In which Bond is told of Moneypenny’s defection

Mr Bond

Bright Sunday morning light streams through cream blinds at Ormond Yard, London WC1. BBC Radio 4 burbles from the bedroom. Across St James’s park, Westminster Abbey’s peal of ten bells rings for a Royal birthday.

Wearing my Lock & Co cream Montecristi Panama I take the back stairs to the yard and head out via Jermyn Street towards Piccadilly. It is now 11.30 am and one of Fortnum and Masons’ late breakfasts seems the perfect option. The street is freshly licked after a night time downpour.

Passing Princes Arcade a motorcycle pulls against the kerb ahead of me. The rider turns, “James, I have been told to give you this”. Beneath the open helmet I recognise the face. “Stephen Madden”, I exclaim, “what on earth are you doing here - and where did you get the bike?”. “I’m supposed to be on Operation Rainbow- you know, gangs and CT, and all that - but they have lent me this from the Diplomatic Protection Group to track you down. Apparently, I am the last living officer who can recognise you, old thing”, he replies with a grin, his bushy moustache widening across his face. “Got to dash the bike back to Battersea, so can’t join you and your fancy hat at the Ritz, old boy”, he adds, and with that, roars away into the Piccadilly traffic towards Hyde Park Corner.

I glance down at the file. A large Post-it note is placed across the seal. ‘Meet Rivoli Bar, Ritz’, it says.

‘Work has a habit of getting in the way of breakfast’, I mutter to myself, reflecting on a vanishing image of perfectly served Fortnum & Mason venison sausages. ‘But Rivoli’s Martinis are the best in the world’, I add almost out loud, and quicken my pace down Piccadilly towards the Ritz.

From the colonnade I turn into the ordinary doorway leading to the Rivoli bar and reflect on its difference from the wide stairway to the Alvear in Buenos Aires. As I enter I instinctively glance about the foyer to look for Moneypenny, but here is but a passing group of American business women and a two Japanese tourists that appear to bowing for some reason. Beyond however, from the Rivoli bar, I hear a voice that I recognise. “Bond, Bond, over here”, he calls.

Hammond rises to his full height and beams a smile. “That didn’t take you long, James”, he adds. “And this is Paul. He is here to check up on us both!”, he exclaims with a laugh.

The contrast could not be greater. The man seated is dressed in a black polo shirt, casual trousers and is clean shaven. He nods a greeting but remains silent. Richard Hammond, however, is larger than life, charismatic and flamboyant, his unruly hair pulled back into a tight Argentine bob, a faint suggestion of mascara emphasising his long eyelashes.

“Well James, it seems that you have managed to upset everyone from here to Buenos Aires”, he continues. “Have you checked out the file?”.

Only then do I realise that I am in fact returning the file to its sender. “Madden has only just dropped it off with me outside Fortnum’s”, I rejoin, “what’s it about?”.

“It appears that your floozie is making waves. Bond, these women will always be your downfall; you really should change your proclivities”, he replies with a laugh and a nod towards Paul for support, “anyway, aren’t you too old for all of this tango nonsense?”, he adds.

“If you mean Moneypenny, she’s not a floozie - mine or anyone else’s”, I reply defensively. “What has happened now?”.

“Look in the file, James, look in the file”, Hammond replies. “But perhaps before you do, a glass of Campari?”. “Make that a dry Martini, shaken not stirred”, I reply, and settle back into the deep upholstery of the Rivoli Lounge with the file.

Unfastening the string from the circular seal, I peer inside. The first page is a photograph of Moneypenny at Ezeiza airport, beneath which is another showing her arrival at El Alto International airport in El Paz, Bolivia. In the third photograph, she is being greeted by Dr Richard Alvarez, with Jay at his side holding his favourite Chihuahua, ‘Chico’.

“Do I need to go further in this file?”, I ask with a heavy feeling. “Sorry, Bond, maybe not. It doesn’t get any better”.

“So that is what Moneypenny is up to”, I grunt. “Does M know about this?”.

“M has asked me and Paul to fly to El Alto this afternoon. We have been given an official invitation to his party tomorrow night, which by all accounts should be fun”. “And we have been instructed to fetch Moneypenny back before she can do any more damage”.

For the first time, Paul speaks. “James, has it occurred to you what a nuisance you are becoming? Here take this”, and hands me a key. “What on earth is it for?”, I question. He smiles, ‘Stay out of trouble, Bond. It’s for the gate to the allotment, and you are on tomato watering duty whilst we are cleaning up the mess you have made”, he retorts.

Hammond seizes the file from my grasp and flashes a smile. Paul nods as he rises to leave. “The drinks are on M’s tab, James”, he adds, “so if I were you, I would stay for another”.

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