Monthly Archives: June 2013

Village Residents: “The Help”

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English: Broken glass

Like shattered glass in a picture frame, some few break free. If not in physical reality, perhaps their freedom comes in their memories of yesterdays … and tomorrows.

There is a psychology to The Prisoner that has always astounded me. I’ve wondered at the depth. I’ve told friends not familiar with the series that the whole thing seems to me to be some great Freudian slip. And I’ve wondered about the history of some of the characters. Of course the whole thing, as deep as it may be, is a work of fiction. So I suppose their stories are what I make them.

Everyone in the Village is there for a reason. The prisoners need keeping, the warders need to do the keeping. But he was there for reasons of his own.

~

The room was odd to say the least. The furniture was placed at varying angles compared to the walls, giving the entire place an askew look. There were a few small bird cages, very ornate, placed here and there. Making bird cages had been his hobby before coming to The Village. There was no need for bird cages here. Animals weren’t allowed. Except for the cat of course. One of the two chairs faced into a corner. The other chair, an overstuffed monstrosity the color of murky water, had all four legs sawn off so that only stubs remained for the rubber coasters. The pictures on the wall, and there were at least a dozen, were all one of two types. Some were of a lady, nicely dressed for the 1920s or 1930s, with very lovely hair and eyes that, even though she was smiling in the photos, seemed overflowing with pain. The rest of the frames, hanging here and there with no rhythm or rhyme, were empty. The glass in one of these was cracked and looked as if someone had struck it, the cracks spider-webbing out from its center.

~

“Ah, Number Six, what an unexpected pleasure!” And Number Two,  yet another new Number Two, beamed over his desk as Six walked briskly down the ramp. The Butler, silent as always, followed close behind with a cart carrying sandwiches and other working lunch items. “Please, please, have a seat and join me for lunch.”

“I’ve already had my fill, thank you.”

The Butler quietly, efficiently arranged lunch and stepped to the side, ready to be of service when needed.

“Number Six, I was wondering … ” And it began again. Always questions, always attempts at subterfuge and trickery. And always with the same results. Or lack of results.

~

The room was of course monitored just as every other corner of the Village was monitored. But they rarely if ever turned it on. What, after all, was there to check on? He wasn’t supposed to know that the monitor was “canceled” but he did. He had his privacy. It didn’t matter to him one way or another. Even when he was seen he was never watched. The monitor being on or off made no difference. He had always been seen yet never watched. It was as much a part of his life as she had been. As she still was.

~

“Beautiful day, Number Six.” Number Ninety One smiled as she walked by. Number Six waved and smiled in return. He was on his way to his private gym. A good work out after having dealt with Number Two always made him feel better. There was something about the physical exertion that seemed cleansing. The Butler walked by, umbrella overhead.

~

The empty frames were by now almost invisible to him. He remembered the face that had occupied the space years ago. The smile that seemed more a sneer. He had stopped noticing them years before. At one point in his life he had focused on them but not now. Now? All of his attention, while in the room, was on her. He remembered fondly of the times he had brought her breakfast in bed. She had always seemed pleased with his attempts. Even as her illness had progressed, even as her eyes grew in sadness, even when the face from the empty frames had left for good, she was always pleased when he brought her breakfast.

~

“Yes, that will do nicely.” Number Six took the wrapped cod from the grocer as he handed him his Village credit card. Perhaps this fillet hadn’t been tampered with. There was never any way of knowing. You never knew you’d been drugged until after the fact. As he left the shop, as he opened the door, the Butler entered. No doubt there to purchase Number Two’s evening meal. Pity Number Six couldn’t think of a way to drug that.

~

For a long while he had wondered where the other face had gone. He had always known why. Her eyes told him although she never spoke of the other women. She had loved the other face. And she had loved him. He never understood why she had loved the one who left. But he was content in remembering her love for him. Even in the Village the memory of her made things brighter, free. He was not a prisoner. He was no warder either.

~

The music played softly. Mozart. Number Six enjoyed the fish. He enjoyed properly cooked cod, he enjoyed cooking, he enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t drugged. Maybe he could get a good nights sleep after all. In the morning his work would begin again. He would be free, he would escape. At some point the enemy would make a slip and he would seize the opportunity. But it required constant vigilance on his part. He walked to the window and looked out. A few people were still stirring. Well, at this time of year it was still light out side and it was a good hour before curfew. An elderly couple, Numbers Fifty Two and Fifty Three, moved slightly to one side in order to let the Butler by. He was heading towards the Green Dome.

~

The day was done. It had been like a thousand others. He slipped quietly between the sheets on the well made bed. He required no maid service. He was very capable. He had learned while caring for her. He took one last look at the chair facing the corner before turning out the light. He thought about how, towards the end, she had been so motionless, so weak, so dead before death. She had asked him to turn her chair towards the corner. She said she didn’t want to look out the window any more. She was tired of life and wanted to see no more of it. She had smiled after she said it and had squeezed his hand. The last thing she ever said, the day before she passed away, was “I love you. You’ll always be in Mamma’s heart.” He got out of bed. He took one of her pictures down and held it close. He hadn’t known what to say to her that day. He had said very little since. There was nothing left to say. He sat in the chair facing the corner, drawing his legs up into the chair, very nearly in a fetal position. He was in her lap again. In the morning he would remember her. He would remember the breakfasts in bed. Number Two had asked that he bring him breakfast in bed.

Danger Man: “Georgio” … Part 2

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Cat eats mouse.

Cat and mouse. Let the games begin.

“I had quietly gone into an upstairs room. As far as anyone else knew I was off inspecting the house. I’d put together the portable shortwave radio, parts of which I kept concealed in my lighter and the heel of my shoe. The messenger should be close enough now that I’d be able to make contact with the agents following him. He should arrive at the Villa in less than half an hour.”

~

The receiver crackled. He heard the words “One mile, in ten minutes.” It was time to inspect the foyer and be ready for whatever came next. To be ready for Rannesin.

~

“I had positioned myself on the landing overlooking the foyer. From this vantage point I could see the entire area and all the doorways. Bella was inspecting the outlets along the walls. The Countess, expecting the courier, was in an adjoining room making small talk with the one guest we thought might be Rannesin. The butler, having been instructed by the Countess to be as helpful to us as possible while keeping us out of the way so as not to accidentally disturb the dinner party, which was scheduled to begin in fifteen minutes, stood calmly to one side. He moved towards the door when he heard the bell.”

~

“Yes?”

“Excuse me sir, I have a message for Countess Ghirlandaio.” The courier, hat in hand, bowed slightly. He seemed a nervous little man. Our agent knew him well. He was one of the best Italian operatives that Drake had ever worked with.

“Certainly. I will take it to her.” And the butler extended his hand, waiting for the envelope.

“Oh, sir, my apologies, but my instructions are to give it to the Countess only. You understand.”

The butler, taking a deep breath and rolling his eyes, said, “Very well. Wait here and I’ll inform Countess Ghirlandaio.” And he turned towards the far door, the room occupied by the Countess and the guest. A moment later the Countess, with the guest close behind, entered the foyer.

“You have a message for me?” The Countess asked pleasantly.

“Yes, Countess Ghirlandaio. Here, please,” and he produced an envelope from his breast pocket.

Taking the envelope the Countess offered a kind thank you and, turning to the butler, said, “Please, Blondeau, see that this gentleman is compensated for his effort.” With message in hand, she smiled one last time at the courier and headed back to the side room.

The messenger bowed politely and said, “Thank you, Countess, very, very much.” And this was the message to be delivered. The bow coupled with the word “very” twice rather than once conveyed the information. The envelope, which did contain a message concerning the neighboring village and certain road rights across her estate, was a ruse. If it had been intercepted by Rannesin he would have gained nothing.

Bella stepped close to the door and asked the Countess in a very low voice, “Would it be intrusive if I inspected this room now, Countess?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Drake was already there, ready to inspect the room with Bella, ready to watch the windows, the doors, and the guest.

~

“The messenger had come and gone without incident. If anything was going to happen it would have to happen now. If the Countess opened and read the letter she would have the information, or at least Rannesin would think she had the information not knowing that a code had been used upon delivery and that the information had already been passed along, and it would be too late for him to act. For Rannesin, and for us, it was now or never.”

~

“Excuse me one moment, please. This may be important,” the countess smiled to her guest and walked over to the fireplace, opening the envelope as she did so. Drake and Bella had positioned themselves so that doors, windows and guest were effectively covered. The door opened and the butler stepped quietly in, approaching the Countess with an envelope in hand and a strange, rather confused look on his face.

“Excuse me, Countess. The servants have just finished their evening meal and as the maid cleared the table in the kitchen she found this under one of the plates. It is addressed to a Mr. John Drake.” And he held the letter out for her to inspect. She looked quizzically at Drake, saying nothing.

~

“At this point it was obvious that there was more to this situation than met the eye. Only five people knew I was here, Nigel, my contact in Madrid, the courier, Bella, and the Countess although she didn’t know me as anything other than an agent posing as an assistant building inspector. The Countess knew Bella and I were agents but didn’t know which of us was John Drake. There was nothing left for us to do now but take charge of the situation.”

~

“Call in the servants, all of them, immediately!” Bella barked at the butler.

“Do as he says, please,” and the Countess nodded at the butler as she took the envelope and handed it to Bella who handed it to Drake. The guest, a puzzled look on his face, took the liberty of pouring himself a brandy and settled in to a chair by the fire.

Drake knew it was already to late to call in the servants. And as he opened the letter he had already guessed at what had happened. Their security measures had kept Rannesin at bay. The contents of the envelope however remained a mystery. But only for a moment. The message, addressed to John Drake, read as follows …

“Mr. Drake, I congratulate you. This is twice now you best me, here tonight and with my niece in Montreal. I was able to receive your shortwave message. Your security is very good. To many people in to many places for me. It is fine. We play cat and mouse again some another day. But next time I think I will be the cat.”

It was signed “Georgio”.

~

“The servants had been dutifully rounded up and the gardener was missing. Bella sent word that the surrounding area be searched, giving few details other than a good description of the gardener. I had stepped outside the kitchen door to smoke. In the light of the match, next to the steps and partially hidden by shrubbery, were bits and pieces of what looked like flesh-colored rubber. The remnants of Rannesin’s disguise. The description called in by Bella would do no good. I wondered what it was that he had altered? His nose, or mouth, the cheek bones? Would I recognize him the next time we met? The next time we played cat and mouse?”

~

Epilogue: The night air was crisp and clear as our agent returned to his room in the village. He would leave in the morning, after a good nights rest. And two doors down Georgio Rannesin turned out the light, and with the smile of one who had lost a chess match to an equal, turned over and went peacefully to sleep. There would be other matches.

Danger Man: “Georgio” … Part 1

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Excursionist in Italian Countryside

The Italian countryside was beautiful. Pity Drake and Bella don’t have time to enjoy it.

A few days ago I promised an ongoing thorn in the side of our agent, Mr. Drake. Today … delivery.

~

Prolog: “Every agent has his emissary. Bond, Blofeld; Holmes, Moriarty; Flint, Lisa Norton. John Drake also has his own. A messy situation? Well that’s when they usually match wits or something like that. Oh yes, his name is Rannesin, Georgio Rannesin.”

~

“Photographs?”

“NO!” The other man growled into his plate. “We still don’t know what he looks like. If it weren’t for Estonia we wouldn’t know this much.”

Drake sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “I’ll wire Nigel tonight.”

~

“The Countess Ghirlandaio would be expecting us, of course. She had been a freedom fighter in the Italian underground during World War Two and had been an invaluable operative ever since. I was sure it wasn’t her Rannesin was after. It was the message she would receive from Romania the day after tomorrow that he would try to intercept. Bella and I would need to act fast in order to be in place by then.”

~

Drake and Bella stood before the huge door. The Villa, long-deserted, had been repaired, at least in part, by the Countess. It was still “under construction” but the west end was finished and livable. Tonight would be the unveiling. There were six guests and six servants. Of the guests they were certain of five. The servants, with the exception of the butler, were all new. Two maids, a cook, the chauffeur and the grounds keeper. The butler, a Frenchman by the name of Blondeau, had been with the countess for twenty years. The maids and cook being women the list was narrowed down to the one guest, the gardener, and the chauffeur. One of these might be Rannesin. Or he could be in hiding. Now their job was to be there, be in place, be ready. The door opened and the butler queried, “May I help you?”

Bella flipped out his I.D. and in a most business like way, with just a touch of minor-bureaucrat pomp, said, “Would you please inform the Countess Ghirlandaio that we are here to inspect the building for safety?”

“And you are?” The butler looked intently at the building inspector I.D.

“I am Inspector Clouseau, this is my assistant,” he motioned towards Drake, “Carlo.” Drake made a slight bow, tipping his head down to one side.

“You should know that the Countess is having a dinner party this evening.” The butler raised one eyebrow as if to show disapproval.

“I understand. Rest assured that we shall be as unobtrusive as possible. But laws MUST be obeyed.” And Bella raised an eyebrow as though to trump the butler’s authority.

“Please come in. I will go to the Countess. You gentlemen may make yourselves comfortable. I’m sure the Countess will receive you shortly.”

~

“We’d gained entry easily enough. Our next step, after having provided the Countess with the appropriate code so that she would know we were agents, was to wait and watch and inspect the house. Of course it was the people in the house, the guest, Fernando Restrepo, the gardener, Adamo, and the chauffeur, Palmiro, that we’d be inspecting. Rannesin could be any one of these three men or he could be hidden in the Villa or on the grounds. We would have to intercept him before he intercepted the courier and his message. Our messenger was of course being followed and guarded. But given the importance of the message to be delivered and the chance to catch Rannesin we couldn’t leave anything to chance. Discovering who he was or locating where he was hiding was now our primary concern. And the clock was ticking.”

~

“Open the door, please,” and Bella motioned for the gardener to unlock the utility shed. Once inside the wiring was dutifully inspected. So where the nooks and corners. There was no other way in or out and they found no evidence of anything other than grounds keeping equipment. The garage was their next stop.

Inside the garage no one was evident. However the two cars both had trunks that could be used as hiding places. Drake opened each in turn with a pick while Bella stood near the garage door watching, ready to give the signal in case some one approached. The garage and the cars were empty.

There were only two possibilities now. Rannesin was not hiding in the villa, which meant one of two things. He was one of the three men who were suspect or he was hidden on the grounds.

~

“All we could do now was continue to inspect, slowly, while watching and waiting. The courier was scheduled to arrive with the message in two hours.”

~

Part 2 … later.

A Lighter Side Pictorial … a picture is worth a 1,000 words

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“Who are you?”

“I am your father, Luke.”

“Get me Number Two, please. What do you mean he’s busy?!”

“Be honest. Does this outfit make me look fat?”

“Sorry I’m late, but you’ll never believe who I just ran into on the beach. It was my understanding that this place was, uh, exclusive?”

“Really? Peter Pan down at the beach? Well, isn’t that special? Be calm, I’ll call for help.”

“Good Rover, nice boy. Wanna play fetch?”

“Stewardess, I need a barf bag and I need it NOW!”

“No sir. Yes sir. Oh, certainly sir. The screening of ‘Where Eagles Dare‘ went of like, shall we say, clockwork. Oh, thank you sir.”

“OK, I know I laid my glasses around here someplace.”

“Wanna buy a watch? Real Rolex, twenty bucks.”

“Whoa, buddy. Point that thing someplace else!”

“And this meeting of the Choir Boy’s Association will now come to order.”

“You paid HOW MUCH for that dress?!”

“Mom was wright. I should’ve studied chiropractic.”

“Would you PLEASE finish up in there? And FLUSH it this time!”

Village Residents: “Rebellion”

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It takes all kinds, even in The Village. And some of these have a penchant for tossing reality in the face of authority. The Village is, after all, a real part of the real world. Funny how The Village is a part of the world regardless how hard it tries to separate itself. Looks like it can’t escape either.

~

Join the Royal Navy and see the world. He had left University to do just that, much to the chagrin of his father. That had only made the salt air sweeter. The Navy had been good to him. His rebellious nature only added to his flair and it had actually worked to his advantage. Of course he had toned it down a bit. He honestly enjoyed the Navy and didn’t mind a little give and take when the playing field was level and the rules fair. The officers all liked him and so did everyone else. Quick witted, glib tongued, and charming. When he wanted to be. It had been his curiosity that went before his fall. If he had never seen that file, well, he wouldn’t be here now, would he?

~

“Ah, Number Forty Eight, please set down!” Number Two waved to the chair as it rose from the floor. “Would you care for tea?”

“No thanks, dad,” and he sat down on the edge of Number Two’s desk, stretching out so that he was almost laying on it. “What’s the deal here, the real meat on the bone?”

“Humph,” Number Two sputtered a bit. “Make yourself comfortable, young man. You’ll be here long enough to make yourself at home, and we have much to talk about.”

~

His Dad had been an authoritarian thorn in his side since birth. His mother was always cowering, afraid to speak up, afraid to speak out. Her voice was always just above a whisper, as though she hoped not to be heard or noticed. It was safer that way. But safety? It wasn’t in his nature. And he wouldn’t be brow beaten. Ever, by anyone.

~

“Supervisor.”

“Yes.”

“Have another surveillance camera, with a microphone, installed at table six at the cafe. He seems to prefer that one.”

“Certainly.”

Number Two watched the monitor, watched Number Forty Eight walk away from the Green Dome. And he muttered to himself, “Insolent cur. He’ll soon come to respect authority.”

~

It had been a grand joke for him, and the old man had walked right into it. The pompous fool had gone running to the door expecting the next room to be engulfed in flames. The fire wasn’t real, but the smoke bomb was. And so was the bucket of water balanced atop the door. He had only been eight at the time. He’d thought nothing of the whipping later. The sight of his father drenched had been reward enough to offset many such whippings. He didn’t know it, and his father would never let it show, but Dad actually lived in fear of what his boy might do next. And the authoritarian bully? From time to time the father retreated. He would go into his study and lock the door. Not for the sake of privacy. It was the only place he thought he’d be safe.

~

“It’s all yours, dad,” and Number Forty Eight laid the papers gingerly on Number Two’s desk.

“And this is … ?”

“Why, I wrote out the answers to all of the questions you’ve been asking, oh, my daddy,” and Number Forty Eight took off his hat, bowing low.

“Really?” Number Two picked up the papers, looking through them.

The answers were real, and really there. Number Forty Eight hadn’t minded answering them. What did he care? Just words on paper, meaningless to him. It was what would come later that mattered to him.

~

He would be no ones “boy”. He was his own man. And he was the one, the only one, to decide what that meant at any given moment.

~

Number Two rushed to the foyer after having called in the alarm. He couldn’t see much for the smoke. The coat rack had been moved away from the wall and when he came into the room it was directly between him and the fire extinguisher. He shoved it out of the way so as to get to the extinguisher and in doing so caused the bucket of water, perched precariously atop the rack, to tip and fall.

Number Forty Eight smiled towards the surveillance camera and tipped his hat as he walked by it. Life was sweet, even in The Village. He was singing as he strolled, nearly dancing, to the cafe. The Supervisor would replay this for Number Two later. Several times.

Village Residents: “The Wounded Healer”

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List of Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Her father had been a friend of Albert Schweitzer.

For some people The Village is simply 9 to 5. It’s a job like any other, maybe the only one they know, perhaps their one outlet for a kind of creativity. And they’d gladly put their whole heart and soul into it. If they had one left.

~

He had actually known Albert Schweitzer. Of course that had been long before her time and she’d never had the pleasure of meeting Schweitzer. She often questioned the timing of her birth and wondered if men in their sixties should father children. He had been eighty-two when he died and she had just turned sixteen. She had loved him very much. His death had been hard. Her mother, bless her, had been a rock. Years later, after her graduation from medical school, she remembered her mother giving her a hug and saying, “Your father would be so proud.” She carried those words with her still. She would have kept them in her heart if it had lived.

~

“Number Fourteen, tell me about your progress. There has been progress hasn’t there?” Number Two looked at her over his glass of milk.

“Yes, we’re nearly at an end of the analysis. Within two days time we’ll be ready to test it on laboratory animals and … ”

“I don’t have two days! We must move forward … NOW!” Number Two interrupted her. For all the world it was hard for her to take him seriously, drinking milk and looking so much like that television star, the comic actor, Colin something or other. Oh, what was his name?

~

It was as an intern that she had found Randal. Their love had grown from the moment they met. She decided early on that he was the one and that she would never leave him. So when he decided to join the Peace Corps her decision was made for her. Like Albert Schweitzer they went out as medical missionaries. They would change the world, together, one patient at a time. And she would never leave him. It was the landslide in Bangladesh, the jeep being swept off the road and into the river, that had taken him from her. Her heart? It died with him.

~

She looked through the test tube, holding it up to the light. The serum was as finished as it could be without testing it on the rats. Of course, if you believed Number Two, Number Six was rat enough. It didn’t matter. It was research to her. Research was what she lived for. It was all she had left. She felt an uneasiness about this. What if something happened to Number Six? Oh, she didn’t care about him, but heads would roll. It might be entertaining to see Number Two’s head roll. But she preferred to keep hers, as pretty and blond as it was, where it belonged. She did, after all, have research to do.

~

She hadn’t thought twice about the job offer. Her mother had died three years prior and without Randal what did it matter? What did anything matter? The Village had been something of a surprise. But to actually be able to experiment on people? It seemed so, so Nazyesque. But with her heart shriveled, shrunken by the death of love, the unthinkable now seemed somehow natural.

~

“We begin tonight.” Number Two was confident, self-assured, and asinine. She thought him an idiot. But her choices were limited. If he just didn’t remind her so much of, oh, yes! Gordon had been the last name. She turned away as milk dribbled down his chin. She would laugh later.

Odd Thoughts

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Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (Donald Pleasen...

Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (Donald Pleasence), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Telly Savalas), Diamonds are Forever (Charles Gray) and Never Say Never Again (Max Von Sydow). Just a thought, but maybe John Drake/Number Six could use one of these. You know, an arch-enemy. Gee, I wonder …..

Sometimes I think they’re the only kind I have. Odd thoughts that is. Anyway … There are certain characters, Village residents, that stand out for me. Because of things said by these characters, or their general attitudes, I’ve always wondered how and why they ended up in The Village, both certain warders and certain prisoners. So I’ve been working on what I think their histories COULD be. Well, back to the odd thoughts. While looking through the various Villager’s history books I keep coming across John Drake‘s history. And something occurred to me. There is a kind of blank spot there, of a different sort. Sherlock Holmes had his Moriarty, James Bond had his Blofeld, even Maxwell Smart had Count von Siegfried. So this is Mr. Drake’s blank spot.  Who did HE have? Maybe, every once in a while it would be good for our secret agent man to have someone show up, his “other side” match and espionage equal, just to keep him on his toes. And who knows? Given time this other side counterpart might even end up in The Village. If they do I wonder if they’ll be a warder? Or a prisoner? Or if we’ll even be able to tell? Of course, given the life span of a secret agent on either side, they may never live long enough to make it to The Village. Life is SO filled with uncertainties.