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He’s not expecting her to be naked under the covers, and it phases him.
Bond uses the micro-hypodermic with unsteady hands, trying not to think, waiting for the subtle change in breathing that means the secondary drug is working correctly. He remembers this room from his journey; driven here voluntarily, no baggage to dispose of on his behalf. There is a real need for clothing because it’s just above freezing outside and frankly she needs to be covered for his sanity, but reminds himself to tell the support staff to remove it when they return her to bed. It is uncomfortable dressing the rag doll that Ronni’s now become, but if he’s going to protect on the way out of the building, this has to be done.
The agent deserves nothing less than his total respect.
As the first rays of dawn begin to push through the curtains, 007 hears the transport arriving, and scoops the woman up in his arms. He doesn’t need to be here, this could have been done by the Transition people, but the guilt that keeps building because of what has been given up to arrive here continues to taunt, drives the need to involve himself in this journey. Carrying her out the front door across to the waiting medical team he’s in Venice, moving Vesper from the wreckage of the house she died in, and he has to shut everything out, unable to look as the nurses gently strap her onto the stretcher sitting across the back seats of the helicopter. It disturbs him the number of women he’s known and never actually understood, the fact most appear to die or shut him out before he gets the chance for revelation.
Perhaps this time will be different.
‘She was naked when I drugged her,’ he tells the eldest, stern looking woman in her late fifties who gives Bond a look that he won’t hold, but knows is understood. Walking away the air moves, Medical Evac ascending into the dawn, heading almost as far north as it is possible to get. He could have taken a lift, he surmises, but doesn’t want to go home again in a hurry. The same route needs to be travelled, as he did with M, because it occurs that there are a lot of ghosts from their time together which could do with being exorcised on his own terms. He also needs to run the Aston Martin’s new engine in after they rebuilt it from the shell it had been reduced to by Silva’s helicopter gunship.
This time, the journey to Scotland is taken because he wants to.
There are birds singing outside her window, and they are becoming annoying.
Ronnie lies for a while, eyes closed, revelling in the comfort this bed affords, that feeling so safe and warm as she does is just wrong. To experience such bliss when the people that love her are in pain…
The people that love her.
There is a clock by the bed that wasn’t there before: it is 05:45. Sitting up suddenly Ronni panics: this is not the same room she went to sleep in. The new place is smaller and more homely: the bookcase has gone, in their place is a TV and laptop. She’s still naked though, which means that whoever moved her did so with such skill that she never woke: as a reflex arms are checked, searching for a hypodermic mark. If there were more drugs, she doesn’t have evidence. Perhaps it was in her food: still starving there is a look to the end of the bed, in case someone else has arrived with breakfast.
Instead of a tray, on a large wooden blanket box is a newspaper, very deliberately left opened.
Wrapping the sheet around her Veronica gets up, heart in mouth. The Telegraph’s headline covers the entire top of the broadsheet’s page three: ‘British Trade Mission’s Flight to Disaster.’ They’ve printed the picture of her as a bridesmaid at Emily’s wedding, she assumes because it will be the most recent one the family could provide. Reading the dispassionate report, body goes numb, finally the reality of what she has set in motion sinking in. She died. Greg Fisher has also gone, killed with her and two other people in the accident when their light aircraft was struck by lightning. Ronni wonders if he’s here too, somewhere in this house, reading the same newspaper.
He’s more of an Observer guy, she muses for distraction, staring at the picture of herself looking out that is blurry enough for no-one to really recognise. The date at the top right corner stops all thoughts in their tracks. Today is Monday 4th: I’ve really been asleep since Saturday night?
This pushes her to the TV: met with a selection of domestic channels and major satellite news networks, it is indeed Monday. Veronica’s discomfort makes her itch, that three days have passed since being drugged, probably twice. This could all be an elaborate deception to unsettle, but it seems an awful lot of work just for one person. She needs to have a clear head and so waking up properly would help. The palatial bath has been replaced by a far more conventional shower: standing under almost freezing water moments later, trying not to think about anything but what could be ahead.
This routine comes from habit, locking worry away, leaving it for another moment. Sitting on the bed, dressed in blue jogging bottoms and t-shirt, the clock ticks over to 6.30: there is a knock almost on cue, and Ronni is ready.
The woman who enters is also dressed in blue, tailored trousers and jacket, same electronic tag attached to the breast pocket as was standard at Millbank. She’s immaculate, hair and makeup perfect and clearly expensive, with an air of immediate authority. Ronni stands without thinking, and the woman smiles before waving her hand and shaking her head.
‘It’s fine, Special Agent Ashby, we have no need for ceremony this early in the morning.’
She added the Special there just for you.
Ronni allows the thrill to surface, understanding progress, that this is as close as she’s likely to get to a celebratory pat on the back. There’s also the inevitable air of being assessed, that this woman’s seniority isn’t just marked by age. Her boss is clearly ready for business, and pulls out a tag for Ronni to attach to the bottom of the t-shirt.
‘We have a lot to do, but I’m afraid that none of it is particularly pleasant. Sadly in these days of compliance plus Health and Safety it seems to be a lot of paperwork and fuss before anything interesting happens, but considering the investment you can see we’ve already made in your future, I’m sure you’ll not have a problem with some formalities.’
Ronni glances at the paper, suddenly conscious of what had already been put in motion to get her this far. This is Stage One proper of Active Designation: life of assessments, increased training and the certainty you’ll be expected to end a life. If you can do it twice without crumbling under pressure, the carrot at the end of the stick is a fat and juicy one indeed, reward placing you amongst a discreet pile of very select individuals.
The awarding of the 00 prefix was never, ever to be taken lightly.