by Danny "Don Juan" Henrey
"Bond, kindly stop fondling Miss Moneypenny and come in here."
The angry red buzzer on the intercom extinguished as quickly as it had come to life. Bond reluctantly put the delectable Moneypenny down with a sardonic half-grin, straightened his thin, dark-blue silk tie, squared his shoulders and opened the first of the heavy, leather-padded doors that led to the inner sanctum of M.’s office.
The March rain scrabbled nervously at the large picture windows of the office high above Regent’s Park, but the light from M.’s green-shaded desk lamp imparted a warm glow to the deep, comfortable red leather armchairs and mahogany bookcases within. M. gestured to the chair opposite. Bond sat down and looked across into the tranquil, lined ex-Admiral’s face, that of the man who held his unflinching respect and unquestioning obedience. M. took a deep hit from his joint and regarded Bond with his steady, gunmetal grey, bloodshot eyes.
"Ever heard of the Byron Society, 007?"
"Yes, sir, but only through hearsay. When I was up at the Oxford and County, they were notoriously the most exclusive society in the university, I was on the point of making contacts with a view to being asked to join, when they suddenly seemed to cease existing. Some strange stories circulated subsequently, but nothing was ever substantiated."
M. wiped away the spittle Bond had deposited on his lapel and stared solemnly at the opposite wall, on which hung a naval print of his last command and an etching from de Sade’s Les moutonnes dépravées.
"They certainly covered their tracks," he affirmed. "004 was on to them: that is, until his body was found floating in the river by Parson’s Pleasure. It wasn’t a pretty sight." The corner of his mouth turned down sourly. "He’d had three bottles of Morgan Furze port poured into him. The poor chap didn’t stand a chance."
Bond had been close to 004 — too close for colleagues in a profession such as theirs. He thought briefly back over the rare weekends they had spent together pigeon racing, gambling recklessly at the Mecca Bingo Palais in Croydon, tinkering with Bond’s supercharged Austin Allegro, doing comparative black pudding and lager tastings and dining at the Golden Poppadom. Cyril would be missed.
"Anyway," M. resumed gruffly, "the fact is that the Byron Society is very much alive and kicking." He slid a thin purple file across the desk. Bond retrieved it from the floor. It was stamped ‘For your eyes only’. Inside was a single enlarged photograph showing five figures emerging from ‘The Jolly Farmers’ in Oxford.
"A dubious looking crew, aren’t they? The chap on the extreme right is Gregory ‘Slim’ Klyve: he supervises the production and distribution of bootleg port and "rather special" snuff from an innocent-looking semi in Summertown. Next to him, in the rowing blazer, cap and shorts, is Richard "Hoops" Schulze. He runs their croquet protection racket: if the dosh isn’t handed over, he sets about the college’s precious croquet lawn with his lead-weighted mallet. The fellow pressing his forehead against the lamp post is Chris "The Ferryman" Oakley: on dark nights, he punts innocent bleaters in from the meadows surrounding Oxford, to be sold into fleecy slavery to perverted old dons. The one with two half-empty bottles of Newcastle Brown in his jacket pockets is George "Stargazer" Hector. As a front, he claims to be a physicist and astronomer, but you don’t need to be Edmund Halley to appreciate the photos of the "heavenly bodies" he peddles in a dark alleyway near the Carfax Chippy. The one falling over is Danny "Horizontal" Henrey: behind an almost incredible veneer of indolence and indulgence, he runs the whole damnable show. Study them well, 007; you are going to dine with them all very soon."
Bond’s eyes narrowed, accentuating his rather cruel good looks.
"I shall look forward to the occasion, sir, and to the poetry in particular."
M. glanced sharply at Bond, hesitated, then held down a button on his intercom.
"You can send in Major Parker now, Miss Moneypenny."
The Chief Armourer of the Secret Service, a short, trim man with a trim red moustache, trundled over to M.’s desk. He held a small black leather box loosely in his left hand. Bond regarded him with suspicion and dislike, sensing trouble. M. held out his hand. Bond, with a show of reluctance, reached inside his suit to the shoulder holster that lay flat along his left armpit and handed across his most vital possession. After the last near-bungled assignment, he might have seen this coming.
With a hint of apology in his eyes, M. said, "What do you make of this, Parker?"
Parker regarded the article with contempt.
".22 Papermate Rolling Ball Eeziflow, sir. Standard barrel. Blott-o blue ink cartridge, cracked mild steel nib. Also the clip on these will always snag. Naff pen, sir."
"And one," continued M., "which almost cost you everything at the Leningrad Scribblers Club. I need hardly remind you that Jottovich had started on the third book of a verse epic whilst you were still scratching out the last line of a limerick."
Bond, unable to deny the charge, decided to weather the storm in silence.
"Commander Bond would be rather better off with this, sir," breathed Parker with barely disguised contempt. He opened the box lovingly. ".303 Beluga Master Rite. Hand-machined brass barrel. 18k. nib, platinum filigree inlay, Poetaster purple ink, built-in silencer. Old Bill Wobbledagger probably used one of these, sir."
"It’s a good pen, sir. Not that anything was wrong with the Eeziflow. However…"
In one practised, fluent movement, Bond replaced the cap on the Beluga and clipped it to his holster. M. looked up and gave Bond a smile of complicity and confidence.
"Don’t underestimate these people, 007. And … the best of luck, Jamie-poos!"
Bond reached for the handle to the first of the double doors, think how nice it would be to meet some agreeable, entertaining, well-balanced people for a change.
"The best of life is but intoxication" — Byron, "Don Juan", canto II, stanza 179.
(*Please either send a note to Chris at Trinity, phone him at 0235 510116, phone Danny at 01 435 3057 or write to him at 84 Greenhill, Prince Arthur Road, London NW3 5TZ. The cost of the dinner will be approximately £12.50 per person, plus drinks (sherry, wine, port, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters) and service. If you do not reply, or if you do not write any poetry, you will be coated with flour and egg yolk, dusted with cinnamon, studded with almonds, cloves and sultanas and lightly sautéd in hazelnut oil for two minutes on each side. You will then be rolled in diced apricots and chocolate chips, flambéd in pear brandy and served as dessert at the dinner …)