A short story featuring Ian Fleming's James Bond 007
This story 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 Glidrose/Ian Fleming Publications Ltd and are available to purchase.
The motion pictures are created by EON productions/MGM. For further information please visit the official James Bond website at www.jamesbond.com.
This story is the intellectual property of Chris Stacey, whose personal details are listed on the CommanderBond.net website under the member ship name “chrisno1.”
Apollo’s Tears © Chris Stacey Esq. 2011.
It made him weep.
Francis Alucard placed the expensive thick rimmed Polaroids over his eyes. Doctor’s orders. His retinas were fractured, the first sign, he knew, of the melanoma which would pillage his body. Without protection, the daylight could blind him.
The injury was self-inflicted.
Francis loved the heat on his body. It had been born into him. His mother, a scholar, wanted to christen him Apollo. His father, despite being named Montgomery, came from a long line of Francis Alucard’s and only allowed Apollo to be used as a pet name. It was nonetheless a remarkable portent.
As a child he loved the long hot summer days, shirtless, shoeless, his hands scratching corn, his toes curling in the dirt by the creek, the arrogant, gorgeous sun blazing on his back. As an adult, a millionaire, a member of the jet set, he’d resided in climates which never denied him access to the burning eye of heaven.
Francis hated the dark; even the simple task of placing the sunglasses on his nose, dimming the beautiful morning, made him morose and pensive.
Properly attired, he strode across the terrace. He wore nothing but the black spectacles and a pair of white swimming shorts. His body was hairless, except for the greying thatch on his head. His skin, by nature as pale as unleavened dough, was piercingly golden, baked bronze by decades of exposure, toughened by the wind and the dust and the barbs of sunlight he adored.
Francis stood at the balustrade, absorbing the sunrise. He felt it softly stroke his skin, felt its caress on his aching muscles, its kiss on his tortured, silent lips. Was it true; did their breath mingle? He ran his tongue across his mouth, corner to corner, top first then bottom, to remind him of the succulent taste of heaven.
The world was quiet with Francis. Not a bird, no splashing in the pool, not a baby’s cry, not a scream. Today was his day. And God agreed with Francis.
He gazed across the bay; a slice of Madeira carefully chosen for its south facing vista. Below him, the tide receded in wave after wave of cut glass bubbles, like scattered diamonds, born in the earth, carried by the oceans, fired by the sun.
Once as precious to him as daylight.
His wealth was in diamonds. His family had been farmers in Rhodesia. But the engineers had carried out surveys and the big companies and big lawyers had thronged to his father’s door, waving papers offering unimaginable sums. Montgomery Alucard had not believed it. Incredulous, he’d paced the sitting room, its battered but comfy chairs reminding him of everything he’d achieved.
“All that money for this strip of land?” his father repeated again and again.
“Take it,” urged his mother, looking at the threadbare empty seats and wanting to get away from the arid, dusty land.
And so he signed. It was only a small concern but the mineral rights made the family more than wealthy. They joined the elite and moved to Salisbury before the first mine was even driven. His father bought a colonnaded mansion and life became busy for the Alucard’s. The boy Francis didn’t have the time or the freedom to play in the sun anymore.
It was all so distant. The seasons had passed. The white regime had tumbled. Mugabe had come to power. His family had died. From fear, he thought. Francis sold the vast house. And he’d travelled; unaccompanied, indolent journeys through Europe, the Middle East, the Americas. People came and went like the tides.
Above all, every day, Francis could rekindle his love affair with God.
Today the heat of the sun was sated by a mild breeze, whispering a gentle path across the inlet, tickling the skin of his torpid body, drying the droplets of perspiration that clung to his neck and face and under his arms. Absently, he wiped his hands on his shorts and immediately saw again the ugly stains, as if his palms were covered in oil. Now his immaculate beach wear was equally plagued.
Guilt, thought Francis. You couldn’t hide from it; follows you everywhere.
And he did feel guilty. But he didn’t feel any remorse.
Alice had challenged him.
“There is no ‘us’ anymore, Francis, there is only ‘you and us’.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He’d snapped the reply, the hand gripping the cocktail glass ever tighter.
“Are you leaving me?”
“Yes, and I’m taking George too. This charade has gone on for too many years.”
“This charade is what I pay you for. I never said I’d be faithful to you, Alice. That was never the agreement.”
“Then I’m changing the agreement.”
She was a duchess. Some obscure Austrian title, a descendant of the Emperor Franz-Josef, well moneyed once, but down to her last few thousand when he found her, propping up the chemmy table with one hand and the bar with the other. It’d been a private party, but an exclusive one. All the great families were there, the new rich and old European elite: like the BMW heirs the Klattens, the Ferreros, the Schönborns and of course the Grimaldis. Francis drove from San Remo to Trouville Sur Mer just for the occasion. It took him a day. He returned twenty three days later as a married man.
They had an arrangement based on a lie, not love. He fulfilled his conjugal rights when necessary, but she didn’t appeal to him in that way. No. It was the people she knew he wanted to love: the waiters, the croupiers, the handsome idle rich, the dress designers, the actors, the young intellectuals, the slender, gentle, clever men. And in turn he would ignore it when Alice met the bullfighters, the racing drivers, the athletes and boxers, the muscled lusty warriors that appealed to her basic nature.
But while he was discreet, she flaunted her affairs, bringing the bastards into the house, abusing the marital bed, messing with the toiletries, leaving dirty towels on the floor or at the beach, making the place smell of sweat and sex and rough Puerto Rican tobacco. Eating his food and drinking his wine.
How many times had Francis left? How many times had Alice threatened to leave? How many times had little George woken to find his parents in a rage.
His parents? Perhaps.
There was nothing about George that fixed him to his father. He had dark hair and the hue of his skin was a natural tan. There was a gap at the front of his teeth, set in a strong square jaw. Even at nine years, he was broad shouldered. Above all he had a high sloping forehead and small almost simian eyes.
It was the boxer, Gerano.
The passion swelled.
He felt it, that hot unstoppable flush of violence. An emotion he’d held in restraint for years. Held back when his parents took him away from the creek and the open expanse of the veldt; when the boys roughed him up at school; when the girls rejected him; when his mother died; when the white families were oppressed and their livelihood’s destroyed; when Mugabe’s new Zimbabwe stole his land lease and took his income; when the markets took his shares and cast them away as nothing, bad debts and big losses; when Alice betrayed him again and again.
Suddenly he was angry at the fortune that had dwindled. Extravagance had killed it. Diamonds were not forever.
Now, stood in the villa, Francis Alucard understood there was nothing left of his life except a son he barely recognized and deep, corrosive anger.
“Stop me!” she’d screamed.
The glass exploded in his hand.
James Bond liked to swim alone before breakfast. From his position circling the bay, he’d been watching the villa for several minutes.
The man stood motionless.
At first Bond had tried to ignore the figure that had disturbed his peaceful Christmas morning, but as his curiosity increased, he rather enjoyed the intrusion. It gave him something else to think about.
What was the man doing, just standing there? He appeared to be in a trance. He didn’t appear to have noticed him. The man wasn’t looking at anything except the rising dawn, staring at the sun through glasses tinted so dark he had black hole’s instead of eyes.
Bond remembered they’d met: a party, a day or two ago. The man had been reticent. Bond remembered he drank a lot. Champagne bucks. Yet mostly he just sat, soaking the warm Atlantic sun, listening to everyone’s chatter. It was really his wife’s party: the she-devil of a neighbour he’d been warned about. Luckily that afternoon and evening she’d been more preoccupied with a young athletic type, an African who claimed to be from a Royal tribe.
Francis and Alice Alucard. A mismatched couple if ever he’d seen one. She was the boisterous one, he was the embodiment of indifference.
Yet despite the laid back appearance, Bond sensed the man was tense. He brooded behind his Polaroids, watching without pleasure, as if his enjoyment was in the giving. He rarely spoke unless spoken to and most of that came from his wife. He was short with her and concealed it behind a wan smile.
The party wasn’t a great occasion – nobody attended but the neighbours, a motley band of ex-pats and the better off locals – yet it was treated as such. There was Moet both pink and white, Beluga caviar, anchovies, groaning plates of hot and cold tapas, music and even a token present for each guest. People danced, they swam in the pool, they ate and drank to soulless excess.
It was like the last days of the jazz age, something Fitzgerald might have imagined. And Francis Alucard sat apart from it, a wounded Gatsby, observing the chess pieces of his game, but minus his Daisy.
Bond grimaced with more than the effort of his swim.
He wasn’t exactly in a perfect relationship either. For years he’d kept up a semblance of a friendship with Monica, a free spirited Polish model who lived in a tacky modern flat in Bermondsey. They were sleeping buddies.
Occasionally they escorted each other to functions, although Bond was always careful to avoid anything too public. It would endanger his career if his profile was raised to the tabloids. It might also endanger people’s lives.
Recently, Monica had been ignoring the old rules and creating new ones. She was getting clingy. He’d tried gentle dissuasion but he sensed she was heading into the tunnel of love alone. It wasn’t that Bond disliked or didn’t appreciate Monica; he simply found their arrangement comfortable, easy and uncomplicated. His love affairs were never any of those.
When genuine romances did come, Bond would break relations with Monica, reverting to formal and distant habits designed to keep her well beyond arm’s length. She had others too. It worked both ways.
After the summer, when Bond had finally buried the last of his love for Sylvia Lavoilette, he felt invigorated. Partly this was due to another woman, but Amy Porter wasn’t the girl for him. They both knew it and their dalliance was short and sweet, a bitter, sensual catharsis for two individuals looking to escape their ghostly lives for a few human moments.
Bond’s new demeanour had prompted a brief reunion with Monica which had turned into something more substantial. Bond had been cautious. She didn’t after all know the true nature of his work. He was reluctant to confide in her. Deep down Bond didn’t really trust her, not how he’d trusted Sylvia or Amy, because those women had experienced the fear and dread of his own existence. Monica stayed flightily unaware.
This Christmas holiday had been Monica’s idea. Bond had reluctantly agreed, despite the inconvenience of shuffling the Seasonal Duty Rota, a copy of which was circulated, approved and finalised the preceding January.
“You can spare four days, James,” pleaded Monica in Cappuccetto’s.
Bond had downed his Chianti and made some dismissive remark. She’d growled her tiny tiger growl and pulled a sulky face which even the grappa couldn’t diffuse. Bond acquiesced because it was easy and because easy and simple was how he liked their friendship. It didn’t seem as simple and easy now.
They’d had a row at the airport. Nothing major; Bond would never argue in public. But it was a bad seed sown for the harvest of disagreements which followed. Bond’s only peace was his swimming. He suddenly realised that he’d never spent any domestic time with Monica. They went out, they slept over, they separated in the mornings.
Convenient and comfortable.
This long weekend was the first time they had pried into each other habits and it hurt. She left towels out. She filled the bathroom with the scent of Thomas Sabo’s Charm, which was alright on her, but he didn’t want it on everything of his. She was a terrible cook – even for breakfast. She listened to an iPod instead of engaging in conversation.
Bond wasn’t blameless. Monica said he hogged the sheets. He was fastidious, bordering on the sociopathic. He was always on time, never late, rarely spontaneous. Unbelievably he still liked lounge music and something called bebop jazz.
The whole holiday was revealing their incompatibilities in shocking close up. It was inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Bond completed his final turn of the bay and swam back to the shore. Naked and wet he walked up the sand and found his little pile of clothes. He pulled on the thigh-length pajama coat, spread out the beach towel and lay down, one hand behind his neck letting the morning breeze dry him.
The sun was warm on his body, invading every pore. The droplets shrank and evaporated. A dragonfly spun loose from the acacia bushes and hummed over. The moist legs were inviting. It wanted to suckle the salt on his skin. The dragonfly hovered closer. Involuntarily Bond’s leg twitched. Disturbed, the insect darted away, seeking once more the hedgerows, protection from the smouldering haze, hidden, safe from the creature that moved.
Following its flight, Bond looked back towards the terrace.
The man was no longer there.
He was coming down the stone steps to the beach. Bond watched his careful, slow descent. The man paused twice, breathing deeply, Bond thought. How old was he? Sixty maybe, sixty five? Perhaps he was unfit. He certainly liked his booze.
There was no greeting from the tall, bronzed figure, so Bond lay still, intrigued by the man’s deliberate and studied journey. When he appeared from behind the acacias, Bond could see the blood stains on the shorts and the redness on the hands.
The man had cut himself.
For a moment, Bond considered approaching, but he held back. There was something about the way he’d come to the beach. He’d walked with purpose. It was etched across his face. A curious nothingness, as if all life was drifting from it. Bond knew the expression too well. He’d seen it before on men who understood their fate.
He watched, with almost morbid fascination as the man walked steadily on, his head straight up, his feet planting firmly one before each other. He didn’t even stumble through the sand.
The man reached the water’s edge, the ripples bathing his feet, hands by his sides, the blood dripping from the palms. He seemed to suck in the morning, to welcome the sky.
Bond saw him sniff the air.
The man smelt the sea, the fragrant salt, which kicked up from the breakers and blew in wispy cyclones along the shore. He tasted the ocean, the scent of the sunrise.
Bond heard his voice.
“It’s a good day, Apollo.”
A sonorous, brisk tone, a trace of an accent, clear, no imperfections; it was a cut-diamond voice.
Step by step, the man entered the water. The waves came up to his knees and then his waist. It became a struggle. Still he walked on.
Alarmed, Bond sat up. The red stain was spreading behind the figure, but he didn’t rush to help the man. The sensation was untrainable, the mystical sixth sense. Startled by sudden intuition, Bond made for the stone stairway. He ran silent and fast, ascending them in seconds.
The trail of blood led across the patio, past the table and the static love-seat dewy with moisture. The sliding glass doors were still open. Bond remembered the long rectangular saloon, the marble floor, the heavily upholstered sofas that faced the ornate fireplace. A bar stool was toppled. Beside it the remains of a cocktail tumbler were scattered among a spilt drink.
The Christmas fir stood lonely in the corner, decorated with baubles and tinsel and surrounded by unopened presents, the bows and tags immaculately tied and addressed. One coarse woolen stocking, a farmer’s boot sock, lay abandoned and unfilled next to the fender. The embers of the night were still flickering in the fire. A kitchen knife lay on the Turkish rug, a thin veil of blood drawn across the blade as if to disguise the unfolding tragedy.
Bond wasn’t familiar with the layout of the villa. He’d only been in three or four of the public rooms with Monica because much of it had taken place on the wide terrace. There were two corridors off the side of the saloon. He remembered one led to the kitchen. Bond took it.
There were immediate signs of struggle in the corridor. A smashed vase. A picture a kilter on the wall. A torn strip of someone’s clothes. Silk. A woman’s dress, perhaps?
The big kitchen was in a god-awful mess. Bond picked his way through the chaos of broken plates, spilled cutlery and upturned furniture. It had all been so pristine before. He recalled the aromatic tang of cooking that had emanated from the stoves and later, as the sun had died, the scent of the clematis outside the windows had wafted in waves into the dining room where the buffet had sat unfinished and lavish. Now there hung a malodorous stench in the air.
The door was ajar.
A woman lay across it, half-in half-out. The silk nightdress she wore was ripped. The body was sprawled at a dreadful angle, twisted and bruised.
Bond knelt next to the corpse and stretched out a hand. The skin was cold and dry. Gently he inclined the head. She would have been very beautiful once. The abrasions on her throat told the recent history.
The position of the body suggested she’d been trying to block the doorway. The fingers of one hand still brushed backwards against the frame, as if she’d been trying to hold onto it. Bond pushed open the door and stepped over Alice Alucard's body. Stairs led down to the lower terrace and the swimming pool.
Bond went past the clematis and half descended the steps. He didn’t need to go any further. The night lights were still on, glowing angry and red against the gold of the morning. The little boy’s body had sunk, full with water. He still wore his multi-coloured pajamas and dressing gown. The tie was floating forlornly away from him, caught in the last belt hook, refusing to escape its once bright owner.
Bond skirted the pathway and crossed the terrace to the balustrade. Sunlight shimmered across the bay and Bond shielded his eyes to the burning heart of the morning.
Below him the man waded further out and further away.
Francis Alucard felt his body lift with the lapping current. The tide was pulling him out. The moon turns the tides, but the sun signals the day. It was his day.
Now floating on his back he felt weak. He kicked his ankles to propel him away from the shore, out into the open channel and then the sea. He thought someone was on the terrace, but his vision was a blur. It was hard to see with these damn Polaroids.
Well, why not?
Groping painfully Francis removed the glasses. Squinting, he finally felt the radiance of heaven, as if he was a boy, back on the farm, swimming in the creek.
As the tears came, a satisfied smile escaped his burnt lips.
“Ah, the sun.”
Francis opened his eyelids as far as they could stretch.
Edited by chrisno1, 26 December 2011 - 12:58 AM.