A Right and Left – Part 2 of 2

Changhe WZ-10 helicopter (CCA-SA 3.0, M. Jordan)

Bond woke with a headache and a foul taste in his mouth. Trying to move, he found he was tied to a chair. As his vision cleared he saw an elderly man seated in front of him, a triumphant grin on his wrinkled face. He had seen a younger version of that face long ago, and struggled to recall it from memory.

‘Stolypin,’ he said at last. ‘Sofia, when was it, 1970?’

‘Was 1972. You shot me, remember?’ He held up an artificial right hand, a gleaming mechanical construction with no attempt at realism.

‘Oh dear,’ said Bond. ‘Sorry about the hand. But war is war, or at least it was.’

‘No worries, Mr Bond. Would do same to you. But that then, long time ago. Now need answers.’

He beckoned, and a huge blond man with the tranquil face of a peasant appeared. He was holding a syringe. Scopalomine? Bond wondered. Well, better than a tennis racket applied to the wedding tackle.

‘No need for that,’ Bond said. ‘We could always do business. And I think this business concerns you.’

‘Good, tell.’

It was no time to set up a flimsy web of lies. Better start at the beginning, Bond thought. ‘Well, our people heard that you were planning to take out Biden this afternoon when he speaks at the opening ceremony.’

‘Very good, Mr Bond. So your people not so – how you say – sleepy as we thought. But what you plan to do, stop us?’ He laughed contemptuously.

‘No, not at all. We’re not all like the idiot Johnson, supporting that half-dead gangster and his creature Zelensky. In fact our department is on your side in this Ukraine nonsense, though of course we can’t say so. And yes, Biden is a danger to the world. Or at least his handlers are, and taking him out would be – do you understand if I say a shot across their bows?’

‘Yes, understand, old ship story. But why you out there practise with sniper rifle?’

It was Bond’s turn to laugh. ‘Because if you shoot Biden, Kamala Harris becomes president. And Biden may be senile, but she’s mad and much more dangerous. Not just to us, but to you too. We just have to take her out. It’s a hygienic measure. And my mission was to do that. This afternoon while the old fool is mumbling, she’ll be at a school in Kingston. And the moment I hear on my phone that you’ve got Biden, she goes down before her minders take her away.’

‘And how you plan cover up?’

‘I was to go dressed as an Arab. An oldie but easy enough to believe.’

Stolypin nodded and sat silently for a few seconds. ‘Mr Bond, need to make phone call. Sit easy, few minutes only. Yuri, let him loose.’ He nodded to the giant, who produced a pair of scissors and cut the cable ties holding him to the chair. Bond flexed his stiff arms and legs gratefully. He had no intention of running, and indeed little ability either.

It was half an hour before Stolypin returned. Bond had had a drink of water and felt more human. ‘Mr Bond, news for you. Harris not go to school, Covid rubbish, school close. You go there, waste time.’

‘You know where she’s going?’

‘Yes, stand beside fool Biden at ceremony. Show unity, normal rubbish. But now …’.

‘Yes,’ said Bond. ‘Two targets side by side, two shooters? I’m with you.’

‘Correct. Mr Bond, meet Tatyana.’ He beckoned, and a stocky old woman with grey hair and the build of a peasant stumped in. Eighty if she’s a day, Bond reckoned. And she’s the best they’ve got?

Her white hair was tied into a severe bun and she was vaguely draped in a shapeless grey dress, but she had the stare of an eagle, commanding attention. ‘Mr Bond, meet our, how you say, marks person.’

‘Pleased to meet you,’ said Bond, holding out his hand. She had a handshake like a bear trap. He could feel her assessing him, and hoped he passed muster.

Sensing his reaction, Stolypin laughed. ‘What you English say? Can’t get staff any more?’

‘Right. We are the last generation that can perform. I was on the Murmansk convoys in 1944, and I performed for you.’

Stolypin held out his real left hand for Bond to shake. ‘You fight in Great Patriotic War! My father at Murmansk. Tovarishch, comrade, friend. Now we fight this battle together.’

Tatyana said, ‘I speak English, better than him. Yes, we shoot, old comrades side by side.’ She gave him a bearlike bone-cracking hug.

‘We also doing Arab trick,’ said Stolypin. ‘You come with us, simple. We have clothes for you. Your rifle OK, does job. But you still carry old Walther PPK – why?’

‘I’m used to it,’ said Bond. ‘Like you say, does job.’

* * * * * *

A black stretch Mercedes bucketed along the ill-made road. Bond, dressed in flowing robes, a shaggy grey beard hooked over his ears, and with sunglasses to hide his eyes, looked every inch an elderly sheikh. Tatyana beside him was enveloped in a burqa, as were three heavies too tall for the disguise but a burqa can hide most things. The giant Yuri loomed in the front passenger seat like a haystack wrapped in a black tarpaulin. The driver, in a horrible Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts, was Kemal Mukhamedov – originally from Azerbaijan, Stolypin had explained, but now a loyal member of the FSB.

Kemal spoke good English, as well, he said, as Arabic and French. He explained as he drove. ‘We have a house overlooking the ceremony, just 850 metres from the podium. Flat roof, you can get a perfect shot.’

‘How the hell did you get it past the local security check?’

Kemal briefly removed a hand from the twitching wheel as they hit a pothole, and rubbed his fingers and thumb together in the old gesture for paper money. ‘They think it’s a house where the Saudis keep little girls for sex. They won’t touch it, would be opening a can of worms, nobody wants all the fuss.’ He added, ‘But no one takes dollars any more. I gave them roubles backed with gold.’

Bond grimaced, but it was true. He belonged to the old order and it was passing. Well, one final gesture against the new masters of the world, and he was grateful for the folk at Vauxhall Cross for their last moment of sanity.

And, after he had toiled up the outside stairs to the roof, the house was a sniper’s dream. A low parapet sprouted a few straggly plants to break up the skyline. There were even some sacks of straw to make a comfortable firing position. Bond adjusted his carefully before getting down – at his age getting up again was something that had to be planned in advance. Tatyana was doing the same. They exchanged sympathetic smiles.

It was half past four. ‘Ceremony begins at five,’ Kemal told them, ‘but we don’t expect targets on the podium till six or later. I’ll keep an eye on them – you relax, my dears.’

They waited in the shade of a shed on the roof, sprawling on plastic chairs. How much better the Russians plan these things, thought Bond. In his original plan he would have been sweating under a bush. There was even a six pack of the local Red Stripe beer, weak tasteless stuff. He allowed himself one can. Tatyana was looking at him quizzically. ‘Just enough to steady the hand,’ he explained, and she nodded. She was sipping Diet Coke, something he wouldn’t have touched, but each to his or her own. Beside her an MTs-116M rifle with a grotesquely ugly wooden stock rested on its bipod.

* * * * * *

Security men were already milling around the podium as Bond and Tatyana set up their weapons. Bond looked through his digital scope, grateful for the clarity it provided. No screens in front of the speakers, he noted gratefully. Just the slanted Plexiglas sheet of Biden’s Autocue, needed for a senile relic who couldn’t string three words together. Yes, he thought with sudden anger. Tatyana’s shot is a justified revenge, mine a necessary clean-up. The presidency would fall on Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and God knows she’s evil enough but she isn’t completely barking like Qué Mala. How far would you have to shoot down the Democratic Party before you found an honest man? Or woman, or those gender benders who cluster like flies round a rotting corpse?

The platform cleared, and a numpty in a suit came forward. Too far away to hear anything but a faint blurred mutter, delayed by distance. He can’t have been important because it was only two minutes before he left. And yes, it was Biden being helped up the steps and tottering to the podium on Harris’s arm.

As the pair paused side by side, Taytana said, ‘I say one, two, three. On three, we fire.’

‘Right.’ He took a breath and aimed with care.

‘One … two … three!’

Crack, crack. Bond saw Biden’s head explode in a red mist, then Harris falling back in a shower of blood. A right and left, he thought exultantly. But what the hell was Tatyana using for bullets? Must ask her.

But now, ‘Time to get out,’ he muttered as he hauled himself painfully up, hands on the floor to push himself to his feet. His back sent a wave of pain as he bent down to get the rifle. Tatyana was already up and holding her weapon. They hurried down the steps, Bond gripping the handrail with his other hand.

The approaching Mercedes was barely a hundred yards away when there was a sudden clatter of helicopter blades and the car disintegrated with a heavy thump and a cloud of black smoke, followed by a clanging rain of shreds of sheet metal.

They shrank into the shadows at the side of the building, just in time as the helicopter was descending. There was a triangular projection extending from the wall, topped with a pair of sloping doors – an old-fashioned hurricane shelter. He tried a door and it came up with a creak, fortunately muffled by the sound of the rotor. ‘Quick,’ he said, ‘in here.’

As the door closed over them there was the sound of running booted feet and, faint but unmistakable, the twanging tones of Chinese voices. ‘Did you hear that?’ he whispered.

‘Yes. Biden was their man. But I didn’t expect them so soon.’

Boots sounded on the outside stair. Bond waited a few seconds before daring to open one of the doors a crack. The helicopter squatted, blades idling. He could see the pilot at the controls, bent over the instrument panel to perform some check. ‘Come on, now!’

The lifted door fell open with a thud, but the men were on the roof and the noise of the rotor drowned it. Bond and Tatyana broke into a staggering trot towards the helicopter. Avoiding the scythe of the tail rotor, they crept up the side to the open pilot’s door. A blow from the stock of Bond’s rifle to the man’s neck below the helmet, luckily on target, felled him instantly. Bond undid the central clip of his harness and pulled him out on to the ground, then hauled himself creakily up and into the seat, old joints protesting. while Taytana climbed in at the rear door and came round to the copilot’s seat.

She shouted, ‘Can you fly it?’

‘I flew an autogyro once. Can’t be all that different.’

But it was. He knew that the collective pitch lever between the seats, like an old-fashioned car handbrake, was for up and down, and there was a twist-grip throttle on the end of it. He twisted the throttle and the engine note became louder. Probably there was some indicator on the dashboard that would tell him when he could take off, but all he could do was give it time. He put his feet on the rudder pedals and grasped the ‘joystick’ – the cyclic pitch lever – with his other hand. At least these were familiar from many years ago. Then he pulled the collective pitch lever up.

The helicopter lurched into the air, tilted, and slid off to the side. Hastily Bond over-corrected and they went the other way, narrowly missing some tall palm trees. But, bucketing wildly, the machine rose. Bond risked a gentle kick at the pedals. Sure enough the ungainly aircraft turned. It was enough for now. He headed unsteadily for the coast while behind him, barely audible over the din, came the rattle of small-arms fire.

‘Where are you going?’ Tatyana bellowed.

‘I know a place. Trust me,’ he yelled back, absorbed in not crashing.

As they crossed the coast he picked up the landmarks, turned unsteadily, and ambled vaguely along the shore, his zigzags becoming smaller as he began to master the controls.

Yes, there it was. But landing was another matter. ‘Can you swim?’


‘OK, I’m going down near the shore. When I signal, out you go. But take off that fucking burqa first or you’ll drown. I’ll follow.’

She hauled up the grotesque garment as he made his final approach. Not too final, he hoped. They were barely ten feet above the waves.

‘Go!’ She went. Good woman, no hanging about. It was his time now. No way he could remove his Arab clothes. He flung himself out of the door and, as he hit the water with a stunning splash, the lightened helicopter rose and fluttered a hundred yards before it canted over and spiralled noisily into the sea. Fighting with the heavy robes he managed to get them off before they dragged him down, then he swam towards the surf only a few yards away. As he crawled soggily ashore on hands and knees he was relieved to see Tatyana already on the beach, clad only in her sensible Russian underclothes. Not quite as I remember the scene from a few years ago, he thought. Years? It was half a century.

It was blissfully quiet, with only the sound of the surf. ‘You all right?’ he asked.

‘Yes, mister bloody awful pilot. But you got us here alive, I give you that. More important now, where are we?’

‘Come with me.’ They tottered up the beach. A bungalow became visible under the palms. ‘Welcome to my home,’ said Bond.

He had been wearing his own trousers under the Arab robes, and felt in his pocket for his keys. There was his phone. Huawei – no wonder the buggers traced me, he thought. But it was full of salt water and would never betray him again. He tossed it into the bushes before taking out the keys.

In the living room, Tatyana headed straight for the sagging old sofa and flung herself down. Bond stayed upright long enough to find a bottle of Standard vodka and two shot glasses. This was no time for messing around with vermouth. He sprawled on the sofa beside her, poured a stiff slug into each of the glasses, and handed her one. Summoning his few words of Russian, he said, ‘За успех!’ – za uspekh, to success. She smiled and downed the drink in one gulp.

Her hand was shaking, a delayed reaction. So, he realised with annoyance, was his. He hid it by putting his arm around her shoulders and, warmed with the vodka, they subsided gratefully on the tatty cushions.

It was a long time since he had had his arm around a woman. And, dumpy and frumpy as she might look, this was no ordinary woman. As a feeling he had not felt for years began to set in, he glanced at her. She was looking at him with a spark in her eyes.

It was not a time for words. They hoisted themselves painfully to their feet. Bond took her hand and gently guided her to their destination.


© Tachybaptus 2022