Classified: Hotel Château Noir

My hearts racing by a thousand beats per minute, as I sprint towards the main lobby lifts, only to arrive seconds after the first lift door closes. Crap.

The second lift awaits, but its already jam packed with so many hotel guests, my chances of getting to the 13th floor any time soon are almost as slim as Alex's if I don't get to her in time. Double crap.

The stairs.

I race through the fire exit doors and make my way up the old fashioned way. Need to remain calm, stabilise my breathing, pace myself. it's me he wants, me he'll be waiting for me and me he's gonna get!

13th floor. Finally.

13th floor. Finally.

Legs are like freshly set jelly, 13 flights of vertical stairs're starting to take their toll on me. Breathing's erratic. Need to focus... almost there.

Weapons. I don't have any! Damn. Except a carbon fibre pistol with matching bullets, secretly integrated into our hand luggage, curtesy of Q's genius. Only, the hand luggage's inside the hotel room and I'm not! Improvise.

I grab a knife from a discarded breakfast trolley outside a neighbouring room and arrive outside our hotel door.

This guy's dangerous, military trained. If anything happens to Alex it'll be on my head. And I can't have that.

I put my ear to the door. Silence. Nothing. Am I too late?

The door's locked, naturally. But thankfully Q's equipped our phones with, among other handy gadgets, a trimetric security reader. Simply hold it over the lock, keep my thumb pressed on the 'home' button until... 'presto', light turns green.

The lock whirs open and I slowly push the door. Hearts pounding again, like its about to climb out of my throat. Need to be alert... he could be anywhere and attack at any given moment and all I have to go by is the layout of the room I glimpsed from an online brochure.

I decide to go in hard, rolling across the floor. I'll play the difficult target, keep moving, gather my bearings, scan the room as I roll, locate each and every optimal cover point of attack. Window ahead is open, curtain's blowing in the wind. Bill's access point into the room, I guess, meaning he's here.

Ahead of me. A body lying in broken glass, to my immediate left, someone sitting on the sofa. I'll have only one shot to attack. One shot to... what the...?

"Alex?"

She's sitting there, relaxed into the chair, slurping on a can of Pepsi from the mini-bar. On the floor before us, Butcher Bill. Only he looks more like 'Butchered Bill' from the positioning of his acutely angled left arm and right leg. Both evidently broken. Slight raising of his chest tells me he's still alive. Just. She's good.

"Bond." she says, dabbing the corners of her mouth.

"What... happened here?" I ask.

"You tell me, Blondie."

"I just got here." I tell her, slowly rising to my feet.

"Right. Of course. You know, it was weird enough you snapping pictures of ole freak-boy back at the airport, but to then find your picture on his phone...? Well, assuming of course this is his phone?"

She holds up said object in her hands. This one's gonna be tricky.

"It is." I concede.

"Right. So either you and he have got some kinda weird 'thing' going, or... or...! Okay, that was... actually your cue to fill in the blanks?"

I pause for a moment's thought. But faced with the skimpiest of options, I decide to divulge all. Well, the abridged version of 'all' anyway.

"Alright." I say. "Back... during the late stages of our last mission, Q happened across a contract issued on the black web for my assassination."

"Understandable. Who issued it?" she asks.

"That's what we've been trying to ascertain. Naturally, we've been a little... sidetracked, what with current events taking centre stage and all. But to be honest, in the back of my mind I'd already cast the whole affair off as nothing more than another mind game on Hunt's part."

"Hunt? Edison Hunt? The criminal mastermind manipulator who almost tricked half the spy world into allowing him and The Hand full access into the highest echelons of the world's governments, that Hunt?"

"A somewhat... exaggerated view of him..." I reply.

"So, this limp fool's tailed you all the way out here just to cash a cheque? Got to be easier ways to make a living? Guessing they'll be more of his kind along the way?"

"Guessing you'll be right." I tell her. "By the way, did you... call this in?

"You mean to M? No." she replies. "Needed to be clear on exactly what 'this' was. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure."

"'This' is just another day in the office! For me, anyway. You cant roll with that, should have applied for a desk job!" I tell her, candidly.

"'Roll with that', thats funny!" she says. "Thing is, as long as I'm with you, that target's all but tattooed onto my back too! Which leaves me with a simple choice. And I do like a good choice, Bond. So, do I call it in or...?"

"Or what?" I ask.

"Shoot your blonde ass and collect the damn reward myself!" she grins, slapping her thigh.

"Bravo! Just when I think you couldn't be more of an awkward cow, you go and surprise me!"

She responds by feigning to scratch the corner of her eye with her middle finger.

"Two days." I tell her. "We finish the mission first, then I take it to M. Two days."

"Hey, it's your call. I'm just your 'plus one' on this crazy stroll through wonderland." she tells me with a shrug.

"Good. Remember that!"

"Sure thing." she smiles, before tilting her head to one side. "You know, I knew a guy like you once? Driven, intuitive, instinctive but always with the support of logical reasoning. His specialty, among many, being the ability to keep those closest to him the furthest away. He thrived in isolation, you see. And this methodical approach to crime-solving made him revered by the majority of his peers. Although hated, somewhat, by the rest."

"Sounds like my old man." I tell her.

"Thats funny, cause he was actually mine. And I'm pretty sure if he had the opportunity to make half the decisions he made along the way differently, he would."

"Your point?" I ask, with a weary sigh.

"No point, Bond. Just letting you know you're not the only closet sociopath masquerading as a humanitarian. Anyway, what do we do about 'sleeping beauty' down there?"

She tips the empty can in the direction of the floor, drawing our attention back towards Bill.

"Well, he was so eager to make it over here, least we could do is let him stay a couple of nights." I tell her. "As our prisoner, of course."

"Could have some valuable intel pertaining tomorrows mark?" she suggests.

"That and a whole lot more, Im hoping." I reply.

"Good. And then after, we kill him." she suggests.

"And then after, we decide." I tell her.

"Whatever. I'm gonna look, see if i can find something to bind him with-to. Big day tomorrow and theres a lot of schematics to cover."

She gets up to leave, crushing the can in her hand before tossing it onto Bill's corpse-like body.

"You do that." I tell her. "Oh, and Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"Next time you steal my stuff, I'll break one of your arms. I'll let you 'choose' which."

To be continued...