s doubt and felt an urge to run back, out of the door and never look back. Thankfully, she was trained to resist irrational impulses. After all, as M’s secretary, and manager of the ‘double-o’ operations worldwide, it wouldn’t do if she couldn’t handle a bit of stress. Would not do at all.
By the time she found herself half-undressed, on the bed, glass of champagne in her hand, she realised that she was beyond tipsy and for a brief moment she cursed her poor judgement for drinking too much. But his touch brought her back to the present and as adrenalin began to flow, any doubts quickly disappeared.
If there is a book that describes mankind’s accumulated experience in the field of salacious deeds, Eve imagined that they worked their way through every single chapter. She could not believe James’s stamina and she had since long lost track of the number of climaxes, which had by now melted together into one long continuous orgasm.
She threw the key to the cuffs across the rooms and saw them disappear into a corner.
“Q had me sign for those, Miss Moneypenny, you can’t just throw them away.”
For once, he couldn’t keep a straight face but smiled from ear to ear.
“James, if you mention Q again, I will work you over with every gadget that his department has ever designed before I am done with you.”
“Is that a promise?”
Eve had never known that she had it in her, but before long, James body bore marks of her nails and teeth as well as her stiletto heels. His skin blushed from the marks she had given him by friskily using his own belt. He glistened from the moisture of melting ice, sweat and the essences of their ecstasy.
She abandoned her dominatrix-role and rested her head on his chest.
* * *
“He died fighting. Just the way he lived his life. The really sad thing is that had he just stayed put, he would most likely have survived. Indeed dehydrated, but nevertheless alive by the time the maid arrived in the morning. He could not have been without water and food for more than two days. There was no evidence of any drugs other than alcohol, but that was not likely administered to him by the terrorists.”
“So what did happen?”
“Our assessment, and it is nothing more than an educated guess, is that once agent 007 had been left to his destiny by his assailants, he began to take measures to escape from the handcuffs that restrained his hands to either side of the bed’s headboard. His wrists were rather seriously chafed, probably due to his attempt to pull his hands out of them.”
“But the decapitation..?”
“This is where the real tragedy is. We believe that the agent used increasingly more force in his attempt to escape up to the point where he eventually broke his left hand wrist in a most unfortunate way as he, in doing so, ruptured one of his veins. He might have subdued the intense pain, but in matters of minutes, he must have experienced nausea and started to see the signs of the inevitable unconsciousness. As a last attempt to reach for the telephone, which was lying on the table on the other side of the room, he seems to have aimed to reach the floor with his feet and drag the bed after him. Nevertheless, the bed, as you can see, flipped right over, possibly while 007 slipped and fell to the floor. With great force, the bed followed and the steel bar of the bed’s headboard rammed his neck, which near enough cleared his head from the rest of the body. Very nasty. Quite unfortunate.”
* * *
She woke up with a twitch, not quite knowing where she was. Her dry mouth and a beginning headache gave evidence of the floods of champagne she had consumed during the previous evening. Nevertheless, the warmth from James’s body and his divine calmness did magic and diminished the hangover to a tiny nuisance.
Eve felt like she had achieved her purpose of life, died in peace, and come to life again. Rejuvenated and blessed. It was time to go on. New chapter.
From fear of waking him up, she didn’t even use the shower, but slipped in to her dress as silently as humanly possible. After throwing James a silent kiss, she quietly closed the front door behind her and hurried away, giggling as she thought about the many women that must have woke up in the morning only to find that James was long gone. What would James think?
* * *
The licensed-to-kill field agent had become a liability, everyone agreed. The psychopathic prima donnas, who had fought their own special battles during the cold war had become obsolete due to drones, social media and easily duped terror groups. Why send out an operative on a near impossible mission and face the risk of failure and exposure when idealist hackers or fundamentalist terrorist cells, totally unaware of who were financing their operations, would accomplish as effective results. A strike against any target, figuratively speaking performed in broad daylight, would effectively conceal the hidden purpose and minimize the risk of anyone tracing the true decision makers or even the purpose. The secret agent, on the other hand, was an accident waiting to happen and would best be stowed away somewhere deep and dark.
Smirnov, the Spetsnaz colonel, was the one who inspired them all to invent the game. Over a game of poker, and the generous supply of vodka, he had given detailed accounts of his nephew’s recent visit to a LARP-camp – Live Action Role Play. The little guy had spent months preparing his Styrofoam and rubber weaponry as well as an elaborate orc costume, and had in all practical aspects become one with a saga containing knights, wizards and dragons.
“Why don’t we do the same?”
And so it was that a British secret agent started a decadent game – they called it their curtain call – with former deadly enemies from all of the foreign super powers as well as the criminal organisation Spectre. The overall set up was always the same: plant a seed (a foreign power has something that our country needs), create the perfect timing (there is a window of opportunity for us that we must not miss), and make sure that everyone is aware of the competition (we know that there are others who are after the same thing).
The members of the un-holy alliance would take turns in designing games for their adversaries, receiving extra credit for ingenuity. The player who accomplished the mission first would be celebrated and in the event that no agent was successful and the great powers sent in their ‘heavy artillery’ in the form of drones, attack planes or armed forces, they would raise their glasses in a sinister ritual and praise the dead.
A game to amuse the prima donnas…
James had got this mission because he was – finally – above all suspicion. Yet, the mole he was chasing was he, himself. There were a confusing number of levels to that irony.
Bond realised that he was seriously injured and cursed himself for not just abiding his time and wait for the maid, who would do the cleaning in only a day or two. The left hand was turning alarmingly white whereas the wrist was adopting an unhealthy purple tone. Despite the broken bones, it was quite impossible to escape the restraints. He all but fainted from the pain when he tried to wriggle out the hand or simply pull it free.
– What do you know about gold, Miss Moneypenny?
– The only gold I know is the one you wear…
– Moneypenny, what gives?
– Me, given an ounce of encouragement.
– Q had me sign for those Miss Moneypenny…
– … Memories. Had she really meant this much to him?
Too bad he never realised until it was too late. Life was bleeding out of him, literally. He knew that it was high time to escape this mess or he would indeed miss the curtain call. Dreadfully bad luck that Miss Moneypenny would overlook to release him. That her first ever mistake would be his last…
Maybe if I throw myself to the side, and put my entire weight into it, I will be able to turn this ghastly piece of furniture around, and be able to drag myself to the table…
* * *
Praise the dead!
PRAISE THE DEAD!
* * *
Eve ignored the women – the bimbos – around her and kneeled before the grave.
“Tracy my love, meet your father… James, say hello to your daughter.”
The one year old girl was astounded by the colours from all the flowers around her but a bit unsettled by the mixed emotions that her mother expressed. She played with her fingers over Eve’s face in a futile attempt to wipe her tears away. Eve gave her daughter a kiss and helped her to drop a red rose by the marble tombstone; rose on her feet, and sighed deeply.