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Gardner, John

 

LICENCE RENEWED

 

 

John Gardner

 

First published 1981
Copyright © 1981 by Glidrose Publications Ltd.

In memory of
Ian Lancaster Fleming

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

I would like, especially, to thank the Board of Directors of Glidrose Publications Ltd, the owners of the James Bond literary copyright, for asking me to undertake the somewhat daunting task of picking up where Mr Ian Fleming left off, and transporting 007 into the 1980s. In particular, my thanks to Mr Dennis Joss and Mr Peter Janson-Smith; also to H.R.F.K., who acted as the original 'Go-Between'.

We have become so used to James Bond gadgets which boggle the mind that I would like to point out to any unbelievers that all the 'hardware' used by Mr Bond in this story is genuine. Everything provided by Q Branch and carried by Bond - even the modifications to Mr Bond's Saab-is obtainable on either the open, or clandestine, markets. For assistance in seeking details about such equipment I am especially indebted to Communication Control Systems Ltd and, more particularly, to the delicious Ms Jo Ann O'Neill and the redoubtable Sidney.

As for the inventions of Anton Murik, Laird of Murcaldy, only time will tell.

1981 JOHN GARDNER

 

1
PASSENGER FOR FLIGHT154

 

THE MAN WHO entered the airport washroom had light hair, cut neatly to collar length. Stocky, and around five feet three inches in height, he wore crumpled jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers. A trained observer would have particularly noted the piercing light blue eyes, above which thin brows arched in long curves that almost met above the slim nose.

The man's face was thin in comparison with his body, and the complexion a shade dark in contrast to the colour of the hair. He carried a small brown suitcase, and, on entering the washroom, walked straight towards one of the cubicles, stepping carefully past a dungareed cleaner who was mopping the tiled floor with a squeegee, though without enthusiasm.

Once inside, the man slid the bolt and placed the suitcase on the lavatory seat, opening it to remove a mirror which he hung on the door hook before starting to strip as far as his white undershorts.

Before removing the T-shirt, he slid his fingers expertly below the hairline at his temples, peeling back the wig to reveal close-cropped natural hair underneath.

With a finger and thumb he grasped the corner of his left eyebrow and pulled, as a nurse will quickly rip sticking plaster from a cut. The slim eyebrows disappeared together with what seemed to be some of the flesh - leaving black, untrimmed, thick lines of natural hair in their place.

The man worked like a professional — with care and speed, as though he was trying to beat a clock. From the suitcase he took a canvas corset, wrapping it around his waist, pulling tightly at the lacing, giving the immediate twin effect of slimming the waistline, and an illusion of more height. Within a few seconds the latter illusion was strengthened. Carefully folding the jeans and T-shirt, the man pushed his socks into his abandoned sneakers, and pulled on a new pair of dark grey socks, followed by well-cut lightweight charcoal grey trousers and black slip-on shoes, into which were built what actors call 'lifts': adding a good two inches to his normal stature.

Adjusting the mirror on the door, he now donned a white silk shirt, and knotted a pearl grey tie into place, before opening an oblong plastic box that had been lying — held in place by the shoes on either side-directly beneath the corset, socks, trousers and shirt, in the suitcase.

The plastic box contained new components for the man's face. First, dark contact lenses, and fluid, to change those distinctive light blue eyes to a deep, almost jet, black. Next, he inserted small, shaped foam rubber pads into his cheeks which fattened the face. While they were in place he would not be able to eat or drink, but that mattered little compared with achieving the desired effect.

The pièce de résistance was a tailor-made short beard and moustache, sculpted from real hair on to an invisible, adhesive, Latex frame — genuine bristles overhanging the flexible frame which, when he set it correctly in place on his chin and lower lip, gave the impression of complete reality, even at very close range. The beard had been made specially, in New York, by an expert who dubiously claimed distant kinship with the famous nineteenth-century Wagnerian singer, Ludwig Leichner, inventor of theatrical greasepaint.

The man smiled at the unfamiliar face now looking back at him from the mirror, completing the new picture with a pair of steel-framed, clear-glass lensed, spectacles. Leichner's unproven relative apart, the unrecognisable person looking out from the mirror was a make-up expert and disguise artist in his own right. It was part of his stock-intrade — probably the least lethal part— and he had studied under top men and women in Hollywood, as well as being almost encyclopaedic in the personal knowledge he had culled from all the famous works, such as Lacy's
Art of Acting,
the anonymous
Practical Guide to the Art of Making Up,
by 'Haresfoot and Rouge', and the other standard works by Leman Rede, С. Н. Fox, and the great S. J. A. Fitzgerald.

Now he closed the oblong box, removed a jacket, which matched the trousers, from the case, filled his pockets with an assortment of items-wallet, passport, travel documents, handkerchief, loose change and notes - and took a final look at himself in the mirror. He then packed everything with extreme care, clipped a gold digital watch around his left wrist and removed a final item from a pocket in the lid — a tightly fitting cover, which, when slipped into place over the suitcase, gave it an outer skin: changing the colour from brown to a glossy black. Lastly, he closed up, slid the new skin around the case, and spun the numbered safety locks.

Taking a final look around, the man checked his pockets and left the cubicle, completely unrecognisable as the person who had entered. He walked straight to the exit, then out, across the concourse, to the check-in desk.

Inside the washroom, the man who had been engaged in swabbing the tiled floor, leaned his squeegee against the wall and left. He also headed across the concourse, passing close to the check-in desk, and going to a door marked Private, which he unlocked with a personal key. Inside the small room there was a table, chair and telephone.

As the man with a new face was preparing to board Aer Lingus flight EI 154 from Dublin to London, Heathrow, the insignificant-looking cleaner was speaking rapidly into the telephone. The time was shortly before eight forty-five a.m.

 

-2
THOUGHTS IN A SURREY LANE

 

JAMES BOND CHANGED down into third gear, drifted the Saab 900 Turbo into a tight left-hand turn, clinging to the grass verge, then put on a fraction more power to bring the car out of the bend.

He was driving through a complicated series of country lanes — backdoubles as London cabbies would call them — following a short cut through the hedges, rolling fields and cathedral arches of trees threading the byways of Surrey. It was a cross-country route that would, finally, take him on to the Guildford by-pass and a straight run, on good roads, into London.

Bond was travelling much too fast. A glance at the head-up display of digital instruments, reflected in the windshield of this personalised Saab, told him the machine was touching seventy miles per hour. Decidedly dangerous for this kind of secondary road. The motor howled as he changed down again, then accelerated through a series of S-bends. Gently common sense took over, and Bond applied a touch to the brakes, reducing speed to a more realistic pace. He still, however, remained hot and angry.

Already that evening he had made the same journey, in the opposite direction, to his recently acquired and newly decorated country cottage. Now on this beautiful Friday evening in early June, he was driving at breakneck speed back to London.

The week-end had been planned for some time, and, as the builders and decorators had just moved out, this was to have been his first free week-end at the cottage. Furthermore, he had planned to spend it with a girl friend of long standing - an agile, superbly nubile blonde he had known— as Bill Tanner, M's Chief-of-Staff put it — 'on and off for years'. The fact that she lived only six miles or so from the cottage had greatly influenced Bond's purchase. On that Friday, he had completed a mound of paperwork in record time, not even leaving the office for lunch, so that he could get out of the hot chaos of London traffic in good time, before the normal Friday evening snarl-up began.

The countryside was at its best; the mixed fragrance of a perfect summer filtering into the car, bringing with it a sense of well-being and contentment - something rare for Bond these days.

James Bond was not a superstitious man, but, as he neared the cottage that evening, he had noticed there seemed to be more magpies than usual. They flew low, rolling and fluttering across the roads and lanes like black and white dice in a game of craps. Bond thought of the old adage, 'One for sorrow, two for joy'. There were a lot of single magpies swooping near the car.

On reaching the cottage, Bond put a bottle of Dom Perignon '55 on ice, knowing that it would either be magnificent or the most expensive wine vinegar he had ever tasted.

He then went into the downstairs spare room, discarded the somewhat conservative business suit, and showered, first under a scalding spray, then with ice cold water, which seemed to cut into him like needles. After drying himself with a rough towel, Bond rubbed a small amount of Guerlain's Imperial Cologne into his skin before putting on a pair of lightweight worsted navy slacks, and a white Sea Island cotton shirt. He slipped into comfortable soft leather sandals and was just clipping the old and valued gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual on to his wrist when the telephone rang.

It was more of a purr than a ring. The red 'phone. His heart sank. Both here, at the cottage, and in his London flat off the King's Road, James Bond was required to have two telephones: one for normal use, though unlisted; and a second, red instrument - a flat, angled piece of equipment, without dial or number punches. Called, in his trade, a 'wiretap trap', this secure, sterile, unbuggable 'phone was linked directly to the building overlooking Regent's Park, known as the headquarters of Transworld Export Ltd.

Before he had even put a hand to the 'phone, Bond experienced his first flash of mild annoyance. The only reason for a call from headquarters on a Friday evening could be some kind of emergency: or a state of readiness created by M for Bond's benefit. Bond's annoyance was, possibly, heightened by the fact that, of late, many emergencies had meant sitting in a control or communications room for days at a time; or going through a complex briefing which ended with orders to abort the planned mission. Times had changed, and Bond did not like some of the political restraints placed on the Secret Service, for which he had worked with fidelity for longer than he cared to remember.

He picked up the red 'phone.

'James?' As Bond expected, it was Bill Tanner's voice on the line. Bond grunted a surly affirmative. 'M wants you here,' Tanner said, in a voice flat as a billiards table.

'Now?'

'His actual words are not for the telephone, but he indicated that sooner than now would be more acceptable.'

'On a Friday evening?' Bond mused, the irritation building quickly inside his head as he saw an idyllic week-end filtering away, like an excellent bottle of wine being poured down the drain.

'Now,' repeated the Chief-of-Staff, closing the line.

As he reached the Guildford by-pass, Bond remembered the sound of disappointment in his girl friend's voice when he had telephoned to say the week-end was off. He supposed that should be some consolation - not that there was much to console Bond these days. There had even been times, recently, when he had seriously considered resigning- to use the jargon, 'go private'. Argot changes. At one time the phrase would have meant defection; but not any more.

'Changing world; changing times, James,' M had said to him a couple of years ago, when breaking the news that the élite Double-O status - which meant being licensed to kill in the line of duty - was being abolished. 'Fools of politicians have no idea of our requirements. Have us punching time clocks before long.'

This was during the so-called Realignment Purge, often referred to in the Service as the SNAFU Slaughter, similar to the C.I.A.'s famous Hallowe'en Massacre, in which large numbers of faithful members of the American service had been dismissed, literally overnight. Similar things had happened in Britain, with financial horns being pulled in, and what a pompous Whitehall directive called 'a more realistic logic being enforced upon the Secret and Security Services'.

'Trying to draw our fangs, James,' M had continued on that depressing day. Then, with one of those rare smiles which seemed to light up the deep grey eyes, M grunted that Whitehall had taken on the wrong man while he was still in charge. 'As far as I'm concerned, 007, you will remain 007. I shall take full responsibility for you; and you will, as ever, accept orders and assignments only from me. There are moments when this country needs a troubleshooter — a blunt instrument - and by heaven it's going to have one. They can issue their pieces of bumf and abolish the Double-O section. We can simply change its name. It will now be the Special Section, and
you
are it. Understand, 007?'

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