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Never Kiss A Stranger

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#1 chrisno1



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Posted 13 September 2011 - 01:00 PM


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A novel by
Chris Stacey



This novel is 100% unofficial and has been written for the James Bond fan community at www.commanderbond.net.
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 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 novel is the intellectual property of Chris Stacey, whose personal details are listed on the CommanderBond.net website under the member ship name “chrisno1.”

Never Kiss a Stranger © Chris Stacey Esq 2011


I would like to thank all those who have encouraged me in my writing and helped me in the production of this collection, especially Simon, Gordon, Martin and Steve. Thanks, guys.

Also by Chris Stacey on CommanderBond.net

(A screen treatment of the 1983 novel by John Gardner)
(A short story)
(A short story)
(A novelisation of the 1969 screenplay by Richard Maibaum)




***** ***** *****


You can’t expect everything in life to turn out just the way you want it.

For instance, when I was a very young girl, I wanted to be a fairy. It was with many tears and several tantrums that I discovered there really wasn’t such a thing as fairies. That can be a crushing blow to a three year old.

To make up for that tragic early disappointment, I insisted my mother enrolled me at a dancing school. I wanted to be a ballerina, possibly the next best thing to being a fairy. However it was eventually decided, amid scenes of petulance and enmity, that I didn’t have the greatest co-ordination or elegance. I could dance, yes, but not for a provincial company, not even for the school’s Year-End Revue. God forbid I be let loose on the grand stages of Covent Garden or the Coliseum. Fairies and principal girls were out for this nine year old.

Then it was horses. I had plans and ideas, of dressage competitions and eventing at Gatcombe. My parents, bless them, bought me a precious palomino called Bagpuss. I think they saw it as an investment in my future. For a few years I was dedicated. I spent every spare hour riding my new friend and pet. There were weekends at the livery, cleaning tack and learning about horse-care. There were gymkhanas and rosettes. Never a first, always the runner up, but I didn’t mind. I consoled my losses with long countryside hacks on the bridleways.

But horses were only a passing fad, something for me to lose myself in and forget other disappointments. In that respect Bagpuss really was a pet, except he didn’t offer me the unconditional love of a dog or a cat; I had to earn it. Eventually, I rode him less and less and lost interest in the daily grooming and exercise routines. As the stabling grew expensive, it was decided we ought to sell him, because it simply wasn’t fair on the poor beast. The stable yard took him at a knock down price.

I’d like to believe I neglected Bagpuss because I was concentrating on my education, but this simply wasn’t true. One glance at my sorrowful school qualifications would tell you that. Instead I chose to act like a silly spoilt little girl. I got stroppy, shrugged my shoulders, dug my heels in and said: “No.”

There was a reason for it and not a very good one: it’s called puberty.

It’s the only excuse I have.

In fact, now that I think of it, I have lots of not very good excuses to explain everything about my life. But I don’t have to explain anything about how I feel now.

You see, I met a man just over a week ago.

There is, of course, a story attached to how I met him and how we’ve come to be together. I suppose, like all good stories, it ought to start at the beginning and that’s what I’m trying to do – but I’ve missed a bit, so let me start again.

It’s Friday. I’m pushing the fat inflatable Li-Lo away from the shore. The sun is high. I missed lunch but it doesn’t matter, I’m not hungry. I want to sway in the sea, soak up the day and think. Think about me, about my life, about James Bond.

I float on the whisper of a breeze and I remember everything I can.


From the very beginning.

Edited by chrisno1, 13 September 2011 - 01:05 PM.

#2 chrisno1



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Posted 13 September 2011 - 01:40 PM


My name is Amy Porter. Amy is short for Amaryllis. You can see why I choose to shorten it. How I came to be in Crete that hot summer is a long tale and I ought to keep it short. I’ll certainly try.

It all starts a long time ago, during another hot summer, this one in the leafy London suburb of Barnes. I was born in August 1985, two months premature and crying. Apparently I cried for weeks. I simply didn’t stop. I almost drove my mother insane. She suffered severe post-natal depression and I expect, in addition to actually being born, my behaviour was mostly part of the problem.

I wasn’t a pampered child, not as a baby or as a young girl. I say that like it’s true because I guess I can’t really remember. But I was needy. I demanded a lot of attention. I liked to be breast fed. Too often and for too long according to Mum. Later I was always pulling on my mother’s skirts and expecting hugs and kisses. Needy.

I didn’t ask questions like most inquisitive children. I was almost blank to the world outside the semi-detached house and the small garden with its paddling pool and sand pit. But I always wanted Mum or Dad or the various grannies, aunties and uncles who came to the house to watch me while I played. Psychologists might tell you it was because I was an only child, that with no one else to play with, I sought notice from anyone around me.

I’ve never been to a psychologist. I’ve got enough problems without adding to them. Anyway, I figured it out: I simply enjoyed the attention. I still do, though I don’t play in paddle pools any more. I was in my dream. The star. The fairy.

I didn’t know how much this constant craving for attention and response affected my mother. Only now can I understand her frustration over the fairy dream. Imagine it: I insisted on being dressed like Tinkerbell for family occasions and parties, Christmas and the like, with wings and even a wand. Even my bathing suit had a big lacy frill, like something from a Victorian picture postcard. I must have looked very odd to my cousins and the few playmates I did have. It was an indulgence my mother allowed me because the alternative was tantrums and tears and shouting and sulking. Neither result seems particularly attractive now.

It was my mother’s depression that persuaded Dad to move us out of suburbia to the green pastures of the stock broker belt in Frimley. He thought the open spaces, the fresh air and the distraction of feathering a new home would help Mum to put herself back together. That’s his term; I heard him use it once or twice and never understood what he meant. Mum wasn’t broken. She always looked in one piece to me.

Of course home-making is hard when you’ve lost part of your mind to a deep melancholy. It’s even harder when you’ve been uprooted from a familiar environment, from friends and family. Mum used to cry a lot in those early years at Frimley Cottage. It never stopped her doing what was required, both as a mother and a wife, but having a big house with a garden, a pool and crowds of Chinese daisies was no use if she couldn’t bring herself to enjoy it. The world was one of worry and concern for her.

And me? Well, I loved the swimming pool. I loved the attic room where I could play with my dolls and ignore the world below me, where Mum and Dad did things like argue, make up and fall out again. We had more bedrooms than we needed and I got a massive room with huge built-in wardrobes. I had full length mirrors, a big dressing table and even a double bed. Amazing stuff for a girl of five. The countryside I could give or take. I used to offer a cheeky shrug when people asked me of it. “It’s all right,” I’d say, “It’s home, isn’t it?”

Of course by then I was trying to be a ballerina. It took three years for my instructors to tell me I’d never make the ballet. The most cutting comment came from a grey haired old hag called Miss Havistock, who likened my arabesques to a dying duck. I think the tutors at Kew Ballet School were more interested in our money than my balletic education.

I was at school too of course. A little co-ed a few streets away called Priory Primary. This suited Mum because she could walk me down the road, gently persuade me through the school gate and then go home back to bed until lunch time, when her aggravated body clock finally woke her out of semi-slumber. I never noticed much. Occasionally I missed breakfast. Every day my grey and white uniform would be laid out for me on one of those big yellow plastic hangers that you never return to the dry cleaners. Out of necessity I learnt to wash and dress myself. All except my shoe laces, which I couldn’t tie. Mum bought me slip-ons eventually. It was a small step to kiddie heels. When I got my first pair I thought I was a model: another hopeless fantasy.

I can’t say I was a model pupil. I had a tendency to dream. At first I often fell asleep after lunch time. I wasn’t used to waking up at seven thirty in the morning, you see; because Mum was always so weary, she’d rarely got me up before ten. Academically, or what passes for academia in your youngest school days, I was less than average. I could read and write and add up, sure, but I didn’t like to learn and I certainly didn’t want to think in case it gave me headaches. I’d read about that in some silly kid’s book. Another not so good excuse.

Oh, yes, and it wasn’t helpful being the plain little girl with the red hair and pale skin and a name like Amaryllis. Not used to dealing with other children, at least not very much, I was an easy target for teasing and hair pulling, from girls and boys.

I didn’t tell anyone. You’d think being so reliant on my mother for comfort I would run to her in tears and demand a hug and a kiss. But I did exactly the reverse. I stopped crying and started to pull away from her. I became withdrawn. I think instinctively I realised she was having a bad time of it at home and I didn’t want my troubles to distress her. It was a long lonely seven years; school, the attic, the pool, my pony and my dreams. Mum never realised I didn’t have friends around after school or for birthdays or parties. Nor did she notice I wasn’t invited to theirs. While dancing or tending Bagpuss I could lose myself from the distractions of real life. While the ballet or the equestrian school are hardly solitary activities, I did my utmost to make it so, at odds to my peers who happily gained knowledge from each other, chatting and gossiping and squealing at every opportunity. I envied them, but I also chose to ignore them and my ignorance fuelled their disdain. I didn’t care. My life had to be as it was for Mum.

If I was quiet, my teachers were equally reticent about my schooling. If they had any inkling, it was never raised at parent’s evenings or in the dreadfully poor end of term reports. They probably found it easier to ignore the problem, hoping it would go away or solve itself. They were right in some respects for I did have one good friend by the time I left the Priory.

Cassandra Danby was the new girl in town. Equally friendless and teased, it was almost inevitable we would strike up an alliance against our tormentors.

Cassandra was a big girl and a fighter. A real fighter. I remember she actually punched a boy once, so hard he fell over. It was nice for someone else to be the butt of jokes for a day. Most of the kids were a little afraid of Cassandra, but I saw her as something of an angel. It was the best two years of my school life. Looking back it was a mad romantic crush.

Cass, as I called her, didn’t like horses, which was a pity as I was much better with ponies than I was with ballet shoes – she liked to smoke and steal chewing gum from newsagents. I still don’t know where she got the fags from, but there is something deliciously naughty about smoking when your ten years old. It feels the most adult thing you can do. Except for swearing, but I didn’t know enough obscenities at the time. We were virtually inseparable at school, yet I never once learnt anything about her. She was intelligent, sharp and funny. But there was darkness behind her eyes, a coldness I couldn’t comprehend. Yet she was the only pal I had, so I doted on her.

Fetch and carry; yes, Cass, yes, Cass. Are you all right, Cass? Of course, Cass, I will; yes, Cass, yes.

We were school friends only. We didn’t go to each other’s houses. I never even knew where she lived. She never told. I never asked. It was weird really. If it wasn’t for the end of year photograph – Class of ’96, with me and Cass smiling next to each other on the end of the middle row – I believe she may never have existed at all.

At eleven years of age, we were separated. We went to different seniors. You’d think we’d bump into each other every so often, after all Frimley isn’t a big town. But we didn’t. I knew Cass would be brilliant, she could actually think for herself, but me? I did okay. The servant survived without her mistress. Just.

And this is more or less where I came in, giving up my pony less than a year into senior school. Maybe it was a withdrawal, a reaction to the loss of my only real friend, however lopsided that relationship was. It’s a good theory. Another one for the psychologists. But it’d be a lie because now I was a smoker and hung around the bike sheds, I had more school pals than ever. The best place to make friends is Smoker’s Corner. A cliché but so true.

No, the reason I neglected poor Bagpuss was because my body, like most adolescent girls, started to change; and not for the better, I thought.

You know how it is; boobs start growing, you get pubic hair in strange places and zits and stuff like that. I had my fill of it and a little more, because I was still a gangly slender thing, sprouting all sorts and looking, frankly, a bit gawky.

To top it all I had to have my teeth fixed. Well, I guess I probably didn’t, but the dentist suggested I got them spaced and straightened, Mum agreed, and there I was, all leg and tit and spots and the final humiliation of train tracks braced onto my smile. So the boys didn’t pay me much attention and I got self-conscious and embarrassed and shy. As if I wasn’t all ready.

Mum was pretty good about the icky stuff. She sat me down with a book called ‘Making It Happy’ and then we watched ‘The Lover’s Guide’ together. This was just the funniest thing. I was the talk of the girl’s changing room for a week, until someone mentioned they’d seen a real pørn movie. In a second, Mum’s kudos fell dramatically. Why didn’t she watch pørn? Anyway, I was thankful she equipped me with panty-liners. I had my first period in the middle of a maths class, but was spared any misfortune by her foresight.

I had a small group of friends, Mandy, Gilly, Janey. We were all something ending in ‘E’. We didn’t have the best success with boys. They rather steered clear of us. Maybe they didn’t appreciate that we wore our skirts long. Things got better once the braces came off, but I wasn’t much impressed with the lads that hung around at the school yard. The ones at the Youth Centre were frightening. I eventually got kissed when I was fifteen. Imagine that. In the wild noughties! Fifteen! Six girls in my year had already been pregnant and one had a baby. I ought to be grateful, I guess, but those first few romantic touches had an incurable effect on me. I was the fairy again. The princess seeking her prince and I saw the handsome hero in every wink and every hello and every touch of a hand.

The thing is, like life, boys simply don’t turn out the way you want them. Certainly the rewards were satisfying, in a fumbling innocent manner, at least in the short term. But there was never anything substantial to my first few brief entanglements with love. I can’t really call them love affairs. Not one of the handfuls of snatched kisses ever led to a proper boyfriend. Those lads were always searching for someone prettier, sexier, taller. To bluntly name it, I became a testing ground.

You can put it down to insecurity, inexperience or plain stupidity, the history is the same. I simply wasn’t very good with boys at that age. By that I mean I didn’t understand them. I still don’t really. Or at least there are aspects of men I choose not to understand, because it’s easier to ignore the bad points about someone and revel in the good. I decided very early on in my awakening that it’s fairly pointless speculating on men’s behaviour. Just accept their shortcomings with a smile and move on to the next bitter disappointment.

You can see where all these bad excuses spring from, can’t you? In fact that’s the theme of my love life: bad excuses.

There was one special boy at school, Ben Tremmell. Spectacles. Sensitive. An artist. Rich family, but a bit thick around girls, around anybody really, he wasn’t sex material at all. I decided I wanted to go out with him. Not because he was a catch, but because he was different to the other boys, the ones who forced their tongue and their hands on you. I was beside myself with fear when I asked as I walked him home. He looked a bit shocked.

“Yes, okay,” he replied, “Um, Saturday?”

“At the park. I’ll meet you. We can buy ice creams.”

Dear God!

“Ice cream?”

“Yes. Do you like ice cream?”

“I’d rather paint you a picture. A portrait or something.”

He wouldn’t have to talk then, I guessed. And I was right. He hardly said a word until he’d finished. It was a beautiful pencil drawing and I still have it, preserved in a cheap wooden picture frame.

He used to come to my house. The first proper visitor I ever had. We had the run of it for a couple of months because Mum was working now. It was only some charity shop in the village, but it kept her out of our way. I was pleased really, because the distraction of a job seemed to revive her spirits. Dad was spending longer at work too, but not for any healthy reason.

“Money talks,” he used to say, but we all know it doesn’t, only your bosses talk. And they drove hard targets for a middle aged man like Dad. High blood pressure. Cholesterol. Migraines. He hit every one of those targets.

Anyway, we were sitting our GCSE’s and had plenty of spare time to laze by the pool, twist grass around our fingers and paint. Ben did the painting. After the third one, I gave him a kiss, just a peck on the lips and he responded as if I’d kissed him with a hot iron. That startled me and I made a hasty apology.

“No, no, it’s all right, I just wasn’t expecting…”

“Expecting what?”

“I don’t know, Amy, I…”


“Well, you see, thing is…”

He didn’t want to admit it. No one had kissed him before. So I taught him how to kiss. He couldn’t teach me to paint. I was crap. But I was good at kisses.

Ben painted me in my bikini.

“You’re beautiful, Amy,” he said.

I didn’t believe it. The artist made me look better than I was. But I enjoyed the flattery, so it was a small step to him painting me nude.

It felt so very natural. I hadn’t expected that. I’d hardly ever been nude in front of anyone; in the changing rooms for sports, of course; occasionally in front of Mum or the doctor or both, but this was different. This was special.

We were outside. I was reclined on a lounger, turned slightly on my side. I took my bottoms off first, an odd choice you might think, but I did hide myself with my legs. Not so my breasts. I saw him watching me with interest as I unhooked the bra. I stared at him staring, to take my mind away from my nudity. I was excited and knew that he could see it, but I wasn’t worried. I wanted Ben to see me naked and this was a beautiful way for us to achieve it.

He sat with a big A3 pad on his knees, gently scratching charcoal across paper. His shirt was open to the navel and I could see droplets of sweat forming on the wispy curls of his pale chest hair. He sat on the verge of the shade. Streaks of pollen shrouded light spun through the trees between us. Occasionally he frowned at me and his hand didn’t move. At those moments I knew he wasn’t looking at me with an artistic purpose.

The sun was igniting my bare skin. I was hot. The longer I lay, the more intense the heat became. My own brow was furrowed with moisture. My hands seeped. The crevasses under my arms, between my breasts, between my legs, my toes, were sticky, slippery. My upper lip was wet. My hair matted at the follicles. I was burning, but not from the sun.

When he finished, Ben put down the big ring bound pad and knelt beside me. When he kissed me ‘thank you,’ this time, unlike every other time, his hands grappled for my naked bosom. I didn’t stop him. I was ready for this moment. My nipples snuggled into his palms, slipped between his fingers. Our tongues were angrily fighting. I tore at his shirt, pulled it off his shoulders, kissed his own bare breast, ripped down his trousers. We didn’t make it to the bedroom. We didn’t even make it to penetration. He exploded in the lounge. It made a right mess of the carpet. I’d never cleaned a carpet. Hot water works best, with a little soap.

After that mishap, I took him by the hand and, not entirely sure what we were supposed to do, despite ‘The Lover’s Guide,’ we sat on my bed. He seemed intimidated by me having a king-size, so I yanked off the quilt and lay it on the floor near the window, where the sunlight could strike us. He was big again and now I looked at it properly, it looked frightening. I held it first, gave it a little tug, then I simply lay back, his member in my hand, his hand over mine, and guided him into me.

It hurt. Men have no idea. It really did hurt. You have to remember: someone is sticking a six inch truncheon in a place that’s never been stretched apart before. I bit my lip, closed my eyes and breathed deeply out, trying to relax. I’m sure Ben thought it was a satisfied sigh. Neither of us really knew how men and women actually [censored], so we lay there, still as stone, his weight pushing me down, my legs stretched out, his bum motionless. It was instinct, I guess, that made me raise my knees, involuntarily pushing my pubis up towards him. He reacted and pushed down, pushed into me. It was the most wonderful, natural sensation. We only managed the routine six times before Ben exploded again.

When he left two hours later, still a little shy but looking much more like a man, despite having to be home for tea, Ben had loved me twice more, each time longer and more satisfying than the last. I finally saw a reason to associate properly with boys. It was called sex.

And this is where my bad excuses really start.

Ben had signed the nude picture ‘I love you’ and left it for me. It wasn’t finished. He’d stopped drawing long before touching my tits. He never painted me again and summer became a long season of sex.

I wasn’t old enough of course, not for a couple of months, but you don’t worry about these things when you’re fifteen and you think you’re in love. I went to the doctor. She was good enough not to tell my parents I wanted the pill. I never told Mum. Now, I rather assume she knows. I guess eventually parents just accept sex is happening. They were more concerned with my education. Or lack of it. I never wanted to go to college. I was fully expecting crap results from my exams and I was proved dead right. I didn’t mind.

The sex had woken in me a new passion. I saw myself as a new being, a post-pubescent blossoming woman. It wasn’t a revelation, like one of those duck to swan moments, because I already realised I was quite pretty, but it was a change in outlook. The juvenile toys and actions were placed aside and I embraced the X-rated world of the adult. I ignored my parent’s advice and hurt their feelings. I thought this made me a grown up. It didn’t, but I couldn’t understand that at the time. I’d made plans, you see. Bad plans.

I wanted to be a chalet girl. This was because I could ski. Not very well – hell, I never seem to do anything very well – but I’d been on a school trip to France and learnt the basics. Mum and Dad thought the experience would do me good. A foreign country and culture. A winter sport. Friends. If only they knew: midnight chocolate feasts while we compared bust sizes, sneaking schnapps and wine back to the chalets, taking the piss out of the ski instructor cause he had a fat bum, smoking, oh the endless smoking, and one unconsummated teasing friendship with a local boy. Hmm, maybe not such a bad experience after all, but not very educational.

Anyway, my plan was born from chatting to Ilse, the girl who cleaned up after us. She was a nice sort and I used to help her prepare dinner. She made the chalet life sound pretty exciting, pretty carefree, though in fairness she was quite pretty and probably got more perks out of the lifestyle than I would. So I had it in mind that if I failed my exams, I’d be a chalet girl, at least for a year. I think that was my excuse for not passing most of my GCSE’s, for not even trying.

But the season didn’t kick in until January, so I needed work. I got a job the old fashioned way: I saw a vacancy sign in a shop window, walked in and introduced myself. It was in a shoe shop in Woking. Expensive shoes for ladies who lunch, although why they’d want to lunch in Woking still escapes me. The job fit the purpose.

Summer stopped abruptly. So did the sex. I didn’t understand, but the reasons became clear very quickly. My plans took over and I had out grown my use. Once Ben wasn’t the centre of my world, he lost interest in me. I had been a testing ground again, only this time the rejection hurt.

She was called Cassandra Danby and I thought she’d disappeared from my life in Frimley. Now she was back, like a goddess, all blonde hair, bosom and make-up and a gaggle of hangers on. She was like something from Mean Girls. What a bitch. No friend of mine, not any more.

“I didn’t know,” she lied sweetly, when we met in the car park outside Sainsbury’s.

This time she’d actually been buying cigarettes.

This time it was me that threw the punch. A public cat fight. Not very lady like. I lost, but Cassandra Danby got a black eye for her sins. I’d never provoked a fight before and haven’t since. It was rage. I was consumed with it. But I took it out on the wrong person. It wasn’t Cassandra Danby I was angry with, she was merely the recipient of my ire, neither was it Ben Tremmell, who might have been a better, softer target. No, I was angry with myself for letting something good slip away, like the ballet, like the horses, like big, cheerful, chunky Cassandra.

I retreated back into myself. Mum got quite worried. Work wasn’t good for me, you’re not eating well; you know the sort of thing: questions that don’t get anywhere near the root of the problem. I still had my plan. It was all that drove me on. Except I hadn’t planned it so well: you have to be eighteen to be a chalet girl.

I found that out a bit late, but luck, bad luck, was on my side. Ilse had given me the name of this company, Off-Piste Employment, and the head hunter was Frau Eisler, an iron grey woman who could put the frighteners on anybody. We had a long conversation about why I wanted to be a chalet girl, and while she apologised and explained she couldn’t offer me work in that sphere, she did have something to interest me, a private commission, not very good pay, but they were friends and wouldn’t ask any questions. It wasn’t exactly chalet work, more like an au pair, a cleaner-come-babysitter, cash in hand, not quite legal, but she could wangle it if I was really desperate to go. Desperate I was.

They were a German couple, the Ulrichs in Söll, a smallish family orientated ski resort in the Tyrol. I think they took me on because I was cheap. I’d like to say it was a great experience. But it wasn’t. The kids weren’t young, seven and nine, and they spoke better English than I did German. Let’s be honest. I didn’t speak any German. They used to play tricks on me all the time, usually involving defecating or pulling my hair. It was like being back at school, only this time I couldn’t escape it and couldn’t scold my tormentors without them running to Mama or Papa and getting me into more trouble.

The man of the house, if you could call him that, was nearly always away on business and his wife was conducting two concurrent affairs, first with some rich sporty type who didn’t need to work, and second with her hair stylist. They were her excuses to go skiing every day and have her hair done once a week. So she was hardly ever around. When she was, the bitch rarely ventured out of the bedroom or bathroom. If she did it was all ‘do this – do that’ and all of it in German. I was less an au pair and more a glorified skivvy. A [censored]ing hell it truly was.

But I stuck with it, out of necessity and a little fear. My German got better. So did my skiing, the only time I ever felt really happy. The snowy Alpine slopes became my place for contemplation, my place to relax, a big wide open world, a substitute for my darkened attic. But I didn’t get any of the excitement Ilse
promised. It was just bad luck, I told myself. It’ll be better next year.

And now I had another plan. I wasn’t going home for the summer.

I’d made an acquaintance at the après ski. We both skied on Thursdays and after he asked for one of my cigarettes, we got talking. He was a sort of trippy, dippy, guy called Helmut Klassen. He wore Polaroids all the time, even at night. He was gay and kind of cool. We spent lots of Thursday’s chatting and skiing. We usually talked about his gay friends because I didn’t have any friends at all.

At first he shocked me with tales of bondage clubs and naked men rutting. But after the first few times, I just giggled and said, “Oh, Helmut, please behave. There are children nearby!”

We were close. Solitary, at least as solitary as a pair of ill-fitting human beings can be, but close. I think I knew he wasn’t entirely truthful about the abundant queer sex, but I forgave him for the brief companionship he offered amongst the dregs of my life as an au pair. Towards the end of the season, as he rolled his own and lit it extravagantly from a book of matches, he suggested I should go to Ibiza for the summer.

“It’s so cool, Amy, you will love it.”

His family owned a place.

“It isn’t on the buzzing side of Ibiza, but it is a nice village. Ma and Pa spend every winter there. They like the climate. It is good for Pa’s rheumatism. The snow isn’t. Ma never liked winter sports anyway. So I go there every year, for a couple of weeks, in the high summer, but the rest of the time, it’s empty, some family friends will rent it for a week or two, but that is all. Pa used to employ an old Spanish lady to keep the place smart. But she died in January. A heart attack. Too many E’s.”

We both laughed. Just the thought of it.

“So, Amy, how would you like it if I said to my parents: ‘I know this nice English girl who has been working for the Ulrichs all winter and she is a great cleaner and an even better cook and she can look after our house for a small wage.’ What shall I say, Amy? Five hundred Euros a month; no, six?”

“Helmut, you can’t, don’t be silly!”

“I’m not and I can. They can afford it. Pa is loaded. How do you think I can afford to spend all winter skiing and not at my studies? I’m on my third university course. I failed them all, my sweet little poppet, and they really don’t care and don’t have a clue.”

It was too hard to resist.

Helmut’s promise became reality. I didn’t need an excuse this time. I breathlessly phoned an explanation to Mum.

“You’re not even coming home, Amy?”

“No, Mum, straight to Spain. It’s all fixed. I have a contract and everything. It’ll be so banging.”

Probably not the best choice of word. I think I heard her gasp.

I hadn’t had any sex since last autumn. That’s like an eternity to a sixteen year old. There had been two ill-advised one night stands, one after a party, the other a week later with his mate who seemed to think I was a sure thing. Well, I was that night, and the time before, but I regretted it, told myself I was experimenting, like the boys did with me, and tried to forget all about it.

I experimented plenty in Ibiza.

Helmut came out with me for the first week. It was late April. It was already steamy. We tidied the flat, although it hardly needed it, and bought a shed load of provisions from the grocers, most of which was beer and spirits. I learnt the Klassen’s paid for everything on a charge account. Now I was introduced, the store manager was only too happy to let me use the facility too.

“Won’t your parents mind?”

“Shhh, Pa doesn’t even check his accounts any more. That’s what his accountant is paid to do.”

“Won’t he see them?”

“No. He’s a fat lazy slob. He likes to take Pa’s money. He doesn’t like to earn it.”

The nearest town was San Jose, a shy, retiring place for shy, retiring folks. That’s about twenty miles from Ibiza Town, well away from the club-land mecca of San Antonio and closer to the airport. I was a little disappointed. How was I going to get out and about if I wanted to? The Klassen’s had a car. A Lexus, an automatic, but I couldn’t drive. Helmut did not see that as an obstacle. He gave me about five hours of lessons and handed me the keys.

[censored]ing hell, Helmut, what if I have an accident?”

“You won’t, Amy, you’re much too sensible for that.”

No I’m not.

He was right though. I didn’t have an accident. Just car crashes of a different kind. The first one occurred no more than two days after Helmut had gone back to Austria.

He was renting sunshades as I tentatively uncurled my beach towel onto a fully reclined chair. It took him all of twelve hours, a lot of slick Spanish chat, a bowl of paella and five excessively alcoholic cocktails to seduce me. I can’t even remember his name.

I won’t bore you with a list. If I’d been scratching notches on my bed post it would be fully scarred. Pulling was easy. I was easy. And having the car to drive, to find a club, to find a man and then escape from him made it all the more exciting. There could have been other distractions. I saw a lot of drugs. But I was living on a different high. I was lost in it, loving it, up for it. It was more than an adventure. It was what those school trips could never be described as: an education.

But for all the physical attention I was getting, and I was getting quite a lot, it didn’t leave me full filled. After each coupling, after each exit, it was I who felt abandoned. I couldn’t fathom it. What had I done wrong? I’d lain down with these young men, offered them everything they wanted from me, but I still found myself alone. Yet they told me they loved me, they told me I was beautiful and sexy. They were empty words from empty minds. And my mind was hollow too. Having heard the words of love and affection, of desire and passion, I wanted to hear them again. There was no separation of the sincere from the gibberish; it was all joy. When I heard those wonderful words, it was as if I opened Pandora’s Box and the sins of the world, my world, escaped and I lived within them for a few glorious weeks or days or hours.

Now, by confusing love with lust, I was really in trouble. I thought if a boy desired me, I assumed, he must love me. The concept of physical love without emotions simply didn’t enter my head. While I said I loved Ben, I didn’t understand my feelings. Even when he was sketching wonderful drawings of me, I sensed the adventure and not the emotion. I hoped that by sleeping with him, he’d start to love me properly. Instead he simply signed the words on the corner of the paper. It worked, albeit temporarily, and my instinct, now honed in Ibiza was to repeat the cycle. There was after all a secondary reason. I was rather enjoying it. Having spent so many fruitless years unattended and staring at the mirror telling myself I wasn’t beautiful, I was suddenly in demand. And I could negotiate the demand on my terms. I merely had to touch a boy, flash a smile and he spoke to me. A little kiss, a stroke of the arm and I’d feel him shudder and his pulse would race. Sometimes the shy ones would run away. The bold ones stayed.

So I wasn’t without physical involvement. It was the heart and soul I missed. All of my lovers were part time, one time, ignorant boys, and not suitable for me, at least not for what I really wanted. They scratched the itch, but there was nothing sustainable, nothing tangible. The boys came and went. Not every day or anything so promiscuous, but there were a lot, enough to make a mother blush. I was glad, so glad, I wasn’t living at home, where the eyes of judgement might pass over my behaviour. Here, in Ibiza, I could live out the sinful truth without the guilt. I must sound terrible, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The teenagers today are no worse. They call it linking. A rather cute phrase for what my mum called ‘sleeping around.’ Me? I just call it [censored]ing. The word is pretty accurate. I’d become the ‘hot little red head with the Lexus’ and I soaked myself in a new-found notoriety, the like I’d never experienced before. Popularity blinds you to harm. Of course, I didn’t know I was harming myself, I thought I was gaining experience and satisfaction. It’s only now, years on, I realise I wasn’t leading the most satisfying of lives.

Helmut came and went, a cute boyfriend in tow, and I spent more time clubbing then. I rolled my first ever joint that fortnight. A couple of families visited, which was when I actually earned my money and because then I didn’t have use of the car I was on my best behaviour. It didn’t last. The most remarkable statistic was probably that I never broke anything in the villa. Not so much as a cup. That and not picking up a STD. Phew!

Going home in October was a wrench. I had my last uninhibited [censored] and caught the plane the next day, leaving the villa, Privilege, DC10 and a whole host of copulations empty behind me.

Mum was over joyed to see me. Dad less so. I still had no money. I hadn’t saved a penny. Not a good thing to tell him. And I wanted to do it all again. An even worse thing to say. There were arguments all over Christmas, yet I wouldn’t be swayed. My supposed promiscuity didn’t help. I tried to keep it under wraps by restricting myself to only a couple of inconsequential boyfriends. I even brought them home. Mum said nothing when she found a squaddie from Aldershot asleep in my bed. She tut-tutted and went to work. When we next met she handed me a towel.

“Use that if you have to have sex, dear, it saves on the sheets.”


I went back to Frau Eisler. She’d got pretty bad references from the Ulrichs, but as I was never officially working there, it didn’t stop her re-employing me. I was barracked in Söll again, this time with a nice family and their two year old son. I could go on and tell you all the boring day-to-day things I did with little Georg, changing nappies, watching him walk, feeding, you know, baby stuff. But I won’t because it’s boring. What set the Diensz family apart from the Ulrichs was the Dad, Tomas.

As soon as I first met him I started to get a chill of excitement. He looked almost like Ben, a few years older of course, but he had the same tiny black rimmed glasses, the same sandy hair, the same sort of faraway look. It was all I could do not to blush. The times in his company were dreadful, embarrassing moments. I would curl up and giggle instead of talking properly. Tomas was happy to help with my German. So was his wife, herself a strong looking, sexy Germanic blonde. I used to hear them making energetic love and I dreamt of Ben and his pictures and how our hips had moved together that first time we made love. Suddenly all the other feckless partners vanished into a haze and it was only Ben and Tomas, my reality and my fantasy.

I started to engineer opportunities to be alone with him. I ventured to touch him, like I did with the Ibiza-boys, to see if his pulse ran. I wanted desperately to kiss him. I craved his normality. I craved his wife’s position, alongside him, under him, in love with him. I got the same giddy feelings I had when I idolised Cassandra, when I thought she was my world. My only escape was with Helmut. He teased me at first. Then he tried cod psychology.

“I don’t do that [censored], Helmut. I just need to get out of here.”

“You want to run away again? What are you running from, Amy?”


I knew the answer but I didn’t tell him and I lied about it every day when I asked the same question to the pale girl who stared back at me from the mirror. Lying about my love life was starting to be a bad habit.

Eventually I had to make up an excuse to get out of there. Luckily Helmut pulled a few strings with his folks and I was in Ibiza before Easter, minding my own business while the Klassen’s sat on the stone terrace and moaned about how hot it was before agreeing it was still nicer than an Austrian winter. They were a nice couple. They were a perfect tonic to my ridiculous secret crush.

Feet back on the ground, I resolved that this summer I’d be better behaved. It was a pretty good choice. I wasn’t a saint, but I think I improved on the previous year. This was mostly due to Antony. He was an older guy. I’d had older guys, sure, it went with the territory, but Antony had at least a dozen years on me. He ran a busy beach bar on the skirts of San Antonio. He was originally from the suburbs too and we gelled quickly. He offered me a job. He offered me some grass. I offered him my bed and eventually my love or what passed for it.

Sometimes I do think it was love. But then I think of all the times he shouted at me, screamed at me to back off, to leave him alone, to tidy up my mess when it was his mess. I think of all the money problems, the loan sharks, the dodgy drug deals he pulled off, stashing the [censored] in my hand bag as we walked past the police in case he got caught. I think of the criticism, the put downs, the blatant exhibiting of me in front of his mates: “Look at my bitch, lads, such a dirty little [censored].”

There were good times too. A holiday in Sardinia, a massive nineteenth birthday party, champagne and cigarettes, dancing, boat trips and, yes, I did some drugs, lots of weed, tabs, some coke, and the best drug of all: sex. But even that became painful; all the times he forced me, when I was tired or ill or on, just because he wanted it.

And there were others in this idle love. I didn’t know their names, but I smelt their perfumes, detected their long blonde hairs on the floor, found the empty condom packets in the car, the dirty sheets.

Involuntarily I hugged a towel. Now I understood how my Mum felt that Christmas.

I took two whole years of it. Shattered after finding him in bed with some unnamed piece of skirt, I fled with my passport and one suitcase.

I could only go home. And it felt less like home than anywhere.

Edited by chrisno1, 16 September 2011 - 08:20 AM.

#3 chrisno1



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Posted 16 September 2011 - 08:37 AM


My feet paddle in the warm Mediterranean Sea. My ankles dangle over the edge of the Li-Lo, flapping. My hands sway at the wrists like little propellers.

I’m turning vague circles a few metres from the shore. It’s a peaceful little inlet, made beautiful by the sun. Hot with the day. The white washed villas seem to lap at the beach head. The crescents of waspish breakers buffet the shore. I can hear the gentle hiss of the waves as they roll up the sand. I can see them lolling lazily towards me. The inflatable rises, falls, I sigh.

This time I won't make a bad decision. I have no excuses left for that.

You see, I used up all the bad excuses to explain all my bad decisions.

Dad becoming ill isn’t one of them. But it was a convenient moment for me. Wrapped up in their sudden mortality, my parents became fragile. Mum, having established a semblance of normality, reverted to type. Dad simply became old. A heart attack, they said. Paralysis, I’d call it.

He took early retirement because of ill health. He was advised to. They sold the house and moved to the coast, like a lot of folks do. A cosy place called Ferring. Sentiment made them take the name plate, so they still lived at Frimley Cottage. No house number. Just a nondescript name for a nondescript premise. I lived there for a bit, nursing both parents and working at the local pub during the evenings. I didn’t like any of it. Everyone was old and all they did was talk about the weather or their gardens or asked me what on earth I was doing living down there.

Ferring is a grim place in winter. The English Channel blows stiff all day, the rain raps on the windows, the sun when it shines is too bright, the air smells of seaweed and salt and everything tastes of vinegar. I was desperate to escape.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love my Mum and Dad, yet I don’t want their kind of love and I don’t need their kind of attention. I want to discover things on my terms and make my own mistakes. I’m doing a good job of it so far. Getting out from under their skirts again was the best thing I could have done. We could concentrate alone. A few polite phone calls seemed to stretch much farther than all the weeks I could spend at Frimley Cottage with dismal memories.

So I made a decision quickly. I always have. I pay for those decisions later.

That year’s decision was to get a job as a Holiday Rep for Club Med.

I brazened out the interview with the moustachioed Recruitment Manager, showing lots of leg, crossing and uncrossing them at least three times, and a toothy smile, wordlessly thanking Mum for the once abhorrent braces. I lied on my C.V. and told him I was a half competent dancer and as well as an expert waitress. It didn’t matter. He was thinking of anything but my ability to pull a pint. I put Helmut Klassen down as a reference, from the imaginary Bar Mystic in Ibiza, using his real email. He phoned and took the piss. He writes excellent references.

Leaving Mum this time was tough for her. She cried when I showed her the acceptance letter. I knew I was leaving her with a heavy burden: now Dad was around he was getting irascible.

“Live long enough to be a problem to your children,” he’d always said. Or your wife, I thought. He’d certainly achieved that.

Club Med didn’t give much in the way of training; a week of get-togethers and some tailoring. The threads made me itch. I’d requested somewhere in Greece. I thought the other end on the Med was plenty far enough from Antony. I got posted to Faliraki; the [censored] end of Rhodes, full of Essex girls and Geordie boys all hopelessly wide eyed and legless. Ibiza may be hedonistic, but it’s five star compared to some of the dives I saw in that town. I nearly wept. The only redemption was the sun and as a rep you didn’t get to see much of that, they expected us to stay in uniform.

Socially it was okay. I was bunked up with three other girls in a two bedroom flat towards the back of the resort, close to the police station, which was handy for when we had to explain away the drunken behaviour of our charges. Elspeth was a tiny ditsy blonde who never slept. Gemma, like me was a Londoner, but from Brixton, with the braided hair, big booty and hyena laugh to prove it. Faye was a Liver Bird with an impenetrable accent. I’m not sure I ever understood a sentence. When I had trouble with the northern lads, I used to call her on the mobile and her Scouse twang worked wonders in minutes. We were good, cheerful girls, a bit fatter, slimmer, taller or shorter, take your pick. We had to be cheerful, that was a prerequisite of the job, like the uniform. We got on okay. It wasn’t exactly like being back at school, but I had similar mixed emotions. No real friends but lots of acquaintances. There were male reps too of course, arrogant types mostly, whose intention was to sleep with tourists or other reps; they weren’t fussed. There was some partner swapping at our flat, but I stayed aloof from most of it. I indulgenced once in a while of course, but this time I held the men at arm’s length.

Sex wasn’t why I was there. I’d set myself a challenge. I’d always been pretty good drumming up business for Antony’s and I didn’t see Club Med as any different. This was a sure fire way to success. I’d watch the reps when they used to bring big groups to Antony’s for a pre-club-disco on Fridays. We always did great business, but the reps generally took it easy in most clubs and bars. I noted the same attitude with my colleagues, which frankly wasn’t surprising given the surroundings. I reckoned I could do better. We all had targets. I never went for the hard sell. I was a girlfriend to the girls and a geezer-bird to the blokes. I pretended to be their best friend for a fortnight. The men always saw that as a come on and I went a bit too far a couple of times, getting hammered, taking part wet t-shirt competitions or spending a day pulling a sickie because I was linking with a good looking fella. It was easier dealing with the girls. Until they hit the sauce, then they were uncontrollable, outrageous, dirty, catty and bitchy. All at once. Ouch.

My manager was a stern woman called Fearne. She’d been on the treadmill for fifteen years, bless her, and she gave me a right bollocking a couple of times. I’d broken this rule and that rule but she couldn’t argue with my results. I topped almost every sales chart. I was making her money. So she asked me back the following year.

I was better behaved this time. I drank less. I screwed around less. I sold even more. I was the smiley, leggy, vivacious, acceptable face of Club Med. It wasn’t all roses of course. People treated you like [censored] sometimes, rarely said thank you with any genuine warmth and the long hours wore you down. I longed for my days off when I could go shopping and laze on the beach. But I didn’t miss home. This was far better than thunderstorms in Ferring.

Mum and Dad aged more than two years. When I returned for the winter and went back to serving the oldies in the Henty Arms, they seemed more pale, more crinkly, less mobile. Mum wasn’t even so old. Dad had married late, but married young. She was still in her forties but she was going grey. Iron grey, like a battleship, only she was fighting a losing battle.

I slept in a small room and each morning I stared at my charcoal portrait. The awkward fifteen year old that seized her opportunities with nervous enthusiasm, zest and thrills, hadn’t changed so much. Maybe my boobs were bigger. I was still day dreaming. I had some money of my own, but I had no idea what to do with it. It wasn’t much. In the end I spent most of it on unnecessary clothes and an expensive Mazda I sold for a loss after five months. I didn’t need it. I had already accepted a new position with Club Med. They wanted to promote me, but insisted I take on one more tour of duty, to prove my mettle in the heat of battle. Like Mum, I faltered.

I shouldn’t have gone to Crete. I should have bided time. I made a hasty choice and landed in the heavy mud. Malia was dreadful. A hell hole. I hated it as soon as I arrived. I hated my boss. I hated the people. I spent my first night appeasing the police and a reeling group of drunken teenagers. The police won out, but at least the boys didn’t go to gaol. Brownie points for me, but an inkling of things to come.

Malia is no great shakes as a town. Even the locals have grown to despise it. The whole place stinks of beer and piss. I didn’t even like the company I kept, a few scowling, frightened girls and more testosterone driven men, who drank and swore almost as much as the punters they were charged to look after. My tactics failed badly at Malia. I got groped and insulted. I tumbled down from my high precipice into a canyon of doubt. It took one incident to draw me away.

I was confronting a boisterous trio of lads who had trashed their hotel room on a drugs binge. Uninterested in my explanations, they insisted on staying put, were adamant they would not be relocated to a different hotel and would not take the hotelier’s ‘no’ as an answer. Their belligerence became threatening. I backed off and one of them chased me, waving a half empty beer bottle in my direction. I don’t think he was planning to hurl it, but his stance suggested he might.

Enter Peter Conrad.

He was a tall man. Not muscular, but imposing because of his height. He had fair hair and a good tan. He was wearing a pair of close fitting trunks, good to the thigh, a light cotton shirt open to the navel and a pair of expensive Polaroids hooked onto his forehead. I could see his blue eyes glinting as he stepped across in front of me and took one pace forward.

The boy paused. Conrad walked swiftly to him, took away the bottle and set his hand on the boy’s chest. Gently Conrad pushed him down onto a deck chair.

“Behave; sober up and then come and see me, with your mates, okay?”

Conrad handed him a business card.

I wasn’t speechless, but I wasn’t talking.

I’m not talking now either.

I can see him on the beach. He’s kicking the sand idly with his toes. He looks very cool, very chic, the hot weather suits him. I know he wants to talk to me and I think I know what he wants to talk about. He wants to talk about the last few days and how things have changed between us.

All of a sudden I’m scared.

There’s something a little frightening about James Bond. He’s got a hard, cruel edge on his demeanour. I can almost smell the devil in him. And it’s a sweet intoxication. Even now, just looking at him, I want to drink of it, that sweet sickness called life, his life.

***** ***** *****

Peter Conrad was forty years old.

He enjoyed every hot Cretan spring, when the first young fillies started to appear on the beaches, rushing to escape the grim months of the English winter, basking their sweet bodies under the pearl of the sun. He enjoyed the winters too, when it was pleasantly warm. Autumns hardly registered. The summers though were too hot.

It was early June and Conrad was reclining at the Hotel Ambrosia’s pool side, nursing a long vodka and coke, when the commotion started.

The busty plump girl next to him, a Geordie brunette he'd casually picked up in a bar a few days ago, was spreading sun block onto her bosom. She ignored the noise. To her, the sound was no worse than a night at the Bigg Market.

“Do my back, Peter, babe,” she trilled.

Diligently, but bored, Conrad took the tube and squeezed out a ring of lotion between her shoulders. He started to massage it rhythmically across her spine. His eyes didn’t inspect his work. He was watching the sullen trio of boys, beers in hand, still hung over from Friday night, who were remonstrating with the holiday rep.

He knew the story. Lara, the receptionist, had told him about it when he appeared for breakfast. She didn’t bat an eyelid about him eating but not being resident. The hotel knew who he was, knew he’d been staying with a female guest. They turned a blind eye because Peter Conrad was a man you could rely on if you needed a favour.

The boys had been thrown out of the hotel, but were not going quietly. The rep was struggling to make any headway. They were intent on remaining angry. She seemed flustered. He heard her say she could organise some equivalent accommodation, but they didn’t want that. They paid to stay at the Ambrosia and they insisted on it. The girl told them to stop drinking, to think about it and call the Club Med office when they wanted to be reasonable.

“You’re lucky the hotel’s letting you sit by the pool!”

She walked away, past where Conrad knelt, and he finally recognised who it was. Her long flaming hair had been pulled back into a tight pony tail, exposing her forehead. The arching eyebrows, scrupulously plucked, seemed higher than normal, the eyes wide with ire. No – fear.

Suddenly Conrad saw the blighter charge after her. His throwing arm was pulled back, as if he was bowling a cricket ball. There was a flash of green in his hand. A bottle.

Conrad leapt to his feet. The movement was sudden, but it was also smooth, deliberate, almost casual. He took two paces and blocked the man’s aim.

“Give it here,” he said and snatched the bottle away.

The young man was so drunk he could hardly stand. His eyes wandered.

Conrad tapped him on the chest and the cretin sat down on his rump, a look of mild surprise on his face.

“Don’t waste your time here,” continued Conrad, “You’ve caused enough trouble already. It’s time to behave. Sober up, like the girl says, and when you’re ready come and see me with your mates.”

“Why should I do that?”

“I can pull a few strings. I know a few places that’ll help you,” Conrad handed over a business card, “Of course, if you don’t want my help, you can always
spend the rest of your holiday in gaol. I can arrange that too, okay?”


“Good boy. I’ll be there at four.”

Conrad turned around and dropped the sunglasses onto his nose. The rep was studying him. She had great tits. He liked that. Nice legs too. Wow, what a honey.

“Hey,” he began, “Amy, right?”


She stuck her tongue in the corner of her cheek and put all her weight on her right hip. The trainers didn’t do her long legs justice.

“Peter Conrad.”

He held out his hand and she took it. Deliciously cool.

“I know,” she said, “We’ve met at the Consul.”

Conrad stepped forward and spun her about turn, guiding her by the elbow towards the hotel reception.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, “But thank you.”

“It’s no trouble. Coffee?”


“Yes, all right, if you want.”

The lounge was on the left and they took a seat at a corner table of the terrace facing the swimming pool. The angry boys still frowned at them. The brunette propped herself up on one elbow, boobs swinging, and watched him over the heads of other sunbathers, sucking on the arm of her sunglasses.

Conrad bought her a coffee, milky with cream. He had an Espresso with water. He ignored the attention.

“How’s Club Med treating you this year?” he ventured.

“Oh, not so great, can’t you tell?”

The answer was tentative. She obviously didn’t want to talk about work.

“I can. This resort isn’t what it used to be.”

He’d seen Amy Porter three times. Twice for temporary passports to replace ones lost or stolen and once to help organise transport home for a car crash victim.

He liked her. Red heads were not his favourite choice, but he had to admit, she was stunning. She sat leaning slightly sideways, one hand propped on the chair seat under her thigh. Her mouth was set in a half formed smile. Looking down from the immaculate lips, he saw her blouse was open too low, displaying the welcoming V of her cleavage. She didn’t appear to notice. Involuntarily he licked his lips.

They talked a little. He asked her a few questions about her life, about where she was from, what her plans were for the future.

“Three years is more than enough,” she said eventually, “I’ll be lucky to last another hour.”

“You could always leave,” he suggested.

“Not really. No money. No job. A girl’s got to live.”

“I can help with that. I know a few people on the island. What have you done – waitressing, bar work, nursery? Stripping?”

He added the last one on impulse, fantasising she’d say ‘yes.’

“Don’t be cheeky.”


“I’ve done plenty of bar work.”

“Good. If you ever change your mind, come and see me. You know where the Consul is.”

Amy Porter nodded and finished her coffee. She held out her hand.

“I suppose I ought to thank you again.”

“Don’t thank me yet.”

They parted and he looked after her, raising the blinkers from his eyes so he could follow the sway of her hips. Nice wiggle.

When he returned, his companion was lying prone on the lounger but hadn’t lost interest.

“Who was that?”


“Is she some other girl you’ve slept with?”


But I will, he thought.

It took Peter Conrad almost nine months to seduce Amy Porter.

She quit Club Med about a month later, having sounded him out over the phone. It was August, the height of the summer season and he knew plenty of places that would take on casual labour, especially when it looked as good as Amy.

He suggested Costas’ because he liked the drunken fool and because he knew Costas wouldn’t succeed in getting into Amy’s knickers. He also liked that it was discreetly distant from Agios Nikolas; a place he could travel to and from easily or pass through on a trip to Iraklion. He could keep Amy separate to his other girls. He wrote her number into his slim old fashioned address book and inscribed the details with a cross. When he slept with her the cross would become an asterisk. If she was good, he’d add the number ‘5’ before the star.

Conrad had expected to mark her name quickly, but Amy surprised him with a reluctance to engage in the mating game. He tried to persuade her to dinner. He bought her drinks. He offered a boat trip to the outlying islands. He flattered her. He bought her a single red rose. He even tried to be rough and slapped her backside as she sashayed past his seat. Not a thing. Well, she gave him a dig in the shoulder.

Conrad wasn’t used to rejection. He was a good looking man, toned, preserved, hardly a day over thirty five he reckoned, no grey hairs, a quick smile. He made friends fast. Conversation was easy. Seduction was easy. The girls virtually fell at his feet.

They fell on a lie.

Conrad told them he was a spy. They always laughed. Then he would start to talk about the year he spent in the Ukraine chasing drug lords, the fight on the Dnieper river boat and the chase through the Urals. He’d talk about how he was an expert in physiognomy, how he gathered information about suspects, how he could interpret their personality traits, their life history through their body language, their facial expressions and their speech patterns.

Conrad of course, knew all the girls’ details already. He never met a woman by accident. He found out where they stayed, which travel firm they were with, got passport numbers, home addresses, researched their background, their families. It took him only a few hours. He had a contact at Borders and Immigration in Iraklion who ran the numbers. Sagrada was a sweaty, bald headed man with a nasty boil on his neck which never healed. He had a gambling problem and Conrad had cleared his debts. Since then the lowly administrator had considered himself permanently in the Englishman’s debt.

So, having made a girl laugh and got her attention with his deliberately exaggerated stories, Conrad could say a silent ‘thank you’ to Sagrada and begin to drop subtle hints about the girl’s life. He’d claim it was all from her mannerisms, her accent, her clothes, what she drank or ate; but he was lying and doing it beautifully. Putty, as they say, moulded in his hands.

Amy Porter was more of a rock. Conrad felt hamstrung. His normal pick up line about spies and spying was defunct on Amy as she already knew his official title was Assistant Vice Consul. No such role or pay scale actually existed for an AVC in the Diplomatic Corps; because Peter Conrad wasn’t paid directly by the Foreign Office. He was employed through the mandarins at Millennium House, that great white carbuncle on the banks of the Thames, and while he rarely did any real espionage work, she might just put one and one together if he tried to spin that yarn.

Instead he utilised Sagrada’s diligently concise information. It had little effect.

“You’ve been talking to Costas, haven’t you?” she teased.

Conrad smiled amiable. Inside he seethed at his impotence. This was a challenge he’d not experienced for many years. It made him angry; not at her, but at himself. He took to choosing his clothes with care when he visited her, attempting to create just the right impression, attempting not to try too hard. He did his best to be disarming, affable, unconcerned. The result was the same.

“Is she through with men?” he asked Costas one afternoon as they sat staring out across a beach layered with acres of tanned flesh.

The big Cretan finished his fifth beer of the afternoon and shook his head.

“No not at all. In fact I think there was a man here, she went dancing with him a couple of times, but I don’t think anything came of it.”

“That’d be a yes then.”

“No, Peter, there’s nothing wrong with her; it’s you.”

“What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing. That is it. You came and rescued her. You are her saviour. She loves you all ready. But like a brother.”

Conrad raised his face to the sun and closed his eyelids. He started to laugh.

“Oh, God, I never saw that one coming,” he said, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

“Peter, let it rest. You have all the fishes in the sea. Look,” the big hand gestured towards the baking topless women stretched out below them, “Look at them all. Why do you want Amy? She’s a good girl. You’ll spoil her.”

“I want to spoil her.”

“Not like that. Not how you waste the others. I won’t allow it.”

“Very fatherly of you, Costas; you sure you don’t want her yourself?”

“You know I can’t.”

“But it has crossed your mind?”

“As has murder every so often,” the burly man clasped his shoulder, “If you do succeed, Peter, don’t treat her like all the other common fish, eh?”

A few weeks later, the tourist season really kicking in, Conrad was sitting disconsolate in his office. The fan had broken and his skin itched. He scratched his chin as he surveyed the mess around him. There was a huge stack of paperwork sitting on his desk and another three towers precariously balanced against one another on the floor behind the door.

Conrad hated the monotony of files and filing. It was mostly consular work. He dealt with the S.I.S. dispatches immediately. The reception area outside was reasonably tidy, but it needed a clean and a polish. He wished someone could make him a decent coffee every now and then. What he needed was a secretary. No, an Administrator; no better still, and not to get above himself, an Administrative Assistant. And he knew the perfect candidate.

He mentioned the job to Sue, Costa’s wife, hinting it might be a good opening for Amy. He was careful not to mention his ulterior motive. Sue wasn’t exactly a friend of Conrad’s; she thought he influenced her husband too much. She was however a reliable, intuitive English woman. He knew the two women would discuss it and that Sue’s sensible nature would persuade Amy this was a great opportunity.

Conrad insisted on an interview. It lasted half an hour and then he took her to dinner at Migomis. The food was free, they knew him there, but he paid for the expensive French wine and asked the pianist to play ‘Nobody Does It Better’ twice when Amy said she liked it.

After the meal, as they sat smoking and twirling thimbles of ouzo, Conrad placed his fingers over the top of her garnet nails. The colour matched her hair. He smiled. He thought it was the greatest smile he’d ever presented. It started at his eyes, the corners of them, and sprang to his lips, creasing his cheeks, showing just a tad of teeth. It painted his whole portrait.

“I have to tell you something,” he said, “You’ll think me a terrible liar, but it’s the truth.”

“I know what you’re going to say,” replied Amy, “you’re going to tell me that you fancy me and you want to take me to bed.”

“That too,” Conrad couldn’t resist smiling again. He squashed his filter in the ashtray, “But later. I wanted you to apply for the job as my assistant because I trust you, Amy. What I’m going to tell you is a secret and if I tell you, you’ll immediately be bound by the Official Secrets Act and I’ll have to either employ you or make you sign the bloody thing tonight.”

“Official Secrets! You what?”

Astonishment. That was good.

“Seriously. I mean it.”


“Cross my heart.”

He did it too.

“The office I run is a front. I do consular work too of course, you’ve seen that, but my boss isn’t the Ambassador. I work for a man called Mark Gerrard in Athens. He’s the representative of the Secret Intelligence Service in Greece, what we call Station G. Basically, although not very spectacularly, I’m a low grade spy.”

“Now you’re really joking!” Amy was in fits of giggles, “Stop pissing about!”

“I’ve never been more serious,” said Conrad, leaning forward and taking hold of her hand properly, “Except maybe about taking you to bed.”

Amy stopped laughing.

“Peter,” she whispered.

It was the first time she’d ever used his name.

He saw the freckles on the bridge of her eyes wrinkle. It was a tiny movement, yet it conjured her sensuality, encapsulated what enticed him to her, something innocent, uncertain, something desirous and beautiful, a mystery, an intangible hidden gemstone awaiting discovery.

Her hand squeezed his. She was looking directly into his eyes. He felt desire rippling through him, felt it tear at his stomach, at his chest. He caught his breath. The girl was exquisite, a treasure, a goddess, Aphrodite in human form come to seduce him.

“It’s been a lovely evening,” she said, “Don’t spoil it.”

“I won’t, unless you want me to.”

Amy considered. Slowly she released her hand, picked up her glass and downed the ouzo in one gulp.

“Do you have a bed?”

“Of course.”

“Is it a big one?”


“Take me there now before I change my mind.”

#4 chrisno1



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Posted 22 September 2011 - 12:52 PM


It was high summer and James Bond was ruminating over what to do with a pair of tickets for the Opera. Bond didn’t like opera as a general rule, but he had countered his dislike to hold favour with one very special woman. Unfortunately only a month or so earlier, this certain young lady had ceased to be so special.
Bond still had the Covent Garden tickets, to Cos Fan Tuti, but he was procrastinating over attending and who to attend with. The metaphorical black book of names Bond carried in his head had recently come back into use, but he’d been surprised how fast single friends and acquaintances distanced themselves from you once it was established you had a ‘significant other.’ It took a while to rebuild those breached walls.

Sylvia Lavoilette had certainly not been what anyone would have described as Bond’s ‘type.’ She had the looks: a mane of shining blonde hair framed an exquisite marble face atop a figure culled from Venus. The only mark against her beauty was that she rarely smiled. When cornered, the flashing broad countenance was joyful. But people didn’t see it enough, not as much as Bond; both his and her friends considered Sylvia rather serious and studious, almost overtly intellectual.

Unlike Bond, who had the whim and fancy when it took him to be extravagant, Sylvia was frugal; she liked simple pleasures, like walking, cycling and home cooked food; she hated gambling and its trappings; she often stayed in with a good book; she was not a big drinker and certainly no smoker; she didn’t like sports, except tennis; she preferred classical music; she objected to jazz for the bad memories it brought; she didn’t mix well in company; she rarely swore; yet they say opposites attract and that was exactly what everyone said happened when Bond met Sylvia.

Of course they had no knowledge of how the two lovers had been thrown together in Iraq or how, during a moment of horrific danger, Bond had saved her life. [This story is related in the author's novel Those Who The Gods Love Die Young.] They had no understanding of the desperately unhappy childhoods they had both conquered. They were not party to the quiet, homely conversations that went on when the two of them were together. They did not see the long blossoming weekends in the countryside of England or France. They did not see how Sylvia doted on Bond or how Bond pandered to her wishes at every opportunity.

Perhaps most significant of all, they did not see how they made wild, passionate, almost violent love when ever they met, how Sylvia cried herself to sleep when she was not with him and how Bond would look at the empty space in the bed every morning when they parted. They did not see the hours, Pounds and Euros spent on long international phone calls or on web-cams, where words had to say everything as their bodies were too distant. They did not see the tenderness in their eyes or the misty far away look of adoration that engulfed them at airports and stations when they separated with a last lingering kiss. They did not see how, despite everything that was unmatched, the differences made them whole.

“Love is a mysterious and wonderful thing,” Bond had said to Bill Tanner, his best friend in the service.

And he really believed it. He’d never planned for the future; his career didn’t allow it. But suddenly, while spending Christmas in a rainy Paris, he was thinking of cottages in Kent and chalets in Switzerland and, heaven’s above, children. He wanted Sylvia to live with him in England, but she stubbornly refused. She had no wish to work at the British Museum. She didn’t like London’s day or night life. Also, she said, his friends were a bad influence. While Bond accepted the latter criticism and understood the former, the middle one rankled. But Bond pushed the worry to one side. It was early in their relationship, he told himself and there was time for attitudes to change.

She stayed in London for one month, just after Valentine’s, offering them both the perfect excuse for romantic reconciliation. It started with blissful domesticity, during which they ate in, read the papers and trashy novels, took long aimless walks through the unusually snow covered Royal Parks and spent almost every spare opportunity in bed with each other. The second week was equally salacious without being wholly satisfying. Sometimes, Bond mused one morning over a breakfast of apples and love and yoghurt, a lot of the same thing can dull the senses. He made it up to her with a weekend trip North and Sylvia adored York Minster and the Dales. The hotel treated them like newly weds and one night Bond gave Sylvia a dozen red roses, the petals of which he spread on the bed as she showered. They made love like the bride and groom they pretended to be and still smelled of the sweet scented blooms in the morning.

Bond was back at work the next week and everything passed off fine for the remaining fortnight of Sylvia’s stay, as far as Bond could tell. It was with some dismay that on the final Wednesday, when he was anticipating another glorious romantic weekend followed by a sad farewell, Bond was confronted with Sylvia bemoaning his lack of attention to her likes and needs. They’d spent much of the time with Bond’s friends and acquaintances. Bond thought it would be nice to show her some new places and people, rather than the usual soporific venues: the inside of his flat, the museums and the art galleries. Sylvia had disagreed.

“It might be new for me, James, but it isn’t new for us.”

Bond had made the mistake of falling too quickly into his bachelor habits. Not at home, where, as work had trained him to be, Bond was uncluttered and spartan, but in the real world outside. After the flush of excitement during her initial weekend visits, when he virtually kidnapped Sylvia and took her to all the places he knew she would enjoy, Bond had started to take her to a few of the established haunts of his single life. The restaurateurs treated Sylvia as they did some of Bond’s insignificant dalliances, with perfect politeness, but a sniff of the air. She noticed. The croupier at the casino raised a querying eyebrow. She saw it. His friends in Lotts were at first genuine, then suspicious and finally indiscreet and over familiar. None of this endeared them to Sylvia. Tariq Nijjar, Bond’s closest colleague in the Double ‘O’ Section, had strived to contain his male ego in her presence, yet even he caught the sour end of Sylvia’s lip after one too many drinks in Gordon’s.

The month ended in something resembling a fight, which Bond lost and Sylvia apologised for and the making up was the best of making love. But suddenly, the love felt hollow for James Bond and it bothered him. In his mind, he knew he loved Sylvia Lavoilette more than any woman. Indeed when he really pondered on it, Bond wondered if he’d ever loved a woman at all until now. Yet his heart, while it ached, simply wasn’t on the same level as his head.

During May, Bond spent a fortnight in Paris, as they had planned. By now of course work had got in the way and was taking precedence for both of them. Bond couldn’t keep avoiding the weekend shifts while Sylvia had research to write and over bearing professors to ward off. After London, they really hadn’t seen enough of each other; in the flesh, as it were. A snatched day here and there did not amount to much when one was thinking of children and cottages.

Their reunion was equally as blissful as their time in London. Bond liked her little studio flat with the warm wooden tiles underfoot and the low orange lighting, which glowed rather than shone. The walls were decorated with sixteen framed black and white posters, shots of Parisian life from the fifties and sixties, and the famous one of Belmondo and Seberg in Goddard’s A Bout de Souffle. There was a dainty kitchenette in which Sylvia concocted wonderful traditional meals that they ate sitting by the open balconette window with the city life teeming six flights below them. Then they would take coffee and liqueurs in the cafe on the corner, see a movie or a play or take a stroll, and return happy to the flat and the welcoming iron framed bed. They never turned on the television.

Bond put aside his concerns of the head. His heart began to win him over again. During those eight days Bond told himself this was right, this was perfect, Sylvia was perfect, adorable and beautiful. He should never have doubted it. And then disaster struck.

The moment wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. Sylvia took Bond to meet her best friend, Catherine, a severe middle aged university lecturer who had no sophistication and no taste. The meal was an unlovely trifle of chicken and sausages festooned with too much garlic. The wine was poor. The conversation was worse. Bond felt excluded as the two women talked of ancient history and classical art, two subjects he habitually avoided. When he attempted to change the subject, Sylvia made lofty remarks which kept him at bay. Bond felt uncomfortable, more than he had in anyone’s company for a very long time.

Left alone with Catherine, drinking weak coffee, he ventured that Sylvia was taking her work exceptionally seriously lately. It was good to see, he remarked, a sign she had recovered from her ordeal. Catherine tersely replied that while Sylvia was certainly on the mend, the scars were very deep and healing badly.

“How so?” queried Bond.

“Hasn’t she told you, James?” the thin slit of a mouth almost sneered, “She doesn’t want you.”

Bond could have killed the callous bitch there and then. He was angry with Sylvia too, but he controlled it. Back in the dreamy 1960s world of her flat Sylvia broke down and wept and told him she was afraid of everything and everyone, even of James Bond, who she loved dearly and absolutely. But love wasn’t doing her any good. London frightened her, not the place itself, but being there among the unfamiliar. It didn’t help that Bond’s friends hated her and she hated them. When he left her alone, every day, to buy the papers or tend to his Aston Martin, she had been phoning Paris, to speak to Catherine, or Elsa, or Brigitte, someone she could talk to that reminded her of France. Here in her city, she saw how hard it was for him to fit in. She knew he wanted to please her, yet she could tell how unhappy he really was, how his heart wasn’t in it.

The final words cut hard into Bond’s soul, his head and his heart all together.

Sylvia told Bond she didn’t think she could ever live with him, at least not in England, certainly not in London. She tried to make it better, to explain he meant more to her than any man she’d ever met, that he was warm and wonderful and everything she needed. But they were not living together, they were living apart; separated not only by cities and culture and time, but by condition, necessity and duty. Whatever her emotions, Sylvia couldn’t resign herself to being a captive for Bond and equally she knew he would hate being tied to her. That was the impasse they had reached. Sylvia thought it was time to break it.

Bond almost cried. Instead he stood up and left the apartment without a word. He didn’t get drunk or anything so clichéd, but wandered the milky streets for a few hours, returning in the early dawn to find Sylvia stretched out on the bed still sobbing into the pillows. He stroked her hair the way she liked it, and caressed her hand, softly, by the fingers. He kissed the nape of her neck and whispered he was sorry.

“You don’t have to be sorry, James, it isn’t anyone’s fault.”

They made love. It was a mad, hopeless moment, when their bodies took what they needed for a final time and then gracefully turned away from each other, shutting the door and turning out the light on an episode of a soap opera called life.

Bond didn’t stay the final weekend because it hurt too much. He left after that final moment of sad love, packing his things into his case while she slept and writing a note asking her to call when she was ready. She didn’t call and it was left to Bond to try and reconcile the differences from London and at distance. The phone calls were awful. More tears, the odd shout, painful admissions of fault and guilt, whispered ‘I love yous’ even though it was all too late. Bond’s pleas, which even to his ears sounded futile and naive, bordered on the pathetic when he quoted them back to himself as he tried to figure how the affair had gone amiss.

He didn’t blame her. Deep down he recognised that the things which had made him attractive to some could also bring out antipathy in others. Sylvia had travelled both roads and sided with the latter. As much as she loved him, it had been safer for her to abandon fervent adoration for the more meaningful promise of security.

After almost a month of trying to recoup what he had lost, Bond tactfully withdrew, feeling it was time to find a semblance of stability. Now, a few weeks further on, he sat at his desk looking at the opera tickets which were supposed to be a present for Sylvia and experiencing all over again that sense of loss and despondency which comes after the collapse of a love affair.

It was Bill Tanner who took the tickets off his hands. Bond didn’t know he liked the opera. Tanner did not, but he wasn’t telling Bond that. He took them out of sympathy when, over an unexciting lunch in the canteen, a crestfallen James Bond had sighed:

“You know, Bill, love can be a bloody dreadful thing.”

***** ***** *****

There were three telephone handsets on James Bond’s desk. He arranged them to the left hand side at a 45° angle to the centre. In the old days, they would have been big chunky affairs with push button dials. Now they were sleek wireless single units with voice recognition systems. Also on his desk sat an ultra-slim sixteen inch V.D.U. with its keyboard. On the right hand side were the ubiquitous in and out trays. The in tray was full and waiting. Technology only moved so fast. No security related documents were stored on computer files until they had been read and re-read by the appropriate personnel. Even then, a hard paper copy was maintained in Records for a statutory ten years. Each file had a single sheet index, a list of names and square boxes, which stated who the initial recipients of each document had been. Bond’s operational number ‘OO7’ must have been stamped on thousands of copies.

The three phones were still colour co-ordinated. The black handset was for outside calls. Bond could dial out whenever he liked, but to dial in and reach his office any caller would need to go through a switchboard and a complicated recognition system. For ease Bond carried his Nokia C3 for receiving truly personal calls. The green handset was for internal communication only. It was the red one, the handset that linked directly to M’s office or to his secretary which suddenly winked and emitted the sharp single note bleep.


“M wants to see you at four o’clock.”

It was the new secretary, an icily efficient, starched woman with glasses and bad hair. The handset almost froze at the sound of her voice.

“Four o’clock,” repeated Bond.

He replaced the receiver and looked across the office at Tariq Nijjar, whose head had jerked up at the rare sound of the red telephone.

“What do you suppose this could be? Have you read anything in despatches?”

Tariq shook his head. “Afraid not; looks like you’re in trouble again.”

Bond grimaced. Four o’clock on a Friday couldn’t come fast enough.

There was still an oak panelled door protecting M’s office. It had been a long time since Bond had passed through it. His previous assignment, in the fall of last year, had been issued from the Operation Room. On his return from two months rest and recuperation, Bond had been interviewed by Robinson, the Human Resources Officer, who had appraised the medical reports before giving Bond a clean bill of health. There had been one or two conferences in the Ops Room, but Bond had hardly set eyes on his superior since that fateful meeting in September.

It was still a bright, functional room. One wall was lined with a strong metal shelved book case carrying assorted manuals and leather bound tomes. No first editions. There was a glass fronted drinks cabinet. No alcohol. The big window stared out across the Thames providing views of Westminster Palace, the London Eye and Charing Cross. To the east, Saint Paul’s Cathedral peeked through the encroaching high rise tower blocks. It was one of those drab summer days, where the humidity was high but the clouds stuck rigidly in the sky and threatened hot, sticky rain, but arrogantly refused to wet the earth.

M sat behind the new glass topped desk in a straight backed and flat-armed leather clad chair. German by design, thought Bond; methodical, practical, like its occupier. The seat facing the desk was equally terse.

“Good afternoon, Sir.”

“Sit down, OO7,” M said and took a sip at his mug of steaming coffee. The mug told the legend ‘Greatest Ever Dad.’

Bond found the chair remarkably comfortable. He waited for M to say something, but the long face merely turned aside and stared out at the view. M placed his hands together, the fingertips touching and seemed to reach a decision. He spun the chair back and when he spoke it was with a calm, conciliatory tone.

“Everything all right, OO7?”

“Yes, Sir.”

The expression hardly budged, but the left eye blinked. That side of M’s face was slightly paralysed, the result of a stroke. It gave his facia a lop-sided look. Although Bond had never thought so himself he suddenly noticed why people who didn’t know M thought him sinister.

“Tanner tells me you’ve been involved with a girl. The one you met in Paris.”

“Sylvia Lavoilette.”

“Yes, the archaeologist.”

M saw Bond’s eyes flash but offered no physical reaction. Hurt, he thought, the man’s got in deep this time.

“He didn’t volunteer the information, OO7, it’s fairly common knowledge,” was as reassuring as M was prepared to get, “I’ve been worried about you for some time; love affairs, marriage, that sort of thing, doesn’t go well with a Licence to Kill, you know. What are your plans with this girl?”

“Sir, I ought to tell you Sylvia and I are no longer together.”

Bond had a feeling M already knew that. He knew, by informing Tariq and Penelope, the secretary they shared, and ultimately Bill Tanner, that word would always get back to the boss.

Reluctantly he divulged what was closest to his heart, “There wasn’t really any future in it, Sir. We’re very different creatures. I would have resigned the licence if we’d... well, if things had worked out.”

M nodded. “Glad to hear it. How do you feel now?”

“To be honest, Sir, somewhat lack lustre,” Bond stifled a sigh, “The Double ‘O’ Section doesn’t see much action these days. I haven’t been required since that affair in Iraq. I feel a bit out of step.”

“You haven’t been required with good reason.”

Bond had anticipated as much. Having proved his worth and the value of the Double ‘O’ Section to the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Bond had spent most of the year in administrative duties, firstly because of the Return to Work policies and then, he felt, because his personal circumstances were effecting the distribution of assignments. Even M, it transpired, had some compassion. He wasn’t showing it now.

“I’m not in the habit of keeping hold of dead wood, Bond,” he explained harshly, gratingly, “You know the government expects another round of massive cuts and I could sign you off from active Double ‘O’ duty at a stroke. Save quite a few thousand.”

The pause while M sipped his coffee seemed to last twice as long as necessary. M sat back, hands on the arms of the chair. He looked Bond directly in the face. Agent OO7 was a worried man. He recognised it, a slight dip of the head, the twitch of a finger as it stroked an imaginary cigarette. When he spoke, M stayed firm.

“But I don’t want to do that, OO7. Despite my initial misgivings, you did thorough work on that Sargon assignment. There was evidence of sound practice. Ingenuity. Courage. Guts. Bloody minded stupidity too, but you achieved an excellent result. But the time wasn’t right to throw you to the wolves again. Still isn’t.”

M leaned forward. “But I have got something for you,” he said without a smile, “How do you fancy a trip to Crete?”


“Peter Conrad. Our man out there. Do you know him?”

Bond searched his mind of names. “No, Sir. The name rings a bell, but I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Good. I don’t want a friend heading out to investigate him.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, I’m a little confused.”

M’s stone hard face switched up from the desk and peered at Bond. “Do you read your dailies, OO7?”

“Yes, Sir,” replied Bond defensively.

“Bollocks. You’ve been slack, haven’t you? And we both know why.”

It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Bond merely shrugged; anything more might have appeared sacrificial.

M sat back, placing his hands together again, studying the upright figure before him. There didn’t appear to be anything wrong with OO7, not outwardly. That’s what Tanner had told him, Robinson too. The reports told him the man was in peak physical condition. It was his mind that was gone. Distracted, the quacks had said, turned by a slice of reality, of life outside the death and destruction of the Double ‘O’ Section. He’d tasted honey and all of a sudden he wanted more nectar.

M withdrew a smile. He wanted to reassure the man, but what good would that do? Pander him up, cosset him? No, that wasn’t the way. Action, that’s what he needed, something out of the humdrum existence of the office on the fifth floor. M reached for his in-tray, took out a brown backed file and slapped it down on the desk. It was stamped with Bond’s number.

“Look, OO7, you’ve had something of a rough time recently,” said M, “I’m aware of that. You need a break. The day to day isn’t doing you any good. Think of this as a working holiday.”

“That’s very kind, Sir, but I’d prefer a more taxing appointment.”

Bond steeled himself for a quick rebuke. It didn’t come. M sat still, looking at Bond, with his slanted face impassive. There was another very long pause and then M opened the file. He took out the first page, which had been paper-clipped onto the others. It was a summary of Bond’s most recent assessment. Silently Bond cursed those angry answers he’d given to the psychologists.

“It doesn’t work that way, Bond, and you bloody well know it,” M said sharply, “What do you think this is, Surrey Hills Tennis Club or something?”

“No, Sir.”

“Too bloody right,” M waved the one page dramatically in the air, “This isn’t a choice for you, Bond. You take it or your out. Your recent performance, office based or not, is appalling. This woman got under your skin, didn’t she? Got you distracted. But she isn’t here now. I want you up and running. And quickly. Yesterday would be good.”

Bond declined to smile. Inwardly he was seething. Damn Tanner and Robinson and the quacks. What the hell were they doing pestering him about his private life? Never bring the personal into the work place. One of the golden rules of employment and he’d broken it.

“I’ll try to put it aside, Sir.”

“You do that.”

M pulled another file from his in-tray and shoved it arrogantly across the desk. Bond made a swift move to catch it as it tumbled over the edge of the precipice.

M’s eyebrows raised; reactions still pretty good then.

“Let’s look at Conrad, shall we?”

Bond flipped open the file and looked briefly at Peter Conrad’s personal details. It was a fairly unexciting manuscript. The phrase ‘Up To Standard’ cropped up a lot. He glanced up at M without inclining his head.

“What’s the problem?”

“The bugger’s disappeared, Bond. ‘Invisible Man’ syndrome.”

That was code for someone who wanted to disappear.

“Why do you think that, Sir?”

“Peter Conrad’s a buffoon, Bond, his record’s fair at best. He’s got debts up to his eye balls; he’s a philanderer, gambler, a bloody con-artist, as far as I can see. There’s hardly a professional bone in his body.”

The description sounded rather familiar, but Bond denied himself the opportunity of a joke at his and M’s expense.

“How long’s he been missing?”

“Nearly two weeks. He’s got this slip of a girl running the office for him. She’s still on probation. London never approved her contract. Probably have to dismiss her in the next round of cuts. But the poor lass seems fairly competent; used to be a holiday rep.”

“I see he’s based in Agios Nikolas.”

“Party town, isn’t it?”

“I’d say it’s a bit shy and retiring, Sir,” Bond replied. He was going to ignore his superior’s jibe, but the sentence slipped out automatically.

“Been there lately, have you, OO7?”

“No, I read about it in the travel section of The Times.”

“Nice to see you still read something,” M huffed, “What the hell Conrad thought he was doing setting up operations there I’ll never know. Sometimes I wonder if my predecessor was quite on the ball.”

Bond closed the file. He would read it later, it looked as uninteresting as he expected. “What do you want me to do, Sir?”

“Look, it’s not going to amount to much, Bond, I just need someone to smooth things over, grease the wheels a bit as it were. The office has functioned fairly well in Conrad’s absence so I’m not asking you to go in and take over. Just make sure the girl’s all right and do a little investigation work while you’re out there. Rumour has it he’s been trying to do some personal business using the company name. I won’t have that.”

“What does Station G have to say about it?”

M sniffed, “Mark Gerrard and Conrad are personal friends. I told him I don’t want him involved. But you’re to contact Athens first, out of courtesy. Do it personally.”

“Yes, Sir. And the girl? What do we have on her?”

“Her name’s Amaryllis Porter. English girl,” M made that sound like an insult, “Comes from a good stockbroker belt family. Station G’s got her full file. You’d best pull it from him. I don’t like these flighty types, OO7; recipe for distraction.”

Judging by M’s secretary, Bond could tell, “Anything else, Sir?”

M rolled his lower lip, seemed to steel himself and leant forward. His mouth gave that twitch that Bond recognised as bad news.

“I’ve a nasty feeling we need to sort Conrad out; nothing permanent, just a gentle nudge in the right direction.”

Bond looked at his superior for a long time before he replied. The instruction surprised him. He’d felt this new, young, sprightly M didn’t have the time for strong arm tactics. He was always looking for the neatest, simplest way out, the compromise, the foreign exchange, the pay off. Maybe it was a sign of the times. Maybe the pressure cooker life of top administration was finally boiling his blood. Whatever it was, M seemed to have lost patience with Peter Conrad.

Bond creased the front corner of the file between his fingers.

“I’ll find him, Sir. Don’t worry.”

Bond stood up and walked towards the door. As he pressed the handle he heard a curt cough and turned back. M was only half looking at him.

“Bond, just to let you know, I’m sorry about Miss Lavoilette. These things happen sometimes. I know it’s hard.”

M really did sound regretful, but Bond didn’t have time for his sympathy. He nodded his thanks, yanked open the door and strode out into the gleaming metal and glass anteroom. The windows looked west and the late afternoon sun was finally streaking into the office and bathing the desk and the stern secretary in fat rays of sunlight.

The woman already had her thin hand out, containing a British Airways travel wallet. “You’re booked on the Athens flight tomorrow morning.”

Bond took the documents from the chilly fingers. For a second he stood in the unexpected sunshine, warming to it.

Crete in high summer? [censored] it, he thought, could be worse.

Edited by chrisno1, 25 September 2011 - 11:39 AM.

#5 chrisno1



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Posted 27 September 2011 - 12:49 PM


The red dot was winking on the answer machine when I entered the Consular. God, please let it be Peter!

It wasn’t. It was Mark Gerrard.

“It’s urgent, Amy. Phone the office ASAP, there’s a good girl.”

The condescending [censored] had called last night, not long after I’d left the office. Damn the man! Why on earth hadn’t he called my mobile? I picked up the phone and speed-dialled. It was a Sunday and the pips rang for a long time before someone answered.

“Universal Exports, Athens.”

It was a friendly cheerful voice that I recognised immediately.

“Hi, Louise, is Mark there? He asked me to phone.”

“Not yet, Amy; he is due to drop by. You want me to contact him?”

“Can I get him on his mobile?”

“You can leave a message. It’s probably turned off. Saturday night and Sunday morning,” the voice tut-tutted, “If you know what I mean.”

“I know. Okay, tell him I called.”

“Still no word on Peter?”


“Funny, we had a man down here yesterday,” the secretary’s voice dipped an octave or two, as if she knew I wasn’t supposed to be party to this information, “Tall, dark and handsome, but ever so slightly, well, scary. He was looking at Peter’s file.”


“Uh huh, like he meant real business. A hard man, you know.”

“Did he find anything?”

“No idea. Mark spoke to him. They didn’t get on.”

I smiled. Good.

“Amy,” started the chirpy voice, suddenly not so chirpy, “He was looking at your file too.”

Oh God, whatever now?

“Thanks, Louise,” was all I could manage.

I put the phone down almost in a panic. Gerrard had called at eight last night. He had to be phoning about this tall, scary man. What time was it now? Nine fifteen. What if the man needed to be met at the airport? I might have missed his arrival. Or was it something else? My stomach twisted into knots. Everything seemed to be a rush today. It had been like this every day since Peter had disappeared.

While the computer booted I made coffee and ate the ham roll I’d hastily made for my breakfast. I pulled out the sheaf of papers I had to transcribe. I’d not had much sleep. There’d been a fight in town last night, which was fairly unusual for Agios Nikolas, and an English man was implicated. At the moment he was working off a hangover in a police cell. I needed to chase up Baedeker’s, our legal practitioner. Their office was in Iraklion and they’d promised to organise a good duty solicitor to plead for a slap on the wrist and a fine or negotiate fair bail conditions. Trouble was, with it being Sunday, my lines of communication were severely limited. The police had telephoned me and told me no solicitor had arrived and Mister Webster might well be spending longer behind bars than he anticipated.

The phone call had woken me, but it was already 8.30 and I’d over slept. Now the day was starting to catch me up. I spilled the coffee, cursed and left the mess on the floor while I checked the emails. I normally reviewed the S.I.S. mail first, the ones marked @UniversalExports.gov.uk., but today there were seventeen of them and I didn’t fancy it. None were from Athens and none of them were highlighted ‘urgent’, so I took a chance and transferred them straight into the UE folder. It was getting full. We received about twenty to thirty emails a day, of which I was able to filter the majority, but some were password protected. Seventy two mails for Peter to look at when he got back. His attitude towards S.I.S. communications was remarkably cavalier. He hardly read a thing. I just hoped there was nothing of vital importance. I read the three extra mails: two circulars from the Embassy, an Annual Fire Safety Review Document from London (the EU one, naturally) and an invite to a reception at the National Archaeological Museum. It sounded quite swanky but I didn’t reply because I didn’t know what to say.

Peter and I would usually attend that sort of function. He liked me on his arm. I didn’t mind despite our falling out.

Everything had started so well, like my affairs usually do. It was the summer. We made love. We drank. We swam. We joked and pissed about. We acted like a pair of teenagers in the first throes of passion, not two mature adults. That’s a phrase I don’t often use when describing myself: ‘mature adult.’ But I am. Unless I’m falling in love.

It was a strange sensation because I really didn’t want to be addicted to Peter Conrad. He rather crept up on me. I mean, I knew he was attractive, in a clipped, professional way. But he wasn’t very sensual. He didn’t seduce you so much as smother you, persuade you and coerce you into bed. It wasn’t rape. I went willingly, I wanted it. And yet, inside me I trembled because I knew my love making experience was at odds to his. I needed it because I wanted his attention, wanted his body, mind and soul, wanted his thoughts to be occupied by me, all his time and his energies.

Peter made it very clear how he felt about it. Having installed me as his Admin Assistant, he seemed to lose interest. Not overnight, but gradually. It was as if being in such close proximity had eroded any fascination in me. Our relationship moved like a glacier. Every so often he would try it on and I might let him. Slowly I became aware that he invited me to business meetings, charity fundraisers and social functions not because he wanted my company, which was an added bonus, but because he liked to show me off. I was good for his business. Whatever his business was.

I never found out what Peter really did. Initially I assumed he was doing some spying, engaging contacts and picking up what I learnt to call HUMINT, Human Intelligence. But he wasn’t. All those sly conversations he had in rich men’s houses, those sudden phone calls, the conference calls without Station G, the private meetings that went for an hour or a few minutes in his office, the door closed and me out to lunch. I started to recognise that he wasn’t only working for the S.I.S. He was working to his own private agenda.

I questioned him once and he shrugged.

“Man’s got to live, babe,” he said, pulling on his crisp new jacket, “Be back in three.”

“Where are you off to now?”

“Never you mind, sweetheart. Tell you what, take the rest of the day off, top up your tan or something. Try not to worry.”

That nicely summed up his attitude towards both his position in the Service and to me. I sighed as the door closed and decided to make coffee.

It had been five months since I started work. The holiday season was done and dusted and Crete was like an empty champagne bottle, lacking fizz. Christmas was fast approaching, but I didn’t want to go home. Sue had invited me over to Costas’ and I was thinking of asking Peter to come. We hadn’t made love for a while and it bothered me because I missed the touch of his skin on mine, missed the scent of his body next to me and missed the sheer unadulterated bliss of his perspiration as it dropped onto my lips seconds before he climaxed.

For a moment I dreamt of it and gave a little shiver. The coffee had brewed. No mugs. Probably all in Peter’s office. He was forever hoarding them. Sure enough the set of five blue mugs were perched on his desk. I swiped them up in my fingers like any good barmaid and stopped short.

There on the desk was his black address book, the one I knew he took everywhere with him. I’d seen it once or twice when we went to functions.

“I don’t like mobiles,” he’d explained, “If I lose it, my memory’s gone.”

“You can lose the book just as easy, Peter.”

“I can, but I won’t. I’ve had it for years. Never leaves my side. My life is in that book.”

I put down the mugs. Intrigued I picked up the slim volume. Slowly I rifled through the pages. Lots of names and numbers, all printed in his neat italics. Lots of women’s names. Hundreds of them, I thought initially, and the majority were prefixed by a star. I saw my name under ‘P’, saw the big firm asterisk, saw the ‘5’ and two rows further down saw a new name, a familiar one, Danielle Pulgrave. I knew it because she’d been in the office once or twice. Something about securing a working visa. There was an asterisk inscribed next to her name too.

I hadn’t heard the front door open.

I hastily threw the book down and moved for the mugs, but I was too late.

Peter saw the book slide to the edge of the desk where it teetered. He didn’t so much look at me as pass me a signal. The corners of his mouth, the corners I’d kissed so many times, twitched and his eyes, those blue eyes that becalmed me, closed.

When they opened he gave a tiny snort of contempt.

“You found it at last.”


“Don’t let me stop you.”

“I don’t want to look at it.”

“But you did.”

He paused. The silence was deafening.

A cliché, I know, but, God, I could hear everything in that room. The clock ticking, his heart beating in time, my breath rising, the rustle of his jacket tail, the coins chinking in his pocket, my heart beating, the stretch of the air between us, a lonely fly crawling across the window pane, the thunder of the single fan, the explosion as the diary toppled off the desk and landed with a thwack on the floor.

Peter stepped past my immobile body and picked it up.

“I didn’t ask you to fall in love, Amy.”

“I’m not in love.”

“Don’t lie. You’re a lot of fun, but I don’t love you, Amy. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

No it wasn’t. What the hell was I saying?

Half-heartedly, sickeningly, I followed in his wake, right up to the door. His Alfa Romeo Spider, a violet-blue convertible, was outside. A bottle blonde with red lips and long legs and no waist was sitting where I always used to sit and looking like she owned the seat. Danielle Pulgrave. Peter jumped in. They waved. The car steamed away up the road.

I took the rest of the day off.

Betrayal was becoming a habitual experience for me.

I struggled through the next few weeks. Sue offered me her shoulder, Costas shook his head in anger which later dissipated and I cried a lot. It was the rejection. The same dreadful soulless experience I’d had when Ben Tremmell left me, when Antony chose another, when Tomas turned me away, when I failed to be a ballerina, when fairies and princesses ceased to exist.

I’m not a child, but there is something reassuring about childish things, and I’d lost none of those idealistic fantasies. Every set back was a chance to enter a new phase, to begin again, to put the past behind and head to the future with all those fantasies intact. The bumps and crashes of reality hit me hard, but life could always begin over again.

Since then Peter and I had shared a wary, but amicable working relationship. I think Peter was disappointed I froze him out in the sex stakes, but as I told him, that was his choice really. He had plenty of skirt to chase; he didn’t need mine too.

I tried to ignore the women, if I saw them with him, but sometimes I got jealous, which seemed a long delayed emotion. There were probably less than I thought, as it was the off season and he’d run out of beach bunnies. The only ones I noticed were an older sophisticated French sort and a rich brattish Greek girl. Not that I was looking. I tried to avoid them all.

Finished with reflection, I set to typing yesterday’s notes from my dealings with the incarcerated Mr Webster. It was already almost ten. Where the hell did the time go? I made another coffee and tried Athens again. No Gerrard.

I had the transcript finished by half eleven, addressed it, printed a hard copy to be posted then despatched it to Baedeker’s on email, attention of Carlos Augoustou LP.

Third time of asking I got him. Gerrard sounded pissed off.

“There’s this big shot from London, a man called James Bond,” a pause for effect, “He represents the Audit Investigation Service.”

“The what?”

“He’s an Auditor, Amy; you know the sort of thing: rules and regulations, health and safety, expenses, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Apparently Peter’s little vanishing act has got them all in a lather and they’re sending this guy over to hold the fort until he appears.”

Suddenly I was nervous as hell and Gerrard sounded like he was enjoying it, the slimy creep. This man Bond would be checking all those unopened or deleted emails, all Peter’s dodgy time sheets, the extravagant expenses and God only knew what else. He’s probably upset the apple cart down in Athens already. No wonder Gerrard’s acting the bastard; he’s already in the [censored] and wants to pass the bucket to someone else: me.

I tried to sound cool.

“Oh, should I do anything?”

“Not really. He did say he wants to talk to you. Quite insistent about it.”

God! Louise was right about my file. What the hell was in it? Not much surely, I’d hardly put a foot out of place since I’d started work, but you never knew in this game, after all, I was employed the Intelligence Service and I worked with a spy, even if he was a low grade one.

“When’s he arriving?”

“He’s already there, probably landed overnight. He asked if you could meet him at the Minos Beach Hotel at midday. He’s got a room there.”

“Christ, Mark, it’s nearly twelve now.”

“Better get your skates on then.”


Damn you, Mark Gerrard! I threw the phone down. This was not a good day. Not good at all.

I glanced down at myself. I hadn’t dressed for work. I’d thrown on a sloppy t-shirt and pair of jeans. It was Sunday after all.

No matter. Like all well prepared girls, I kept a couple of spare outfits to hand. I yanked open the lowest drawer on the middle filing cabinet. There was only the black and cream combination. It was more designed for a party than the office. Not so well prepared then. I screwed up my face. It’d have to do.

I pulled off the t-shirt. The satin blouse was cut away at the back. For a moment I considered propriety, thought “Sod it” and ripped off my bra too. Men hate seeing bra straps and knicker elastic. The skirt was too short, but at least it was clean and ironed. I chose the low heels. No sense in looking too much like a tart.

I wanted to check the UE mails, but there really wasn’t time. I rushed my make-up, a little blusher and a dab of lippy, and shoved my old clothes into the drawer. Lastly I shut down the computers and made for the door.

The noon day sun was especially hot today. I could already see the heat haze rippling the sky. Not a cloud. I walked around the corner to where I’d parked my Skoda, a tortoise green Fabia hatchback, the old non-sport version.

The drive from the Consul to the Minos Beach Resort took me about twenty five minutes. I was careful. I always am. It’s a habit from driving the Klassen’s Lexus. So I was late.

And the wait made me extra nervous. I could feel my fingers tingling, as if they wanted to shake. While I could still stand, all I wanted was to sit down and shrink. I was scared. But I didn’t know what I was scared off. I had no real idea who this man was or what he wanted. Everything I knew was rumour or conjecture. I tried to reassure myself. Come on, you’re on safe ground, Amy; just tell him the facts. Tell him what you know and you’ll be fine.

I tried to think back carefully over the last days, tried to form a story, the true story, so it would sound genuine and accurate. He’s bound to ask questions and I want to be convincing.

But what did I know? Hardly a thing. It had all started on that Friday when Peter said he’d be away the weekend. I assumed it was another one of his women. The weekend went by and he still wasn’t around on Monday. That wasn’t unusual. I gave Station G a call, to cover myself, but Mark Gerrard hardly batted a lid, so I thought I shouldn’t either. But by Thursday I was very worried. I tried his flat, but he wasn’t in and the people who managed the block hadn’t seen him. I made some enquiries, discreet ones to some of his associates and, what shall I call them, ‘friends’ before deciding it really was serious. This time Gerrard recommended I made a formal report to the authorities. I must say it took them by surprise.

“Mister Conrad, missing? Oh, no, no, no, he is elsewhere.”

“No he isn’t. I’ve spoken to everyone who is ‘elsewhere’. ”

It was like talking to a wall. Eventually they relented and I filled in a missing person’s report and they put out a bulletin. They found his abandoned car two days later.

It didn’t make me look very efficient, but then it wasn’t a very efficient office. I expect this Bond person will find that out pretty fast.

I pulled into the car park and made enquiries at the reception, flashing my Consul I.D. I was told Mister Bond was in Villa 37. A young porter showed me part of the way, before I dismissed him.

What was it Louise had said about this man? Frightening? No scary. What did that mean?

Number 37 had a big Suzuki jeep parked outside. The little white washed bungalow looked unoccupied. The curtains were all drawn open, but there were net drapes preventing me from looking in. Tentatively, I walked up the little gravel path, paused a moment and knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again.

Just in case, I pushed the door handle. It gave. With a deep breath I pushed the door open.

“Mister Bond?”

I could hear the shower running.

I didn’t want to interrupt him, but I didn’t want to hang around like a lemon, so I entered the bungalow and closed the door behind me. It was a big, comfortable suite, cool because it was shaded by huge palm trees and made doubly so by the balcony doors being flung open, allowing a sweet tasting breeze to waft through the room. The sound of the sea lulled the air.

Everything was untouched. Only the bed sheets were ruffled where he’d slept. On top of the linen, not between it, by the looks. The catches were open on his suitcase, yet something told me he hadn’t properly unpacked; he wasn’t expecting to stay very long.

The shower stopped. I could hear movement.

I took a step back towards the wardrobe, clutching pathetically at my handbag and trying to look every inch a sophisticated admin assistant.

When he came out of the bathroom, he was stark naked.

James Bond was a tall man, a shade over six feet, with a tight head of hair, the front fringe of which flopped loosely over an eyebrow. Even wet it looked well groomed. His face didn’t smile, being set in an expression of mild curiosity. The steel blue eyes immediately latched onto mine and I felt them exploring my face to see if I was shocked. Did he know I was here all along? Was his nudity deliberate? Was he trying to shock me? I didn’t know and couldn’t tell. The trace of a day’s stubble was forming on his cheeks. This was a man who only shaved once a day. He stood with his feet planted apart, straight backed and tense, as if he was expecting something terrible to happen, something he would need to react to, urgently and firmly. His body was littered with scars, souvenirs from those terrible happenings he’d dealt with in the past. They gave him an almost piratical grace, as if the display told his life story. James Bond was muscular, but not in the obscene manner of a body builder or even a gym-addict. There was agility in the muscles, tension and strength without size. He had broad shoulders and a wispy run of dark curls bisected his chest to his loins where his appendage hung relaxed.

Well, I couldn’t help but look at it, could I? It was rather impressive, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

I knew I was in deep trouble as soon as I saw James Bond because I started to get jelly-wobbles in my stomach. Suddenly I wished I was wearing a bra and a decent pair of knickers. I could feel my nipples starting to harden. Good God, Amy! I told myself, get a grip, girl. He’s just a man. You’ve seen lots of men and lots of naked men. What’s so special about this one?

I realised I was still appraising his thing and tore my eyes away from it back to his face. He still had that strange, intrigued look. For a moment I thought he was mocking me.

“Most people knock,” said James Bond.

I stated to go weak at the knees and struggled for a reply. I had to get away from him and his nakedness. There was a towel on the bed and I reached for it, flung it at him and strode past onto the balcony and into the fresh air. God, I hope he didn’t see my nipples!

When he joined me on the balcony, he’d wrapped the towel about his waist. He seemed completely relaxed about being nearly nude and I liked that about him.

James Bond knew he was in control of this situation. He was sizing me up. I’d watched his eyes roam over me just as I had inspected him. I think he was pleased. In fact I know it, because I’d seen him twitch, you know, down there. He was flirting with me and I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t a difficult one. He made it easy. I felt comfortable with him, despite the scent of danger that surrounded him. There was something carefree and spirited about him which appealed. He had a boyish charm, a winning smile, and a lovely calm, smooth voice.

He offered me a drink. I needed a large Jack Daniels. My nerves were shattered already. As he went to pour it, I turned away and stared across the beach. I took a few deep calming breaths. It was hopeless. I was on fire. I had no control over myself. Glancing down I was horrified to see my nipples were still erect and I had nothing to cover them with except my own confidence. And that was evaporating fast.

Now he returned. This time he was business-like, official almost. I think he did it deliberately because it soothed me. Over the next few minutes, I told him, in spare form, most of what he already knew about Peter Conrad. I hadn’t really needed to rehearse it.

The interview passed very fast and at the end of it he smiled warmly.

“Thank you, Amy,” he said.

I knew he meant it.

“Tell me,” James Bond continued, “Where’s the best place to eat around here? I fancy fish for lunch.”

I told him it was Pelagos.

“Good. Be a darling and call them while I change. I’d like a table for two in, what shall we say, an hour?”

He didn’t worry about closing the door and as I made the call I watched him dress. I was pleased he didn’t use cologne or put gel in his hair. He chose a casual cream linen jacket and trousers, which I thought looked good enough to come from New Bond Street, and a spotless white shirt, a collarless one from Lewin’s. He had slip on shoes which he wore with trainer socks. When he opened the wardrobe I could see a shoulder holster and its gun hanging from the hook behind the door. That surprised me. I didn’t think anyone from the British Consul needed to carry small arms. It made me nervous. Thankfully, he didn’t wear it.

He came back with another of those warm, slightly off centre smiles.

“It’s done,” I said.

“Good, we’ve just got time for another drink before we go.”


“I assumed you wanted to come with me,” said James Bond, in a tone which suggested surprise, “After all, I’ve only just woken up and breakfast is the best meal of the day, even if you have it at lunchtime.”

We shared another round, sitting on the balcony inspecting the view over the bay. He asked if I came by car and I said I did, but it was only an old Skoda. He chuckled and decided he’d drive. James Bond asked if I was a good navigator.

He’d left the roof of the Vitara open. It had been parked in the sun and the hot leather seats burnt my thighs as I sat, decorously keeping my knees together.

He put on a pair of Persol sunglasses for the journey and momentarily I thought he looked like a playboy. Then he started to drive and his expression became taut, almost cruel. He drove like a demon, very fast, and without the stereo on. I got the impression he was listening to the engine, feeling the vibrations of the machine as it hurtled along the winding streets. He hardly said a word. The wind caught my hair and I fought to stop it swirling around my head. He laughed and said I was fighting a losing battle. I didn’t think it was a compliment. The journey wasn’t long, not the way he drove. He parked on the sea front and we walked up Katehaki towards the beautifully restored house with its open frontage framed with palms.

James Bond took off his sunglasses as we approached the broad patio and its scrupulously laid tables. He exchanged a greeting, in Greek, with the waiter. The man led us to a table at the rear of the patio. James Bond guided me forward, his hand resting on the small of my back. I felt the hairs on my spine spring to attention. Just from the one single touch.

We sat down and James Bond immediately ordered iced water and a bottle of chilled Arsinoe. He gave the waiter a quick satisfied grin, as if to say ‘I know what I want and how I like it’.

He replaced the specs. His eyes were hidden, but he was looking at me again, in the same, intrigued manner he’d used at the hotel.

I looked straight back at him, almost fearful of the consequences, not because I feared them, but because I wanted to experience them. I was shocked by my sudden wantonness. I felt the nerves jingle in my stomach. It was like butterflies dancing. My body was alive, sensitive, burning. This time I wasn’t worried that he could see the hard tips of my breasts. I wanted him to see. I’d only known James Bond less than an hour, but already I felt I knew more about him, more about his soul, than I’d known of any of that myriad of summer loves. His head flicked down briefly as he spoke and when he glanced up, he wore that same contented grin.

This time it seemed to say ‘I know who I want and I how I want her’.

Edited by chrisno1, 27 September 2011 - 11:51 PM.

#6 chrisno1



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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:48 PM


Iraklion airport on a Sunday morning was not a place for the faint hearted traveller. Hot, stuffy, overcrowded and noisy, Bond thought it resembled the scrum at the front of rock concert or at the very least, and more appropriately, the crush at a nightclub bar come closing time. Half the inbound passengers appeared to be in varying stages of intoxication and half the outbound ones looked to be suffering from combinations of hang over, insomnia or sunburn. Most looked to be aged twenty five and under. Assorted cheerfully dressed holiday reps waved placards and shouted instructions through the melee and the car park outside was rammed full with single decked busses, waiting to ferry their young charges to destinations around the island. The vast majority would head to the big resorts, the party towns, others the smattering of more sedate attractions which dotted the coast and brought some sanity to the unrelenting revelry.

Bond had not had a good Saturday. Gatwick was not his favourite airport and his latest visit did nothing to shift its low ranking. The poor quality facilities offered no joy to the stomach. Bond had taken an expensive coffee and bought the latest Lincoln Rhyme thriller by Jeffrey Deaver. The idea of a detective in a wheel chair tickled his imagination. Deaver definitely had potential. The flight was an uncomfortable slog accompanied by two wailing children and a cackling pair of girls who complained about everything.

Athens was steamy. Bond didn’t have a hotel booked. He stayed drinking more coffee at the airport and contacted Mark Gerrard at noon. The Head of Station G was expecting his call and he told Bond to come to the office on Xanthippou.

The twenty mile taxi ride was perishing. The office was on the third floor of a too plush, renovated building overlooked by Lykavittos Hill. The air conditioning was like a cold snap. The corner windows looked out over the stifling streets. Bond could see the pollution hanging like a tent over the city. The Parthenon had almost vanished in the haze.

Gerrard had yet more coffee ready. Free this time and a fair blend. Bond did not take to Gerrard, who was too flashy for his liking. Bond preferred his contacts to be from the local populace. Gerrard was clearly a man with promotions and career moves in mind. Station G was simply a position that he hoped would get him noticed. Bond ignored Gerrard’s toadying attitude and asked for the relevant files: Conrad’s, the girl’s and the Crete Communications Dossier.

He read them in a little ante room, pausing only to step outside for a late lunch, a crisp Greek salad with pita bread. There was nothing in the documents of interest. Conrad was as M predicted, a security risk, and he ran his quiet outpost in a lax manner. Nothing much seemed to happen on Crete and Bond wondered, as M did, exactly why there was a subsidiary station there at all. The girl sounded worth investigating, if only because of her curious name.

Bond thanked Gerrard for his co-operation.

“Does the girl know I’m coming?”

Gerrard nodded, “Nothing specific, Bond, I didn’t get the details of your arrival until last night.”

Bond frowned at the excuse. “Communication doesn’t seem to be you forte, does it, Gerrard?” he stated.

The ruddy face flashed a half-hearted grin, but made no attempt to justify the performance of his office.

“I understand she’s still on probation.”

“That’s right.”

“The girl’s been with us almost a year. Her six month appraisal was fine, but you didn’t approve her position. Any reason why? Anything I should know about?”

Gerrard sniffed.

“You know how it is, Bond, government budgets and all that. Everyone’s tightening their belts. I can save five grand a year keeping her on the lower rate.”

Bond came close to swearing at him. The ruse wasn’t in line with policy. It wasn’t ethical either, but Bond wasn’t surprised. It was the sort of unprincipled decision he often came across in the wider world, where Station Heads thought they ran their own little version of the S.I.S. It had the snobbery and vindictiveness of the Old Empire about it.

Bond swallowed his anger.

“I’m sure there are other ways to save a few thousand pounds. The expense account for starters. It’s very high for such a small operation. If I had the time, I’d check the receipts.”

“You’re starting to sound like a real auditor,” sneered Gerrard.

His contempt was obvious. Bond was equally disdainful, but tried hard not to show it. He might yet need Gerrard’s assistance. He ignored the barb.

“Tell me, Gerrard, according to the documents, the girl waited one week before telling you about Conrad going AWOL. Didn’t that strike you as unusual?”

“Conrad’s an old pal, Bond. He and I went to Bath University together, played rugby and that. I wasn’t worried about a few days going amiss. Peter liked the ladies, you know what I mean?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” replied Bond, “And I don’t like it.”

“Hardly fair, Bond, you’ve got quite a reputation yourself.”

Bond cut the man a single glance. Snobbery was one thing; insults were another. There was no satisfaction in his voice, “My reputation’s been hard won, Gerrard. Conrad’s a runt.”

He picked up his case and headed for the door. He’d been offered dinner, but he’d declined with no grace.

“You’d better contact the girl,” he called, “I’ll be at the Minos Beach Hotel, under my name. She can meet me there at noon tomorrow.”

Bond spent the evening in the company of the words of Jeffrey Deaver. Athens airport wasn’t the best place to concentrate on a detective thriller and Bond found his attention kept wandering back to London and Paris and the blonde hair and beautiful face of Sylvia Lavoilette. His mouth twitched at the raft of memories that sailed through his mind. When he stretched his legs, perusing the duty free counters, he detected her scent, the vanilla whiff of Guerlain’s Insolence. Bond moved swiftly past the perfumery and into the tobacco section. Come on, he told himself, don’t be a lovesick fool. Sylvia’s gone; she’s been gone for weeks. Like you told M, you were two different animals, different breeds. Mooching over her wasn’t going to help you sort out Peter Conrad.

He’d almost finished with Jeffrey Deaver by the time his connecting flight touched down in Iraklion at a little after midnight. Bond waited for the crush to subside and made his way to the Alianthos desk. He wanted a jeep, a good one. They offered him a Suzuki Grand Vitara, the ’08 version, a 1600 four by four. It was in metallic silver, a shade darker than his beloved Aston Martin, and had a black leather interior. Bond immediately put the hood down. He wasn’t over fond of these sturdy beasts, loved by the suburban middle class, but it would serve his purposes on the hard bumpy roads as well as the rutted country lanes.

As Bond drove, the blushing pink fan of a beautiful sunrise spread out across the sky and bathed the tranquil sea. The legend said Zeus was born on Crete and Bond could see why the ancients might have believed it as the rugged landscape became awash with gorgeous deep jasmine hues. No wonder the Greeks considered Crete a blessed and dramatic island. It was several miles and thousands of years away from the crush and sweat of modern Athens.

The luxurious Minos Beach Hotel had kept his reservation and greeted him like royalty.

Bond unpacked the essentials quickly and took a shower to clean the grime of travel off his body. Because his chin desperately needed it, Bond shaved and then, dressed only in the towelling robe, lay on top of the bed clothes, with the windows open and the cool sea breeze tickling the hairs on his skin.

He was asleep in minutes.

***** ***** *****

Bond didn’t use an alarm. Before he slept, he focussed his mind on the image of an imaginary clock. Bond’s was always an old fashioned Phillips digital radio-alarm. As the imaginary digits clicked over to 10:00 Bond’s eyes snapped open.

He felt fresh and energised. He took coffee and dressed in his trunks. Carrying a beach towel, Bond jogged down to one of the sandy inlets and invested in some exercise. First he ran through a gentle warming up routine before beginning the arduous, punishing sit ups, push ups and squat thrusts that expanded and strengthened the muscles. Lastly Bond started a long hard swim, pushing his body against the currents and completing several circuits of the small bay. When he was finished he lay on the towel breathing deeply, but controlled, and let the morning sun dry him.

Bond returned to his bungalow, which like all the suites at the Minos was set in a little garden of its own and had a personal beach front entrance.

He stripped and stepped under the shower, burning hot first and then scalding cold. He turned off the water and stood dripping for a few minutes, letting the moisture evaporate.

Bond looked for the beach towel. He’d slung it on the bed after his return from his swim. Bond walked back into the main room.

Suddenly, he checked himself.

An extraordinarily beautiful woman was standing inside the doorway.

Bond recalled rather foolishly that having been so tired on arrival, he’d neglected to lock the bungalow door. That wasn’t upper most in his mind at the moment. The beautiful girl, who eyed his frame with intense curiosity, most definitely was.

She had deep flaming red hair, almost black in places, and it hung long and straight about her face and shoulders. She was a young girl, perhaps only twenty four or five. The face was bronzed, unusual for a red head, and was startlingly attractive, with high cheek bones and big, almond shaped eyes that glowed deep sea blue. She was wearing a button-less satin blouse and a short black skirt that revealed plenty of thigh. She walked on low heeled open toed shoes. The figure inside the clothes looked to be magnificent. Strong shoulders led to the swell of firm upright breasts tipped with high pointy nipples. Her small waist spread out to smooth hips and long lithe legs. Bond thought she was possibly one of the most beautiful women he had ever set eyes on. The girl cast her eyes down Bond’s nakedness, appraising his body with what looked like an expert gaze. A nervous smile spread over her beautiful wide mouth.

“Most people knock,” said Bond.

The girl reached for the towel that lay on the bed. She handed it to him as she strode past to the balcony.

“Most people lock their doors,” she replied.

Bond had a flash back, to a time almost a year ago, in Paris at Le Chateau Sceaux, when an equally stunning girl, a blonde haughty archaeologist, had similarly shaved him down to size. Sylvia Lavoilette’s stubborn personality passed through Bond’s mind. It was like splitting hairs. This girl, red hair or not, had the same brusque, no nonsense manner. But there was something else about her, something currently unfathomable he’d have to prise slowly out of her. As with Sylvia, Bond was instantly attracted to the puzzle, intrigued by the mystery and compelled to learn more about the beautiful young woman who had just crossed his path.

Bond wrapped the towel around his waist and followed her. The blouse had a parting down the spine and Bond caught a tantalising glimpse of bare flesh. There was no telltale bra strap and no white tan lines. His eyes slid down. The smoothness of her derriere suggested she was panty-less or at best wore a tiny thong. Unable to help himself, Bond grinned.

“What are you smiling for?”


He could tell she didn’t believe him, “All right, I was thinking this was a very curious way to meet. In most male fantasies, our roles would be reversed.”

The girl stuck her tongue into her cheek as she considered her reply. Bond found the childlike move oddly becoming.

“In most female fantasies, you’d be a black man. And bigger.”

Bond laughed. That was twice in a minute she’d said something amusing. High stakes were being set.

The girl didn’t laugh but the big smile crossed her lips again, “I’m Amy Porter.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You do?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t stand naked in front of any old stranger.”

“My mother told me not to talk to strangers.”

“You’re not. My name’s James Bond.”

“I knew that.”

“There you go then. Mother doesn’t always know best.”

“You try telling her.”

“I might just do that.”

A pause. They weighed each other up, eyes searching faces, mouths twitching. The girl turned away and looked towards the gently rolling waters of the Mediterranean.

“Do you drink?” asked Bond.

“J.D. and coke, please. A dash of coke.”

“One finger?”

“Two. And ice.”

“I like you already.”

Bond made the drink and poured himself neat ouzo. For a moment he wondered if he should dress, took a surreptitious glance at that golden back, and changed his mind.

They chinked a silent toast and Amy Porter studied him through the rim of her glass. She drank like a man, considered Bond. She’s a tough bitch, but she’s covering up something, hiding her real emotions. Bond detected it in her rabbit like stares and the nervy movements she made. The fun in her voice was fragile, cracked, and he would just as soon expect her to turn tail and run away. Life, he considered, was a constant challenge for Amy Porter. He aimed to make this moment of her life as easy as possible. He decided to act straight forward, be formal and polite. There could be a time for flirting later, if she really wanted it.

“So, tell me Amy, what’s it like living among all these British holiday makers? Are they all as drunk, horny and stupid as the newspapers tell us?”

“Pretty much,” the girl replied, “It’s not so bad, you know. Most of them are here for a good time and the resorts make sure they get it. Agios Nikolas isn’t such a hot spot any way. I used to be a holiday rep, right, so I know the places to avoid.”

“What about the ex-pats who live out here? Who looks after them?”

“I think the embassy does. There’s one in Iraklion. I’ve never been there, but Peter has, every now and then, for work, like.”

“I understand Conrad kept tabs on the local police, the people and the cases that might interest us.”

“Sure. Peter has a pretty good line to them. Oh, what was his name? I can’t remember it now, sorry. He used to keep us up to date with anything strange, you know, court cases, computer hacking, drug busts, that sort of thing, in case we needed to liaise with Station G or something. There was another guy, someone at the airport, some computer whizz, who used to tell us if any dodgy-dealers entered the island, you know, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and all that. I think he was called Sagrada; funny, odd looking man.”

“Did you get much information?”

“A fair bit. Peter used to speak to Sagrada a lot. The policeman, hmm, I think he was called Markos, yes, I’m sure of it, Markos Somebody, we didn’t get so much from him.”

Bond didn’t reply. He was studying her face, the nuances that altered her expression as she spoke each sentence. She brushed her hair behind an ear, revealing a slim but not overlarge hooped earing. The gold chain bracelet, which matched one on her ankle, tinkled. He found himself pleased she wore no rings.

Amy was oblivious to his attention, the words still tumbling out, “To be honest, Peter wasn’t over interested in the intelligence data. He used to write a lot of what he learnt in a book. Not even on disc. This is only the second time I’ve had to make an official report to Station G.”

James raised his eyebrows.

“Really? What happened the other time?”

“Well, Peter handled most of it. It was a bit horrible really. This young Russian lad had gone off on one of those booze-cruises with some mates, you know, but he hadn’t returned. His mates thought he was copping off with some girl, but it turned out the cruise people had left him on one of the off-shore islands. The reps are supposed to do a head count, but I guess they forgot, or miscounted. Some of the reps get pretty pissed up as well. It’s almost a precondition of the job. Well, the Russian firms aren’t very responsible and this particular rep was caning the booze. He wasn’t in control of the party at all. Anyway the young lad, I think he was called Ivan, he was from Moscow anyway, I remember that because his Dad was something to do with the government, he tried to swim back. You can see the shore from those islands, but you have to watch out for the currents. Well, he wasn’t a good swimmer, or if he was he was exhausted or drunk or both. He drowned. His body got washed up a couple of days later.”

“That’s a grim story.”

“Yep; but like I say, it doesn’t happen much. Of course things are better now. They’ve stopped the cruises temporarily. There’s some legal injunction pending or something.”

“I guess it kept you both busy.”

“Not me. Peter did it mostly. It was an English cruiser you see and he thought it best to show some contrition.”

“There wasn’t any mention of that in the file I saw in Athens.”

She baulked, stuttered a little, “Like I said Peter did it. I’m only the secretary, aren’t I?”

Bond let it pass. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

He sat down on one of the cane chairs and gestured for her to join him. Bond watched as she curled one of her long gazelle like legs over the other. She slightly fumbled the move and he caught a glimpse of leopard print thong under the little skirt. The girl unshouldered her hand bag and fished in it for her cigarettes. She offered one to Bond. He didn’t like Silk Cut or extra slims, but he accepted to help her feel at ease. The smoke lasted all of a minute. The girl folded her free arm under her bosom, though it needed no support, and the hand held the elbow of her smoking arm. The movement was well practiced and executed better than the leg cross. Both distractions were designed to heighten a man’s interest in her finest assets. They were naive poses, like the tongue-in-her-cheek, and Bond enjoyed the little play she had just enacted. She had probably performed it hundreds of times.

“Tell me about Conrad’s disappearance. What happened?”

“It wasn’t the first time,” she said, before hurriedly correcting herself, “I mean, sometimes he’d be out of contact for a couple of days. But I could handle most things at the office; it’s not a big place like you’d get in some countries. I see the mails and the dispatches, file it, shred it, forward stuff to and from Athens, answer and defer the occasional phone call. To be honest there isn’t much else to do. Sometimes I feel a bit surplus to requirements.”

Bond nodded his encouragement. “I understand, Amy. I’m sure you’re doing a fine job in his absence. What made you realise he’d definitely gone missing?”

“He normally calls, after a few days. When I hadn’t heard for a whole week I got worried. First off I made all the usual inquiries to his girlfriends and drinking buddies.”

“Girlfriends?” queried Bond.

“Uh huh, he was a smooth operator Peter was. Good looking you know. If he couldn’t have a new girl off the beach, some fruity holidaymaker from Torbay or the Wirral, he’d open up his book of addresses. Local girls, chancers, prozzies, that sort of stuff.”

“Bit of a [censored] was he?”

“You might say that, definitely a player. He even had me.”

The girl checked herself, as if realising she might have said something incriminating. Seeing no reaction from Bond she carried on:

“That’s how I got the job. Of course, I didn’t know I was the only candidate up for the interview. But it wasn’t a bad experience. Quite good fun actually. He’s a terrific looking guy after all. It’s okay if you like it, right?”

“I guess.”

“Later he used to feel me up at work, just for kicks you know, but I didn’t like that so much, because by then I knew he was sleeping with all those other girls. So I banned him from my bum!”

It may have been cheeky, but it was a very firm statement. Bond believed it. But he didn’t want to hear about Peter Conrad’s brief fling with Amy Porter. That was past history. It was the here and now he was interested in. Secretly, he was rather happy she displayed some discerning scruples.

“So a week went by. What happened then?”

“It’s all in the report. Didn’t you read it?”

“Yes, but you tell it better.”


Bond thought she gushed, almost like a girl, excited by the first flush of interest from a suitor.

“Well, after I did the rounds, like I said, I contacted Head of Station G. He recommended I get onto the local police. They searched for a day or two, put out the normal bulletins, made a few enquiries. Eventually they found his car at the opposite end of the island, abandoned in an olive grove. The farmer had seen it there for a few days, but assumed someone would move it. It was empty.”

“What about finger prints?”

“Lots of people had been in that car.”

“I see. Why didn’t you contact Station G earlier?”

“Like I said, Peter had disappeared before. It wasn’t unusual.”

“Can you tell me anything that was unusual?”

The girl sat back on her haunches, her feet curling under the chair. Her shoulders slumped as she thought and she started out at the sea. When she turned back, it was with a shake of the head.

“No, not really.”

Bond wasn’t sure she was telling the truth. But he didn’t want to press her further. Instead he downed his ouzo in one and stood up.

“Thank you, Amy.”

It was lunch time. Bond suggested they took lunch out and she recommended a seafood restaurant near the harbour. Bond asked her to make a reservation. He noticed she watched him dress as she made the call. He didn’t mind.

Bond drove the open top Vitara at speed through the tight city streets. The car had sat in the sun all morning and the seats were roasted. While Bond winced, even through his trousers, the girl hardly seemed to notice. The girl’s hair flew about her, a curtain that added to rather than hid her beauty. She was certainly an outstandingly striking woman. No wonder Peter Conrad had wanted her to work with him.

The Pelagos was set back from the seafront. The restaurant was converted from a historical town house. It was clean and expensive looking. They sat outside under a broad canvas awning. Bond ordered a fruity dry white, an Arsinoe, and sat looking at the girl for a few minutes, enjoying the warmth of the day and the hot flush of her expression. She was blushing. The girl was relieved when the waiter returned with a little basket of bread and two menus.

They ordered a mezze. To follow Bond asked for the swordfish and a green salad. Amy chose fish kebabs. She wanted chips. Their waiter poured the wine which Bond declared excellent, if a little too cold. The girl wasn’t remotely bothered.

Bond settled back in his seat. Amy lazily fiddled with her cigarettes. Bond produced his own pack, a white box of twenty exclusive Morlands, and lit one, offering her his lighter.

“Are you all right?” he asked, “You seem very nervous.”

“Oh, I’m fine, just a little worried, that’s all. I don’t really know what you’re here for.”

“Station G didn’t tell you?” commented Bond drily.

“Not really.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. I wasn’t very impressed with Gerrard. This whole set up between Athens and Crete is a bit of a dud.”

Bond saw the girl’s crestfallen look. He’d just pulled a rug from under her. Bond offered his most winning smile.

“I’m sorry, Amy, I didn’t mean you. I was thinking about our friend Peter Conrad. When we finish lunch I’d like to see where he lived. I expect there’s nothing to see, but it might be interesting.”

“Why do you want to do that? Don’t you want to see the office?”

“I’m sure you’re more than capable of running the office,” covered Bond, “I’ve been asked to do a little more than that. They told you I’m a sort of policeman?”

“Hmm, something called the Audit Investigation Service. I’d never heard of it.”

“There’s no reason why you should. We’re not really auditors, or policemen, more like investigators. They’ve asked me to look into Conrad’s disappearance.”

“Oh,” she didn’t sound convinced, “Do you think there’s something suspicious?”

“I certainly do. I read the reports. I’ve heard your story. It doesn’t add up. Conrad may have been a player as you call it, but he wasn’t the sort to vanish into thin air. His record doesn’t suggest he’d do anything so extraordinary. I’m wondering if there’s something the reports have missed. It’s always good to start at the missing person’s home; gives one a feel for their personality.”

“I guess,” the girl chewed on some bread, “Well, I have a spare key to his flat,” the girl said presently, “We could go there after lunch, if you like.”

“That’d be fine. Then I expect you need to get back to work.”

“Oh no, it’ll be okay. I checked the dailies earlier.”

“Good, that’s settled.”

The mezze arrived, with more bread and a little bottle of extra virgin olive oil. The girl ate sparingly. Bond had the impression she didn’t like Greek food and he ate most of the appetisers.

“So tell me how you ended up working for the S.I.S.,” suggested Bond, “Minus the interview; you already told me about that.”

She offered a thin smile, “I’m glad you weren’t shocked. I probably shouldn’t have told you.”

“It doesn’t matter. What happens between men and women is the same the world over. Sometimes people do things right and sometimes they make mistakes. As long as people learn from the experience, I have no qualms over their behaviour.”

The girl sighed, “You might think differently when you hear about me.”

“I’ll reserve my opinions until you’ve told me then.”

“Well, it’s a long story and I don’t want to bore you.”

“You won’t.”

The waiter cleared away the starters and a few minutes later he brought two big white plates with their main courses on. Bond’s fish was grilled and had a few drops of truffle oil sprinkled on the surface. It gave the thick white flesh a piquant touch. The girl’s kebabs were dressed with red onions, peppers and four kinds of fish. She ate them delicately, using a fork to prise each morsel of food from the sticks before consuming them in long mouthfuls.

“Well, I don’t want to talk about my childhood,” the girl said presently, “It’s rather normal and not very exciting. I wasn’t a great student or anything and I ended up with hardly any qualifications, two GCSEs, you know. I was a bit hopeless at sixteen. I didn’t want to go to college, which lots of my mates did because there was nothing else to do, after all it’s really hard to find a decent job at sixteen, so I decided I wanted go travelling. Mum and Dad were dead set against it, but I worked for five months in a shoe shop and by the New Year I had enough money to go to Austria for the skiing. I wanted to be a chalet girl, you know, cooking, cleaning and skiing every day.”

She was enthusiastic all of a sudden and one word was running into the next. Bond liked the way she talked. She didn’t use any modern ‘street’ language, but she sounded as if she was more than familiar with the words of the street. Her sentences were peppered with dropped ‘h’s and she pronounced ‘th’ like an ‘f’ yet her accent had a strong Home Counties undercurrent, as though she put on the common touch for show, or more likely could slip easily into a cut glass Eliza Doolittle.

“That sounds enterprising,” said Bond, “How did it go?”

“It didn’t. You’re supposed to be eighteen. I ended up as an au pair for two nasty little kids. Didn’t help I spoke next to no German. I’m better now of course, had to be. I saw out the ski season and stayed on a little while into summer when I headed out to Ibiza, you know, for the clubs and the bars and stuff.”

“I’ve heard it’s terrific.”

“You haven’t ever been? You’re missing out! My God, it’s brilliant!”

Bond smiled at the idea. The bright, high lights of the Ministry of Sound and their ilk were not what he regarded as being particularly brilliant. He didn’t say anything, in case he spoilt the girl’s enthusiasm.

“I had a fantastic time. I was a bit naughty too, you know, but like you said, it was all a bit of a laugh and I was young, right? Anyway I was only going for a few weeks but stayed all summer, until the party season finished. Then I went home, to face the music, kind of.”

“I take it your parents didn’t like your teenage exploits?”

“You can say that again! It was hell that Christmas. So I left as soon as I could; repeated the whole exercise. This time I got a really nice little boy to look after in Austria, but things didn’t turn out quite how I expected. I fell in love with his Dad, which was a bit awkward because he was still married. But that’s another story. I was glad to escape to the Balearics again. I was eighteen by the time the Ibiza season slowed down and I’d met a boy out there who ran a bar in San Antonio. I never went home that year, just stayed with him. It was a bit hedonistic of me. Antony wasn’t the most considerate of men, booze, drugs, women, that sort of thing, but it was a roof over my head.”

The girl swallowed her last mouthful of food and dabbed her lips with a napkin. She pushed her plate back and automatically lit a cigarette. Bond joined her.

“Sorry, this is taking forever,” she continued, “Basically I stayed in Ibiza for over two years, before returning home, tail somewhat between my legs. Antony had [censored] on me once too often and, well, I think maybe I’d finally grown up a bit. Mum and Dad were relieved to see me, especially Mum, which was nice. Dad was terribly ill. He’d had a heart attack. But it was worse than that, you know diabetes and diet and stuff, all the things they frighten you with when you get to be sixty. I was playing nursemaid to Mum and Dad. I didn’t have any friends in England, in fact I found out I had hardly a friend in the world, so by the summer of (which year was it? [censored], I can’t remember) hmmm, 2006, I had decided I was going to be a holiday rep. I had to get away. I wanted to go abroad again. It was Club Med for me or nothing. I had to do an interview and all that, but I was really confident about my chances. I’d heard the reps bitching about the job, the clients and all that back at Antony’s bar, so I had a built in supply of stock and trade answers as well as a few off the hilt suggestions, just to get me noticed.

“You know, I’d never even been on one of their holidays; I had no idea what to expect. Looking back I can’t believe I stuck it for three years. The first year they posted me to Faliriki, which is hardly the most exotic of destinations. I was lucky to keep my job. Too much drink and I was a bit indiscreet with a couple of holidaymakers; you’re not supposed to do that, but everyone does. I got a real dressing down a couple of times, but my sales, my results were too good for them to afford to send me home. I finally saw the benefit of these!”

The girl wiggled her chest a little and Bond chuckled.

“Well, I had a good second year too. They promised me a promotion if I came here, to Malia, but I had to work another year as a rep first, to get the feel of the place. Well, I struggled. Malia’s the butt end of Club Med. It’s had a few bad seasons and isn’t anywhere near as good as it used to be. They’ve earnt millions out of the punters here, but the industry doesn’t put anything back into the local economy. It’s all a bit shoddy and cheap now and all I had to do was sort out the crap every day. I got really pissed off that summer. The promotion was never going to come. My results had slipped. So I left mid-season.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. I’d already met Peter Conrad. Our paths had crossed a couple of times because he worked at the Consul. I sort of threw myself on him. He wasn’t exactly a white knight, but he knew lots of local people and offered to help me find work and somewhere to live. I got a job in a little bar up the road in Hersonisos, nice one owned by a Cretan and his English wife, sort of Shirley Valentine couple. Conrad used to drop in every now and then and drink coffee and chat to Costas, that’s the owner of the bar. I think he kept coming back to chat me up too, but I wasn’t playing ball then. Well, eventually he suggested I apply for this job. I was really reluctant. I’d never had an office job, couldn’t even type unless I was texting. But Sue, that’s Costas’ wife, reckoned I couldn’t go wrong. She said it would be more secure than the bar, which was true especially as the recession was making business tough. So I went for the interview. I was under qualified and had no diplomatic experience, but, well...”

“Yes, I know the rest. What did Peter Conrad get you to do?”

“Well, like I said, mostly secretarial work. It’s a bit dull but less taxing than springing hung over, sun burnt, angry males from prison and slapping them on the wrist.”

The girl gave a tiny smile.

I’ll bet they liked being slapped by you, Bond thought, and resisted saying so.

“Peter did most of the service related things,” she said, “Sometimes I went to a party or a reception with him, for show, but there wasn’t much of it. It’s a very quiet island, you know, except for the tourists.”

Bond lit another cigarette. The wine was almost finished and he ordered two espresso coffees.

“Did you ever meet any of his ‘girlfriends’?”

“Not much; they were nothing special, bimbos mostly.”

Bond nodded. He didn’t like the sound of Peter Conrad. The man’s work record was average and now Bond understood why. What had Amy Porter called him? A player and a chancer; yes, that about summed him up.

It was nearly three o’clock. The pace of the day would start to slow. Under the awning it was cool, but Bond knew it wouldn’t be in the sun. Almost 45°C he’d heard.

The girl didn’t ask anything about him. They shared small talk about Crete, about the best beaches and the nicest houses, how the tourist trade was this year and where Bond could go snorkelling and spy on the marine life.

They walked back to the car and the girl gave him directions to Conrad’s apartment. It was in a new development to the north of the town a few miles along the coast. They passed two or three half built hotels and Bond wondered if they would ever be completed. There was a look of encroaching decay about them, bare skeletons of cement and steel rods, abandoned scaffolding, rubbish and salt corroded equipment.

Bond liked Greece and the Greeks, there was warmth about them which he appreciated and found infectious. Crete particularly seemed to inhabit a world still at the crossroads of development. Outside of the few big cities most Cretans led a very simple, rural and unhurried life. They still shared and bartered produce and services if it suited; they spent long lazy siestas in the shade and bright early mornings tending to business; they still held the family unit in high regard; they maintained the traditional village culture, still wearing black, still carrying pistols to work, still leading donkeys laden with market goods; still attending Orthodox Mass on Sundays. Of course the cities changed a lot of that, but many Cretans lived a double life, one of modernity and spry, false sophistication from April to October, and another of tradition and modesty during the winter. The tourist season allows those indulgences, but as families reunite, the expectations of the sons and daughters remain entrenched in habitual chauvinism and humble surroundings. Of course, circumstances had changed over time, as education standards improved and wealth was distributed more evenly, but the process took decades. And now that the Greek economy was shattered, Bond wondered what awaited the next generation of Cretans; would it be that fey extravagant world of the future or the austere earthly reality of the past, the bedrock of centuries? Bond didn’t think either was appropriate. Equally, he didn’t have a solution. Sometimes progress did that to a nation. The way the economies of the world were tied in with each other made the ebb and flow of commerce as damaging as it was plentiful. Greece, and Crete, had sadly suffered more as its unsustainable policies became the watchword for the financial doom mongers.

The apartment was on the fourth floor of a large white block, each storey stepped to allow the balconies to catch the morning sun. Now they sat in the shade. Bond parked in the street outside. The lobby was unattended despite there being a desk and a small office. They took the lift. It smelt musty.

The girl produced the key and led Bond to the far end of the corridor.

“It isn’t a big place,” she said, “And it’s all open-plan except for the bedroom and bathroom. There isn’t much to see.”

“Let’s take a look anyway.”

The girl turned the lock and pushed open the door. Over her shoulder Bond could see inside and he needed no explanation as to why she paused and emitted a single startled exclamation.

Edited by chrisno1, 03 October 2011 - 03:05 PM.

#7 chrisno1



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Posted 07 October 2011 - 05:21 PM


The flat had been raided. Whatever it had looked like, it certainly wasn’t looking like it now. Bond gently eased past the girl and walked into the room.

“Shut the door,” he instructed.

It had not been a very scrupulous burglary. Drawers had been turned out and cupboards opened, their contents spilt over the floor. The remnants of a Microsoft computer and flat screen were smashed on the floor. Discs and USB sticks were scattered among the pieces. Bond nudged the hard drive loose with his foot, considered picking it up, but changed his mind. Bond made his way carefully through the debris to the bedroom. The wardrobe doors were open and clothes were scattered over the floor. They had been cut with a very sharp knife, or possibly a razor blade or couture’s scissors. The pillows and mattress too had been scythed open and the spilt innards made a foam carpet under Bond’s feet. As he walked, flakes of foam rose into the air and floated around his knees. Bond didn’t bother looking at anything. He walked into the en suite bathroom, wondering if Conrad may have left an old fashioned looking glass message, but saw the mirrors had been prised loose from the cabinets and smashed on the floor. He shook his head grimly and returned to the girl, who was standing statue-like in the middle of the room.

Bond saw she hadn’t closed the front door. After he did so, Bond took the girl by the arm and led her out onto the balcony.

“I wasn’t expecting this either, Amy,” he said conciliatorily.

“I need a cigarette.”

“Go on then.”

“Will it be all right? Shouldn’t we call the police or something?”

“I don’t see the point. Tell me, once you reported Conrad missing, did the police ask to come around here?”

“Yes, you know, just to make sure he hadn’t left any clues or anything.”

“It wasn’t a crime scene then and as Conrad is still officially only missing, not presumed dead, we have to believe he’ll be coming back here at some point. I don’t want it listed as a crime scene now either. I don’t really want the police involved at all.”

“But he’s been robbed.”

“That’s doubtful. This was a very bad burglary or at least it was a very bad burglar.”

“How can you tell?”

Bond lit his own cigarette and leant on the balcony rail.

“Several things: He’s not been very careful; look at the mess, this man didn’t know where to find what he was looking for, so he’s ripped into everything. And he was looking for something he knew would be hidden; that’s the second point. Thirdly, I don’t think he found it. Now, if it was well hidden, don’t you think it must have been rather important to some body? And then you have to wonder why there is no sign of entry. The man must have had a key. So he must have known Conrad wasn’t here, meaning he had plenty of time to conduct a thorough search. But I wouldn’t call this thorough. More of a needle in a haystack job if you ask me. I expect he was told where this precious article was, but when he didn’t find it, he started to slash into everything.”

“Who the hell are you all of a sudden?” said the girl incredulous, “Hercule Poirot?”

Bond wasn’t sure if she was laughing or angry. He grinned at her.

“No, but I’m not an idiot,” explained Bond, “Listen, I see this sort of thing a lot. Conrad’s hardly an angel, you pretty much confirmed that. What I need to know, Amy, is what’s he really been up to? Why has he been disappearing for days on end and not telling you? You tell me that was fairly normal. Well, fine, but if so, like I asked earlier, can you think of anything he was doing that was unusual?”

The girl thought for a long time and then reluctantly shook her head.

Bond finished his cigarette, noting she had chosen not to smoke at all. He threw the filter absently over the rail. It sunk through the air and landed on the balcony below. Bond heard someone complain and stepped back from the parapet.

“Does he have a laptop?” he asked.

“It was missing when the police visited. He must have taken it with him.”

Bond nodded. He decided they’d spent too long in the apartment already. “Come on.” Bond led her back downstairs, first making sure the door was properly locked after them.

There was a woman in the foyer this time. She wore traditional black. It was a large shapeless below the knee dress that fitted her rotund build. She sat behind the desk, disinterested and reading what looked like a lurid scandal magazine.

Bond paused. In Greek he asked, “Excuse me, you speak English?”

The woman looked up and her deep honey skin creased a little. Her peephole eyes blinked at Bond once. “Yes.”

“Number Four Ten, Mister Conrad, he isn’t at home.”

“No. He’s gone. The police.”

“I understand. We are his friends.”

“Yes, I see the lady before.”

“Of course; we wondered if you had heard from Mister Conrad.”

There was a shake of the head. The fat neck hardly moved.

“Has anyone else come to visit, Mister Conrad?”

“No. No one. Except the policeman.”

“I’m sorry, ‘police-man’? Only one man?”

“Yes; the young man. His name, I forget it.”

Bond wondered if she was expecting a bribe. He decided not to offer any cash. Instead he produced a business card, on which was stamped the logo of Universal Exports, and using the biro on the desk, he scribbled his name and hotel on the reverse. He handed it over.

“If you remember.”


“Thank you.”

Bond exited, taking the confused girl by the arm and leading her with him.

“What policeman?” she asked urgently, “Why would the police come back here?”

“I expect it was the burglar. That’s how he got in, using the master key. It probably explains why he was in such a hurry. If he stayed for a long time, even our indiscreet landlady might get suspicious.”

They reached the car and Bond switched on the engine. He took his sunglasses out of his jacket pocket and slipped them on. He took a quick glance at the girl, who was sitting still, visibly shaken.

“You need a drink,” he insisted, “Where’s that bar you told me about?”

Bar-Costas was built underneath an apartment block. Bond thought the building used to be a hotel, it had all the hallmarks of a seventies structure, a functional lobby with big windows, square balconies, a short flight of steps to the beach, white washed, fading and only ten stories high. It fitted neatly between two newer taller structures with flashier decor.

Hersonisos used to be a small fishing village and in fact a remnant of the old town still existed in the valley behind the modern package tour mecca. The long coastal sweep of medium rise hotels, flanked by bars and restaurants, was bordered by a sandy beach, covered in umbrellas and lounge chairs. Half naked bodies stretched out in the sun, white, pink, red and bronzed. Ice cream and soft drink sellers peddled their trade up and down the human meat market. Young men and women inspected each other from afar, waiting for the sun to fall and the neon lights of club land to switch on before making their predatory moves. It was consumerism gone mad, thought Bond.

For all that, Costas’ was a haven of peace. The square terrace ran to the beach, but hardly any of the sun lovers made the short trip to the bar. The girl was greeted like a lost friend. She introduced Bond simply as James, without explaining his role at the Consul. When the question was finally posed later in the afternoon, Bond said he was a temporary replacement for Peter Conrad. The explanation was accepted without any particular comment. Sue suggested it must be nice working in Crete and he agreed.

Costas was a tall muscular man in his forties. Bond discovered he used to be a fisherman. He had a big laugh and a sun drenched smile that beamed a thousand welcomes. His wife, Sue, was a diminutive, spectacle wearing woman, probably about ten years his senior.

As it wasn’t so busy, the four of them sat down together and their hosts took turns tending the bar on the rare occasion they had a customer. They drank halves of lager all round. Bond was disappointed to see the bar only carried imported Amstel, but it was fresh and soft on the pallet. Most of the conversation focussed around Amy Porter. Bond stayed quietly in the background, observing his new acquaintances. He hadn’t come to Costas’ simply for a drink. His motives were entirely different.

There is a surreptitious art to extracting information from sources in a social environment. Bond wasn’t out of touch, but he didn’t want to embarrass or upset the girl, who clearly felt very much at home here. Bond weighed up her two friends considering which would be the most likely to imbibe him with sympathetic words.

It turned out, perhaps not surprisingly, to be Costas. After a few beers and as the sun was beginning to settle behind the farthest curve of the beach, Sue and Amy disappeared into the kitchen, to make table snacks and talk girl talk, like in the old days. Costas was behind the bar, giving instructions to his latest charge, a pretty, bouncy, buxom, blonde girl, who dressed in a revealingly small vest which showed off her pierced belly button. Every time she bent over, which was often, her tiny cut off denims rode up, exposing the cheeks of her pert backside. I could get to like it here, thought Bond. He was surprised to hear a New Zealand accent. She shared the even more unlikely name of Millicent.

Costas sat down with Bond, hooked his foot under the leg of a chair and hiked it closer, so he could rest his ankle on it. After a minute or two, Millicent came over with two small tot glasses full of a clear spirit and two larger tumblers of water.

“Raki,” explained Costas, “Not the rubbish they peddle in the shops, James, this is homemade, from my mother’s grapes. She makes wine too, but the raki’s the thing.”

Bond picked up the glass and swilled it. The liquid clung to the edges like oil. “Do you want to toast?” he enquired.

“To what?”

“New friends?”

“Yes, new friends!”

They downed the shots together. Bond was pleasantly surprised. It had the same biting tang he remembered, but rather than scorching the throat, he experienced a slow gentle after burn that warmed his chest first before seeming to climb up his gullet to his mouth. The after taste was delicious.

“That’s wonderful,” he said, “Your mother’s a talented distiller.”

Costas laughed, “That is good, my friend! So, tell me,” he leant in close, cheerfully companionable, almost Bond thought, conspiratorially, “What do you think of our wonderful Amaryllis?”

Bond smiled, with equal alacrity, remembering that Amy Porter shortened her name.

“She’s very beautiful,” he replied, “A very special flower.”

“Isn’t she?” Costas sighed, “I would want her myself you know. Of course, that would have been many years ago, when I was a young man, before I met Sue.”

He pronounced it ‘Zue’ and Bond found the mistake charming. He wasn’t alone as most people, with the notable exception of Amy, did the same.

“Love can be a wonderful and a dreadful thing,” said Bond sympathetically.

“Ha-ha!” exclaimed Costas, “Love is wonderful. Marriage is dreadful. But shh, don’t tell Sue, or my life,” he grabbed his crotch and squeezed it demonstrably, “My sex life, will not be worth [censored].”

“They say in England that when a woman marries the mouth opens and the legs close.”

“The English say it well. More raki?”


Millicent returned with another round. Costas’ eyes wandered down the exposed cleavage as she placed the glasses on the table.

“She’s good for business. You see later, she brings the boys in, before they go off to the parties and the clubs.”

“What’s business like these days, Costas, now the recession has hit?”

“It’s not good. It makes little real difference here, not to our business. Our trade is always up and down, day by day. You have a bad week, a good week, a bad season, a great one, you understand? No, it’s our savings which are bad. They are worthless now. I am lucky. I have a family home in the hill behind the town. Others put everything into their homes, their bars, restaurants, shops, you understand? Everything.”

Costas shook his head rigorously in a mock show of weary rage.

Bond raised his glass again. “Better times?”

“Yes, better times!”

Their friendship was sealed. Bond mentioned that he liked to snorkel and scuba dive and asked Costas where the best places to find marine fish were. Suddenly Costas was in his element and he talked almost non-stop for an hour. Occasionally Bond prodded him with a further question or an acknowledgement, but as the raki flowed, he became harder to stop. Even when his wife returned, Costas continued to talk and ignored her plea for help behind the bar, which was, as he’d predicted, beginning to fill with young clubbers, mostly English, mostly male. The music was turned up a notch.

“Don’t worry, Costas,” said Amy, “I’ll help, you sit down and get drunk. Like the old days, right?

“You cheeky bitch!”

Sue shook her head in disbelief, “You’re a bloody monster, Costas Panapoulos, expecting a guest to help behind the bar. What the hell’s the matter with you?”

“Sue, I have a new friend, it is most important that I show him every hospitality.”

The argument ended unsatisfactorily on both sides. After a time, the tall Greek sat in the chair, his long legs crossed and stretched out in front of him, and a fat cigar of dubious origin clasped between his teeth. He was jovial, more than a little drunk, but reflective, and had just finished telling Bond of his grandfather, who fought with the Andartes during the Cretan Resistance.

“Life was easier in the old days,” he mused.

“I think it was equally complicated,” countered Bond, “We just see it differently, from a distance as it were. We read about the good and the bad, the evil, the usurpers and it’s very plain to us. But look at the world today, Costas, which leaders do you trust? Even in my own country, and I am sure yours too, there is constant debate about the rights and wrongs of war and the values of the people who instigate them. Sixty years on, when all the facts are clear, perhaps people will say it was easier for us too.”

“You are a wise man, James,” stated Costas, puffing on the cigar, “Why do you do this work at the Consul Office? You could go far in politics.”

“I don’t have the patience for politics. No, minor diplomacy is fine. In fact, to be honest with you, I want to get out of it. Chews you up with boredom.”

“Peter used to say the same.”

“Peter Conrad?”

“Yes. He had crazy schemes. Always did.”

“Like what?”

“Like winning the lottery, writing a book, starting a brothel,” Costas laughed, “Mad ideas or lucky chances all of them.”

“So you wouldn’t say he was a reliable man?”

“Peter? No, not reliable at all. I took him fishing sometimes, to the small islands, but he wasn’t really interested in fishing. He wanted to explore the islands. Said if he ever got the money he’d buy one and build a house on it. He had dreams, Peter did.”

“And girls, by all accounts.”

Costas gave his big growly belly laugh, “Oh, yes, but he was never satisfied with easy pickings. One day he even brought that rich woman here; the heiress, the Kiriakopoulos girl. How he ever got his hands her...”

Bond’s ears pricked up. The name was familiar. Something he’d read. A newspaper article, tucked in the corner of The Times. As Costas continued to bemoan the fallacy that was Peter Conrad, Bond searched his mind, trying to recall the goblet of information.

Indistinctly he muttered, “Magdalini Kiriakopoulos.”

Costas heard him and nodded, “Yes, that’s her, a real beauty. And trouble.”

“Why what happened?”

“Her father, Theo. His heavies paid Peter a visit, you understand, with a clear message,” said Costas blandly, “A little late, James, the old man should have sorted out her suitors years ago. Now they say she’s run off with another playboy. Always trouble to her father that one. The poor old bastard should have taken a whip to her years ago.”

“You sound like you know him.”

“Not directly.”

Costas paused dramatically. If he’d had a moustache, Bond would have expected the Greek to stroke it. Instead he waggled the cigar in the air before shoving it into the corner of his mouth, assessment of his companion made and decision reached.

“I used to do some work for the old man, through my uncle, observation, intimidation, a bit of arson. I’m not very proud of it. The old families have been doing this sort of thing to each other for centuries.”

“Is Theo Kiriakopoulos old family?”

“One of the most ancient,” Costas laughed, “Back to King Minos he says! The old fool!”

“Why did you leave?”

“I didn’t take to it. And then my uncle died. An accident they said.”

He shrugged and took up his glass, “But you know, sometimes the families prefer you to keep your secrets forever and beyond. God rest his soul.”

Costas threw back the tumbler and offered a refill.

Bond joined him, “Did Conrad know this?”

“I did warn him, but he was a man to himself. And the girl, well, it was different for a time. Peter really seemed to take to her.”

“How did they meet?”

Costas gestured indifferently with the cigar, “He said it was at a corporate party, over at the old man’s house. He’s got a big estate near Sitia, really nice, El Candia he calls it, after the old name for Iraklion. Peter said he wanted to live there one day; when he was rich and famous.”

“Did he really?” Bond struck a cigarette. Idly he watched the smoke get caught in the sea breeze and waft away down wind. He followed the grey, misty strings as they mingled with the bright lights of Hersonisos’ shore line. Somewhere outside of that neon curve was his first tangible clue.

“Could you show me the house?” he asked.

“Of course I can. Why?”

“I’m just curious to see what the houses of the rich and famous look like.”

“They look like any other house, only bigger.”

“What was this girl like?”

“She’s a teaser, James, but you can’t deny she wouldn’t be worth it. Born into that house, that family, she had the silver spoon and the silver tongue; sin takes all forms, you understand.”

“That’s very melodramatic, Costas.”

The Greek’s face slipped into a scowl, “Don’t mock me, James, I have seen her and you have not. We are all possessed of sin: you, me, Conrad, the Kiriakopoulos girl,” he waved a hand, “Amy, Millicent, every one of these creatures that stalks the night along the beach, we are born with the devil in us, be it sex or murder, greed or sloth. We are man and we cannot escape it.”

“What sin was Conrad most interested in?”

“Like all men: the flesh: sensuality in all its great forms, wine and women, dancing and song. He was born to it, that man.”

Costas paused, puffed out a ring of smoke and saw it float away breaking into a bluish haze.

“The devil brings us into the world, not god, and when he has eaten of us and spat us out, the devil takes us away,” the big lids half closed over his eyes, “The devil had his fill of Peter Conrad.”

Bond was going to reply, but didn’t feel any comment was appropriate; instead he raised a glass of raki.

“To the flesh?” he asked.

“The flesh!” toasted Costas and they gulped down the fire spirit and laughed.

When the evening trade slowed, Amy Porter returned to their table. She sat next to Bond and inspected his face with those big eyes.

Bond smiled.

“Did you have fun?”

“Plenty, just like old times, like I said,” she giggled, “I even got hit on, which makes a change from people trying to hit me. Anyway, it’s time we ate. Sue and I have been busy.”

The platter was huge; cold meats, grilled white bait, hummus, taramasalata, salads, marinated peppers, tomatoes and breads. Sue brought it out and sat the big tray down on the table. The four of them picked from it and ate out of their hands. Bond noticed the girl again ate sparingly. Occasionally he saw her watching him. She didn’t make an effort to hide it, but turned away if he caught her. Sue directed the conversation as Costas was slurring his words and eating twice as much as anyone else. She asked Bond about London, wondering what had changed for the better since she last visited. Bond suggested, rather ingenuously, that it had all changed for the worse.

After the meal was consumed Millicent brought them coffee. They sat chatting as the mixture of musical sounds from up and down the bay melted into the air around them.

“What do you think happened to Peter?” Bond asked idly.

Amy cut him a sharp glance as if she anticipated the response. Costas spread his hands in a display of ambivalence. It was Sue who proved the most vociferous.

“He’s hiding out with some floozy somewhere. He’s done it before, maybe not for two weeks at a time, but he’s up to no good. That’s
Peter Conrad for you.”

The sins of the flesh, pondered Bond; everybody sees it.

“Stop it, Sue,” soothed her husband, “He’s just a man with a man’s lusts.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! It’s you who encourages him, with all your man talk! If you’d only be a man every now-and-then maybe you wouldn’t need to talk about it so much.”

“Hush, woman, we have guests!”

“Oh bother them! Amy already knows about your problems, doesn’t she? As for James, well, I’m sure she can enlighten him.”

Costas looked hard at the shrewish figure next to him. He visibly changed colour, from a deep bronze to a harsh fiery red and his cheeks bellowed as he opened his mouth and howled at his wife: “Enough! Enough! Enough! Get out, woman, get out!”

Instantly Sue slapped him hard across the cheek.

The sound of the smack was like a gunshot. Startled customers peeped over shoulders. Bond sucked in the last squall of smoke from his cigarette, anticipating having to move quickly to restrain the big man.

It didn’t happen. Costas slumped back in his chair motionless, the mouth quivering as it took deep breaths.

Sue stood up and did exactly as she was told, nodding farewell to Bond and blowing a tiny kiss towards the girl.

There was a long pause. The argument raised hardly a flicker of concern from the girl, or from Millicent behind the bar. The clientele began to return to their drinks, but hunched over them, as if afraid of the big figure that filled the chair and looked gloomily out at the black sea.

Costas was silent. Bond wondered if he should say something, but a quick glance at Amy told him no. He leaned over to her, his voice lower than a whisper.

“Is it time we left?”

“Probably best,” replied the girl, “Costas will be fast asleep soon. Trust me, it’s often like this.”

After a minute or two of dark silence, Bond got to his feet. He gave the Cretan’s shoulder a pat as they left the table. There was no reply. Gradually the big tired eyes closed.

The night was warm and cloudless. There were people on the streets, lots of them, all dressed up for the hot spots in town. ‘Dressing up’ seemed to mean as little clothing as possible; vests, t-shirts, shorts, hot pants, anything that revealed skin or could be removed easily and quickly. Some men were bare-chested, flaunting their physiques to the scantily clad girls whose skirts were the shortest Bond had ever seen. Groups of revellers would step out drunkenly in front of the car. Bond shook his head. It wasn’t even midnight yet. He drove slowly so as not to knock anyone down.

Once they had escaped the crush of Hersonisos, Bond continued to drive sedately. He turned to the girl, who was holding her face into the breeze.

“They’re a great couple, if a little boisterous. I like them.”

She smiled, “I’m glad. They mean a lot to me. I wasn’t ever destitute or anything, but they made sure I was happy and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

“That sounds much too simple, Amy.”

“No it isn’t. You see I’m just not very happy, not normally. It takes lots for me to be happy. Most of what I do, well, it’s just an act, you know.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise.”

“Most people don’t even try to understand,” the girl sighed, “Especially men. I’m too easy for them. As soon as they show the slightest interest I go weak at the knees and I get butterflies in my belly. I want to be loved and I fall in love too easily.”

“That isn’t a sin, Amy. You don’t have to be sad about it.”

Bond turned back to his driving. They were approaching Malia and he wanted to be careful of the crowds again.

“What was all the shouting about?” he asked.

“It’s another sad story,” the girl ran her hand through her hair and snuggled into the seat, turning sideways a little to face him as she talked. “After I’d been working there a week or two, Costas tried to, well, seduce me. It wasn’t very romantic, and he’d got me quite drunk, so I wasn’t thinking what I was doing. Anyway he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t get it up. He swore me to secrecy, was ever so apologetic, and said he would never do it again, ever. He said he was weak and a fool. I guess that was true. Well, one day it sort of slipped out, and Sue went berserk. Not at me, which I might have expected, but at him. The thing is he’s had erectile dysfunction for years. He really does have a medical problem, but he won’t go to the doctor. Instead he tries it on with the young girls, people like me or Millicent, in the hope it might work. When he can’t, he drinks. Poor, Sue.”

Bond nodded his agreement.

They were silent for a while. Bond asked her if she wanted to smoke. She took them both from her Extra Slims, lit one and passed it to him before striking her own.

“Do you think she’s right, about Peter Conrad?” the girl asked.

“Who knows?”

Bond felt the girl’s eyes watching him through the rest of the journey, following the movement of his arm as he changed gears, his legs as they pumped the gears and the accelerator and his face as he concentrated on the dark unlit road ahead. Once or twice, when he glanced into the offside mirror, he caught her looking and her eyes flicked away. He smiled at her little game.

“Tell me about your scars,” she stated eventually.

“Let’s call them war wounds,” Bond replied cautiously, “Not everyone you meet in the Diplomatic Investigation business is as nice as you.”

“You mean gangsters?”

“People like that, yes. Nasty people, like Colombian drug runners, the Mafia, the Union Corse, those sorts of people.”

“Is that why you have the gun?”

“You saw that?”

“Just don’t use it on me.”

“I hope not to have to use it at all,” said Bond, “I’m not here to hurt people, least of all you.”

“That’s okay then.”

When they reached Agios Nikolas, Bond asked for directions to her flat. It was on Diktis, a very respectable block of four spacious apartments. She got out of the car and Bond escorted her to the door. She had one of the downstairs pads.

“You know, I was quite nervous about meeting you, but, well, I’ve really enjoyed today,” said the girl, standing side on. The moon shadow fell over her and for a second Bond lost sight of her face. When it reappeared there was a smile on her broad lips.

“Good, so have I.”

There was an uncomfortable pause. The girl put the key in the lock and turned. The door eased open. She switched on the light and Bond could see a neat tidy interior. Against the far wall was a large double bed. The flap of the sheets seemed to beckon him in.

For a moment Bond had an image of Amy Porter naked in his arms, her lips touching his, soft and relenting. But she didn’t have red hair and that wonderful body which pressed itself against him wasn’t tanned but a perky white. She didn’t smell of the sea and the sand but of Guerlain’s Insolence. Bond wiped the image away. It was too familiar. She had come into his life too soon. Her gesture, the seduction, the opportunity was at the wrong time for James Bond, for he wasn’t thinking of Amy Porter at all.

“If you give me your keys,” offered Bond, “I’ll drive your Skoda over in the morning.”

Disappointedly, the girl fished in her bag and handed him the fob. Their fingers touched. It was as if an electric pulse had shot up his spine. It took an effort for Bond to control himself.

“You don’t have to go, James,” she stated carefully.

“I know,” answered Bond, “But I’m going to.”

He didn’t look back as he sat in the Suzuki jeep, slammed it angrily into gear and sped away down the road.

Damn her! He cursed. And damn them! Why the hell hadn’t Bill Tanner told him the girl was a beauty? Didn’t he know he was still cut up over Sylvia? What the bloody hell –

Bond slowed the car and pulled to a stop. He suddenly realised, amongst all his own emotions, confusing and mixed up as they were, that he’d completely misjudged the girl’s. During the whole day, that last sentence, that last word: it was huge effort for her.

That was the very first time she had called him James.

#8 chrisno1



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Posted 11 October 2011 - 02:15 PM


The hands on Bond’s Omega Sea Master had just tipped over midnight as he clicked the lock shut on the Vitara and walked through the flower filled, fragrant gardens of the Minos Beach Hotel.

He could hear the sound of laughter, coming from the open air lounge, but declined the pull of another drink. Bond lit a Morlands and sucked the harsh tang into his throat, already dry from the raki.

Idly he noticed a metallic black Rolls Royce Phantom VI had parked across two bays. An unusually extravagant choice of hire car, thought Bond. It hadn’t been there earlier. One of the new residents clearly had money. He skirted the car as he walked to his bungalow. The Rolls even came with a chauffeur, who sat in the front, bored and picking at his teeth with a wooden cocktail stick. Bond paused a few feet along the gravel path. The bungalow was dark, quiet. He blew a long stream of smoke between his lips as his hand dug into the pocket of his jacket, looking for the key card.

Something was wrong.

Bond tossed his half smoked cigarette away. It was the curtains. They were closed. Bond had left them open. Had a maid been in? No, he’d only occupied the room that morning and it had been spotlessly clean. Instinctively he started to reach for his gun, before remembering he’d left the Walther P99 hanging in the wardrobe.

If anyone was inside, it was probably too late to not be seen, but even so, he thought, a surprise movement could turn the odds. Silently he fed the pass card into the slot and the green light illuminated. He depressed the handle and pushed.

The room was in darkness. Bond could see straight through the hall way into the lounge and onto the balcony. The moonlight shimmered far off on the night blue sea. The room did not appear to have been disturbed. Bond inched forward and shut the door behind him. Carefully, he walked into the lounge.

A man stood silhouetted against the wall. From what Bond could discern he wore a jacket and trousers, a shirt and a tie and, if he could see them, probably polished shoes.

“That’s far enough, Mister Bond.”

Bond didn’t move. The snout of his own Walther P99 projected from the man’s hand. He couldn’t tell if the man was a trained killer, an amateur or simply a novice. All he could tell was the tall, broad shouldered man held his gun remarkably steady.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Spiros Xenakis.”

He spoke with a thick Greek accent, “We’re going to go on a little drive, Mister Bond.”

“At this time of night?”


“May I ask where to?”


Spiros Xenakis jerked the gun in the direction of the entrance. Bond slowly turned around and walked back to the door. He considered attempting to pull it open, simultaneously ducking and making a run for it. But questions nagged at his mind. What was this man doing here? Where was he taking Bond and why?

There was a second man outside. Not so well dressed or proportioned. Bond had no idea where he’d sprung from. Despite sporting a belly that hung over his impossibly tight trousers, this man looked more dangerous than his smooth colleague. He too carried a revolver, a big powerful Colt, the long barrelled Python. The man held it pointed at Bond’s abdomen and confidently loose. His squint followed the trajectory of a likely shot. Any bullet would not be terminal, but incapacitating and painful.

The fat man indicated with his head towards the Rolls Royce. The chauffeur was already out and opening the rear door. The tooth pick passed from one side of his mouth to the other without a smile.

Bond ignored the gun and walked to the car. He sat in the back with the fat man. Spiros Xenakis took the passenger seat. Bond made a show of fastening the rear seat belt.

“Buckle up, Fatty.”

“Shut your mouth, butt-[censored].”

It was a vulgar expletive which suited him. Bond caught a whiff of the man’s life in one breath.

“If you say so,” he replied, unimpressed, but pleased he’d established both men spoke some English.

The chauffeur slid the Rolls into gear and gently eased along the twisting drive. They exited and continued to head out of town, past the hotels and restaurants, the less populace places which all began to have a tired apologetic air. Occasionally the thump of electronic music wafted in, a few seconds of vibration in the air, and then it was gone, lost among the long streets.

Once they hit the main highway, the chauffeur turned south onto the Gournia road. It was cold and empty. The chauffeur increased his speed and the tarmac zipped underneath the headlights and disappeared behind them. Occasionally shafts of yellow light struck the landscape and moved closer, dipping as the oncoming vehicle neared, the two eyes staring vividly ahead. Then they were gone, past and piercing the sky further down the road.

The highway hugged the low coastal cliffs, shrugging the shoulders of small hamlets and villages that stretched down the gentle slopes towards dirty harbours and black lonely beaches. Beyond them the Gulf of Mirabello lapped sleepily, always, it seemed, just out of reach.

It was a silent journey. Bond could have made conversation, but did not consider either man worth the effort. He moved for a cigarette and received a grunt from the fat man, whose small overhanging eyes watched him as he cautiously withdrew the packet of Morlands and lit one. Bond enjoyed the game. He felt the instinctive sugar-rush returning. Danger! This was more like it, he thought, and definitely not the working holiday M had planned for him.

There was nothing but ruins at Gournia. The waist high walls were visible, ghostly pale, stretching along the side of the road, as if hanging on the hills, ghostly, like a massive abandoned cemetery. The chauffeur passed at speed, as if to banish something spectral, something unknown which lingered in the ancient wasteland. He went equally quickly through the nearest village, Pachia Ammos, its small string of restaurants and bars dead for the night.

The road headed away from the coast and into the hills, turning and twisting around the bluffs. The chauffeur was an expert driver. He knew the route by heart. He slowed appropriately, put on bursts of gentle acceleration and took the corners at sensible speeds. Occasionally, the rear lights of another car shone ahead and the chauffeur flashed his front beams, an unwritten signal for the driver ahead to pull over. At the crest of the rise they passed through Hamezi, a peaceful clutter of cottages where time looked to have stood still. There was hardly a car in the road or a light in the windows. The few residents in the one open taverna studied the Rolls as it glided towards them and bent their necks as it slid past and sped away.

Bond knew exactly where they were headed. The highway had only one destination. In front of him, the Bay of Sitia hung like a sheet of mottled glass, visible when the clouds parted and the moon shone. Buffeting against it, perched on a plateau of land and blinking gold and silver, Bond could see the illuminations of the harbour town in the distance, its once forbidding fortress rising on an outcrop to the north. The battlements were bathed in a cool jaundiced yellow, but a bright pearly glow emanated from the castle’s centre. The approach road to the town was lined with fields, their terraces cut into the steep hillside at impossible angles and full of vines and orchard trees. Occasionally a farmhouse blotted the landscape.

Sitia was still awake, even at this night-time hour. From every bar and cafe Bond could hear traditional mandinades, folk music of rhyming couplets, and, for the younger crowd, modern takes on the table songs recited in tavernas across the island. The main focus of the noise was the castle, the Kazarma. As they drew closer to the Venetian fort a few happily drunk locals spilled through the gate. They reeled noisily against each other, swaying down the winding street, oblivious to the oncoming car.

The chauffeur drove carefully past them, slowed to a stop and parked the Rolls almost between the castle gates.

The fat man got out first, his weapon now shoved into his waist band. He made no attempt to cover it. He pulled open the passenger door for Bond who stood up straight, breathing the sea air.

Spiros Xenakis motioned for him to walk ahead, through the open portcullis of the castle.

As Bond moved forward, the drums and whistles and bagpipes became louder, their calls rolling down the esplanade from the central courtyard.

He entered what could only be described as a fiesta. There were three stages filled with small groups of musicians who were playing the same dynamic fast tunes. In the centre were rings of dancers in traditional dress, long flowing dresses, open chested shirts and britches. They were dancing a pendozali, a triumphant display that begins with slow, mild steps and builds into a frenzied whirl. The lead dancer was kicking and spinning, his arms akimbo, a broad exultant grin covering his whole face.

Bond was shunted around the periphery of the action past the assortment of tables covered with half empty bottles and plates and glasses. An area was roped off for the local dignitaries and here the people were smartly dressed, in suits, ties, dinner dresses with veils and flowers. Everywhere hung the scent of barbequed meat.

The fat man tapped Bond on the shoulder and pointed to the far side, where two figures, old and young, sat watching the revelry alone. The younger figure was a chunky unattractive woman, in the early stages of premature middle age. Her face was set in a funereal mask, as if the proceedings saddened her. Bond wondered if, in her life, she had ever been asked to dance. Her countenance said not.

She sat slightly behind and to the right of an old man, whose withered frame occupied a battered wheel chair. The man’s legs were gone, fragile things wrapped in a blanket dyed Imperial Purple, the spindly ankles projected out from under it at odd angles. The shoes seemed to be slipping from the bony feet. The upper body was stronger, but the left arm hung limp across his shrinking stomach. The once close fitting suit was shabbily hooked over his rounded shoulders. It was the man’s grey face which most caught Bond’s attention. Despite the slack skin and the sunken cheeks, there was strength in the expression. The eyes were focussed on the action of the dancers, following their movements, jumping and swirling with them. The mouth was fixed in a hard, terse scowl, an agonized smile, the grimace of man who wanted his body to respond to the joy in his heart, but knew his time for dancing was done. His right hand clasped a plastic tumbler. The hand shook and occasionally red wine spilled onto the floor.

The old man looked up at the three men and his quick eyes flicked onto Bond immediately.

“Sit down, Mister Bond.”

He spoke from the corner of his mouth, but the command was clear. Bond did as he was told taking an empty seat beside a table bedecked with a chequered cloth and carrying a basket of wine, empty glasses and small bowls of dried fruit and snacks.

The old man’s gaze returned to the dancing. When the pendozali reached its climax, his head jerked up and he nodded enthusiastically. There was clapping and cheering. The old man raised the beaker to his lips and drank. When he spilled a drop, the woman behind him reached around his shoulders and wiped the dribble clear with a large linen napkin.

The old man looked at Bond again. He pursed his lips together and sucked in air as if the whole exercise of breathing as difficult.

“You know who I am?”

“I think so.”

“I am Theo Kiriakopoulos, entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist, multimillionaire, widow and father. Take your pick.”

The old man’s English had an American edge to it. He slurred his words occasionally, like a Texan’s drawl, but not Bond reasoned, because his speech was lazy or because he was drunk.

“You’re the founder of the world’s leading brand of luxury sultanas,” stated Bond, “Some people affectionately refer to you by the name you gave your product: Papa K.”

“Yes; Papa K. It makes me sound like a Mafia Don,” the old man uttered a choked laugh, “I hardly look menacing, do I, Mister Bond? This body was once one of power and influence. I might own my company, but I can no longer run it. Executives, chairmen, marketing men, the faceless accountants in suits have stolen my heart from me. All I have come to is this.”

“Multiple sclerosis?” queried Bond.

“Your eyes are good. Yes. I’m dying slowly, painfully and in embarrassing fashions. How can I maintain a public face, Mister Bond, when my own is crumbling?”

“Death is never pleasant, whether it comes slow or fast. People will understand.”

The head jerked again in acknowledgement.

“Tell me, Mister Kiriakopoulos, why have you brought me here?”

“You are looking for Peter Conrad, are you not?”

“With respect, that isn’t your business, Sir,” Bond was careful to respect the old man and addressed him appropriately as Cretan society expected, “I’m temporarily in charge of the Consul Office in Agios Nikolas. Peter Conrad has disappeared, but I’m not over interested in his whereabouts. That isn’t why I’m in Crete.”

“My sources say different.”


Papa K put down the beaker and dug in his jacket pocket, producing a Universal Export business card. Bond recognised it as the one he’d given the landlady at Conrad’s apartment block. Papa K twirled the little strip of card between his fingers, belying his debilitating state with a fine display of finger ship which would not have been out of place at a fairground.

“Spiros and Zaro came into possession of this today. It has your name and number on it. You left it at Peter Conrad’s address.”

“Along with a very messy apartment. Somebody got there before me and didn’t find what they were looking for,” Bond peered over his shoulder at the tall man and the fat man, “Make that two somebodies.”

Spiros Xenakis didn’t flinch. Zaro, the fat man, merely squinted.

“Do they often go trashing other people’s apartments?”

“Not generally. But I do have an interest in Peter Conrad.”

Bond didn’t see any need to hide what he knew.

“I’m aware he was in love with your daughter,” he began, “And that you were not happy about it. I understood you put some pressure on him to stop the affair. Strong arm tactics, I’d call it.”

“You speak like a man who knows of these things.”

“I’ve come across them before.”

Xenakis leant forward and dropped the Walther P99 on the table. “It’s his,” he said simply.

Papa K didn’t even glance at it. He stared directly at Bond, seeking a moment of weakness in the cool face of his visitor. When he didn’t get it, he looked away, back at the dancers, who were starting a new routine, a slower courting dance led initially by the women.

“Consul Staff do not carry guns, Mister Bond.”

“I never said I was part of their staff.”

“What are you part of? Who are Universal Exports?”

“I work for the Audit Investigation Service, Sir. I’m a Compliance Auditor, you know, health and safety, personnel files, expenses, things like that,” Bond replied as calmly as he could, “Universal Exports was my old employer. The British government doesn’t issue business cards; it’s all these cut backs. You can contact either of them, if you like.”

Bond said it in full knowledge any inquiries would be rebuffed appropriately by the S.I.S. It was his turn to watch reactions. The aging face, like a mask of wasting muscle, barely flickered.

“Peter Conrad used to do business deals on behalf of Universal Exports,” he said gradually, “You must know him.”

“No. I told you, I don’t work for them anymore,” answered Bond swiftly, “It’s possible he might represent Universal in an irregular capacity, a business envoy perhaps.”

There was no reply but the eyes flinched.

He’s a cagey old bird, thought Bond and decided to change tactics.

“I wasn’t entirely truthful earlier,” he continued, “Peter Conrad’s affairs do concern me, up to a point. Every consular office receives an independent seven year audit. This visit happens to coincide with his unfortunate vanishing act and I’ve been asked to step into the breach, as it were. Some of his work outside of the consul may become of interest to me. But I am very interested in why Peter Conrad should concern you.”

Papa K sighed. He picked up the tumbler and hauled it shaking to his lips. The act with the woman was repeated.

“I have a problem,” he said shortly, the hand still shaking, “It involves my daughter Magdalini.”

Bond waved a hand, indicating he should continue.

“Pour Mister Bond a drink, Kaethe,” said Papa K and the chunky woman, who Bond had realised was a mixture of assistant and nursemaid,

“Give him some loukoum. Let him relax a little.”

A little dish was placed next to Bond’s elbow. It contained what looked like Turkish Delight, a sort of bitter-sweet chewy gelatine coated in icing sugar. Bond took a lump. He watched as the woman cut up a piece for the old man and fed it to him, the sugar dappling his chin and tie.

Bond poured out his own drink from the wine basket. The vino was an earthy, succulent blend, the colour of hare’s blood, with a slight sweetness on the tongue. Bond noted the label read ‘El Candia’. He swilled it around in his mouth before swallowing and declaring it very good.

Papa K snorted.

“Of course it is, Mister Bond, it’s from my own vineyard. And the Kornaria Festival is mine too,” he motioned with his one good arm at the dancing, “These displays of music and dancing and song were dying out until I rescued them, made them the attraction they are for the whole of Crete and the world. It is a big event now and the people are grateful to me. That satisfies me greatly. The Sitians know I love the island and their little piece of it. They trust me. Like a benefactor, a priest, a father. It makes me happy. But not everything brings such satisfaction.”

There was a long over dramatic pause, during which Papa K gulped in a long breath. The exercise occurred several times throughout his narration as if he needed the air to continue the telling.

“My daughter, Mister Bond, has always been a source of great sadness. Not when she was a child of course, but later, as she grew wild and spoilt. A result, no doubt, of the loss of a mother,” Papa K ducked his head, “God rest her soul, and the indulgence of a lenient father. Too often, Mister Bond, I used a mink glove when an iron fist would have served better purpose. It was hopeless. As a teenager she twice ran away. The first time she didn’t even make it to Iraklion. But the second, when she was only fifteen, she got as far as Madrid. Spiros eventually found her, living with a young matador. You might recall the uproar. It was featured in many of the papers. I should have chained her up, Mister Bond, like the damsels of old, locked her in a fortress and thrown away the key. Old fashioned? Yes, but the old ways never hurt.

“My wife was a virgin when I met I married her, a beautiful young innocent, wrapped in the love of her family. My daughter, who came to us late, was our only child and we doted on her, gave her everything, including too much love. As she grew, her mother would tell me ‘Magda will be trouble to us; she is worldly beyond her years.’ I denied it to her and later myself. When I finally confronted my child, I was shocked by what she admitted to me. Yet, part of me could not condemn her. I remembered my youth, the fighting, the drinking, the dancing and the whores. Even later in life, in marriage and after, there were dalliances. What I chose for my life, I could not deny my child. This is after all the twenty first century. I took her back with no reprimand. It was a mistake. I have lived with and am dying with that mistake.

“The scandals continued, Mister Bond. The wild parties came first, then the drugs. She was everywhere I looked, on papers and magazines and television, but never here, at home, with me. She tried to become an actress, but she was fired from her only role. There were affairs with ridiculous men, who clung on to her skirts. At eighteen she married a Grand Prix driver for all of six months and then continued flaunting her youth without remorse or regret. We had a big party for her twenty first birthday, here at the Kazarma, and even then in the bosom of her family, with the people she knew, she could not control herself. It was here she met the Greek singer Metaxis, an even more unsuitable match than the racing driver, a man whose behaviour was as reckless as hers. I almost cried when he asked me for her hand. And not from happiness. But I could not deny them. I knew Magdalini. She would have only run away again.

“So now, Mister Bond, she was once again trapped. Not with a cosseting old fool of a father, but with a heartless, vicious man who did nothing but treat their union with disdain. She was his trophy and she hated it. When she embarrassed him in public, he flaunted his affairs in her face. Eventually, inevitably, the marriage turned violent. It was a dreadful, scandalous two years. And then, as always when she was in trouble, Magdalini cried for Daddy’s money and Daddy’s influence and Daddy’s lawyers. I sent Spiros to rescue her and bring her back to Sitia. This time, for the first time, I imposed conditions to free her from her entrapment. I reminded her she was my sole heir. Would Magdalini like to spend time learning of business and finance, easing my worries in my old age and caring for a sick and wounded parent?

“It would be nice to think that was the end of the story, but it is not. She accepted the offer, grudgingly, and for a time she was diligent and attentive. Yet I knew her heart was not in it. A life of freedom is not given up so easily. Yes, I tried to control her, to restrict her movements, to monitor her spending, but to what end? For a few short months, my treasure was with me, but she was sullen and irritable, she could no longer be seen to sparkle, to show the world her youth and her beauty. And in many respects, it was what I wanted too. There is no delight in the caged animal, Mister Bond. People must be free to live their lives. I relented. The first was to accept she had no head for business, which she did not, and release her from that part of the contract. But once I had allowed the slimmest of opportunities, Magdalini was away. This time her attentions fell quickly on one man: Peter Conrad. We were introduced. Conrad was certainly not a usual acquaintance. He was well dressed, polite, intelligent, but I sensed behind his veneer was an unctuous, selfish man. Business teaches you to recognise the best and worst in individuals. Even now, in my failing state, I recognised the manner of failure that hung over Peter Conrad. He wanted to start a business, a luxury resort on Agria, one of the off shore islands. During our very first meeting he offered me a share in return of an investment of one million Euros. This, by all accounts, was to purchase the rights to lease and build on the island. My sources discovered the scheme was a sham. The lease is held in trust by the government and has been since 1987 when it was designated a Nature Reserve.

“Of course, Magdalini and I argued about him. She saw virtue in him, ambition and reliability; he was a respectable official, not a young man either, and English. Perhaps, she said, he hadn’t understood the issues. But I knew this wasn’t true. Peter Conrad was as reckless as her other lovers. I found out about his income, his debts, his lifestyle, his affairs. I presented them to Magdalini and faced with the truth, she broke down. Two weeks later she was gone.”

Papa K picked up his beaker of red wine and sipped it, this time without spillage. Bond had crossed the ankle of his right leg onto his knee. His fingers drummed on the ankle as he considered the tale. It was late and he felt he’d heard enough long stories today.

“And you think Peter Conrad is in some way responsible?”

“Has he not also disappeared?”

“Coincidences do happen,” Bond replied indefinitely. “What were your men looking for at Conrad’s apartment?”

The old man’s eyes glazed over saddened. “There was a ring, a trifle, nothing expensive, which I bought for my wife, an anniversary present. My daughter inherited it. Peter Conrad took it from her. I wanted it back.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I expect he thought it was worth more money than it is. The eyes of the greedy are not always clear.”

Bond finished his glass of wine. “And now that you’ve given me all of this information, Sir. What do you want me to do with it?”

“Nothing, Mister Bond,” said Papa K, “I am begging you, as perhaps only a father can, to let the matter rest. I am certain my daughter is with Peter Conrad. My people are actively looking for him. The net will be closing on him.”

“What if they’ve fled the island?”

“Magdalini’s passport is still here, most of her clothes are still here. Spiros has been running thorough checks with his contacts at the immigration service. She is still in Crete. And so is Peter Conrad. I know it.”

Bond thought it odd Papa K only wanted to hunt down Conrad, as though the Englishman was a wily fox, dodging the hounds that pursued him. Bond wasn’t certain Conrad was capable of the elaborate caper fostered on him. Like his paramour, Conrad thrived on being visible. Hiding out in a village backwater somewhere would not suit him or Papa K’s errant offspring.

“I can’t promise that, Sir,” answered Bond, “Part of my audit may involve looking into Conrad’s affairs – if they’ve conflicted with the Consul’s.”

Bond placed both his feet on the floor, assuming a business-like posture. As he spoke, he was firm, authorative, but resisted being rude or aggressive.

“I think I ought to remind you, Sir, that Peter Conrad is a British citizen and has certain diplomatic rights.”

Papa K’s slanted expression almost broke into a smile.

“You do well to remind me, Mister Bond. But let us also remember that in Crete a stranger is an honoured guest. Peter Conrad has exhausted the goodwill of one Cretan.”

“I’ll remember that,” said Bond and stood up, extending his hand.

Papa K shook his head, “Remember this conversation, Mister Bond. If we meet again, I may not share my goodwill so readily.”

The thin neck bobbed up and down and Spiros stepped across, gesturing for Bond to leave the table. Zaro, the fat man, joined them. Bond was escorted out of the castle. Spiros had picked up Bond’s gun and deftly unloaded the breach before handing it to him.

“How do I get home?” asked Bond, pocketing the empty Walther inside his jacket.

“There’s a bus station on the other side of the harbour. The first bus to Agios Nikolas is at seven in the morning.”

Bond shrugged his acceptance, “Give the old man my thanks, won’t you.”

Zaro snarled, “Beat it, butt-[censored].”

Bond turned away from the insult.

He walked through the winding narrow streets towards the waterfront. The hands on his watch had ticked past three thirty, but some bars and cafes still bustled with life. The sounds of the main Kornaria Festival, its music, singing and dancing were drawing to a close, but the party would continue elsewhere until the sun rose. There would be many sore heads in Sitia on Monday morning. Not unlike its neighbours further along the coast.

Edited by chrisno1, 12 October 2011 - 10:04 AM.

#9 chrisno1



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Posted 14 October 2011 - 03:26 PM


I hardly slept.

He must think I’m an awful hussy, inviting him in like that, expecting him to say ‘yes’. I couldn’t have been more obvious – unless I’d actually kissed him. Maybe I should have.

James Bond.

I hummed the name as I took a cool shower the following morning. I thought about his clear steel blue eyes. Everyone I loved had blue eyes. Ben, Tomas, Peter, even Anthony. They hid them behind glasses or sunglasses, as if they knew the power they exerted over me, the desire they wrought from a girl's heart.

Thinking of James, of the others, of the luscious blue-eyed look, got me excited. I stayed in the shower an extra few minutes to enjoy the sensation, letting it sweep over me. What a delightful way to start the morning. I didn’t feel anywhere near as sleepy when I got to the Consular Office.

I dressed properly today. A knee length plait skirt and a respectable blouse. The office was humid and I snapped on the air conditioning. I didn’t know when James would appear because he hadn’t said. I was already missing him. Amy, you’re getting ahead of yourself, I scolded.

I made coffee as normal and checked the dailies, remembering I still had seventeen emails to clear from yesterday. I was absorbed quickly by the work. At least I thought I was. My mind was jumping through hoops, my fingers on autopilot, tapping replies, sending, saving, mouse click left, right, and yet the only thoughts it contained were James Bond, his firm body, his assured smile, his calm voice, his heated unabashed eyes. Oh God. Here I go again.

It was the click of the front door that pulled me back to reality.

I looked up from the console.

A wiry silhouette was stalking towards me.

We had a counter in the front office, which separated the waiting room from the admin department. I told Peter several times this wasn’t acceptable, that I was reading, copying and shredding confidential documents with witnesses in the room, but like I said, he hardly cared about stuff like that, about secrets, at least not the firm’s anyway.

I stood up, shielding my eyes briefly as the morning swept through the window. I should have pulled the blinds, but it always made the place so dull, so bloody morbid.

The young man at the counter was familiar to me, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen him before.

He was dressed quite smart, in a simple grey suit with a white shirt. The only adverse note to his wardrobe was the crookedness of his tie. He had a shock of black hair, which was cut short, but starting to curl already. He was attractive in an uncouth, louche sort of way. He looked unkempt, but there was something cherubic about his smooth skin, which hardly needed a razor, and the slightly high puffy cheekbones, like a girl’s, which shadowed his clear blue eyes.

Blue again. Hell.

He searched my face then smiled. His teeth were bright white. If I was pushed I’d have put him down as nineteen.

The boy looked me up and down, still smiling.

“Can I help you?” I stammered.

“I think so.”

It was a very heavy accent, but the voice providing it was light and charming, as though his voice hadn’t broken. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a little plastic box full of cocktail sticks. He shook one out and placed it in the corner of his mouth. He didn’t chew on it.

“I look for Mister Bond.”

“He’s just popped out for a minute,” I lied and prayed James would get here soon, “Can you wait?”


“Yes. Please, sit down.”

I motioned with one hand to the row of seats. The cherub sat clumsily down, feet apart and his hands clasped in front of him. I started to do some rudimentary filing, so I could keep him in view, and he continued to look at me with curiosity. When I reached the bottom drawers, I took care to bend down and not over. All the time he sat there, I felt his inquisitive eyes on me, and I knew from his position he could see under the counter top. When I turned back from the filing cabinets he was standing up again, leaning on the counter, the desk plate in his hand, stroking my name.

“Amy Porter.”

He said it slowly and pronounced it about right.

“That’s me,” I chimed, deciding to try being cheerful.

“Where do they hide you, bay-bee? I have not seen you in the town before.”

“It’s quite a big town.”

The boy whistled.

“No. You have been hiding,” he replaced the name plate, “You want to drink?”

His hand came to rest on the counter flap and he toyed with it, moving it up a few inches then back down.

“No, thank you. I’m working.”

“Maybe later I come over. We drink, we play, like the girls on the beach, yes?”

It was a direct and very obvious proposition. The boy pushed up the flap and held it vertical.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m very busy.”

The boy grinned and the toothpick switched sides. He skirted around to my side of the counter and stood there, tall, rangy, slightly frightening, but with a devilment just as overpowering as his sensuality. I could smell the excitement on him.

“All girls say no first, bay-bee. I drive over. We have a good time, yes.”

“No you won’t.”

It was a new voice.

James Bond’s voice.

He stood there in the door way, shadowing the light. He looked composed, in control. His gaze took in the scene instantly. He stepped into the outer office and closed the door with a thud behind him.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“Mister Bond. Perhaps you remember me from last night.”

I saw recognition cross James’ face. Suddenly he was interested in the unfazed young man. I didn’t understand why, but I was relieved because the boy moved out from my immediate vicinity into his.

James wasn’t intimidated at all. He quickly glanced in my direction to check I was all right, then back to the boy.

“What do you want?” he repeated.

“I have information for you.”

“Really? What sort of information?”

The boy gestured with his head towards Peter Conrad’s office. James went to the door, opened it and ushered the boy inside.

“Coffee, Amy, black.”

“Yes,” I stuttered.

They left the door open. I already had fresh coffee in a Pyrex jug and poured two cups. I took it through to them and put the cups carefully on the desk.

James was sitting behind it, the chair pushed far back against the wall. The young man was lounging opposite, his legs all splayed, his head taking in the photographs of Colonial Empire that surrounded the walls.

I retreated out of the room, but didn’t close the door.

“What’s your name?” asked James.


“And what do you want to tell me, Angelos?”

There was quite a pause as the boy weighed up what to say. I imagined the toothpick crossing the mouth again.

“You should watch out for Spiros,” he said eventually, “He doesn’t like you.”

“I’m not keen on him either,” replied James, “Why should I be careful?”

There was another pause, shorter this time and accompanied by movement, as if the boy was changing posture, sitting up.

“Think what happened to Peter Conrad.”

“What did happen to Peter Conrad?”

“He disappeared. Like a ghost. A corpse.”

“You mean he’s dead.”

“Many bad things happen, Mister Bond, very bad things.”

“Are you trying to tell me something important, Angelos?”

When the boy didn’t answer, James carried on, “What were you really looking for at Conrad’s apartment?”

The last pause was followed by another shuffle, this one agitated, and the tread of footsteps. The cherub stopped at the doorway, looking back at James.

“Be careful of Spiros Xenakis,” he said. On his way out he turned to me, grinning again and winked, “I see you later, bay-bee.”

I hope not, I thought as the door closed behind him.

I breathed out a long sigh of relief and went into the office.

James was swinging back and forth on the chair. He indicated the coffee cup. “He hasn’t touched it, Amy, sit down and join me.”

I sat. The comfy leather was warm after the boy’s body. I smoothed my skirt and reached for the cup.

“Nice man,” I said cautiously.

“You think so?”

James sipped the coffee.

“This is good, thanks. Do you know who that was?”

“I’m not sure. He’s familiar, but I can’t remember where I saw him.”

“He’s a chauffeur. He works for Theo Kiriakopoulos.”

I knew it as soon as he said it. I had seen him before. It was the rich girl Peter had been going with. I’d never remembered her name. I could never pronounce it. He’d brought her to Bar-Costas one night. I happened to be there, talking to Sue, catching up on old times and they sauntered in. So did the cherub, waiting and watching. Waiting in the background, watching I thought, over her. He’d stayed all night until Peter left with the woman. Then he continued to watch. I saw his car follow them.

I told James straight away, all in a gabble and rushed outside to get my handbag. I showed him a picture on my mobile phone.

“I’ve got a memory card in it; 998 photos. Look, here it is.”

There was a picture of Peter Conrad, snuggling up to Magdalini Kiriakopoulos, a pair of champagne flutes in their hands, big smiles, and the big beaming face of Costas behind them, clasping their shoulders in his beefy hands. It was a night time photo, but even so it was possible to make out, in the shadows, the curly haired cherub.

“A wolf in angel’s clothes,” muttered Bond.

“Do you think he was ordered to follow her about?”

“Quite possibly. Mister Kiriakopoulos was trying to tighten her leash.”

“A bit late for that.”

“I expect so.”

James paused and drank more coffee. “What did you think of her?”


“Magdalini Kiriakopoulos.”

“We didn’t really talk. I saw her about, with Peter, but that was all. Costas knows her better.”

“He doesn’t have any particular regard for her.”

I smiled. That sounded like Costas. There was brief silence. I thought James was going to say something, but he didn’t, so I stood up
and looked business-like.

“I should get on. Is there anything you want me to do, James?”

“Not especially. I don’t want to bother you when you’re running the Consular. Like I said yesterday, I’m not here to inspect anything.”

He looked about the office. I could tell by his expression he was surprised how tidy it was.

“Everything looks in very good order,” he continued, “I’ll need to get into the computers, search for some documents, email folders, you know, in case Conrad left any clues.”

“I can give you the main passwords, but some of the email is encrypted.”

“That’s okay. I can sort it.”

He said it lazily, as if the task didn’t interest him much.

“Tell me, Amy, after they found Conrad’s car, did the police ever come here, to look for anything?”

I’d forgotten to tell him yesterday. After the shock of the ransacked flat, it completely slipped my mind.

“Yes they did,” I replied, “It was a courtesy visit really. They poked their head through the door, so to speak.”

“Doesn’t seem very efficient.”

“Welcome to Crete.”

James grinned. I flushed. I’d made him laugh again; I hope he didn’t notice how pleased I was, but he probably did. His eyes seemed to notice everything.

“I have the officer’s details, if you want them. I’m afraid it’s an Iraklion number.”

“That’d be good.”

I dug them out from a little flip box I kept for just this sort of purpose. It was under P for Police.

“If you need anything else…”

“I’ll call.”

I left him alone. When I returned after an hour, to see if he wanted a refill, James was speed viewing documents on the computer. I’d no idea how he got into the thing. He didn’t even ask me for a password. I assumed he already knew them or perhaps he had a special code with privileged access. I’d heard about these things from Louise at Station G. She’d been in the game a lot longer than me. I squinted at the hard drive and saw what appeared to be a USB memory stick. Had he hacked in? I didn’t ask. I didn’t think it was my place. If he noticed I was curious, he was perfectly polite about it and simply said my coffee was wonderful.

Later, when I felt like lunch, I poked my head around the door to see him sat hunched over Peter’s ring bound note pad. A raft of paper covered in scribbles was under his writing arm, a pen doodling numbers and letters on the top page.

“How did you get that?” I asked, “I thought it was locked away. Only Peter has the keys.”

James held up a fob, a sliver of key-shaped metal extended from one side, “Master key,” he said, “Courtesy of the Audit Department.”

Something told me he was winding me up, but I didn’t question it.

“What is it?”

“The book? It’s a diary. It’s written in code. I’m getting a bit bored deciphering it.”

I came around to his side of the desk. All three drawers were open. In the bottom one I saw a revolver. So Peter had one too. I’d never known. He never mentioned it and I never saw him wear it. James had rifled through the jumble of other things, but it was clearly only the diary which intrigued him.

Whatever was written in the note pad was unintelligible to me. All I saw was a collection of numbers, single and double digit ones, interspersed with the Pi symbol: π . Occasionally there were other Greek letters, all of them in a row.

“It’s just a load of numbers.”

“No, it’s a very basic cipher. There are only twenty six numbers used. Each number represents a letter of the alphabet. When you translate it, you get a word.”

“Like 1 equals A.”

“Something like that.”

“What about actual numbers?”

“That’s what the Greek letters are. So Alpha is one, Beta two, and so on.”

“I see, I think.”

“Except for Pi; that’s simply a way to separate the words.”

I stared at the numbers, but my mind couldn’t take it in. Math was never a strong point, problem solving certainly not. I preferred to run from my problems.

James had some words written down on paper. I couldn’t marry the two. I suddenly felt awkward, stupid and uneducated. It was like being with the Ulrichs again, as if he was talking in a different language and I was unable to comprehend a thing. Embarrassment took over.

“I’m sorry. I can’t make head or tail of it.”

“It’s okay,” he reassured, “Neither could I at first. Conrad’s not developed a very good code. I expected something much more sophisticated which is why I didn’t notice it. He’s reversed the numbers.”

“So 1 equals Z.”


“But what’s he trying to hide?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

He said it resignedly. I felt sorry for him. This obviously wasn’t what he had in mind when the Audit Investigation Service sent him out here. I patted his shoulder. I sensed him flex the muscle in surprise.

“It’s almost one,” he announced breezily, “Amy, be a honey and get us some lunch. I saw a nice Greek café down the street; can they do us a take-out salad and some warm pitta?”

They could and we ate it sitting opposite each other on the two armchairs in Peter’s office. James asked if I had anything important on tomorrow afternoon.

“No, I mean other than the office, no; why?

“Close the office tomorrow, Amy. I want you to come on an outing with me.”

“Really? Out where?”

I was all ears. And heart. It stepped up a beat, I could feel it.

“I had a very curious experience last night and it’s been bothering me.”

He went on to explain how he’d been accosted by two thugs and driven to the other end of the island, to Sitia, where he’d met Theo Kiriakopoulos, a man who had no regard for Peter Conrad.

“And you think they have something to do with Peter’s disappearance?”

“I’m sure of it. At least there is a connection. Papa K’s daughter is also missing.”

“My God!” It was easy to do that math, “You think they went together?”

“Quite possibly, though I’m only guessing. More to the point, I didn’t like Mister Kiriakopoulos’ tactics. I certainly didn’t endear myself to his cohorts either. And then that boy, Angelos, turned up this morning. There’s nothing about Papa K I like at the moment.”

I crunched down on a bit of lettuce. “He’s rich isn’t he?”

“Very. But I don’t think it’s done him any favours. He seemed quite an isolated old man. I’m intrigued to see what his world looks like. I understand he has a big estate on the coast. I already spoke to Costas this morning. He was a bit hung over and he wasn’t in a good mood, not at first. He knows the place apparently. He used to take Conrad fishing near there.”

“I never knew that.”

So, more of Peter’s secrets; sometimes you never really knew someone, despite the intimacy, despite the love. I’d tried to find the hidden heart, tried with Peter, with Antony, with others; now I wondered how many more secrets they hid behind the [censored].

“He’s taking us by boat,” said James, “It should be fun.”

I didn’t need any encouragement.

“Of course I’ll come,” I answered.

After lunch we separated again. I had a call. Baedeker’s had finally provided a solicitor for poor Mr Webster and I told James I was going to the police station. He handed me the keys to my Skoda. I’d forgotten he had them.

“It’s parked around the side.”

“Yes, I always park it there too.”

“It’s in the shade.”


“Make sure you come back for me, Amy, I’ll need you to drive me back to the hotel.”

I left him alone, but put up the ‘closed’ sign so he wasn’t disturbed, and went to free Mr Webster, who wasn’t at all grateful.

When I got back, almost two hours later, James was drinking coffee and making a telephone call. He was sitting in the comfy chair again, his feet on the coffee table, crossed at the ankles. He waved a ‘Hello’.

It turned out he was speaking to the Investigating Officer in Iraklion, touching base more than anything.

“That man sounds like missing people are fairly low on his agenda,” said James ruefully.

He looked deep in thought so I closed the door. A few minutes later I heard him talking again. This time he was using a mixture of Greek and English. The strange sounding patois obviously had the desired effect because I heard him say very firmly: “Thank you. I’ll be there very soon.”

A moment later the interconnecting door opened. He had his jacket and the Persol shades on.

“Still got your car, Amy?”


“Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“The harbour and then for a drink. Let’s close up. It’s been a long day.”

The harbour didn’t see much trade these days. It was lined with cafes and souvenir shops and the boats which sat on the quay were only small tourist launches or independent fishermen, the last few of hundreds who once plied the coastal waters for prawns, shrimp, crab and red gurnard. The old port had that same smell I disliked about Ferring. Subsequently I didn’t spend much time there. James hardly appeared to notice the odour.

I parked on Koundourou. James took my arm leading me to the quayside. He seemed to know exactly where to go. We walked almost to the ferry point at the north end. A few ramshackle boats clung to the pier.

A crunched up old man was sitting on an upturned wooden crate filleting sardines. The bones went in one bucket, the flesh in another and when he was done, the crinkly fingers dug into a third bucket and produced another fish ripe for his knife. He stared at us as we approached. He didn’t stop filleting.


“Ah, yes.”

“James Bond, we spoke on the phone,” James pulled out his mobile and waved it in case the man didn’t understand.

The man pulled out his own phone and chuckled. I was amazed a man so ancient even had a mobile.

“I want to ask you about Peter Conrad.”

“Not seen him for weeks.”

“But you know him?”

“Yes. Good man, Peter. Hires a boat. Two, three days at a time.”

“When did he last hire a boat, Mitsos?”

A shrug.

“I’m a poor fisher man. Am I to count the days?”

“Think about it.”

“Three weeks ago, maybe two. He took this boat,” the man jerked a thumb sideways at a one of the motor launches, “Always takes this boat.”

“Can I have a look?”

The man shrugged again.

If he’d been invited, I couldn’t tell. Regardless James climbed down the iron ladder and into the stern. He spent about five minutes down there, while I stayed with the old man, who continued to scrape the bones from his fish.

“You want?” he asked, holding one out, “Take two.”

I shook my head. I’d no idea how to cook them. I didn’t cook. Well, I was a bad cook. James appeared, just in time to rescue me.

“Don’t you have records of hire?” he asked the fisherman, “For tax purposes?”

“Tax?” the old man sounded like it was an insult, “It was private business. No tax.”

“All right, thank you, Mitsos. I’ll call you.”

I added my thanks, though I don’t know why, and followed James back down the quay.

“What was all that about?” I asked, hurrying to keep up.

James smiled, “Just a hunch. It’s probably nothing.”

He wasn’t playing. I didn’t bother chasing.

“Come on,” he said, “Let’s get that drink.”

We circled Voulismeni, pausing to watch a small flotilla of prettily coloured dinghy’s enter the lake from the canal. There was plenty of shouting and gesticulating as the yachtsmen vied for position along the wharf. I pointed out one of the boatmen, who appeared about to roll off the deck as he scrambled for a bottle of booze. James hardly noticed. He seemed preoccupied and lifted the shades from his eyes a moment, inclining his chin toward the far side. I tugged at his arm. When he turned back, the hesitant moment was gone.

We went to the Café Du Lac and took a table outside under the palms, looking north towards the cliffs where the tavernas and houses seem to mingle with the rocks and build a ladder to the sky. It isn’t the greatest of restaurants, but it has a great view.

James asked for a beer and I had a JD and coke. I sat back, watching the people as they swept past us. It’s an older crowd here. You don’t get many Mr Webster’s, thank goodness. Couples walked hand in hand; groups of local children gallivanted unescorted along the promenade; flower sellers, the old ladies hooded in black, cackled their songs; men in t-shirts and jeans swaggered past inspecting the legs and chests of the women; occasionally a scooter and its young charge would toot through the melee, a pizza box strapped to the pillion.

Half way down my drink, I asked how James knew that old fisherman.

“I found the man’s telephone number in Conrad’s not so secret diary. I found his name first, cropped up again and again; I started to recognise the numbers. 14, 18, 7, 8, 12, 8. He first hired that man’s boat about six months ago.”

“But what does he want it for?”

“I’m not sure. It sounds like Conrad could be taking his girlfriends somewhere,” James took a swig of beer, “You never…?”


“Okay, so whatever it is, it’s a new fad.”

“He never mentioned anything,” I said concernedly, “You know, the more his disappearance drags on, the more worried I get. I feel like I never knew Peter at all.”

“I’m sorry if it’s coming as a shock,” James leant forward a little, “In this industry, people usually don’t turn out to be what they say.”

I looked at him hard. His face was still, cut in half by the sun and shade, a mirror image, except for a scar on his right cheek. He was trying to tell me something.

“James,” I started, “Can I ask, well, you never told me about yourself.”

The expression didn’t change.

“There’s not much to tell. What do you want to know?”

“Oh you know, the little things, like where you grew up, how old you are, if you’re married.”

“You call those little things?”

I nodded.

“I was born in Scotland, I’m a shade over forty and I’m single.”

“You can do better than that,” I teased.

“Yes, but I won’t. It won’t be good for you to know.”

“Because it’ll be dangerous,” I ventured, “Or because it’s an official secret?”


“Oh come on, James. I’m not a complete fool,” I decided to stick my neck out. The question had been bubbling under me all day and I wanted the answer. His expression, the concerned stillness, told me he wanted me to know, but didn’t know how to tell me.

“No auditor is ever going to carry a gun,” I said, “You made it pretty clear last night you’re more than a pen pusher. Besides, I’ve never heard of an Audit Investigation Service. You made that up.”

“I didn’t, as it happens,” he said with a jovial twinkle, “But you’re quite right, Amy, I’m not an auditor.”

“What are you then?”

He finished his beer and beckoned to the waiter with a crooked index finger, “Let’s order some food and then I’ll tell you.”

We had white bait, which I picked at, and stifados. I preferred chips and James didn’t object. We consumed the meal as the sun set behind the town. When we finished dusk had becalmed the lake. The lamps along the waterfront were casting a rippling romantic haze over the water. He ordered more drinks, lit us both a smoke and finally told me something of the real James Bond.

He started cautiously, not I don’t think because he was reluctant to talk of it, but because he wasn’t used to explaining his life to anyone.

He had a Scottish father, an engineer, but considered himself to be English, having been brought up there and, other than a few years at that draconian boarding establishment Fettes, educated there too. He had, he said with some relish, no trace of a Scots accent. His mother was Swiss, but he hardly mentioned her. Just once I saw him blink and I wondered if the memory was too painful for him. They’d died when he was twelve, a car accident, and he had lived until his late teens in Kent with a maiden aunt, who had only recently passed away.

“So you see, Amy, I’m now a complete orphan in this world.”

“That’s a sad thing to say.”

“I think I’m just beginning to see it,” replied James, stubbing out his fourth consecutive cigarette, “Life hasn’t been kind to me.”

He said it with some melancholy.

“The world is an ugly place. Sifting through the ugliness has been most of my existence. I don’t think you can do what I do if you have a family to surround you. People you love. They get in the way.”

He adjusted himself visibly as though the telling was a mistake or the revelation a lie. His voice had cracked a little and he was composing the cool façade again. I saw the features change, a sanitary gloss descend.

The real James Bond was hidden from me. But I’d seen the ghost of it, a scared lonely boy, seeking love and assurance, pushing his past behind him because the dream was safer far away. The exterior, the granite hard surface, was the casement built to surround the fear.

I recognised it because I shared in the fear and the loneliness of life. I wanted to comfort him, some gesture of understanding, of empathy; I didn’t. No amount of tenderness can challenge what a man can store in a ghostly heart.

James told me about his Navy career, which he started at eighteen, and how after three years he transferred into Naval Intelligence. He’d been recommended on account of his language skills. He spoke five fluently and could communicate quite easily in a dozen others. It was during the Afghan conflict that he came to the attention of the S.I.S., his current employers, and particularly the division dealing with ‘The Defence of the Realm’, as he politely put it.

“I’m a trouble shooter, if you like, I remove problems; permanently sometimes. It isn’t a pleasant business. I’ve been roughed up quite a bit and I’ve done my fair share of roughing. I’ve met some powerful, insane men, men who think the world is theirs to dominate, to exterminate. It’s a gut wrenching, heart breaking life. I can’t claim to enjoy it. There are benefits, pay, expenses, occasional luxury, that sort of thing, but ultimately you don’t see life the way everyone else sees it.”

James lit his fifth, as if smoking would take away the solemnity.

“You make it sound dreadful,” I pitched, “Solitary.”

“I live in the shadows of the world, Amy. I don’t have time for real people, not often any way, and when I do it’s fleeting, fast and quickly forgotten. Sometimes I wish I’d known my parents for longer. I might just be a better human being for it.”

“Now you sound like an analyst.”

“Recently I’ve wondered if I needed one.”

“You can’t change the past,” I soothed, “Those dreams are done. You can only change the future.”

I could have been talking about James Bond but I was really talking about myself. Hearing his story, his doubts, his regrets, made me remember that my hopes had faded even though I clung to them like a child clings to a mother’s skirts.

You have to be wise not to carry your dreams from age to age and I think that conversation at the Du Lac was when I finally became wise. Not all over and not straight away, but when I looked into his stony eyes, looked past his placid exterior, I saw concealed the savage beaten heart inside James Bond and knew his dreams were as simple and as defunct as mine.

It was a start.

Edited by chrisno1, 15 October 2011 - 11:10 AM.

#10 chrisno1



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Posted 18 October 2011 - 01:19 PM


As he climbed the outboard ladder into The Aphrodite, James Bond surreptitiously watched the girl pull off the snorkel and mask. Amy’s wet hair caught in the strap and she shook her head to help untangle the red mane. There are certain women, Bond thought, like Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress or the singer Myleene Klass, who were simply born to wear a bikini. Amy Porter, he considered, was definitely one of those women.

Hundreds of droplets of salty water clung to her tanned body. She sparkled and shone in the sun. The tie-strap bikini stuck fast to her skin. The material seemed almost transparent and the triangles of banana yellow barely concealed her marvellously alluring figure. The points of her breasts formed peaks against the Lycra. The twin mounds, sculpted as if by Da Vinci, led to the smooth luscious belly, with its flat button. She had a little weight on her hips, but Bond liked that as it gave her a curvy, voluptuous, slightly old fashioned look.

Unselfconsciously, Amy stuck her fingers under the material and adjusted the bikini slip, both front and back, before repeating the delicate rearrangement beneath the cups of the brassiere. Beaded with wet she glanced over to him, that comfortable smile glowing across her face.

“What are you looking at?”

“Ask a silly question,” replied Bond stepping onto the rear deck of the boat.

Amy didn’t stop smiling.

“Come on, James, Costas has given up trying to catch anything here,” she said, “He says we’re scaring all the fish away.”

They’d been swimming in the clear warm water for over an hour. Bond had been pleased to discover swimming was one of Amy’s hobbies. She’d never mentioned it. Without asking she’d brought diving masks and snorkels for the trip. Other girls, he considered, would have only brought sun lotion and a copy of Vogue.

Costas had guided The Aphrodite along the northern coast. Bond had helped to wield the single sail, pulling on the lines as they caught the light squalls that swept over the Sea of Crete in ruffles. The little sloop made sedate progress. Bond took an early toast with Costas, the sharp raki burning at his throat, enlivening his senses. Instantly he thought he could smell the sea again, not only the salt, but the air, the sweet fragrant crispness of Cretan waters.

Amy sat and sunbathed on the forward deck as the beaches receded. Massed with people, marked by show-offs on jet skis and the heads of bobbing bathers, the clusters of the human world were a stark contrast to the stillness of the sea and the rugged empty blue-green cliffs which split the resorts. Occasionally arrows of dove-white gulls took off from the shore and circled towards them, curious about the white canvas that interrupted the horizon.

As they rounded the peninsula and the coast retreated, Costas tired of the sail. The wind hadn’t got up so he switched to the outboard motor for the trip across the Bay of Mirabello. Land came back into view near Liopetra, its abandoned cliff top fortress marking the old town from the sea. The Aphrodite traced the shore further east where the shadows of Cape Phaneromeni stuck like a thumb into the sea. The cliffs rose spectacularly, banking away from the water and forming an impenetrable barrier to the ancient Minoan world beyond.

Costas waved a dismissive arm at the place.

“Dull. But under the water, ah, now that’s the thing. There are some shallows here. We can fish.”

He cut the engine and, using the sail and the natural current, the two of them manoeuvred the boat past the promontory and into the next inlet. Bond dropped the anchor. It caught at the second attempt and The Aphrodite gently swayed to and fro on the lapping waves.

Amy didn’t like the fishing and, clearly restless, asked to go for a swim. Costas grumbled. That didn’t stop her and she quickly got out the snorkelling kit and was slipping over the edge of the boat, making a tiny whirlpool as she disappeared under the surface.

Costas looked at Bond with an exasperated frown.

“Go on then,” he growled and flapped a hand at him as if he didn’t care.

Bond thought the big Greek was offended, but he seemed happy enough with his rod and line and the bottle of raki, so Bond stripped to his trunks and joined the girl in the water.

It was deliciously warm. Amy was already swimming about twenty metres away, the orange snorkel pipe marking her position. Bond attached his own mask and swam to her at a strong crawl.

The waters were unspoilt azure clear. Bond caught up with Amy and they swam together, two figures apart, circling above the underwater rock formations. Occasionally they would take a dive for a few minutes, letting the float-operated valve do its work, preserving just enough air in the tube. Bond was surprised at how good Amy was at shallow diving, quite able to match the length of his underwater sojourns.

The sea bed was perhaps four metres down. The rocky spit extended unseen almost half a mile from the cliffs, its surface peppered with sea grasses and sponges and splashes of the rainbow, all green, mauve, orange and yellow, across the spectral grey. Spiny spider crabs, their long legs prickly with barbs, scuttled across the odd stretch of sand, dashing from safe haven to sanctuary. Bond swam through myriad shoals of tiny fish, his fingers and toes batting the colourful swimmers aside. Cautiously the head of an eel peered out of its home. Bond flicked at it nonchalantly and the head retreated back into its cavity, not from fear, but laziness. A herd of sea horses each no bigger than a finger traversed the Neptune grass, their out sized eyes widening as Amy pointed at their curly tails.

Bond grinned behind his mouthpiece, tapped her shoulder and led her a little further from the rocks where the sea floor dropped away and the undersea kingdom dissolved into a mirror of clear blue.

They rested, treading water, floating, letting the tiny breakers caress the skin. Bond pulled up his mask.

“You swim really well.”

“You say it like you’re surprised.”

“I am.”

“A girl has to keep some secrets.”

***** ***** *****

I was nervous as hell the next day. It felt like some sort of first date and I hadn’t had a proper one of those for years, perhaps not since Ben Tremmell.

Anyway, it wasn’t a date, not a proper one. But I was still shaking inside when James came to pick me up.

I’d already checked in early at the office and spent an hour tapping at the PC before returning to my place and throwing together a few things into a cool bag: fruit, water, pastries, a couple of Melton Mowbray pork pies imported for the English, cheese and a four of Sol. I had a string bag into which I put my beach things. At the last minute I picked up my two snorkels, both stolen from Club Med. I was ready plenty early.

James arrived two minutes late, and he raised an eyebrow when he saw me waiting outside, as if this type of behaviour wasn’t what he was used to.

“You have to be punctual at Club Med,” I explained, “It’s drilled into you.”

He drove slower than before. I saw him casting an eye across me. Although I had a blouse with me, I’d deliberately refrained from wearing it, but on reflection the bikini I chose, one of my Ibiza favourites, was maybe a tad small and the bra was straining. I’d pulled on culottes, sunglasses and flat open toed sandals, not necessarily in that order.

I offered him a cigarette. He refused. I had one myself, blew the smoke out in a gusty plume and lifted the glasses so they held my hair in place. I gave James a short coy-eyed glance and batted one eyelid when he saw me. I was an Ibiza kitten again: beaches, bikinis and blokes. He could tell I was flirting. I hoped he enjoyed it. I wished, I wondered and I wanted.

“What’s in the bag?” he asked.

“Provisions,” I said.

“I thought we might fish for those.”

“You can if you want,” I said, a little brusquely, “But that’d be boring.”

“Costas is looking forward to it.”

“Costas is a fisherman, of course he is.”

He laughed, changed gear and swung out onto the main highway which skirted the Lasithi Plateau all the way to Neapoli then onto Malia and beyond. The lush green countryside fanned out on both sides broken at intervals by strips of golden brown, fields of waving wheat, maize and corn, a week or two from harvest.

We reached Hersonisos by mid-morning. James parked close to the bar and we walked the rest of the way. Twice, James stopped, pausing distractedly to look at souvenirs, which surprised me as he didn’t seem the souvenir type.

Costas’ battered one mast boat was moored in the little harbour surrounded and almost swamped by big commercial enterprises. The cheerful Greek was standing aft, adjusting a line, and smiled broadly as we approached. He bounded onto the quay and grasped James’ hand with both of his, completely enveloping the outstretched limb.

“Ah, James, it is good, good to see you.”

When he turned to me, the smile was more as one would give to a child. He patted my shoulder and then the bear like paw came up to my cheek.

“Amy, at last you visit The Aphrodite,” he said, “I wish you had met James earlier.”

I know what he was thinking and the thoughts didn’t bother me. Costas was a horny old goat, at least in his mind; what his body did was another matter. He had already consumed a couple of beers, the scent echoed after his words.

The boat was a small affair, a rudderpost at the rear and a smaller deck on the forestay. In the centre was a cabin through which the mast sunk. It was just big enough for a stove and a table and Costas’ fishing gear.

It was slow progress at first, escaping the trappings of commercıalısm, of youthful holiday exploits, but eventually the musical sounds of modern life diffused and a drowsy, dignified quiet settled over the sloop. The only sound was the occasional coarse instruction form Costas and James’ animated replies. I thought the two of them jested like boys, but gradually, as The Aphrodite meandered along the coast, catching the whiff of a breeze, I recognised their natural enthusiasm, their care for the sail work, their brotherly love of the sea.

James looked like he was at home. He was as far from the deep melancholy of the previous evening as he could have been. I remembered his divided facade, cut by shade and light, the impression I had of a masque that needed revealing.

Today, I felt, James was consciously showing me more.

It didn’t quite work how he intended. I tried to be interested in the yachtsmanship, I really did, but despite his encouragement I simply couldn’t get excited about it. Instead I stripped off my trousers, laid a towel on the bow deck, stretched under the sun and left the big boys to it.

It was a hot, beautiful day. The warm air, the reflecting sea, it was all so calm, so peaceful. Even the swell seemed so gentle I imagined you could rest a tennis ball on the deck and it wouldn’t roll. I was lost in dreams, the kind you have where they tumble over you in spats, memories and images and fantasies unconnected, a slow resonate kaleidoscope, lulling the mind into submission, easing the drama of life and letting the stress seep out into the world.

When The Aphrodite came to a halt, I knew it was going to be a scorching afternoon. Diligently I applied some more lotion and watched as the boys set their fishing tackle and bait. I couldn’t imagine anything so mind numbing. I slid back into the aft deck and announced my intention to go for a swim.

“Don’t go far,” warned Costas.

“Don’t be silly, I’m not a little girl.”

I scrabbled for my bag and pulled out the mask and snorkel. I saw James catch sight of the extra mask. For a brief moment his eyes flashed.

“I’ve brought a spare,” I said.

“I might just join you.”

He was very relaxed about it. I was bubbling with anticipation.

“That’s up to you,” was all that came out as I sat on the edge, feet dangling in the sea. I fixed my mask and jumped in. The water was cool compared to the heat on deck, but still gorgeously warm, hugging my skin like a good friend.

I headed towards the inlet. The feet of the cliffs vanished into the sea, tapering into shallows and then fanning out beneath the surface into a spiral of rocks which hid the secret marine lives existing around and within the nooks and crannies. I sucked in a mouthful of air, waited for the sump to refill and dived. I could see the rock world below me, its colours illuminated by angles of sunlight sloping through the crystal water. It was so clear it could have been glass. Small unnamed fish swam away from me, first alarmed by the big honey coloured beast, before returning in circles to inspect the strange new creature. The bug eyes of a scorpion fish, striped bronze and black, its tendrils alert to my intrusion swivelled and made a quick getaway into a slit between two bony outcrops.

When I surfaced, James was with me. I was pleased I wouldn’t have to swim alone, that I had someone else to enjoy the ocean with me. We dived together, swam on a little, dived again and repeated the exercise, turning a wide arc along the edge of the bay. Occasionally, James led me out to deeper water, where we rested before the pull of the rock world became too great and we returned to the slice of the sea we could safely call our own.

Back on the boat, when we returned, Costas was nannying us like an old woman.

“You’ve frightened all the fish,” he chastised, “We’ll have to try elsewhere.”

“Take us to Papa K’s,” suggested James, “You might have better luck there.”

“I doubt it. Sitia’s too fished out, but I’ll try.”

While I wrung out my hair, James busied himself taking in the anchor. Costas used the outboard motor again and set us off, standing in the trough of the sloop, nursing his nautical bride through the channels. He didn’t use any charts or compasses. He knew the currents, eddies and wind breaks, all the hazards. He was in his element, man and boat and sea, working as one.

Guilty, because I’d deprived him of his sport, I dug in the cool bag and tossed him a beer. He broke it open on the tiller.

“Ah, my angel,” he beamed.

I offered him a kalitsounia stuffed with horta and he tucked into the fried pastry with gusto. I didn’t fancy it, but James ate one with his beer, along with some of the goat’s cheese. I ate one of the pies sitting on the forward deck, my knees pulled up, Sol bottle between my feet.

“You’re burning.”

I hadn’t heard James come over. He picked up the lotion and without asking squeezed some onto his fingers and started to massage it into my shoulders. His hands felt good. They were strong, but not rough, the fingers kneading at my neck, the palms smoothing down my spine.

“Thank you, James.”

“It’s all right. You need it.”

“So do you. When you’ve finished I’ll do your back.”

I sipped my beer as his thumbs bit into my spine. The tiny butterflies started to fly again. The tranquillity of his touch, the lightness of the air, provoked deep sensations. They rose, fluttering inside me and burst into the atmosphere with a long whispered sigh.

“And thank you for yesterday.”

“Why? What happened yesterday?”

“For telling me about your life,” I said, “I feel I know you just a little better.”

He paused in his petting, just for a moment. “Lie down,” he instructed.

I shifted onto my front so he could rub the lotion properly. The hands swept over my back, down my thighs and calves, probably for longer than needed, but I didn’t mind, it was soothing, controlling the swelling excitement. The dreams were taking shape.

“I hope I didn’t frighten you,” James said, “A lot of girls get scared when I tell them about my life. It’s finished a lot of relationships.”

“You don’t have any one now do you?”

I wasn’t sure I got the emphasis right, but James ignored it, or else I did get it right.

“No, Amy, I don’t. She left.”

“I’m sorry.”

It had happened recently. I could tell. It was what had made him so reflective. He was reconsidering his life, repositioning it to account for his loss.

“You must have loved her very much.”

“Yes. But not anymore.”

The finality of the remark made me turn and look at him. He sat back, that smile creasing his weathered face.

“I’m glad I met you, Amy, it’s been good to meet someone real for a change.”

Am I real? I wondered. I didn’t know. Sometimes you play at life as if you never exist, as if all you want to do is inhabit the world but not be of it, like the ballet dancers or the fairies. Sometimes you laugh at life, at the look on people’s faces as they and us enjoy ourselves. Other times it’s a tough, unforgiving moment and you cry because you want the flesh of life so hard. It takes forever to establish friendships, to listen and read the real signs of love. I have no problem with the physical, but the miracle of life is in the telling, the unspoken words that pass between a man and a woman, the human instinct. And that’s my struggle, when the alarm bells start to ring and I lose myself, not to reality, but to the overpowering fantasy of love. Cupid’s arrow strikes and I fall.

I didn’t want to fall for James Bond, but I couldn’t help it, because I knew he wanted me. I felt it in those hands. I saw it in those blue eyes, clear like the sea around us. And it was real because I was real to him.

The smile crept across his face again. I breathed out slowly, a breath as controlled as his hands had been on my skin. The smile, the eyes, understood me just a little deeper than I wanted them to. They believed in me, almost I considered, unconditionally, as if my faults didn’t matter as long as I stayed true to what he believed in, to what was real to him.

“Let me do your back,” I said.

The journey didn’t take very long, just enough time to finish the beer. The town of Sitia lurks at the mouth of a five mile bay, the township clinging to the cliffs which sprout as if from the sea. In the distance we could see the colourful dusty reds and whites and greens of the houses stepping down the escarpment towards the fortress and the harbour where the whole pretty mess seemed to spill into the water.

Costas didn’t take us that far. He cut the engine and pointed at the towering massif to the west. Perched at the apex of the steep sloping cliff was a large white building topped by a dome of red. Costas handed James a pair of binoculars.

“That’s Papa K’s place: El Candia. You can access it from the airport road. He forced the planes to take off in a different direction, to keep his house quiet,”

Costas spat over the side of the boat, “If the bastard only knew the noise the rest of us live with.”

James smiled sympathetically. He took the binoculars from his eyes and passed them back to Costas, “What’s that cutting running down the cliff face?”

Costas had a quick look and scoffed, “It’s a stairway. The old man can’t have much use for it now. Looks in a bad way.”

James nodded.

“So there must be a beach,” he stated.

Costas surveyed the cliffs, tracing the route the cutting weaved, “Yes, there must be. Hmmm, yes, there it is. Look.”

Costas pointed. I stared ahead, but couldn’t see. James, who now had the glasses back, was nodding in agreement.

“It’s very small,” continued Costas, “Probably just rocks.”

“I expect so. Can you get us close in?”

“I can; what for?”

“I fancy an afternoon walk. What about you, Amy?”

“Up there?” I answered.

“It’s either that or fishing.”

“You’ve convinced me.”

So Costas took us in closer, until we were about forty or so metres from the base of the cliff. Black rocky mounds, covered in algae, scattered across the shallows.

“This is as close I want to get,” said the Greek, “Can you make it through on your own?”

“I think so,” said James, “A little swim and a paddle; shouldn’t be too troublesome.”

“You’ll need something on your feet.”

Costas dug into the sloop’s locker and produced two pairs of canvas soled deck shoes. We slipped them on. There was also a waterproof bag and James packed in his shirt, my blouse and the water bottle. We stepped out of the boat one at a time. Our feet didn’t touch the bed immediately, but within a few strokes we had made it far enough to stand on the first shelf. The channel between that and the next submerged outcrop was quite wide. It was like standing on a stone reef. A couple of fat angry looking jelly fish caught on the wind and skated past, coming dangerously close to our legs. Once they passed James inspected the little gulf and struck out. I followed in his wake, slightly to the left.

From the second tier it was easier. We waded, waist high and then knee deep. Occasionally the rocks burst sharply through the surface, a charcoal grey obstacle, studded with dead shells, and we used them for support. A few minutes later, wet to the belly, we were standing on the stony beachhead, the first step of the incline in front of us.

For safety, Costas had taken The Aphrodite back from the rocks. He had his fishing rods out again. James didn’t seem particularly worried that our chauffeur was preoccupied. He pulled out the clothes. We slipped the tops on and started the climb at a steady pace.

If anything it was too fast for me and I was out of breath quite quickly, but I didn’t complain. The stairway was hardly wider than a person. It doubled back on itself, using the contours of the incline, and often became a flat track for long stretches, overgrown with grass and weeds. Clumps of Cretan ebony grew with healthy abandon along the paths. Then more steps elevated us to the next strata. There was no hand rail and I clung to the stones to keep my balance if I needed it.

I guess it probably took us forty minutes, but it might have been longer or shorter, I wasn’t keeping track, I simply followed James’ straight back, the wide shoulders, listened as he made remarks about landscape, issued warnings about the way ahead. Once I stumbled and grazed a hand stopping myself falling.

“Steady, Amy,” he cautioned, a little late I thought, “You okay?”

“Uh huh,” I replied, “But please, tell me why we’re doing this again?”

“I want to have a closer look at Papa K’s house. It always helps to get good view of your adversary’s surroundings.”

“Is he your adversary?”

“I’ve no idea, but it can’t hurt to find out can it?”

“I think you’re over reacting,” I panted, trying to catch him, “I know you’ve had a run in with him, but he’s just a father worried about his daughter, isn’t he?”

“He might be, yes,” answered James. We’d almost made it to the top and he pulled short. I stopped too, arms spread in query.

“Except he’s sent his goons to watch over us,” he explained pensively, “I thought I saw one yesterday at the Lake, but I wasn’t sure. Now the same man was on our tail today in Hersonisos.”


“No not him.”

I saw the worry etched on his frown.

James turned and in a second had sprung up the last steps onto the flat summit. I followed, to find him crouched behind a laurel bush. There was a row of several dozen, all fastidious Cretan topiaries, marking the edge of the cliff, the border of the El Candia estate. Looking through the foliage across the gardens, I could see to the farthest extent and make out a low wall behind the bushes.

At a crouch, with me copying, James led us around the perimeter until we were on the shady southern side where we ducked behind the wall. Below us spread a vineyard, the uniform lines of grapevines bursting with thick red and green grapes. In the distance at the foot of the slope was a large arched warehouse, which seemed to disappear into the hill. The roof was emblazoned with the legend, in Greek and English, ‘El Candia: the Soul of Crete’.

“That’d be his wine cellar,” remarked James, “Nice and cool in there I’ll bet.”

“I’ll bet.”

I wiped the perspiration from my brow. The terrain was all rugged stone and earth, but just past the bushes was a wide, sculptured two tiered lawn, at least the size of two football pitches, dotted with huge Cretan palms placed at irregular intervals across the open ground. Just visible in the shade was a stone outhouse, the door propped open. The higher tier was linked to the lower by a water feature which trickled from one fountain pond into another. Ten steps were cut each side of the waterfall. The upper lawn led to a wide stone esplanade, partially shaded by a wood gazebo covered in creeper. At its edge grew bucket after bucket of saffron crocus, large purple veined flowers with bright gold antlers. Other than the palms and the fountains they seemed to be the only decoration. Dotted at intervals between the plants I could see small spotlights angled to illuminate the mansion at night.

A man stood on the patio. He was dressed in whitish trousers and a shirt, quite scruffy looking, and carried two big metal watering cans. He was slowly making his way along the line of buckets, methodically feeding them.

Beyond the surrounding esplanade sat the house itself. It wasn’t at all I expected. The mansion was a long rectangle, very straight, with a central gateway leading onto the terrace. The windows were small squares set high on the walls. The second storey looked like an add-on. This was topped at one end by the rust coloured dome we’d seen from The Aphrodite. Up close I saw it was tiled and no more than a broad pitched roof. The external walls were plastered and painted off white, probably faded with wear. The whole building had the look of a traditional Cretan home, the kastra, only on a massive scale. Inside I expected it to have arched buttresses and elaborate hangings on the walls beneath the windows.

James stayed down and beckoned me to do likewise. I saw his head flit left and right, looking I assumed for cameras. The gardener finished his task and hung about for a few minutes smoking a cigarette, looking out across the estate. He yawned, tossed the butt idly into one of the flower pots, and took the cans with him across to the lawn to where the outbuilding stood. When he disappeared inside, presumably for more water or tools, James sprung to his feet and gestured to me quickly with his head.

I only just got upright by the time he’d sprinted in a low crouch across the first lawn. He was waiting, splayed across the top five stairs. I hesitated. James beckoned urgently. I saw he’d left the waterproof bag, picked it up, took a deep breath and followed him.

I was sweating and not only from the heat. Wasn’t this trespassing? I was exhilarated. I felt guilty, and scared, yet there was also an intense pleasure in invading someone else’s property, setting foot on their land and discovering their secrets.

I threw myself next to James and he indicated I needed to stay quiet. He took my hand. The moment wasn’t lost on either of us. Our eyes met. A cinema moment. I blinked and the moment was gone. James was up and running again, slower this time so I could match him. We ran onto the esplanade and James flattened me against the mansion wall next to the gateway. From the pocket of his speedos he produced his Dunhill lighter. I’d seen it before. Deftly he flipped the side casing and a mirror sprung out, doubling the shiny surface. He held the mirror away from him at an angle so he could see around the corner of the gateway.

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” I asked.

“Perfectly,” he grinned as he inspected the reflected image.

Satisfied, James put away the Dunhill and taking my hand again, we slunk through the entrance into the kastra. The paved courtyard surrounded a cistern well. There was one single door into the main house. The windows on the internal walls were lower and larger. James boldly crossed the courtyard to the well and looked down it.

“Empty,” he whispered, “Probably a folly.”

“This is the folly,” I replied agitated, “I must be mad.”

“No, you’re just adventurous.”

I wanted to kick him. My heart was pounding. I could hear it between my ears. My breath was short. This wasn’t exactly the walk I had in mind. Conversely, James was annoyingly relaxed. It was as if he’d been invited to dinner. Minus the clothes.

James strode to the main door, pushed the handle and opened it. Oh, sweet Jesus! I hurried after him. Behind the door was a hall bisected by a passage, beyond that another courtyard, this one centred on a gently foaming fountain, a statue of Venus, the spray erupting from the shell at her feet. It was shaded by the dome and looked deliciously cool. We passed into it.

The noise of the water alerted me. I suddenly realised how quiet everything was. There was no sound of life, no words spoken, no music, no cooking smells, nothing, simply the rustling water and the occasional hiss of the wind. Siesta, I assumed.

James skirted the courtyard, keeping low. The downstairs rooms all featured tiny verandas with French doors instead of windows. Lace curtains hid the interiors. Some of the doors were open and the netting shifted soundlessly with the breeze. James stopped by what I now realised was the front entrance, a barred iron gate. He peered through the slats.

I waited at the corner of the corridor, twitching. The passage ran along the outside of the kastra. All the doors led to rooms facing the square. It remained deathly silent. My ears seemed alert to the slightest sound. James, unconcerned, was fiddling with the lock on the gate. Dear God, what was he doing now?

What? What was that? I put a hand to my mouth, to stop myself breathing, I guess.

It was a cough. Someone coughed. It was from the passage behind me. I could hear footfalls heading into the hall. I crabbed back around the corner, hugging the wall. The sound had definitely come from the left. I heard someone bustle past, so close I could smell the laurel oil in their hair. It must be a woman. Cautiously I tip-toed back inside. The back of a traditional widow’s costume, all black and complete with a headscarf, was disappearing around the far corner. She was carrying a tray.

Silently, heart jumping, I slipped up the passage and listened. I heard a door opening and closing. I chanced a look. Three doors. Damn! Which one? I desperately wanted to find out, but my nerves failed me and I started to retreat.

I stepped back into the square, and beckoned for James. He was making his way around the opposite wall, peering through the veranda windows. Bent double I headed for him.

“Someone’s in one of those rooms,” I told him, ever so low and pointing, “I saw her.”

“Really?” Surprise didn’t describe his expression, “Good girl, let’s see.”

James covered the distance in a second. He shook his head at the first two rooms. The last set of doors was wide open and the lace curtain fluttered as he approached the veranda. Carefully, James peered through the doors. After a second or two, he crooked a finger and I joined him, just our foreheads and eyes peeking over the parapet. It wasn’t easy to see in, but every second or so, the lace parted and gave us a view of the inside.

The room was very large, but quite spare. It looked like a living room, with three large divan settees and several monumental amphorae placed on the floor about the walls. There was a book cabinet with bowed shelves and dusty books. One wall was covered in sepia photographs, faded colour ones in wood frames, all of different shapes and sizes. The central photograph was the largest, an A2 sized portrait of a man and his young daughter.

Sat in a wheel chair in the middle of the room was the same man, only now he was very old. It was hard to tell, but he only just looked to be breathing. His eyes were closed and his head would have lolled to the side except it was supported by a headrest that held it upright. The fingers of both hands were curled around the arm rests. They were veiny, spidery hands. For a moment I remembered how my father looked after the heart attack; worn out, fit only to expire, a husk waiting for burial. Now, years after the event, I recognised how Dad’s recovery was all the more amazing. This old man wasn’t going to recover from anything.

The widow woman was leaning over him, administering some medicine. The man’s sleeve was rolled up and she was injecting the contents of a syringe into a vein. The tray stood next to her on a side-table. It looked like the sort of thing you got in hospitals, polished spotless and with lots of different compartments for needles, swabs, serums and plasters and things.

The curtains fell back. The woman was talking to the old man. Her voice was light. It had a soothing, relaxing tone, as if she was comforting him. No, it wasn’t like that, it was more like a mother; how a mother talks to her child. He replied with a few croaky words.

The nets waved again and I saw the dumpy woman cross the room to the big photograph. She grasped the bottom edge and pulled. The two halves opened out and revealed something behind the original picture. I couldn’t see it. James had a better angle and I looked at him, imploring. He merely offered an indistinct shake of the head.

I couldn’t understand it. He must have seen it. I wanted to push him aside, curiosity overwhelming me, but I didn’t have time to look any further. The stillness was interrupted by a shout from the widow woman. She’d seen us.

James grabbed my wrist and yanked me towards the iron door. He charged straight through it, the metal clanging as it smacked against the wall.

I suddenly remembered that special key fob he showed me and realised he’d earlier been ensuring we had an easy escape route. Silently I thanked him. James headed towards the cliff top, traversing the lawn back to the row of palms and the laurel bushes.

The scruffy man we’d seen earlier was making his way across the lower lawn. He was shouting as he moved. Someone else appeared from the mansion, dressed in a similar garb, and pointed to us with a long baton, making threatening noises. In his other hand he carried a walkie-talkie, a big old fashioned thing.

The two men moved to intercept us in a pincer movement. For a moment I anticipated trouble, a fight, but James had other ideas and slowed to a walk. The men came closer, spitting Greek expletives.

James put up his hands in surrender.

“I’m sorry; we didn’t know this was private property. There’s no sign.”

“No sign?” the gardener laughed, “[censored] off!”

He reached out and ripped the bag off my shoulder, “You steal, eh?”

“No, that’s ours,” said James as the man rifled through the contents.

The other man was looking at me rather than at James. I sensed the friction in the air. He was weighing up possibilities in his mind. He raised his baton and it touched my cheek. I recoiled from the touch.

“English?” he asked.

“Yes. We’re on holiday.”

I used my Club Med tone, the one that helped me out of difficult situations with good, quick lies. I followed it with another: “I’m sorry. This really is a terrible mistake. We thought the house was empty.”

I must have sounded very efficient or very innocent. I must have been convincing. Or maybe it was my tits. They do have a remarkable ability to deflect men’s anger.

“You know better than this, you stupid English girl,” he said, the baton sliding down my neck to my chest where it stayed for longer than necessary. So it was my tits.

“Get out,” he said, tossing the bag at us, “Before you both get hurt badly, huh?”

Edited by chrisno1, 18 October 2011 - 02:27 PM.

#11 chrisno1



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Posted 21 October 2011 - 11:23 AM


We didn’t waste any time. James was looking rather sheepish. I’m not sure he expected to be rescued by a girl.

“I owe you that one.”

I was already thinking of ways he could repay me.

“Do you think they knew who we were?” I asked instead as we made the descent down the cliff.

“They didn’t seem to. They were quite lazy, weren’t they? I expect it was less hassle to throw us off than interrogate us.”

He reached up to help me over a tricky few steps. “What did you think of that room?”

“That was Papa K, wasn’t it?”


“Well, I don’t know so much, he looked out of it, sedated. The woman was carrying a medicine tray, maybe she drugged him.”

“For medicinal purposes?”

I could tell his mind was running faster than a walk.

“You’re making up theories again, James. Of course it’s for medical reasons. He’s sick isn’t he?”

James didn’t answer. He was turning something over in his mind. “Did you see the pictures on the wall?”

“Yes. And that big one, did you see what was underneath it?”

“It wasn’t clear. Did you notice they were all the same person?”

“His daughter?”

“The room was some sort of memorial.”

“But she isn’t dead,” I countered, “At least as far as we know. She’s still alive, somewhere.”

“Well, let’s leave it for now,” James wasn’t exactly dismissing the visit, but I gathered now wasn’t the time he wanted to talk of it, “Come on, Amy, let’s see if Costas has had any luck with the fish this time.”

He had indeed. When we swam back to The Aphrodite, Costas was sitting in the cabin, pan frying John Dory over the gas ring. He obviously kept cooking utensils for such an occasion. Our return disturbed the chef and he gave us each a hefty scowl as we climbed back into the boat.

“You shouldn’t interrupt a man when he cooks,” complained Costas, “The source of life!”

He left the remark hanging in the air. James dug into my cool bag and passed him the last bottle of Sol. Costas’ expression changed in an instant.

“Ah, more of life!” he declared, cracking the bottle open, “Drink: the greatest treasure, behind love; thank you, my friend. Now let’s eat.”

He drizzled olive oil over the fillets and seasoned them. Even I had to admit they were deliciously tender. We ate outside, drying in the sun.

James cast a glance back at the mansion. There was a different figure standing at the cliff edge, a pair of binoculars fixed to his face. Costas saw him too.

“They’re watching us,” he said.

“Yes, sorry about that,” replied James.

“It’s probably his security man Xenakis. My uncle didn’t like him. He brought in too many outsiders. The old families got side lined.”

“Yes, I’ve met him. He’s certainly not a man to cross. He’s got me marked.”

“That’s not good,” Costas looked at the figure, saw it drop the binoculars and turn away. He chomped on some fish, “Why is he interested in you?”

“Not sure, Costas,” said James, “Amy and I were followed to the harbour, right back at Hersonisos. I expect they’re putting two and two together. I hope we haven’t caused you any trouble.”

“What sort of trouble?”

“I can’t say exactly.”

“Why? What happened up there?”

He hadn’t asked before. Costas, like all Greeks, minded his questions until you brought up the subject. Briefly James told him. When he finished, Costas downed the last of the beer and snorted.

“Well the old man is on his way out. Why shouldn’t he expect a little comfort? He’s getting precious little from his offspring.”

James merely smiled, “Yes, why not?”

A mobile buzzed.

“Oh I forgot,” declared Costas, “That’s been going off for the last hour.”

It was James’ and he scrabbled for it among his trousers. He got it on the last ring and took himself away to the prow of the boat. He was back in a few minutes.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“Our friend at police headquarters; he’s finally been doing some work. I asked him to look into Conrad’s personal bank accounts. Did you know he had debts?”


“We knew in London. Papa K knew. The police however, didn’t even bother to look into his finances.”

“He never looked like he needed money.”

“It was a good front, Amy. Perhaps things were getting out of hand.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Something Papa K mentioned to me. Something about a valuable diamond ring. I wondered if he’d tried to steal it.”

“And has he?”

“It is missing,” he snorted in disgust, “The police do have a report filed on that.”

He craned his neck, stretching, and placed his sunglasses over his eyes, “Costas, when you worked for Papa K, did he have any contact with the police? Are they a corruptible lot?”

“Everyone can be bought, James,” said Costas, shovelling the last of his fish into his mouth, “But there was one man, a dull, unimaginative fellow, I can’t think, Kodes was it?”


“Yes, Kovas, that was it. How did you know?”

He didn’t say, but I knew: Kovas was the officer in charge of Peter’s missing person’s file.

James shrugged and sat back down to eat. While he finished, Costas took up the anchor, put in the outboard and headed us back along the coast.

The return trip was less radiant. I sensed tension. James was reticent. Although he went through the motions, his expression was fixed, his countenance taut. Eventually, I asked what was bothering him and he gave a non-committal reply, turned aside and lit one of many cigarettes. Disappointed, I sat back next to Costas and asked after his family. I knew them of course, from my time working at the bar, and it was good to hear how they fared, how his nephews were playing soccer, the nieces doing well at school, his cousin getting married. It reminded me of the simple things I chose to forget. Family. Friends. Security.

Looking at James’ stern, slightly cruel face, caught again between light and shade, half of it golden, the other black, I saw why Louise thought him ‘scary’.
There was something coiled inside him, a snake, a viper, waiting to unfurl, to strike, to kill. The gun in the wardrobe should have been the biggest hint, but it wasn’t; no, it was here before me now in his closeted world, secretive, shut off, silent and full of tethered violence.

James would struggle to be a friend, or a lover, maybe not even a part-time one. He wasn’t how you wanted a friend or lover to be, he could never be that close. There would always be some part of him cut away from the soft life, from any substantial affection.

What had he said about his last affair? ‘Not anymore’. It was finished. This inert, insensate condition was now all his existence. Yet despite my fear, despite the knowledge of his inner substance, the chill which encompassed him, I was drawn to his world. I wanted to reach out and sooth the tremors which wracked his mind, to turn part of my reality, the part he had seen and wanted, into a part of him, even if only for a moment.

We arrived at Hersonisos by dusk. Already the disco lights were out, the beaches were empty of all but the last lingering sun bathers, and the long nights’ pub crawl was beginning.

James thanked Costas again and promised to visit the bar once more before he returned to London. All the time I saw him looking indirectly at things, searching across around the harbour and then, as we parted, over Costas’ shoulder. He was looking for the tail.

“Amy, let’s call it a day. I need to be fresh for the morning.”

“Why? What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I won’t be in tomorrow, not first thing.”

I got the impression I shouldn’t ask.

He wouldn’t have answered anyway. James was preoccupied. Suddenly, visibly, his expression changed. A frown. A cloud was descending. A bad omen. A portent of some disaster to come. That chill, a suspicion of terror, hung over him. Involuntarily, I started to panic. I was shaking, little bursts of seismic activity, on my hands, my stomach, my tongue. Gagged, I couldn’t speak.

James noticed.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes,” I lied, just.

He smiled and held open the passenger door of the Vitara. He pulled off his Persol’s. I noticed he wasn’t looking at me but at something further down the street.

“Good,” he said urgently, “Because you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. Fasten your seat belt, Amy, nice and tight.”

He shut the door, settled into the driver’s side and started the engine.

“What do you mean?” I asked.


He said it very definitely and with a strange humorous smile etched on his lips. The naturalness of his actions was, like Louise had suggested, like I had sensed on the boat, like I’d seen at the mansion, ‘scary’. And yet I still wanted it. Panic was still rising, but I was also gripped by intense excitement, of anticipation, of discovering something unknown.

James pulled out of the side turning and headed straight along the main drag which led through the town, its bars and restaurants creeping into life. Caught in the traffic, we made slow progress. I kept watching James, watching where he looked and when. His eyes invariably were fixed on the rear mirror. We came to the last junction before the coast road to Malia. The traffic lights were stuck at an obstinate red.

“What are you looking at?”

“Four cars back is a red Hyundai, ugly thing, a hatchback. It’s going to follow us home.”

“Is it? How do you know?”

“I know the man who’s driving it. He’s a fat man; stinks a bit. He’s one of Papa K’s thugs.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked, twisting to see, but failing.

“Well, I won’t make it easy. How fast do you think this thing can go?”

I shrugged. The lights changed.

“Do you want to find out?”

He slammed the Vitara into gear. There was a snap as the hand brake disengaging and the jeep seemed to leap forward. The wheels spun, zipped, screeched and suddenly the air was whistling through me as James tore up the road. I gripped the edge of the seat, felt my spine sink into the leather. I couldn’t see the speedo. I didn’t want to.

James swung out to overtake a slow moving Ford, inched between it and an oncoming lorry. Metal fizzed past me. I shut my eyes. James hardly blinked. He was focussed on the road ahead, his hands, head and feet working as one with the machine, guiding it rather than commanding. James was in control, but he wasn’t a dictator.

We took the next bend at something like eighty, the tyres slipping on the dusty surface. I rolled sideways, almost bumping James’ shoulder. He touched the brake, controlled the slide and stamped down hard on the gas as we exited the turn.

“He’s good,” James shouted over the wind rush, “The bastard’s still there.”

I craned behind me and saw a four-set of headlights in pursuit. The Hyundai wasn’t gaining, but it wasn’t losing ground either.

Another turn. Wider this time. James merely lifted off the accelerator, reducing speed enough to master the curve. The lights of the town had faded. The only illumination came from the death of the day and the headlights that spun towards us. James overtook a stream of traffic, punching his thumb on the horn, hoping they’d pull over. They didn’t. A big saloon was bearing down, veering madly as the driver sensed a head on collision. James braked. The sudden jolt made me squeal. He cut in. No signal. Alarmed, the line of traffic behind us gummed up. I heard a smash as two cars collided. James pulled out again, on the hard shoulder this time, screaming past the train of cars, headed by a big green and white coach, probably carrying youthful tourists to Malia. I could see the drunken faces. Someone mooned as we passed.

Now the highway was clear and James hit sixth, cruising at over a hundred. I was stuck fast. I didn’t know if I was petrified by fear or exhilaration. Minutes seemed like seconds. Time was forgotten as this sudden intoxication flowed through my blood. My heart, as they say, was in my mouth and pumping adrenalin like a machine gun. In a moment I expected it all to end, horribly somewhere, but I didn’t want it to stop.

We got snarled up at Malia: an accident, a scooter rider, probably as pissed as the kids on the bus, hit by a truck. Police were directing cars two-at-a-time past the taped off crime scene. I saw someone covered in blood. Someone else drinking beer from a bottle, laughing. The sight was sickeningly familiar. Club Med, you bastards.

James was agitated, his fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

A new sound behind us made him twist. I looked too. It was a red Hyundai, an Atoz, and a police motorcyclist, lights blazing, was escorting it through the jam.

“Well, well,” was James’ only response.

James spun the wheel and hit a side road, driving steadily along the crumbling uphill street, dirty with litter, overhung with ghostly washing lines and chugging air conditioners. No streetlamps here. The occasional squares of homely orange light flickered on walls, an entrance to the inscrutables of domesticity. We shot past them all, secrets languishing in our exhaust, inconsequential, abandoned. We had no time to care.

A quick left. More twisting streets. More shadows. Dark, unforgiving alleys. This was not a place to be lost. James followed nothing but his nose. A right. Another left. An old woman stepped out. No room to dodge. We missed her by a thread and she wailed indignantly.

The unlit lanes closed in on us. Jagged cobbles rocked us to and fro. There ahead, another car, sidelights only. James exhaled. I heard it, even over the roar of the engine. Once. Twice. Brake hard, crunchingly hard. The Vitara would have spun if it had room. The back end smacked into a front door. The slatted wood splintered. Shouts of anger. Annoyed movement inside. Normal service broken for a painful few seconds.

We’d stopped a metre short. James cursed, hit reverse and, looking over his shoulder, directed the Vitara back down the lane. He spun into the first available turn, hared off again at an insane pace. I couldn’t even tell if the Hyundai was still in pursuit. Then suddenly it was done. The alleys petered out, the hill descended and I could make out the main road snaking away from the town.

As we joined the highway, I gasped. Sitting there waiting was the red Atoz. It was as though the driver knew exactly where we would appear.


James threw the wheel around, took the junction at fifty and was away.

“They’ve tagged us!” shouted James. He was almost laughing, surprised perhaps by the ingenuity of his adversaries, “They’ve bloody tagged us!”

The revelation was like an aggressor. If he’d had spurs he’d have dug them into the Suzuki’s sides. The engine complained as the revs hit 6000, the thermostat, I’m certain, was touching red. James ignored everything but the road. We took the next twenty miles in less than ten minutes. James stuck the jeep resolutely in the central line, the blare of the klaxon echoing if anyone dared block his path. Everything got out of the way.

Just past Neapoli, James headed off the highway. As we approached Drakos, he slowed to a respectable speed. The sleepy village looked to be just that: asleep. Pretty white hostels bordered the road. There was a town square, with a couple of tavernas open, oldsters swigging from glass tumblers.

James pulled to a stop and jumped out. He immediately started to inspect the jeep’s bodywork. The offending article was magnetised and fixed behind the rear fender. He detached the device and tossed it in his hand.

I was surprised how small it was.

“Doesn’t take much these days, Amy,” James said.

As we stood, contemplating the tracking device, we heard the rumble of the approaching Hyundai.

James cast an eye around the square. The villagers sitting at the largest café looked perplexed by the unwanted intrusion. We might have been aliens given their stares.

We chose the second outlet, a small unpretentious taverna. The thin patio outside bore three tables, one of which was occupied by an old couple, bent over drinks and a small dish of kebabs. An arched doorway led into a dim interior. James pulled me straight inside. There were several tables, arranged in no particular order. Each one was covered in a chequered cloth and had as its centrepiece a stained glass candle lantern resembling an upside down bell. Shallow waves of multi-coloured light licked at the walls.

James took a table against the wall. He sat relaxed, almost ridiculing the circumstances, like a gunslinger, facing the entrance and rocking back on the heels of the chair. He placed the GPS tracking device on the table.

I sat down beside him, stiff and upright, my hands under me. I flashed a weak smile, as if to say everything was fine. James knew it wasn’t; not for me. My stomach was turning somersaults. My palms were sweaty. I felt my heart racing, the blood thumped at my temples. It actually seemed to hurt the corners of my eyes. I tried to calm my breathing, but all I could do was take sharp gulps of sticky air, panting like an urgent dog.

The waiter, an old fellow himself, inched towards our table. His eyes avoided looking at James. It was as though he already knew trouble was brewing and that James would be part of it. I knew it too. My apprehension doubled with his, poor man. The waiter silently put down two empty glasses and a half-jug of water. James merely smiled and the nervous man retreated.

When the two goons entered, James blinked once and set the chair gently on all fours. One hand stretched out to the corner of the table, wrinkling the cloth.

One of them was a fat man, perspiring, unshaven, dark, growing half a beard. James seemed to recognise him.

It was to this man James said: “Hello, Zaro, you fat swine.”

[censored] you, Bond.”

The fat man took a chair and landed his body on it with a thud. The whole room shook. The vibrations shot along the floor. Candles flickered. Somewhere some glasses clinked together.

The other man stood behind Zaro. He had a sly facade coupled with an unnerving stillness. Even his eyes didn’t move. I thought of a mongoose before it fights a viper, sizing up the opponent, spying the vulnerable points, scanning the territory, the best moment to strike.

James had noted it also. His head inclined gently from the table to look at the slender, younger figure. Then he turned back to the fat man.

Zaro showed none of his colleague’s caution or awareness. He slapped his flabby hand on the table. Inside it, with one big finger crooked on the trigger, was a heavy grey revolver. The barrel pointed at James’s chest.

“Papa K wants to know everything you do, Bond, everywhere you go,” said Zaro in his thickly accented English, “Don’t make it difficult for us.”

“That’s harassment, Zaro. I’m sure the police would be interested in your activities.”

“No. I was in the police. I still have friends.”

“I wouldn’t count on it. I have bigger friends.”

Zaro laughed. It started as a chuckle, then his whole face seemed to crack and his big mouth opened showing tobacco stained teeth. The rot of years hung over the table and I wrinkled my nose.

“Bond, you don’t know who runs this [censored]ing island, do you?”

Zaro spoke loudly, as if to warn away anyone in close vicinity. The old couple outside looked over their shoulders and returned to their drinks, hunched even lower. The waiter, who had not approached the table once Zaro arrived, retreated even further.

“Papa K wants his daughter back,” continued Zaro, “And he’ll get her. This way or that way. My way.”

Suddenly the viper in James Bond sprung loose.

I’d never seen a man move so fast.

The fingers that held the table cloth ripped it free. James slung his arm over. The water jug, glasses and lantern went hurtling across the floor. Zaro’s gun hand became trapped inside the enveloping bundle.

James hit him on the rise, flush under the jaw. Two more punches followed, each one striking with a loud crack against Zaro’s skull. The fat man toppled backwards, the chair splintering underneath him. As he fell, he dragged the cloth and its contents with him. James stepped around the table, sending one silent irritated message to the slim man.

Zaro’s accomplice had sized up the situation instantly and stepped out of James’s territory. The fat man was still trying to scramble upright. The gun broke free from the bundle of cloth. James trod down on the big revolver. Zaro yelled as the foot crushed his hand, the heel stamping on his exposed fingers. Swiftly, James bent down and swept the gun up. With grim nonchalance, he emptied the cartridge of bullets and tossed the defunct weapon back to the whimpering heavy.

Satisfied James ran a hand through his hair, pushing the flop of his fringe back into place. The whole scene had taken seconds. When he spoke he growled:

“And I don’t have her! You can tell him that!”

The thin man was helping Zaro to his feet. Zaro nodded indistinctly. James stepped forward threateningly and the nod became more pronounced.

“And tell him to call off his dogs or someone will get hurt. Badly hurt. Understood?”

“Yes, yes,” it was the thin man. Together the two ill-matched hoodlums struggled outside. A few moments later I heard the sound of an engine start and the crinkle of gravel as a car turned circle in the street and sped away downhill.

Idly James kicked at the tatty roll of cloth and returned to me.

“Pleasant man,” he muttered indifferently, “Excellent conversationalist.”

The waiter was rooted to the spot at the back of the taverna. James took out his wallet and dropped a few notes on the empty table top.

“For the mess,” he said.

I took his outstretched hand. I was shaking. I feared if I stood, my knees would give way. I’d never experienced such sustained, precise violence. It frightened and appalled me, but it also excited me. It must be the same sensation as people have when they watch two great boxers in the final rounds of a title fight. Shock and awe and fear coupled with an unrelenting, unstoppable thrill.

I squeezed the hand and James Bond lifted me towards him. We bumped into each other and he put his arm around my shoulders. I could smell him. The sea salt smell, a dab of perspiration, the tang of tobacco, but mixed with something unspeakable, unknown and untethered. The intoxicating violent aroma of sexual fantasy.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes, I think so, a little shaky.”

“You’re trembling.”

“No I’m not.”

But I was. He led me outside, past the oldsters, who gave us both a hard inquisitive stare, and into the Vitara. I actually shivered when I sat down.

“It’s okay, Amy, they’ve gone now,” the voice was calm, authorative, reassuring, “Don’t worry, I’ll take you home. It’s been a long day.”

I stretched out a hand and rested it on his arm.

His hand came over and squeezed mine. Then he released it, slid the jeep into gear and we were off on another breakneck drive through the night.

I sat motionless, staring ahead, or switching sideways to check he was still there, that James Bond wasn’t an aberration, some dream I was still imagining. He looked strong and unfazed. The way his hands moved, manipulating the car, teasing it and instructing it, talking softly to it through his fingers and feet. I wanted to be the car. I wanted him to be in control; to control me. At that moment there was nothing I wanted more in my life. Was it a remembrance of childhood fantasy? Not fairies or ballerinas, but princesses and white knights, the hero who rescues the beautiful girl? I was hardly a virgin maid, but I still needed rescuing, though from what or who I couldn’t tell. The thugs were frightening, but it wasn’t from them I wanted to free myself. It was something deeper, hidden inside me. And as I watched James Bond fight my fight I wanted to release that fear into the world and embrace the savage within me.

I don’t remember how it happened, but I kissed him. We were inside my little apartment and it was the most unabashed, sensational kiss I’d ever shared. His mouth felt hot and wet. Our tongues entwined and tore at each other. I went giddy. We stood there arms curling about shoulders, hands ruffling hair, lips melting together, clothes falling to the floor. I knew he wanted me, I remember how he’d watched me that first time we met, how his eyes glittered, how his hands stroked my back this afternoon, how his voice eased my fears, how his smile penetrated my soul, how I wanted to live in his reality. I wasn’t afraid. I was reckless. I wanted him. I told him he could see me naked, to feast his gaze on the body he had won, the prize he would possess, the wild beast he could tame. He looked strong, God-like, perfection, his body was like a hard statue and it was cold and ruthlessly efficient, like a powerful machine. I ran my hands down his torso, felt his heart bump under my palms. His belly rippled under my nails. I reached for him.

And then I awoke and all I remembered was kissing James Bond.

He wasn’t with me when I woke but I was stark naked and lying under a single crumpled sheet. My clothes were in a heap on the floor. There were no signs of love on the bed. I had to pinch myself and I wondered whether it had all been a delirious dream.

#12 chrisno1



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Posted 25 October 2011 - 02:04 PM


The kiss with Amy Porter had, Bond considered, been a step too far. Not in a bad way, but it had confused him. In years past, Bond would have seized the moment and taken her to bed, loved her and then gradually retreated. But after Sylvia, he was reluctant. Perhaps there was much of Sylvia still with him. And Amy Porter shared the same desperation, the same loneliness. Her wariness felt uncomfortably familiar to Bond. He had left her undressing for bed. The passion of the kiss accompanied Bond all the way to his own repose.

He left the Minos Hotel early in the morning. He wanted to catch the old fisherman before the morning rush. He was down at the harbour by eight. The place was still sleepy, but the withered boatman was there, propped up against a post, listening to traditional Greek music on a cracked transistor radio.

Bond squatted beside him. This time he used a smattering of Greek mixed with English to ask questions. The old man was much more responsive than he’d been two days ago. Bond was very clear about where he wanted to go.

“And I want to hire Conrad’s motor boat,” Bond said, “The one he always uses.”

“Okay,” replied the man, “You want for two days, three, for the beautiful girl?”

Bond cut him a quizzical glance.

“No, she’s not coming, it’s just me.”

A disinterested shrug, then the old man showed Bond around the small motor launch. It took fifteen minutes for him to demonstrate the controls. He spent another fifteen indicating various channels and currents on a large nautical map. They shook hands.

Bond didn’t really need the talk, but talking with the old fisherman had reassured him that his hunch, a wild stab in the dark, was more truth than falsehood.
Peter Conrad had not always disappeared with random women he picked up off the beaches. Sometimes there were no women at all. Conrad was embarking on an adventure of an altogether different kind. And Bond’s hunch was that it had something to do with a little off-shore island called Agria.

The motor boat was only a small two seat affair with a low wind shield and a two metre prow. The hull was made of wood on a steel frame, flatter than modern boats, so Bond made the journey slowly, enjoying the morning air and the fresh vivid sun. The gentle toot of the inboard motor hardly broke the peace. Even the basking sea gulls, which floated in small flocks, ignored the little craft as it made past, sending small rocking waves in its wake.

Bond was heading up the coast past the large fortress island of Spinalonga and on towards the Agios Ioannis peninsula, a promontory of land that stuck out a few miles north of Elounda. He swung out around the castle, preferring the open waters to the awkward swirling currents of the inlet. Bond recalled the place had once been used as a leper colony. The grim, dilapidated walls showed testament to a ruinous past.

Bond preferred to look out to sea and think of the beautiful shared hours of yesterday, fishing and laughing with Costas and Amy. The memory of that gorgeous alluring kiss was going to haunt him all day. Bond pushed the memory aside. Soon the coast transformed into more traditional sandy beaches and rocky bays, sometimes capped by a small village with a promenade or a harbour. Early bathers were already lining the beaches with towels and sun-chairs.

The fisherman had given Bond a map and as he reached the spit of land that marked Agios Ioannis, he spun the wheel a few degrees to the east, following the compass points as indicated. He could already see his destination, a low speck of green that sat on the horizon, maybe about ten or twelve miles off shore. The swell was deeper now and the bottom of the boat smacked into the waves and struggled over them. The spray kicked up in arcs and splattered his face and shoulders. Out here Bond started to feel abandoned from mainland Crete. There was nothing close to him, not a ferry, a container ship, another fishing or pleasure boat. It was quiet, lonely, hidden.

Gradually the speck became the island of Agria. Bond thought it resembled a humpback whale, rising at one end to a low rocky outcrop on which the remains of a small Venetian castle were still visible, faded white among forest green. It hadn’t been a big fortification, possibly only a drum tower and a courtyard. The Venetians had devised a whole system of castle defences around Crete and this was without doubt the farthest from the island. As Bond drew closer he saw the straight cliffs cutting into the sea. There was nowhere to land on the near side.

Bond sailed around the horn shaped island. It was almost a mile in length, but very thin, tapering away to a jumble of rocks at the tail end. On the far side the hill ran gently down to the shore and Bond saw two or three possible landing spots. In the end he took the largest bay which was framed by metres of pure golden sand.

Bond pulled the wheel starboard and eased the throttle down as he headed towards the shallows. The little boat ran aground some ten metres shy of the beach. Bond cut the engine and swung out the anchor. It stuck fast the first time. Even so, Bond let the boat drift back a little to ensure it was properly weighed. This was not the place to lose a boat.

Bond took off his shoes, socks and jeans, wrapped them in his shirt and threw the little bundle over his shoulder. Then he hopped into the crystal clear water. He’d drifted back to a metre depth of water and the sea bed was loose under foot. He half swam, half trod his way forward until the ground became firm and he was able to wade shoreward.

The small empty cove with its shallows of cool water was bathed in mid-morning sunshine. The palms and tamarisk trees that lined the beachhead cast a stout arm of shade over the top of the low dunes. Bond could hear the calls and chatter of avocets and wagtails as they nestled hidden among the boughs and branches of the trees. Every now and then one of the birds would strike out, catching an insect on the wing, and then return to the safety of its home. To Bond the forest had a fuzzy concealing gloom. Only the high tips of the cypress trees were exposed to the sun. They emitted a shining verdant glint.

For a moment, Bond thought of Amy Porter, stretched out invitingly on the golden sand, her honey tanned body turned towards him, little droplets of perspiration running down her body, making tiny trails across her tummy and into her cleavage. She wore nothing but her sunglasses. She pulled them off, looked towards him and offered a salacious smile.

Bond paddled along the shore, the image making him grin. Yes, Amy would like it here. His eyes scanned the little crescent of white sand. Occasional gaps among the foliage seemed to offer pathways into the wooded centre of the island. Curious, he thought, why would there be paths on an uninhabited island?

The question had hardly left his mind when he stopped still. The answer stood in front of him, framed by the trees, about twenty metres up the beach.

It was a naked girl.

Bond sucked in a breath.

She was a dark skinned girl, not coloured but deeply tanned, the olive skin of the Greeks mixed with years of exposure to the Mediterranean sun. She wasn’t tall, but she was long legged and slim limbed, with small perfectly rounded breasts and a tiny almost girlish waist. The hair, which Bond thought should have been ebony black, was ash brown and bleached golden by the sun. She displayed none of the coy stance he might have associated with a woman caught nude. There were no crooked knees, no hands protecting modesty. In fact she seemed almost unconcerned by her nakedness, standing feet apart with one hand on her waist, watching him behind the fringe of shoulder length unkempt hair. Slowly she raised a hand to her eyes, shielding them from the sun, and she stared down at Bond, inspecting him.

He couldn’t help but be stirred. There was something intangible, something primitive in her station and movement. Perhaps it was the island, the isolation and the heat. Maybe it was quite simply the sheer erotic thrill of a lovely, lonely Girl Friday waiting, watching, for him. The moment did not seem lost on the girl either. The almost black nipples were hard, sticking out like thumbs from her breasts. Lower down the pencil strip of wispy curls failed to hide the slick engorged lips.

Bond stepped up the beach. Instantly the girl turned and vanished into the undergrowth.

“Hey!” he called, “It’s all right! Don’t run!”

Damn, he cursed and set off after her, dropping the bundle of clothes where he’d stood.

He hurtled through the tree line. Initially he had no idea where to head. The overhanging branches hid the girl’s escape. Bond paused. The lap of the waves behind mingled with the light rustling of leaves, somewhere to his right. It might have been frightened birds. Bond saw a small windy path had been trodden down; flat dried branches lined the route. Instinctively, he took it.

Soon, a little up ahead, Bond saw a flash of treacle skin, skipping through the bushes, the tendrils slapping at the exposed body. Bond ran forward, stopping at a split in the path. He noted the disturbed ground. Sand still spiralled at ankle height where the girl had run. One small misplaced footprint was visible. He took the right fork, heading back parallel with the beach, but further into the thicket.

The track fell in and out of shadow. Bond ducked under an overhanging palm, the huge leaf smacking his face. He pounded between two trunks, one fallen with age, propped against the other. The track ran dry. He stopped. The bird life was noisily flitting away, escaping the sudden commotion. He listened. There was something else: deep breaths. From where?

Bond twisted. There she was. Buried in the undergrowth right beside him, a hand over her mouth, her brown eyes wide, startled. He dived forward, aiming for her waist, but the sheen of her skin was slippery. His fingers and arms caught no firm hold. She wrestled free, his hands grabbing out. He missed and she was off. All Bond had was the memory of the smooth rump of one buttock beneath his palm.

He rolled over, half covered in sand and panting with the effort. It was too hot for this kind of exercise.

There was no track now. He just crashed through the undergrowth, following the signs of her flight. His feet scratched on toughened wiry dune grass, his arms collided with bony branches. The memory of that peachy derriere spurred him. The pursuit became more than a chase. He felt unnaturally possessed, almost angry with his inability to catch her. That she was an extraordinary beauty only served to increase his fury.

He glimpsed her twice more. She ran like a deer, smooth and fast, her toned backside skipping and jumping through the emerald flora. Both times he thought he was catching up, but she remained tantalisingly out of reach. He was running up hill now, towards the rocky promontory. He hit a path, saw the footfalls and took it. The trail started to spiral as it climbed the shallow side of the cliff.

Unexpectedly the track levelled off and Bond saw the naked body again, only a few metres away, sprinting across a little clearing towards the tree line. The leafy green shield seemed to eat up the beautiful bare back and the girl was gone.

Bond slowed as he entered the close. It was the end of the path. Gently he approached the place where the girl had disappeared moving the undergrowth aside with his arms. Behind the curtain of tendrils was the entrance to a stone hut, enlarged by the removal of most of the front brickwork. He stepped inside the doorway.

The girl flung herself at him, a small sharp knife in her hand.

Bond stood his ground and caught the wrist effortlessly, twisting it so the fingers opened and the weapon dropped. He tried to grab the other hand, but missed. Instead the girl gave a feminine grunt and swung her tiny fist at him. It collided with the side of his head. Surprised more than stunned, Bond let her go and the girl pushed past him, knocking him off balance. He fell backwards, but a flailing foot caught hers and the girl pitched forward through the curtain and onto the sand.

Bond was on her in a flash. She struggled, half spinning, her hands scrabbling at his face, her knees aiming for his groin, teeth spitting venom. They crawled into the clearing, Bond clinging to her, the girl trying to wrestle free. Bond fought to control the wild animal under him. Finally she was on her back and his whole weight was above her. Spread eagled, she was trapped, but still she tried to throw him off.

She clawed at him, pushed him, tried to slap him, bite him, anything to break away. Bond was ruthless. He pressed down, catching a forearm. His hand encircled the limb. She was as slender as a fawn.

“Stop it, you stupid bitch!” he yelled.

She was panting. Her breasts heaved with the effort. Her skin was slippery with sweat. Her legs, forced apart beneath him, had assumed a position of powerful earthy carnality. The mouth, with its full shaking lips looked wet, open, inviting.

Bond kissed the mouth, hard.

She breathed heavily under him, still fighting. When Bond broke the kiss, she twisted her head away. He brought his left hand up behind her head, grabbing at the locks of hair, holding the girl straight. He kissed her again, forcing her lips apart, forcing his tongue between them and exploring her own mouth with his tough wet muscle.

The girl stiffened, as if some unexpected horror had occurred. A few hesitant seconds later and her muscles relented against what appalled her, as if she’d discovered a fascinating treasure, a thing of beauty, something which intrigued and excited her. Slowly, the body softened. The struggles subsided. The girl’s knees came up, surrounding him. Avariciously, unable to hinder himself, Bond reached for the hard pointy nipples and squeezed at the full, taut flesh of her bosom. He’d never experienced such sudden over whelming desire. The girl too seemed caught in a wild, instinctive surge, an almost brutish erotica. Urgently, she fought for his clothes, unzipping the shorts, pulling them down. She didn’t resist any more. When Bond entered her she cried out and her arms circled his shoulders and pulled him towards her glistening hot mouth.

After wards, they lay still, Bond resting on her, his breathing shallow, his body exhausted, spent. The girl trembled under him. Not in fear, or in chill, but with the full memory of the unfettered passion they had just experienced.

Bond rolled off the girl and studied the line of her face. Now he had time to look at her properly, he knew where he’d seen that profile before.

“You’re Magdalini Kiriakopoulos.”

“Yes,” she said it matter-of-factly and in clear English, “You’d better tell me who you are, especially now we’ve...”

“Bond. James Bond. I’m sort of working for your father.”

“Sort of?”

“Not at all really. Although I have met him and he is worried about you.”

“Let him be.”

The girl sat up. She shook her head to loosen the grains of sand caught in the clammy hair. For a moment it enveloped her face and from behind the fringe she eyed Bond up, the whole length of him, before brushing it clear.

“What exactly are you doing here, Magdalini? Hiding from the newspapers?”

The girl laughed. It had a deep, attractive, throaty tone. “No, my father obviously didn’t tell you very much about me.”

“He told me you’ve been married twice and squandered everything he’s given you.”

“Short and sweet,” her Greek accent finally came to the fore with the English euphemism, “No, didn’t he tell you I’ve been kidnapped?”

Bond looked around the surroundings, half expecting someone to appear from the undergrowth holding a gun.

“No, he didn’t. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Are you here to rescue me?”

“If you want to be rescued.”

The girl rocked off her haunches and walked gingerly towards the covered doorway of the hut. “Maybe not yet. Do you want some coffee?”

Bond picked up his discarded shorts and shook the sand free. Stepping into them, he replied: “Coffee would be good.”

The girl was making it anyway, spooning granules into a camp kettle and topping it up with cold water from a large sealed water butt that sat in the corner of the room. It was a functional space that had once been a food store or sentry post for the castle, but now the trees had claimed it. It was refreshingly cool. Tarpaulins lined the ground. Sleeping bags and provisions were arranged neatly around the edges. There was even a camp stove and three large gas canisters. Bond pondered what he had just uncovered. This girl didn’t look as if she was kidnapped.

The girl didn’t bother to dress and Bond saw no sign of her wardrobe. Perhaps it was still packed in the one rucksack which lay beside the far wall.

He sat down and watched her as she busied herself around the tiny stove. He turned down sugar. The coffee was remarkably good.

“How long have you been here?” he asked.

“Two weeks,” replied the girl, “I was expecting someone else. You were quite a surprise.”

“Not in a bad way, I hope?”

She offered a thin smile, “No.”

“Two weeks ago a man called Peter Conrad disappeared,” suggested Bond, “I came to Crete to find out what happened to him. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you, Magdalini?”

“My friends call me Lini,” the girl said, by way of an answer.

“Was Peter Conrad your friend, Lini?” replied Bond, ignoring her attempt to avoid the question.

“We were going to go into business together.”

“Ah, yes, a luxury holiday resort; on this island, if I’m not mistaken,” Bond looked around, “The accommodation seems a bit rough.”

The girl shrugged. She sipped her coffee, sitting with her feet and legs together, the knees raised up so she could hug them. From where Bond sat she had obscured from his view all of her intimate places. He found the modest position at odds with the virulent love she had just made.

“Why didn’t the scheme take off?” he asked, “Your father told me there’s a preservation order on it or something. I can’t see why you’d want to preserve this dilapidated old ruin.”

“It wasn’t to do with the castle,” the girl sighed, “Conrad always knew he’d struggle to get anything built here.”

“What then?”

“This is one of the few safe havens for the loggerhead turtle,” explained Lini, “They come here all through the breeding season to lay eggs. Back on the main island the poor creatures still try to lay their eggs where the tourists roam. If they aren’t scared to death themselves, their young are. After they hatch, the babies get confused by the light and the noise and end up crawling around in circles until they die. Keeping Agria free of tourists is designed to help maintain their numbers.”

“Very admirable,” Bond finished the coffee, “But that doesn’t explain why Conrad asked your father for one million Euros or why you’ve been incarcerated here.”

“Like I said, it isn’t to do with the resort,” Lini took a deep breath, contemplating her next words. Her eyes switched up to Bond. For a moment he thought the big green oval pools were going to weep, but she blinked back the emotion.

“It’s to do with the money. I’m in a lot of trouble, James. I can call you, James, can’t I?”

“You needed the money?” Bond almost didn’t believe her, “But you’re an heiress; you’re worth millions.”

“That’s what you read in the papers. But it isn’t true. It’s terrible I know, but I waste it, James. Like you said, I squandered everything Papa gave me and now I need to get it back, not just one million Euros, you understand. This is to do with one hundred and fifty seven million Euros.”

“Christ! That’s a heck of a ransom.”

“Yes,” Lini corrected herself, “Well, sort of. Oh, God, where do I start?”

Her voice cracked. Finally a single tear trickled out of the corner of one eye and she buried her head in her arms.

Suddenly Bond felt very protective of Lini Kiriakopoulos. The small frame of the lonely girl trembled with tiny sobs. This wasn’t solely a financial affair, he concluded, it was one of the heart. People didn’t react like this unless it was something personal, some tragedy or trauma.

Bond knelt over her and placed his hand on the back of her head, smoothing the ragged hair, stroking her neck. “Don’t worry, Lini, I’m not here to make things any worse for you. I can help you, if you’ll let me. Nothing’s ever as bad as it seems.”

“But this is, James, it’s terrible. And it’s my fault.”

“Tell me about it,” he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“You really want to know?”

“Peter Conrad wanted to know. You told him, didn’t you?”

“Yes. But he turned on me. I shouldn’t have trusted him. I should have listened to Spiros.”

“Spiros Xenakis? What’s he got to do with all this?”

Slowly Lini raised her head. Her beautiful face was a few inches from Bond’s. The lips were salty with her tears. She licked them clean. The look was searching, teasing, offering to be investigated further. Bond calmly sat back, his hand finally leaving the warm shoulder, temptation resisted.

“I was in love with Spiros Xenakis. Once,” Lini said plainly, “It was a foolish, childish thing to do. I was only just becoming an adult when my father first employed him. Spiros was the first young man my father had ever employed. I was a sheltered girl, remember. My mother had died a year or so before and I was being educated at home, hardly leaving the walls of El Candia. I was Papa’s little angel. He wasn’t a kind Papa. He showed me some kindness, what he called it anyway, but it wasn’t pleasant. After a while you get to ignore the bad times don’t you?

“Anyway, Spiros impressed me. Young, good looking, tall, and he had authority, a strong voice, a strong mind. I guess I wanted that in a man, a father figure, perhaps. It’s hard to think of it now; I was confused, all those hormones,” she gave a little laugh, “I was merciless, James. I teased him, flirted with him, hunted him down until he gave in. He couldn’t resist and one evening he took me, in my bed, in my father’s mansion, while Papa slept three rooms away. Of course I couldn’t tell, after all, I didn’t want to marry Spiros. That wasn’t what I’d used him for. Papa’s little angel was turning into a devil. It was fun for a time. Sneaking around the house, finding different places to do it, pretending to go shopping and then making love on the beach or in the car. Only it wasn’t love, James, but sex. And then after a while, I bored of it. I told Spiros I had no further use for him. He didn’t like that. So we started to fight. I’d only ever fought with Papa before. I didn’t think I’d have to fight with any other man, but I was wrong. I tried to make him jealous. I took other lovers. I ignored him. It was all useless. I might have been a schoolgirl, but I was still a spoilt little heiress, don’t forget, used to getting everything she wants. So in the end I ran away.

“The first time Spiros caught up with me at Iraklion airport, but the second time I planned it better. I waited until the summer, then I seduced one of the gardeners and he created a diversion by setting fire to one of the garages. I flew to Athens and then to Spain, where a friend’s family were on holiday in Cordoba. It was there I met Francisco. I was suddenly madly in love. It was bliss, James. I really was in love. But I’d been indiscreet and my picture got in a paper, got onto the internet: ‘Young heiress with bullfighter!’ Spiros came for me. Of course I’d lied to Francisco about my age. He escaped prison because Spiros insisted I would return to Crete. I did return. But I paid a heavy price.

“Spiros had decided it wasn’t worth us fighting. He explained he only ever wanted me for my money. So, he devised a plan to prevent any embarrassment to my father and to ensure he had a stake in the future of Papa’s company. In exchange for his silence, I would sign over all my inheritance rights to Papa K Incorporated.”

“Good God, Lini, that’s extortion. Why couldn’t your father help you? I’ve spoken to him, he’s already well aware of your indiscretions.”

“I’m sorry, James, I didn’t explain. I should have said: Spiros Xenakis is a bastard son.”

The words hung in the air.

“Papa K’s son,” murmured Bond, almost under his breath.

“Yes,” the golden head fell again and the crying started, “How could I have been so stupid, so ignorant? And now I was in a living hell. Or something like it.”

“What happened then, Lini? You agreed, I suppose?”

“I had to. But then I couldn’t stand to live here, so at the first chance I could I escaped. But I didn’t have money, James. Papa is exceedingly wealthy, but I am not. Everything is in trusts and shares and dividends. I don’t earn any money. It’s given to me. Everything has been given to me. Everything I ever wanted.”

Lini wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. Despite himself, Bond stretched out an arm and placed it about her shoulders. Her head rested on his chest and she continued to talk, explaining how she’d first decided to drink herself to death and when that failed experimented with drugs, in case they were easier. She learnt she didn’t have the courage to kill herself. Of course initially she had funds, but when that started to run dry, she married and divorced to pay her debts. When people gave her expensive gifts, she pawned them on the black market, even her own mother’s jewellery was secretly sold off. She had become nothing less than a whore. Finally, desperate and lonely, she decided to return home to Papa.

“I wanted to tell him, I really did. But I couldn’t. And every day Spiros Xenakis was leering over me. Instead we made an arrangement, something to keep me at El Candia.”

“A stake in the business; yes, he told me.”

The girl gave him a curious lop-sided look.

“Something like that,” she said slowly, “Anyway that’s when I met Peter Conrad. He was at one of Papa’s social events. He started talking about this mad scheme, a holiday resort with a five star hotel, spa and restaurant. At first I thought he was a rich man; he certainly talked like one. And he was good looking, that helped, but there was something about him I liked immediately. Perhaps it was because he was English. Reliable, like a gentleman, you understand? Well, he wasn’t much of a gentleman when it came to seduction, but I didn’t mind that, after all I’ve had lots of men, remember? We started going out and I quickly discovered he wasn’t rich. I was surprised to find I didn’t care. In fact I saw it as a challenge, an opportunity to prove to myself I could be independent, I could put away the past. Maybe if I helped him, I could achieve something which meant I didn’t need the money from Papa’s company. So we came out here, lots of times; always in that boat, the one you came in, that’s why I wasn’t dressed when you arrived. I thought you were him.”

“What were you doing here?”

“Survey work. You know he trained as an architect for four years before joining the consul?”

“Yes, I knew that.”

“Any way Peter was fun to be around, but even though I was trying, he could see, in the quiet moments you know, that I wasn’t having much fun. That’s when I finally told him of my troubles. He said I should tell my father, but I simply couldn’t. Papa’s a dying man, James, and even though I know he loves me, well, I couldn’t. It might finish him.”

“What did you do?”

“I persuaded Peter it would be better to forget it, for us to move on and finish this project together. I felt it bonded us. The thing was the lease for the island was tremendously expensive: one Euro shy of a million. Peter pulled out all the documents for the Agria business plan and said he’d make my father proud by submitting our proposal to him, to persuade him it was a bona fide investment, a good investment for him and for his daughter. I was sceptical, but Peter was adamant we’d do it together. He thought if I was there, showing an interest, a head for business and commerce, Papa might be swayed. And, you know, by the time Peter finished talking, I really thought it would work. I was overjoyed and I remember sleeping next to him that night and finally feeling secure. Then my world fell in.”

The girl wiped away another tear.

“I don’t understand,” said Bond quietly, “It wouldn’t have worked anyway. You said Conrad knew about the turtles.”

“Yes. It was all a ruse to get money from Papa. When we made the proposal, Spiros was there and he shot the plan to pieces. I was so humiliated. I swore and shouted at Peter, right in front of Papa. Later we had a fight, a big one, a proper one, but then Peter told me he had an even better plan, one that would solve my problems forever. He’d kidnap me. And offer a ransom. Not to Papa, but to Spiros.”

“I bet Spiros didn’t like that.”

“I’m sure he didn’t, after all it’s his reputation, his position with Papa he’s protecting now. Papa dotes on his advice, James, not always just business, but about personal things too. There is a bond between them, you understand, a father and a son – even if they never talk of it.”

“Whose idea was it to bring you out here?”

Lini laughed, a short stifled chuckle, “That was mine. Agria is so remote I always thought it would be a great place if someone wanted to be left alone. You can’t even get a mobile signal. I was right too; you’re the first person to visit since I’ve been here.”

Bond ran a hand through his hair, mulling over the story, “So let me get this straight: you deliberately allowed yourself to be kidnapped to try and retain your inheritance. Conrad helped you but now he’s disappeared and you’ve been abandoned here. By everybody it seems.”

“It wasn’t meant to be more than a week. I don’t know what’s happened to Peter.”

“Neither do I, but I’ve met a few people recently who don’t have a very high regard for Peter Conrad. He doesn’t strike me as the most reliable of people. What makes you think Xenakis hasn’t offered him a bribe to leave you here?”

After a stunned pause there was genuine fright in her voice, “Oh God! You don’t think? Oh God, no! But I thought you were him! I thought it was all over!”

“I’m afraid not. But like I said, I am here and I can help you,” Bond gently eased the girl away from him and stood up, “I think it’s time you went home, Lini.”

Her eyes widened, fearful, “Oh, no, James, I couldn’t go home, not now.”

The head buried itself again. Bond thought, despite everything he now knew about Lini Kiriakopoulos, that she still seemed like a little girl lost in a big man’s world.

“Look, Papa K’s deceived you for years about your brother, Xenakis has betrayed you and blackmailed you, and now I expect Conrad’s done the same,” stated Bond,
“I’m sorry to say, Lini, but I’m deeply sceptical about all of this. You may still be in trouble, but I think you’re much the innocent party. You might stand a hope of resolving it if you speak to the proper authorities. I work for the British Government. I’m sure we have legal experts who can advise you. I promise. But sitting here isn’t going to solve anything, is it?”

There was a gentle shake of the head.

“Come on, Lini; pack up your clothes and any valuables. There’s plenty of room in my motor boat. We can pick up any other stuff later.”

There was a resigned sigh. Slowly the heiress started to rise. When she was upright, Lini leaned forward and upward and kissed Bond quickly on the mouth.

“Thank you, James.”

“Don’t forget to put some clothes on,” said Bond and gave her backside a playful pat before she turned away.

He left her to it and went outside into the sunshine. He was still puzzled. A spider’s web of intrigue surrounded the poor girl, but it hadn’t got him closer to Conrad’s disappearance. Something wasn’t adding up between the two stories. Papa K clearly stated Conrad had run off with the money. If that was the case, one million Euros must be in a bank account under Conrad’s name somewhere, yet the Investigating Officer at Iraklion had definitely stated Conrad was in debt. The cheque clearly hadn’t been cashed. Papa K would know that. On the other hand, if the money had never been offered, as Lini stated, then why did Papa K pretend otherwise?

Perhaps Xenakis had fingered Conrad as the kidnapper. Was this a down payment of some kind? ‘One million Euros and you disappear’ Bond could almost hear Xenakis saying it. Yet the old man had never mentioned a kidnapping. He either didn’t know, or he wasn’t letting on. And why was Xenakis taking so long to find one man? He’d trashed Conrad’s apartment to search for something, and it wasn’t an expensive ring because Lini had pawned all her mother’s jewellery. A cheque perhaps, thought Bond. Whatever it was, none of the pieces of the jigsaw wanted to fit.

Bond pushed the thoughts aside for a moment and waited for Lini to reappear. She’d put on a cotton shirt, tied in a bow under her bosom, and denims, the belt pulled so tight her waist looked tiny and her hips wide. A baseball cap sat on her head, the hair pushed back through the strap in a ponytail. She carried the small rucksack. Bond offered to take the bag, but she declined.

“You’d better lead the way, Lini. I don’t want to get us lost.”

“You can’t really get lost. It’s a small island.”

“All the same...”

They walked back along the trail. At one point Lini took a different fork and they eventually stepped onto the beachhead closer to where Bond had anchored his boat. He fetched his own bundle of clothes.

“It’s a bit of a wade, I’m afraid. I’ll bring the boat in closer for you.”

Lini said nothing and Bond made his way back to the motor launch. He hefted the anchor and brought the craft as close to the shore as he could. Lini splashed towards him. She tossed the bag and Bond’s clothes into the cockpit and reached out a hand. Bond assisted her on board. Her jeans were soaked but she appeared unconcerned.

The journey back was hot. It was past midday and the sun was at the height of its arc. Bond had slipped his shirt back on to protect his back. His sunglasses were in the top pocket and he dug them out too. Lini shaded her face, even under the hat.

“Who did you say you work for again?” she asked curtly, taking Bond by surprise.

“The same firm as Peter Conrad. We’re part of the British Foreign Office. I’m a sort of trouble shooter, an auditor, an investigator, whatever you want to call me.”

“What if I called you a policeman?”

“No, that definitely doesn’t apply.”

“Is helping damsels in distress part of your job description?”

“Not usually, Lini, but it has been known,” Bond gave her a mild grin. Behind the tinted lenses his eyes searched her face, gauging her reactions, her feelings. It was impossible. Her face was like marble. The crying, sobbing girl was gone and had been replaced by a stone cut facade. It reminded him of the fighting animal who had spat and clawed to escape his clutches. The transformation was spooky. It was as if two persons inhabited the same body.

“Listen,” he began gently, “I’m sorry about earlier, Lini. I shouldn’t have taken advantage. It was poor form.”

“Don’t be sorry, James,” she replied, “I’ve had a lot worse. If you get me out of this mess, you’re forgiven forever.”

“What if I can’t help you?”

“Then we both have a memory. Good or bad, it’s only a memory now.”

Bond looked at the heiress, reclined on the seat next to him, soaking up the sun and the spray, bathing in the heat. She really did look like memories were all that mattered to her now. She seemed to have left all her humanity on the little island.

Bond’s mobile was also in the bundle of clothes. As they neared the coastline, it chimed. He’d got messages. Amy Porter had tried to contact him. It was a discreet text, simply asking where he was. Bond rang the office and the girl answered. As soon as she recognised his voice, she turned breathless.

“Where have you been, James?”

“Listen, Amy, I want you to meet me at the harbour point in about thirty minutes. I’ve got a very special job for you. I need you to look after something for me.”

#13 chrisno1



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Posted 29 October 2011 - 10:07 AM


I watched as the little motor launch sidled up to the quay.

James helped the old man fix the ropes. I was more interested in the blonde woman who sat in the boat. I recognised her, of course I did, but I also recognised her manner, the way she watched James, the way she reacted when he spoke to her. I knew the signs.

My stomach heaved.

Wait for it, Amy, I told myself. You don’t know her, but you know James. Have a little faith. But it was falling rapidly. There was something between them, the unspoken tie, the notion of intimacy, said in no words or signals bar the semblance of a smile. It told me too much and I was hurt.

He held out his hand for Magdalini Kiriakopoulos and the heiress stepped onto the boardwalk.

They walked briskly towards me. I was rooted to the spot, my backside propped against the wooden ‘Boat for Hire’ sign.

James gave his widest smile, “Amy, this is...”

“I know who this is.”

My reply was too sharp. James caught it and inclined his head a little. The heiress eased past him, her hand held out in greeting. It was the hand that carried her rucksack. Automatically I took it. I was her servant already.

“Magdalini Kiriakopoulos,” she said, “My friends call me Lini.”


“I think we have met.”

I didn’t want to tell her we had shared the same lover, at different times. I looked at James. And perhaps more than once, I wondered.

“Not exactly,” I replied.

“You’re a friend of Peter Conrad’s aren’t you? I remember you,” Lini was nothing if not insistent, “From that sweet little bar.”


“Yes; that’s right.”

Lini turned back to James, “Is this the sort of help you promised?”

The haughty tone seemed to surprise him. James offered an uneasy smile, “Amy is a very capable friend. She’s here to take you somewhere safe while I organise everything else.”

I noted he didn’t explain what he was going to organise.

“Only a friend?” enquired Lini, mischievously. She hooked her arm under James’s, pressing against him, “Not as capable as some, I hope?”

James physically removed himself from her attachment. He looked slightly embarrassed, as if her attentions, the sudden rise of her minx, shook him. Frankly it was a pretty barefaced move. It told me much. The bitch couldn’t have been more obvious if she’d winked and kissed him. Instead she turned her attention back to me. There was coldness in her expression, darkness, like Cassandra Danby’s jealous eyes. Seeing it made me tumble.

In that single moment the pit opened up: shock, anger, realisation, bitterness, rejection, resentment. I fell into it.

James couldn’t explain. I couldn’t ask. There wasn’t time.

I don’t know if he noticed. I tried to cover up, to be the professional girl, but this was hurtful. It felt like Ben, like Antony, like Peter, all over. It felt as if all my hopes, my dreams, the future I’d built up after a few days and a kiss, had been shattered. This wasn’t what I’d expected when I’d decided to allow James into my reality, the world he said he wanted.

As he freed himself from her arm, I recovered my composure. He’s a man, Amy, remember? You told yourself that when you first met him. He’s just a man with all a man’s foibles, his pride and his transgressions. They’re the same the world over. It didn’t help.

I’d spent most of the day completely flustered. I wasn’t pining, but I did miss him, and the memories of how close I had come, not only last night, but the day before and the day before that, recurred in my mind over and over, so much I even answered the phone ‘James’ by accident and swore at myself. I was being such a baby. This was not the independent Amy Porter I wanted to be. Sort it out girl, I told myself.

“What do you need me to do?” I asked.

“Take Lini to your flat.”

James was all business-like. That was good at least.

“I don’t think anyone will look for her there,” he continued, “Then I want you to go to the office and contact Mark Gerrard. Scramble it. We need a good lawyer out here fast.”

“Why? What’s going on?”

“Lini might tell you; if you want to hear it.”

“She probably won’t,” interjected the heiress.

I could taste the antipathy in the air. The hairs on my neck were sprouting, like a frightened cat’s. James got it too. So did the wrinkly old man who cast an inquisitive stare in our direction. It was time to be off. James took both our arms and promenaded us up the quayside towards my Skoda.

“What are you going to do?” asked the heiress.

“I’m going to Conrad’s apartment,” James explained, “There’s something I need to check out. Then I’m making an appointment with Papa Kiriakopoulos.”

He paused, for effect, “Don’t argue, either of you, just do as I say and do it quickly.”

He made some commiserative remark as Lini took up her seat, inspecting the unglamourous plastic surrounds. I ignored it. I didn’t watch him go.

Annoyed, I thrust the Skoda into first and headed towards my apartment. The heiress was silent.

Eventually, when I was only a street away, she said: “Nice car. It suits you.”

I have no idea what she meant, but I didn’t like it. Could I really have this woman in my flat? I pictured her touching everything, judging me by my possessions, polluting the atmosphere of my little home. I didn’t want that. On an impulse, I drove past my turn and headed for the coastal road. My mobile was in the hands-free holster. I stabbed at the touch screen.

Costas answered after about nine rings.

“Amy,” he sounded pleased, and sober, which was probably a good thing, “Again, so soon?”

“Yes, listen, Costas, I need a big favour.”

“How big is big?”

“Magdalini Kiriakopoulos.”

“Ah, very big,” he chuckled, “What of her?”

“I need somewhere for her to stay, maybe until tomorrow, somewhere safe: your place.”

There was a long considerate pause.

“She’s with you?”


“Why don’t you take her to the police?”

I knew Costas didn’t like her. But he was my only hope. Regretfully, I thought perhaps I should have phoned Sue instead.

“James and I are being watched, remember?”

A long loud sigh preceded a rather jovial exclamation, “Gods and bollocks, why not? Perhaps I’ll be able to tame the wild one.”

I saw the heiress start. Her whole body seemed to flinch.

“Who the hell is that?” she asked.

“Is she there?” Costas continued, “Did she hear me? Ha! I always knew this day would come!”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Costas,” I shouted, “I want you to look after her properly. I’ll be there in twenty five minutes.”

I exited the call before Costas’ ego could flood the car any more. The man was insufferable.

“Don’t take any notice,” I said, hardly politely, “Costas is a bit boisterous sometimes.”

“Costas,” said Lini quietly, “Oh yes, I remember, he owns that beach bar in Hersonisos; horrible place.”

“Well, it’s the only place for you at the moment.”

“I suppose anything’s better than where I’ve been.”

“Where exactly have you been?”


“The island? I thought that was uninhabited.”

“It is. I was abandoned there, by your friend Peter Conrad.”

“I thought he was your friend too.”

“He’s not the best friend a girl could have.”

“So you found out?” I said sharply and regretted it. Lini had sounded, just for a moment, as if her world was as desolate as mine. Peter Conrad did that to girls. Blue eyes, you see.


That didn’t tell me much, so I told her that Peter had a little book of addresses, of conquests and future campaigns. For a while I thought her expression softened then it settled back into her superior mask, a hard, icy stare.

“Do you think he loved me?” she asked stonily.

“I’m not sure he’s ever loved anybody.”


“I’m sorry.”

And I was. Kindred spirits, you see, even if James was sitting on the horizon.

“No, it’s all right. He’s let me down over other things too. Peter Conrad is not a gentleman. I should have seen it. After all I’ve had my share of scoundrels.”

A long pause accompanied by a sly sideways glance.

“Is James a scoundrel?”

Damn. That was it. I knew it. I felt the ire burning. Calm down, Amy, pretend she’s a bitch Brummie on a Club Med holiday and she’s pissed; she’ll say anything, remember.

“No,” I replied slowly, “But he isn’t someone a girl should get involved with.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s lonely and that hurts a man. He hasn’t learnt to give.”

The heiress switched to staring out of the window. A deep, polite laugh rose in her throat, “The common fault of a libertine.”

“I didn’t say he was like that. He takes his relationships seriously. That’s why he has so few real friends. He can’t unlock what’s inside.”

“You sound very wise. You’re wasted working for Peter Conrad.”

“We’ve both been wasted by him, Lini.”

The heiress didn’t say anything else for the trip. We sat with solitude surrounding us; me in my world and she in hers. I’d like to think our shared disappointment bound us, but it wasn’t like that. Lini wasn’t interested in me. In fact she didn’t seem interested in anything. I tentatively started to ask questions, but she shook her head and turned away, watching her world pass by outside. It became an awkward journey. The longer I sat with her, the more uncomfortable I became. Costas’ couldn’t arrive fast enough.

It was a first floor apartment on the outskirts of the old town, looking down the hill at the sprawling mess of life below. We took the back stairs.

“Welcome, Miss Kiriakopoulos,” he greeted with a flourish. His eyes followed her as she breezed by him. When they alighted on me, I could read the unspoken query.

It was a big two room place with a balconette. Lini looked around it, smelt the ever present aroma of oranges and plunked herself into the big settee without reply.

“I expect you might want to freshen up,” I suggested, handing her the rucksack.

“That is good,” agreed Costas, “We have a shower. It is quite comfortable here. I have fresh towels.”

“Yes, in a minute.”

I don’t think mentioning fresh towels helped. The place had a slightly musty look about it; always had.

“Too many years without love,” Sue had said sadly, “It needs a child to change it.”

She broke open oranges to quell the garlic scent and the summer sweat, a traditional Cretan potpourri. Lini would have noticed. I saw her nose wrinkle.

“Don’t try too hard, Costas,” I murmured.

Costas had been watching the lithe blonde arrange herself on the cushions. Lini crossed her legs into the lotus position and sat back, hands in her lap, the rucksack abandoned at her feet. I thought she resembled an albino frog about to croak, wiped the idea away unless I laughed, and tapped Costas on the arm. With some difficulty he switched his attention to me.

“I need to get back to the office and contact Athens.”

“Can’t you do that from here?”

“Secure line,” I stated. Now he’d met her, Costas bravado seemed to have quelled. “Will you be all right?”

“You ask me?” he was incredulous. The question hurt his pride. “What do you think I’m going to do?”

“God knows,” I said, “Why don’t you cook some food and get her a drink. Turn on the charm. The poor girl’s been on a desert island for two weeks.”

“She looks unhappy.”

“Or lost,” I added, heading for the door, “I’ll be back, Costas, don’t panic.”

I heard him grumble as I shut the door.

I skipped down the stairway. The little scene in the apartment bothered me. Not for Costas, who would bluster through anything, but for Lini. The girl had the confidence I’d seen at the harbour, but the animation was missing. This was a woman who had been separated from friends and family for two weeks, who should have been traumatised by her ordeal, but she was remarkably composed, almost as though she expected and understood everything that was happening. This wasn’t the behaviour I imagined. Hysteria would have been upsetting, but acceptable. Her fortitude was distinctly unsettling.

It was still the afternoon. The traffic was thin as I drove the twenty five miles back to Agios Nikolas. I decided to tell James how I’d changed his plan. It would probably be best if I did, but first I needed to speak to Mark Gerrard. That would be the tougher conversation.

The sun was eking its way to the horizon as I parked up just past the Consul Office. I fished for my keys and walked up the street.

Just occasionally, we all have a premonition. They call it déjà vu. You have a flashback. You do something quite ordinary and for that singular instance the memory, the flashback of it, flits through your mind like a forgotten dream. I had one as I pressed down on the handle of the office door and realised it was already open. Forced open with a jemmy, I expect.

The premonition stopped as I entered the office.

Three men were already inside.

Rough hands took hold of my wrists. It was the big fat man, Zaro. The whiskers of his unshaven beard scratched at my cheek. I gasped.

“Say nothing,” he hissed.

Someone closed the door and stood by it. A tall, well-dressed man was straightening his tie, using my vanity mirror, the one I hid in the bottom drawer. The cabinets were all open. Documents were scattered manically across the floor.

He looked up at me and put a finger to his lips. There was a heartless glint to his expression. As he walked towards me he picked up the name plate and read it.

“Amy Porter?”

I nodded.

“Welcome to the real Crete.”

***** ***** *****

Bond tried not to have regrets. Life was too complicated for that and he liked to keep everything simple, from his diet and home style to his working routines and social connections.

That was why life hadn’t worked out with Sylvia Lavoilette; too many changes. Stability was an underrated asset and Bond enjoyed the consistency of his life. It helped him assess situations and make informed decisions. Occasionally he blundered, nobody was perfect, but generally he got the big decisions right.

But, standing on the quay, between two beautiful warring maidens, Bond wondered if in a moment of confusion, he might have blundered.

Now he regretted even more Amy’s goodnight kiss. He certainly began to rue the mad love with Lini.

Silently Bond cursed himself; he didn’t have time for jealous hearts and these two women looked for all the world like a pair of tiger’s scrapping over territory.

Bond’s observations about Lini on the motor boat seemed to be bearing fruit on land. She had changed. She wasn’t the waif-like innocent he’d talked to or the sexual empowered woman he’d first encountered. No, like a chameleon she was altogether a different beast, altered to suit the surroundings. Today’s colour was snobbish authority. Momentarily Bond marvelled at the woman’s public make up: every move, every sentence seemed designed to provoke affection, sympathy, desire or animosity. The latter came strongly from Amy. He wanted to cool the hot ire, but sensed the resignation, laced with anger, in her tone. Bond couldn’t tell if it was aimed at him or at Lini. Regardless, none of it was good.

As he closed the driver’s door he leant over and whispered: “Don’t let her get to you, Amy.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” was the vitriolic reply, “She’s already got to you.”

Bond let her leave angry.

He walked to his own car and slammed it into gear. He took out his frustrations on the gear box and made the short journey to Peter Conrad’s apartment in double quick time.

The large woman was gone, to be replaced by a grey haired, heavy bearded man. He was of a similar age. Bond didn’t ask any questions. Neither did the man. He went straight to the fourth floor. He carried a universal key, a piece of standard issue equipment shaped to resemble a key fob that Q Branch supplied to all field operatives. Bond used it and was inside the flat in seconds. He closed the door quietly behind him.

When Bond visited three days ago, he’d not carried out a full search. The task hadn’t interested him then. Now it rankled even more. It was easy to look for clues in a neat and tidy room, but this was an unsightly tip. He gave a long sigh, took off his jacket and hung it over the back of a chair.

Bond started combing the apartment. It was hot, unpleasant work, the sort of thing crime scene investigators did. Bond scoured each square foot of space, methodically and carefully, checking to see if there was anything in the apartment that resembled a financial correspondence. He was looking, he thought, for a new account number. The search was something of a gamble. Most over sea service staff are trained in the same mnemonic memory techniques as Bond. They had no use for pieces of paper with numbers written on them. They didn’t use address books. Their brain was the only receptacle of knowledge they needed. Bond wasn’t convinced Conrad was the best of service personnel, the dodgy encrypted diary told him that. Bond was gambling the information was secreted away somewhere. He was certain the information wasn’t at the office. He’d been through the files and computers at length and everything had looked more or less above board. It was possible Conrad had the details with him when he vanished, but that seemed so ridiculously lapse Bond was tempted to dismiss the idea. So it was a premises search or nothing.

It was a frustrating three hours. Eventually, Bond sat back on his haunches, having carefully scoured every inch of the flat, every item of clothing, every possible hiding place. There was nothing. It had occurred to Bond that whoever originally raided the apartment might have got what they wanted. Yet surely Lini would then have been rescueed. She was his insurance after all. Bond cast his eyes around the bedroom. It was a very spartan room, the cupboards ran along one wall and the clothes had all been spilled onto the floor. Bond gave the nearest door a disconsolate shove with his foot. The polished metal handle glinted as it caught the afternoon sun.

Bond almost kicked himself. It was so obvious: the handles. It was an old espionage trick from before even the Cold War. Bond pulled out the universal key and extracted the small screwdriver blade. Slowly he unscrewed the first handle of the wardrobe door. There was nothing behind it. The second handle was equally glum. It was the third and final lever that yielded Conrad’s secret. As the handle popped loose, a folded piece of paper dropped to the floor. It was a cheque. The logo for the Bank of Crete sat in the top corner. Bond couldn’t read the Greek, but the value of the cheque was for €999,999.

It wasn’t exactly what he expected, but it did help reinforce one question in his mind, something Lini had said earlier about mistaking Bond for Peter Conrad. Yet Conrad had fair hair. The question niggled at Bond’s mind. The answer still seemed miles away.

Bond loosened the heel of his shoe. The small hollow compartment once contained all sorts of little contraptions from Q Branch, but most of these miniature devices were sadly defunct. Modern technology moved faster than that. Bond inserted the folded cheque into the heel and closed it. Evidence dealt with, it was time to be on his way. It would soon be evening and he didn’t want to leave Lini with Amy for too long.

As Bond passed through the lobby, he noted the previously uninterested manager scurried out from his office. For a moment he seemed about to say something, then switched back and plumped himself down on his seat. The movement worried Bond. He cast it aside as he settled into his car. He was hungry, but fought back the pangs and set off for the coast road. There was more traffic than he anticipated and several times Bond found himself stuck behind a series of slow moving vehicles that hogged the centre of the road and refused to move over. He cursed silently.

As he drove he formulated what he had to say to Papa K.

“I have found your daughter, Sir. She is safe and well and you won’t have to pay any ransom. Her disappearance has little to do with Peter Conrad. He isn’t completely guilty, but his actions only complicated what was already a difficult situation for Lini. Your daughter has acted badly, Sir, many times. So I’m afraid to say, has your son. The story is a long one, Mister Kiriakopoulos. If you want me to tell it I will.”

It sounded terribly formal, but it was the best Bond could come up with. He hoped it would be the preamble to a soliloquy of longer, far clearer explanation. The dying man deserved that. Bond had wanted the tale to come from the heiress herself, yet now he wasn’t so certain. A lot of hearts were going to get hurt as this parcel of secrets unfolded.

He was well on his way to Sitia when his mobile phone rang. He dug into his pocket to free it, overtaking a pick-up as he did so, one hand clutched on the wheel.

He didn’t recognise the number. Bond slowed and answered, crooking the thin handset between his neck and shoulder.

“Mister Bond?”

The heavy accent sent a chill across his body. The two words seemed laced with menace, with hidden meanings, unspoken threats and demonstrations of violence. It was crude, but effective intimidation. Bond was instantly worried.

“How did you get this number, Zaro?” he asked slowly.

“From the girl’s phone, butt-[censored],” was the reply, “Come to Gournia, the old chapel on the hill, maybe you see her again.”
The line went dead. Bond was left with a ringing in his ear.

Bond spun the wheel on the Vitara exercising a U-turn in the road. Dust followed him. He’d passed Gournia no more than fifteen minutes ago. Bond’s foot eased onto the accelerator and the jeep roared up the road. Bond wasn’t panicking though there was urgency in his movements and his thoughts. As he drove he tried to piece together why Amy had been abducted, what Zaro hoped to achieve and how it fitted into the conundrum he was trying to unravel. Nothing connected. Someone must know he’d found Lini. Had they been bright enough to trace her to Amy’s? They must have done. They must have followed them from the quay. No, no, Bond realised they couldn’t have or why else did they need to ensnare the girl. She was refusing to talk. They would make the girl suffer for him. Unless he got there fast.

Thinking too much about the puzzle and not enough about the road, Bond failed to notice what was happening on his left. There was a delivery lorry, a VW L80, lumbering towards him, its sides empty and folded down, the canvas awning rolled and tied at the far end. He recognised it as one of the slow moving trucks he’d passed a few minutes earlier.

As Bond approached, the lorry shifted towards him. Startled, he took in the company logo painted in big silver letters across the radiator. ‘El Candia: the Soul of Crete’.

Bond had the driving line, but he didn’t have the space. Too late he tried to accelerate through an impossible gap.

The lorry swerved closer.

***** ***** *****

“Give her a few drinks, Costas, turn on the charm.”

Women; they’ll be the fall of the male race yet, considered Costas.

Lini was taking a second shower. It was too hot in the flat, she moaned, like a child.

The formula of her remarks hardly changed. The longer he spent in her company, the more he longed for his wife’s magpie scolds. At least there was purpose behind Sue’s attacks. This rich bitch seemed more intent on insulting him simply because she could. If she’d been a man he’d have taken his fist to her.

While Costas ached to punish her obstinacy, infuriatingly, he found her bewitching. It was the way she matched her spiteful gripes with a delicate smile, a flick of the head or a spin on her immaculate heels. She was a seducer, for sure, Satan in splendid comeliness. No wonder her father let her run free. Wildness suited her. Costas thought of those newspaper articles, the scandal, the failed marriages, the photographs and where once he’d wanted to gloat over her shamelessness, now he marvelled at the creature called ‘Woman’ and how it never ceased to reinvent itself.

Had not Minos himself married Pasiphae, daughter of the sun god, who reinvented the world every morning with the dawn? Wasn’t the Holy Virgin the image of Christ crucified? Couldn’t even a harlot be changed, her status uplifted, by marriage-hood? And wasn’t man subservient to the wiles of woman? Didn’t he pine for her kisses and her breasts, her comforting arms and the security of her heart, once given never surrendered?

Lini had broken many hearts. He could tell. She was born that way.

She must have broken her poor father’s heart at birth, Costas thought, when he saw her luscious green eyes.

Ah, those eyes. An unspoken cursed incantation.

Costas dreamed for a moment: the sun, the time, the place. The bashful eyes of the young beauty who stared at him across Vi Beach, her breasts still forming, but her smile fully fleshed, her legs so long they were already a dancer’s, her hair so golden. He should have said before. He should have told James he knew her, he should have told Peter Conrad, but how could he? The devil made you weak. It had weakened him twice that beautiful day. Once when he seduced her and twice when the love wore off and he failed in the moment.

She’d left him embarrassed and chastised. It had been many years and he had hoped to forget and he prayed she did too. She’d said nothing before when she drank in the bar and he’d been his usual bellicose self. She said nothing now. Yet she acted the same as she had those years ago, her airs and her graces, her silly girly voice that made him want to strike her and love her at the same time. He should never have let her go. Shame had frightened him and it stepped closer to him now and tapped on his shoulder.

Costas poured himself ouzo to calm his nerves. She’d be back in a moment. He’d heard the shower stop.

When Lini appeared, she looked healthy, warm, almost glowing. Costas couldn’t really tell how she’d achieved it. A little make up, perhaps, or maybe the simple wrap around dress.

“You took a long time,” he said.

“A girl has to be clean.”

It was getting darker by the minute. He could hardly see her. Maybe that was why she looked so desirable. He had to see. Costas turned on the light, saw the gleaming angelic figure for a second before Lini told him ‘no’.

Silently he obeyed.

The room was plunged back into shadow as it had been so many years ago. He could only hear his breathing. He could only see her silhouette, taking over the settee, pulling at the single tie on the dress and letting it fall open, just enough to tantalise.

“Come here, Costas, sit with me.”

Intoxicated, he moved to her and sat. The smell of her buried even the scented orange blossoms. It was like he was young again, a fisherman unloading his catch, lusting for the rewards of the day. He was stirring. An inevitable decline would follow. Or would it? Maybe this time the enchantment would cease, the woman who bestowed it would take it away and rekindle the fire that once burned inside him.

“I scare you, don’t I?” she cooed.

“You excite me and interest me,” he said plainly, “If that makes me scared, I will accept it.”

She laughed.

“You always made me giggle. I remember you, Costas, very well,”

She stroked away a lock of hair. The fingers were cool to his forehead.

Reassurance struck him. She did remember, but she wasn’t going to spoil it. Carefully, he fingered at the collar of the dress, “Ah, but Costas’ little bamboulina is with another is she not?”

“If I was, I would be with him.”

“Is that true?” Costas asked cautiously.

She spoke slowly, the hand slipping across his chest, “I am not that girl any longer, Costas, nobody owns me anymore, not even Peter.”

Costas growled. So there was no love. Good. And anyway, hadn’t Peter run away when Theo Kiriakopoulos started shouting? Triumph glimmered in his mind.

“Peter is an imbecile not to see what he throws away. He should have been strong for you, but he doesn’t care. He has a selfish life.”

Costas tossed out his hand, dropped the glass and the ouzo spilt across the floor. He ignored the spillage and moved closer to the girl, his face inches from hers. She didn’t back away. He spoke slowly, choosing with care his words. Peter had been, still was, a friend. But his instinct told him Lini needed to know the truth. And the rewards for telling it beckoned

“I’ve seen them all, Lini, the blondes from the beaches, the brunettes from the nightclubs, the old ones who need a shoulder to cry on, the young ones who want to be broken in. I’ve seen him lure them and feed them and cut them up into soulless pieces, if they had any soul to give. He is a brute, a wolf in sheep’s clothes. That isn’t the man you want.”

He reached under the flimsy material and his hand rested on an exposed breast.

“Some men still think they need to be a brute,” she replied, nuzzling against his neck, shrugging the dress from her shoulders, “Like in the old days. You long for the old days, don’t you, Costas?”

“The old days are gone.”

“You can relive the old days now.”

A slender hand reached out to him and took hold. He watched the hand fiddle with the buttons of his trousers and reach inside.

“Has it always been me, Costas?” she whispered, “Even after Vi Beach?”

His memory flinched. His mouth clutched at hers. She didn’t resist. His fingers nestled lower. He was a strong virile young man again. Life was good and the devil could go to hell.

For a moment Costas tasted the sweetness of youth. For a delicious few seconds the old days were reborn. And then fear took over. Failure loomed in his mind and it was as it had always been. Lini’s disappointed hand came out and Costas shuffled back along the seat.

Still nude, the girl pulled away. He could see she was amused and that incensed him. Flustered Costas stood up, fixing his trousers.

“Oh well,” said the girl, “It seems the rumours are true.”

“You heartless wench!” bellowed Costas, turning to face her, “You bitch! You’d entangle a married man just to prove a rumour?”

A careless shrug of a shoulder did nothing to soften his anger. He was half way towards raising a hand to her, when there was a loud drumming on the door.

Costas yelled once and stormed towards it. He yanked it open, expecting to see Amy, or more likely his wife. But it wasn’t a woman at all. It was a man in a suit.

The man lunged forward. There was something heavy in his fist. The object collided with Costas’ breastbone. There was a bland almost imperceptible thud and Costas thought his rib cage had exploded.

The bullet passed straight through a lung.

Costas was thrown back by the force of the gunshot. He followed the bullet and landed half way across the floor, blood splattering after him, bubbling out of his chest and his back. He heaved in air, desperately tried to shout, but all his energy seemed to vanish.

The man shut the door and stood over him.

The big Greek’s eyes spun. A silenced revolver was pointed directly at his face. The man, someone, no-one, whoever, swirled in and out of his vision.

As he lay there, the girl trod around the pool of blood and stood beside the gunman. Hugging the man’s waist, Lini stared down at Costas. Her eyes seemed to glitter. Her naked body seemed to swim away from him. A final lost opportunity.

Deftly she twirled a mobile phone in her hand as if it was her own gun.

“You shouldn’t leave these things lying around, Costas,” she trilled, “And really, two showers in an hour? Not even an heiress would do that.”

#14 chrisno1



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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:14 PM


When Bond opened his eyes he couldn’t see anything. There was something over his head and upper torso. It was a heavy, quilted sack, one which smelt of earth and potatoes.

He shook his head, trying to clear the fuzz that inhabited his thoughts. He remembered that big, slow moving lorry, swerving and accelerating towards him. ‘El Candia: the Soul of Crete’. Damn it. He’d put on a burst of speed. They’d still collided. Bond couldn’t avoid the accident. There was no time to correct his racing line. The Vitara had tumbled onto its side, spun into the ditch and thrown him, a tangle of arms and legs, onto the roadside. He couldn’t remember anything else. Vaguely he’d heard voices, felt hands on him, pulling him along the ground, his memories became a thick twirling mist and then it was all darkness.

Just like now. Bond squinted, trying to peer through the tiny freckles between the threads, but even beyond the sacking his surroundings were indecipherable. Bond felt his way around his body. He ached, but everything appeared to be in one piece. He was not clothed. He was sitting on the floor, propped up against a cold stone wall, his hands manacled to an iron down pipe. The stones underneath him felt dusty and grimy. Under the smell of the sacking, Bond caught the tell-tale scent of damp air. He must be underground. Bond listened to the sounds around him, searching for an aural clue to his whereabouts. He could only make out faint cries. They sounded almost human.

Bond tried to concentrate on the sound. It was strangled, awkward, like an injured animal. Bond thought of the foxes that used to prowl the countryside near his Aunt’s cottage in Pett Bottom and that awful noise they would make when fighting, part scream, part wail. He was listening to that sound again, awake in his single bed, hands grabbing at the quilt, waiting for the vermin to cease their cries and disappear so he could sleep undisturbed. He used to count the seconds. Bond did so once more. He made it to fifty seven and a trio of footfalls strode past him and exited through a creaky door. He’d almost made it to seven hundred when he heard the door reopen.

Footsteps crossed to him. The heels hardly made a sound on the grimy floor. Someone bent down beside him and gave him a shove on the shoulder. Bond knew who it was. He tasted the garlic on the fat man’s bad breath. It was detectable even through the heavy muslin.

Bond could have stayed silent. Instead he decided he wanted to see, or hear, his tormentor. He only said two words: “Watch it.”

Zaro’s voice rang out in Greek.

Bond wrinkled his nose at the man’s scent.

[censored] off, Zaro; I want to talk to your boss.”

“Why? Do you think he’ll help you?”

“No, but at least he won’t smell so bad.”

Zaro chuckled. Bond heard him reach forward and grab the sacking. Zaro pulled it roughly over Bond’s head and tossed it aside.

The room was a big grey one. There were no windows. It was unmistakably a cellar, but a very barren one. The camber of the ceiling, with its thin buttresses suggested he was in a crypt. The only light came from one electric light bulb and it was a cold white light, softened by age.

Zaro shouted out again in Greek. The fat man was dressed in only his trousers and shoes. His broken right hand was bandaged tightly, the fingers poking out of the wet swaddle. His big belly was matted with perspiration and his cheeks glowed almost scarlet with exertion. The sweat dropped off his forehead onto the floor. Some of the drops landed on Bond’s feet and he scrabbled instinctively away from the ogre’s excretions.

Zaro laughed and stood up. He passed through an archway into the next chamber, his bulk filling the space for a second, before relinquishing it back to the building. Bond craned to one side, but couldn’t see where Zaro went or what was in the next room. His instincts were it wasn’t going to be good news.

The door opened again. This time it was Spiros Xenakis with the sly man, the one who Bond had met last night in the tavern. The tall man wore the same sharp suit from their first meeting. Once more Bond’s Walther P99 was slack in his hand. He shook his head.

“Mister Bond, so nice of you to join us.”

“Whatever. What the hell’s going on here, Xenakis? You can’t treat me like this. You’ll cause a diplomatic incident.”

“I doubt it. You’re an English spy, aren’t you, Bond?” Xenakis was as unruffled as his suit, “Like the unfortunate Peter Conrad. You are two peas, not from the same pod, but equally untalented.”

Bond didn’t appreciate being likened to Conrad, but held his tongue.

“He’s dead isn’t he?”

Xenakis made what for him amounted to a shrug.

“I believe so. I wasn’t there at the time.”

“Is that what you’re going to do with me?”

“No, no, no, not yet anyway,” said Xenakis stepping forward, “I still need you for one thing and one thing only.”


“Oh, come, come, don’t be so ignorant, or is a belief in English gallantry taking hold of you? The location of Miss Kiriakopoulos still eludes us. I was hoping you might enlighten me.”

“I doubt it.”

“I beg to differ.”

Xenakis stopped short and looked at Bond’s exposed body. He almost grinned. Then he half turned aside and exchanged quick urgent words with the other man, who answered to the name of Aris.

While Xenakis took up a practised, hip-high shooting stance, Aris approached Bond and squatted beside him, reaching around to unhinge the manacles. He pushed Bond over into the dirt and refastened the cufflinks. It was done in seconds. Aris yanked at the restraints, hauling Bond to his feet. The cuffs cut into the flesh of his wrists. Bond winced. He was propelled forward, through the door way and into the main chamber next door. What he saw almost made him vomit.

Stretched out on a bare table was Amy Porter. She was completely naked. She was shining with a film of fine moisture. It was not from the heat of the day, for the cold air in this dungeon didn’t make you sweat. Her head hung off the top of the table, thrown at an awkward angle, and the girl’s long clammy hair dangled beneath her like a thousand spider’s webs. There was a gag in her mouth, a wet rag, forced in and bitten through at one end, where her teeth had gnashed it away. It was speckled red from bleeding lips. The girl’s arms were tied with leather straps to the corner legs of the table. Her legs were forced apart at the feet by a wooden balustrade where the ankles too were fixed tight. The girl was straining. Her muscles were taut, her eyes wide with apprehension, fingers pointing in five directions. The knees trembled involuntarily. Despite her harrowing position, the girl’s nipples were erect, as tense as her twisted face, the spontaneous sign of arousal obvious to all four men.

Zaro stood over her, a pair of two pronged metal claws in his hands and a gleeful, lustful expression on his face. Thin wires stretched from the base of the claws past the big man’s belly and on towards a heavy duty battery, which sat on a separate sturdy table against the wall. A semi-circular dial ran from white to crimson. The little indicator sat idle at zero. Bond hated to think how high it went.

The girl would have looked beautiful naked. Bond knew it. But she did not look beautiful now. The face was contorted in fear and her body was stiff from agony. She smelt of dirt and sweat and fresh urine. Now Bond knew who had been making those noises. The sight disgusted him and the revulsion fettered, gnawed away as he stood there. He wanted to say something, do something to help her. But he could only stand and gaze at the painful vision before him and gulp down his anger.

Xenakis pulled over a wooden chair and Aris shoved Bond onto it, hands around the back and tethered the cuffs to the chair legs.

“Now,” began Xenakis, “Before I let Zaro really enjoy himself, I have a question for you. Where is Lini? We know you took her off Agria, the man whose boat you hired was good enough to tell us that. And she isn’t at Miss Porter’s apartment, where you told her she’d be safe. We’ve been there too. So Mister Bond, please help us and help Miss Porter. Where can we find Lini?”

James took his time to weigh up the situation.

I could see it in his eyes. How long had I suffered? How much punishment could I take? Did he know I’d suffered already through the humiliation of the stripping, of the tying, the insults and the harsh, unforgiving slaps. I’ve suffered the arrows of misfortune in life, but nobody has physically assaulted me, not since that teenage fight, and that was girl v girl. No, man versus girl is different. You cannot explain how sharp, how debilitating a punch to the face can be when you are defenceless, helpless and alone. It carves through your skin without cutting. It opens your heart without a scalpel. It reveals your soul, how close you are to those you love, how close you are to god, how much you value your life and those of your friends.

When that open hand caught me, I yelped, like a puppy. I wept. I wept until I had no more tears and then I continued to make the motions of crying. And then after the blows subsided, they hauled me to that barren plank of a table and strapped me down.


No such luck. I maybe could have coped with that. I’ve had men I didn’t want before, or men I’ve regretted having, I maybe could have coped.

But not this, no, I couldn’t cope with this. And then they shut me up, stuffed my face with a rag soaked in wine, as if the answers really didn’t matter.

I’d told them hadn’t I? I told them she was at my flat. I knew it was a lie, but they hadn’t listened. They hadn’t even gone to find out. It was as if they too knew it was a lie.

Oh dear Christ, they knew. How? Who told them? Was I tagged? Or my car tagged? No, I’d checked; James had told me how to, I knew what to look for. No, it was something else. What? Who? There had been no time to answer.

Oh [censored]! Oh God!

The smell was the first thing I remembered when I came around.

When the fat man had fixed the clippers onto my breasts, I’d been shocked by the chill of the clamps. A sudden wheeze of breath and then I screamed. Only I couldn’t hear it because I fainted. When I stirred I first smelt burning, charring like you get when you overcook a sausage.

I tasted blood second. I’d bit my lips so hard I’d burst the blood vessels and the rag was soaking. I couldn’t spit it out. I couldn’t even ask. I stared blankly at the ceiling, all black and mouldy and thought this was going to be the end of my life.

I heard my heart next, pounding, faster and faster until I thought it might explode. I didn’t know I had a strong heart, but for a moment, I believed I had the biggest heart in the world, for how else could it take on such an assault? The blood coursed through me like a burst dam. My eye lids were thrust open, my vision stretched. I took in everything as if I saw the world in cinemascope.

What was the question again?


I heard the electric crackle and pop that time. I felt my body jerk. I almost jumped off the table. My legs went into spasm. It was longer, longer I’m sure by a second or too.

I wailed.

No one cared.

I passed out again.

I lay coughing when I recovered, but no one loosened the gag and I was swallowing my own gunk, trying to keep air in my lungs and throat and nose. I had to concentrate. What did they want to know? Lini. Where had I taken Lini? Costas. Don’t tell them about Costas. Think of something else. Think of James. That will be good. Think of his smile, his clear blue eyes, think of James’ voice.

It was the voice that held me most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, hot and then cold, because deep inside me I knew it was a voice that was never a dream.

This was no fantasy. I was living the nightmare and no fairies would save me today. Amy Porter and James’ voice against the world, I thought. Breathing heavily, my nostrils sucking in the disgusting air, I tried to assimilate my situation.

My surroundings were bleak. The whole place smelt dank and the roof of the chamber was rotten. Cracks split the walls. Once they might have been decorated, but the colour had washed and was now streaked with brown mould. I could hear scratching and snivelling, the unmistakable sound of small curious creatures moving.

They hadn’t disguised where they’d taken me. From the car I’d watched the little domed chapel grow bigger, reflected gold in the sunset, its stonework cut with crosses. Below it the massed ruins of Gournica were layered like an unconsecrated cemetery, tombs awaiting corpses.

They’d dragged me up the broken nave and through a busted door, cracked on rotten hinges, and down the stairs into the crypt. It had started there, with my clothes torn off and the fat bastard pawing at my boobs. The smart one seemed to understand acceptable behaviour and cursed his accomplice, who refrained from his lecherous behaviour and allowed the man called Aris administer my beating. It was no kind substitute, but at least the fat man didn’t touch me anymore. Unfortunately, he was the [censored] with the electric claws. Given the choice, I’d have taken him sweating over me. The alternative was like Hades, the Cretan version. Welcome to it, like they said.

I was alone now. I screwed my neck to peer behind each side of me and saw nobody. The men must be busy elsewhere. As I arched, my wrists slipped along the bindings. I’m a slim girl. I don’t weigh much over forty-five kilos. I’d sweat buckets. I could feel it in my hair, along my face and arms. I was slipping inside the straps. Desperately, I wriggled my wrist. It was loose. The fools. The bloody minded ignorant fools, so certain they had me they’d left my escape route open. It was Zaro who tied me down. I almost laughed. He’d been so busy slavering over my nudity he’d not sufficiently tightened my restraints.

I struggled at the bonds for what seemed ages. I was making some progress, but even given the slimy leather, I couldn’t free myself. Behind me I heard voices. They were back, but there was a new voice, one I recognised. There was a bustle of activity behind me and first Zaro then the other men returned.

This time someone else was with them.

James was thrown into a seat.

The shock of seeing him made me gasp, but I don’t think he could tell. His expression was horrific, one of undiluted agony as though this was the worst thing he’d ever seen. Despite myself, even though I recognised the dire circumstances, I hated him to have to see me like this. No girl wants to be exposed so gratuitously. I wanted clothes.

It was a ridiculous inkling. Why it ever entered my head, I don’t know, but there you have it. Involuntarily, out of frustration, I strained against the restraints.

They asked James the same question and I saw him mull over the answer. Did he realise? Did he know what was going to happen if he said -

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you.”

- that.

Instantly Bond saw the girl’s eyes widen even further. It was as if he’d struck her himself. She made a muffled plea, the head shaking. Bond’s soul sank. He turned his eyes down. He thought back almost a year, to another cold night and another terrified woman, bound and helpless, assaulted and abused and he’d been unable to help. How long had this girl, this different but still wonderful girl, been subjected to her attack? One hour? Two? She’d told them nothing yet. She must be able to withstand the punishment. Yet those frightened eyes told him she was near the end.

Zaro moved forward with obscene haste. He clamped the metal pincers on the girl’s breasts. The teeth bit into soft flesh and the girl heaved from the pinching. He turned to the battery and yanked at the lever. There was a screech and a metallic cackle.

Bond had to look. Morbid fascination made him. He hated himself for doing so. He didn’t want the girl hurt any more, but he wasn’t going to let the bastards have the satisfaction of winning. The girl could see it, couldn’t she?

The needle flicked over. The gorgeous body jerked, whipping side to side and up and down. The table rattled as the girl fought the current which scythed through her. The waves of pain seemed to invade her, turning her features, her very being, into that resembling some crazed harridan. Cruelly the back arched as if in a moment of exquisite pleasure. The body became tense, static bar a tiny vibration, the tremor of her scream. The sound penetrated even past the cloth gag, a curse that had no words. It was simply a long bestial cry for help.

Zaro switched the lever back.

The girl’s body collapsed on the table, heaving great sucks of insidious air through her nose. The body twisted as if trying to escape, then slowly fell back, panting, exhausted, beaten. Bond still looked at the girl. The eyes stared uselessly at him. The lids were snapped open, unable to close and blot out the world. The sea blue mirrors seemed to have turned a sickly green.

Bond made up his mind.

“So again,” said Xenakis, “Where is the girl?”

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know.”

Xenakis laughed. Suddenly his hand shot out, the hand with the Walther in it. The barrel rapped over Bond’s temple, making him wince.

“Try harder, Bond, or Zaro goes to work again.”

“I don’t want the girl hurt, Xenakis, but I honestly don’t know. She hasn’t told me yet.”

There was a moment of quiet in the room. Slowly Xenakis’ eyes swept back to the naked figure tied to the bench.

“If you take the bloody gag out,” continued Bond bitterly, “She might be able to tell me.”

Xenakis looked between his two naked captives, weighing the opportunities. Bond could almost see the scales slipping from his eyes, a moment of revelation.

Involuntarily Bond started to laugh, “Jesus Christ, what sort of gangsters are you for [censored]’s sake?”

Xenakis hit him again, harder this time.

“Ask her then.”

All out of temper Xenakis strode over to the torture table and ripped the gag out of Amy’s mouth. Her first instinct was to retch and stream of unctuous liquid erupted from her throat, much of it splattering across Xenakis’ polished shoes. Anxious, he stepped back and motioned for Aris to drag Bond’s chair closer.

Bond looked at the girl. She’d exhausted her tears. Gently he whispered the question.

“If you tell me, they’ll stop.”

Amy nodded.

I gave him the answer.

I didn’t know how long the torture had gone on. You can’t imagine the fear. I wanted it to stop. So I told him. I had a plan and if this gave us time, I might just save us yet.

“Thank you,” said the smart one, the one James called Xenakis.

He turned away to wipe his shoes with a rag. Clean, he looked at us both, then at the fat man.

“Do whatever you want, Zaro, I don’t want to see them again,” he made a move for the door, “Aris, come with me.”

I heard the two pairs of footsteps creaking up the staircase.

Zaro put aside the clamps, removed his gloves and ran a sweaty hand over my stomach. I shrunk away from him. He grinned from ear to ear and muttered something obscene in Greek.

“Leave her alone, Zaro,” James said.

“Or what, butt-[censored]?” spat the fat man.

James ignored the question.

“You don’t have to do this, Zaro. You’ve been a policeman. You know you’ll get caught eventually. Do yourself a favour and stop this now. I can get you some leverage with the authorities.”

“Don’t be stupid, Bond,” replied Zaro crossing the floor to him, “You think I care? I look out for Papa K. He looks out for the authorities. It works well for all of us.”

“Why does Papa K need you to look out for him?”

“Big men have big secrets, big secrets their enemies would love to hold.”

“What is Papa K’s secret?”

Zaro stopped short, his belly wobbling in front of James face. He grasped James’ hair with his bad hand, pulling his face up. I saw James’ neck muscles strain.

“Nice try, butt-[censored].”

Zaro’s other hand, bunched into a fist, swept round and crunched into James’ face. I heard something crack. A back hander. Another left cross. Back hander. James’ head rocked side to side, his lips split, his features creased in pain, in shock. But I never heard a sound from him.

Zaro thrust James’ head back with a grunt of disgust. He stalked out of the room. I heard his heavy footfalls on the stairs. Where the hell is he going?

James coughed out blood and mucus.

“Amy, are you all right?”

“Yes,” I croaked, “No, I don’t know.”

“This is all a bit [censored]ed up, I’m afraid, I can’t tell you what’s going on because I haven’t figured it out myself yet.”

He looked steadily at me, reassurance etched in his eyes. Cautiously I gave him a wink.

“It’ll be all right,” I said.

Bond was surprised. What on earth did she mean? Had the electric shocks gotten to her? The poor girl was losing it. Did she mean it was a good time to die? A death wish. Dear god, no. Bond was about to ask, when he heard Zaro approach.

He had two other men with him. One of them Bond vaguely recognised as the truck driver. He pulled out a double bladed knife and cut the rope tying the handcuffs to the chair. The two men took hold of Bond’s upper arms and hauled him upright. It was the instant Bond needed.

His head butted down, catching the second man on the ear. Stung he flopped aside. A shoulder charge threw off the driver. Bond lashed out with a foot and the man collapsed sideways. Bond went for Zaro, but his hands were still tied behind him, making running hard and fighting harder. Zaro simply stretched out his good hairy hand and swatted Bond aside.

He landed on his shoulder and grimaced. Zaro’s foot swept in, hit his stomach, once, twice, three times. Out of breath, the fat man reached down and dragged Bond upright. There was a blunt cosh in his busted hand.

The black truncheon came down and Bond lost consciousness.

#15 chrisno1



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Posted 04 November 2011 - 03:20 PM


Zaro barked at the two men. Groggy, they righted themselves and struggled out the crypt, James propped between them.

The fat man let out another low rumble, from deep in his chest. He was salivating, I could see it. He bent close to my face. A furry tongue licked along his lips then lapped at my cheek. It grated. I turned my head.

“You hate it now, bitch, but you will love Zaro soon.”

He stood up, gave my thigh a slap and strode out of the room. There was a loud click and the lights went out.

I breathed deeply, listening. The only sound was an indistinct scratching. I ignored it. I had other things to worry about.

I hauled at the restraints. My body was still suffering the after effects of the shocks. I was tingling all over, sensation dulled at the extremes of my toes and fingers. My heart still beat fast. My body was hot. My head ached. My breasts looked sore, swollen from the pulsing shocks that had gripped them. My lips felt ragged and bloody. Everything hurt, but I tried to shut away all the pain and concentrated solely on my right wrist, turning the arm, rotating, yanking back. It was slipping in the cuff, I could feel it. I thought back to when I was a teenager, when I tried to fit too many bangles on my wrist. How did they come off? You closed your palm, tried to get the thumb inside and the metacarpals, the palm bones, squashed. The knuckles come tight and the then you twist.

Done it! The hand slipped out of the leather buckle. I sighed with relief.

No time to stop, Amy, I told myself. You aren’t free yet.

I reached over to my other hand and undid the buckle. It was difficult as my fingers were numb and I had trouble manipulating the catch. Eventually it popped loose. Slowly, I sat up, which was awkward as my legs were splayed. I rubbed my wrists to invigorate them. I felt blood caked on the skin. My face ached. I touched it and it felt tender. I think I had a black eye. I couldn’t tell yet and I didn’t want to know. There was dullness all over my body. My stomach wanted to retch but there was nothing to throw up.

I felt down my calves. The bonds on my ankles were not so tight. I think I might have loosened them during the torture as my body contracted and shook. I remembered my legs being completely out of control. I shuffled my backside down the table, my knees rising at an angle, so I was able to reach the coils fixed in the balustrade. My fingers were better for the movement and I was free in a minute.

I heard the scratching again. No, a scurry. Rats.

I shivered. In the darkness I could make out nothing. The crypt was completely shut off from the world above. There wasn’t a single light source. I tried to remember where the door was. It was behind me. There was an ante chamber and the stairs were in the corner. I’d have to do it by feel.

Carefully I stepped onto the stone floor.

My legs gave way. The muscles were shot through. I kneaded them with my fingers, sitting on the greasy floor. Everything smelt dreadful. I had a vague memory of wetting myself, but cast the thought away. This wasn’t the time to worry about hygiene.

Gradually I got some feeling back in my legs and managed to stand, shakily on two feet. Hands out I staggered to the wall. As soon as my fingers touched the cool brickwork I began to fumble my way along the stone, taking small steps, until I collided gently with the corner. Turning I followed the wall until my fingers scrabbled around the door frame.

Something twitched over my foot. I cried out, kicked out. There was an animal squeal.

God! Had anyone heard? I waited. The rat was running about somewhere, clearly annoyed, but not willing to engage in combat. Did I hear another? I buried the thought and continued searching the perimeter of the crypt. I walked into a spider’s web, brushed it off, felt the arachnid crawl up my arm and shook it away. Was it still there? More scratching. Pin pricks, glinting pairs, seemed to dart left and right, around my feet. Something was on the move again.

Shaking, I hurried my pace. There it was. My hand felt an open space, a round pillar and the blessed curved stairway rose before me. I felt along the walls. There was a big chunky metal switch and I flipped it.

The bulb flickered and then came on. I saw the vermin, maybe half a dozen of them, retreat, scampering across the dusty floor, leaving trails in their wake. In the corner was a pile of clothes, James and mine together. I rushed to it, picked them up and saw a brown rat bigger then my hand leap out from its refuge. I shouted. The animal landed on all fours, shot along the ground and sped up the wall where it disappeared into a crack no wider than an inch or two.

I shook the clothes again. This place was ghastly. My skirt was ripped, I vaguely remembered trying to evade Zaro’s grasp at that moment, but my knickers were still in one piece and my blouse only had a tear on the shoulder. I pulled them on, found my shoes but only carried them, and headed for the stairs.

I went up on hands and knees. I don’t know why. At the top the door wasn’t closed and I tensed. The light from the crypt must be showing inside the chapel. If the bastards were up there, I was walking straight into their hands. I had no weapon. I also had no choice.

As quietly as I could I pushed open the door. It creaked, louder and longer than before. There was no body in the chapel. It was bathed in an eerie blue shadow. The slit windows allowed in only the tiniest slivers of moonlight. The place was empty. The remains of a pulpit was scattered on the floor. The altar was mutilated, its iconography scarred with decay. If there had been pews they were gone replaced by weeds and bare earth. They’d walked me over here just a few hours ago. It looked more ghostly and inhuman tonight. God had abandoned the place. The people who came here now feared nobody and loved no-one.

I ran to the main entrance, thankful to find it wasn’t locked, and slipped through. I hugged the wall, exactly how James had shown me at El Candia. The strange terrain spread out below me, part ruin, part grassland, part moonscape. It darkened again. Clouds were passing in front of the moon. I couldn’t see anyone straight ahead.

Quickly I slipped on my shoes and traversed to the side of the chapel. There was a small lorry standing some distance along the road, pointing further up the hill. The headlights were on. Illuminated in the beam were two men, both digging at a pile of earth and shovelling the soil into a pit. Zaro was leaning back against the lorry, swigging from a bottle. They were making lewd talk, I could tell, even in Greek.

I moved away from the chapel and crouched behind some of the closest ruins, a cypress tree shielding my head. Zaro took a peek into the pit, made some remarks and spat. Satisfied he issued orders to the two men and staggered back towards the chapel. Taking care to move out of his field of vision I skirted closer to the lorry, ducking down as low as I dared.

I had a sickening feeling in my stomach. I knew what I was watching. Someone was being buried. I hadn’t heard a gunshot. It could have been silenced or the crypt too deep, I guess, but my instinct told me no one had been shot. Someone was alive in that grave.

Panic drove me on. I was at the lorry now, crouched behind the rear wheels. Zaro was entering the chapel. Too late I remembered I’d left the crypt light on. Oh Christ, he’ll be back in seconds. Shaking, I rushed to the cab, opened the door and climbed in. Through the windscreen I could see the two men. One of them had greeted us at the chapel; the other I assumed was the driver of the lorry. They both looked brawny. I searched for the keys. Yes! They were still in the ignition. Oh God what luck! The driver must come from a farming background and like most rural Cretans he didn’t believe people ever stole from you.

I took a quick glance at the controls, realised it was a Volkswagen and thanked god for uniform German engineering. I decided first gear would do and turned the key. The engine spluttered, the lights blinked off and on and then the L80 roared into life. I lifted the clutch, stamped on the accelerator and drove forward.

The two men spun. I was no more than thirty feet from them and they still didn’t move. It was like rabbits in headlights. Finally one of them tossed a shovel at the windscreen. A big crack split my vision. They dived at the last. I caught one of them a glancing blow, heard his scream as the tyres ran over his leg, and then I was swinging the wheel, smacking across upturned gravestones and bumpy ground back towards the second man.

It was the driver. He was sprinting away down the hill to the chapel. I bore down on him, gritting my teeth for the inevitable, but he leaped aside and I sped past.

Zaro, his fat belly unmistakeable, was framed in the chapel door, rooted to the spot. The lorry was on a collision course with that belly. Then I saw the big grey revolver in his hand. He raised it and fired. Bullets shattered the windscreen. Glass sprayed everywhere. I shut my eyes. Only for a second. I was almost on him when I opened them.

I had to get out. Christ, I hadn’t thought of that. Instinctively I let go the controls, thrust open the door and jumped. I landed on one foot, felt the ankle twist and rolled onto my shoulder.

The lorry veered sharply sideways. I saw Zaro catch a blow on the shoulder as he tried to avoid the impact. He collapsed. The L80 kept moving forward for a while, crashed into an ancient wall and slithered to a stop all askew.

I got to my knees, out of breath. My hands were cut. I could see diamonds of glass sticking out of them. Woozy, I struggled upright and headed for the grave. I didn’t get far before I heard the driver running for me. Damn! He was taking big rasping breaths. I risked a look over my shoulder and he was there, his face almost in mine, his arms reaching over me.

He launched himself. The full weight of his body slammed into me and I collapsed. His hands had hold of my hair and my neck. I felt the hand tighten on my throat. I wriggled at him, raised a knee where it hurts and felt his soft underside give. I stabbed up again and he wheezed. I yanked my neck free. We rolled over, his hands grabbing at my breasts, my blouse, anything to get a purchase. Something ripped. I tried to shake him off, lashing out with knees and elbows. He half writhed in agony, half fought me as I dragged myself from his grasp. One hand was on an ankle, the other clawing at my panties. Terrified, I kicked out, heard his chin snap and scrambled away, leaving the torn scrap of underwear clamped in his hand.

I ran on and made it to the grave yard just as the clouds passed the moon. I saw the mound of earth ahead and stepped over it, slipping. I fell onto my side and stared down into the pit. I couldn’t make it out. Something was moving.

A shout. The driver was grabbing my arm, hauling me away, his other hand raised. The blow came down, caught me on the forehead. I reached up with my nails, scratched at his face and felt the skin judder as I tore down. The driver yelled, hit out again and missed. I ducked under his arm, pushed him away and was about to leap the pit when a dirty black shadow rose in front of me.

I screamed.

James Bond, his hands on the grave side, thrust up and out of his own burial chamber.

The driver was astonished. Struck dumb, he froze.

Bond launched a straight right and followed with a kick at the man’s knee. The leg gave away and Bond chopped viciously twice across the driver’s throat. The dead man fell without a sound.

Somewhere to the left the other man was sobbing. Without hesitating, Bond went over to him, grasped the fallen spade and raised it. The man was snivelling, crawling away from this naked black behemoth which had risen from the dead. He didn’t care. The fury was all. Bond brought the spade down on the man’s face with frightening force.

After a few seconds he felt the girl at his back. He was still sucking in precious air. She rubbed against him, trying to remove some of the dirt and grime. Her hand brushed away the earth from his face and lips. Bond held her tight to him.

I didn’t care he was covered in dirt. My tears, which had once dried, flowed again and stained my face with mud.

“James, you’re alive! Thank god!”

“I know,” he whispered, his throat still stuck with earth, “Where’s Zaro? Is he dead?”

“I don’t know, I think I ran him over.”

“Let’s hope so,” he said. James clasped me one more time and then broke away. He went back to the driver’s body and stripped it of trousers and shoes as they were the better fit. We talked while he dressed.

“Does the lorry still start?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’ll see.”

“James,” I started tentatively, “What happened? How did you survive?”

“Luck,” he said plainly, “And survival skills. They thought I was out for the count. But I started coming around just as they were about to thrown me into that pit. There was an argument about the hand cuffs. Zaro has some attachment to them, so they undid the bloody things. That was my second stroke of luck.”

“Couldn’t you have fought them?”

“I don’t think so. Zaro had that gun remember. Also I saw the pit wasn’t dug very deep; my third lucky break. When they tossed me in I deliberately fell with my hands up to my face, not so they’d notice, but enough to give me a little pocket of clean air. It’s rather like being buried in snow during an avalanche, only earth is much heavier and doesn’t melt with body heat. I felt the first shovels of soil on my legs, then my neck and head, my back. I started to sweat. I desperately wanted to move, but if I had, they’d have known I was conscious. I concentrated on what they were saying. They were laughing about how Conrad cried when they did this to him.”

“Oh, poor Peter.”

I genuinely meant it. I imagined the heat, the breathless suffocation, the awful painful terror. For a moment, Peter Conrad ceased to be the cause of all this trouble and became another victim.

“Yes, I expect his shallow grave is around here somewhere too,” James muttered despondently.

He took my hand and we went at a pace towards the abandoned vehicle.

“Would you have lived if you’d been totally buried?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Amy, but I know I have a lot to thank you for.”

I felt his lips plant a kiss on my forehead and then all hell broke loose again.

Gun shots rang out.

Bond flung himself and the girl to the ground.

It was Zaro. The fat man was limping back to the chapel, one leg all bent, one shoulder hanging useless. It was as if his whole right side had ceased to function, face, hand, arm, leg. He was firing left handed. Bond told Amy to stay down and crawled across the ground, using the bushes for cover. Another salvo of shots echoed and then a click.

The chapel door was swinging open.

Bond ran for it, paused at the entrance and passed through. Zaro was stumbling across the nave, dragging his useless leg behind him. Bond walked purposefully forward and caught him at the entrance to the crypt.

The fat man raised his good hand in defiance, grappling for Bond’s neck. He couldn’t get a hold on the slippery mud covered skin. Bond hit him once and pushed. Zaro tumbled backwards down the flight of stairs. Bond followed him, found the bulky man half way down, stuck on the curve and booted him in the chest.

“Come on, Zaro, put up a fight,” Bond said.

“Piss off, butt-[censored]!”

“Big words for a big man,” Bond grabbed Zaro by the trouser belt and dragged him down the remaining steps. The fat man struggled, but Bond had his belt like a vice, avoided the blows and with Zaro kicking and screaming, made his way across the floor into the second chamber.

“Let’s see if you can take it as well as dish it out.”

Bond released the big man and he suddenly swung out, a slim finger of steel projecting from his hand. Bond blocked the lunge, hit him again and clasped the one good wrist, squeezing, until the fingers opened and the knife dropped to the floor. Bond heaved the flabby body over and shoved into the wooden chair, whipping his fist across the fat man’s jaw. Dazed, confused, Zaro sagged in the seat.

Bond grabbed at the leather straps on the table and tied Zaro’s wrists and legs. The big man hissed and cursed as the ties cut into his already ailing body. Bond dragged the chair over to the electrical equipment.

The fat man’s eyes started to widen. Bond grabbed both the pincers and attached them to Zaro’s exposed nipples. The sweat might help contact too.

“No,” pleaded Zaro, “No.”

“What do you mean?”


“Shut up, butt-[censored].”

Bond sprung the lever. The dial turned over to red.

Zaro started to scream.

Bond left the battery on and walked out into the antechamber. He paused by the pile of tattered clothes, changed back into his own shoes and slipped on his jacket, which he was pleased to see still contained his mobile phone and Q Branch’s Dunhill. The rest of the clothes he screwed into a bundle and took with him.

Bond turned off the light and shut the door.

The screaming had died by the time he made it back to the chapel entrance.


He saw her head rise over the low wall.

“Come on, sweetheart, time to go.”

The girl made towards him and he pulled out his trousers from the bundle. “Here, put these on; better than nothing.”

Amy stepped into the too big slacks and tightened the belt to stop them falling. Bond saw her frightened look. The poor bitch. He touched her shoulder lightly.


“Is he dead?

“He will be. Don’t feel sorry for them, Amy, they’re murderers and gangsters. They would quite happily kill you and me without a second thought. I’ve met bastards like this before. They don’t even deserve death.”

“So you kill them?”

“I eliminate them. That’s what I do. I eliminate problems.”

[censored]ting hell.”

“I can’t explain more, Amy, but I promise you, I am one of the good guys. Now, we need to get to Bar-Costas and fast.”

“Oh, Christ, I almost forgot,” Amy sounded about to panic, “Sue!”

“Why? What’s the matter?” Bond could see the strain on the girl’s face. Danger was lurking for her at every moment. Her mind wasn’t functioning laterally, it was in a whirl of emotion, spinning violently and uncontrolled.

“I told that man Lini was at Bar-Costas.”

“That’s right. I expect they’ve already found her there.”

“They won’t. She’s at Costas’ house in the old town. You don’t think they’ll do anything to Sue?”

“I can’t say. Let’s hope not,” Bond opened the door to the L80, “Come on; get in. I hope this ugly beauty starts.”

It did, but the journey was torturously slow. When we got to Hersonisos, there were two police cars, emergency lights whirling, standing in the lane outside Bar-Costas. A small crowd of rubberneckers were gawking.

James looked down at his grubby body, then at my tattered blouse, half a tit poking out.

“Use my phone, give her a call.”

She answered on something like the twentieth ring.


“Amy, Amy, what’s happening? We just got turned over. Some men said that Kiriakopoulos girl was here…”

“Where’s Costas?” I interrupted.

She ignored me and kept ranting, “Millicent got hit, the bar is wrecked…”

James snatched the phone from me.

“Sue, listen to me, this is James Bond. Costas is in big trouble. Phone him at home. Tell him to stay there. We’re heading there now.”

“What? What do I tell the police?”

It was almost a shout. I could hear it even through the mobile.

“Nothing yet; just do as I say,” James handed me back the phone, “Jesus Christ!”

I gave James directions. We parked the lorry down the street, got out and walked. The flat was in darkness. Hesitantly, I mounted the steps, following James. The door was locked. James braced himself with the stair rail and gave it a kick. The wood splintered and the door swung open. The smell warned us and I nearly shouted.

James immediately turned, took hold of my shoulders and faced me the other way. I heard him whisper: “Don’t look, Amy, stay out here, please.”

I stood still, breathing heavily. My mind was empty, as numb now as my hands had been earlier. Delicately I played with the scabs on my wrists and knuckles, making them bleed. James was less than a minute. He pulled the door shut and made two phone calls first to the ambulance services and second to the police. He led me down the stairs.



“Oh, James, oh God,” I almost fainted. He held me again and I kept hold of him, tighter than I ever had of anyone. At this moment I didn’t want to lose another friend. I didn’t want to lose anybody. I didn’t want to lose him.

“What are you going to do, James?” I sobbed.

“I don’t know,” he said, his brow furrowing, “I don’t understand what’s happening, Amy. But I think there’s a man who does. Do you want to pay a social call?”

“Like this?” I replied, exasperated by everything, tugging at the tatty barely-there clothes I was in.

“It’ll have to do. We don’t have the time to change.”

He took my elbow and guided me down the side street to where Costas kept his Ford Focus. He already had the key in his hand. I baulked.

“Sorry, Amy, but he doesn’t need it and we do.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“El Candia. I want to talk to Theo Kiriakopoulos.”

Edited by chrisno1, 04 November 2011 - 10:58 PM.

#16 chrisno1



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Posted 11 November 2011 - 02:41 PM


James dowsed the headlamps and darkness invaded the road.

He’d driven us through the night as fast as the Focus would go, chasing the signs to Sitia. Close to the town he turned off and headed to the airport. Soon enough a beaten down drive was highlighted with a small silver plaque reading in Greek and then English ‘El Candia: Property of T. Kiriakopoulos: Private’. It was a flinty, gravelly track more suited to farm equipment that fancy cars. There was no barrier. James didn’t turn up it but drove on a hundred metres or so and pulled into the roadside.

“Are you ready for this?” he asked.

“I think so; what am I supposed to be ready for?”

“That’s why I asked.”

James put a grimy hand up to my face. Most of the soil had rubbed away, but he still felt frightfully dirty. Despite it, the token gesture comforted me.

“You don’t have to come, Amy, this may get a bit wild and you’ve already been through a lot.”

I squeezed the hand. It was the best I could offer.

“No, James, I’d rather stay with you and see it to the end. Costas must have been killed for a reason. I’d like to know it so I can tell Sue.”

“Brave girl,” he said confidently, “Come on.”

I’d lost all sense of time. It could have been midnight or later. James had a mobile but I didn’t even ask him. The air was refreshingly cool. A breeze was wafting down the hillside through the vines and under it I could almost hear the sea. There were cameras at the front gate, so James first led me along the road, where we bunked ourselves over the four foot wall. We walked through the vineyard, keeping the main drive to our left. The warehouse and cellars loomed to the right and I saw two more delivery trucks like the one we’d stolen and another overhead camera focussed on the yard. Other than the CCTV, there didn’t appear to be anything in the way of security.

My feet slipped on the rough terrain. James was making better progress, brushing aside the branches laden with fat black grapes, almost ripe to pick. I didn’t ask him to slow down, but he did, pausing at the end of the first terrace. We crossed the path and stepped up onto a second terrace, this one laced with white grapes.

James plucked at one, popped it in his mouth and hummed, “Muscat; the man has taste.”

We were heading towards the house, but I couldn’t see it until we pitched onto the third and final terrace, which sloped gently up hill. The flood lights were on, the ones hidden in the patio, and turned the mansion a bright sparkling white. In contrast the red dome, I still thought of it as a dome, looked black and mysterious on top of the bathed limestone walls. The internal lights were on in some of the rooms but as the windows were high, we had no idea who was inside.

There was a car port close to us. Inside it, a black Rolls Royce headed a row of different coloured Hyundai’s. The green version was slewed at an angle to the mansions entrance. The barred iron gate was open.

James paused as we reached the threshold of the gardens, ducking back behind the laurel bushes. He held a finger to his mouth and I nodded my silence.

I could hear someone. They were moving along the perimeter approaching where we crouched. Feet crunched on the gravel. It was one of the gardeners. We let him pass. James watched the silhouette until it had reached the far side of the kastra. It took ages, but James never once lost his concentration. A large spider decided to pay me a visit, but I pushed the ugly thing away with my foot.

Now James was on his feet and sprinted up the drive to the gate. I followed him, nervous our foot falls would make too much noise. James slipped inside and, out of breath, I did the same.

We could hear raised voices.

“Doesn’t sound good,” whispered James.

He inched around the corner. Across the courtyard one set of French doors were wide open. The same one we’d looked into yesterday. People were inside.

We crossed the courtyard, past the trickling fountain, and crouched low next to the balconette. The voices were in Greek. I recognised the slightly shrill tones of Lini Kiriakopoulos, but the other one was lost to me. It sounded cracked, aged. For a moment I thought James was going to hurdle the balcony, but he didn’t.
Instead he waited, listening as the argument continued.

Huddled next to him I was distracted by the sound of an engine. An approaching car! Silently I tried to attract James’ attention.

He’d already heard it, grasped my hand and still bent double we rushed across the courtyard. The door was closed, but not locked and we passed through into the passage. The tiles were cool underfoot. I shivered with surprise.

James’ gaze fixed back in the courtyard. At last he ducked away and closed the door. We shrank back against the wall, inching around the first corner. It was no good. The door swung open. We heard heavy footsteps. They came closer, almost thundering down the corridor.

It was Aris. He wasn’t armed when he turned the corner, but the gun appeared in his hand lightning fast. He was more efficient than Zaro. He didn’t flinch but walked purposefully forward and indicated we should stand away from the wall. He was talking as he walked.

“Bond,” was the last word I heard.

I noticed he had a hands-free attached to his ear.

A moment later Spiros Xenakis appeared, unruffled but a little out of breath. He’d run to catch up. He stayed behind Aris’ shoulder, keeping the line of fire clear. James kept retreating, taking small steps. He virtually dragged me with him. The two Greeks stiffened their pace.

“Mister Bond, well, well,” Xenakis almost sneered. Almost, but not quite; he was too smooth for that.

“You took your time.”

“We didn’t find Miss Kiriakopoulos. We went back to Gournia. We didn’t like what we found.”

“Good. I think your boss has already found his daughter. Shall we join them?”

James’ hand was already on the door knob. He pressed, pushed and yanked me after him.

The arguing died instantly.

The room was much larger than Bond remembered and was extended at the far end by a Cretan arch, under which was a sturdy desk littered with paperwork. Large geometric patterned amphora, big enough to sit on the floor, lined the walls like statues. There was no carpet, only pine tiles and a single Turkish rug, weaved through with imperial purple, the ancient colour of Cretan wealth. As he remembered one wall was covered in faded colour photographs.

Papa K was seated in his wheel chair, in a dressing gown and pyjamas, a rug thrown over his legs. He looked older if that was possible and even more worn. His head had screwed towards the intruders. A mixture of annoyance and curiosity blanched it.

Magdalini Kiriakopoulos was hardly composed. Caught in the middle of a tirade she spun on a heeled shoe and looked stunned at the interruption. Bond noted her sleek, straight black skirt and white cotton blouse. She looked, Bond considered, every inch the professional businesswoman she claimed not to be.

Spiros Xenakis walked forward, passing an instruction to Aris, who retreated into the corridor closing the door behind him with a soft click.

“Get out!” shouted Lini.

She’d spoken in English and Bond assumed the remark was addressed to him. The reply was itching on his tongue when Xenakis cast a creased, almost condescending look towards her.

“Not yet,” he said and, ignoring the heiress, he went and stood next to Papa K, but a little to one side. He whispered in the old man’s ear.

Papa K raised his eyes as the message sunk in.

“Mister Bond, how good of you to join us,” he said. The voice was remarkably clear, “You look like an urchin; it has been a rough night, I gather.”

“I’ve had better. I’m looking for explanations.”

Lini broke in, “Papa,” she mewed, before a single restraining raised finger cut her short.

Bond saw the movement, judged the reaction. The girl was afraid. Even sat in a wheelchair, dying form disease, Theo Kiriakopoulos exerted an iron grip over his daughter. It was the sort of response someone gave who was used to bowing at tough disciplinarian.

“Is that so?” murmured Papa K. It wasn’t really a question, “I was hoping somebody, maybe you, Mister Bond, could help explain my misfortune.”

“I don’t see how, as I haven’t the faintest idea what the hell’s going on either.”

The old man inclined his head in query.

“What I do know is this,” continued Bond, “You have some very nasty people working for you, people responsible for Peter Conrad’s murder. They certainly haven’t helped your circumstances. But I’m not convinced your misfortune as you tactfully put it, isn’t partly your own fault. Perhaps it’s time for Lini to explain.”

Bond’s eyes switched back to the photograph: a greying man sat in his large armchair, his young daughter, a girl on the cusp of puberty, sat on his knee and he propped her up with a hand on her waist while she wrapped an arm about his shoulder and rested her head on his chest, by all terms a traditional family portrait. He strode toward it and pulled open the two halves.

He heard Amy utter a little cry of alarm.

Underneath was a nude photograph. It was of the same girl at the same age on the same chair. She was staring with unknowing seductiveness at the camera, one hand caught up in her hair, one leg dangling over the arm of the chair, her legs, her intimacy splayed. The picture had an erotic undercurrent which could not be considered healthy.

Papa K seemed to quiver.

Bond looked at the little girl’s face. It was unmistakeable. He’d seen that nose, those fawn-like eyes, that same abraxas, when he’d made desperate animal love to her on a deserted island. The girl in the photograph was Lini.

“Stop it! Get out!”

The shrill sound burst through the silence.

It was Lini’s voice. She was shaking, taking rapid furtive looks at everyone in the room, as if she was exposed again, now before them.

Papa K sliced his hand through the air, ordering quiet and getting it. He seemed to have recovered his composure, but he spoke even further from the corner of his mouth, “This is none of your affair, Mister Bond.”

“Isn’t it?” he replied, “The police may turn a blind eye to your dodgy business deals and Cretan family feuds, but I’m sure the newspapers will be cock-a-hoop at uncovering a case of child pørnography.”

“Don’t hurt Papa,” interjected Lini.

“Why?” urged Bond, “Because he’s been hurt enough – that is what you told me, isn’t it, Lini?”

“Because I want more than that.”

She sounded vitriolic. Bond studied her for a moment. There was a wildness to her he’d not seen before, a controlled, carnivorous gaze; a lust – but for what?

“It’ll have to wait,” he clipped, “Right now I’m more concerned with Conrad’s death. And he is dead, isn’t he, Xenakis?”

“I had no part in Conrad’s death.”

Too quick to answer, thought Bond and pointed a finger accusingly at the sharp men.

“But you didn’t do anything to stop it. In fact even tonight you were quite happy to leave me and Amy to your ghoulish thugs. It’s a bloody miracle we’re both alive.”

“Then why don’t you stay alive and get out now?” Xenakis’ reached into his gun pocket. The weapon came out, covering Bond and Amy, but it was a half-hearted attempt.

“That’s not in the deal,” Bond said, gaining confidence in the hesitation of his audience, “What is in the deal is someone explaining why Peter Conrad received a cheque for €999, 999 from Lini Kiriakopoulos, a woman who told me she had no money.”

“How do you know about that?” said Lini uncertainly.

“Because I’ve seen it,” replied Bond, “Conrad hid it at his flat and I found it. I did a better job that our young friend Angelos.”

“I never sent him there,” answered Xenakis.

“Then who did, Lini?” asked Bond, already certain of the answer, “And why did you want the cheque back? What were you buying?”

Lini paused and looked around the room. She stepped back a pace and sat into a chair, taking a deep breath, clutching at the little black handbag she carried. It was a good act, as good as the one she’d pulled on him on Agria, but Bond wasn’t falling this time, even when she answered, the voice soft and trembling, he refused to believe it.

“I was buying his silence.”

Papa K scratched his chin. He reached out to the table next to him and picked up a lump of loukoum.

“Go on, my dear, I’m listening,” he said and popped the sweet into his mouth, chewing like a cow side to side rather than up and down, “It is after all the one million euros I gave you to open a turtle sanctuary, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is, Papa,” the girl cried, suddenly animated, leaning forward, her face starting to crack, the wear showing on the porcelain skin, “But I didn’t need it for that, I just thought, I thought you didn’t want to know what happened, what happened when I was young, what happened with him!”

She stopped and pointed at Xenakis, two fingers extended like a child’s imaginary pistol. The tears began to flow.

The tidy, immaculate man had stepped back, shock ruining his countenance. For a moment the gun rose then it pointed straight down, nullified.

“Go on, Spiros,” shouted Lini, “Threaten me again, you bastard, just try it.”

Papa K stared at the two people, a man and a woman, his two children, the most precious things in his life fighting with words before him.

Bond saw the despair and the realisation of betrayal on both sides. He stayed put, waiting for the accusations to play themselves out.

“But I didn’t threaten you, Lini,” replied Xenakis, “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the blackmail,” she shouted, “I’m talking about your love affair with your own sister! Me!”

“What?” Xenakis was stunned, “What are you talking about?”

“You deny it?” the girl continued to yell, standing up again and walking towards her tormentor, “You continue to deny it? After everything we did? You want to tell Papa where we did it? And how many times? Do you want to tell him or do you want me to tell him?”

“Lini, I, I don’t understand.”

“Don’t lie to me, Spiros, who else has been sending me letters with all my intimate details written down on them, emails and pictures, who else but Papa’s little security man? I gave you everything and you spit it back at me!”

Lini had completely lost control. She slapped Xenakis hard across the face. He barely flinched, but it seemed to act as a catalyst.

“Don’t accuse me, you stupid girl,” the tone was scathing, condescending, “Who’s been covering up for you all these years? Who’s chased across Europe to drag you back home? Who’s kept your secrets safe? It’s me Lini, I’m the only one who helps you and you accuse me!”

“I do!” shouted the girl, “I do because the only reason you’re doing this is because you’re jealous.”


“You’re jealous of your own father!”

“Lini, don’t say it…”

“Yes, Spiros, you knew everything, but you never did anything about that. You just kept dragging me back into the same hell. You’re as guilty as him!”

She wheeled around and pointed a finger at the old man. Papa K was raising his hand, feeble all of a sudden, trying to cut out the violent words or a host of troubled memories.

“But you got me too late,” her tone altered, softened, and became the lonely lost Girl Friday Bond had met that morning. Hips swaying she sashayed across the room, still cooing.

“Like father, like son, but precious Papa had already taken that little prize; many times, hadn’t you, dear?”

The sentence was almost a sneer. She stepped close to her father, whose expression registered neither fear nor astonishment. His face was fixed on her, rapt, as if she’d cursed him and this was the bewitchment. The girl stroked his hair with the tips of her fingers, ran them down his cheek and across his lips.
Indistinctly her swaying hips seemed to thrust forward.

“You liked it didn’t you, Papa, when you saw your little girl start to turn into a woman. You couldn’t resist it could you, you sick horny dirty old man, and you turned me into this, nothing but a whore for the men I meet. And there were many men, Papa, too many to name and number, I don’t remember them, but I did everything you taught me, Papa, I gave them everything, just like I gave everything to you, everything a daughter can give to her father, every little flower.”

“Dear god,” whispered Amy.

Bond touched her hand which still clasped his arm.

Lini bent towards the old man and planted a kiss on his mouth.

“And still you want to take everything from me, Papa,” she whispered.

Swiftly, Lini pulled something out of the handbag and lunged forward. She gripped a small pointed dagger and the blade sunk into the old man’s chest. It was so fast no one had time to react.

“That’s for the lies!”

She stabbed again.

“That’s for the hate!”

Xenakis stretched out a long arm and grabbed Lini by the neck, dragging her away, but the damage was done.

Bond and Amy rushed to the old man, who was floundering. Blood was seeping out of the wound and his body was sagging low into the seat, as if he was a deflating balloon. Bond placed his hand over the wound to stem the blood flow.

Xenakis staggered across the room with Lini in his grasp, but the girl was struggling like Medusa, her arms and legs and head like whipping snakes. An elbow nudged him and she broke away. The gun was on the floor by her feet. It must have dropped in the struggle. Bond saw her pick it up.

“No!” was all he had time for.

The gunshots sounded like a cannon in the enclosed space. Xenakis hurtled back against the fireplace, his stomach and chest a mass of red ooze.

The door burst open. Aris was too stunned to react. He stared at the confusion, at the blood, his mouth agape. It was Bond who forced him into action.

“Aris, there’s been an accident!” he ordered, “Phone an ambulance! Find the nurse!”

Aris left the room and his footsteps could be heard in the corridor outside.

Lini hardly seemed troubled by the interruption. She turned back to Papa K, the gun loose in her hand, but resting by her cheek. The sudden violence seemed to sensualise her even more. The tongue licked out and took a long taste of her lips.

“See, Papa, see what a good girl you’ve fostered?” she trilled, almost ecstatic in her achievement, “See what a bitch you’ve got for a daughter? I give life to men and I can take it away too. As good as any Imperial King, wouldn’t you say?”

“Stop it, Lini, that’s enough!” shouted Bond, “This has gone too far!”

“Too far?” she cried, the gun pointing straight at him, “Not far enough! Get away from him, James, I don’t want to hurt you, but I promise I will.”

Bond didn’t like the look of the gun. It was a Beretta 92 Series, a stopper, quite powerful. He removed his bloody hand from the old man’s stab wound and backed away towards Xenakis’ stricken body.

“You!” addressed Lini, the gun still fixed on Bond, “You, girl, move Papa to his desk.”

Amy took a frightened look at Bond, seeking confirmation. Not getting any, she wheeled the dying man back behind the desk. Papa K’s breath was fading to a whisper.

“Open the last drawer,” continued Lini, “It has a false bottom. The catch is at the back. Open it.”

I did as I was told. The shelf came loose and underneath I saw some legal documents. I pulled them out, a whole loose leaf file of them, and waved them vaguely in the air, not wanting to hand them over, but not wanting to keep hold of them. I could see they were stamped with the emblem of the Bank of Crete, but they were written in Greek and I couldn’t understand anything else.

“His legacy,” said James, “It’s still in your father’s name, isn't it? You want him to sign them over before he dies.”

“Get him a pen,” ordered Lini.

I was confused. There was a biro on the desk top and I laid the papers out, but I had no idea which document needed to be signed. I wanted Aris to come back with the nurse. It was taking him ages. Someone had to relieve the tension. I dropped the pen and sensed the heiress getting impatient

“Lini, this is insane,” said James, who still sounded very cool, “Where does Peter Conrad fit in all this?”

“I told you, he used my affair with Spiros to blackmail me.”

“But Spiros has helped you before and he’s helped you again. Conrad is dead,” James said, “Your affair is still a secret. This is just, just…”


“Revenge,” repeated James.

Xenakis, his mouth bubbling with blood, muttered something.

“What?” James squatted next to the dying man, “Say that again.”

“I’m not his son.”

The man with the sharp suit, now crumpled and bloody, came to rest on the fireplace, his head cocked at an appalling angle, his body drenched in blood. I saw the chest give one last time and then it was peaceful, like a bloody sack, still and solid.

James stood up very slowly.

“Did you hear that, Lini?”

“He’s lying,” she countered, “He’s always lying.”

“But what if he isn’t? What if he isn’t Papa K’s son?”

She had no time to answer. The door slammed back, making us jump. A new person stood there, the dumpy nurse behind him. It was the young man with the toothpick. Lini’s shoulder’s seemed to relax, as if the toil of the last few minutes, the weight of her actions had been relieved.

“Does it matter?” the cherub asked, the toothpick revolving around his mouth, a silenced Beretta steady in his hand, “Come on, Lini, get the documents and we’ll get out of here. I’ll keep these two covered.”

“Yes, Angel,” said the heiress in an almost subservient fashion and she crossed to the desk, shoved me aside and started to search for the relevant documents.

“Angelos,” said James.

“Nice to see you, Mister Bond,” said the young man. He glanced at me, those blue eyes taking in my dishevelled appearance, bits of body indelicately on show,

“Hey, bay-bee.”

“Hey,” I muttered. This was all getting too much. My mind was a blur.

“What’s this got to do with you, Angelos?” asked James.

“Lini and me, we, you know, well, we’ve been together.”

“It’s always the driver, isn’t it?”

“You read too many books, Mister Bond.”

“Enough to know you’ll have to kill everyone to even stand half a chance of getting away with this.”

“No problem.”

“Who else have you killed?”

“That big Greek. Two security guards. Aris. Conrad indirectly. I could have saved him, but I didn’t want to, he’d served a purpose, a distraction while I really went to work on this old man. Who would think he’d be so scared of being exposed? After all, his daughter has been exposing herself for years.”

He chuckled at his bad tasting joke.

“Stop it, Angel, don’t be so crude,” tutted Lini. She really was the consummate actress.

I noticed the nurse, the black gowned widow woman, had crept into the room. She made her way soundlessly to the desk, and gave Papa K a sorrowful look. His face started to glow a little and his hand reached out to her. A dribble of blood appeared at his mouth and she dutifully wiped it away with a spotless white handkerchief.

“It’s been very interesting working at El Candia these last few years,” continued Angelos, “You uncover all sorts of gossip. You hear many things, some of it true, some of it lies, all of it useful. Spiros was never Papa K’s son. But you can create a story like that if enough people believe it. And of course you can frighten old men like this into making rash decisions. It’s like opening a tomb and robbing its riches. All I had to do was find this old bastard’s Achilles heel. Imagine my surprise when I learnt about this picture and its history. You were a dirty old [censored], weren’t you, old man? It took a couple of years to set the steal, but I think I’m winning.”

“What are you stealing?” asked James.

“Well, it’s more like inheriting now, Mister Bond,” said Angelos, without any trace of irony, “The Cretans have a saying: if you want to eat, pilfer, if you want to own, steal, if you want respect, inherit.”

I was watching the woman. She spoke something in Greek. The heiress replied very fast, clearly shocked and took a halting pace backwards. The woman continued to talk and Lini cut a despairing glance at the young man.

“No,” she stammered, “No, no, no.”

Angelos chuckled again, I thought contemptously.

“Love is so blind, Mister Bond, so blind the daughter doesn’t even realise her father has taken a new comfort: the only woman who has shown him any kindness over the past years, Kaethe, my mother. When Papa K dies, everything will become hers, and eventually mine. But I couldn’t have done it without you, bay-bee, because he’s only written that will and testament in the last few weeks. You made such a nuisance of yourself he finally lost patience.”

“Angel, you, you don’t want me?”

“Don’t want you at all, nor do I love you, if it matters,” the cherub looked like he was about to laugh again, the toothpick was jammed into the corner of his mouth, waggling as he spoke every line, “Nobody loves you, Lini, you’re just a whore, a pretty good one, but a whore all the same.”

Lini scrambled for the gun, but couldn’t pick it up among all the documents on the desk.

Angelos laughed.

The Beretta thudded.

Lini spiralled backwards, her beautiful face obliterated.

At last I screamed.

The distraction was all Bond needed. He threw himself forward at the young man. The gun went off but the bullet missed and shattered an amphora. Bond was on him in an instant, one hand slamming down on the gun, the other slamming under the man’s chin, knocking back his head, throwing him off balance. The gun went spinning. The two men grappled furiously. Bond couldn’t get a purchase on the clothes. His hands were still sloppy, either with sweat or dirt. A punch slipped under his guard. Angelos’ foot lashed out and connected with his knee. Through blinding pain, Bond saw another punch come. Dipping under the impact he went into a crouch and tackled Angelos’ other leg, bringing the young man down with a crash. Angelos threw him aside and struggled up right, searching for the weapon.

It was closer to Bond. He twisted onto one knee and scooped it up.

“Mama!” yelled Angelos.

I saw the whole thing as if it was in slow motion: the surprise on the little angel’s face, his lips bizarrely forming a grin, the toothpick finally falling out of the mouth, his hands thrown out as if to stop the bullet, the sharp bang as the gun exploded, the cry as lead penetrated skin and bone and muscle, the body pirouetting on one foot like a ballet dancer, the smoke rising from the end of the little pistol.

And then silence.

It was like a Tarantino movie. Bodies littered the floor. Blood was everywhere.

Slowly the black caped woman came from behind the desk and stooped over her dead son. A single tear formed but refused to fall. She looked sadly at the corpse.

She still had the documents in her hands, whatever they were, wills, bonds, banking agreements, I didn’t care. I had witnessed carnage, slaughter, murder, patricide, I had no idea what I’d seen and who or what was responsible, none of it made any sense anymore. I think everyone was telling a pack of lies. Without pause, the woman started her exit.

James was still on his knees, but his eyes fixed hard on the woman as she strode past him. At the door she turned and looked once more around the room, at the blood and the death.

“It is a good Cretan tragedy,” she said in broken English.

We watched her go.

Eventually James got to his feet. He hurried to the door, paused and followed the woman. I didn’t hear anything, no gunshots, no shouts, no sounds of a struggle. I heard a car start.

James reappeared after a minute or so. He looked composed, as if a decision had been made for him and it removed his need to moralise.

It was a mask. It wasn’t him. I hated this image of James Bond. And yet I knew where it stemmed from. That need to live a semblance of a life, however unreal, however ghostly was overpowering and it had taken him over again. This wasn’t the James Bond I’d witness at the Café Du Lac, it was the viper I’d seen striking down Zaro and killing the driver.

“Come on, Amy, we’re getting out of here.”

He was terse.

“Why?” I responded, “What about the old woman?”

“There are enough problems here already. I don’t want to be a part of any of it. We’re leaving.”

“We can’t just leave,” I protested.

“I can and we will,” he said firmly, grabbing my elbow, “That’s not a request, Amy, it’s an order. I’m sure you don’t like them, but this one is in your best interest. We don’t know anything about this, we never have and we never will.”

“What about Costas? What about Peter?”

“Unfriendly fire,” he said, “Unsolved murders, I don’t care. There’s too much to sort here, Amy, too many motives, too many lies. Let the police figure it if they can.”

“I thought you solved problems?”

“No, I eliminate them,” he said plainly, “It’s not the same thing.”

There was a gentle howl from the far side of the room. Papa K was holding out his one decent hand. I’d forgotten about the poor creature. He was still in limbo. The trap door of death hadn’t opened.

James looked harsh. He walked to the desk.

The old man was wheezing.

A rattle echoed up his chest, came out of his throat, and spoke to us, “The devil brings us into the world…”

James had the dagger in his hand.

I shouted.

He ruthlessly shoved it into the wounded man. The fading body shook with the impact.

I stood motionless. The shock of the moment almost made me cry. I didn’t understand anything anymore. It was too dreadful to contemplate. I’d lost track of who was a villain and who was a hero. I’d lost track of good and evil. I’d lost faith in everything. In that one second James Bond’s reality fused with mine and I understood and hated the turmoil he lived with.

He pulled out the dagger. Quickly he wiped the handle on the hem of his jacket and then folded the knife into Lini’s curled palm.

“And the devil takes us away.”

James stood up, shook his head and turned back to me.

“That’s it,” he said, “We’re going.”

Edited by chrisno1, 11 November 2011 - 05:19 PM.

#17 chrisno1



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Posted 12 November 2011 - 03:43 PM


I don’t know why he let her go.

You’ll have to ask him that.

And I don’t understand why he killed the old man. He did try to explain it. James said some people deserved to die, that if misery was what they brought into other people’s lives there was no sense in delaying an end to theirs. Papa K, he summarised, was already suffering a lonely death; James simply helped him on his way.

He made it sound reasonable, but I wasn’t sure the authorities would agree and told him so. James didn’t comment.

Later I found out the authorities cared more about protecting the reputation of a famous brand of luxury sultanas. The slaughter was eventually splashed all over the front pages of the newspapers. It took the journalists three days to get a proper story out of the police.

They did link it to Costas’ death, especially when it came out from an indiscreet friend that Costas had not only worked for Theo Kiriakopoulos but once bedded Lini; the heiress’ reputation was hard for her to shake, even in death. I was able to attend his funeral. It was a sorrowful family affair. By the conclusion I knew I had lost a friend in Sue, who like all intuitive women knew the truth was not being told to her and wasn’t about to forgive me unless I turned honest. I couldn’t of course and departed the ceremony alone and sad, leaving Sue to fight other private battles.

They found Peter’s decomposing body. It came out in the press that he’d fallen foul of some shady property deal, something involving Spiros Xenakis. A complete fallacy, but there you have it. No one wanted to discover the true story.

James spent a long time talking to the proper authorities, the Police Commissioner and Kodas, that dodgy investigator from Iraklion, among them. Mark Gerrard came over from Athens and there was a minor flap at the Embassy. James kept me out of it. I was never mentioned in the papers, not even a hint. I was never interviewed by the police. I didn’t even make a statement.

I was debriefed by Mark Gerrard. He was his usual snobbish self, very particular and condescending. He went on about the Official Secrets Act and started to talk disciplinary action. James told him to piss off, said I was a bloody godsend and that if Gerrard had been running a tighter Station, Conrad wouldn’t have been such a liability. He screwed up the interview notes and filed them in the shredder.

***** ***** *****

When we left El Candia I sat sullen and silent in the Focus.

We’d passed three more dead bodies on the way out of the mansion and James virtually had to tug me through the vineyard back to the car. I didn’t want to talk. Neither did James. I was exhausted and the dreadful scenes I’d witnessed through the night were imprinted across my vision. I couldn’t get the blood and the corpses out of my mind.

James seemed equally tense. Even though he’d seen this kind of thing before, it still affected him, albeit in a way I couldn’t fathom. It was as though he pushed the horrors aside and concentrated on a different reality. He tasted the grapes again as we left, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. When he drove the car, a normal every day occupation, I sensed the stress unravel, his frustrations absorbed into the driving.

He took me to his villa at the Minos Beach Hotel. James poured me a big stiff neat Jack Daniels and I stood lost in the centre of the gorgeous room while he ran a hot bath. Then he forced the bourbon down, undressed me, picked me up and lay me in the tub. I never saw the clothes again and I was glad of that.

While I soaked, he used the shower and afterwards, wrapped in a thick bathrobe, he washed me. I hadn’t been washed by anyone since I was a little girl, when mother was in good moods. It was a warm fuzzy feeling. I was dried, dressed in one of his shirts and put to bed. I curled up and slept for twenty hours.

When I woke a pile of clean clothes from my flat was neatly folded on a chair. James was sitting on the veranda smoking, drinking espresso and watching the night sea. I learnt later he hadn’t slept at all, just dozed an hour or so.

I stretched, rustled my hair, and padded across the floor to join him. I stopped at the curtain, hugging it. He noticed me and I saw his eyes smile.

“Are you all right, Amy?” he asked.

My voice played murmurous tricks in my throat. I answered him eventually: “Yes.”

“Am I forgiven?”


“Good. I don’t want you to think the worst of me, Amy,” he said cautiously, “In my profession it’s hard to live in the real world sometimes. I used to think the world was very black and white, but over the years everything’s turned into shades of grey. I don’t like my existence much, but it’s all I’ve got to live with.”

I placed a hand on James’ shoulder but couldn’t say anything. That sweet sickness called life was haunting him again. The ghost was back and he needed my comfort.

***** ***** *****

So that’s how I met James Bond.

But where I am now isn’t where I came into this story. I never expected the dreadful happenings over the last week. I never wanted it. I wasn’t ready for all that. I was still the fairy, playing at life, battered but beautiful and waving her imaginary magic wand, hoping it would all turn out okay. Life didn’t work like that. I hadn’t discovered the secret. It was easier to dream.

But now something in my life has turned out exactly as I wanted. It isn’t perfect, nothing ever is, we’ve established that; but it’s real and substantial. And how much better is that compared to the shallow, composite life I was living?

I can only think how life has changed for me in the last few days, how I have finally put away those childish, impish fantasies and faced up to adulthood. I don’t need to hide from myself any more. A few years too late, some might say, but it is never too late to learn about the world.

I lie here, drenched in cool sweat, the droplets running in spirals off my shoulders, running down my breasts and onto my flat, taut belly, refreshing my tawny skin, my hands draped in the glittering sea, my feet flapping at the waves. The peace is infectious. Suddenly everything feels this sedate, this calm, this beautiful.

James stayed a week to sort out the mess. I helped a bit, but he didn’t really need my help, so I’ve spent it eating and swimming and drinking and pampering him and making love to him when he comes home and when he wakes up and before he goes to sleep.

I paddle back to the beach. He’s waiting for me now, just as he has every day for the past week, those too-cool too-blue eyes absorbing every inch of me. I stand still, not even breathing, letting him look at me. I know he likes what he sees. He told me so the first time we made love.

“You’re the most beautiful, wonderful girl, Amy. I’m glad I’m with you.”

I didn’t know for how long he’d be mine and I didn’t care. Life is beginning again for me this summer, this time without secrets and immature stories. And James is part of that beginning.

After several seconds, I breathe out. It’s always the same. I stare into his face, so inscrutable, firm, secure, trying to read his expression, to see what thoughts and ideas hide behind the slightly cruel expression and the indolent smile. It doesn’t really matter because I know what I want to do. I step up to James and kiss him.

I take his hand and lead him into the bungalow. The bed isn’t made, but I don’t want to use the bed. I peel off his clothes, first that blue cotton shirt and then the slacks, lastly the boxer shorts. I gently sit him in the wicker chair. He is hard to the touch and I like that. He guides me down and I am deliciously thorough in the task.

When he is spent, I get sit back and slowly seductively remove the bikini. First each shoulder strap comes down, then a single cup of the bra, followed by the other. I loosen the ties on the bikini slip and let it drop away.

James Bond accepts my invitation.

He whispers a contented sigh and his breath tickles my skin. He slips his arms under me, lifts me up and effortlessly carries me to the bed.

We make a long slow love. The best love I have ever made.

My mother told me never to talk to strangers. She was probably scared I’d end up a naughty girl, a bad girl, kissing and sleeping with inappropriate men. Well, she wasn’t far wrong. But James Bond wasn’t a stranger and I wanted to kiss him. Since that very first moment, when I saw him standing, naked in this very room,
I wanted to learn everything about him, every crease in his skin and every breath from his lips and every touch of his fingers.

Now I only have two days.

They have to be the very best two days of my life and I’m going to make them the very best two days of his.