Home | Site Map | Facebook | Contact | Photography | Share   


A Birthday Party

A James Bond Short Story

 

 

Part One:  The Invitation

 

Spring arrived early that year.  A bright, clear sky looked down upon explosions of color as blossoms awoke to the warm weather, while others still slept with their dreams of winter.  The fresh smell of wet earth rose in waves from the ground.  However, all of these smells, colors, and sights of spring went unnoticed by James Bond, an intelligence officer with England’s Secret Intelligence Service.  For him, the winter and the first days of spring had been consumed by an endless line of office hours as he found himself trapped in England’s SIS headquarters, that stolid building in London proper.  Despite having the double “O” prefix, the license to kill, one of only three intelligence officers in the entire Service with such a number, he was not excused from the occasional hell of paper work.  Especially during the recent peaceful times.

However, the claustrophobic office had improved with the news of the coming arrival of a weekend houseguest for Bond. May, his elderly Scottish housekeeper, decided that it was time for her to visit some relatives near her birthplace, leaving Bond to entertain by himself.  But before her departure, she constantly admonished Bond about the upcoming weekend.  

“Now, in the kitchen, I have left plenty of healthy vegetables and fruit to eat.  And they are to be gone by my return, if you understand my meaning.  And the house is presently clean, and I would greatly appreciate all efforts to keep it that way.  And, finally, I want you to know that I am fully aware how young men act when they have time to themselves.  But I will not have you embarrassing me.  After my return, I don’t want to hang me head in shame at the local shops if they talk about you and your activities.”

“May, what else is a bachelor to do if not to incite riots on his holiday?”

“Humph,” was her forthcoming comment as she closed her last bag.  But a small kiss on the cheek from Bond brought a smile to her face as he carried her bags outside to a waiting taxi. 

Now, on Saturday morning, Bond wished that he had listened to May more earnestly.  The consumed beverages of last night continued to pound in his skull, and his tongue felt like a carpet.  He debated on aspirin or coffee for his morning meal, and the coffee won out.  Deciding to let his houseguest sleep in, he quickly brewed the brown remains of the beans and sat down to drink this new coffee brand imported from a small farm in Colombia.  Next, he resolved to take a quick glance at the pile of advertisements that had arrived that morning.  However, a small, plain-white envelope, between an ad for the newest hair-restorer (“Are you tired of hats?”) and an ad for a new bookshop (“Books aren’t only for worms!), happened to catch his eye.  No address was visible, nor any stamp.  A very mysterious exclamation point to the morning.  Too small for a letter bomb was the first thought through his head as he weighed the envelope in his hand.  Slicing it open with a butter knife, he pulled out a half-folded white piece of stationary.  Out of habit, his eyes jumped to the name of the sender at the bottom of the letter. 

 

“Marc-Ange.”

             

              Bond unconsciously sucked in his breath as a whirl of memories attacked his senses.  Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the Union Corse and the father of Bond’s dead wife.  La Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo, Teresa to her father, but Tracy to Bond, had been brutally murdered by Ernest Stavro Blofeld, the leader of the terrorist group SPECTRE, and by Blofeld’s  mistress, Irma Bunt.  Bond’s ears once again heard the roar of Tracy’s Lancia and saw her shocking pink scarf as she passed him on the day that fate threw them together on a lonely road.  Then the cries of seagulls at a beach at Royale-les-Eaux, where he had stopped Tracy from committing suicide.  Then the smell of the sea air as they took a boat ride to meet her father.  There, in a hidden location, Marc-Ange, larger than life, pleaded as a father for James to help his daughter with her emotional struggles.  In time, Bond had come to love Tracy, proposing to her as they escaped from Blofeld’s men.  And as an early wedding gift, Marc-Ange helped Bond to destroy Blofeld’s lair.

              And now, the roar of the Lancia’s engine once again filled Bond’s ears as he remembers traveling in Tracy’s car to their honeymoon.  On that lonely road, a solitary car with two passengers, a man and a woman, came racing up behind.  Then the roar of an automatic weapon.  The Lancia going out of control.  And then Bond waking from consciousness.  And the horrifying vision of flowering blood stains spreading across his wife’s back.

As the howling memories died down, leaving Bond a little tired, a little morose, he read the message.

 

“James,

 

I have some words for you.  Meet me for Tracy’s birthday tomorrow at noon.

 

Yours,

 

  Marc-Ange”

 

Bond contemplated the words.  A gift?  A  meet for tomorrow?  What could it be?  What could he possibly want?  And was it really Marc-Ange?  But then he quickly dismissed the idea of it being a trap.  A half-competent enemy could have thought of more believable bait than the idea of Marc-Ange coming for a visit.  Bond had not spoken to his father-in-law since Tracy’s funeral.  And even at that time, they had spoken of only the service arrangements.  James had decided to have her buried in England so he could be near her, and Marc-Ange had gone along with Bond’s wishes. 

After the funeral, Bond lost himself in grief and pain, and proceeded to ignore the living.  It was M, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service and Bond’s “boss,” who helped bring James around with a mission to Japan.  A new sense of purpose and challenge woke him better than anything else could have.  But with a twist of fate, Bond once again met Blofeld on the battlefield, ending the man’s life by choking him to death in a Japanese castle.

Every year, Bond visited Tracy for her birthday.  And every time he found himself only standing near her grave and silently condemning himself for failing her, and longing for the future that they might have had.  Well, Bond thought, it is time he talked to Marc-Ange and maybe put some things to rest.  And though he thought it could not be a trap, it had been 007’s experience to at least work out the basic details of what he was to do, a simple plan, working through the various options open to him, moves and counter-moves. 

So over a cup of coffee, his experienced mind went over the terrain of the site, entrances and exits, angles and places of cover.  Next, a mental inventory of available equipment was picked over with his mind’s eye.  Items were handled, the merits of each debated on their usefulness, and then discarded.  Finally, he settled on his trusty Walther PPK and a gold tie clip, one of a set of five tie clips developed by Q branch, the Quartermaster service of the SIS in charge of supplying agents at home or abroad.  Now, to wake up his houseguest and as they say, “Get the show on the road,” for tomorrow. 

 

Part Two:  The Host

 

On Sunday morning, 007 parked his Aston Martin between a Jaguar XJ6 and a Volvo station wagon in front of the church and cemetery where his wife had been laid to rest.  Every year, when he came here, he always stopped to view the rolling, green hills, country lanes, and trees laid out as far as the eye could see.  It gave him a little peace.

As he walked through the small iron gates, the entrance to the grounds, he noted the various visitors within his eyesight.  To his right, near the meter-high, stone wall that surrounded the gravestones and the land that they stood on, an elderly woman, tall and stately, carrying a boutique of lilies and roses, stood near a large headstone, possibly whispering words of love to a husband, parent, or child.  To his left, a young family, with two young children, searched among the stones for the name of someone they had lost.  Near the distant rear wall of the grounds, Bond could barely make out a dumpy-looking gardener astride a mower-cart, driving it in between the graves.  The sound of the motor and the scent of cut grass drifted to him on a small breeze. 

With a deep whiff of spring, he began walking to the left, passing between trees planted in clumps or individually to accent the landscape and add a sense of timelessness to the meandering rows of stones.  As he rounded a particularly large oak, he sighted a man, standing with his back toward Bond.  Even though it had been quite a few years, he easily recognized the figure.  Without a doubt, it was Marc-Ange.  When Bond’s footsteps became audible to the man, the figure turned and a smile creased the browned, wrinkled face.  But Bond was surprised to see a little hesitation in that smile, an apologetic look in the eye.  A facial expression he had never seen before from Marc-Ange.  This unexpected expression, not anger, surprised Bond and pushed him to speak first.

“Marc-Ange, I am terribly sorry for what happened.  I blame myself…”

Marc-Ange interrupted, “James, wait.  Let me speak first.  I want to tell you how good it is to see you again.  I have been looking forward to this for some time, but, truthfully, I was afraid that you may not come today, which would have been understandable, considering the way I have acted.”

“The way you have acted?”  The words that Bond had planned to say, an apology for allowing Tracy’s life to be destroyed, were wiped clean from his mind.  “I don’t think I understand,” he continued. “God, I got Tracy killed.  If I had done something differently…

“James, there are no regrets.  No regrets, do you understand me?  You have done nothing to be forgiven for.  You gave Teresa new life.  If you had not appeared when you did, she would have died that much sooner.  As least, she had happiness in the end.  She loved the pirate in you, a trait she inherited from her mother.  It’s not your fault that this happened.

If anyone is to apologize today, it is me.  For the shameful way I acted after Teresa’s death.  I was so selfish, and abandoned you to your grief.  All I thought of was my loss, and when I came to my senses, you had disappeared in Japan.  I thought I had lost any opportunity to make things right.”

“Marc-Ange, you have done nothing to apologize for.  We both needed time to close some doors on our memories.  Maybe it is time we closed them all.”

“Is this your true feeling, James?  You do not say this just to warm an old man’s heart?”

“On my word as a son-in-law.”

And now Marc-Ange’s eyes searched his.

“Then all is right between us?”

“As right as rain.”

“Then,” and with the old spark in his eyes, and with an enormous smile, Marc-Ange loudly exclaimed, “enough of this damn talk!  Words are for mistresses and politicians, not for men like us, eh? But please forgive an old man for speaking his heart.  It won’t happen again.”

Bond found all of his stress and concerns washed away with Marc-Ange’s enthusiasm and smile.  It was an effect that his father-in-law’s love-of-life had on people.  It was impossible to ignore.  But now Marc-Ange’s face turned a little serious.

“But, now, my friend,” he said, “I need to tell you another reason why I came here today.  Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s whore (may he rot in Hell forever), is still alive and free.  She did not die in that castle.  When I learned of this, I felt it was a personal responsibility to deal with her, but the Union Corse has been unable to find her.  With your help and some bait, I think we now have a chance of drawing her out. 

If you remember when we removed Blofeld’s home permanently from Piz Gloria, I told you that Che Che died opening one of Blofeld’s filing cabinets.  Well, we were able to liberate quite a few files, listing many of the details of the operations of SPECTRE.  Over the years, I have been selling them here and there.  (One does have to make a living.)  Your boss, M, has been my best customer. 

Now, I am down to this last file--a file that relates SPECTRE’s plans for further chemical and biological warfare aimed at various democratic countries.  I think this file is something that Bunt cannot resist.  Chemicl warfare--a perfect method of revenge for her against the world that she’s learned to hate so much.  And a method of revenge for her dead Blofeld.  I’ll leave this package with you now for safekeeping.  It has all of the details.  Take it to your M and discuss it.  Then contact me at the Savoy Hotel.  If he needs persuading, I’ll do whatever I can to insure that we are included in the chase.  No other hunters will catch our fox for us, eh?  Well, what do you think?”

              “I can’t think of anything I!d like better than to finally end this.”

              “Then,” Marc-Ange continued, “when we are all finished with this business, you’ll come visit me at my home. There is a very large, very old, bottle of brandy that needs to be put out of its misery.  And I think we are men capable of the job.

              “Again, Marc-Ange, I can’t think of anything better.”

              “Good!  Then it’s settled.  Until I hear from you, take good care of yourself.  Don’t go sprouting any bullet holes.  I can’t drink all of that brandy by myself!”

              And with a quick handshake that turned into an embarrassing, but heartfelt, hug by both men, Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Union Corse, walked away toward the cemetery’s entrance.

 

Part Three:  The Uninvited Guest

 

Bond weighed the package in his hand.  It was a common, letter-sized manila envelope, no markings, nothing to show its importance, or the blood that had been spilled to obtain it.  Marc-Ange was right, Bond thought.  This was the kind of bait that would pull Irma Bunt out from whatever stone she was hiding under.  To finally end this would be the perfect birthday gift for Tracy.

It was then that whatever sixth sense, or alarm, that Bond had developed over the years, began to ring.  Something was different in the cemetery.  Some small detail had changed.  And then it came to him.  The quietness.  Some sound was missing.  An incessant, obnoxious noise had ceased.  Then, Bond had it.  The lawn mower cart.  The engine was now silent. 

Quickly, Bond turned.  His left hand, filled with the envelope, brushed back his suit jacket, his right hand smoothly reached for his Walther.  And he stopped in mid-motion for there now was a gun trained on him.  A small, black automatic, steady, unmoving, matching the owner who was holding it aimed at Bond’s stomach.  Here was the gardener, covered in blue overalls with a thick, green, cotton shirt, dirty with grass stains and soil.  Bulky clothes that disguised the sex and dumpy form of this “gunman.”  A green cap covered the premature graying hair.  And though it had been some years, Bond recognized the figure as quickly as he had Marc-Ange’s.  Yes, little had changed in the shape and posture of Irma Bunt.  Except now, the left half of her face was composed of waxy, loose, scarred flesh.  The left eye, too, was deformed and seemed to be filled with a milky pus.  It appeared that Irma Bunt had not escaped the castle in Japan without some permanent disfigurement. 

But here she was now, in all her glory.  She would not send a petty underling to deal with Bond.  This was something she had to do herself.  Her voice, now a bit drier and raspier, was as hideous as ever. 

“Well, Bond…or may I call you James before you die?” 

“Bond will do nicely.”

“You will understand if I skip the chit-chat today.  I am on a very, very tight schedule, and I have always hated being late.  It was something dear Ernest taught me.  ‘Never be late, for a death or a date,’ he used to say.”

“Quite a poet.  It’s a shame he never performed on the stage.  But I am sure he has quite in audience in Hell.”

“If he is in Hell, MR. BOND,” and now Bond is slightly disquieted by the mad gleam in her right eye, “then I am sure the Devil Himself is kissing Ernest’s feet!  It should have been you who had died.  The world will never know such a Homo Superior again.  But I forget myself.  I must hurry, so throw me that package the old fool brought you.  And I warn you not to attempt anything.  I’ve become quite an expert with this, and I’m afraid if would be impossible to miss you even at this short range.

“No need for any talk of violence, Irma.  We can get along like good boys and girls.”

Bond threw the envelope at her feet.  Bunt’s eyes never wavered from his, the gun was as steady as ever.  With her left hand, scarred like her face, she reached down for the envelope.  Bond was reminded of a spider, running for its prey, as her destroyed hand scrambled around for the package.  Then it was in her hand, and she stood again.  But now her eyes, at least one, were distant as she thought of someone who wasn’t there.

“Oh, my darling Ernest,” she half-whispered, “your dream will rise again.”

“Dream?”  Bond’s voice was full of disgust.  “More like a nightmare.”

“Yes, you’re right, Mr. Bond.  SPECTRE will once again become a word of fear and woe to the cattle of the world.  But it is something you will never live to see.”

And with these final words, Bond stared at the sneering gun in Irma’s hand, the trigger finger whitening as she took up pressure on the curved piece of metal.  Must distract her, Bond thought rapidly.  If I can get one more minute…  Distract her with something…

“Irma, if I am to die, then you should know that for all these years, Blofeld has been alive and well.”

Rage now filled her eyes, and Bond thought he had pushed her too far. 

“Don’t you DARE speak his name!  Don’t you DARE!”

              But Bond kept his voice low and calm, and willed her to believe him. 

“It’s true, Irma.  He’s alive.”

              The spark of anger that had appeared now softened, and  slowly disappeared as she thought on his words.  Her gritted teeth loosened with a slight slackening of her jaw muscles.  It reminded Bond of a dog looking forward to a possible treat from its master.  He continued speaking with a low, firm voice.

“As we stand here, he is locked up in a high-security, isolation chamber in the north of London.  Has been there since Japan.  We’re able to sneak him out past the CIA.  I even kept a souvenir, that ugly, plain, gold ring he always wore.”

Now her eyes widened slightly with interest.

“Do you have it here with you?”

“Yes, I bring it here every year to show to Tracy.”

“Give it to me now!  And no tricks.”

As he reached into his pocket, Bond was once again reminded of a dog and its bone as Irma’s left hand, having dropped the envelope, opened and closed in anticipation of holding the ring.  With a light throw, it arced through the air and landed at her feet.  Again, the gun unwavering, Irma bent down, her right eye never leaving Bond’s face.  Her left hand scurried out and snatched up the gold ornament.  Standing fully once again, she took a chance to look at the thing that she held, a thing of honor and beauty because it had belonged to her Blofeld.  But then she read the inscription inside the band.

 

“Tracy, my love.  Yours always, James.”

 

Insane rage filled Irma’s eyes as she realized the lie she had been told.  Blofeld was dead.   And was this Bond’s way of making her hurt, making her pay a little for his dead wife?  To give her hope, and then, snatch it away?  Well, a bullet hole in the head would end his little joke right quickly. 

As Irma’s finger duplicated its earlier tightening, she suddenly felt a blunt object being held at the back of her head, and a metal hook attached to an arm reached from behind her on her right side, and snatched her pistol from her hand.  Any rage she had felt before was nothing as compared to now.  She instantly knew that it was a pistol at the back of her head.  And she knew that Bond had used the ring to stall her until someone could arrive.  All was now lost.  No death for Bond, no revenge for her.   But, she reminded herself, she still had her rage to keep her warm, and who knows what opportunities the future would bring.

And now, from behind her, a voice, one which she had never heard before, but recognized as American.   

              “I’ll keep this gun for you, if you don’t mind, dearie.  Sorry I’m late, James.  But it’s hard to sneak around with this bum leg.

              “Better late than never, Felix.  I’m just glad you were here to help.”

              “What are houseguests for?  And tell Q the microphone in the tie clip works well.  I could have heard a pin drop.  Some of my old friends in the Company wouldn’t mind getting a look at those.”

If Ms. Bunt could have seen behind her, her eyes would have met a tall, wiry, blond Texan by the name of Felix Leiter, ex-CIA, friend and fellow ally of Bond’s, having traveled many roads and waded through many dangers together.  Now that the reinforcements were here, and Bond surmised that one good Texan was all you ever needed, he looked into the eyes of the seething woman before him, and held out his hand.

“Irma, I’ll take my ring back now.  I’d rather you not dirty it anymore with your touch.”

              Throwing the ring to the ground, she leaned over and spit on it.  And then looked at Bond with an eye of contempt.

“You think you’ve won, don’t you?  You think this is the end.  It will never end, not until I see you rotting beside your WHORE WIFE!”

And now Irma realized that she had spoken too much, had crossed some invisible line, for Bond’s face darkened into a cruel, icy mask, the face of a double “O” agent, licensed to kill.  His hand now moved to his Walther, fingers curled, arm rising to the perfect pose for pulling his weapon.  And then a voice from the past spoke in his head.

“Here is this thing in front of you.  A thing that destroyed your wife and any lasting future you might have had.  A thing that would kill you without regret.  That has killed already numerous times.  Here is Tracy’s birthday gift from Marc-Ange, delivered into your hands.  A cancer that should be surgically removed before it does anymore damage.  Destroy it.  Destroy.  Destroy.”

And before his fingers touched the cool metal of his gun, he recognized this voice, for he had heard it before, spouting philosophy and hate.   It was Blofeld’s voice, for it was Blofeld’s method to destroy anything in his way, anything that threatened him, whether it be man or woman, adult or child, innocent or guilty.  Bond had never killed a woman, especially one who stood before him weaponless.  The only thing that had kept him and Felix on the white side of the fence in the secret wars between countries was the fact that they both had a conscience.  And killing a woman, in cold blood (so to speak), was maybe more abuse than his conscience wanted to handle.  He already had plenty of disagreeable memories to deal with.

His decision made, Bond’s mind and body imperceptibly relaxed.  His gun hand lowered to his side. 

“Felix, would you do me a favor and get her out of my sight.” 

“Don’t worry, James.  I’ll handle things from here.” 

Turning to Irma, Felix gave her a light shove in the back, getting her to start walking in the general direction of the cemetery’s entrance.

“Now, little lady,” Felix said pleasantly, “I suggest that you shut your mouth, or I’ll forget the manners my mother taught me.  Now, move along before I have to dirty your backside with my foot.  You have an appointment with a few people who’ll want to ask you some questions for the next forty years or so.”

James watched as Felix marched her off.  But before he followed, he decided to take one more look at this beautiful spring day.  Turning, he looked down at the gravestone of his wife, the former Teresa di Vicenzo.  He thought again of the future they could have had, and what they had lost, and all of the regrets.  But today, now, he felt more at peace, more complete, than he had for the longest time.  Yes, there would always be the regrets and the feelings of loss.  He still loved her, and would never forget the time they had spent.  But now these memories comforted him, instead of condemning him.

So he knelt on the grass, where he had only silently stood in the past, and touched the grass that covered his wife.  And as he knelt, words he had never spoken before came to his mind, simple and heartfelt, and he whispered them to her.

 

              “Happy Birthday, Tracy,” he said.





Univex Mall




Advertisements (more)