The Fleming Legacy
The room was normally unremarkable. What made the room remarkable this day were the two MoD policemen on guard – one at the end of the corridor – the other outside the sound-proofed door. Both men cradled Uzi sub-machine guns, loaded with 9x19mm Parabellum cartridges.
The room was large, easily big enough to house the centrally placed conference table. Air conditioning vents sighed in the false roof but the filters could not totally remove the smell of dust and the undertone of cigarette smoke. There was a small table in the far corner on which had been placed a tray holding elegant cups and saucers, a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl and a plate of Harrod’s chocolate chip and toffee pecan biscuits. Three cups were on the tray, each nearly full of brown liquid. The three men at the small table had each taken one sip of the brown liquid and then put the cups down, the crew-cut man looking particularly disgusted. The biscuits were untouched. The men were talking quietly, occasionally checking their watches and glancing towards the door.
On the conference table were four files; two either side facing the chairs nearest to the head of the table. A middle-aged man reading his file occupied one of the chairs and though he had read the file contents several times before he was reading them again, smiling as he read, remembering.
He glanced at his watch, and then closed the file.
“Three fifteen,” he called to the other men.
As if on cue two men entered the room. The first, tall and nondescript, looked around the room and waited by the door. He was wearing a dark pinstriped suit, the jacked slightly pulled out of shape by the bulk of the Smith & Wesson Model 41 pistol in his armpit holster. The second man was shorter, rotund, wearing a Gannex Macintosh and smoking a pipe. He removed his coat, handing it to the first man, then walked towards the chair at the head of the table. The man at the conference table stood up and the three at the smaller table came over to stand by their chairs. The round man sat, carefully placing his pipe on the table, aware that it was specially made from erica arborea root by Ashton-Taylor of Essex.
“Please be seated,” he said to the others. They sat, adjusting chairs and opening the files before them. When they had settled he continued.
“In view of the sensitivity of the matter we are to consider there will be no record of this meeting and no names will be used. You know me but will address me as Chairman. I don’t know you personally but I am assured that you can speak for your respective agencies, so that is how I shall address you.”
He paused as his bodyguard placed a cup and saucer on the table.
“Thanks – you can leave now,” he said.
When the bodyguard had left the room he took a cautious sip from his cup, putting it down almost immediately.
“About time you learned to make tea down south,” he grumbled, his Yorkshire accent very evident. He looked around the table.
“MI6?” he queried. The man on his left raised his hand.
“He’s your man so perhaps you would like to bring us up to date.” MI6 checked his opened file.
“Chairman, you will remember that Bond retired to live with Mary Goodnight in Jamaica. It was there that he struck up an acquaintance with Ian Fleming. Bond appears to have been abstemious and discreet for a number of years, but when Mary died he began drinking heavily again. This is the time when we believe Fleming listened to Bond’s drunken reminiscences and used them as the plots for his novels. Bond’s health deteriorated and we arranged for him to come back to the UK for treatment. He now lives in a Grace and Favour house in the country with a small staff comprising a housekeeper, cook and gardener. This arrangement has worked well for a while, but with his health recovered he is now drinking again. Normally this would not be our concern, but his behaviour in the local hostelries is causing problems.”
He looked down at his file again, reading the top sheet.
“For example two nights ago he caused a disturbance in the saloon bar of The Fox, claiming he was the hero who saved the gold in Fort Knox from Auric Goldfinger. Fortunately his gardener was drinking in the public bar and managed to quieten him down, but then he burst into tears, crying for his Tracey.”
The crew-cut man raised his hand. “CIA – who’s Tracey?”
“Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo,” said MI6, “his dead wife.”
“Why can’t you just lock him up?” said the CIA man, “or at least confine him to the house.”
The chairman looked at the two unidentified men, seeking an answer.
“MI5?” he asked. MI5 raised his hand.
“He’s your problem at the moment,” said the Chairman, “what can we do?”
“I think we need to remember that Bond has been of inestimable value to this country and others,” said MI5, glancing over to CIA, “and he is not a prisoner, nor should he be. We have 0037 on secondment from MI6 in place as the gardener and he attempts to persuade Bond to stay within the environs of the house and garden. Unfortunately Bond, having seduced the cook and the housekeeper, is now conducting torrid affairs with the landlady of The Fox and several barmaids elsewhere. However our man has spread the word in The Fox and the other hostelries that Bond is a harmless elderly eccentric addicted to Fleming’s books and who believes he is the protagonist.”
The Chairman nodded. “I should add that this strategy appears to have worked up till now. Our allies have acquiesced and even the KGB has agreed to take no action. But with the recent death of Fleming there is a real danger that Bond will leak sensitive information not fictionalised in Fleming’s books. I am under pressure from a number of quarters to resolve the problem.”
“TWEP!” said the CIA man.
The Chairman looked to MI6 for help.
“TWEP?” he queried. “Terminate With Extreme Prejudice,” explained MI6.
The Chairman looked aghast.
“Surely you are not suggesting we kill Bond? He asked. He looked around the table. “Does anybody else share that view?”
MI5 wouldn’t meet his gaze. “It would solve a major problem,” he said.
The Chairman turned to the fourth man.
“What is the Palace position?” he asked anxiously.
“As I think you all know,” said the Palace representative, “Her Majesty is one of the few civilians who knows Bond is a real person. You may remember she privately appointed him as a Commander of the Victorian Order after he tidied up that messy affair involving a minor Royal. Her Majesty must know nothing of this matter, but discreet soundings of her advisers suggest that if there is a chance that the Monarchy might be embarrassed, then an unfortunate accident would be acceptable.”
The Chairman looked incredulous.
“I can’t believe what I am hearing,” he said, “we are talking about the man who saved the western world several times over.”
“Makes sense though,” said CIA, “you have a 00 in place so get on with it.”
The Chairman turned to MI6.
“Help me,” he begged.
MI6 leant back in his chair, a smile on his face.
“Why try to fix it if it’s not broken?”
“What do you mean?” demanded the Chairman.
“It’s obvious,” said MI6, “write more books.”
“But Fleming’s dead,” sighed an exasperated Chairman.
“No matter,” said an unperturbed MI6, “get some decent writer to go and stay with Bond – he can explain that he is commissioned to write an official biography. This will appeal to Bond’s vanity, particularly if he hears of the possibility of being portrayed on film. The writer will get the inside story of more Bond exploits, add further gratuitous sex and violence, and produce a series of best-sellers.”
“Will it work?” asked the Chairman anxiously.
“Guaranteed,” said MI6 confidently, “particularly if there is a lot of irrelevant information about guns, food and drink, and smoking.”
The Chairman looked around the table.
“Are we agreed?” he asked.
Three nods, but CIA saw a difficulty.
“The hack will know the truth about Bond.”
“No problem,” said MI6, “promise him a K, pay him well and tell him that 00’s are waiting should he step out of line.”
CIA nodded, “OK,” he said reluctantly.
“Thank goodness,” said the Chairman, “I didn’t want to go down in history as the man who ordered the death of 007.”
“Better than being remembered as a KGB agent,” said CIA under his breath.
The Chairman heard.
“That’s never been proved,” he blustered.
“Not yet,” said CIA, winking at MI5.