Having arrived at Marco Polo Airport less than a minute previously, Felix Leiter is already uncomfortable. The captain’s announced a delay in disembarking plus the guy to the right’s complaining again, but what’s concerning most is that his rear pants pocket is vibrating. This isn’t the work phone, but private comms with Bond, that they’ve maintained off and on since that evening at Casino Royale. Emergencies only, number shared with those he trusts with his life. That’s the way real espionage should work, after all, no spreadsheets or metric-driven briefings. MI6 was, at least in that regard, offering a potentially interesting opportunity to work off script. Last time he’d heard, Bond wasn’t capable of communication, meaning this call’s got the adrenaline running.
‘How you doing Jim?’
‘It’s Ronni. He’s gone dark. You able to talk?’
Things have suddenly gotten really interesting, because Flemmings is the MVP nobody wanted to draft and yet everyone needs a piece of. Plus, she’s a movie fan, and Felix always has time for anyone talking celluloid.
‘Nope, just landed.’
‘Yes or no answers please. Have you contacted the field office?’
‘They’ve been compromised, chances are the original staff are already dead. Trust nobody on the ground as a result.’
‘Not a problem, anything else?’
‘Walk from the airport. On reflection, regard Venice as compromised. As soon as there’s a confirmed safe house, Q will contact you.’
The phone goes dead, and Felix’s smile turns to laughter, because she’d made the call last just long enough to ensure nobody could triangulate them. Ronni’s better than good, and whatever’s now going down has the potential to push them both to the limit, and that was never a bad thing.
He loved it when a plan came together.
The waitress returns with his receipt, smile that makes Leiter wish he wasn’t in town on business, because he’d really like to try his luck with this woman, especially as it’s apparent she’s under the employ of the British Secret Service. Maybe when it’s all done in Venice there’ll be time to return to this restaurant, ask for help improving his conversational Italian, which is woeful at best. Maria hands over both credit card receipt and the address he’s been waiting for: then there is a moment to enjoy the pert rear sashaying off back to the kitchen. Getting more women in the service was absolutely the way forward: now all Felix needed to work out was how he benefited from this expansion in diversity, without making it appear that all he was really looking for was a woman to watch Netflix in bed with.
There is one word written on the paper, laughter when it becomes apparent this is the rendezvous point all along. Dropping his well-used napkin, Leiter stands, turns and heads down the narrow steps that lead to the bathrooms, walking past both them and several storage rooms to the door marked Privato before standing, waiting for presence to be detected and the electronic lock to click open. Inside the surprisingly large brick built area are chairs stacked, barrels and crates of bottled beer, plus Q. The Quartermaster doesn’t even look up, clearly engrossed with laptop and the mission ahead.
‘Good evening, Felix, I trust you’ve had a hassle free afternoon?’
‘I walked, did some light sightseeing and just finished up an extremely good plate of bigoli in salsa, because I should enjoy my visits to places like this far more than I do. How was your flight from London?’
‘Singularly uneventful, which suits me just fine. Flemmings will be with us shortly, she’s just getting changed, so let me give you an idea of this evening’s entertainment while you wait.’
‘We have people to meet and places to go?’
‘It is a marvellous party that we will be going to crash. Please, take a seat.’
There’s a temptation to ask why he’s not being directed behind Q’s screen, but Felix knows well enough by now to understand when told to go somewhere by this guy, there’s a reason. Picking a chair from the nearest stack he moves to sit, waiting for the show to start. The young man does not disappoint: from a small projector to the right of his laptop, set on a large wooden barrel, there is a burst of light, as a fully rendered 3D model appears. It’s a Renaissance style building by the quay that Felix recognises, clearly visible on the approach to the Airport.
‘Spectre do love hiding in plain sight, and their Venetian HQ is a case in point. Bond has helpfully provided not only Beam’s location, but his own, placing himself directly in the lion’s den. He’s also had the foresight to steal a full set of floor plans, taken from the Swanns themselves without their knowledge. I just wish 007 had become this considerate far earlier.’
The building morphs, twisting and flipping in front of admiring eyes, to reveal Bond’s liberated data, and Felix can’t help but be impressed.
‘That is very cool, Q.’
‘Thank you, one likes to tinker on the side when one can. Beam, we have now established, is being held in the basement. However, as we have no idea as to the kind of data he was carrying -‘
‘Q will be coming with us both, so he needs to get prepared.’