James Bond fell through darkness, and into the light.
At 600 meters off the deck, the nightscape of Bangkok opened before him like a great, neon flower as the darkness of the sky fell out of his peripheral vision and was replaced by the relentless, incandescent glow of the city. Much lower than a conventional airliner on a landing vector into Suvarnabhumi airport, and falling very fast, Bond had only about a second for the view to register in anything other than the most literal terms, but for that instant he had the vaguely-defined impression of a massive nervous system, alive with pulsing, flaring light and run through by intense, irradiated arteries of turgid, flaring blood.
And then he was too low to think of anything but the practical. Baiyoke Sky Hotel was stabbing upward at him, and Bond realized if he didn’t deploy soon it would be a massive, dazzling navigation hazard. A cylindrical tower, mounted atop an art-deco style base, the observation decks were blazing with the light of the exterior sign exhorting the magnificence of King Bhumibol. Bond used it as a gauge of his altitude and as such was unsurprised when he felt the tug of the tension line and could dimly hear the snap of the pilot chute deploying past the howl of wind. A moment later he was pulled short when the pilot chute gained purchase on the wind and the big, rectangular ram-air canopy unfurled above him.
The parachute slowed his descent, and sent him on a sharp arc west—Bond saw Baiyoke dramatically shift to his left, as if choreographed, to reveal the intense, white lights of the city’s famous Ratchaprasong shopping district. Bond pulled hard on his right toggle to bring him to the appropriate angle of approach and watched the Centara Grand Hotel grow larger, its distinctive clamshell facade opening like a glowing chasm.
The Centara Grand was essentially a 235 meter-tall, 57-floor cluster of fused columns with tall arches on its north and south sides that glowed with alternating neon colors. It was a deep mauve right now, giving the tower the look of a blood-stained fang.
He was coming in too high, so Bond yanked the toggles some more to make a looping arc around the tower and burn some altitude. The Centara was fast becoming the only thing in Bond’s vision, and he could even see the circular decks that housed its sky bar and restaurant. He pulled into a tighter spiral as he cleared the north arch, and saw a flat black surface below him—the central core of the tower with all the vents and air conditioning units necessary for climate control of the building.
Bond acted almost without thought, since the reality of his situation was instinctive—he couldn’t circle the tower again without losing too much altitude to land. He yanked the emergency line that detached the chute from the pack, and felt the jarring pull of gravity. Bond hit a hard but surprisingly pliant surface with more velocity than he would have liked, letting his legs fold beneath him and turning into a shoulder-roll to diffuse the impact. There were no sharp pains that accompany broken bones, but he still chuffed and then wheezed as the wind was knocked out of him. He came to rest on his hands and knees on the rough gravel of the roof and fought off the instinctive panic that came with not being able to inhale properly. After a few moments, his breathing returned to normal and he slowly, shakingly stood up. Beyond the looming southern arch—now a rich green—the chute floated languidly over the Bangkok skyline like a bat fleeing a cave.
His legs hurt, but it was only deep-tissue bruises, Bond knew. No broken bones or sprained ankles. He was still mission-capable. Hurriedly, he wriggled out of his BASE-jumping harness and then pulled off the jacket. “Obviously, we can’t make it out of silk, Double-oh Seven,” Q had told him as he modeled it in his makeshift lab in a sub basement of the British Embassy in Bangkok (an Embassy, Bond realized, that he could almost see from here). “Instead, we used a revolutionary microfiber that can pass for silk, but is completely wrinkle-free.”
“I hope you’re not expecting a standing invitation from Saville Row,” Bond remarked dryly.
“I wish you’d take this seriously,” Q sighed. Then he set about demonstrating how the coat could be tucked and folded into a sleek, drag-resistant skydiving jacket. “Once you’ve made landfall—or surface-contact, however you like to refer to it—simply turn it inside out and give it a good shake…” the demonstration hit a bit of a snag at that point as the wiry, mop-topped quartermaster struggled to extricate himself from a jacket several sizes too large for him.
But Bond got the idea and now, nearly 60 stories above Bangkok, he pulled on the jacket and folded and molded it into the shape of an impeccably-tailored, peak-lapelled tuxedo jacket. Q wasn’t exaggerating the fabric’s properties, Bond thought as he fastened the top button. The coat hugged his frame, while still giving him an impressive range of movement, almost as if it was made of spandex. A quick pat-down revealed that it even concealed the presence of his shoulder-holster and Walther PPS 9mm automatic.
The PPS had been a reluctant concession to the service’s growing concerns about Bond’s weapon of choice, the venerable Walther PPK. “You’re crashing a very dangerous party, Bond,” M had said in his usual clipped, stentorian style. “I’m not sending you in there any more vulnerable than you need to be.” And that settled that.
As it was, Bond found the PPS a perfectly acceptable alternative to his PPK. With its polymer frame, it was as compact as the PPK, but, miraculously, even slimmer. It took an eight-round magazine of 9mm ammunition, giving it an advantage over the PPK in both power and capacity. Additionally, it had high-profile combat sights, which were easier acquire quickly. Since it was striker-fired, it had a consistent trigger-pull—a feature Bond hadn’t taken very seriously until he had the opportunity to take the little gun to the range. There, running through the Special Air Service’s stress-fire course, Bond found the gun pleasantly boring in its reliability and accuracy. Grudgingly, he had to concede that it was a better choice of weapon for this assignment. He looked forward to hearing Q gloat about for the next several weeks. Though he would never admit it, the man was never more amusing than when he was enthusiastic.
Bond took a quick look around at the cityscape to orient himself, then hurried over to the north edge of roof where he knew there was a short drop to a service doorway. Bond vaulted over the side and landed on the top step up to the doorway. He clambered down the short flight of steps to the narrow ledge that ringed the central core of the Centara, and peered over the safety railing at its edge. About one story below him, bathed cool, blue light was a slice of the observation deck of Red Sky bar. Bond didn’t see anyone hugging the edge near the protective Plexiglas barriers, but he could hear the low murmur of conversation, occasionally broken by a laugh, and beyond it the indistinct thump of trance music. He pulled a bowtie out of his hip pocket and tied it quickly around his neck, then took a breath and jumped.
Ple took a second sip of her cosmopolitan and continued complaining about her boyfriend, who had, this evening, committed the unpardonable act of deciding that he’d rather go gambling with his work friends than take her out on the town. For her part, Mint was nodding and making the right sympathetic noises, but Ple could tell she was getting bored. Mint was already on her second appletini.
“He never wants to go out, unless it’s to a stupid Muy Thai match or a bar to look at the pretty waitresses. He doesn’t like to go dancing or to wine bars or anything fancy.”
“Jaa is boring,” Mint agreed. “He just wants you to follow him, like all the Thai men. Maybe you should date farang.” She used the slang for Westerners.
“Farang are ugly,” Ple pouted. “The cute ones are all backpakers and farang ki-nok. And the ones with money are old. They don’t dress nice. They always wear shorts and stupid T-shirts they buy on Sukhumvit Road when they go to Nana to see the strippers.” She was taking another disgusted sip of her cosmo, when she heard a strange thumping noise behind her, and Mint’s eyes went wide with alarm.
Ple turned as quickly as she could without spilling her drink. Had someone fallen down the steps to the dining room? Instead she found herself shockingly close to a tall, powerfully built farang in a well-tailored tuxedo. But how had he...?
“Khaw thoad krop,” the farang said in a British accent and wai-ed respectfully. Ple saw that he was very handsome, with short, light-colored hair and eyes as blue as the waters off Koh Samui.
“Mai pen rai, ka,” Ple giggled, trying to return the wai while still holding her cocktail glass. The farang winked at her and slid past them into the bar area. When he was out of earshot, Ple gaped at Mint theatrically.
“Oooi! Maybe I’m wrong about farang. Do you think he’s staying here in the hotel? He must be on his way to the big party in the ballroom, don’t you think?”
Mint didn’t answer. She was staring dumbfounded at the sky.
53 hours earlier
The photo paperclipped to the green and white striped file showed a cold, ugly face. Broad, Slavic features, small eyes, and jet-black hair shaved short over an advancing widow’s peak. It was the face of man that traded in violence as casually as a stockbroker dealt in futures or junk bonds and had no intentions of making a secret of it.
“Nasty piece of work, 007,” M said in his usual patrician tone. “Giorgi Vasko. Georgian by birth, conscripted into the Russian military at eighteen. Joined the elite Spetsnaz corps at twenty-five. Spent almost ten years in Chechnya. Fought in the war in 1999 and then stayed as a part of an anti-insurgent force, where he developed a considerable reputation for brutality. His favored interrogation tool was a portable field generator.”
“An old standby.”
M made a disapproving noise and continued. “Left the military sometime around 2009 and got into the weapons trafficking business. Made a good bit of money arming various Islamic groups in Central Asia. Seems when it comes to a ready supply of serviceable guns, memories run short.”
“Capitalism,” Bond said, “washes all sins away.”
“So it would seem,” M said with a hint of irritation. Bond made a mental note to keep his opinions in check.
“How did he show on our radar?”
“He’s been on it for a while, but lately he’s become more involved in arming Southeast Asian terrorist groups. The AK-74s used in that attack on the mall in Jakarta last year were traced to his organization. We lost four diplomatic personnel in that attack.” M’s gaze was steel, and Bond felt a charge go up his spine. This was as personal as things got within the halls of power and for the gentlemen who’d been classmates at Eton.
“So, what brought him to the top of the deck now?
“He was a ghost,” M said. “Lots of digital footprints, but no sign of him. Various sources put him under the protection of Quantum. Recently, he’s surfaced in Asia.”
Bond inhaled sharply, but otherwise didn’t show anything. “How did we get on to him?”
“German intelligence arrested a senior official at the International Bank of Credit and Commerce’s Hamburg office. After some…motivated questioning, he gave us copies of his correspondences with Vasko’s cut-outs. Through that we discovered he’s attending a black-tie affair at the Centara Grand Hotel in Bangkok this week.”
“Seems a bit odd for an arms trafficker.”
“He hides in plain sight, it seems. A cursory check of the guest list is roughly akin to browsing Interpol’s web site: they all have at least one Red Notice on them. Most of them have multiple. We believe this is a networking event.” M said networking event as if it was a euphemism an obscene act.
“Arranged by Quantum?” Bond asked.
“I don’t think so. Quantum has been all but dismantled. These are just the orphaned children clinging together against the storm trying to plan their next move. A well-placed drone strike would erase Quantum from the Earth once and for all.” For a moment M almost looked wistful, as if contemplating the possibility, but it was only a flicker and then gone, and his gaze was firmly clamped on Bond.
“But since we are not in the habit of leveling luxury hotels to pursue our ends, weve decided to be more selective in our targets. We can allow the money men and international criminals to be caught another day, but Vasko absolutely must be removed from play. To that end, we’re sending you in.”
Bond gave a non-committal nod of his head. “Doesn’t sound too difficult. I trust he’ll have protection?”
“The Royal Thai Police,” M said.
“Ah. Well, that’s a bit of a spanner in the works.”
“Vasko’s been paying off several senior Thai police generals—most likely to erase any trace of the Jakarta terrorists’ movements through Bangkok. The police have a tense stalemate with the Royal Thai Military, so they’re reluctant to intercede on our behalf, but our intelligence assets confirmed the details of the event, as well as the presence of several dozen Thai police. Vasko’s minders will have the ballroom level of the hotel locked down. It’s going to be a difficult infiltration, 007."
Bond puzzled through the various possibilities, arrived at only one that was workable. “Aerial?”
“That’s how I’d play it.”
“I best requisition a pair of wings from Q-Branch, then.”
“Well, we don’t issue jet-packs, 007.”
Bond tried to make his walk as casual as possible, while remaining tensed and ready to strike or react. The 46th floor was clear, according to their Thai intelligence contact. It hadn’t been booked by the Quantum group, and thus open to the public and safe.
Vasko had the 45th floor, however, in its entirety and was holed up in a suite with approximately a dozen gunmen keeping watch. Many of them would be on the 23rd floor, the ballroom level, and where the elevators leading to the rooms were located. Anyone attempting to crash the party would be intercepted there in what would surely be a bloodbath.
Bond made it to the elevator without incident and keyed the 45th floor with the pre-programmed keycard supplied by Q-Branch. He was rewarded with a green light and the elevator began its quick descent. Bond drew his PPS and assumed a shooting stance with the pistol at high-ready and waited for the doors to open.
There was no one to shoot when they did. Bond pivoted, covering the area adjacent to the doorway in a classic “slicing the pie” maneuver, but no one was in the elevator lobby. He walked to the end of the hallway and replicated the maneuver to cover the hallway leading to the suite. No one was there either. The nape of his neck prickled with anticipation. Could Vasko really be so careless not to have anyone covering his door? Perhaps. The amount of firepower on the ballroom level and at the hotel’s entrance may have lulled him into complacency.
Bond used the card on the suite door, heard the mechanism unlock, and threw the door open, while falling to one knee. If bullets were coming his way, there was the chance they’d pass over his head, but none came. No deafening roar of gunshots. No frenzied whine of bullets splitting the air. He bolted into the suite, covering the large living area with the PPS. Empty.
The suite was silent. No sounds were coming from the bedroom--not a shower running or the sounds of frantic sex with a prostitute or even dull snoring. Bond searched the bedroom and bathroom anyway. Vasko’s things were strewn carelessly about, but otherwise there was no sign of the man.
Bond assessed his situation. Had he missed the man? The ball hadn’t begun yet. Was he eating? Tying one at the bar? He could wait and ambush Vasko when he returned, but he had no idea how long it would be before that happened or how many of his men would try and use the suite in the meantime. He could head down to the ballroom level and look for him there, but that might arouse suspicion. Still, it was the better of the two options. He could return later. Bond had reached the doorway to the suite when hands grabbed him and threw him against the far wall.
He tried to bring the PPS to bear, but a fist slammed into his kidney, doubling him over in pain. He looked up to see a large, mean-looking man in an ill-fitting sort coat glaring at him. A Glock was leveled at his head. Sound from the end of the hallway drew his attention and he saw two more men rushing from the elevator bank.
His assailant barked an order in Russian. Bond didn’t try and call upon his half-forgotten and very cursory Russian-language training. It was clear what he was saying. Bond dropped the PPS.
The Russian shouted angrily at the other men. They were just as steroid-inflated as the man holding Bond, but they seemed to visibly deflate sheepishly and made apologetic noises. Someone clearly had fallen down on the job. Nice to know he wasn’t the only one who’d cocked up.
The man with the Glock grabbed Bond by the collar, yanked him upright, and marched him down the hallway. Bond’s mind pushed past the ache in his midriff and rolled through possibilities for escape. They were few and far between.
The Russians took a step toward them, presumably to get a few hits in as well, when one of them spun and barked in alarm and annoyance. In the cramped hallway, Bond couldn’t completely see what was happening until one of the thug’s moved, and he saw an old woman in a housekeeping uniform push a cart around the corner.
“Khaw thoad, khaw thoad…” the old woman said demurely, while dipping her head in subservience. The thugs shouted at her and pointed to the elevators. Bond tensed, ready to take advantage of the distraction. If only his captor would let go…
It happened so quickly he barely understood what he was seeing. The cart shot forward, slamming into one of the thug’s midriff and pinning him to the wall. The old lady spun, lashing out a blow with her elbow on the second thug that landed with a heavy crunch. He spun, his nose, spraying blood and fell like a stone.
Bond’s gunman shouted in alarm. The Glock came up to point at the new threat. Bond grabbed his gun hand’s wrist and spun. In his surprise he’d loosened his grip and Bond’s body turned far enough to jab his right hand savagely into the man’s throat. Bond felt the man’s windpipe crack, and his mean, piggish eyes went wide with surprise and then panic when he couldn’t draw a breath. Bond broke free and kicked hard into the man’s knee sending him to the ground.
There was a loud thump behind him. Bond turned and saw the old woman take out the legs of one of the thugs with short, nasty ASP tactical baton. The attack left her vulnerable to the broken-nosed thug, who took her from behind in a savage chokehold designed to break her neck.
Bond lunged, covered the distance, and grabbed the man by the collar and hair and forced his head back. The thug screwed up, throwing an elbow back into Bond’s stomach, but Bond had tensed his stomach muscled anticipating the blow and it didn’t drive the wind out of him. Meanwhile, he’d lost his grip on the old woman who wriggled free of his grasp and slammed the heel of her hand into his already-broken nose. The man howled in pain and Bond felt the man’s whole body shudder as if hit by an electrical current. Bond spun the man around, gained momentum and sent him headfirst into the wall. His head smashed through the drywall up to his neck and slumped, his arms and legs going limp. Bond yanked him out in a cloud of plaster dust and dumped him on the floor.
The old woman leaned against the wall for support. “Are you all right?” he asked, getting a good look at her for the first time. He was startled to see that her face wasn’t simply old, but deformed, the mouth drooping and one eye nearly obscured by dark, weathered flesh. His first thought was that she’d suffered a stroke, but the answer came in a clear, strong voice with a slight British accent.
“Yes, I’m just a little winded. Hold on…” She clawed at her drooping cheek, and Bond immediately felt foolish as she tore the latex away from her face and nodded her way out of the silver wig. “That’s better,” she said as she shook out her short, glossy-black hair. Without the age makeup she was maybe thirty, with bright, brown eyes and a wide, full mouth. She was far to stunning to have held her own against two over-muscled killers.
“I assume you don’t work for the hotel,” Bond opined dryly.
The woman laughed as she undid her housekeeping uniform to reveal a body as lean as a stiletto encased in a sports bra and running shorts. “Thai intelligence, actually. I’m Fon.”
She laughed gently. “Fon. It means rain in Thai.” She extended her hand. “And I assume you’re the British operative here for Vasko.”
Bond took her hand, surprised by the strength in something so delicate, “Bond,” he said, “James Bond. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Yindee, Khun James. I’m afraid there’s been a change of plans. The Royal Thai Military as opted to raid the hotel and round up as many people as possible. Vasko doesn’t know yet. He’s on the ballroom floor networking before the event. We can still intercept him if we move quickly. Once the military makesit’s move there will be chaos.”
“You’re still letting us have him?”
“I made a field decision,” Fon replied as she rummaged through a bag hanging off the housekeeping cart. “Maintaining healthy relations with the intelligence community is worth depriving the army of one fish.” She pulled a black silk sheath out of the bag and pulled it over her head. It settled around her body like smoke.
“Well, on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, you have our sincerest gratitude. I’ll see to it the letter of appreciation is on the nice paper stock.”
“You can thank me when we’ve gotten him.” She pulled a pair of delicate Louboutin pumps out of the bag and stepped into them. “Ready to go to a ball?”
Security at the ballroom entrance was light—only a pair of rough-looking guards checking invitations. Bond suspected that this wasn’t a group that would be amenable to their bodyguards surrendering weapons. In this, it was probably the most secure function in the world. They waved Bond and Fon past, and Fon laughed and hung on Bond’s arm like the doting eye-candy she was playing.
“You do like to get into character, don’t you?” Bond said with a smile.
“Lucky for me, I have a costar who make it easy, Khun James,” she replied with a wink.
Mission James, he reminded himself. Concentrate on the mission.
The ballroom’s antechamber was a sea of black tuxedoes and expensive gowns, as killers, blackmailers, and thieves of all stripes laughed, networked and held forth in a dozen languages. Bond thought about M’s cruise missile comment.
“There!” Fon pointed. Vasko was standing in a small cluster of men, all laughing heartily. He looked no more pleasant in reality, just older and more hardened. His suit was ill-fitting, and from a few dozen meters away Bond could make out the bulge of his gun. “How should we take him?”
“Back of the house,” Bond said, gesturing to the doors behind the stage. “You employ your feminine wiles to distract him and get him away from the group. I’ll walk by and stick my gun in his back. Then we’ll walk him into the kitchen and the service elevator there.”
“My feminine wiles,” Fon said with a smile.
“Your considerable feminine wiles.”
Fon laughed, was about to say something, when the intercom boomed.
“Get out! Get out! Get out! We’re being raided! Soldiers are in the lobby!”
“Bloody hell!” Bond cursed. The announcement repeated in French and then in German.
The hall was thrown into pandemonium as the crowd surged like a black wave toward the exits. “He’s making a run for it!” Fon said. Vasko was joined by a dozen or so black-suited men holding Glocks.
“He’s got the same thought as us. He’s heading for the service elevator.” They pushed through the crowd with Bond serving as a blocker, shoulder-checking people out their way and making a hole that Fon darted through with superhuman agility on her heels.
With the crowd flowing in the opposite direction, they were free of the crush relatively quickly, and burst through the door to the kitchen. They ran down a brightly-lit service hallway, pushing aside surprised kitchen staff until they got to the foyer with the elevator. One of Vasko’s men fired from a crouching position behind a metal counter top. The blast of the gunshot sent sashimi slices flying in a pink spray.
Bond fired twice quickly, saw the shooter spin and fall. Another emerged from the elevator, taking a second to process what was happening. It was a fatal second, for by the time he realized where his target was Bond was already firing.
More gunshots exploded in the echo-chamber of the kitchen, and a pan exploded next to Bond, showering his left hand with shrapnel. He spun, but there were more gunshots, and by the time he had a bead on the doorway, there were bodies slumped by the doorway to the ballroom. Beside him, Fon lowered a silver Walther PPK.
“Nice gun,” Bond commented wryly.
“He’s got an armored car in the garage, level G-one. We can get him there.”
“Lead on,” Bond said.
The parking garage was already thundering with automatic weapons fire when they scrambled out of the elevator, and Bond and Fon darted to the safety of a parked Toyota Land Cruiser. Bond was impressed at how she could maintain a comfortable crouch in the expensive shoes. She must have ankles like a mountain goat, he mused.
“Whose firing?” he wondered aloud, tentatively peering over the hood of the Toyota.
“Military units at the other service elevator,” Fon pointed with the PPK to the far side of the garage to their three-o’clock. Three soldiers in khaki uniforms were clumsily trying to return fire without leaving the cover of the edge of the elevator by sticking their Tavor rifles around it and firing blindly. Every unaimed burst was met with a reply of quick, accurate suppressing fire that sent them scuttling back behind cover.
“Damn amateurs!” Fon swore and continued her invective in Thai that Bond could barely hear over the sound of the gunshots.
“Shooters at one o’clock,” Bond shouted in her ear. By the yellow Lamborghini.” Fon craned her neck around the bumper of the Toyota then withdrew and nodded affirmingly to Bond.
There were four shooters taking cover behind the expensive car and the concrete pillar it was parked beside. Beyond them, he saw Vasko and another man taking cover behind a Range Rover. The gunmen by the pillar were concentrating on the soldiers. That was a fleeting advantage.
“Cover me. I’ll rush them.” Bond said.
“You have more ammo. Why don’t you cover me?”
“I have better shoes.”
Abruptly the shooting stopped, leaving only waves of echoes, rolling like phantoms amid the concrete beams. The soldiers had retreated, closing the elevator doors. “No time to argue,” Bond said and ran.
The first one took a hit in the chest from Fon’s gun before Bond even made a meter. The red blossom on his white shirt told Bond he wasn’t wearing armor. That was good. The rest of them instantly looked in Bond’s direction. That was not.
Bond slowed his gait, braced the PPS in a two handed grip and fired once at the man closest to him. Fon’s PPK cracked twice more. Bond fired again at the next man, swung the gun back to the first, saw that he’d missed, fired again. Fon’s gun fired quickly, four rounds. Bond fired at the furthest man, saw him jerk and fall, drew a bead on the closest one, but he was gone from Bond’s sight picture. He swung to target the man to his 11 o’clock, but he collapsed amid the snap of Fon’s final rounds.
He was there. All four men were at his feet, injured or dead. Bond flattened against the pillar and reloaded quickly. He looked over at the Land Cruiser. Fon’s hand, popped up from behind it, two fingers raised in V. She’d reloaded too.
Bond pivoted, scanned for Vasko, and saw him disappearing behind the smoked-glass off a BMW’s door. It slammed shut with a heavy crunch. Bond fired twice, and saw his rounds pulped in the three-inch glass. Brake lights flared and car bolted like a racehorse. Bond tracked it as it rounded the parking lot, looking for a clean shot, but by the time it cleared the other parked cars, it was disappearing down the exit ramp. He lowered the Walther and swore.
“Are you all right?” Fon shouted from behind the Toyota.
“It’s clear. We lost Vasko,” he spat disgustedly. After everything—a near-impossible HALO drop, being discovered in the suite, outrunning the military—he’d lost the man by a matter of seconds.
“We can still catch him.”
“You have a car?” Hope flickered in his chest like a faint ember at the end of a drenched cigar.
“There,” Fon pointed to a row of cars nestled behind a bank of scooters.
“Behind the scooters?” Bond asked.
Bond looked at her. She seemed dead serious. “We can’t catch up to a BMW in that.”
Fon smiled teasingly again. “Khun James,” she said, shaking her head. “You don’t understand Bangkok.”
And that was how James Bond, Ministry of Intelligence Agent number 007, licensed by Her Majesty’s government to kill in the line of duty, outfitted in a custom built tuxedo came to be zipping out of the Centara Grand on a yellow scooter with a beautiful women clinging to him wearing a black evening gown and a white, Hello Kitty helmet and onto Rajdamri Road…which was now a scarlet-lit parking lot, choked with immobile vehicles.
“Use the horn! Use the horn! Push into that space! Ah, you stupid fuck!” Giorgi Vasko swore at Dmitri, who was presently doing a shitty job of getting them out of there.
“I can’t go anywhere! These fucking motorcycles keep cutting us off. Goddamn it, the military’s cut off Sukhumvit, and all the cars are dumping here. This is worse than rush-hour in Moscow!”
“Well, find a way…shut up, it’s ringing!” Vasko screwed his phone into his ear, plugged the other one and twisted in his seat, a placebo gesture to better hear the voice on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” the voice said in German. Vasko wasn’t a stupid man, though he knew most of his superior officers thought he was. He didn’t like school or reading, but that didn’t make him stupid. He learned languages fast, and that was more than could be said for most of the pigs that swaggered around in their fancy uniforms.
“It’s all gone to shit,” he shouted in German. “Bangkok has been compromised!”
A pause, then: “What is the damage?”
“I made it out of the hotel. I don’t know who else did. How the fuck do I get out of this country?”
“Surely you have a contingency for this, yes?” Arrogant prick. Like the officers who’d sneered at him. Vasko tamped down his desire to tell this asshole to go fuck his mother.
“They’ve got god knows how many of us! The airports will be on alert for any of us, and all the bribes you paid to allow us to pass through Customs might have well been stuffed down the G-string of a stripper on Soi Cowboy. Now, WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?”
Another pause. “That is alarming. Stand by. We have an emergency extraction plan. It is messy, and will require cash in US dollars. Do you have access to that?”
“Fuck yes, I have dollars, Euros, gold krugerrands. Now, what is the plan?” From the front seat, Dmitri was cursing agitatedly, opening his door to shout at some motorcycle taxi. Vasko didn’t look up, he’d pulled out a pen and a pad he’d taken from the hotel. He wasn’t trusting this information to anything electronic. “Dmitri, shut up, I’m listening to something important!”
“You are there?”
“Yes. I was shouting at my donkey’s ass of a driver. Traffic is terrible here. What is the plan?”
“All right, now listen carefully…are you listening?”
But Vasko wasn’t listening. He was staring in shock at the blond man sitting in the driver’s seat who was certainly not Dmitri. The man had eyes bluer than the ice in Minsk and pointed an ugly little pistol at him.
“I’m afraid your driver had to step out,” the man said in English with a ghost of a smile. And then the gun spoke.
“Stand by for transfer,” Moneypenny said efficiently, and Bond heard the telltale clicks of the secure line linking up with his cell phone.
“M here. What’s your status, Double-oh Seven?”
“Mission completed, despite the party crashers,” Bond said drolly. He’d save his fury for the Thai military’s botch of a job for when he was safely in the sound-baffled conference room of the embassy.
“Excellent,” M said crisply. “Will our guest be joining us?”
“I’m afraid not. Circumstances didn’t permit.” Bond stood at the window of his room at the Hyatt Erawan hotel, not a half kilometer from where he’d left Vasko dead in his car, which, if Bond had the right black BMW, he could see was still motionless amid the stationary traffic of Rajdamri Road. Fon had dimmed the lights to better see out the window.
“Not unexpected,” M said. “It was a complicated day.”
“Yes sir.” A martini glass floated into his field of vision. He turned took it from Fon’s outstretched hand. She stared at him intently, a smile curling her lovely mouth, and Bond wondered whether the view out the window was the only reason she’d dimmed the lights.
“Well, you’ll need to be debriefed. Can you make it to the embassy in an hour?”
Bond took a sip of the martini. Fon’s gaze didn’t leave his even after the dress slid away, revealing her long, lean body and black underwear.
“Better make it two,” Bond said, still meeting her gaze. With a few simple movements the underwear fell away too. “Traffic here is…” he took in the sight of her “simply astounding.”