The author acknowledges all copyrights for products mentioned in the document and for the James Bond character as created by Ian Fleming.
The official James Bond books are copyright Glidrose / Ian Fleming Publications Ltd and are available to purchase.
The motion pictures are created by EON productions/MGM. For further information please visit the official James Bond website at www.jamesbond.com.
This story is the intellectual property of Chris Stacey, whose personal details are listed on the CommanderBond.net website under the member ship name “chrisno1.”
Past Times© Chris Stacey Esq. 2010.
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by Chris Stacey
The girl was small in stature but she made up for it with a big wide smile. He liked that.
They’d just been to see Christmas Eve with the Rat Pack at the Adelphi and were sitting in the American bar of the Savoy Hotel.
On the stroke of midnight, James Bond raised his glass of Tattinger and inclined it gently towards her shining face.
He didn’t know exactly how they’d collided. It still seemed a strange occurrence, that meeting in the elevator, when she brushed his hand and apologised. He’d said something about crowded lifts. She mentioned it was always bad at half past twelve on Fridays. Everyone was escaping for a long lunch. Some traditions still died hard in Whitehall.
Bond was visiting the Foreign and Commonwealth Building for a meeting with representatives of the Department for International Development, Asian Division. It was a routine matter. The government was hoping to forge better business links with Tajikistan. The Tajik President, Emomali Rahmon, was actively promoting foreign investment opportunities and greedy entrepreneurs were eyeing the country’s aluminium trade. The meeting had been short and very perfunctory. Bond was left with the impression his opinion hadn’t been noted and wasn’t deemed necessary. No one was expecting to act on the advice of the S.I.S. Bond had delivered a brief speech about corruption among government figures and vote rigging in the ’99 election. He offered evidence of the unstable terrorist situation post 9/11, including recent political overtures to Iran, and the likelihood of renewed internal unrest, a return to the civil wars of the immediate post-soviet era. Then he’d sat back, sipped his coffee and thought about hitting a perfect drive up the eighteenth at Deal.
The lift doors slid open. They continued to walk side by side, not quite in unison because the girl was a whole head and a half shorter than him. Almost haphazardly Bond asked if she was going to lunch as well.
“No; one thirty for me.”
It was the first time he saw the beautiful smile. He didn’t even know her name yet and she didn’t know his.
Holly turned out to be something of a catch. Bond met her just in time for Christmas. He seduced her quickly, easily. She enjoyed it and told him so, enough to make her change any plans she had for the season. Holly readily agreed to join him at his aunt’s for Christmas lunch and she quizzed him about the old dear’s tastes and took him shopping in the Brompton Road for suitable gifts, not the usual impracticals he bought. For Boxing Day and the Bank Holiday Bond arranged two nights in a self catering cottage near Sherborne. He was looking forward to Christmas this year.
The same moment that James Bond inclined his glass to Holly Weston, his eighty year old aunt was singing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ in St. Crispin’s Anglican Chapel, Pett Bottom, Kent, one of only seventy six parishioners who made it to the midnight Communion service.
At home in her little house, Ivy Ransome had already prepared the vegetables, made the mince pies and laid the table. In the morning she would prepare the gammon joint, which was to be glazed with honey, and put on the pudding to steam. Ivy’s puddings needed at least six hours to heat through. She knew her nephew would bring the wine, two bottles probably, of good claret. They would be from an estate she’d never heard of. Ivy herself had purchased a bottle of Graham’s Crusted Port from the local mini-market.
Ivy made a cup of tea when she got home after the service and treated herself to a single mince pie. Bed was no later than twelve thirty.
When she woke in the morning a silver frost had descended across the village, coating even the thick panes of glass in her windows. She pulled on her heavy dressing gown, slipped into her comfy slippers and went downstairs to make more tea.
The same moment that his aunt made tea, James Bond was rolling onto his side in bed, his fingers tracing an imaginary line along Holly’s naked back, from the nape of her neck to the base of her spine. The line wandered all over and tickled her skin. The girl stirred. He always thought she looked beautiful in the morning.
After they made love, Bond boiled eggs and sliced bread. Breakfast was a silent affair save the crunching of teeth on toast. They showered together and Bond let Holly use the vanity mirror while he checked in with Millennium House, just in case there was any urgent business which might soil his festive humour. All was clear.
While Bond gave his Aston Martin DBIII a once over, Holly packed all the presents into a large strong paper bag emblazoned with the colours of Benetton. Before they left his apartment, Bond swiftly pocketed the tiny jewellery box he’d kept hidden in the kitchen. It had been safe there because Holly, much to Bond’s surprise, was not a very good cook.
The drive down to Kent was uninterrupted. As he’d planned, they were early and Bond pulled off just before the village, stopping at the Windmill pub, a big roomy establishment with burning logs crackling in inglenook fireplaces. The Christmassy scent of cinnamon and cloves hung in the air and the landlord had decorated the pub with not one but three trees and pinned tinsel all over the oak beams. It felt very festive.
Bond ordered drinks while the girl busied herself tidying her blonde hair. Why, Bond couldn’t tell; her hair was immaculate. This was one of the things he liked about Holly; in the looks department, she was something of a perfectionist, but she never clouded her face with much make up, every effort she made was slight, demure, consummate.
Bond was half way down his porter before he produced the little plum coloured box. The girl almost turned pale. She nervously held back from picking it up.
“Don’t panic, it’s not what you think.”
The girl visibly brightened and reached forward. It was a delicate antique diamond studded brooch in the shape of a feather.
“It was my mother’s. I was going to save it for someone special.”
“Oh, James, you really shouldn’t have,” she gushed and her face started to redden a little, “I mean, how do you know I’m that special? I’m really not, I’m sure.”
“Holly, I have no idea either, but I’ve got fed up waiting to find out if a girl is. You can have it. It suits you. Anyway, I want you to have it. I don’t like keeping hold of the past. It’s morbid. Someone ought to be wearing diamonds as beautiful as those; they shouldn’t be locked up in a drawer gathering dust.”
“I suppose,” the girl didn’t sound convinced. She picked the brooch out of the box and flipped open the pin, watching how the stones blinked orange and gold, as the embers flickered in the firelight.
“If you really want me to have it...”
The girl thought he looked rather sad, but Bond smiled and pinned the brooch onto her cashmere sweater.
He finished his drink quickly, as if running from a bad memory, and she had to rush her vodka and tonic to catch up.
His aunt’s house was an old keeper’s cottage on the outskirts of the village, past the rectory and opposite a small green which buffeted a duck pond. The water was still frozen and the ducks skated precariously over the ice, occasionally bobbing at a hole in the centre where the surface had cracked. They squealed as the Aston Martin’s engine broke the peace and quiet.
Ivy Ransome was already at the door, apron on and hands rubbing against the cold. Bond greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and a one armed hug. The smile that welcomed Holly was warm and genuine.
Sherry was the order of the day in the hot, homely cottage. Ivy asked lots of questions, both to her nephew and to his new companion; questions about London, about work and about how they met. Ivy cast furtive glances at the young girl throughout the whole conversation, from her high position in the sitting room, seated on a straight backed chair, her hands in her lap, wrapped around the crystal glass half full of untouched oloroso.
The carriage clock on the mantelpiece chimed two. This was Ivy’s signal. She sank the sherry in one gulp, stood up abruptly and took Holly by surprise by declaring: “Come along then, my dear, I need your help in the kitchen. James, make your self useful and find the cutlery and open the wine. And I haven’t decanted the port yet.”
The girl was set to work boiling water for vegetables, reheating parsnip soup and mixing milk, onion and breadcrumbs for the bread sauce. Ivy meanwhile took care of the gammon and all the trimmings, finally leaving it to rest fifteen minutes before carving.
Just before pulling the roasting dish from the oven, Ivy stood close to the girl, inspecting her work. It was the first time Holly had seen how intense her eyes were. The two women, despite being almost sixty years apart in age, were exactly the same height. Ivy wasn’t a frail woman. Her features were worn rather than withered. Holly suspected the spinster had been taller in her youth.
Ivy plucked at the ornate diamond jewel on the girl’s sweater.
“That’s nice,” she chirped, rather dismissively, “It must have cost James a fortune.”
“No,” replied the girl, “He said it was his mother’s. It’s very pretty, don’t you think?”
“Yes it is.”
“I’m sure you must remember it, with you being sisters and everything.”
“Yes, I do, vaguely.”
The reply was wistful, sort of far away and uninterested. Ivy turned back to her oven and didn’t mention the brooch again.
Holly was a bit confused by this odd exchange. Ivy had been very good natured up till then and continued to be so afterwards. The girl put it down to old age and said nothing, choosing instead to look forward to the sumptuous dinner. It was just that.
They paused between courses to watch the Queen’s speech. Then it was back to the table and Ivy’s extravagant feast. Cheese followed pudding followed meat followed soup; finally, after a few delicate slices of stilton, Holly said she didn’t think she could eat another mouthful. She still managed a chocolate.
They opened presents after wards and Ivy was thrilled with the woolly jumpers, gloves and, best of all, the thick winter tights.
“I can see she’s got you sorted out at last, James.”
Bond merely winked at the girl and stayed silent by sipping more port. The sun had long set. The now black windows were lit up by the gold flashes from the fibre-optic tendons on Ivy’s artificial tree. The orangey hue of the roaring gas fire seemed to flicker and dance its way around the room. Everything felt cosy and snug and Bond sank into his aunt’s deep enveloping settee with a satisfied sigh.
Ivy needed a little snooze after the long lunch and the girl puffed up some cushions for the old dear as she dozed upright in an armchair, her mouth hanging open and the breath rasping lightly out of her throat.
“She’s nice,” said Holly to Bond in the kitchen, where she was making them coffee, “A bit demanding, but nice all the same.”
“That’d be Auntie.”
“You’ve never told me,” started the girl, before pausing and then carrying on, stuttering nervously, “I mean, you don’t have to, but well, I know you don’t have any parents, not any more, I just wondered...”
“When they died?”
“I was twelve. There was a car accident in France. I was at a boarding school in Scotland, dreadful place. I didn’t hear for three days.”
It was Bond’s turn to pause. His face took on a stern facade, as if he was holding something back from the girl, a deep secret he couldn’t share, or, she thought, one he had never shared.
“Three whole days,” he muttered, “Can you imagine that happening now? Aunt Ivy caught the Highland Chieftain to Edinburgh to break the news gently, bless her, but unfortunately the headmaster had already told me, the bastard.”
She held him, lightly and rested her head on his chest, “You shouldn’t have given me the brooch. There might be someone else.”
“No, keep it,” Bond wrapped his arms around her, his hands placed on the back of her slim waist, “You are a special girl, Holly.”
They stood like that for a long time, until Bond reminded the girl that the filter was dry and the coffee was going to be cold. She made a second jug while Bond woke his aunt.
The next morning, still sated from the huge lunch, which, he recalled, had taken all of four hours to consume, Bond entered the kitchen to find his aunt fussing with her purse.
“Oh, there you are, James,” she said, “I’ve got a bit of a crisis on. The milk has gone off. I bought it too many days ago. Could you run down to the shops and get me some?”
Bond was surprised the milk had turned, but he didn’t question the matter, refused Ivy’s few pound coins and put on his shoes. The walk would do him good anyway.
Holly Weston didn’t worry about milk, as she didn’t do breakfast, other than toast, and drank her coffee black. Much to Ivy’s shock, the girl appeared in the kitchen wearing a t-shirt, which only reached the top of her thighs, and it appeared, nothing else. The t-shirt claimed that ‘all cats like cream’ but the picture had nothing to do with cats. This wasn’t what Ivy had anticipated at all from the day before, when a very well attired and charming young girl had first entered her house.
Ivy brazened it out, “Do you have a moment, my dear? I’m rather short of time.”
“Really? Yes, if you like,” the girl replied while she buttered toast.
Ivy sighed. At least she still sounded nice and polite. But you simply couldn’t tell one way or the other with these
“Sit down,” said Ivy, sternly, “I have something to tell you.”
“Oh,” the girl looked surprised, “Okay.”
Ivy composed herself, sitting across the corner of the kitchen table, “It’s about the brooch,” she began.
“Oh, God,” interrupted the girl, “I knew it was a mistake. I told James not to give it to me, but he insisted. I’m so sorry.”
The crinkled but firm hand reached out and patted the girl’s wrist, “Oh, goodness, don’t fret. I’m sure you’ll take good care of it. But, you see, I’m rather attached to that brooch. I always have been. It’s been in the Ransome family for over a hundred years.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Ivy dug in her apron pocket and pulled out a plum coloured box. She fiddled with the clasp, which was stuck tight, but eventually the lid sprung open to reveal an identical diamond studded pin.
“How much do you suppose this is worth?” said Ivy gently.
“I have no idea. Thousands.”
“This one is, certainly; yours however would be lucky to make twenty pounds. Old pounds, I mean, you know, with shillings and pence.”
The girl nearly choked on her toast.
“But it looks so real.”
“Of course it does.”
“But, I don’t understand, why... what...”
“James’ father, Andrew Bond, was something of a gambler, a drinker too; I expect that’s where James gets his bad habits from. He’d incurred a lot of private debt and, well, my sister used the brooch as insurance to pay his creditors. She didn’t tell him and it wasn’t the first time. But he knew. Oh, yes, Andrew knew. He couldn’t live with the knowledge. It was humiliating. I think perhaps that’s why he always drove so fast, why he drank so much, seeking a way out of his embarrassment, his awful predicament.”
“And the fake brooch?”
“My sister had a copy made - for appearance’s sake. After the accident, James inherited everything, but it wasn’t
much. I spent twenty years buying this back from the insurers.”
“Why didn’t you tell James about this?”
“Goodness! I couldn’t do that!” Ivy almost shrieked. The words came tumbling out, all gabbled together as if she’d
been desperate to tell the story to someone, anyone, who would listen and listen fast.
“The poor boy was distraught for weeks when his parents died. All the days and nights I reassured him, listened to him crying, told him his parents loved him, that they were safe in heaven. He had so very little to cling onto: a few pictures, his father’s diaries, some furs, jewellery - and the brooch. I couldn’t take that away. I simply couldn’t. And I so desperately wanted the real brooch back in my family. I thought if I got it back I could secretly exchange them. But it took so long to buy it and then even after I bought it, I couldn’t swap them over. James never showed his brooch to anyone. This is the first time I’ve seen it in decades.”
Holly’s thoughts came fast: this poor woman is petrified I might try to sell the brooch and learn it’s a fake; so she’s telling me now; she’s going to swear me to secrecy; she wants me to save her face; yet that brooch was so sheer, so beautiful, how could it be false? Holly felt she had to ask one question.
“Why are you telling me this?”
Ivy’s answer was a surprise: “Because I want you to bring me that horrible pasty trinket. We can swap them over.”
Holly was about to object when she realised what the old woman was implying.
“You want me to have the real brooch?”
“I’m not a member of your family, Ivy.”
“No, but I don’t have any other relatives. James is all that’s left of both my family and his. He’s a true orphan, my dear, that’s why he needs looking after sometimes, why he looks into the distance in silence. He’s terribly lonely, you see, and if he feels enough about you to give away the most precious memory of his mother, well...”
Ivy tailed off. The two women sat in silence. Ivy pushed back her seat and stood up, closing the little leather box. She left it on the table.
“Go on, dear, take it. Hurry up, James will be back soon.”
“If you’re sure,” said the girl, tentatively.
“Of course I’m sure. What’s done is done, it’s all in the past, and I’d look silly trying to explain it to him now. I can’t shatter that illusion, can I?”
The girl shook her golden head and ran quickly up the stairs.
A few weeks later as Holly Weston changed into a black dinner dress for a Burn’s Night Supper and Dance, she noticed that the clasp on the brooch was locked tight. It annoyed her and she showed it to James Bond, who furrowed his brow as he inspected the catch.
“I don’t remember it being broken,” he said.
“It is over a hundred years old.”
“Is it? Who told you that?” asked Bond, still fiddling with the lock.
“When was this?”
“She didn’t by any chance show you an identical ring?”
The girl felt the beginnings of a hot, embarrassed blush. She stepped behind Bond, pretending to fuss with her hair.
“Oh, nothing; the silly so-and-so’s got it in her head that this is a fake and hers’ is the original.”
Bond smiled quizzically at Holly, whose face was redder than ever, “Thing is: I swapped them over years ago...”