CHARM THE DEVIL
A secret occasion in the life of
James Bond oo7
Other works by Harry Fawkes on CBn include Nobody Cheats Death, Spearhead, Troubleshooter, The Moment Before You Die, Loneliness is a Lover and Midasgold.
The author acknowledges all copyrights for the James Bond character as created by Ian Fleming.
Harry Fawkes is the pseudonym of Roger Mulvaney MRQ.
To the memory of
A freezing-cold wind picked up across Moscva River and rushed rain against the windows of the small bar overlooking the Kaya Bridge in Vorob’yovy Gory.
A ghastly place, it was drab with half a dozen tables and chairs and peeling walls, not to mention usually haunted by prostitutes. But not on wretched nights like this one; not even they would venture out into weather like this...
It was run by a bull of a man who had survived Stalingrad, gold gap-toothed and completely bald.
He was sitting down on a stool reading an old newspaper when the man he knew only as the German walked in and brought the cold in with him. Thankfully empty and most important pleasantly warm, the German hung up his soaking wet Great-Coat, ran a hand through his wet hair and nodded once to the barman. He then sat down at a table by the window, his back to the far wall and lit a cigarette, the strongest kind he had found earlier on, as he had made his way here from his apartment back at Prospect Mira 122.
The German looked pale this time, scared even, the barman noted as he fixed him his usual large Scotch and Soda.
He was tall, fair-haired and in his early fifties, well-built. He looked like someone who’d seen the world and all its ugliness twice over, and this you could tell from his eyes; eyes that usually put the fear of God into you if they wanted to. Not this time though.
This time, the German’s eyes were filled with cold fear…
Unlike other bars in this district, the place served (from underneath the counter mind) Scotch whisky, French Vermouth and Gordon’s Gin – with grossly inflated prices of course, but that was to be expected considering this was Moscow.
The German glanced at his watch.
Still fifteen minutes left until his controller got here, he thought, sat back and inhaled deeply on the solid smoke, hands shaking slightly.
Tripits had never been late; not once during these three years, but if he was this time, he knew what to do. He had learnt the number he was to call if the Englishman failed to show up by heart. God forbid he miss tonight though. Of all their meetings, this one was going to be the most significant. And there wasn’t much time left...
The German rubbed his eyes with both hands and heaved a deep sigh, burying his face.
Everything he had given; all gone to waste. Nothing but bloody lies, all of it and he was now alone in a world gone mad. When he lifted his face to glance out of the window he saw his own reflection in the glass staring back at him unsympathetically. It made him feel emptier than he already was, deep down within. Emptier and most of all futile...
Finishing his drink in one greedy gulp, he glanced at his watch again and felt that tight knot feeling in his stomach.
He shivered suddenly.
At seven thirty, he finally got up and pushed a note across the counter and slipped back into his Great-Coat. He turned up the fur collar against the biting cold and driving rain then went out without a word.
The barman shrugged and turned back to his newspaper.
Bloody German, he thought...
* * *
The German crossed the road opposite the bridge, a nauseous feeling unexpectedly overwhelming his whole being. He needed to find a telephone box. It was imperative he talk to Tripits. Too much was at stake now that the truth was known. Too many lives depended on him and what he now knew; and far too many deaths were most certainly already on his head.
Surely he wasn’t the only one to blame though?
What the hell had they doing back in London?
They should have known surely!
How could it be possible that nobody had seen what was happening all these years?
Then again, he had only stumbled across the truth himself tonight, and only by chance...
The German kept to the dark side of the deserted street, the haunting wind driving ice cold rain into his face.
In the rush, he had forgotten to wear his fur hat and his head now ached poorly.
Eleven years, he thought miserably and felt sick to the core.
He didn’t notice the Volkshstoft car pulling up at the kerbside as he finally approached a phone booth a couple of blocks away from the bridge. He was too deep in thought to notice the two GRU agents known only as Krillersky and Goerinn, watching him closely from inside like two nasty beasts watching their prey...
Inside the booth, the German dialed the number Tripits had given him that night, a million years ago at his apartment; the only time they hadn’t met at the bar.
‘Come on,’ he spat impatiently as he waited for someone to answer at the other end. ‘Where the hell are you?’
Only a few hours ago they had made love.
Only a few hours ago, she had told him: ‘I love you with all my heart for what you have given me throughout these years.’
How could he have been so blind and careless?
The German saw her in his head again: her smile, her eyes, her warmth…
The number rang eight times before someone finally answered; eight rings that had felt like an eternity.
How could he have not known all these years?
How could he have not seen through it all?
The lies, the deceit.
‘Hello?’ repeated the voice at the other end.
It wasn’t Tripits...
The German was about to say something then when the booth door opened suddenly behind him.
He swung round, startled, and one of the men from the Volkshstoft car, Goerinn, shot him twice through the heart with a silenced pistol, the slugs slamming him violently back against the box, the German’s mouth open in a soundless scream...
The receiver dangled at the end of its cord and Goerinn picked it up and replaced it calmly.
He looked down at the dead German slumped there on the floor in a pool of bright red blood, and Goerinn’s lips parted in an unpleasant smile, revealing crooked teeth.
‘Roshtrevistya peszuya bresht, spionem,’ he said and left, going back to the warmth of the car as the Moscow rain and wind increased its force…
Reflections and Boredom
A thick fog had descended that dreadfully cold and dreary December morning, and it was just after eight when James Bond walked out of his small flat in the plane tree lined square just off King’s Road.
He mentally acknowledged the flat .25 Beretta automatic with the skeleton grip, snug in the chamois leather holster under his left armpit (he always felt half-dressed without it) and turned up his collar, making his way towards Fulham Road and thinking about the 4 ½ Litre Bentley Convertible with the supercharger by Amberst Villiers he was definitely going to purchase next week after New Year's.
Amberst Villiers, and no less!
When he reached the bus stop on the corner of Belize Street, he found a queue of eight people waiting tolerantly in the biting cold and that morning’s peculiar fog.
The bus was due in ten minutes so he took out his black gunmetal cigarette case, selected a cigarette and lit it with his black-oxidized Ronson...
‘Oy, Charlie! You got that fiver I lent ya last week?’ he heard a voice behind him call.
Two brick layers passing by.
‘Come off it, Gingy, give us a break mate. It’s Christmas.’
‘Oh, right and my name’s Santa Clause is it?’
Bond drew in a deep lungful of smoke.
He was wearing a fine felt hat, slightly tilted in that charming rogue sort of way, a charcoal grey coat from John Browns, Saville Row dark blue single breasted suit, crisp white shirt complemented perfectly with a very expensive knitted blue tie, black leather gloves and plain black lace-less shoes.
He was, an observer would if he or she had bothered to look closer, a young man who exuded a prevailing sophistication that was fused entirely with ruthless hardiness (the cruel lips perhaps), albeit being in his late twenties, touching thirty. The most distinguishing feature about him apart from that pale three inch scar running down the side of his right cheek was his accomplished air of anonymity rarely found in men his age; an anonymity that suited him perfectly considering what he essentially was: a British secret agent with a licence to kill...
The number ‘54’ finally roared down the street and came to a squawking standstill in front of them, and Bond climbed the stairs to the upper deck, sitting down at the rearmost.
The conductor sounded the bell and the double-decker bus started up again.
‘Regent’s Park please,’ Bond told the conductor when he finally appeared. He handed in the exact fare.
‘Can you believe it, eh? They’re sayin’ it’s ‘gonna get worse.’
Bond raised an eyebrow.
‘The smog out there.’
‘Smoke and fog, guv. Those geezers on the radio last night said it’ll get worse throughout the day. Heard ‘em myself I did. Scares the willy out of me if you ask my opinion. I bet it’s the bleedin’ Russians and that secret weather weapon they’ve got.’
‘No such thing,’ Bond uttered, but then, for good measure quickly added, ‘Then again, who knows? I wouldn’t trust the Russians for the world, particularly not their mad scientists. Too much gut-rot Vodka and filthy cigarettes and freezing cold weather. Makes them crazy in the head I heard.’
The conductor looked at Bond suspiciously, not sure if he was pulling his leg or actually being serious.
He shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way whilst Bond smiled inwardly and went on to deliberate the Bentley again, and of how it was going to feel driving ‘her’ at top gear through the winding countryside lanes in a weeks’ time. And if he was lucky enough, in the company of that sexy seraph called Moneypenny…
* * *
He got off at Sussex Place and glanced at his watch.
It was now just after nine and he still had half an hour left before he was due at the office. Plenty of time to take it easy and enjoy a stroll in the Park on his way, despite the awful weather. Besides, it was almost certainly going to be one of those boring ‘Admin’ days again so he decided to make the best of it while he could.
After all, half the day would doubtlessly be spent going through mounds and mounds of files from Records Division, probably concerning the Russians and their direct support of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the on-going war there; while the other half would be spent writing damn reports for M.
Clerical duties for the vile!
He turned through the high gates into Regent’s Park.
Oh, but for want of a thrilling assignment, he thought; or better still, to be down in the South of France, (the luxurious Casinos, the Chemin de Fer, the pretty connubial girls dying for a ‘bit’ on the side), justly appreciating his existence instead of this blasted indolence…
He thought of what the bus conductor had said: ‘Mad scientists and Russian secret weather weapons!’
What on earth was the world coming to? The fear in people’s minds sometimes…
Bond produced his cigarette case.
He had come a long way in the Service since his days as a simple subaltern with No. 30 Assault Unit, he observed of himself.
But where the hell had it all gone? What had it all been for?
Another war that’s bloody what!
Korea and the Russians; always the Russians...
Had what he and his team achieved behind enemy lines for King and Country (the deaths of his comrades, the cold blooded assassinations of only God knows how many German soldiers, the bombings of tactical enemy locations deep within enemy lines and, last but not least, the abductions of German high ranking officers followed by their brutal torture for information) all been nothing but a waste of time?
Bond sat down on a bench, crossing his legs.
30 Assault Unit.
Thugs and hooligans. That’s what they all were, him included. Thugs and hooligans.
North Africa, Sicily, Greece, Germany. Parachute drops and beach landings by night. Now those were the days! Fourteen active service men from across the Military - so bloody undisciplined that no one could control them.
Except the Commander, their boss, of course.
Bond smiled again.
He was nineteen when Rear Admiral Geoffrey’s assistant chose him from the Royal Navy for the team (outrageously nicknamed the ‘Cinderella Boys’) way back in ’42; an unsullied nineteen year old who was going headlong into fast being thrown out of the RN for unruliness towards a complete poofter of an officer who, it transpired, despised the fact that Bond was public school measure and he wasn’t.
Jealousy at its worst, and no less.
What was his name?
Ah, yes, Bond recalled, Lieutenant Archibald Pearson.
The bugger deserved that whack on the nose Bond had dished out in the Officer’s Mess one rather drunken evening. The RPs of course had arrested him soon after that and he had found himself put up on disciplinary charges pending Court Marshal, which is where the Commander, the man they only knew as Ian, entered his life…
James Bond took in another deep pull from his cigarette.
And nowadays, James?
Where are you now, old boy, in this post-war life?
What have you got to show for apart from being a trained professional killer who held a double-O prefix and a licence to kill for her Majesty’s government?
Absolutely nothing whatsoever…
Bond sighed heavily and looked down at the ground, something close to melancholy suddenly stirring inside his deep blue eyes.
Don’t go there, James. Not today…
That’s what he needed! And that was what was getting him down lately: the blasted inactivity fused with the ‘soft life’ that he despised so much. That, and the fact that M, damn him, had left him here to do all the bloody paperwork whereas OO3 and OO9 (the only two other agents in the Secret Service with double O numerals) were sent out to the Middle East to track down and eliminate one Ahmed Musharaf, a notorious Arab nationalist who called himself ‘Blacksnake’ and who, a few weeks ago, had assassinated a British official in Palestine.
Bond stood up, drew in a closing lungful of smoke and gazed up at the dull December sky. Christmas had come and gone, and now New Year’s was just round the corner…
Big deal, he thought and finally flicked away the cigarette, continuing on his way.
* * *
James Bond mounted the steps of the tall, grey building overlooking Regent’s Park that was in fact the headquarters of the British Secret Service and pressed the bell beside the polished brass plate that read: Universal Export (London) Ltd.
After a couple of moments the large door opened and a short, balding man in a grey suit and half-moon glasses stood to one side.
‘Good morning, Mister Bond.’
Bond smiled and continued through to the large hall past the male administrator and switchboard operator there, up a wide marble staircase and along a carpeted corridor to the lift at the end.
‘Morning sir,’ the lift man said when he stepped inside.
His office was on the sixth floor and, after showing his pass to the security guard at the desk, walked along the quiet corridor to the group of end rooms whose outer door bore the OO sign.
He went through and found his secretary, Loelia Ponsonby, her back to him, bending down over a filing cabinet...
‘Now that’s a sight for sore eyes,’ he said, smiling brazenly at her as she turned to look at him.
She removed her spectacles and returned the smile, straightening up quickly.
‘Commander Bond,’ she said severely. ‘At long last.’
‘Lt Commander,’ he corrected teasingly. ‘I’m not due promotion for a couple of years yet, remember. Knowing my rotten luck and the way M hates me though, I’ll most likely end up demoted to Lieutenant come to think of it.’
She was wearing a plain white blouse and a light blue tweed skirt that looked absolutely exquisite on her, and Bond’s eyes devoured her as she walked across to her desk.
What wouldn’t he do to her, he thought and sat down on the edge, offering her a cigarette while he lit one for himself.
Loelia busied herself sorting out some files in her In-Tray.
‘So, tell me dear, where did you go last night?’ he queried.
‘Nowhere, why? I stayed in and watched the box, if it’s any of your business.’
‘With my fiancé I might add.’
Bond’s eyes narrowed schemeingly.
‘Ah, yes, your fiancé. I never did trust him you know. Must be his eyes, not to mention his hands. Have you ever noticed they’re way too big for his arms? Then of course there’s his nose…’
‘You’ve never even met him!’
‘Haven’t I? Well, I still don’t trust the fellow.’
‘Oh, James, you’re the devil himself sometimes.’
Bond smiled mischievously.
‘No harm in trying.’
She sighed amusingly and served the typewriter in front of her with a sheet of paper.
‘You’re wrong about M, you know. He doesn’t hate you so stop torturing yourself, will you? He’s like that with everyone here. Moneypenny says you’re just not used to him yet.’
‘Oh?’ Bond raised an eyebrow at that. ‘Canteen gossip. Sounds interesting. Please, go on.’
‘Well, for starters he’s old school, James, and there aren’t many left these days. Did you know he turned down the prospect of becoming Fifth Sea lord in order to take over this Service?’
‘What’s that got to do with it?’ Bond said and shrugged. ‘Mind you those eyes of his put the fear of God into me every time I see him, ‘especially on Monday mornings when I’m somewhat hungover. It’s as if they’re constantly judging me. Come to think of it, he reminds me of my Aunt Charmaine, God bless her. Now she was what you call old school.’
‘Oh, James, do be serious for a moment, will you. He has a tall mark of honest principles, and knowing you and what you get up to during your spare time away from here I’m not surprised his eyes are always judging you. Bedding married women. High-stake gambling at Blades and the Ritz, let alone that sin of a place they call the Sapper’s Club on Saturday nights.’
‘Please don’t forget the flirting around with beautiful spoken-for secretaries at the office.’
‘Exactly. Simply incorrigible, and M knows it too well. It’s people like him who put young men like you in their place with a much needed dose of hard discipline I dare say.’
Bond finally got to his feet and gave a slight pull at his tie.
‘Dare you dear,’ he said flippantly. ‘Anyway, Loelia, what’s on the books today? Anything exciting? D’you think M’ll call me up for an assignment or is it going to be one of those days I get to reflect on how boring my life is at the moment?’
‘Your ‘In-Tray’ is brimming with files. That’s how exciting it’s going to get today, Mister Bond.’
‘Mister Bond now is it?’
Bond cursed facetiously and walked across to the far door marked OO7.
‘Right then. If the PM calls, tell him I’m bloody well out!’
And with that, James Bond went through to his office…
* * *
The day really did turn out to be chock-full with admin duties, yet again; the main issue this time being the Korean War though, as predicted earlier in the Park:
The Korean War was a military conflict between the Republic of Korea, supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which was supported by People's Republic of China (PRC), with military material aid from the Soviet Union. The war began on 25 June 1950 with no end so far in sight, the war was a result of the physical division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious Allies at the conclusion of the Pacific War. The Korean peninsula had been ruled by Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II. In 1945, following the surrender of Japan, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th Parallel, with United States troops occupying the southern part and Soviet troops occupying the northern part.
The failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the division between the two sides, and the North established a Communist government. The 38th Parallel increasingly became a political border between the two Koreas. Although reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified. Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the 38th Parallel persisted. The situation escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. It was the first significant armed conflict of the Cold War as of yet. The Soviet Union is materially aiding both the North Korean and Chinese armies.
The Soviet Union again – the violent enemy!
At ten thirty, Bond now sat back from the file he was reading and gazed at the window opposite...
Here he was doing the job of a senior civil servant whilst his two colleagues were out there in the thick of it, he thought rather sorely.
It was only two or three times a year that an assignment like Blacksnake’s cropped up and he had missed out on it, thanks to M. Had the old man lost faith in him? Had he ever had faith in him, come to think of it?
Bond was the youngest of the three agents that formed the double O section and had only held the double O prefix for the past two years, before which he’d been with Section Five – Overseas Surveillance and Control.
He had clashed with the old sailor often enough throughout these two years and knew fine well that, as of yet, he did not hold all of M’s trust. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Bond was, as the old man had once put it to his face himself over dinner at Blades one night, too ‘dressy’ (not to mention his aversion to his particular attitudes when it came to food, drink and most of all his so-called womanising).
Old school was definitely an understatement...
Bond chuckled to himself.
Absolute nonsense! It had just been a quite year, that’s all.
OO3 and OO9 were his seniors in rank which is why M had sent them out on the Blacksnake mission in the first place...
A quiet year.
Bond had spent much of it renovating his flat, frolicking at golf in the week-ends at the Magpie club, playing cards in the evenings at Crockfords and Blades with a couple of lady friends from his Eton days, making love with the coldest of passion to a number of married woman whom he knew would certainly not weigh him down; and, last but not least, drowning in all this wretched paperwork…
Probably the quietest year of his life.
Bond turned back to the file he’d been reading:
Under the guise of counter-attacking a South Korean provocation raid, the KPA crossed the 38th parallel behind artillery fire at dawn on Sunday 25 June 1950. The KPA had said that Republic of Korea Army (ROK Army) troops, under command of the regime of the "bandit traitor Syngman Rhee", had crossed the border first, and that they would arrest and execute Rhee. Both Korean armies had continually harassed each other with skirmishes and each continually staged raids across the 38th parallel border.
On 27 June, Rhee evacuated from Seoul with government officials. Rhee ordered the Bodo League massacre on 28 June and on the same day, South Korea bombed the bridge across the Han River to stop the North Korean army...
Bond knew all this rubbish from the news the day it had started for goodness sake, he reflected, rubbing his eyes and sighing heavily.
Why on earth was M sending down all these files about bloody Korea? Was the old man planning to send Bond out there one of these days, perhaps on a mission to aid the C.I.A in their continuous efforts to thwart the KPA behind enemy lines?
After all, he was the only man in the Double O section who had the experience and skill, he observed, what with his time with 30 Assault Unit.
Bond had read that from a military science perspective, the current war in Korea was combining strategies and tactics of World War 2 in that it began with a mobile campaign of swift infantry attacks followed by air bombing raids - so who knows? Korea might just be on the cards for him...
Again, Bond sighed heavily.
Paperwork and reflections on a dull December morning; what else could one of Her Majesty’s Secret Servants ask for?
Regrettably, the ‘ritual’ of clerical duties per se was on for the rest of the day and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Truth be told though, all this administration and clerical work, although an indispensable part of a spy’s job, (not to mention having to perform Night Duty Officer callings once every two weeks), was really making him think of resigning…
* * *
At about two thirty, he took out his gunmetal cigarette-box and his lighter and lit his tenth cigarette. He then went and stood by the window, looking out at the smog overwhelming Regent’s Park and the rest of London.
Just two files left to endure.
He inhaled deeply and blew out a dark grey stream of smoke. Strange, this fog.
It had in fact grown worse.
Must be that Russian secret weapon the bus conductor had mentioned that morning on his way to the office, he mused. A secret weapon that was overwhelming London with a thick malodorous gas made to look like smoke and fog, and fabricated in dark and gloomy KGB research laboratories by mad Russian scientists to smother all Englishmen to death.
Now that’s a thought!
Perhaps he should write a quick report about it all and have the blasted thing sent up to M for appraisal? Who knows, the old man just might decide to send him out to investigate.
Bond smiled at his own silliness…
A pop down to the underground range later to work out his Berretta was definitely called for before he went completely mad up here. Perhaps Sergeant Major McGregson would be on duty that evening. Now that man knew his weapons! Ex-Royal Marine Commando and one of the best weapon trainers he’d ever had the privilege of knowing...
Bond inhaled deeply on the cigarette and directed his thoughts to New Year’s Eve, when, at that precise moment in time, the red telephone on his desk broke the thundering silence in his room, bringing him back down to mother earth.
He found himself standing there, looking across at the thing for a long moment before actually answering the damn thing.
The fact was that that particular phone hadn’t rung in ages...
‘He wants to see you, James.’ It was M’s Chief of Staff. ‘Now.’
‘Any idea what it’s about?’ he asked.
‘Well, let’s just say if you had any plans for New Year’s Eve, bin them.’
And with that, James Bond put down the receiver, took his coat and made his way out of the office and along the carpeted corridor to the lift that would take him to the ninth floor and M’s office…
M, dressed in a double breasted dark grey suit, was standing by the wide window looking out across Regent’s Park, hands held firmly behind his back when James Bond finally walked through from the anteroom.
‘Sit down, double O seven,’ he told him without turning.
Bond nodded and sat across from the Admiral’s desk and his tall green leather armchair, noticing that there was only one file on the desk’s spread of fine red leather: a file bearing the words ‘NIGHTINGALE’ - EYES ONLY in large black print.
He promptly urged through the archives within his brain’s memory banks to see if he’d ever come across that name before and which could perhaps shed some light as to what this might be about...
The room had, understandably of course, an old naval savour to it, with several canvases of great naval battles on the wood-panelled walls, to say nothing of the rather stout odour of vintage pipe smoke in the air. After a rather long and prickly moment of silence, M turned and crossed over to sit down at his broad desk. There was a huge glass ashtray on his right from which he took his pipe and a box of matches and spent a few more tense moments lighting it…
‘How was Christmas?’ he asked finally and made a cursory nod for Bond to smoke if he fancied.
Bond produced his cigarettes, selected one and lit it.
‘Rather boring to tell you the truth, sir. I spent it here in London.’
Contented that his pipe had caught on, M threw the box of matches in the glass ashtray and puffed away, regarding his agent closely through the dark clouds of smoke.
‘Hmmm, haven’t you got family in Kent?’ he asked. ‘An aunt if I’m not mistaken?
‘That’s right, sir. I’ll be driving down to see her next week in fact.’
‘Used up all your annual leave entitlement in June so Chief of Staff tells me,’ he said his voice cold, too business-like for Bond’s tastes. ‘Three whole weeks of it I understand.’
Something unpleasant was definitely coming his way…
‘Went abroad, sir,’ he said. ‘South of France.’
‘Well, serves you a lesson then, Bond, to hold onto some of it next time round, instead of using it all up at one go, romping around the continent in the company of that silly young woman you’ve managed to seduce and who just happens to be Sir John Manning’s wife!’
Bond’s heart sank and he suddenly turned a ghastly white.
‘For heaven’s sake, sir, I -’
‘This Section won’t stand for any ‘love’ scandals, double O seven, especially if it involves one of my most senior officers and the spouse of one of the most influential Civil Servant heads in this country. You will cease this ridiculous liaison forthwith. Do I make myself clear?’
Bond bit his tongue. It was certainly pointless arguing with the old man when he had this type of bee in his bonnet.
‘Yes, sir,’ he said simply.
‘I bloody well hope so, for your sake, young man. You’ve enough on your plate as it is.’
Thunderstruck by M’s startling roasting, Bond shifted uncertainly in his chair. There followed a silence in the room save for the chafing of M’s wretched pipe...
‘Now then, Bond, to the point of your being summoned here,’ the old man told him eventually and his clear-grey eyes remained cold, very cold. ‘What can you tell me about ‘Nightingale’?’
Bond looked at his chief rather awkwardly again.
‘I’m afraid absolutely nothing, sir. The name doesn’t seem to ring a bell.’
M took the pipe from his mouth.
‘I’d be surprised if it had. Nightingale, double O seven, is MI6’s most secret agent within the Russian GRU and now, after eleven years interim as a double for us, the poor girl wants out.’
Bond couldn’t help raising an eyebrow at that.
‘Girl, sir?’ he asked.
‘Yelena Rishkov. And with that, Bond, I’m authorising a special assignment to bring her in from the cold.’
Bond’s heart ascended again and a touch of colour came back to his face as M tossed the thick file lying on his desk across to him.
‘Born 1916, Moscow, Ms Rishkov attended University and the State Institute of International Relations there and on completion of her studies joined the Foreign Service at the age of twenty four. She was posted to the Soviet Embassy in Berlin just before the Second World War and, eventually, fitting the bill perfectly, came to our attention.’
‘Bill?’ said Bond.
‘A prosaic single girl leading a rather dull existence and working all day in a foreign Embassy we had our eye on at the time,’ M told him through a cloud of smoke. ‘We laid a honey-trap for her in the form of one Erich Goren, a German businessman who actually worked for us. Simply put, his job was to wine and dine the poor unsuspecting girl and then, by all means necessary, make her fall madly in love with him. It didn’t take long before we could effectively use her of course. It started off with the usual low key jobs such as smuggling a file out of the office or copying some rather irrelevant minutiae from a database…’
‘Until the target got in so deep there’d be no turning back,’ Bond said. ‘Who said spying wasn’t an art form, sir.’
M grunted and continued. ‘Well, the irony of it all however is that Erich Goren ended up falling in love with her himself. So in love they married in 1942 and moved to Russia. By that time though she had become totally disillusioned with her own country’s government and its policies and genuinely developed a deep sympathy for us Brits, probably mostly due to Goren’s ideals. In 1945, she joined the KGB and was later transferred to General Grigioriov Voshkev’s mob…’
‘The Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye. The GRU. Unlike the Americans, after the Second World War we realised that the Soviets were going to shut themselves out to the rest of the world behind the iron curtain and secretly wreak chaos and havoc in Western Europe in order to destabilise it in the name of Communism. SIS knew a different kind of war was emerging out of the ashes which meant the need for strategically placed personnel working for us, hence Nightingale - who in the end, and till this day, has turned out to be our major player there.’
Bond blew out a stream of grey smoke.
‘And now, sir?’ he asked.
‘Now she has sent word through her controller, Mark Tripits – Station R - that she wants out and a brand new life in Britain. Unfortunately, Erich Goren was killed a couple of weeks ago in a car accident somewhere in Dasa Voyev and she thinks it’s only a matter of time now until her masters within the GRU find her out...’
‘And if they do, it’ll most certainly be the firing squad for her. The Russians don’t take kindly to doubles.’
‘An understatement, Bond,’ M said crustily. ‘That, or the Gulag. Naturally, once I received word from Tripits that Nightingale wants to come in, I took the matter directly to the Joint Intelligence Committee in order to get their authorisation to extract her but, truth be told, they would rather leave things as they are.’
‘Why?’ Bond asked.
‘The idiots are terrified of the consequences if we’re caught trying to help her defect. They say it’ll re-ignite the cold war extensively, bearing in mind that there seems to be a break in that area at the moment, which is absolute nonsense of course. They think that just because the Soviets are concentrating their resources on Korea, against the Americans, they’ll give us here a little breathing space where operations relating to the cold war are concerned.’
‘The fact remains that, after all she’s done for us, Nightingale now needs our help and I believe we should oblige, which is why I went directly to the Prime Minister this morning behind the JIC’s back and notwithstanding their decision, he’s handed this Section carte blanche to get on with her ‘rescue’.’
‘So,’ M continued after a few moments. ‘What do you think? Fancy flying off into harm’s way to get Nightingale back here safely, double O seven?’
‘Of course, sir,’ Bond told him firmly. ‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’
M then rose and crossed to the window, looking out again across the park, hands behind his back. Daylight was fading rapidly as evening fell over London and the lights began to come on...
‘In two days’ time, a secret meeting will be held at a villa forty miles outside Paris. An out of the way location called St. Etienne, fifteen miles from Rigny-Le-Feron. The meeting will take place between the United States and North Korea. At the centre of the talks will be the question of prisoners of war and a much needed ceasefire. If the Americans are lucky, a ceasefire that could just lead to an armistice. Top US and Korean military officials and diplomats will be attending. The Russians on the other hand are sending over a special envoy in order to keep an eye on things, as will the United Nations and the Chinese. The Russian envoy is one Ilya Klebanov, Minister responsible for military industry and policies, amongst other shadier and sinister cold war matters that is. Apparently he’s going to have the usual GRU Executive Protection team with him amid whom, fortunate for us, will be Nightingale.’
M turned to face Bond.
‘This’ll probably be our only chance to get her out alive, double O seven, which means you’ve got to move fast and most importantly very very carefully. I need not remind you that this is a deniable operation which means should anything go wrong you will not receive any assistance whatsoever from this end. You will, as the old saying goes, be left out to dry.’
Bond nodded and stubbed out his cigarette, sitting back in his chair.
‘When do I leave, sir?’ he asked.
‘Tomorrow morning.’ M told him. ‘The Chief of Staff is handling the arrangements personally as we speak. Your cover will be managing director of a South African publishing firm called Transvaal with a passport in the name of Jonathan Malan. Now, I know a thing like this usually requires a lot of preparation, split second timings and all that, and I’m not going to even try and tell you how to go about actually snatching her, but time is of the essence on this one. As for help, I’ve called on one of our French sleeper agents to assist you as necessary. Good chap I assure you and a man I trust entirely. Goes by the name of Cheval. Jaques Saint Cheval, ex-French Resistance during the war.’
‘Jaques Saint Cheval,’ Bond repeated and smiled softly. ‘I know the rogue fine well, sir. We worked together once when I was still with 30 Assault Unit.’
M nodded ‘I know, Bond, which is why I chose him for the task. Nevertheless, the Chief of Staff’ll fill you in on the rest with all the relevant details as soon as you’re out of here and I need you to pop down to Q Section. Major Boothroyd has something he’d like you to test out in the field for him.’
M picked up the red phone on his desk which signalled the briefing was finally over.
‘Very good, sir.’ Bond said and got up.
He reached the door and was about to let himself out when the old man called him again, covering the receiver with his cupped hand.
‘Oh, and by the way, double O seven,’ he said. ‘Should Ilya Klebanov end up with a bullet between his eyes while you’re at it, then so be it. Good riddance to the bastard, if you get my drift that is.’
Bond nodded once.
‘Perfectly, sir,’ he said and left, closing the red-leather padded door behind him…
The Secret Servant
James Bond came out from customs and immigration in Paris-Orly airport at precisely eight o’clock in the morning wearing a navy-blue trenchcoat over a dark grey single-breasted suit and carrying a large black suitcase. Although it had been over seven years now, he recognised the man called Jaques Saint Cheval instantly, standing near one of the main exits and wearing grey rainproofs and old felt hat, slanted over one ear...
‘Mister Malan, welcome back to France,’ he called crossing over to greet Bond, smiling radiantly. He gave a quick wink of an eye and moved in closer. ‘It has been a long time, James,’ he murmured.
‘Nineteen Forty-three,’ Bond told him, a soft smile touching his lips as they shook hands.
‘Chastel-Nouvel,’ said Cheval. ‘You had parachuted out of a Lancaster from six thousand feet in pitch black and absolutely filthy weather. A crazy young Englishman with a death-wish, no less.’
‘I wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for you though. You got me safely passed six German Sabre patrols and a Panzer Division to the local resistance leader at Le Crouzet.’
Saint Cheval nodded. ‘That traitor Remy Caspar. But you probably remember his daughter more than that [censuré], James, no?’
Bond cocked an eyebrow. ‘How could one ever forget sweet Clare,’ he said smiling roguishly.
‘And then there was Von Shlinser, the object of your dropping in on us.’
‘The devil in uniform if ever there was one.’
‘Who deserved the bullet you eventually delivered between those wicked eyes of his,’ he told him. ‘Dark days, long gone now though. The world has moved on and life has changed somewhat, I think, eh?’
‘Has it?’ said Bond earnestly. ‘Believe me, Jaques, I hadn’t noticed.’
Jaques Saint Cheval’s wife and only child, Jean-Pierre, were killed by German forces in Lyon in 1940 while he was in Paris trying hard to fight off the enemy there with the French Resistance Force. Fleeing France for London wounded and devastated, Saint Cheval found himself inevitably joining the very secret department called Section F of the Special Operations Executive with nothing but bloody vengeance etched deep into his soul. After a year of commando and paramilitary training in the Highlands of Scotland and the wild countryside of South Yorkshire, he was sent back to France by boat under the cover of darkness in 1941 to lead a group of men and women of the Free French Army to fight the Germans in the green hills, woodlands, farms and villages of Le Midi. The FFA was a unit tasked with gathering vital intelligence for the allies, accomplish sabotage missions and, last but not least, aid British and American air crews who’d been shot down. These men and women of the FFA risked life and limb for what they believed in and at the end of the war Saint Cheval, amongst many others, was awarded the George Medal by the British and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the Americans...
Saint Cheval looked very fit, Bond noted, despite his age and the fact that he had lost his left arm just before the war ended. Sixty years old from his file, but not looking a day over fifty, he was a small man, five six, with silver curvy hair swept back over his ears. His eyes were cheerful green, full of toughness and astuteness.
They reached Saint Cheval’s white Peugeot in the car-park outside and as they drove away, Bond lit one of his Morland Specials.
‘The girl. Is she staying at the Embassy?’ he asked finally.
‘Embassy? The whole entourage are at the Ritz, believe it or not. They arrived last night.’
‘Now that’s certainly one for the great book. Communists enjoying the life of decadent Westerners. What next?’
‘Minister Klebanov has a penchant for the finer things in life, James, so don’t be fooled by the Marxist-Stalinist morals they all ramble on about to the rest of the world from behind the curtain. Anyway, from what I’ve learned so far from one of my most trusted contacts in the SDECE (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage), the bastard is into all of it. Fast cars, gambling, drink, beautiful under-aged girls, and most of all money and power.’
‘How many are in his protection team?’
Bond drew in a deep lungful of smoke and when he exhaled, looked out the window. His eyes were dark slits. Six. Quite a number, he thought.
‘What about the chances of making contact with her? Is she free to come and go?’
‘If they’re allowed to go out, they probably do so in pairs.’ Saint Cheval told him. ‘I doubt she’ll be left to wonder the streets of Paris alone though. I have already established that three of his men remain with Klebanov at all times, wherever he goes. Which reminds me, I have taken the liberty to book you a room at the hotel Astroy, not very far from our targets. Not much of a stay unfortunately but it was the only place I could find at such short notice. You are most welcome to sleep over at my apartment of course, mon ami. That is if you don’t mind my ever-nagging second wife, Bertrand, God bless her.’
‘Thanks, but the Astroy will be alright I’m sure.’
‘Did you ever marry, James?’ he asked. ‘After the war?’
‘God forbid no.’
‘Of course, you are still young and full of life. How old are you? Thirty? Thirty-two?’
‘Twenty nine this year, Jaques.’
‘Mon Dieu! You are still a baby, James, when it comes to women. But one word of advice, for future reference, ami. Stay away from the ones who try and lock their claws into you. Stay well away. They are the worst of all evils in this life and they tend to suck the very essence out of you when you least expect it. Vampires, and no less.’
Bond smiled inwardly and sat back, closing his eyes as it began raining outside.
‘Rest a while, James.’ Saint Cheval told him. ‘I will wake you as soon as we get there. Tonight at seven, I shall pick you up from your hotel and we shall have dinner at the Ritz. Who knows, we might just get lucky and find a way to make contact with our dear Nightingale, before the big day that is.’
The big day.
How appropriately put, he observed...
* * *
The hotel was regrettably without a doubt a run-down and shabby affair, to Bond’s somewhat selective standards at least. It was managed by a tall curly haired Moroccan who had a dangerously dishonest and ostentatious smirk that irritated Bond sizeably; and 75 Francs shorter got him a rather small room with shower on the third floor, not to mention the wretched view of an old derelict block of flats up for demolition.
Having packed, Bond decided to go out for a walk, more to wind down after his rough flight from London than anything else, and he ended up on the edge of the Seine – a pearl of a place, chastely enticing.
It was there that he found himself thinking of how the hell he was going to pull this assignment off. What was it M had said during the briefing back at his office overlooking Regent’s Park?
‘…I know a thing like this usually requires a lot of preparation, double O seven, split second timings and all that, and I’m not going to even try and tell you how to go about actually snatching her, but time is of the essence on this one.’
The double O section was always presented with jobs, unusual ones, that no ordinary department would take responsibility for and one such job was Nightingale. The only thing that was going to make it succeed though, considering the time-frame, was a great deal of imagination, dare, luck and above all chance...
Bond checked the time and sat down on one of the benches there.
A close friend had once told him that every capital had its own distinctive smell, he remembered nostalgically. London smelled of fish and Player’s, Moscow of cheap eau-de-Cologne and sweat, Rome of fish and Olio di olivè; and Paris, arguably the most romantic city in the world, smelled of coffee, onions and Gitanes...
How right Ian had been, he thought.
The sky was bright blue now, the rain clouds faded completely, and the sun was out and shining brightly. The wind though was still sharp, bone-deep cold and James Bond found himself shivering there, looking out at the magnificent views before him.
The most romantic city in the world.
Well, he reflected, he did have certain reservations about that one. The last time he was here, just before the Second World War that is, he had lost his virginity, concurrently with his rather fat wallet mind, and all to an erotic and very devious prostitute who called herself Serafin Beaumont. It was that particular incident that had left a fairly bitter taste in his mouth about this charming city.
But then again, that wasn’t really just, James, was it now?
It was true that he preferred the South of France any day but what he had shared with Serafin that night in Paris had been worth every single Franc he’d possessed, even though she had stolen the lot from right under his nose; but it could have happened to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Bond smiled softly.
What a delightful pleasure, and nothing less than an artiste in the profession of bountiful sexual gratification. Looking back now, after 13 years, how could Paris not be the most romantic city in the world after such a wonderful lesson in the art of lovemaking?
A bateaux-mouche eased its way down through the dark waters of the River and the throb of its engines seemed to pull Bond out of his reverie and back down to earth.
At 1245, he decided to have lunch in the Latin quarter of Paris: the Place de la Sorbonne, and after coffee and liquor and a quick browse around a few book shops there, now relished a cigarette in the delightful Jarden de Luxembourg where Marius Pontmercy and Cosette first met in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
‘…time is of the essence on this one, Bond.’
M’s words rang out hard inside his head and he worked his mind on how he was going to go about doing the whole thing – snatching Nightingale from five Russian GRU killers.
An impossible mission?
An idea had already formed inside his head and one in which Saint Cheval was going to have to perform a miracle or two to get what Bond required for the job...
‘May I bother you for a light, monsieur?’ a voice said from behind him.
He came face to face with an astonishingly attractive woman with a slim Gitanes hanging from the corner of her wide and sensuous mouth.
‘How did you know I wasn’t French?’ Bond found himself asking as he lit the cigarette for her, devouring her wholly from top to bottom with his eyes.
She had brown hair cut oddly short, spellbinding bluish-black eyes that seemed to touch his very innards, and a figure underneath a smooth black dress that spoke volumes about the word French voluptuousness...
A smile formed on her red-hot lips, a smile that would have charmed the devil himself there and then, let alone melt Bond’s heart away instantly.
‘Monsieur, I know enough Frenchmen to know when someone as good looking as you is not in fact a Frenchman,’ she said sternly, eyeing him up closely herself. ‘Does that make any sense to you?’
‘Not exactly, but you’ve got my attention, Ms…?’
‘Corrine. Then perhaps you should simply boil it down to experience and instinct, oui? Is that better, monsieur?’
She turned to leave.
‘Perhaps we could discuss it over a drink,’ Bond called quickly.
Corrine stopped and turned to look at him again, her eyes more than interested this time, and his devlish smile actually warmed her...
‘My name’s James,’ he said and extended a hand.
She held it in hers.
‘South African,’ he lied, still holding onto her hand.
‘I’ve never met a South African before.’
She took a long pull on the cigarette and blew out the grey smoke with a slight taunt, still a tad uncertain but nevertheless taken by this tall, dark handsome stranger who seemed to remind her of that American pianist Hoagy Carmichael. It was no doubt his eyes and the cruel lips, she decided, not to mention the overwhelming physical sexuality that exuded out of him...
She nodded once, as if making up her mind and added,
‘I have a couple of hours to spare till I am expected back at work. You will buy me a drink and we will talk some more, oui? I think it is that time of the day for a Martini. And then who knows, my dear James from South Africa? You look very interesting and you have succeeded in rousing my curiosity extensively.’
‘Well, that’s fine, because I know a pleasant Café just down the road,’ he said and with that took her arm in his and they walked off towards Ricards’ on the Boulevard Saint-Michel…
* * *
Half an hour into their drinks, it started raining again, slowly at first, and then a drenching downpour as they sat there watching it from beneath the wide beige umbrella above their table.
‘How remarkably appropriate,’ she said and drew on the cigarette she was smoking, turning to look deep into his grey-blue eyes. ‘Rain is for lovers, James, and all their fervent pleasures, wouldn’t you agree?’
‘What was it the great poet once said,’ Bond told her and drank some of his Martini. ‘Love comforteth like sunshine after rain, but lust's effect is tempest after sun.’
‘Shakespeare. I’m impressed.’
‘Well, Corrine, that makes two of us then.’
She reached out and touched the scar on his cheek.
‘Would you mind if I asked how you got that?’
‘Shrapnel splinter,’ he said and smelt the Chanel No 5 on her wrist. ‘Long time ago.’
He took her hands and examined them.
‘No wedding ring.’
‘Marriage is not for me, James. I am too, how do you say, free spirited I think. Besides, I’m sure my job would get in the way of things.’
‘I admire a woman who knows her mind.’
‘And I admire a man who doesn’t waste time.’
They held each other’s eyes then and there was indeed a common understanding and a sort of need, want even, in them both.
Bond knew fine well that she was going to be expensive, and that he was undoubtedly being played by a professional, had been ever since she had asked him for a light back in the gardens but, simply put, after so long baking in the hard arms of a very quiet year back home on the front, there was absolutely no way he was going to miss out in taking this wonderful creature to bed that afternoon. She was certainly going to be worth every minute...
He smiled slowly and held her hands again.
‘Let’s have some more Martini and see what happens, Corrine.’
He snapped his finger to the waiter and ordered two more.
‘I must warn you now though, James, that I am very costly, mon ami,’ she said with a firm authority that Bond could not but admire.
‘I should imagine so,’ he said simply and sat back to enjoy one of his Morlands while he waited for their drinks.
‘…time is of the essence on this one.’
M’s voice rang loud inside his head again and again, but James Bond was too absorbed by the wonderful Corrine to even notice or damn well care. Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, he decided, was now off duty for the rest of the afternoon, so to hell with M and the Nightingale mission…