Mary Death v. James Bond
The rivalry between Britain’s greatest secret agent and France’s greatest secret agent [who is British] is the subject of much speculation. Some say James lobbied to expel Meredith from the Secret Intelligence Service which is how Meredith joined the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure. [Although he claims to not be involved in any way with the DGSE, we know better.] Others say the animosity began when the two found themselves facing the same target and were unable to compromise on who would claim the capture. Another story harkens back to military days and a dark secret during war time.
None of this is true of course.
It all began no more than 5 years ago in Ibiza. In those days, André was wild and free and loved the clubs. Of course, when one is young, attractive and has a smile so contagious and so angelic it tempts the Devil himself to convert, one is obligated to go out among the masses and share their joie de vivre. André was doing just this on the dance floor when James saw him the first time.
Instantly the man was mesmerized. He made his way through the packed dance floor until he was next to André who paid him little attention. He tried to dance with him and André disappeared among the crowd.
He searched the club until he found André at the end of the bar chatting up his friends. “My name is Bond, James Bond.”
“Bond Bond? Your maman not like you?” André sniffed and focused his attention on a friend hoping the older man would take the hint.
“No. James Bond. And you are?”
“Thirsty.” He rapped on the bar. “Where are our drinks?”
James ordered a martini, vodka, shaken not stirred.
André sniffed. “Is not a martini with vodka. Martini with gin.”
James continued his attempts to engage André in conversation.
Finally André had his drinks. “You I am not interested in. Go away now.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
André looked him up and down. “You are British. Au revoir.”
Later James saw André go to the restroom. He entered at the same time. “You know I’m quite a famous spy.”
“If you are famous you are sucky spy then. I go to stall now. You stay out here. Am not to be your trick. Bye bye.”
As André stood outside waiting for a cab to the hotel James appeared at his side again. “Please tell me what you have against me?”
“You are not my type.”
“What is your type?” James was so desperate to have André he was willing to change anything.
“Tallish, blondish, blue-eyes, swanky British accent. None of it my type. Good night to you.”
Heart-broken and rejected James swore off men forever and found himself in a series of one unsatisfying hetero-relationship after another.
Let us now fast forward
Another one for a contest. I believe it won first.
Meredith was paying so little attention to what was going on around him in the British Museum he did not even know what rooms they were entering. Long ago he had lost track of how many times he had visited the grand museum as a school boy and for awhile he had dated a guy who worked security. Better not mention that last tidbit or André would scowl at all the guards. Or maybe he should mention it now and André would want to leave.
He grinned, ready to make his suggestion, and bumped into a very short girl in front of him. “Pardon me.”
She smiled up at him. “It’s all right.”
“Tall people should be more considerate and look out for the short in stature.” André mumbled in his native French as he consulted his guide book. “This is mummy room. They got a special Chinese mummy exhibit.”
Meredith glazed over. To him if you’ve seen one mummy you’ve seen them all regardless of country of origin and at the moment he couldn’t see any of them due to the tour of Egyptology students being lectured by a professor about the Emperor being a Chinese god or some sort of nonsense. The professor, a tall woman with jet black hair so shiny and deep in color her white streaks appeared blue read from an ancient scroll displayed next to the newest bound husk on display. Meredith looked down at André who appeared quite attentive. Great, now he’d want to spend all day in here with the Egyptologists.
What did André care about Egypt or China? As far as Meredith knew André’s Egyptian knowledge was limited to preferring 600 count Egyptian cotton sheets and Meredith was fairly certain his Chinese knowledge was limited to food.
The sigh slipped out.
André elbowed him. “Don’ be rude, Old Man.”
“At least I’m not yawning.”
The students urged the professor into reading the scroll in its native language. The professor made some excuses about no one quite knew how it was pronounced, but of course. Why not?
“You actually find this interesting?” Meredith stroked his cheek and chin and turned his head away to cover a small yawn.
“Fascinating. Shut your mouth and listen.”
Meredith leaned against the wall near the doorway, closed his eyes, and tried not to think about the matinee of the reprisal of The Crucible with Ian Gelder returning as Rev. Parris he was missing. He had suggested they go to the theatre. Since when did André want to do anything even remotely educational or as dull as walking around in a museum?
Meredith opened one eye and glanced at André to be sure he hadn’t knocked over a priceless artifact. No, he just looked confused as he raised up on his toes to see what happened.
Suddenly shrieks went up and people began flooding towards the open doorways. Meredith reached for André but he became lost in the flow of people. Meredith remained calm as he stood pressed against the wall and kept his eye out for André finally catching site of the mop of messy curls. “What’s everyone running from?”
“As If I could see over everyone else.” André was now pressed to the wall on the opposite side of the doorway.
Meredith looked in the direction everyone seemed to be running from as more glass shattered. The seven and a half foot tall dried up husk of an Emperor swung a staff of some kind into a display case and the mummy inside rose up. Several already stood around the undead behemoth. Another sigh slipped out as he turned his attention to André. He pointed a finger at him. “Now this… this is your fault.”
“Pourquoi? What am I to do with this?” A piece of pottery crashed into the wall above André’s head showering him with dusty shards. André shook his head trying to clear out the bits and pieces. “This is not the fault of mine.”
“I wanted to go to the theatre.”
This one was written for a contest with a revolutionary war theme.
“What are we going to do for Bastille Day?” André handed Meredith a cold drink and leaned over the balcony to see if the bakery on the corner was still open.
“Go out dancing, get drunk, and watch the fireworks”
“We did that last year.”
“We do that every year.”
“Then let’s go somewhere.”
“We just went to New York so you could see the Fourth of July fireworks.”
“Yes, and it was very nice of you to go seeing as how your ancestors were brutally overrun by Colonists and French alike. It’s no wonder you choose to live in Paris. That sort of defeat is hard to live down.” André who had his back turned to Meredith because he was waving to people on the street, missed the scowl his lover shot him.
“Being French you would know about defeat.”
André faced him. “Are you bringing up us losing an Empire when you have lost entire continents? So soon after going to the States for their Independence have you forgotten the French victories over the British? Have you forgotten your Cornwallis surrendering to Rochambeau and Lafeyette?”
“I believe Cornwallis surrendered to Washington.” Meredith sipped his drink and knew he should just let André’s babbling run its course, but couldn’t allow his revisionist history to run unchecked.
“Tchah! That what they want everyone to be believing.” He brushed dark curls from his eyes. “Cornwallis saw the white uniforms with their blue braids and he knew he had lost. ”
“Easy for you to forget the Battle of Savannah.”
Only a ploy to make your British forces think we were unprepared. The Battle of Chesapeake is proof of that. And were it not for de Grasse what would have happened at Yorktown? We defeated the Hessians there too. The British were crying and drunk at their humiliation. And you are wrong, Cornwallis did not surrender to Washington.” He leaned forward and placed his hands on the arm rests of Meredith’s chair. “Cornwallis’ man tried to present his sword to Rochambeau. Who would not accept it. Washington would not accept it. It was accepted by Washington’s second in command. Why? Because Cornwallis was unimportant.”
“What have you been drinking?”
“Is all true.” André moved his hands to Meredith’s arms. “We had great ships in battle. The Ville de Paris. The Auguste. Languedoc. Vengeur du Peuple.”
“The Ville de Paris was taken by the British fleet when Admiral Rodney defeated de Grasse and the French fleet. And the Vengeur was later defeated by the HMS Brunswick.”
André stared at him. “That did not happen in the American Independence which is of what I speak.”
“Really? Is that what we’re talking about? How did we get on this? I just wanted to do something different for the National Celebration.” Meredith had grown tired of this discussion of history and battles and defeats. Let André hold on to his French victories from an era past. They had little to celebrate in the past century when it came to military victories, and Meredith knew his military history. The real version of it. Not the patriotic spin that André could put on anything.
“We are talking about this because you said I would know about defeat, but I know of the victories. Your mind is clouded because of your many years in the British Military. You do not recognize the greatness of the French Military.”
“One word for you, André-Chou, Waterloo.”
“Pah! Napoleon was born on Corsica. Had he been born on the Mainland the whole world would speak French. Still, he didn’t do bad for an island boy.”
“You live in a special world.”
“Ouias, Paris is very special.” André flashes his smug grin. “Say what you will about French losses. France, to this day, claims the greatest victory over the British Army.”
Meredith shook his head. “Nothing comes to mind. What is this great victory?”
“You. I captured you.” He pressed his lips to Meredith’s. “Vive le France.”
While it may be true André says he is 5’7” it is even truer Meredith is 6 feet tall. Because of the 7 inch difference in their heights, André sees much more of the heavens on a beautifully clear summer night than does Meredith who must turn his eyes down to gaze upon André. With this understood one can clearly understand why André is more likely to see something unusual flitting about in the sky rather than his observant lover.
Our adventure takes place near Beziers where the attractive couple had taken a cottage in an isolated stretch of coast for a fortnight. One may ask why they ever took holidays when André always seemed to find himself involved in some mishap whenever the two traveled. The only explanation to this is that love makes a man stupid and André does so love the local treat, Riquets de Béziers, and Meredith loves the blissful expression on André’s face when he first bites into the layers of crunchy nougat.
On this particular day, André and Meredith had driven into Beziers so that André might have his treat while Meredith sampled the excellent Cataroise. They lingered perhaps a little longer than planned as they often did where good food was concerned, making it well past dark when they headed back towards home in their small rental car. [André had wanted to rent a Smart car because they always made him laugh, but Meredith refused on the grounds that he would look ridiculous getting out of one. He’s never claimed to be modest; André’s conceit merely outshines his own.]
The road was narrow, unmarked, unlit, but neither cared as the night was beautiful and the company handsome. They drove slowly, possibly Meredith had sampled more of the sweet wine of the region than he intended, and spoke little as they made the journey.
“Isn’t that the field the sheep were in?” André sat up and squinted into the darkness. “I do not see the sheep.”
“Maybe they’ve all gone home and gone to bed. It’s rather late.”
“Tcha. You and your nonsense. You’re really quite silly sometimes. Do you know that? Not always so serious. But even though you are an old man, I am not a child. Sheep do not go home to sleep. That is there home. That field there. I suppose there are other fields. Sheep lie down to sleep, don’t they?” André pressed the button to roll the window down and made an aggravated noise when nothing happened. “Did you put the window lock on again? I’m no more amused by that than the child lock. Why are you stopping?”
Meredith stared at the dashboard which had gone dark. “I didn’t stop. The car stopped.”
“It just stopped? Chut. All right, we’ll walk then. It’s beautiful out. All the stars. Let’s walk. We can cut through the field and make it shorter.”
Not feeling inclined to attempt to diagnose the car’s problem at this hour or even at all, that’s what memberships in auto clubs were for, Meredith pushed the car safely to the side of the road, and he and André climbed the fence into the field and began discussing their plans for when they returned to the cottage.
A minor bit of turbulence startled Meredith from a sound sleep and only his sharp reflexes prevented a glass of La Romanée Conti from spilling on the 400 thread count Egyptian cotton duvet. André could be very considerate, but Meredith would have to speak to him about leaving expensive wine forgotten on a drop down tray.
And he would definitely have to ask why the wine had been left with him. Perhaps a gift? A nice little aperitif if they planned to have their in-flight meal soon? Only André could explain why he did anything.
Sipping the wine Meredith looked about. André’s seat revealed no André, only his book which he never seemed to finish reading, Et Apres by Russo or was this a different book?
A flight attendant approached him with the stylish First Class bag sporting a selection of DR Harris products. “May I get you anything, Mr. Pike?”
“Thank you, I have this.” He indicated the glass of wine still in his hand. “Would you happen to know the whereabouts of my partner?”
She glanced at the empty seat and smiled pleasantly. “M. Couteau is, I believe, in the washroom.”
Meredith went to another washroom, changed out of the incredibly comfortable pyjamas provided by the airline and used the toiletries [there was nothing like flying First Class], returned to his seat, and looked over the options for breakfast. Deciding to put off breakfast selection until André joined him, he picked up André’s paperback and began to read. Several chapters and a refill of coffee later he realized André had still not returned.
Meredith looked toward the washrooms and wondered what André could be doing all this time. Had he decided to join the Mile High Club on his own and was having difficulties? The thought brought a smile. That would be amusing, but not like André at all. Probably André had slipped out of the washroom at some point and gone to the lower classes to spread his joy or sneak them better food.
He returned to reading his book knowing André was safe and sound on the plane somewhere.
“Ah, you like my book? I think it’s very interesting. Most of his are entertaining.” André plucked his book from Meredith’s hand and plopped into his seat.
“Where have you been?”
André waved a hand in the air. “Around. Exploring.”
“Enjoy yourself did you?” He handed the breakfast menu to André and took a good hard look at him. André wore a black turtleneck, black jeans, black shoes, and a black knit cap which smashed his hair down in a halo of dark curls. “In your explorations were you attacked by a bunch of Beatniks or Mimes?”
“No. Is preparation.”
Meredith nodded. “Preparation. Obviously. How could I not know that? Preparation for what, mon lapin?”
“Of course. Ninjas.” He smiled at the Flight Attendant who stopped and tried very hard not to stare or laugh at André. One did not laugh at a person who paid that much for a seat on a plane. Meredith and André gave her their breakfast orders and once she left the conversation continued. “What Ninjas, André?”
“The ones wait for me in the airport.” André found his place in the book after carefully marking Meredith’s with a slip of paper. “They are clever. Well, ninjas are not so clever. They are skillfull. But Evil Masterminds are clever and I think they know the hustle and bustle of the airport is a perfect place to abduct me.”
No wonder André had left the glass of wine. He knew Meredith would need it and he did. He drank all of it before proceeding. “Why are ninjas going to abduct you in the airport?”
“Were you not listening to me, Old Man? Do you need hearing aids? We’ll get you the digital ones. They are more discreet and less likely to ring.” André placed his hand flat against Meredith’s cheek. “I just told you that the airport is a perfect place. It’s busy. It’s chaotic. I am easily lost in a crowd.”
“Yes, darling, I heard that. I don’t need the hearing aids. Why would ninjas want to abduct you at all?” Meredith removed André’s hand and kissed his palm, smooth and warm and smelling faintly of almonds.
“I ask myself this. Merci.” He beamed at the Flight Attendant who set their breakfast trays in front of them. “Always am asking, why is the ninjas try to get and take me to their lairs. I have no answer other than they are so to be still upset of the North Dakota incident.”
“Ah, yes, well, North Dakota. Of course.” Meredith added a touch of cream to his coffee, stirred, set down his spoon, and slapped André across the back of his head sending the knit cap flying.
André retrieved his cap and refused to speak until after their breakfast.
The handsome couple who exited the plane last took a moment to soak in the warm tropical sun while the other dozen passengers made their way to a covered area to be greeted with fruity drinks and local tour guides. The younger of the two men looked about at the tiny little excuse for an airport, at the wrecked plane at the end of the runway they’d flown in over with ‘oops’ spray-painted across the wreckage, up at the cloudless sky, and finally at his blonde companion cleaned his sunglasses on the tail of his shirt. He spoke in French. “This is it?”
“This is it, André,” the man replied in his fluid British accent. “Sorry if you wanted casinos and night clubs. We could always take a boat over to one of the bigger islands, but I think this is perfect. We needed a holiday away from the city. There’s nothing to do here, except entertain ourselves.”
“All right, Meredith, but this better not be one of your secret missions I’m not supposed to know about. There’s nothing here. Makes me think of some evil villain’s secret hideout.” He walked along behind Meredith who wanted a drink and a ride to their small resort.” It’s okay for you if your arch nemesis or some mad scientist is here. You get to have fun. I’ve seen the secret agent movies. I know what happens to the attractive sidekick. I’ll be taken hostage. Tortured. Made to listen to ABBA, while watching Celebrity Big Brother, and eating microwaved burritos. I will be very upset with you if I’m taken prisoner.”
Grateful he didn’t add ‘again’ to his lament, Meredith handed him a red and yellow drink. “It’s merely a holiday, mon lapin. It’s no one’s secret hideout. You’re perfectly safe.”
“Isn’t that what you said about Hong Kong? Prague? North Dakota?”
“To be honest North Dakota took me completely by surprise as well.”
André pat Meredith’s shoulder. “Yes, I understand. Who expects such a large concentration of ninjas in North Dakota? Who expects ninjas anywhere? Who expects ninjas at all? Sneaky little bastards.”
“I’m sorry. But it’s not my fault entirely. You have this way of attracting trouble like flies to honey.” He held open the backdoor of a Jeep for André and followed him inside. “I don’t know why I’m apologizing for that. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. They mistook you for that insane venture capitalist Shorty McStump.” He gave the driver their destination.
“I resent that still. And that name, Shorty McStump. That is someone evil. Villains always have ridiculous names. They can’t have normal names like other people.”
“Says the guy whose last name means ‘knife’.”
“Yes, it means knife, Mr. Pike.”
“Quit worrying and let’s just enjoy our holiday. Nothing will happen.”
André’s dark eyes bore into Meredith’s bright blue eyes. “Oh thank you so much, Old Man. Why not draw a target on me, put me in a blow-up raft slowly losing air, and pour some blood in the water to attract the mutant flying man-eating electric sharks? Never ever say nothing will happen. Might as well call the ninjas.”
“Is your friend all right?” the driver asked.
“No. He’s neurotic. But I love him anyway.”