It had been five years since he had been asked to leave.
In part, he was thankful. He no longer spent his nights half awake, almost expecting something to go wrong. He could take a stroll in the park without looking over his shoulder, to check whether he was being followed. He was a normal person now, working in a company, well, if you could call the Foreign Office a company, in a safe 9-to-5 job. Every piece of paper that went by his desk wasn’t a confidential document to be guarded with his life.
True, he missed his old life, where he could be anybody he wanted – hell, he was required to be somebody else in every assignment.
But he didn’t miss the killing or the people he killed. He definitely didn’t miss his colleagues turning up dead in different parts of the world, in course of their duty. He had become numb to such things, and he was worried about that. But now he was relieved; he didn’t have to carry on the charade anymore.
The best part about his new life was he could have a normal relationship now. He was tired of being alone. He had had met a lot women during his career, a brilliant career, he might add. But he wanted to stop now, and settle down, have kids, maybe and live a mundane life, where the high-point of his day would be not missing the tube to office.
He had found somebody, not as pretty and sassy as Moneypenny, of course. She looked cherubic, a little reserved even, and she had a boring desk job as well in the drab building where he had been working for a year. It was almost a textbook romance, out of the pages of a Victorian era novel. They would grab lunch together at the cafe down the road from Whitehall, and they were growing to like each other.
Rita was a diplomat’s daughter, and had aced through the Civil Services exam, but had chosen to take advantage of the inherent sexism in the Civil Services and let her career go slowly. She had been around the world, and found that it didn’t hold that charm for her, as it did for her father, and her ambitious colleagues. She would always take up that job to stay at homebase that nobody wanted in the Foreign Office. In some sense, she was an anomaly there, and James liked that – he would always wonder whether she was rebelling against the system by confounding it, but he never asked. He didn’t want to know. He liked her as she was..
And the wonderful part was, he could tell her his stories, the stuff he had seen. Everybody knew he was in the Navy, but they didn’t know he was a special officer in the MI6. Apparently, that was a state secret as well. Sigh.
But he would tell her his stories nonetheless, and she would never believe him. He would tell her such horrifying stories about the places she had been to, when she was a child. She would just giggle at his stories, and would always coquettishly chide him for making up stories, that she thought he was doing. And he would vehemently protest they were true. He loved making her laugh. He imagined he was bringing a bit of excitement in her life, with his supposedly make-believe stories.
Ah, anyway, good she doesn’t believe them, he would think. She wouldn’t repeat them to anyone. He smiled. Perfect.
Today was a glorious day. He was going to propose to her. He loved her. He sat up all night sipping his martinis and chugging on his store of Cubans, and gave it a good thought. Yes, he definitely loved her.
He had bought a massive diamond ring from Goldsmiths, which he was going to tell her was a family heirloom. (He had had quite a bit put away from his stint at MI6.) He didn’t want her to believe in his stories just yet. And he was going to do it in the cafe. And then they could tell their grandkids about this. When did he become this corny?
He couldn’t wait till lunch time.
When he reached office, he sensed something was out of place. He walked into his office, to find his old colleagues waiting for him there. Alice, his secretary, had tried to ply some explanations, but he waved them away.
He got in and locked the door, and sat down on his chair, and waited for them to explain their intrusion.
Michael, or that’s what James thought his name was, spoke up.
“The summer is coming out nicely, huh, Jimmy?”
James smirked. “Is this part of the retirement benefits now? A daily weather report from MI6?”
“C sent us here.”
James looked at them questioningly.
Dick, again, James wasn’t sure that was his name, asked non-chalantly, “You haven’t been telling about our operations to anybody, have you?”
That knocked out the wind of his lungs, though James didn’t show it. The only person he told was Rita… but she didn’t believe me….
“Well, that’s not what we have been hearing.”
James stood up: “What? Are you watching me now?”
“C has asked you to come with us to MI6 HQ…”
James: “I don’t believe this.”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that a civil servant in the Foreign Office, would actively avoid foreign assignments?”
“What are you getting at?”
“Jimmy boy, that girl, Rita, you were going to propose to today.”
“She turned up dead last night in Soho. Clean kill. Couple of shots through the head.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“We had our suspicions she was working with the FSB. We were alarmed when our man there found accurate ops reports on sector W passing through his desk, and brought it to our attention. We thought we’d use you two to our advantage, and we changed all protocols in all stations with immediate effect, and it seemed to be working. The Russians couldn’t figure out what was going on. So we didn’t do anything to stop you or her.”
Richard butted in, “Apparently she stopped giving them information a couple of weeks ago. Apparently she wanted to resign and settle down. FSB thought she was defecting and, the stale information she was giving them didn’t help her case either. They set up an ambush for her last night…”
“We couldn’t have warned you, James; we got to know only last night…”
James put up his hand. He didn’t want to hear anymore. He sat down, and cried; cried, like a baby, for the first time in 15 years.