There have been some great moments in television. I Love Lucy, Fawlty Towers, Mike Hammer, Star Trek, and more. “One of these days Alice, to the moon!” and “I see nothing!” were famous on-going lines in their day and still reverberate down through the annals of TVdom. And then there have been those less memorable moments. The New Odd Couple, Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos, Monkey Shines, and Turn-On (A “Laugh-In” spin off). Those last three were so bad that they were canceled DURING their first episode. But for all the bright spots and the low points there is one category that stands alone. “Greatest.” With this, the Greatest, there are no comparisons, no competitors. The Greatest is just that, and always will be. Introducing, if you’re not already aware of it, the GREATEST moment of all time and forever in television history …
“You two have been very bad boys I see. Picking fights with respectable citizens. Very unmutual, very unmutual,” she shook her head from side to side, sadly. “But there is, I’ll have you know, hope on the horizon, glorious hope for the both of you.” She rose from her chair and approached a screen on the furthest wall. “Please do set down.”
Number Six and Number Thirty Five looked at each other, shrugged simultaneously, and sat down at desks that looked for all the world as though they’d been pulled out of a sixth grade classroom.
“Please, give me your attention for the next fifteen minutes, that’s all I ask. After that you’re free to go home …”
“London?” Number Six queried.
“YOU’LL BE FREE TO GO HOME,” rather loudly, with a shrill tone, “and think about what you’ve seen.” As she turned down the lights a projector, from a small aperture in the opposite wall, began to click and whir. On the screen, in grainy black and white, they saw the words “Oral Hygiene, your guide to health” appear. Looking at each other with muted surprise they spent the next fifteen minutes bored to tears learning how to brush and floss their teeth. Number Six’s chair and desk remained normal. Number Thirty Five’s chair and desk throbbed silently with a vibration and slight electrical charge that worked in unison with the subliminal messages that were part of his oral hygiene lesson.
“Now, I understand,” Number Thirteen flipped on the lights as the screen went blank, “that you both consider this odd. But believe me, all will be made clear in time. You see, I’ve been given the option of making your social conversion a very simple affair beginning with such social basics as personal hygiene. We’ll progress to other subjects soon enough. We’ll resume tomorrow promptly at three. And I know you’ll enjoy our next film. It’s all about the joy of personal grooming.”
As they left the building Number Thirty Five turned to Number Six and said, “This is the most asinine tactic conceivable. They think what? That they shall make us model citizens in this way?”
“It’s never as simple as it seems. They’ve a plan, and we’ll see evidence of it soon enough.”
The next day they sat through another film, this time with tea and cakes. The time release drug that laced the rim of Renault’s tea-cup was slated to begin its activity in twenty-four hours, at exactly five p.m.
“Thank you so much for your attention,” Number Thirteen smiled at her two star pupils. “I’ll be giving the Citizen’s Council a glowing report as to your progress! Tomorrow you’ll have a day of rest from your journey towards social conversion. Please, please take some time tomorrow to consider the wonderful privilege it is to be a part of the well-adjusted citizenry. We will resume the day after tomorrow at precisely two o’clock. Our next session shall be slightly different. There will be a written exam at the end. But not to worry. I’ll be here with you to help with any difficulties. Be seeing you!”
“Yes, mum, and you.” Number Six saluted her and walked, with Number Thirty Five at his side, briskly out the door.
The next day was a rather grey day, with low clouds and mist coming in from the sea. It was four forty five p.m. and Thirty Five was walking along the retaining wall, looking at the stone boat. Number Six was in the bell tower looking at what little of the sea was visible through the mist. It was from this vantage point that he saw Renault.
The mist began to part, or so it seemed to him. Memory reeled for just a moment and The Village, every vestige of it, disappeared with the fog. And he was standing on the Pont Neuf, watching the brown waters of the Seine below. Home. To his left a man was approaching with a small package. Under the man’s left arm there was a folded newspaper. He removed it, reversed the fold, and placed it under his right arm. This was the signal, this was the man.
“You have the merchandise in good condition?” Renault asked the stranger.
“Certainly, but the price has gone up.”
“No, no, monsieur. The deal is set. You must learn to be satisfied.”
Number Six could see Thirty Five talking with a man he didn’t recognize.
“The price HAS gone up. You will give me the name of the person responsible for Strasser’s killing. Then, and only then, you will receive the merchandise.” And the man waved the package in front of his face.
Number Six saw the stranger wave his hand in front of Renault’s face. Was there an argument? Number Thirty Five made a grab for the package. He would NOT be cheated, he would NOT be played with! The man side-stepped, Renault making another attempt to get the package away from him. He twisted on his ankle and felt his foot slip. He tried to catch himself. He saw himself falling over the railing. He saw the water below. And then …
Number Six watched as Renault crumpled to the ground. And in an instant he was racing towards the stone boat.
“You fool! Do you know what you’ve cost us?!” Number Two was screaming at Number Thirteen as she stood there wringing her hands, a frightened look on her pinched face.
“But I had no way of knowing … ”
“Number Thirty Five was our only link to Strasser’s assassin. The assassin obviously had contacts in Moscow AND Washington AND Tokyo. Do you have any idea the range of information someone like that could supply us with?!” Number Two slammed both fists down on his desk.
“But … ”
“There is no excuse! OUT! Get out! And you WILL be called for before the day is done!” Number Two watched, his rage still building, as the woman left the room trembling.
“A heart attack! A bloody heart attack over an illusion!” He was screaming into an empty room. Elsewhere the Supervisor, in no way involved in any of this, watching him on the monitor, cringed.
Number Six walked calmly around Number Two’s desk. They were face to face, Number Six a full five inches taller than the other man. Looking down into his eyes, in a low and even tone, he said, “I don’t know what you did to cause his death, but you know this and mark it down. You will pay!” The last three words were in a shout of anger. And as he turned and walked towards the door it was Number Two who cringed.
- “We’ll always have Paris.” … Part 1 (theprisonerfanfiction.wordpress.com)
Note: I borrowed a couple of names, a couple of details, and a bit of tweaked dialogue for this one from one of my three all-time favorite movies. Which movie?
It would have been a pleasant day. The sun, the ocean breeze, a soft humming of bees. It would have been a pleasant day if he’d been anywhere but The Village. The stroll would have been pleasant. If it hadn’t been for the man following him. The man, short with a small mustache, had been following him off and on most of the day. He’d lost him twice. Not this time. This time would be different. Around a corner on the path he side-stepped, hidden by the shrubbery. And he waited.
The man came briskly around the corner only to see an empty path ahead. He turned his head to the left, seeking, just as Number Six grabbed his right arm. In an instant the man was on the ground, Number Six standing over him.
“You’ve been following me all day. What’s it all about?!”
“I was trying to discern,” the mans accent was French, “if you were one of them.”
“And this is your way of implying that you’re not? Go tell your masters that it didn’t work. Of course they already know, don’t you!” Number Six looked directly into the camera that he knew to be hidden in the retaining wall to the far side of the small bit of lawn along the path.
“I’m sure they know everything that we do,” the man was brushing himself off as he got up. “You will realize in time that I am most certainly NOT one of them. Assuming, of course, that you are not one.”
“I don’t care if you think me a warder or a prisoner,” Number Six snapped. “Whatever anyone thinks,” and he looked into the camera again, “I am a free man!”
“Yes, I hope that you are. I remember Paris, April the fifth, three years ago,” and the Frenchman tilted his head slightly, examining Number Six, watching for a reaction.
Number Six held it in. His facial expression, his body language, and the tone of his voice all remained the same. But his heart rate was up in spite of himself.
“They know almost everything to know about me. It wouldn’t surprise me if they knew about Paris.” And it didn’t surprise him.
“I was at the Le Café de Flore. You never knew me, but I knew of you. My name is Renault. And I am NOT Number Thirty Five!”
Number Six watched Number Thirty Five, Renault, over his cup of coffee. If he was one of them he told an intricate and interesting tale. It was worth listening to for the entertainment value alone.
“So you see, monsieur, while you were seeking the files I was seeking the statue. You found the files. I was there that day. You were obviously an excellent operative to do such a thing in a public place, and in broad daylight,” the man chuckled. “I on the other hand was not so fortunate. It seems that the statue, along with the jewel, had been taken into eastern Europe. And there I could not follow.”
“Why are you here?” His coffee was getting cold. No matter. The war was cold too, and this man had obviously been involved. No doubt he still was, but in what capacity, prisoner or warder, only time would tell, if there was any telling to be done at all.
The man sighed, shook his head, looked down at the table and whispered, “It was a quirk of fate,” he looked up. “They think I know about Strasser’s assassination, who did the killing and why. I knew Strasser, it is true, but whatever else I know,” and he clenched his teeth, “they shall never know.”
“They have ways of making you talk.” Number Six smiled knowingly.
“They have never,” and the Frenchman’s resolve was evident, “dealt with Renault!”
Number Six, smiling, raised his coffee cup as though in a salute.
He had seen Number Thirty Five walking up to the Green Dome. To make his report to Number Two? To be questioned by Number Two? And now, the Frenchman returning, he watched as he approached the table.
He stood to one side, made a slight bow, and said, “May I, monsieur?”
Number Six waved his open hand towards the chair opposite, “Certainly. You can tell me more of Paris.”
Renault smiled. “Yes, Paris is my one true love. Unlike many others she has never broken Renault’s heart. Of course, there is always a first time,” and he laughed quietly.
“And did you frequent Le Café de Flore often?”
“Ah, yes. Almost daily that spring. I remember when the waiter caught his waxed mustache aflame with the candle.” Renault motioned for the waitress. “There was no lack of excitement that night. And the flies! It was so very hot that April, unduly so.”
And that small bit of information, the comment about the flies, was all Number Six needed. This man HAD been there. And putting all those pieces together he knew. Number Thirty Five was no warder.
“Odd that he should hit it off so well with Number Six,” Number Two sipped his tea, watching the screen.
“He’ll break soon,” the Supervisor commented.
“Yes, I agree. Perhaps we can use this attachment to our Number Six to speed up the process. Call in Number Thirteen for me, please.”
“And what brought you to this Village, my friend?” The Frenchman asked as they walked.
“I came for the waters,” Number Six responded.
“Waters? There are no waters,” Number Thirty Five looked at him, his curiosity apparent.
“I was misinformed.”
“Ah, and you … ” But the sentence was interrupted when two men, Numbers Seventy Eight and Ninety Four according to their tags, stepped out of the shrubs, one coming from the left and the other from the right, and both directly in front of Number Six and Number Thirty Five. Seventy Eight spoke first.
“You realize of course that you two, in spending so much time excluding others from your company, are beginning to look very unmutual.”
“I am tired of playing your word games and I am tired of excuses made to do the will of your masters.” At the word “master” the fight was on. Six struck first. This time if they were going to make problems they’d deal with one first.
Number Thirty Five didn’t hesitate. Number Six didn’t have time to watch, Number Seventy Eight was making a good show of himself, but out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Number Ninety Four being leveraged and flying into the bushes. The Frenchman knew his Judo well.
Number Six, punching, was driving Number Seventy Eight back slowly. The man was a good boxer, Six would give him that. It was what happened next that was so unexpected. And, bluntly, very entertaining.
Number Ninety Four was crawling slowly out of the bushes when the Frenchman gave one swift kick that sent him reeling. Turning, Number Thirty Five ran a few steps ahead and to the side of Seventy Eight. He had a very broad smile on his face. He obviously enjoyed a good fight. Six punched, Thirty Five fell to the ground, and Seventy Eight stepped back. After he had fallen over the Frenchman Number Thirty Five scrambled to his feet and nearly jumped back to where Ninety Four was once again trying to exit the bushes. In an instant he had the man by the collar, pulling him up and out of the shrubs as he said with a pleased smile on his face, “Please, monsieur, allow me to assist!”
As Number Seventy Eight rose from the path, wiping blood from his mouth, Number Ninety Four landed on the ground next to him.
“You’ll both stand before the Citizens Council for this!” Said Number Seventy Eight as he backed away. And turning he ran, Number Ninety Four running behind him with a slight limp.
The Frenchman called out after his unworthy opponent, “Have a nice trip back to your keepers, monsieur!” And turning to Six he smiled and said, “Well, my friend, now that we’ve made an appointment with the Council, shall we go visit Number Two in order to make it official?”
“I believe I can make the time, yes.”
“Look at me when I speak to you!” Number Six struck his fist on Number Two’s desk. Number Two was standing up now, his face a deep red. “Play your games if you will, but be aware that the end move will be mine!”
“Number Six,” Number Two growled through clenched teeth, “and you as well, Number Thirty Five,” he shot a glance at the Frenchman, “I play no games. But I will do my job, and you will, the both of you, succumb in the end. Make what moves you like,” and he stuck his face out toward Number Six as though offering it as a target, “the playing field is The Village, and ALL of your moves will be confined to OUR board!”
The next day, as Number Six sat reading The Tally Ho ( he enjoyed fiction) he heard over the public address system, “Numbers Six and Thirty Five report to the Citizens Council, Number Six and Number Thirty Five, report to the Citizens Council immediately.” And folding the paper slowly, he finished his coffee before leaving.
“We would prefer to make this as simple and pleasant for all concerned as possible, I assure you,” said the man behind the desk at the Citizens Council. He was flanked by a dozen or so others, all setting there like mannequins. “What provoked such a reaction, Number Six?”
“Experience. They were there to start a fight, and being in the vicinity I decided to oblige and finish it.” Number Six, standing next to Number Thirty Five who was stroking his mustache in a very unconcerned manner, stood with his arms folded.
The man behind the desk sighed, and turning to Number Thirty Five asked, “And you?”
“I tripped,” he said dryly.
Sighing again the man looked over his glasses at his fellows, all of whom remained motionless, expressionless. “Gentlemen, I suggest to you that these two, Number Six and Number Thirty Five, being unrepentant of their unmutual activities, be handed over to The Village Adjustment League for educational purposes.”
Number Six began to applaud. Thirty Five bowed.
“Take them to Number Thirteen’s office, please.”
Part 2 comes later.
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.
“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.”
“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 (theprisonerfanfiction.wordpress.com)
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.”
“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.
“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!”