OK. Let’s see you make a choice.
Not one of those simple choices like between good or bad – any idiot can make those; I was thinking of one like I faced, between bad or bad. In my job, you have to make bad choices all the time, and face the consequences.
Perhaps I was not seeing the bigger picture, not calmly and clinically evaluating the various shades of bad. It stopped me taking my usual finely judged view on which of my bad choices was better. But my best analytical faculties were temporarily absent, due to recently regaining consciousness and finding myself tied up.
It appeared, as far as my slowly returning senses could establish, that I had been spread-eagled, and secured with leather straps, the mark of a craftsman in the obscure but tricky art of tying up. Further, it seemed as if my tie-er-up, if that is the correct term, had taken the extra trouble of wetting the leather, a sure sign that they were in the premier league of tying up.
Why? Wet leather is pliable, but it shrinks, becoming harder and tighter as it dries out. It was a high quality bit of tying up all right, I decided - my admiration for a professional job somewhat tempered by being on the receiving end of it.
My next thought was an alarming one. I felt the absence, if that’s not a contradiction, of the usual comforting bulge of an automatic under my left armpit. That couldn’t be good.
My skull banged like a washing machine filled with rocks, my vision was blurred, as if looking out from inside the same washing machine, and behind my left ear was a particularly painful egg sized lump from which an angry rhino was trying to hatch. Finally, to end a perfect evening, the rest of my body consisted solely of bruises wherever it touched the surprisingly soft surface to which I was bound, so forgive me if I was not at my sparkling best in terms of decision making.
Oh yes. Sorry. I digress. Back to bad choices. I had two that I could see.
First, I could lie here, regaining strength and sending out a mental sheepdog to round up my scattered wits so that I could devise a suitably cunning escape plan. The bad part of that option was that the straps would soon be completely dry, lessening my chances of freeing myself and, confused as I was, my plan might not prove cunning enough.
Second, I could struggle against my bonds now while they might still be flexible enough for me to work free and then run for the hills. The bad part of that option was that not only did I hurt like the deepest reaches of hell, I could needlessly expend energy that I might need later. Also, if I ran I would never know what, or who, I was up against.
Either choice was like dropping two pieces of toast. No obvious upsides – both equally likely to land butter side down. So I lay there, feeling like the horns of my dilemma were goring my kidneys, when a door opened and I was relieved of the necessity of choosing.
A cool breeze gently stroked my cheek, confirming there was at least one part of me that didn’t hurt.
I heard the unmistakeable staccato snick of stilettos on a hard floor, their slow, seductive rhythm bringing them nearer. The muted echoes from the walls could not quite mask the attendant swish of silk. A wave of musky perfume washed over me, sending my already swimming senses diving back towards the deep end. The woman - at least I sincerely hoped it was a woman - stopped out of my view, and I heard the faint fragrant murmur of deep breathing.
Keeping my eyes closed, I searched my foggy memory for the identity of the person that had finally brought me to this. M had briefed us all on our most dangerous opponents. Which one could this be, and what could she want with me?
I suddenly realised that I knew. A tingle ran through me as I remembered how I came to be here.
M’s warning sounded in my ears. ‘Be careful, very careful with that one. She’s more dangerous than you can possibly imagine. More than one agent over the years has come to grief, fatally wrecked on unseen parts of that beautiful iceberg, her siren voice luring them to their doom. Just make sure that you are not one of them”. M always had a wonderful way with mixed metaphors.
“Good, you’re awake. I thought you’d spoiled my plans for you when you fell down the stairs and knocked yourself senseless. Now you’re back in the land of the living we can get this party started! What do you say? Ready for the end of your career, mister secret agent man?”
The whisper in my ear confirmed my worst suspicions. Her voice was as rich and husky close up as I had always imagined. It caressed and flowed into my ears like caramel into a chocolate mould. It was so smooth I could almost taste it and I decided that, whatever happened next, I would take a bite.
I knew this was my going to be my final bad choice, you see, but it’s true what they say, the man who never made a mistake never made anything.
I smiled up from her pillow, with what I hoped was my most winning grin. She moved closer. I could now see some of the iceberg’s previously unseen parts, and they didn’t look that cold from here. I carefully chose the words I knew would end my life, at least my professional life, forever.
“Yes! Why not? James is wrong - you only live once. Happy Valentine’s day, Moneypenny”.
This story was a winner in Mary Papas' Valentine's Short Story Contest