Doctor Royale (An Homage: 1964)
In 1963, my sister Mary discovered the James Bond series, authored by Ian Fleming. I think she had picked up on a public comment made by JFK as to how much he enjoyed the thrillers. Anyway, Mary bought the books, read them, and then passed them around to family and friends. We read them all, and would discuss them from time to time.
At one point, I said I could write a James Bond type story. She said to go ahead and try. I did, and this little pastiche is the result. I read it to Mary and her little group and they enjoyed it. I hope you will too.
Once again, the references are mostly made-up, and it’s wildly impossible, even for a James Bond adventure tale. I buried a few Easter Egg references for you Tom Swift and Sherlock Holmes readers, and also remembered you lovers of bad puns.
And now, Commander James Bottledin:
Commander James Bottledin, MI5, British Secret Service, slowly brushed the comma of black hair back from his eyes, and allowed his cold, ironic face to contemplate the burning Jamaican sun. It was to have been a vacation, he mused. A bit of “sun and surf” as Miss Shillingsworth had so succinctly put it. “M recommends it.”
“Sun and surf” indeed, he smiled ironically to himself, as he watched the Tumler birds careening madly into the wine-dark sea. “C’est la guerre,” he muttered, half aloud, forgetting momentarily that he knew no French.
He automatically raised his Ragopah wrist chronograph and silently noticed the temperature, humidity, and time. There were no messages. M insisted that all operatives function on the military time calibration of 24 hours. The Ragopah chronograph registered 2530. He spat an obscenity. It would have to be fixed.
The Ragopah’s cracked crystal momentarily reflected Bottledin’s penetrating gaze and he now examined it closely. Upon whose jaw was that shattered, he mused. Was it on the Siberian Reindeer Keeper with the offensive table manners, or did it happen during his misadventure with the Giant Rat of Sumatra? What was that other fellow’s name? The slender Brit with the gift of deduction? Too bad about him. There was always the unspoken possibility that he was confused again.
He snapped his mind back into focus and with great effort eased his bruised body from the Fenwick Lounger on which he had been reclining. The mark of SWISH was upon him, he conceded: twice captured and twice tortured. He had been the only one to walk out of that basement room alive, he mused. There were varying degrees of aggressive techniques, and he had mastered them all. He knew Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, and several other Japanese words. SWISH were effective devils, he conceded, if a trifle crude and overconfident. He wondered if he should try to capture and torture one of them. What would he ask? “Put all that behind me,” he thought. “That was yesterday, and today, as in my favorite game of Baccarat, Fortune will be on my side of the table.”
By this time he had walked midway across the café’s rose terraced patio and was standing directly behind the stout little Maître d’hôtel. “Is my table ready?” he asked cruelly.
“Monsieur” (was the fat little beast fumbling for time?), “you startled me. I did not realize you were standing behind me.” He nervously tied meaningless little knots into the strings of his apron.
“Few do,” Bottledin replied warily. “I’m wearing my Mangotrop Walking Pumps that are completely silent on hard surfaces.” He felt no need to mention the steel toes and the concealed blade (was the little man overly interested?). “A friend of mind procured them for me from a Mau Mau commissary, where they were entirely hand-fashioned by exiled mystics.” The waiter had a small nervous tic in the right hand corner of his mouth.
Bottledin had not noticed it before. He moved closer to the little man. “There are only two other pair like them in Jamaica,” he continued, closely monitoring the little man’s nervous reaction and slight backing away, “and I understand both of them are in need of new soles.” There was no visible reaction to the code. Bottledin glared fiercely down into the little man’s sweating face. “Do you know what happens to Mangotrop Walking Pumps when they need new soles?” Bottledin asked fiercely. “No, Monsieur, no! I know nothing!” the little man cried. “Then where is my table?” Bottledin demanded. The little one turned and with a nervous step led him across the café to an elegant corner table with a sea view. Why was the little one so eager to terminate the conversation? Bottledin asked himself. He made a mental note to signal MI5 for a Class Three security check. The little pig would do no further harm if Bottledin received M’s customary 007 signal.
“We have seated you with Madame,” the Maître d’ murmured, almost incoherently. “She requested it.” He indicated with a trembling finger the raven-haired beauty now smiling in Bottledin’s direction. “Madame said she knew you from the days when you were both in the employ of Prefabricated Pyramids.” Bottledin stiffened. He spun around fiercely to face down the little man who was already beating a hasty retreat across the café’s terrace. What is his problem? Bottledin asked himself.
“Prefabricated Pyramids,” Bottledin mused, as he strode towards the welcoming beauty at the window table. That was the code name for the controlling agency that oversaw all the agents in Bottledin’s category and grade. She’s another 007, he decided, as the distance between them narrowed. This is M’s work, he thought. That infernal old meddler, whom he honoured and loved. M knew that Bottledin preferred to work alone, and never with a woman. A woman, whose base sentimentality could cost him his mission, and his life. He would let her die, he decided in that instant. She would have to die, assuming she was on a mission with him, and assuming they were both captured, and assuming they tried to blackmail him with her life.
“Good morning, 007,” she smiled, breaking the silence as he sat down at the table.
“Very good,” he observed, “You even have my agency code name; very efficient.” He examined her critically. Was she too an 007, the rating which signified an agent had a license to … he hesitated at the word. How had he earned that rating, so many years ago? Was it that notorious Canadian feather merchant with his superb Fezzeldorf collection, or did it happen during that infamous adventure with the lighthouse, the politician, and the trained cormorant? Or was he confused again?
He regarded her for a long moment and then asked, “Have you ordered?” She shook her head no. “Then, allow me,” he continued, fingering the embossed bill of fare with the passable Bergman reproduction on the frontispiece. “I suggest that you try the pâté de fois plastique, with crotons and heavy cream.”
“And what is that?” she queried, obviously impressed by both his knowledge and the attention.
“Turtle soup,” he snapped, mockingly.
“And is it good?” she asked again, choosing to overlook his swift rejoinder.
“I didn’t say that,” Bottledin replied, somewhat non-committedly.
Her movement was sudden, and in another situation might have cost her life. She pressed one hand against her finely etched face as though to shield it from the sun, and placed the other lightly over Bottledin’s gun hand, thus obscuring his Albanian signet ring with the concealed muflet which was to be used (as Q had so gravely warned) “only when all else has failed.”
“We’re being watched,” she said evenly. “Across the terrace, near the Babylonia Hanging Plant, that cold, cruel looking man with the scarred face, talking with the nervous beauty. I’m sure I have seen him before.”
Bottledin removed her hand from his, somewhat urgently she thought, and sat back in the cushioned chair and calmly lighted his fourth Arabesque cigarette with the three golden chevrons. It was some time before he turned his head and looked across the patio.
“That is an Oscladuton Mural Mirror,” he said reflectively, “and those people are ourselves.” The girl lowered her head. “I have three Oscladuton Mural Mirrors in my London flat,” he continued, lightening the mood, “along with two of the uprights for which I feel he is more to be remembered. I will show them to you some time,” he said invitingly.
It was though he had touched a nerve. “What time is it now?” she asked nervously.
“2530,” Bottledin replied, without checking the Ragopah chronograph.
“Then I have precious little time left,” she continued. Was she holding something back? Bottledin wondered. “Your orders are brief: there is to be a meeting tonight.” She paused for effect, as Bottledin inhaled the Arabesque, somewhat ironically perhaps. “I have no information as to what security is provided, so I suggest you prepare accordingly.” She watched as he subtlety felt the 9 mm Berretta nestled in the Burns-Martin chamois holster under his left armpit, then the .45 calibre Colt automatic strapped under his right armpit, then the Fangwood throwing knife concealed in the left leg holster, the miniature grenades Q has transformed into cuff links, and the Mangotrop Walking Pumps with the blades and steel toes.
“You’re squirming,” the girl observed, “are you all right?”
“I forgot the Finnish SAGO TRG 22/42 sniper’s rifle,” Bottledin murmured angrily, but it’s of no matter.” He would have spoken further upon the subject of human frailty, but his ignorance of the subject dissuaded him. “May I assume that SWISH will be involved?” he asked. It was more of a statement than question.
“I am not familiar with that term,” she answered crisply. Bottledin liked that: closed mouthed and security conscious. He would draw her out.
“Not familiar with SWISH?” he asked incredulously. “The Soviet Western Intelligence Security Haberdashers?”
“Haberdashers?” The term seemed to bother her.
“Of course, Haberdashers, use your head, woman.” Bottledin went on, running his fingers along the scar on his left cheek and remembering. “Their agents in London would pass themselves off as Homburg salesmen. Quite clever, actually. They got devilishly close to Buckingham Palace on one ill-fated occasion. I’ve been on to them now for several years.”
“I must leave at once,” she said, rising from the table. Too close for comfort, Bottledin wondered? “My MI5 staff car is double-parked in front.” Bottledin thought this careless. A khaki government staff car with security markings and large radio antennae could be a giveaway. “You’d best,” he commented sardonically.”
He watched her stalk away from the table without another word before he lighted another Arabesque and inhaled its rich perfume. He contemplated the bill of fare once again. He would let the master chef select the entrée, but the main course would be of his own selection. Then it would be a shower, burning hot then stinging cold, and a brief rest before the adventures of the evening.
It was 2530 by the Ragopah chronograph, as Bottledin backed the custom Mark VI Bentley Quadro from the hotel garage and let it idle until the whine of its turbines echoed menacingly through the tuned, chromatic scale exhausts. He easily swung the power wheel about and was at least two kilometers down the shore road before he switched on the Steiner recorder and player: “Morse’s Concerto in C Major.” Music can be consoling at a time like this.
He was well along the shore road by now and had already executed three perfect racing turns (if only old Fritz, the ski and driving instructor at Leduc could see him now; how he regretted terminating old Fritz). He thought briefly of the mission. If only he knew his ultimate destination; even the general direction would have helped. He smiled grimly as he checked the speedometer: at least he was making excellent time.
The Bentley Mark VI has easily past the 90 marker by now, and was edging yet higher when he noticed the twin headlights in his rear view mirror. So I’m being followed, he spat. Then it is they who will have the adventure tonight.
The Bentley whined torturously as he kicked in the Fulsome Supercharger and watched the index glide past the one hundred mark. He looked again at the following headlights. No doubt they would be armed with Sig Sauers, Uzis, and Walther P-38’s with the new Gunstung Silencers. Very effective weapons against an unarmed man, Bottledin conceded.
At the next turn, he executed yet another perfect racing turn, and then downshifted the gear box into neutral steer throwing the Bentley into a 180 degree spin and reversing direction. It now straddled the road, facing the approaching villains. He clicked open the headlight gun ports to expose the twin, coaxially-mounted .50 caliber machine guns built into the front chassis. He had replenished both 9 yard ammo belts with fresh ammunition earlier: tracer, armor piercing, and incendiary. He could indeed give them “the whole nine yards” … times two. He fingered the hand grips gently, gaining position, as he waited to confront his pursuers.
A supercharged, Formula 1.6 Renault GTO suddenly hove into view at high speed. An unusual pursuit vehicle, he thought, but no doubt equipped with the Furtchgott Modification and Snowwell Racing Tyres. Bottledin waited precisely three seconds and then unleashed a devastating hail of lead into the direct centre windscreen of the speeding Renault. He smiled coolly as the vehicle careened and veered wildly, as though to evade the onslaught, then crashed through a dense hedge growth, and burst into flames as it plummeted three hundred feet onto the rocks and seas below. “Take that,” Bottledin murmured in satisfaction as the first of several explosions reached his ears.
It was another dawn, and another hot sun, that found Bottledin at the little café table, savoring his first martini of the day. The Maitre d’ was gone. They said he had retired the previous day. Bottledin would check into that.
The martini was his own recipe, one to twelve, with just enough gin to flavor the vermouth. The beautiful girl was back and looking at him anxiously. “What of the meeting?” she asked.
“Either a success or failure, depending on your side of the fence,” he responded at length. He sipped his drink deeply before adding, “I should imagine a few heads are rolling at the central offices of SWISH this morning.”
“I don’t understand,” said the girl, “what of M? Didn’t he announce the promotion?”
“M? What promotion?” Bottledin was vaguely interested.
“Of course, promotion,” the girl replied. “The head of MI5 is retiring and you are up for the position. It was to be a surprise. Why else do you think that M, Q, the head of MI5, and the Prince himself would drive all the way down here, crowded into Q’s Formula 1.6 Renault?”
Bottledin sipped deeply of his martini, and beckoned to the waiter for another. “A Formula 1.6 Renault?” he asked at length. “With the Furtchgott Modification?”
“And Snowwell Racing Types,” the girl happily rejoined. “I just knew they’d find you. I told them to follow the shore road and…”
“Of course,” Bottledin interrupted, as he set down his glass momentarily and lighted another Arabesque cigarette. “And you say the Prince himself came along? How kind of him. Do you have any idea where they all are this morning?” he mused, half aloud.
The girl laughed her pretty laugh: “I haven’t the foggiest,” she said. “I thought you’d all be out celebrating by now.” She covered Bond’s hand with her own. “Congratulations,” she said. “We’ll have a grand party tonight. Several agents from MI5 as well as representatives from MI6, the Prince’s security detail, and the S.A.S. are on their way down here as we speak. It will be an evening to remember.”
“Wonderful,” Bottledin murmured, “an evening to remember indeed.” He leaned back in his chair and once again watched the Tumler birds careening madly into the wine-dark sea. “I have been thinking,” he said at length, “of retiring from the service.”
“Retiring?” The girl was genuinely astounded.
“Yes,” replied Bottledin. “I have always found new assignments depressing and the prospect of a quiet Chinchilla ranch somewhere up the Amazon holds a particular appeal for me right now.” He sat in deep thought for a moment. “In fact,” he said at length, “I think I’ll leave this very day.” He started to rise but the girl’s hand was on his again. “I could go too, James,” she said, in a pleading tone. I could make you happy, and I know quite a bit about Chinchillas, since I once had a coat that they tailored.”
“Of course you can come,” he said, noting the smile of relief in her eyes. You company will be delightful and your experience invaluable.” She wanted to thank him, but the words would not come.
“We shall leave now, just as we are,” he said. “I have some money put aside, and we shall sell the Bentley Mark VI in London. The Malaprop Mufflers alone will bring a pretty penny. Let us begin our new life’s journey together by recording the moment that it began.” He consulted the Ragopah chronograph. “It is exactly 2530.”
He silently spat an obscenity, turned, took the girl’s hand, and quick-marched ironically away.