The death of an MI6 asset in Lisbon
draws James Bond into a web of intrigue.
Something is missing from Buckingham Palace.
Something which could destroy the Monarchy.
Whatever it is, 007 must ensure it never surfaces.
It and all involved must be eliminated.
Previously from ‘A Secret to the Grave’…
James Bond was dead.
Within MI6 all those that had known him had mourned and accepted that fact; all that was except for M.
It was a cold night in London when M met with James Bond in the crypt of St Andrew’s church in Holborn. The rain had drained the life from the city, flushing it down the drains. M’s mood was somber, for a man who held the moral of truth close to his heart, the deception of Bond’s death had come at a price. Their conversation was brief and to the point.
M began “Are you ready to be re born?” the words gently echoed.
Bond shook his head “Not yet”
M looked on expectedly “But you gave the list to the Americans?”
Bond gave a faint nod of his head as a reply.
M continued “Then I’m sure the CIA will…” M stopped mid-sentence, he sensed there was something else.
“…All of it?” he inclined his head, inviting an answer.
“I removed one entry. One name"
“Why?” asked M
“It alluded to certain evidence which could prove to be very embarrassing to the Government, if it ever came to light. It mentions one name that I believe should meet with a career limiting experience before I come back from the dead. Don’t worry I’ll make it look like …”
M held up his hand “Who is it?”
Bond smiled, he moved effortlessly around the room, like a boxer looking for an opening
“You really don’t want to know”
“You’re probably right” they stood in silence; the low level lighting now put Bond’s face in shadow. M was about to continue but thought better of it.
“I’ll get started then” said Bond.
At 120 MPH the train punched a hole through the air big enough to produce a shockwave that rippled outward. Buffeting trees, chain-link fences and double glazed windows in buildings that stood close to the track.
Inside one of the first class carriages, in cosseted luxury James Bond read with interest that under the guidance of the French police, arrests of leaders of illegal immigrant smuggling gangs had been made throughout the previous night.
The head of the team investigating the illicit migration said that the five-nation police investigation (the largest ever in Europe), was acting upon information supplied by the CIA.
Within his mind’s eye Bond traced the route the immigrants would probably take across Turkey, Greece and Italy. They would go through Paris, then on to Calais to be smuggled into the UK aboard British-bound Lorries, sometimes with the knowledge of the drivers, sometimes without.
Bond folded the newspaper; finally LeCoyte Chelan’s empire was being dismantled. Bond felt the closure of Operation Domino was almost complete. “Bully for you Felix” He said to himself, knowing it was his crippled friend in the CIA that had supplied the information to allow the arrests to take place.
He imagined Leiter chuckling to himself back at Langley; the final victory over an old advisory. But the Operation still had one loose end to tidy up. Bolstered by the fact he was not quiet alone in his quest, he decided to go to the bar for a drink.
With a whoosh the Eurostar entered the channel tunnel, the windows turned to mirrors. Bond caught sight of his own reflection, the curved surfaces made him look even more haunted than ever.
But it didn’t deflate his demeanor.
James Bond knew there was to be no back-up on this mission; he knew he was on his own.
His mission was simple; kill one man whose activities would cause acute embarrassment for the British government.
Until that man was eliminated James Bond would remain dead.
Three months later…
Within the semi darkness of the room, two figures moved slowly toward each other. The shadows revealed a man. He looked to be in his early fifties, he was tall and slim, dressed in what appeared to be a black pinstripe suit. His hair; darkened and slicked down with gel served only to extenuate his dark features. Menacingly, with eyes like a hawk he moved closer to the girl, his breath was held as the tension mounted within him.
With dark eyes framed by long dark lashes she looked up at him, her eyes widened, as if she had only just noticed his presence. Her skin was pale she looked less than half his age, her tight fitting red silk dress left little to the imagination; a fact that appeared to inflame the man’s desire toward her.
His fingers touched her naked shoulder; she gasped, and turned to accept the touch of his cheek against her own with breathless abandon.
A droplet of sweat ran across his brow. He seized her waist, but she slipped away from his embrace, turning her face away, she stepped back, but the man caught her in one quick step. The girl brought her knee up toward his groin; but then allowed her instep to gently glide down his shin. The man stepped over her outstretched leg and faced her again. His movements were urgent. He pulled her close to him, this time she melted into his embrace.
The accordion player began to play a slow sexual melody. It was the most authentic, gritty, and emotional version of a classic tango tune the audience had ever heard. The crowd let out an audible sigh.
The spotlights intensified, picking out the two dancers within the haze of smoke that filled the club. The crowd watched on expectedly. The music drew in the crowd like a magician weaving a spell.
Moving with speed and skill the girl executed three reverse ‘ochos’, the sexy figure of eight movements accompanied by swaying suggestive hips. As she moved in time to the music, her dark eyes never left those of her dance partner. The audience watched their progress, half voyeuristic, half in awe.
“Wow” the bubbly blonde girl turned to her date, her voice thick with suggestion “I guess the couple that invented the tango dance had a real love hate relationship?” she looked deep into his eyes, trying, but failing to express the look of desire exchanged between the dancers.
“Do you know who first ‘made it up’ so to speak?” the hint of a Welsh accent came across suggestively.
“The exact origins of the tango are lost in myth” answered James Bond.
The girl’s exuberance evaporated instantly, she looked momentarily concerned
“But you know all those moves, right? You can teach me how to dance like that?” Her finger pointed lazily toward the dance floor
“Of course” Bond reached across the small table and took her hand.
“Oh yes” She screeched; her own effervesce matching that of any of the great French sparkling wines. Bond winced inwardly at the harshness of the noise. The others in the audience hardly noticed the interruption.
Suddenly she lowered her voice and lent forward, her other hand clasping his. Her eyes became large.
“You think they have any champagne here?” with a flick of her eyes, she gestured at the cobweb- and dust-covered bottles lining the walls of the tiny venue. The crowd pressed forward watching the dancers.
Bond ordered a Bollinger ’61. He knew the generally accepted theory of the origin of the Tango came from the mid-1800s. When African slaves brought to Argentina had begun to influence the local culture.
The word "tango" in African means "reserved ground" Or it may derive from the Portuguese “to touch”.
Whatever its origin, the word "tango" acquired the meaning of the place where African slaves and free blacks gathered to dance. Bond also knew that conveying any of that information would have been lost on the very excitable Carrie Anne McGuire, from Cardiff.
James Bond had chosen this club, known as a Milonga very carefully, after a long night of research. He knew that although “Club 12 de Octubre” (known to the locals as "El Bar de Roberto" after its owner, a giant of an ex rugby international player who presided behind the heavy wooden bar every night), had a reputation for dispatching ginebra (a local gin) to the old-timers and icy beer and cheap wine to the student crowd; it also boasted a magnificent cellar.
As the dancers finished their erotic Tango, the waiter returned with an ice bucket and stand, followed closely by the huge lumbering Roberto himself. His cauliflower ear and broken nose added to the ‘gentle giant’ look. His rough scarred hands worked delicately on the bottle, turning it lovingly easing the cork out. With the patience of a saint he carefully popped the cork.
Carrie Anne screamed with delight. Just before Roberto poured, Bond wiped the scarcely used wine flutes with his handkerchief. Roberto gave him a withering look, but Bond held his gaze. With skill Roberto poured the sparkling liquid into their flutes, the effervescent bubbles foaming right to the very top.
“A very good choice my friend” Bond thought he meant the champagne not the woman. After placing the bottle in the ice bucket Roberto brushed his giant hands over the table, picking at imaginary crumbs from the linen cloth. He lent in close to Bond, his voice was quiet and calm against the thunderous applause for the two expert dancers.
“When the crowd takes over, the real action starts; it gets going at around 2 am it's usually so packed on the dance floor there's no room to breathe, it could get rough…” with a purse of his lips he looked concernedly at Carrie Anne.
“…for a delicate lady, of limited dance experience”
“Thank-you Roberto; but we will be gone before then” answered Bond
Roberto stole a glance a Carrie Anne, and smiled knowingly at Bond.
***James Bond had chosen his date for the night, not because of her personality, or desirability, although she was passably attractive, but because of her availability. He had chosen her because of her profession, and subsequent living arrangements.
In a means to an end of his lone undercover mission, Bond had observed the girl for the past three weeks, noting not only her work habits and domestic routines, but her preoccupation with the night life of the Tango milongas around Buenos Aries.
Understanding what would ‘press the right buttons’, Bond had approached Carrie Anne with a plausible request for directions to the little known (to non-tango aficionados) club “12 de Octubre”. Immediately her curiosity had been pricked; so over a coffee atLas Violetas Bond turned on the charm offensive and effortlessly invited her out for the evening.
Most cafés in Buenos Aires serve a decent cortado. But few places do it as well as the historically significant café on the Avenue Rivadavia .
Carrie Anne had fallen in love with the place from the first moment she ever set foot in the bar; not long after she first began working for N.S.L. Now, in the familiar surroundings in a place of comfort she began to fall for Bond; or at least the cover name he had given her.
As is the way in Buenos Aries, they took their time drinking the strong rich coffee. Around them other couples chatted, whilst against the back wall of the café a flat screen TV played the local news programme. Bond became aware of the scenes of civil unrest that were broadcast silently, with the bullet points tracking across the screen, on a never ending loop. Bond replaced his cup on the china saucer, and pointed to the TV.
“What’s their problem?”
Her mood became somber; she fidgeted in her chair “Argentina is a major agricultural producer. The entire economy is based on the worldwide demand. As that demand has risen over the past year it’s pushed the processing of these commodities to levels beyond the capacity of the farmers”
Bond pretended to struggle with her statement; then carefully he asked
“How do you increase production of commodities such as cows, wheat, corn, and soy within a 12 month period?”
Bond took a moment to process the information, he made a measured response. “You seem well informed…”
“…That’s all part of my job” Carrie Anne interrupted
“Really, tell me more”
Carrie Anne took a deep breath, as she looked at Bond fear flashed across her eyes, suddenly she realized she knew nothing about this charming man sitting opposite her, he could be anybody; a reporter, a spy for a rival company.
He had told her he was visiting Argentina to perfect his dancing skills, she wanted to believe him, he certainly looked the part; a well-muscled lean body filled out his expensive suit. When he moved it was with grace and purpose. But to reveal what she knew about the activities of N.S.L. so early in a relationship was potentially dangerous. Bond in turn recognized the look and reacted accordingly, it was important not to spook her. He casually became pre-occupied with the pictures on the TV.
After a minute or so she offered “Whoever pays the asking price gets the product these days. The black market is thriving”
Bond turned back to her; his answer was unrushed, as if he were just making polite conversation
“That would make the exportation of agricultural commodities a huge business for certain companies”
“Yes” She said. Silently she thought about the profits currently pouring into the N.S.L. coffers.
Now, naked in her own bed she lay sleeping soundly, helped by the drug Bond had smeared into her glass at the club, her mind at rest.
Quietly Bond took the swipe card from her bag. Recalling the blueprints of the complex, Bond walked quickly from the girl’s apartment to the main house, keeping to the shadows. The cold wind cut through his thin jacket.
He swiped the card through the slot by the door, and the hum changed in intensity, releasing the lock. Bond pushed the heavy door open and silently slipped inside. A bank of lights and an illuminated key pad faced him, it began beeping urgently. James Bond pressed the keys to disable the alarm and made his way across the hall; the portraits of anonymous ‘turn of the century’ farmers looked down upon him.
Remembering the blueprints again, Bond avoided the first and second step on the main staircase, knowing pressure pads were in place under the chocolate brown Wilton carpet. He climbed the stairs, feeling the thrill of the chase course through his taught body. In the main bedroom Bond took stock of the situation. The king size bed contained one single figure.
Bond approached the bed. Through the gloom he looked at the sleeping man, his features matched the photographs. Bond gently pulled down the duvet; and observed the man’s naked shoulder. With precision he jabbed the hypodermic syringe into the fleshy muscle. The cartridge exploded and the contents were thrust into the man’s bloodstream.
“What the?” The man sat bolt upright in his bed, his hand slapped his arm, swatting at an imaginary mosquito. Immediately he saw the figure above him.
“Keep still, keep quite!” Bond said; his voice was steady.
The man reacted well, his hands began to rise.
“Okay take it easy” He answered in English, his voice was nervous but his calm was returning fast.
“I've just injected you with some poison” Bond said as a matter of fact.
“Who are you what do you want?” The question was delivered quickly; he’d ignored the problem and began looking for the solution. Bond was impressed. He stood calmly, his shoulders relaxed. Carefully he put down the syringe.
“Your name is Lincoln Palmer” It was a statement not a question; Bond would not be drawn into answering the questions posed.
The man new his life was in mortal danger, it was pointless to lie
“Yes” Palmer looked about the room, making sure they were alone.
“You work for a company called Nicolas Suszczyk Logistics”
“Yes, that’s not a crime is it?” Nobody else hiding in the shadows.
Bond ignored the question, refusing to be pulled into a conversation which was intended to detract from his objective.
“You knew a man named LeCoyte Chelan” Another statement delivered like a judge passing the death sentence.
Inside his heart thumped. Palmer was aware of Chelan’s death and the arrests of the gang leaders in North America and across Europe. Vanity and a geographical gap had made him believe he was safe, until now.
The understanding of the situation suddenly weighed heavily on his shoulders, his hands began to sag. He inclined his head, and pointed toward the wall safe.
“There’s half a million US dollars in the safe, I’ll give you the combination; just don’t kill me” the plea sounded false, he was playing for time. Palmer had altered his position subtly after the attempted distraction of the safe.
“I already have the combination. But I also have some tools to make it look like a robbery” Bond smiled “Every farmer and local gangster knows how much money you’re fleecing from the country. Everyone in the export business must expect to be a target these days, you’re worse than the bankers”
“But this isn’t about the export business is it?”
“No; I know that cattle aren’t the only livestock you’ve been exporting”
Palmer started nodding, slowly shifting his weight, his eye contact never faltered. “There won’t be a polite arrest by the police will there?”
“This is about my Father”
“Yes. Having you arrested for being part of Chelan’s people trafficking organisation would have an extremely negative affect on your Father’s position”
Palmer laughed out loud “I always thought my Father’s position was to my advantage. Privileged education, pick of the jobs” He used the movement of his hands to gain purchase on the bed. Ready to spring, ready to fight for his life.
“Police looking the other way on drink and drug infringements” Bond added
The man stifled a laugh “You have done your homework haven’t you. Still that’s what having your Father in the cabinet can do” Palmer lunged at Bond his hands outstretched like claws. Bond twisted to the side and allowed the lunge to pass him by. Palmer lay sprawled on the floor. Bond moved out of range of his legs.
“Looks like Daddy’s job is going to get me killed” he rolled over onto his back
“Yes” There was no emotion in the voice.
Palmer’s eyes narrowed as he looked up from the floor “You’re from the British Secret Service?”
Palmer stopped debating who had sent his assassin. His hand returned to the mosquito bite of the syringe, his hand gently rubbed the heated skin.
“When will the poison take effect?” He studied the area of his arm where the poison had entered his blood stream.
“I told you your death will look like you were killed by robbers”
Slowly the man’s hand came away from the shoulder. He turned his head to face his assassin.
“There was no poison was there?”
“No” The gun’s retort was loud in the quiet room.