Second Class All The Way
by Christy E. Gould
First the Bay of Pigs...
M was smiling.
This was odd- Very odd. Happiness was not a common expression on the head of Her Majesty's Secret Service's face, but there it was all the same. He was also laughing.
Bond noted this extraordinary state of affairs upon entering the old man's office one fine morning. M looked up at 007 from the document he had been reading and smiled wider. Then he picked the paper up and handed it to Bond. After a quick read, 007 laughed as well.
The document read thus-
Decoded orders 1047398.
To Central Intelligence Agency director of personnel, Garth Selby.
From Ceb Patterman, director of operations.
I report as to the recent events concerning our operation in the Republic Southern Ireland.
As you should know, the operation involved agents Vincent, Kyle and Scold, who were ordered to collect an item of extreme value from a contact we had developed in the county Mayo region. The plan was that our agents would travel to Ireland separately and meet at the assigned place for the pickup. Unfortunately all did not go to plan.
Agents Vincent and Kyle met at Knock airport as had been arranged, but Mr Scold made no appearance.
It was latter discovered that he was in hospital in Florida after an attack of an unspecified sexually transmitted disease, which he picked up in a bordello three days before he was set to leave the country. Having received confirmation of this agents Vincent and Kyle continued with the assignment, proceeding on to Ballina where they would make contact with the man who had agreed to hand over said item, for a price, to our service.
Unfortunately the maps that department RPM-RPI(E) had provided transpired to be inaccurate and our men were lost for several hours, almost missing their appointment. Luckily they made it to the meeting on time. However, the money we had provided them with proved invalid- They had been given English pound where as our contact demanded the local currency. They did however have a CIA cash card, so they attempted to find a cash machine. They eventually found one, but due to a recent computer error at HQ the card's credit rating was scanned as zero, so the agents could not obtain the money they needed.
Now Garth, it gets really bad.
In desperation Vincent and Kyle attempted to "hold up" a nearby bank. That's right- They bought stockings, put them over their heads and tried to do a bank job.
Unfortunately (yet again) they proved even more inept at robbery than they had been at intelligence work, and whilst they succeeded in shooting an innocent bystander who (who luckily survived with a leg wound) they were overcome by local police and arrested. We have spent the last few days going through the complex procedure of bringing them back and we have had no further news from our contact in county Mayo.
Garth- If the press, or anyone, ever gets hold of this then we will be the laughing stock of the intelligence community. You have to make sure Kyle and Vincent keep their mouths shut. It they can't then no one will resent you eliminating them.
"Quite a merry tale, eh 007?" Said M.
"Indeed it is. How ever did you get hold of it?"
"Q's latest toy- absolutely invaluable. A photocopier that sends a digital copy of any document to our operative. We've got one in an obscure little office in Washington- It was an incredible stroke of luck that Garth Selby's own machine had broken, so he used ours. The letter to the repair man was the next thing he copied."
"Why did he copy it anyway?"
"For the files- They like everything in triplicate up there. Anyway, in case you haven't already worked it out- Ha!- This is the biggest intelligence balls-up in years. By anybody. Let me fill you in on some other details- The man the agents were meant to meet in county Mayo was Meix Shreeder, a former free-lance terrorism expert- Retired. The item they were after was developed by one of his employers- We don't know who. He was given the task of transporting it through customs, but for whatever reason the betrayed the organisation and stole it."
"And what is "it" exactly?"
"We have absolutely no idea! None at all! But here's the thing..." M leaned closer with a glint in his eye, "If we can get to this man and get whatever the thing is, not only will we benefit from whatever it's power is, and prove our superiority over other security organisations, but...." M rose from his chair and, arms outstretched, faced the window and almost shouted.
"We will REALLY cheese off the Americans!"
The moment M sat down Bond said "Yes".
"Yes to what?"
"Yes to the question you were about to ask me. I will go and get "it"."
M smiled, with almost a tear in his eye said "James, I see you are beginning to understand."
007 was taken aback. He couldn't recall the last time the old man had spoken to him with such warmth.
But then again, he did understand what M must be feeling.
You see, when a war turns from cold to frozen, and then to non-existent, the intelligence services of those involved don't really have that much to do. In particular the heads of those services become board and lethargic with the repetition of sitting behind a desk all day, and so think up little ways to discredit other services. There were no particular rivals, and when the time came most of the services were willing to work together, but and the end of the day they were either against you or with you.
And most of them were with each other against America.
You see, the American services, particularly the CIA, had a lot of money and very little by way of talent. They would try to buy everything, at the end of the day, and while a few agents shined of course (i.e the good Mr Lieter) most of them were rather pompous, looking down their noses at other nations. So, while a strike against any nation was a good thing, the American were the prime target of all. Only a few years ago a small country's intelligence service had pulled off a major coup against the CIA, and had gained a good reputation ever since.
And now, finally it was M's turn to have a good shot at the "Big Brother Country" that had so infuriated so many others.
"Of course 007, you must understand this is no standard assignment."
"You'll be on your own all the way- Well almost. You see, we found a rather cosy cover for you. In two days time a journalist by the name of Charles Merman is visiting county Mayo with a view of writing a travel log on the area. You will be taking the place of his co-writer. If there are enquiries with the paper they will support the story that you are the kind of writer who does a lot of work for other writers if they run out of ideas- A ghostwriter if you like."
"Sounds perfect. So I leave in two days?"
"Yes... One more thing. Merman isn't exactly a very sophisticated journalist, and since he thinks your just a writer who's been given kind permission to string along and follow him about he'll probably treat you as a student."
"That's fine. I can cope with that."
"Also Merman will probably travel second class- And make sure you're with him. Ok?"
"Oh and one more thing- Too support your story you must at least try to at least look like you are listening to what Merman is saying."
"Well, I'll try."
"Good. Now, collect some extra information from Moneypenny on your way out. I won't see you again until you get back."
Bond stood and made his way to the door. As it opened M called-
"Oh, and Bond- Do it for England!"
Conversations with Merman
"The thing you have to remember, is that nobody knows what is going on behind those doors. Any door in fact. That's the whole point of the bloody things."
Charles Merman was around forty-five, with greying hair a large nose and small beady brown eyes. His voice was east London with a spot of higher culture- Like a rock guitar with violin strings.
"I mean, I knew this case a few years back- Some bloke used to chop people up and eat 'em on Sunday- The Sunday Lunch Killer we called him- And for all the neighbours knew he was just an average guy. Know what I mean? Closed door! Pretty awful eh?"
"What..? Oh yes, disgusting."
The conversation began at Merman's office, and continued in the cab. It only abated when they reached Stanstead airport and began to load their luggage on to a trolley. Even then, Merman would still fire pearls of wisdom at Bond every once in a while.
"These trolleys are like the ones at the supermarket. Know what I mean? The ones not designed to take weight. Ha!"
"Ha." Muttered Bond, who had never been to a supermarket in his life.
When they reached the luggage check in and whilst in the queue Merman started to tell him an old story about a wrestler Bond toughened himself and tried to memorise the whole thing as an exercise. It went like this-
My grandfather was a wrestler. The best in the business- In those days it wasn't all staged like it is now.
One day he was facing a great big wrestler called the Terrible Turk. So before the match his manager came up to him and said "Look, I think you can beat him, but you must not let him get you in his special hold- The Turkish Delight- It's a strong hold, he could kill you with it."
So my grandfather said Ok and he went into the ring.
For the first few rounds everything was fine, my grandfather was winning, but then suddenly the Terrible Turk grabbed my grandfather and WHAM, he was in the Turkish Delight.
His manager was watching from the crowd- But he couldn't bare to watch it so he went upstairs to the stalls- He knew my grandfather was going to get killed.
But when he got up there and looked down at the ring he saw my grandfather standing over the Terrible Turk who was collapsed on the ground- My grandfather had one the match.
So his manager ran down the stairs and went up to my grandfather and asked him "How did you do it? He had you in the killer hold, how did you win?"
And my grandfather said, "Well, I was wrestling Ok for a while, but then WHAM! He grabbed me and I was in the Turkish Delight. And I was in this hold and he was twisting me below and above and all over the place, and there were arms and legs and thing all over the place. Then, all of a sudden in front of me I saw this pair of testicles. So I did the only thing I could think of and I bit them."
"So what happened?" Asked the manager.
And my grandfather said "Well, it's absolutely amazing what an amount of energy you get when you bite your own balls."
It took a while for Bond to forget that again.
After the baggage had been loaded Merman suggested they eat and Bond agreed enthusiastically, knowing that the man couldn't possibly eat and talk at the same time.
The only restaurant in the departures lounge transpired to be a modernised version of a greasy spoon, were Merman ordered a deluxe breakfast composed of two hash browns, two fried eggs, beans, tomatoes, fried bread and two sausages. Bond ordered a roll, and only ate half whilst Merman scoffed the whole breakfast in under two minutes. At the end of the meal Merman stood and announced "Now it is time to check out the duty free. Come along." and along they went to the shop situated opposite the restaurant. Here the decerning patron could buy tax free sherry glasses at amusing novelty hats. Merman fished out what looked to Bond like small fishing rod with a computer screen attached. He waved it.
"It's a fishing game! You practice your casting on it! Pretty smart eh?"
Merman bought the game for "something to do on the plane" and proceeded to tell Bond an obscene story about Lional Blair which the man swore was true.
And Bond decided it probably was- Because for all his other faults Charlie Merman was certainly an honest man, as well as a rather nice all round fellow. He was what a Jewish acquaintance of Bond would have called a Mensh. He insisted on pushing the luggage trolley and offered to buy Bond some AA batteries because "You can never have enough of the damn things!" (which Bond would later decide was very good advice).
Whilst they waited in the departures lounge Merman told Bond about "seed".
"Things run through family. They call them genes these days or some such thing, but anyway, it's true. You remember the cannibal fella I told you about? Well it turned out his dad used to chop people up as well- And here's the rub- The dad died before the son was born. Pretty spooky eh?"
At that point an angry sounding Irish announcer demanded over the intercom that the last four passengers for the flight to county Mayo proceed to gate 12 at once. This was the last and final message.
He repeated the same warning five minutes later, just before the line by the gate began to move and Bond and Merman picked themselves up an walked to the plane.
Tons of Washing
Kyle picked at his nails. Vincent just sat almost still. The two agents were seated behind a metal desk in a dark office somewhere in the heart of the CIA headquarters. The door on the over side of the room opened after they had been waiting for about five minutes and Garth Selby, head of personnel entered with another man, who Selby introduced as Symore Rian. Selby then left and Rian sat down.
"Well boys. You two are in one hell of a mess."
Rian smiled. He was a tallish man of around thirty-five with silver hair and a long scar on his chin. He spoke again.
"Now, we in the department have had a difficult time answering the vital question- What are we going to do with you. Now, my first suggestion was that we should kill both of you."
Kyle almost bit his finger off.
"But then I got thinking- These two boys have messed up real bad, I don't see why someone else should have to clean up their dirt for them. Also, while we were thinking we got some new information which changed the situation a little. BOO!" At this he produced a photograph which he held in front of the two men's noses. Kyle turned and threw up. Vincent just winced.
The photo showed what had once been a man- The whole front of his body had been ripped to shreds. His major intestine had also been removed and was lying in a puddle next to him.
"Not this guy," Said Rian, "Was Thompson Eggbert, one of our operatives. We believe the people who did that to him are the same people your contact in Ireland used to work for."
He leaned forward, his face only a few inches away from Kyle and Vincent's. "Now, what this comes down to is that whoever goes out to Ireland again is in deep, deep danger. So why waste any good agents when we've got you two deadbeats?
"Of course, we doubt the contact will still be in a position to sell by the time you get to county Mayo, but you can still try to get your hands on the objective by other methods. An also, possibly more importantly, you can stop anyone else from getting it. Get it?"
Both men nodded.
"Good. Obviously, it's your choice to go back. You can go to Ireland, or you can be taken to the little room next door. You know, the one with the all biological paint work? Red motif?"
They nodded again. Vincent said "We'll go".
"Great! You'll get what you need outside. I'll wish you gentlemen luck. Oh, and by the way, if you don't succeed this time you'll both end up in the morgue. Did I have to tell you guys that?"
Beyond the Twelfth Gate
From gate twelve Merman and Bond moved into the tunnel leading to the plane. The stewardess greeted them and basically told them that they could grab any empty seats they could find. Bond was used to travelling first class, and he was somewhat uneasy in the cramped passenger compartment on the small plane to Knock, county Mayo. Eventually he and Merman squeezed into two chairs- Bond had the window seat. The plane quickly began its run up to the runway and the engines started to rumble.
As they lifted into the air some American tourists a few rows ahead of Bond and Merman let out woops of excitement. Pathetic, thought Bond, who had decided that next time he would have to make sure that he always insisted on a first class ticket from M, no matter what his cover was.
The force of takeoff subsided and the old age ritual of the cabin safety lecture took place. Bond had never once listened to it, and in fact did not know where his would find his life jacket and frankly didn't care. He was to concerned about Merman, on whom the effects of the high air pressure were having an alarming effect.
"By my life, we are most definitely in the air!" He said, bouncing around in his seat and smiling widely. "I mean, we are miles away! From anywhere!" He was having a great time, but Bond didn't like to be shown up. He instead tried concentrating on the view from the window.
Below him the tiny houses cars and factories looked like an intricate model. A badly made model- Unrealistic and cheap. But then it was blotted out by white cloud and Bond looked up, and having the option to talk to Merman, order duty-free cigarettes, read his air safety guide or look through the in flight magazine, decided instead to simply stare at the chair in front of him for the rest of the journey.
Thanks to clever lighting the only item visible in the room was the fax machine, which made it's first noise that it had made all day. It whirred. A few moments later it produced a sheet of paper with a brief message on it. It read-
-Ciril had dropped the onion. Berty went to pick it up.
He got on the reddest bus of he could find to Mayfair.
A man picked it up. He fed it into a tube which he placed in an open pipe. It fell down to the next floor of the building into another dark room where another man picked it up, decoded it, wrote down the decoded version, burned the original and sent the new paper down another tube to yet another room. This room was occupied by Herman, who picked up the paper which now read-
-BRITISH SECRET SERVICE ARE MOVING IN TO OBTAIN ITEM 2020.
THEY HAVE SENT JAMES BOND (JB1007).
Herman then burned that in the metal waste paper basket of the kind that was kept in all the dark rooms, and got up from his chair.
He walked through a doorway and down a corridor until he reached a patch of red light. He stood in it for almost exactly thirty seconds before walking into the wall to the left of him, which swung upwards as he made contact. He found himself in an almost pitch black- The only illumination was at floor level. There were four other people in there. He could see their feet.
Three of them wore leather shoes and another wore plastic wellingtons, which were covered in a thin red liquid, possibly blood. Herman spoke.
"The British have found out about the CIA's muck up. They sent a man called Bond to collect Item 2020."
"Oh, him." Said the owner of one of the pairs leather clad feet. "He's pretty well known- A bit of a snob, if I recall." The voice was rich English.
"True." Said another man- French this time by the sound of it. "He's bothered a few of our independent connections- But he has never been this close to us before."
"Yes. I know him." Said the last set of leather shoes, the accent was Spanish... Mexican maybe? "He could be a big problem. We will have to send an operative. Who do we have in Europe?"
"There's Hesk," Said the Englishman, "Or we have Cune, Stavro, Mr Murphy-"
"I had a science teacher called Mr Murphy." Said the owner of the wellingtons- The voice was also English- Flat, almost emotionless.
"A different man. Anyway, I think out Murphy is in LA." Said the Frenchman. "Why don't we use the Cold Man?"
"Hmmm..." Said the Mexican, "I'm not to sure- He's knows quite a lot."
"I don't think that Bond is the interrogating type. I think the cold man will do." Said the leather shoes wearing Englishman, resolutely.
"Then we had better report the decision to the Centre." Said the Frenchman.
There was a murmur of agreement all round. The men seemed to have forgotten Herman.
Then the Frenchman's shoes stepped over to the wall. There was a click and sound came over a hidden speaker. The sound of laboured breathing. After a few second there was a voice.
"Yes?" This was the voice of someone who was not used to the privilege of a throat- The single word was a great effort. You could hear pain in it.
"The British are after Item 2020. They have sent James Bond. We are sending the Cold Man."
"Ah. Mr Bond... I know him so well."
"You have met him?"
"No. Not yet. But it is only a matter of time. The Cold Man will fail. We will lose Item 2020."
"What? Does this mean I should call him off?"
"Oh no! There is always a chance. And anyway, we do have a job to do, have we not?"
There was a click and the voice was gone.
"Another insight!" Said the Mexican. Then the shoes seemed to notice Herman again.
"Oh! We nearly forgot!"
There was a new click, and Herman was in the corridor again. He walked back to his dark little room and awaited the next message.
To be continued...