A Right and Left – Part 1 of 2

Photo: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz, from Pixabay

James Bond dozed in the warm Jamaica sun. It was only April, and the baking heat of summer was still to come. He daydreamed happily of past exploits and beautiful girls. No doubt they were now wrinkled hags if they were still even alive, but the thought didn’t trouble him.

He was gently roused by one of the club servants, his seamed brown face showing regret at waking the old man. ‘So sorry, Commander, it’s a call from London and she said it was urgent.’

Bond picked up the proffered telephone. He knew the number all too well, but had not had a call for a decade or more and had assumed that she would leave him alone to enjoy his retirement.

‘Hello, Tracy’, he said reluctantly. He hated having to use the name of his wife killed by a Russian sniper so long ago, but that was her name too and he had to swallow the bitter pill. She was ‘M’ now, a pleasantly freckled Trinidadian appointed in her thirties entirely to fill racial quotas, and a decent enough young woman, but under her slack hand MI6, already hollowed out by the culture of political correctness, had subsided into utter futility.

‘I’m really sorry to bother you, James,’ she said, ‘but we’ve got a bit of a flap on.’ Bond smiled at the antique wartime jargon that she must have picked up from the last of the oldsters clinging to their jobs in Terry Farrell’s Toytown building at Vauxhall Cross on the south bank of the Thames. In Bond’s time ‘M’ had worked across the river in the unlovely tower of Riverwalk House, now demolished and unmourned even by him. ‘Can you get to a scrambled phone please, ay ess ay pee?’

Bond grunted and hauled himself painfully up. With his feet now over the edge of the sun lounger he summoned wakefulness. ‘Yes, in my car. Five minutes. You know the number.’ He rang off without another word, annoyed by the interruption to his daily routine and in no mood for politeness.

Hoisting himself painfully to his feet, he walked the hundred yards to the silver Aston Martin DB5 in the club car park. It was not the one he had used all those years ago, which had long been a wreck. He had bought this one for a small fortune and had it worked on by Fiskens in South Kensington. Beautifully restored (I wish they could do that for me too, he thought) it ran like a dream, though his aged left leg was having increasing difficulty in depressing its brutally heavy clutch pedal and his arms ached from the unpowered steering. Walk properly, he said to himself as he went. Don’t totter. You may be 97 but you’re still in pretty good shape.

The scrambler phone rang as he pulled it out of the glove box. ‘Mode three,’ said Tracy. He tapped #*#3 on the dial pad and her voice, now sounding a bit garbled, continued. ‘James, I’d never dream of bothering you normally, but we’ve got a wet job and it’s gone badly wrong. The man we sent has turned vegan and says he can’t do it. It’s young Lewis actually, nice enough lad but between you and me he couldn’t blow the skin off boiled milk. And we know you’re still shooting well at the range, so please, James, could you step in. Your double-oh licence never expired, as you know.’

Bond had met Lewis, a weedy millennial with ripped skinny jeans and a man bun, and was not surprised at his balking at a ‘wet job’, slang borrowed from the old KGB for a killing. He smiled wryly: these feeble young people were really not up to the serious stuff. And yes, he was still pretty good with a sniper rifle with a good telescopic sight to aid his fading vision.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Put me there with a proper weapon and I’ll do it for you. But for God’s sake get me out cleanly afterwards, I can’t handle the rough stuff any more. I’ve still got raw patches on my arse from the steam burns in that stupid rocket caper, not to mention the scars on my bollocks from Le Chiffre and his fucking tennis racket.’

Tracy subsided into shocked silence for a few seconds. ‘Yes, James,’ she said. ‘We’ll get you in and out, word of honour. But just do it for us, will you? We’re in a bit of a situation here and you’re the only man on the spot who can deal with it.’

‘Right,’ said Bond. ‘Where, when?’

‘Can you meet Lewis for dinner today at the club? He’ll brief you – it was his job after all.’

‘All right, 7.30 for drinks and dinner at 8. But tell the silly bugger to put on a proper suit and a tie. They won’t let him in the way he usually looks.’

‘Agreed. Really thanks a lot, James, you’ll see how important this is for us. And, um, have a lovely day.’

Wincing at the inappropriate sign-off, Bond returned the phone to the glove box, locked the car, and returned to his sun lounger. He was feeling mildly elated at getting back in the saddle after so long, though there remained a nagging worry that Tracy hadn’t told him everything. Anyway, it was six hours till he had to meet the useless youngster. He went back to sleep.

* * * * * *

Bond was nursing his third Martini (shaken not stirred) when Lewis minced in forty minutes late. He was indeed wearing a pale linen suit, the kind known as ‘unstructured’ which meant that it didn’t fit anywhere and looked as if he had slept in it. The ensemble was topped off by an incongruously formal black tie with narrow diagonal pale blue stripes. Old Etonian, thought Bond, repressing a sneer.

‘So sorry,’ cringed Lewis. ‘Running a bit late today.’

As always, you pathetic little wanker, thought Bond. He said, ‘No worries, have a drink and then we’ll walk around while you tell me about the job.’

A club servant was hovering and Lewis ordered an Aperol spritz, a weak pink drink for weaklings. Bond had another Martini, he needed an anaesthetic to deal with this creep.

They set off to the edge of the grounds where no eavesdropper could by any chance be lurking, Bond striding painfully ahead and Lewis flopping in his wake.

‘It’s like this,’ Lewis said. ‘You know that President Biden’ – he uttered the P word without irony – ‘is coming to address the Climate Crisis Conference in Kingston next week. And he’s breaking precedent and bringing the VP with him.’

‘Yes indeed,’ snarled Bond. ‘Even he couldn’t go away and leave Qué Mala in charge of the shop.’


‘That’s what they call Kamala Harris in Latin America – means “How evil”.’

‘Ha ha. Well, anyway, we had word from one of our folk that the Russians were setting up a sniper to take out the President when he addresses the opening rally.’

‘Sound move,’ growled Bond. ‘Hope he fires before the idiot has time to start another war. But don’t tell me your lot were planning to save the bugger.’

‘Not exactly. But like you said, we can’t risk her being president. Yes, he might start a war, but she’d start three the moment she opened her mouth.’

Full marks for realism at Head Office, Bond reluctantly had to admit. He said, ‘So what was the plan?’

‘Well, they wanted me to, er, take her out too. And look, James, I’m sorry, but that’s really not my thing at all.’

No, it certainly isn’t, Bond thought contemptuously. ‘So you want me to shoot her?’

Lewis winced at the word ‘shoot.’ He admitted, ‘’Fraid so, old man. Will you take care of it for us? It’s tomorrow afternoon and the Firm just can’t get another man on the spot in time.’

Probably don’t even have one, thought Bond. ‘Yes. Find me a good spot and a decent rifle, get me in and out, that’s all I need.’ A thought struck him just in time. ‘But remember this. I’m retired now, and I’m taking this on as a freelance. The going rate’s fifty thousand dollars and I’ll want half of that up front in my Swiss bank account before I move a muscle.’

‘Agreed,’ said Lewis with obvious relief and suspicious ease. ‘And they sent the rifle already in the consular bag. It’s in my car.’

‘What is it?’

Lewis consulted his phone, on which he should certainly not have kept a written record. ‘Remington 700 XCR with a LaRue LT 104-30 scope.’

‘That’s good, nice and simple, can’t be bothered with these hi-tech things, too much to go wrong. But I’ll need a few hours of practice in a quiet spot. Can you set that up for me tomorrow morning?’

‘No problemo, old man.’

You patronising git, thought Bond. He said, ‘OK, I’ll be waiting for you at eight tomorrow morning. Be there or be square.’ He relished Lewis’s puzzled look.

Conversation at dinner, under the eye of the staff, had to be innocuous – as did the menu for the vegan Lewis. Forewarned by Bond, the kitchen had managed to cobble up some confection of tofu and quinoa that he found acceptable. Bond ordered a large rare steak and relished his companion’s look of horror as he chewed every bloody morsel. He still had most of his teeth though some of them were getting a bit wobbly.

From Lewis he learned that MI6, already hidebound by lily-livered legislators, was sinking further into uselessness. Even the feeble young man had to admit that the official HR policy of recruiting 50 per cent women and 50 per cent ‘ethnics’ had reduced the staff to a hive of drones. It had not been much better in Bond’s day when they were picking up the sweepings of minor public schools whose brighter pupils were making their millions in business, but there had been a few talented people who had kept the show at least ticking over – and all the agents at the front end had been up to shooting someone. It was a condition of qualification.

Where the hell are we going? was his last thought as later, sedated by a ninth martini, he sank into uneasy sleep.

* * * * * *

Next morning he dispelled a slight hangover with black coffee and a greasy fry-up – one of his few luxuries was proper bacon airmailed from a small butcher’s shop in Borough Market – and waited for Lewis, who arrived only half an hour late in a predictable Prius painted a repellent shade of lavender. They drove out to a patch of coastal scrub where Lewis had previousy pegged out a distance of 800 metres and driven in a post for a target. Give the lad credit for that at least, thought Bond.

But the sun was already baking the land. The growing heat haze frustrated Bond’s view and, even with the rifle sighted in as well as he could manage, he was shooting all round the target. ‘That reminds me,’ said Lewis as he returned from setting up a fresh card. ‘ “Q” sent this in the bag last night,’

Bond ripped open the small heavy tightly wrapped parcel with the blade on his Leatherman multi-tool (his grandfather had always told him, ‘Never go anywhere, my boy, without a pocket knife, a piece of string and half a crown’). He found a black cylinder, obviously a telescopic sight but with a small box attached to the left side. Taped to this were an AA battery and a slip of paper with the laconic note, ‘Records 10 frames a second, rolling display of last 5. Good luck, J.’ The current ‘Q’’s real name was Jayanta; he was a brilliant teenage nerd from Calcutta (no, I will not call it Kolkata, thought Bond) and, despite his official designation, his friends called him ‘J’.

Well, as Sir Malcolm Sargent said, try anything once except incest and folk dancing, Bond reflected as he used the Philips screwdriver on his Leatherman to remove the LaRue scope and fit the new sight.

Bond had never looked into one of the new generation of mirrorless cameras and was amazed at how good electronic viewfinders had become. The image in the sight was big, bright and pin sharp. Haze was reduced to a faint constant flicker as the display updated itself, nothing to be bothered about. If you moved the sight the image blurred for a moment but soon recovered. After a few minutes’ adjustment he was getting constant bullseyes, and waited impatiently for Lewis to replace the shredded target.

But Lewis did not come. Bond was reloading the rifle – a weapon for the experienced sniper, it held only three rounds with one in the chamber – when his arms were seized from behind in an iron grip, lifting him off the ground. Instinctively he kicked back and felt his foot connect, but there was not so much as a grunt from behind. A voice – surely he knew that voice? – said pleasantly, ‘So, Mr Bond, we meet again after all those years.’ Then a mask was held over his face, a whiff of something volatile, and oblivion.


© Tachybaptus 2022