During the night of the 24 May 2011, a series of powerful explosions shook Tripoli after NATO warplanes carried out 20 bombing raids. Witnesses said many of the raids were aimed at the military compound Bab al-Azizia, where Colonel Gaddafi was in residence. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, however, claimed that the NATO warplanes had missed their target, instead striking civilian houses nearby. Libyan government television showed 19 bodies at a hospital. Hospital workers claimed the victims were civilians who were killed by “NATO crusaders”
The following night, there were five large explosions, as the NATO air campaign continued. Air strikes once again targeted the Bab al-Azizia compound. Russia said the raids were a "gross violation" of the resolution, which Moscow did not condone. Large plumes of smoke could be seen drifting over the city. NATO said the large Bab al-Azizia compound was being used by the Gaddafi regime as a base for troops and vehicles to carry out attacks on civilians; Libyan authorities maintained that NATO was trying to kill Gaddafi and the night-time strikes were terrorizing Tripoli residents.
On 28 May 2011, three massive explosions crippled the city’s power supply. Later that night blasts at Gaddafi’s vehicle storage unit, Qasr bin Ghashir accompanied the sound of small arms fire coming from the interior of the compound, along with one brilliant white explosion over the compound.
Libyan officials believed the strikes were NATO attacks. However NATO fiercely denied that the activities were part of their strategy. Russian observers reluctantly confirmed the absence of activity from NATO bases.
On 20 August, the Battle of Tripoli began with uprisings within the city. By 22 August, Bab al-Azizia was surrounded by rebel fighters and repeatedly bombed by NATO jets.
On 23 August, the rebels breached the outer walls of the compound. Subsequently, the forces defending the compound surrendered and rebels poured in; climbing onto the sculpture of the ‘Fist Crushing a U.S. Fighter Plane’.
Despite previous reports that Gaddafi and his family might be inside the compound, they were not found when it fell to the rebels.
By October, it was reported that the land was going to be used as a marketplace and tourist attraction. As the sun rose on the 16th October, the massive walls were demolished by bulldozers.
Work continued until the 30th of October when the compound was finally demolished. The transition government announced new plans to turn the former compound into a park.
On the 5th of November, the first visitors were allowed to enter the land. They flocked into the compound on foot and by car to see the ruins and walk through the underground tunnels.
The once pristine walls were soon full with graffiti. Naturally it was written in the local native script except for two words, which still remain today. Scrawled in English, in what looked like blood were two words. Although difficult to read it was thought that the words were ‘Decree Absolute’
‘Spay Cast’ looked like a castle from a fairytale.
Above the bedroom windows, turrets and spires pointed happily toward the clouds. Faint wisps of smoke from the manor’s chimneys reached upward grasping for the summer sky.
The high windows sat beneath sculpted gables amidst the white painted mock Tudor façade.
The sudden death of the former head of MI6, Barbara Mawdsley had been a shock to James Bond; after all it was she that had promoted him to the Double 0 section six years earlier. The bigger shock had come during the reading of her will when the manor ‘Spay Cast’ situated in the heart of Glencoe had been bequeathed to him.
Unquestionably the area was one of Scotland's most historic and scenic glens. The house itself was hued from local materials, it’s presence inspired by the sheer scale and grandeur of its surrounding mountains. The peacefulness seemed only to prick the conscious and beg one to delve into the intrigue of its turbulent past.
Jurgen Hessel’s silver birch Aston Martin DB5 (for which the acquisition, and import were still under scrutiny from the UK customs and excise department) pulled up in front of the house. James Bond, wearing a dark blue ghost stripe suit jumped out. In front of the house was the loch; Bond remembered that M had told him that she had her husband had had it stocked with Atlantic salmon at a cost similar to six month’s salary.
The stillness of the location touched him again, so much so that he found himself walking on tip toes over the gravel drive to reduce the sound of his own foot-steps.
The front door was made from solid oak, with iron hinges hammered into the ancient wood.
Bond slammed the ornate knocker against the well-worn striker plate.
The journey and the anticipation of meeting the staff had blunted his anger over Sir John Green’s decision to take him off the active list, pending the results from the evaluation session. Bond wondered what lay in store for him.
As if in a scene from a gothic horror movie the large heavy door slowly swung open. Bond remembered the one and only other time he’d knocked on the door. M herself had opened it. Now he expected to see a typical old butler beckoning him in.
“Good day to you sir, you’ll be Mister James” The butler beckoned him in.
“That’s right, you must be the butler” Bond had imagined the butler would be smaller and older, but the black suit, white shirt and undertaker’s black tie were spot on. The butler looked to be in his early 60’s. A shock of wild thick silver hair was absently brushed across his broad forehead. His features were large, and honest; portraying a sense of trustworthiness.
“I prefer 'Gamekeeper' or 'Gillie' as my offical title" the stern face softened. "My name is Hanson; but my previous Mistress always called me Robert” The pride in his voice was unmistakable, the accent candid and welcoming.
“Then with your permission, I’d like to do the same” Bond thrust out his hand. Robert shook it without hesitation. The grasp was strong, and the feel could only begin to hint at a life history filled with knowledge.
Robert gave a small bow of his head “Thank-you sir. Welcome to Spay Cast”
“Thank-you” Instantly Bond felt at home.
“Come through” The voice full of excitement. Bond followed Robert through the airy lounge. History hung on every wall.
The archetypical Scottish housekeeper stood by the fireplace. Dark blue cardigan, over a white starched apron. Straight, dark grey hair carefully brushed across her forehead.
The warmth she generated in her blue eyes seemed capable of out-performing any logs that had been placed on the open fire.
“This is my wife, May” Hanson stretched out his hand. May gave a small bow.
The head of a large red dear hung above the stone fireplace its antlers looking as impressive as the piece was obscene. But Bond hardly noticed it.
“Hello May, you must be the house keeper” They to shook hands. The feel of her hand conveyed the coarseness of washing and the deft touch of an expert in the kitchen.
“Hello Mr. James; I’ve heard such a lot about you” Her voice was sing song pleasant, the smile open and warm; but the delivery was as harsh as a disappointed school ma’am.
“From…” Bond searched for the correct address “Your former Mistress?”
“Yes. She was very fond of telling us about your exploits” Her face suddenly hardened, her eyes conveyed another disapproving look, Bond felt quiet intimidated.
“All your exploits…” The smile returned, but without a hint of compromise.
“Come, come now May, Mr. James doesn’t want to dwell on the past”
“I know that Robert; I just wanted him to understand a few house rules” and with that the smile shone through the clouds of disapproval and she left the room.
“They would sometimes take a wee dram together on an evening” Robert’s simple sentence explained how the tales had been passed.
“And you didn’t join them?”
“Certainly not; although the Master and I would sometimes review the cellar”
“The cellar?” Bond asked, trying to keep excitement from his voice.
“The cellar” Robert extended his hand and led Bond toward a small door to the side of the main hallway.
The wooden floor boards creaked in sympathy as they walked across the room.
The smell of polish on wood filled the air adding to the impression of heritage; and the feeling of strength and self-imposed solitude.
James Bond sat on the terrace overlooking the fast flowing river behind the property. The hiss and froth of the water cleansed away the stress of the morning, and washed away the taste of the fuzzy memory of the previous night.
Bond checked his phone. Bill Tanner had sent a message. A series of photographs were attached. He opened the first one.
May put the silver breakfast tray onto the table. The bacon and sausage smelt heavenly. Just what he needed to help recover from the previous night.
Bond put down his phone. May picked up the Sony, and looked at the photographs of Juliet Guggler with an approving eye. The pictures had apparently caught the girl unaware, as she wasn’t looking directly into the camera on any of the shots.
“That’s a very pretty lass; will we be seeing your friend here for a stay?”
Bond took the phone from her hand. With a smile he closed the photographs
“No. She’s not a friend; she’s just somebody that I used to know”
“As you wish Mr. James, as you wish”
The phone rang. Bill Tanner’s name was emblazoned across the screen.
“Hello Bill” Bond made a stern face at May. She smiled sarcastically, and made a slow laboured retreat into the house.
“Hello James” The soft tones of Moneypenny were like music to his ear.
“Hello Moneypenny; why?”
The voice laughed back at him “I didn’t think you’d answer it if you knew it was me ringing”
Bond thought it sounded as if the olive branch were being held out.
“Why not” He probed
“Last conversation we had wasn’t exactly loving”
“Well there were mitigating circumstances; but that’s in the past”
“Agreed; shall we move on?”
“Love to; how do you suggest we proceed?” He recalled that on their very first meeting she had subjected him to some seriously flirtatious remarks, that had been four years ago. Their flirtatious banter had gone no further, but they were both happy with the arrangement; until he had died of course. The resurrection hadn’t gone down too well, now he was eager to resume their former relationship.
Monepenny was perhaps just shy of mid-thirties, about 5’ 7” with dark brown hair and the most perfectly rounded cheek bones. Bond loved her Rodean accent; he was sure there was a trace of the Orient in her family background, but no one at MI6 could confirm it.
“Slowly” Her tone was superior with the ever present hint of ‘naughtiness’
“Slowly? You mean like over dinner”
“I mean like the next time you come into the office you can expect to find a friend there”
“Well that’s nice to know” Bond heard the kitchen door open again. Heavy footsteps slowly approached.
“When are we expecting you back at your desk?”
“M has given me the rest of the week to acclimatize to my new surroundings, his way of saying thanks for the appointment with the Doctor”
“Oh yes, I heard you breezed through the evaluation”
Hanson appeared before him. Robert wore the waders and rubber coat of a north Atlantic fisherman. His smile was broad and infectious.
“Then I look forward to seeing you next Monday” The laughed poured through the words.
“Can you wait that long?” Bond injected a tone of lust into the line
“I’ll try. Bye…” The voice rose in pitch; then the line went dead.
Hanson raised his arms to extenuate his outfit.
“I’m just off to catch dinner; should I try to net another for your guest?”
Bond marveled at the couple’s sense of hearing, and understanding of a one sided conversation.
“Not necessary…tonight” Bond added.
“As you wish Mr. James” He turned to trudge down to the river.
“Robert, you’re looking in fine health this morning…”
Hanson laughed. “A few more visits to the cellar; and you will be able to partake in the malt like a true Scot…The breakfast will help though. You enjoy it.”
Bond smiled at the thought.
“You’ll soon be able to leave your hangover at the border”
“I look forward to that”
Hanson stepped down from the patio area.
Bond’s phone began to ring again. His hand retrieved it in a flash; Tanner’s name was emblazoned on the screen.
“I think that must be the shortest wait in history, I’ll make a reservation at the Hawksmoor” the words tumbled easily from his mouth.
“I didn’t know you cared 007” Bill Tanner answered.
“Sorry Bill, wrong number”
“I rang you 007”
“Something like that. How can I help, Bill?”
“That medical and psychological assessment you went through…”
“Yes, what about it?” Bond smarted at the memory. It was perhaps a small indignation to go through, to convince his employers that he was unaffected by Operation Rotunda. And indeed that he was not under the influence of any of the Klivex products. Still he’d found the interviews tiresome.
“Good and bad news I’m afraid”
“The good news is you passed with flying colours. The bad news is it puts you back on the active register again”
“I take that as good too”
“You may have to appraise that view 007. M wants a meeting with you today”
“Don’t worry about that; we’re sending a helicopter to pick you up. He should be there within the next ten minutes”
“Good. What’s the panic?” Bond put a mouthful of bacon into his mouth.
“What do you know about the Stuxnet virus?”
“It was a cyber menace targeted on Iran”
“Yes, it was seen as an apparent bid to disrupt the country's uranium enrichment programme”
“That’s not a bad thing”
“I agree, unfortunately Iran do not. They retaliated yesterday. A number of key Saudi oil facilities went offline after their computer systems suffered a malware attack”
“Yes. As computers organise and dominate more and more of our world, cyber warfare threats are being taken much more seriously”
“What triggered the panic Bill?”
“GCHQ intercepted messages from a cyber-terrorist group during the week before the Saudis went offline. The messages were all electronically signed ‘Complete Darkness’ they then gave the times and dates, and the GPS locations for the five oil fields”
“Last night, GCHQ intercepted another communication from the same group, the GPS location is London”
“How long have I got?”
“Five days…James, we need you back”
“I never left”
James BOND will return in…
NEVER THE DEATH