(My apologies for the double post. Obviously I should have previewed the first time I posted this. I hope you'll read t and let me know what you think.)
It was a bad job, James Bond reflected as he swirled his martini around in the glass. It wasn’t just the nature of the assignment—Bond had been too long in this career to allow a scalp-taking mission to get under his skin. And yet, this mission didn’t carry with it the charge of adrenaline—the primal instincts of fight or flight waking in anticipation of the violence surely to come—that usually accompanied a mental review of the details, specifics, and contingencies of an assignment. No, this one merely left him feeling hollow and vaguely exhausted.
Was this burnout, Bond wondered as he let his gaze quickly sweep the bar of Les Burges hotel, noting that little had changed since the last time he’d done a visual of his surroundings. The elderly couple at the table in the southwest corner had gotten their food, and was eating in silence. The three young men—bankers, no doubt, given their stylish, yet conservative suits and serious glasses—had gotten another round of drinks. A whiskey neat for the one with the thinning hair, a rum and coke for the younger one with the gold bracelet, and a Heiniken for the one with the impressively-sized double Windsor knot in his navy tie. By Bond’s reckoning the one with the whiskey would be feeling the effects of the alcohol first—the bar had been stingy with the proportion of rum to coke. The two middle-aged women in the secluded table in the north corner were still nursing their cosmopolitans, but the one doing most of the talking looked more stricken now that she had a few moments earlier. Clearly, her story was growing direr. What was it she was recounting? Was it the evidence she discovered of her husband’s affair? The drugs she’d found in her teenager’s schoolbag? Any moment now she would reach the climax of her tale, and she would crumple into as much despair was appropriate for the circumstances, and the other women would take her turn, offering sympathy and comfort.
Burnout, Bond pondered as he checked on the rest of the patrons—a sparse lot, appropriate to the late-afternoon hour. No, not exactly burnout, he decided, after prodding his dissatisfaction like an order of beef that he wasn’t confident had been prepared properly. More like undiluted boredom. Here he was, readying himself to take a man’s life—an unarmed, unsuspecting man—and all he could feel was cold, grey stripe of tedium.
The assignment hadn’t been presented that way when he sat across from M in the familiar office, flanked on three sides by oil paintings of great Napoleonic naval battles and soundproof padding on the door behind him. “Werner Behnke,” M announced, as close to giddy as allowed by the old salt’s constitution. “Our man in Berne confirmed it. Set up a phony business meeting about his stock portfolio over lunch. Swiped the man’s fork. Fingerprints were immaculate. They match.”
The photo showed a man in a bespoke, pinstripe suit getting out of a BMW sedan. He was as innocuous as was possible—just another businessman going through the transformation brought on by middle age and a comfortable, bourgeois lifestyle. His frame, so lean, and sinewy in the balck-and-white propaganda photos was now running to fat. The sharp, vaguely-lupine features, most often curled into a sneer, was now wider and with a hint of jowl. In one hand he carried a briefcase, and not his usual Kalashnikov, distressed from his various sojourns to North Africa to train or hide out. He had become a respectable businessman and not the firebrand revolutionary who’d recited a hasty mash-up of Karl Marx and Che Guevarra on a cheap audiotape just before he put 7.62x39mm bullets into the skulls of the British Ambassador to Spain and three of his Consuls.
“As you know, the last we saw of him was in Budapest, 1978. Station had good information that he was trying meeting with one of the Soviet’s best document-forger. We assumed he was securing false papers for another one of his jobs. We tried to pick up the forger, but he had KGB minders and we couldn’t afford an incident in a Warsaw Pact country. Bloody good thing we didn’t, too. With a dust-up like that in memory, they might’ve never have decided to give us this.”
Bond reviewed the other document in the file, a typewritten memo in Cyrillic with the seal of the KGB stamped on it. “How’d we get this?” he asked.
“Diplomatic pouch, if you can believe it,” M answered. Bond, for his part, could not imagine that, and looked over the document at the old man’s face. He wasn’t joking. “Was part of a demarche delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Something about their dissatisfaction with the Western press’s portrayal of their activities in Afghanistan. Meant to look like the wrong document was accidentally slipped in.”
“Not exactly the most credible scenario,” Bond opined.
“No, but our boys in Q-Branch went over it with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. Paper, seal, typeset are all consistent with internal KGB memos. And they left us a token of good faith: microdots in three of the periods detailing where and when he’d be traveling to Geneva. Seems he has a woman on the side. Meets her every few weeks at Les Burges hotel on Lake Geneva.”
It was firm intelligence, Bond knew, but his hackles were still up. “And why would they be giving him up? They know if he we grab him we can make him confess to their support of his activities over the years. The money, safe houses, all the times they spirited him away to some sun-blasted hellhole or other when we were closing in.”
M made a dismissive gesture. “Old news, 007. Everyone’s well-aware of the support for these ruddy scoundrels, even without concrete evidence. No, Behnke is an olive branch.”
“And to what do we owe the sudden warming of the cockles of their Stalinist hearts?”
“The American President of all things,” M harrumphed. “Bit of a cowboy that one. Rattling the sabre like never before. Spinning tales of space weapons and all that. The Soviets are worried. They know he and the PM have a close relationship. They give us the man who killed our Ambassador, and they hope she’ll urge some restraint on his part in the next round of summit meetings.”
Bond mulled it over. “Plausible, I suppose. Still, it seems a bit out-of-character for them--just giving up one of their own.”
“Nothing of the sort, 007,” M said sharply, clearly not appreciating Bond’s playing devil’s advocate. “Behnke was a useful fool for them. A gadfly to irritate us and provide some propaganda for the masses. They never took him or his so-called wars of liberation seriously. Now, they’ve got a real war to contend with, and the spoiled children of wealthy Europeans are hardly of much use in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.”
Bond knew that the Hindu Kush wasn’t in Afghanistan, but he didn’t say anything. As it was, M closed the folder and slipped it across to Bond. The discussion was over, and all that was left were the instructions.
“Report to Q-Branch. They’ll have identity documents prepared for you. Our station in Geneva is already preparing the necessary smokescreen that’ll go out after the job is done. It’ll be leaked through diplomatic channels to prevent a police investigation.”
“What about the girl?”
“They’re taking care of her. Seems she has a few skeletons in her closet that she’s more worried about coming to light than she is in love with him.”
Bond wondered what those skeletons might be, but knew better than to ask. M would never be bothered with the indiscretions of a silly girl he doubtless considered a common harlot.
“At the hotel, then?”
“It’s the only place he’ll be alone long enough.”
“Not going to do anything good for their Michelin ratings.”
“Fortunately, we’re not the bloody chamber of commerce, 007,” M said, a dagger in his voice.
“Of course not, sir,” Bond said stiffly. “When do I leave?”
And so Bond had flown into Geneva and checked into Les Burges. Geneva Station had taken the advance initiative too book him into a hotel on the other side of the Rhone river, but Bond overrode the decision. Experience told him staying the same hotel where the deed would be done would be less conspicuous, should the police not be called off quickly enough and Bond find himself having to account for himself to a police inspector. A man flying into town for an evening’s business wasn’t nearly as unusual as a man flying in, and then heading clear across town to have a drink.
Bond checked his Rolex. Behnke’s flight would have landed twenty minutes ago. Bond estimated he’d arrive and check in within the hour. He’d be travelling light—no need for a checked bag for this, a quick interlude with his mistress. He’d be able to skip baggage claim and head straight for the hotel.
It was pathetic, really, Bond mused as he prodded his boredom a bit more. This man—self-professed revolutionary, terrorist by rational standards, hero to the spoiled children of the post-war era, and, it should be noted, effective killer—was now just another dissatisfied husband finding relief from a midlife crisis between the legs of a woman other than his wife.
Why had he left the Movement, Bond wondered? The analysts at MI5 and MI6 could provide no easy answer. Behnke wasn’t one of loquacious ones, writing manifestos, fancying himself the next great scribe of the People’s Movement. He only made statements after an attack, or—in the case of Ambassador Sharpe’s murder—just before the trigger was pulled.
Perhaps revolutionary zeal wasn’t enough to tamp down the gradual transformation of the self that comes with age, Bond thought. Or perhaps he’d realized how pointless it all was. Yes, Bond realized with grim satisfaction. That was the problem with this job: it was all just bloody theater performed by actors who'd long since become bored with the play. The people’s revolutionaries still ran about and caused some mischief, but the world had fast stopped caring.
It didn’t take a political scientist to know these were not revolutionary times any longer. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the increasingly confrontational rhetoric of the Americans--it had stripped away the ephemera and left only the cold truth of this world: two power blocks were facing down each other’s massive nuclear arsenal.
And what did that say of Bond’s profession? Of dead drops and codes? Of clandestine meetings, turning enemies into sources, and the pinpoint elimination of targets? The truth was: Bond was on the playbill with Behnke’s fellow revolutionaries, and at some point the play had been stripped of its artifice. Now they were just hitting their marks on an empty stage, while the audience listened to the orchestra and watched the lights and pulleys and sandbags.
Fate didn’t allow him to dwell on this depressing line of thought for much longer, though. Behnke arrived ten minutes later. He looked worse than he had in the black and white surveillance photo. His hair was mussed and thinning, and his shoulders had a slight slouch to them. He carried a briefcase and small duffel, thrown casually over his shoulder. But he smiled mischievously at the hotel clerk—clearly they knew him—and they bantered lightly as he took his key.
The revolutionary is now a ladykiller, Bond thought caustically. What a convenient lateral move. Bond polished off his drink leisurely enough and then settled his tab and left the bar.
Luck was with him, for he had one of the hotel’s tiny elevators to himself. He took the opportunity to draw his gun and screw in the silencer. His beloved Walther PPK had been replaced, and he was still getting used to its successor, the Walther P5c—a compact version of the P5. It was bigger and wider than the PPK, but still smaller than the average service pistol. With the additional size came more firepower—eight rounds of 9mm ammunition against the PPK’s seven of .32 caliber. Q-Branch had modified it slightly—adding luminous dots to sights and tightening the rather spongy initial double-action trigger pull (which raised the firing pin into striking position), but the trigger break still wasn’t as crisp as the PPK. Bond had to be careful not drop his shots. Silencer attached, he slid the gun back into his waistband holster, where it could still be concealed beneath his suit coat.
The elevator rattled to a stop, and Bond made his way to Behnke’s room. 332. Always the same one, a suite with a breathtaking view of the Isle de Rousseau and the magnificent fountains that flanked it. It was a good view for drowsy, post-coital torpor, and Bond had no doubts that Behnke and his mistress had spent a goodly amount of time doing just that.
Q-Branch had skeleton keys for most of the five-star hotels in Europe, and Bond used a copy of that key now. It fit the lock stiffly—it must have been recently cut--and Bond furtively watched the hallway until the lock gave and he slipped inside.
To his immense relief, he heard the shower running.
Bond had banked on Behnke wanting to freshen up before his mistress arrived, but even if he hadn’t the odds were good he would be in the bedroom unpacking his small duffel rather than lounging in the main suite. It meant Bond didn’t have to go in shooting, but could instead shape the situation to his liking. He drew the P5c and held it in a two-handed grip at the high-ready. Behnke may have swapped a life as an international terrorist for one of blissful domesticity, but Bond couldn’t take the chance that those old instincts wouldn’t kick in once he saw the gun. Bond knew that his certainly would were the situation reversed.
The shower turned off, and after a few moments of Behnke moving about in the bathroom, he emerged wearing a white hotel robe, drying his hair with a towel. He got an amazing three steps before he noticed Bond in the doorway. His body jerked as if hit by an electrical current, and for a moment all he could do was blink as the blood drained from his face.
“Sit,” Bond commanded, jerking his head to a low, padded chair in the corner of the room. Hands shaking, Behnke complied. His mouth moved like a cow chewing its cud. Bond recognized the gesture; the man was working up the ability to speak again. Bond cut him off. “The walls are thick and no one will hear you in the hallway.”
“You are English?” Behnke’s voice was barely louder than a whisper. Bond nodded slightly. “For the Ambassador?”
“Does it matter?”
“I always thought that was too far. Even after the deed was done. I thought that we had given them a reason to hunt us now. Everyone else thought we had finally done it—finally struck a direct blow against the governments of Europe, finally given them a reason to fear us. But I knew different. We declared a war we couldn’t win.”
“Didn’t stop you from trying, though.”
Behnke was breathing fast now. Any minute he’d begin to hyperventilate, Bond knew. “That was when I made plans to get away from it. I couldn’t keep doing it. It wasn’t what I had intended or tried to create.”
“You saw the handwriting on the wall,” Bond accused. “You ran.”
“I left it behind,” Behnke said, looking at the wall like a guilty schoolboy. “Maybe a braver man would have turned himself in. I thought about it. But time got away. I had a job, suddenly. A family.”
“You ran,” Bond corrected, “and hid. You never intended to answer for what you did. You’ve still been collecting money from the Russians—that shadow account you’ve always maintained—and funneling it to your comrades hiding out in Africa.”
Now Behnke looked panicked, eyes darting as the fight-or-flight instinct grew. Bond guessed he had only a few more moments before the situation became untenable.
“The Russians sold you out. You’re not important to them anymore. And you’re only as important to us as this. So you see I’m not interested in your spun tales of guilt and redemption.”
Behnke opened his mouth to protest—or perhaps call for help—Bond would never know, for he shot him once through the heart. Behnke’s body shuddered as a crimson stain began to spread against the immaculate white of the robe. Bond put the second shot through his head. Then he decocked the pistol, unscrewed the silencer, and stowed them both beneath his coat.
On his way out, he closed the bedroom door and, after listening through the suite’s door and using the peephole to assure himself the hallway was empty, he left, wiping down the knob on the way out with his handkerchief, and hanging out the DO NOT DISTURB sign. The he rang for the elevator and rode up two floors to his own suite.
Bond called Geneva Station and gave them the agreed-upon code indicating the job had been completed successfully (it was masked as some confusion over an order of chocolates for an imaginary wife, indicating to Bond that the boys at Station hadn’t put a lot of work into this particular element of the plan—he hoped they’d been more diligent with the cover story).
Now all that was left was to while away the hours until he checked out tomorrow morning. He toyed with the idea of going back to the bar and letting some alcohol tamp down the adrenaline still rushing through his system. Ultimately, he decided against it. Drinking too soon after a mission carried with it a raft of hazards. The adrenaline could make him drink too much, become too sociable, and while the thought of spending the evening with a Swiss lovely was an enticing one, it wouldn’t do much for his efforts to be anonymous. No, this evening must one spent alone.
Instead, he showered the smell of gunpower off himself and spent a moment beneath a stinging, cold spray contemplating the bloody job. Well, it was done. However he felt about it, he’d done right by M and Her Majesty’s government. They’d closed the chapter on Behnke and Ambassador Sharpe and everyone the man his movement had murdered. The Russians would have a slightly-less aggressive summit meeting. Maybe he’d helped, however incrementally, the road to world peace, Bond thought sarcastically.
He saw the envelope when he came out of the bathroom, still drying his hair. He’d missed it before—it was a white envelope on white sheets, not something that stood out if you weren’t looking for it. At first he thought it might be a copy of his receipt, but the hotel surely wouldn’t have entered his room surreptitiously to drop off that, or any other bit of communication for that matter. Had it been in here when he checked in? He couldn’t remember. Bond hadn’t seen fit to sweep for listening devices, so his inventory of the room had been cursory at best. Could someone have dropped it off while he was at the bar or in Behnke’s suite?
It didn’t matter, Bond thought furiously, angry at himself for not being more alert. He snatched up the envelope and opened it, careful to take by a corner, lest it be needed for fingerprints later. It wasn’t sealed, and Bond easily untucked the flap and withdrew the folded piece of stationary.
He read the short message—only a few sentences—and then reread it. His pulse was throbbing in his neck. He forced himself to sit down and think clearly through the rising excitement, weighing the options available to him. Eventually, he ordered a light dinner and forced himself to eat it. Shortly after midnight, he dressed in a warm pair of woolen slacks and chucka boots with a dark, cashmere turtleneck. He replaced the two rounds in his Walther from a small supply he kept in a secret compartment in his suitcase and fixed the holster to his belt, then clipped two spare magazines to his belt on the opposite side of his waist.
Bond pulled on his suit coat and slipped the note into its inside pocket. Then he shrugged into a heavy topcoat to protect against the Switzerland winter and left the suite. He left the hotel through a fire door in the stairwell that was not connected to an alarm. Geneva glittered beneath a cold, gunmetal sky like a cloudy gem only hallway caught by a jeweler’s lamp. Bond huddled into himself against the cold and set out into the night.
The club was strategically located in the middle of a quiet street in a slightly-disreputable block, flanked on both sides by restaurants and cafes that had closed up for the night. The exterior was brick, painted a gaudy purple with the club’s name written in looping, vivid yellow letters. Bond imagined at first that it was the sort of place that teenagers went to listen to New Wave music, take drugs and generally annoy their parents. As he got closer, though, and noticed the relative sophistication of the surrounding eateries, he amended his opinion some. This was a place young professionals went to listen to New Wave music, take expensive drugs, and pretend they were still teenagers.
There were three cars parked on the block—a Mercedes and a Volvo at the north end, and what looked to be an old BMW at the south. They were all weathered by snow and salt and in poor position for overwatch. No, if anyone was watching him now they were in one of the darkened buildings. They wouldn’t stay there, though.
Bond gave the club’s door an exploratory pull and found it opened easily. He unbuttoned his topcoat and then his suit coat and hooked his thumb over his belt to draw faster. Inside, the club was dim, but not dark. It was, essentially one long room with about two dozen tables set out for the front two thirds—now with their chairs set atop them—and the last third an immense dance floor that stretched beneath an impressive lighting setup to a small stage that accommodate a four or five-person band. At either edge of the dance floor were two booths, scalloped into the wall for privacy. One of them was lit by a candle.
Adrenaline was rattling his nervous system like a power grid struck by lightning, but he forced his gait to be slow and deliberate as he passed between the silent tables, still as gun turrets on an empty warship. He slipped out of his topcoat as rounded the last of them and could at last see into the candle-lit booth. His breath caught in his chest, but he forced himself to be calm. She spoke, even before he could take her all in.
Bond allowed himself silence until he slid into the booth across from her. “Did you expect me not to?”
Anya Amasova smiled. “Of course not. Not you. Someone else, perhaps would have rang London immediately, but not you.”
She was still beautiful—almost unbearably so in the candle light—even as the last half decade showed on her face. She had faint lines around her mouth as she smiled, and the corners of her eyes were lightly flashed with delicate creases that might have been applied by a painter’s tiniest watercolor brush.
“You’re as lovely as ever, Anya. It’s downright cheeky of you, so casually demolishing the Western stereotype of Russian women as Panzer tanks in babushkas. If the Ministry of Information wanted a quick victory they could simply drop leaflets with your picture on it in West Berlin. Defectors to the East would be record.”
She laughed a genuine laugh, from deep in her throat, and covered her face self-consciously. “And you’re the same, James. Still the irrepressibly suave English gentleman, able to sweep a woman off her feet without even any effort.”
Bond grinned at that and looked away for a moment. “Well, it’s nice to know we’ve both held up well in the intervening years.”
“But you want to know why we’re here.”
“Obviously I’m intrigued,” Bond said and placed the note on the table between them. “I can honestly say this is the last thing I expected to find in my room tonight. Or ever, for that matter.”
“You must have known we would meet again, James. There aren’t many of us in this business. It’s what you would call an exclusive club. Sooner or later we were bound to cross paths.”
“Unless one of us ended up dead in the meantime,” Bond replied dryly. He suddenly wanted a drink.
Surprisingly, she laughed again. “If we could survive Karl Stromberg, James, whatever did we have to worry about?”
He smiled. “That was all rather rococo. You know, I quite miss the type of enemy who has an undersea base. It’s imaginative. Colorful.”
“Oh, good God, James, we nearly drown in that car of yours.”
“Yes, Q-Branch outdid themselves on that one. You know they never continued that project. Cutbacks, you know.”
“I think that the accountants will be the death of us, more than any bullet. In the Soviet Union, it’s all satellites and computer systems now. Human intelligence is terribly antiquated in the eyes of our government.”
Bond shifted in his seat. “I wish I could say it was different in the West, but I’m afraid it’s not. Though, we don’t have an invasion to underwrite.”
Anya held up a palm, “I don’t even want to talk about that. The Great Soviet war machine mobilized against a country of no significance whatsoever.” She sighed and shook her head.
“Well, now that we’re in agreement over the relative follies of our government, I think it’s time you’ve told me why you sent this,” he gestured at the note. “The second sentence was rather arresting.” That was the sentence that read, You are in greater danger than you realize.
Anya leaned forward, propping her elbows on the table, so that the soft oval of her face was embraced by the candle light, like a lover’s palm cupping her chin. As Bond had done years go. “For the past fifteen months, I was assigned to the group in the KGB that was monitoring Behnke. It was a collateral duty, usually no more than reviewing periodic status reports.”
“Ensuring the funds were paid out.”
“Yes, and also noting any changes in his lifestyle or activity. When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to abandon him to your government, I was not exactly surprised. I had already suspected we were holding on to him to use for trade with the West someday. But when my superiors did not bring me in on the planning for his termination, I was very surprised.
“I was briefed on the details after the plan was made, but not given any official dossier. This was highly unusual. My superiors told me it was because Behnke was a minor concern, and they did not want to distract me from other duties.”
“Very much so,” Anya agreed. “I managed to obtain a copy of the official dossier—I told a colleague that I needed it for reference in my final report on Behnke. That’s when I discovered this.” She reached beside her on the seat, and Bond felt an instinctive flash of warning. Of course if she’d wanted to kill him or incapacitate him, she could have done so any number of times already, but Bond still got nervous when people reached for things outside his line of sight.
She produced a small sheaf of papers, which she slid across the table. Bond fanned them out before him like a deck of cards. Several were in Cyrillic, but two were in English and bore the seal of MI6. Bond withdrew them from the deck and laid them out in front of them. He read them in chronological order:
“It’s not the optimal course of action, however given the gravity of the circumstances it is agreed that this is the only one worth pursuing. We have received assurances through clandestine channels that the Soviet government will honor its promise and scale back military assets in the aforementioned Eastern European regions to the levels agreed upon. This is not the diplomacy we seek, but it is the diplomacy we have available to us.”
Bond felt a chill. He suspected he knew the facts lurking between the lines. He looked over the second document, a reply to the first.
“Ministers, I most strenuously object to this decision. Agent 007 has been an invaluable resource, who has executed his duties to Her Majesty’s government with nothing but the utmost valor and professionalism—indeed, it is a testament to his effectiveness in the field that the KGB has selected him among the operatives for termination. I understand the cold equations that must be made in the prosecution of this damnable Cold War, and I have never had any qualms sending men to almost certain death. I shall do so again, as a loyal servant of Her Majesty’s government, however I would like it noted that I carry out my responsibilities in this matter only over my deepest objections.”
Beneath the text was M’s signature.
“We were never trading Behnke for favorable diplomatic overtures, James. He was just a ruse. You were the trade.” Anya’s blue eyes caught the light and shone almost red.
Bond said nothing, only looked at the documents.
“All those missions…all the danger you’ve faced, all the injuries you’ve sustained…all the enemies you’ve protected your country from. Now, your own government sacrifices you like a chess piece. A pawn.”
“And you’re here to…what? Warn me? Spirit me away to a dacha somewhere on the Baltic Sea?”
“We have a safe house nearby. I have documents for you, and a plane ticket to Southeast Asia. Your people won’t search for you there. If they do, it won’t be the first place they look.”
Bond sat back and crossed his arms. “You’re doing this—betraying your own people—because we spent some time in a leaky submarine built on the frame of a Lotus Esprit Turbo?”
“No,” she answered softly. “Because you came back for me. When Stromberg had me. You came back before the Americans could destroy the base and kill me. I can’t leave you behind, either.”
Anya leaned forward and placed her hand on his wrist. “I know this is must be difficult for you. I know that you don’t want to believe it, but that is the signature of your superior. He didn’t take part in this, but he wouldn’t stand against it either. He’s letting them send you to your death.”
“That’s very good,” Bond said. “The memos. They’re quite good. You captured M’s voice quite well in the parts that you invented.”
“This isn’t a forgery, James,” Anya said quietly.
“What this is,” Bond replied tightly, “is a copy of memo M sent several years protesting the closure of several of our support stations in West Berlin. Then you dropped in his glowing appraisal of my work. And this,” he tapped the first document, “is pure fiction.” He leaned forward. “Behnke was never about currying favor with the American’s he was the first stage in a plan to get me here, where you could convince me to defect or some such nonsense.”
The barest hint of a smile tugged at Anya’s lips. “I didn’t think it would work. I told them it wouldn’t. But the KGB didn’t trust our ability to kidnap you from under the noses of your assets here. They wanted a charade.”
“Such as it is.”
Bond settled back in his seat, pondered the game that unfolded—and collapsed—before him. It seemed at once childish and deeply cynical. “Anya,” he asked, “aren’t you getting a bit tired of it?”
“Of what, James.”
“This silliness. These lies and plans and the like. We’ve been doing this for so long, and what have gotten ourselves? Not an inch of ground. Now this. What if you’d succeeded? What difference would it have made? Thirty-five years of a Cold War. The elimination of one spy isn’t even a footnote in that story.”
“I suppose it depends upon the spy, James,” Anya replied, tilting her head coquettishly.
“That’s sweet of you to say.” Bond slid the papers back across the table to her. “How many are there?”
“Two in front. One in the back.”
“You came light.”
“We couldn’t run the risk of being detected in the additional surveillance of Behnke.”
“And the signal? In case everything went haywire?”
Anya held up a gold cigarette lighter.
“Well,” he said, sliding out of the booth. “Best not keep them waiting, then.”
Naturally, the officers at Geneva Station were simply gobsmacked by what Bond recounted, but as they scrambled and bickered among themselves as to what to do next, Bond used their disorganization to leverage a call to M.
“I might have suspected something like this,” he grumbled from what Bond assumed was his handsomely-appointed home office, where he kept the scrambled phone line. “That business with summit seemed a bit too dodgy for my tastes. My fault for listening to the politicians, double-oh seven. I’m just glad you didn’t come to any harm.”
“No sir. Though the KGB has a bit of a mess to clean up.”
“And it’s theirs to clean up. Serves them bloody well right for attempting an operation like this. Kidnapping one of our men from a Western city? A damnable outrage. At least they’ll think twice before trying something this harebrained again.”
Bond knew that wouldn’t. Anya had given him enough time to draw his P5c before she activated the signal. The KGB torpedoes had been waiting with guns drawn, but even in the dead of night, they’d have to be concealed. The extra moments gave Bond time to take up position amid the stacked tables, so that when they burst into the room, sweeping their sight-line with their Makarov pistols, Bond could kick one of those tables over and send the stacked chairs tumbling into them. The first one staggered back, lifting his left arm protectively, while the second spun and tried to draw a bead. But Bond wasn’t stationary; he fired the first shot as he sidled to the right—a headshot to the second gunman. He continued moving as he brought the luminous dots of his sight into the mass of the first gunman’s chest. He fired off two shots, quickly with the single-action trigger pull, keeping his wrists tensed against the recoil for a faster shot. The man stumbled backward into another table and fell in a mass of flailing limbs and chairs.
Bond swung back to the first target, but he was still. Bond kicked the man’s gun across the room anyway. When he turned, he saw Anya leaning casually in the booth, as if watching a musical act she wasn’t particularly engaged by. “You’re still as effective ever, James.”
“And the one in the back, he’s covering the door? Orders to shoot anyone who comes through?”
“Of course. He has a Skorpion machine pistol. I’m afraid you’ll never make it out that way.”
Bond didn’t answer, just walked to the rear of the club through the short corridor that led to the restrooms and, beyond that, the rear exit, screwing the silencer into his P5c as he did. When he reached the door, he noted with no small amount of satisfaction that it was a metal fire door, with a lever-knob. The metal seemed formidable enough and was safely fire-resistant, but Bond knew from experience that the door was mostly hollow with only two millimeters-thick layers of metal forming it. Bond assessed the exitway, imagined that it led to a short alcove cut into the back alley. That meant the third man couldn’t be anywhere but directly behind the door. Bond exchanged his magazine for a fresh one, and then unleashed all nine rounds through the door in a rough X-pattern. The 9mm hollow-point bullets tore jagged holes in the metal the size of nickels. Bond reloaded and flattened against a wall, then threw the door open with his left hand as he covered the doorway with his gun. A gust of frigid air hit him, bringing swirls of snow with it.
The third gunman had unwisely set up right in the line of fire and was now a broken mass slumped on the litter-strewn ground near the mouth of the alleyway.
Bond crossed back through the club. “I’m sorry to say you have a bit of work to do tonight, Anya,” he told her. She only smiled and stood, her hand extended as if she was bidding him farewell from a dinner party. He took it, and imagined a dozen other ways he would have preferred this reunion to have ended.
“I’m sorry, James. I wish we could have met again away from this. The guns and the lies and the secrets.”
“One day, perhaps.”
“Yes, perhaps.” She leaned in and kissed him, something soft, but provocative. A promise more than an overture. Bond cupped her cheek, found the color of her eyes--even I the dim light--then set out, past the bodies littering the floor, into the freezing, dark night.
But he didn’t tell M all of that. Just the basics.
“What’s next for me, then, sir? Station is getting a bit frantic. I think they want me out of here as quickly as possible.”
“Yes, well, Five naturally wants you to come in and be debriefed. Worried about you considering the girl’s offer and all that. Of course, I told them if you’d for a moment considered their offer they wouldn’t have three dead operatives to clean up. Bloody fools, the lot of them.”
“Understood. I’ll be on the earliest flight to London.”
“Afraid not, James. Something’s come up that I’d like you to handle. We’re telexing the details to Geneva Station now. Use your same cover, but buy some warm-weather clothes. Depart in the afternoon.”
“Depart for where, sir?”
Seven hours later, Bond was balancing his drink as the TWA 747 banked and took up a southeasterly course. The details were in a manila file in his briefcase, but he had already memorized them, and there was no reason to risk a security breach by poring over them during the flight. He’d memorized the name and photo of his contact—an old ally of the British who’d stood with them against the Germans during World War Two. Now he had a line on a terrorist who’d downed airliner two years ago and was being given sanctuary by Colonel Quadaffi’s government.
Bond had felt an immense sense of relief since he woke this morning. He looked forward to the job, looked forward to experiencing a new country, new city for the first time. He liked the idea of slipping away from the tiresome Cold War, if just for a moment.
The plane hit turbulence, completed its arc, and Bond heard the engines whine as it surged forward into the new.