This was a Fleming-esque one shot I did a few years back....
He presumed at first as he entered the bar that she was a lesbian. But after the usual flirtations - feeling the build up of charm and chemistry, sensing what is working and what is failing like carefully orchestrated moves on a chessboard - it was safe to say she wasn’t and that his luck was in. Hastily finishing their drinks they went up to his room, each of them opening that little secret door to the animal inside.
They kissed deeply, sighing through their nostrils with pleasure. Their tongues explored as they fell further back onto the bed and lost themselves to the moment. He snaked an arm across her waist as she put her weight on one side, offering up a buttock for him to fondle. They moaned in unison as his hand explored the soft fleshy rump that was delightfully rounded and full for such a slim figure as she possessed.
Afterwards as they both lay there and smoked a cigarette in silence, listening only to the night sounds and feeling its interminable heat coming in through the balcony, he did a spot of character examination. She wasn’t a lesbian, that was by now very obvious, but she was in a man’s game, not many female photographers reporting in one of the world’s hotspots, and if there were they took care not to drink in the town’s roughest bar. He’d met her sort before, during the war, the partisans and resistance fighters he had to liaise with were quite similar. Plus she was French, of the sort who probably had penis envy because her brother or her childhood sweetheart could join The Legion and she could not.
Morning came and she was gone, with a discreet note placed up against the alarm clock on the rickety bedside cabinet. Swinging a leg over onto the floor he read the note which simply said ‘Merci be coup M. Larner’. So she had known who he was all along, he thought to himself and with a wry smile scrunched up the note and popped it into the bin. With a stretch he walked out onto the balcony and felt the warm air hit him like a heavyweight punch. It was still only 0900 hours but God didn’t make weather concessions in this country, and already the little scooters with their put put engines left the heavy scent of petrol in the heat. Up above in the low sky, a helicopter rumbled.
First cigarette of the day; Robert Larner always felt better after that first smoke, it helped the nerves and in the game of being an asset for the Bureau, nerves were everything. Last night’s coitus relaxed him and the smokes and coffee that were to come, coupled with the inevitable alcohol - in moderation of course - kept him alive to the point that he could feel the blood run through his veins. All those things together made for a successful mission he had come to find in his years of experience. He moved across to the small bathroom and showered, first with blisteringly hot water then with ice cold. Stepping out, he towelled himself briskly before taking a tortoise shell brush to his thick thatch of salt and pepper hair that was once jet black, combing the parting in well and sending the hair in a broad sweep to one side across the forehead. With a brief snort he moved out from the bathroom and changed into fresh vest and shorts and then into his cream beige suit and light powder blue shirt. Clipping his gold Rolex watch onto his well browned wrist he was ready.
He wanted to feel the street.
He was about to open that little door to the animal once more, but this time the animal was not one of love.
He knew exactly the day’s movements of The Target, he knew that at 0940 hours he would be smoking in the café and then he would spend an hour meeting and greeting various market traders on the main drag across the township. He spotted him on several occasions, tailing the target from a distance. As he smoked his pipe, Larner smoked his cigarette. As he drank his apple tea, Larner drank his whisky; his eyes shifting from across the street and down to the condensation dripping down the rim of the glass as the chunks of ice slowly surrendered. As he chatted away without a care in the world, Larner read news from home and attempted the crossword. He even saw photographs of last week’s bombing taken by the plucky French girl and a memory ghosted across his mind of her writhing eager young body from the previous night. She was a clever thing not to let on that she knew he was a professional. He mildly cursed himself however for not recognising her bluff; perhaps he was getting old, after all whilst he was at the top of his game in the war the world had changed in nearly twenty years that had passed. It was still a world that was warring, but the flags were less hard to distinguish and the enemy had become a lot more subtle. After all, they didn’t wear jackboots that one could hear from thirty paces now. But they’d become a lot dirtier too in some respects and didn’t mind chucking bombs off in populated streets. Larner wanted to take a stand against such acts of cowardly malice and the Bureau would still let him, so that made him happy to serve.
He turned the pages of The Telegraph and read that it was one of the wettest June’s England had had for years. He could almost picture himself there now; walking to the paper shop for cigarettes, dodging the puddles, a cup of tea in a greasy spoon and an afternoon drink at the club. Living a life yet being technically dead. Not for him, that’s why he kept his time in England with his flat in London and his little cottage on the cliffs of Cornwall to the bare minimum. Instead, since his days in the regiment and his five years in The Legion, he was effectively doing the same as ever but on a freelance basis; a spot of mercenary work out in the Congo; the odd wet job for the Bureau who valued him highly as an asset; and general criminal activity such as smuggling out of Morocco, his favourite haunt. It was his life and it kept him alive knowing that a real death could be just around the corner for him. He never had a problem with a wet job - that is to say a sanctioned killing - and The Bureau used his deadly talents regularly and in a variety of ways. He never had a problem with it because he was a man who could curtail the average emotions of compassion and morality that other men had. He was an adapt sniper and hand to hand man and his most specialist dispatch was a year earlier, lacing the president of some Banana Republic’s personal toilet roll with a deadly poison supplied by Bureau boffins; a definite sting in the tail on that assignment.
He looked at his watch, it was now 1300 hours, and his gaze met his tanned arms. He could barely recall when his skin had its natural pale hue; probably somewhere between puberty and the drop into Arnhem, though that was a ridiculously short time span if he thought about it. The hairs standing up across the broad forearms were greyer now, some alarmingly white.
Getting old, the taunt came back.
Quickly and noisily he folded up the paper, paid for the drink, tipped and returned to the street.
The Target was on the move.
Down cobbled road, through stinking alleyways, brightly coloured flags waved as people jabbered loudly, throwing their stinking rubbish out into the gutters. He wasn’t keeping much distance now but he didn’t care as each turn led into a further Escher like alleyway, he could smell he was nearing the prize and nearing the end of The Target’s life.
Finally, a dead end and the target moved to the white wall, its paintwork crusting and peeling with heat stroked age. Slowly he pulled out a crumbling brick and Larner could hear him gasp with pleasure as his hand retrieved the hidden cylinder containing the microdot that was hidden inside. The microdot a British agent had secreted before being murdered at the hands of one of The Target’s men.
Larner had reached inside his jacket for his Beretta when The Target turned to face him. This time neither man made to move or pretend they weren’t looking. The Target’s brown wrinkled face and long white bearded features were taken in by Larner as impassively as his own features were being read by the Target. Finally after a second or two pause that felt like a lifetime The Target’s still features broke out with a quick cry of “Now!” and two men leapt down from the roofs that closed in on the alleyway.
Larner was cut off and outnumbered and cursed himself for not noticing the trap, The Target must have known all along that he was on his tail. He needed to act fast and his training did not let him down, he swiftly put a bullet between the eyes of The Target, his pupils momentarily looking up at the small red hole below his turban as he slumped heavily to the floor. One attacker kicked the gun from Larner’s hand whilst the other swished a knife across his face, slashing a cheek. With a roundhouse kick Larner dropped the man who had taken his weapon and, in double time, caught the wrist of the knife wielding attacker. He applied pressure and twisted down hard causing the younger man to squeal in pain as he brought his forehead down onto the bridge of his nose. As the knifeman fell down with blood, tooth and bone spattering out, Larner brought the knife deep into the guts of the other man just as he was ready to lunge at him. He dragged the blade upwards with a hideous ripping, tearing sound as it eviscerated flesh and organs on its way. The air escaped from punctured lungs as the man gasped his last breath, and his blood and guts spilled out onto the cobbles. Releasing the knife, he landed in a heap, dead.
Larner shifted his weight, tired, and placed a hand to his cut cheek. It wasn’t too bad and wouldn’t scar but it showed he was getting slow. The man who had caused the cut groaned and cried at his feet. Larner lumbered slowly to the alley floor and picked up his discarded Beretta. In that moment the man stopped crying and groaning and instead he started to back away. He scurried across the floor like a cornered rat, a hand held to his broken nose and whilst other was out in front of him pleading in his own tongue for his life. Like a vet putting a dog out of his misery Larner squeezed the trigger in an instant and the man cried no more as the bullet tore through the heart. Stepping over him he reached down to The Target and took the microdot from his dead hand, pushing down his eyelids to hide the still upturned pupils as he did so.
Larner turned a little unsteadily from the alley to find her stood at the end holding her camera. In all the action he hadn’t noticed her or the clicking of several photographs being taken. Worse still he hadn’t noticed her follow him. “Look, I’m a journalist, this is a story, you’re a British subject hired by your Government to kill, this is a story” she said in her thick French accent, a trace of panic reaching into her words. He stood still for a second and breathed heavily through his nostrils before pacing up to her. Quickly he grabbed her wrist as he did the knifeman’s and, ignoring her pained requests from him to let her go, he snatched the camera. Dropping it to the floor, he stamped upon it before picking up the film and pulling it out into the daylight. He looked down at her examining her response to his actions. She was wincing like a scolded dog and crying fearfully. Yet through the tears in her eyes he could see a touch of something; excitement?
“My place?” he asked and she nodded submissively to say yes. He may have been getting old, too old to not spot a French girl following him, and that was a bad thing, but he had got the job done, and he still managed to recognise what kind of girl she was.
(c) Fiction and fan art; Mark Cunliffe 2010/2012