My employer fixed his one functioning eye upon me. The other gazed disinterestedly down at my crotch. He was a large man, bespectacled in tortoishell and besuited in immaculately tailored pink linen.
“You must never forget…” He paused; either for effect or because he couldn’t remember what he was going to say. His podgy arm reached for a jug on his desk. It had one of those lace covers with beads at the edges, and these swung jauntily as he dragged it towards him.
“Can I tempt you to some guava juice?”
“No.” I replied shortly. “Thank you,” I added as an afterthought. It wouldn’t do to upset him. I had already angered him with my ineptitude the day before. And I needed fine references after all this was over.
“Are you quite sure?” he continued, “Its rich in antioxidants. At my age its important to keep healthy.” He shifted his massive bulk and lit a cigar. Thick smoke spilt out of his mouth. We sat in silence for a moment. He puffed contemplatively.
“Hm? Ah yes, the guava fruit…fascinating.”
“No sir, you were telling me I had to remember something.”
“Right. Well remembered. You must never forget the other two shots. Chest, chest, head.”
“With respect, sir, I only had time for one. And how was I to know he had his heart on the other side of his chest? The odds of situs inversus are next to nothing.”
“That is beside the point. We do things properly here. Have you not read my predecessor’s mission statement? By the book!” He gestured toward the framed piece of parchment leaning on the mantle next to a volume on bonsai maintenance. Don't be nice, kill him twice.
“A bit brief, but it got to the heart of the matter. Hah!” He guffawed at his own wit.
“Sir, I can’t help but feel you are being a little unfair. I’ve been here for less than a fortnight. I barely know where the stationary is kept. I didn’t have the experience required to…”
“Experience!” he interrupted me, spittle launching from the corner of his mouth, flying in a graceful arc and landing on my neatly pressed trousers. I let out a quiet, controlled breath. He heaved his corpulent form out of the chair that he had been straining. “That’s the very reason you are here! I don’t believe in mollycoddling the interns. You had excellent grades throughout school, you’ve spent two years in a fine university, you should be able to handle whatever we throw at you!”
“Sir, I was under the impression I was coming to work at a barristers’ chambers, not at a branch of the largest assassination syndicate in Western Europe. The fact I was given a gun and told to kill an unarmed man in a Turkish Baths at four o’clock in the afternoon came as rather a surprise.”
“Young man,” he continued, ignoring my protestations and withdrawing a piece of paper from his waistcoat pocket, “I have here your curriculum vitae. Captain of the debating team, voluntary work, ‘In my spare time I raise chinchillas’; Everything points to you being an intelligent and diligent person. And now this shambles.”
He stopped his tirade to collapse back into his chair and now thrust a finger at the intercom on his desk. “Charmaine my love, could you move the ambassador to two o’clock this afternoon please…Yes, I know Kuryakin was supposed to be doing him tomorrow but this bloody boy needs some more practice. And bring in more guava would you? Thanks, pet.”
He turned to look at me again, weighing me up. “Perhaps I am being a little too harsh. You do show promise. And you have a surprisingly sound grasp of the British legal system. I’ll put you with McGiven. Once killed a man with a fried egg. Has a maternal side though. You won’t go far wrong with McGiven watching over your shoulder.” He smiled broadly. Chipped, yellow teeth littered his mouth.
I considered how McGiven could have killed someone with a fried egg. Perhaps the target had had an allergy. Or else he just shoved it down the man’s throat and choked him with it.
There was a light tap at the door and Charmaine tottered in bearing tray. Another jug of iced guava juice and a gun lay upon it. The jug she gave to my employer, the gun she gave to me. She smiled as she did this. Twin layers of rouge cracked simultaneously. I smiled back. It seemed the right thing to do.
I sighed inwardly. I was going to miss lunch. But I’d be damned if I missed the ambassador.