Author's Note: Set around the early 1940s (not long after Paul and Steve got married), taking huge liberties with settings, situations and characters (because I can). For visual readers - Sean Connery as Bond and I suppose an adapted version of Dinah Sheridan and John Bentley as Steve and Paul Temple (the story image). Apologies to avid Bond lovers, this silliness is a product of my post-Christmas writing-fest.
Spot the little sneaky references I've slipped in; both to the radio dramas and to Bulldog Dummond (which has turned out to be a sub-crossover!)
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
James Bond saw her the moment she stepped in the room. It wasn't the novelty of a woman being there; the symposium for criminologists was attended by a fair few of the fairer sex, but most were present in the capacity of secretary. It wasn't even the outfit she was wearing; her printed blouse and high-waisted pencil skirt showed off her figure but still remained demure compared to some of the revealing dresses of the others. No, it was the way she remained on the outskirts of the room, greeting a few familiar faces yet choosing to observe rather than get involved in the many discussions.
He'd been sent to the symposium by MI6, who were working with the Metropolitan Police on a case that had seen him travel to Jamaica, the Netherlands and Belgium so far. There was supposedly a meeting between two consortiums and a prototype for a new weapon would be passing hands; part of Bond's assignment was to intercept the prototype so Q and his team could analyse it and hopefully create a counter for it. The Metropolitan's contact, Steve Trent - apparently a journalist - would have the files he needed and was there in an official capacity so could provide useful information about the event itself. The files had been compiled by the Met but relations between the two agencies were rocky at best, so had agreed to aid MI6 on their own terms. MI6 had a nasty habit of stealing cases from under their noses and taking the glory.
Having not seen a photo of Mr Trent, Bond's only knowledge of the contact was that they would use a code phrase - one of his favourites. One had to inject a sense of humour into situations like these otherwise life would be terribly tedious.
Scanning the room, he took in the various people attending the symposium. He recognised a few experts in the field of criminology; Peter Coke and Carl Peterson, and Paul Temple who was also a renowned crime author and good friends with the Commissioner of the Met. He knew the Commissioner would be arriving the next day with a couple of high ranking officers to give talks, and if he had the time he was tempted to attend a few to see just how far behind MI6 the world of policing was.
Turning his attention back to the small knot of criminologists, Bond was surprised to see Temple had come alone without a secretary, and briefly entertained the thought he might be the contact under an assumed name, but Temple's gaze had slid over the bar with no hint of him wanting to approach. His attention suddenly held on a particular section of the room, and Bond turned to see what had caught his interest, unsurprised when he watched as the woman he'd noticed previously approached the bar. There was a hint of nervousness in her step but she smiled at the bartender who seemed momentarily dazzled. "A martini please." She hesitated, then continued, "Shaken, but not stirred."
He raised an eyebrow, having not even considered the possibility that Steve Trent could be a woman, and a very attractive one at that. Close up she was younger than he thought - not yet thirty, he suspected - and still full of the bloom of youth. He moved along the bar and set his drink down next to her, watching as she glanced at it and then up at him. Her cerulean eyes studied him for a moment, then she nodded to herself as if deciding. "Mr Bond, I presume?"
He leaned against the bar in a display of insouciance, knowing his well-cut suit would pull in all the right places and show his defined muscles. "Call me James. Steve...now that's not a usual name for a lady."
She tilted her head and gave him a wry smile, ignoring the bartender as he slid the requested drink towards her. "I'm not your usual lady."
A raised eyebrow indicating his interest, he took a sip of his own glass and savoured it, just as he savoured the view in front of him. "You can be anything you want for me..." Her replying laugh intrigued him as much as her complete disinterest in the drink by her arm.
"I don't think so, Mr Bond. I'm just here to do my job. The first talks will start tomorrow morning, in the main conference room. There are some regular speakers, along with some new. I suspect you will want to be looking over their files tonight to get an idea of whom you're dealing with."
"Of course." He gave her a smile with just a hint of suggestiveness, although she seemed to be ignoring it studiously. "My room number is 316, shall we say eight o'clock?"
She gave him a searching look, then nodded. "The files have to stay with me and I will be passing them back to the officers tomorrow morning. You'll need to go through them and memorise them. I can answer any questions you may have."
"You bring the files, I'll provide the drinks," he quipped, smirking when her lips quirked up and she shook her head lightly. "Now, how about dinner?"
"What about dinner?" she shot back, apparently having decided to take a tolerant stance to his flirting.
"I know of a very good Thai restaurant just round the corner..."
She laughed and shook her head, her blonde curls bouncing softly. "I'm afraid I have a prior engagement, Mr Bond. I'll see you at eight o'clock." And with that, she turned and walked away, Bond raising an eyebrow as he surreptitiously watched her shapely derrière. Deciding to sample the menu of the Thai anyway, he started towards the door with a quick glance over at the criminologists. Paul Temple met his gaze with a hard stare of his own, and both men bristled slightly before Bond turned away and left. He had some suspicions forming and he would be watching the author very closely over the next couple of days.
At eight o'clock on the dot, Bond heard a soft rap on his door, and he allowed himself a small grin as he set down the wine he'd ordered and moved over to allow Steve Trent entrance. He liked a woman who was on time; he had a sneaking suspicion she was actually there early but refused to seem too keen, which only amused him more.
"Admit it, you missed me," he quipped as he opened the door to her. She raised an eyebrow and held up a rather thick folder, before moving past him and setting the folder down on the table.
"We have a lot to get through tonight, Mr Bond, so we'd best get started." She settled down in one of the chairs either side and opened the sheaf of papers, not waiting to see if he was going to sit down as well. "We have a list of the main speakers, the organisers and the attendees. The Commissioner felt it was best to focus on the speakers and organisers, who would most likely have ensured there were facilities set aside for the transfer of the prototype, although we have included the backgrounds of the attendees as best we could in case one of them are carrying it."
Bond seated himself opposite her and took the list she passed him whilst pouring her a glass of wine with the other hand. His eyes skimmed the page, and he noted a few of the names were crossed out. "Why are these crossed out? I can understand the Commissioner and some of the officers, but why is Temple crossed out?"
Steve paused in the middle of picking up her wine glass but recovered quite quickly, something Bond filed for future reference. "Mr Temple is a very good friend of the Commissioner's, and is not under suspicion. He has been instrumental in capturing a lot of notorious criminals and will be aiding Sir Graham on this case as best he can when he's not speaking." The delivery of the information was smooth, but it sounded a little too much like a statement written for her, and didn't change Bond's decision to do some further investigation into the author.
They sat for some time in silence, Bond reading the background reports and Steve refreshing her memory, with the occasional comment as either of them noticed something pertinent. After a couple of hours they had narrowed the list down to a couple of attendees, three of the organisers and one of the speaking criminologists, Carl Peterson. Bond still mentally tacked Temple onto the end of the list, but one thing had caught his attention.
"Tell me, why can't I find your profile in here?" he raised an eyebrow at her, fascinated with how her previously smooth hair had become a little ruffled where she had unconsciously been wrapping strands around her finger as she read.
Steve laughed, setting the folder down. "I'm not under suspicion."
"Everyone is under suspicion, even the Commissioner himself," he countered, but she just shrugged.
"Anything you want to know, you can ask me, but it won't be of any interest," she said. She picked up the glass of wine and took a sip, only just realising it had been sat next to her almost forgotten.
"Everything about you is of interest to me," Bond replied, but she shifted uncomfortably, and he quickly covered her discomfort with another question. "Tell me this, how does a journalist from Fleet Street become friends with and a contact for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police?"
It was, however, the wrong question, and her face tightened along with her grip on the wine glass. "My brother was a Superintendent under the Commissioner."
He noted the use of the past tense in reference to her brother, and his expression became serious. "What happened?"
"He was murdered by a criminal mastermind who was running an operation robbing jewellers and exporting the stolen goods. He had been operating in Cape Town when we lived there and when his organisation was shut down he moved to England - my brother recognised his modus operandi and after he died it was down to me to convince the police using the information I had. Sir Graham was good to me, and didn't dismiss my theories out of hand."
"I'm sorry about your brother. Did you catch his murderer?"
She nodded, concentrating on the liquid in her glass. "He committed suicide before being brought to justice." She gave a little moue of discontent and Bond nodded, understanding her torn feelings. On one hand he was gone and couldn't hurt anyone else but on the other he had never faced justice for his actions - although death was a pretty final justice.
"May I ask if you are married?" He changed the subject swiftly, noting she had no ring on her finger but there was a fine gold chain round her neck that was long enough to dip below her neckline which may well hold a ring. The tension in the air dissipated as she sent a calculating glance his way.
"You may ask, Mr Bond, but it doesn't mean I'll tell you." He chuckled and stood to get more wine as she started to gather the files together, placing one hand over the top of her glass. "No more wine for me."
"I told you to call me James," he admonished, but she merely shook her head again although she made no comment.
"Are you finished with the files?"
"Yes, I think I've got all I need from them. We've drawn up the list of possible subjects and cross-referenced their pasts; we can start surveillance on them from tomorrow."
"You can start surveillance, Mr Bond, my presence is merely advisory. You have some officers at your disposal if you wish for them to aid you." She stood and picked the folder up, moving towards the door. In two strides, Bond was in front of her, his arms loosely caging her against the wall, his face mere inches from hers. Startled, she flattened herself back but it encouraged him to move closer. He'd always enjoyed cat-and-mouse games, and suddenly there was so little room between them he could feel her warm breath ghosting over his lips.
"Let me guess, a prior engagement?" His voice was low, almost a purr, but she appeared more taken aback than interested and in that instant Bond realised that he was not dealing with an experienced woman, but a young lady who hadn't been exposed to the 'love 'em and leave 'em' type.
She met his gaze, a wry smile touching her lips as she clutched the files to her like a shield. "Something like that." Before he could touch her she suddenly ducked under his arms and, wrenching the door open, she fled.
Bond growled, pacing over to the bed and resigning himself to a night of frustration, alone.
Steve stepped into her room, breathing a sigh of relief as she dropped her keys on the bedside table and set her bag and folder down. The light was already on, casting a soft glow over the space and revealing the man sitting in the corner chair, reading a newspaper. At her entrance he set aside the paper and stood, pulling her into his arms and she relaxed into his embrace.
"How long have you been waiting?" she asked, and felt his answering reply rumble through his chest.
"Not long. Sir Graham arrived earlier and wanted to meet, and was asking how you were getting on with Bond."
She smiled against him, feeling his hands spanning her back, his thumbs rubbing soothing patterns up and down. "He seems more interested in me than the job, but according to MI6 he's their best, so we'll have to trust him."
He growled and she tilted her face up to look at his handsome features. "Just because he's their best, doesn't mean we have to put any trust in him. I don't like the way he looks at you."
"Jealous, darling?" she said lightly, touching his cheek.
"Very." He leant down and captured her lips in a passionate kiss, designed to make her forget about everything but him.
Bond moved stealthily down a corridor, following the dark figure ahead. Steve had come to him earlier in the evening with more information on the background of Carl Peterson from one of her 'sources' (the origin of which she refused to divulge), which corresponded with his surveillance over the last day or so. He still believed that there were a couple of others involved, but they seemed to be attendees invited by Peterson himself rather than other shady organisations. Criminal masterminds did require 'heavies' occasionally.
It was now the early hours of the morning and the hotel was quiet, the conference rooms dark and empty. The rotund figure of Peterson worked his way down the corridor and then opened one of the double doors at the end. The light that shone out for the brief moment of his entrance caused Bond to flatten against the wall, but no one exited or noticed him. The door remained cracked open and as Bond approached he saw four men inside; two standing guard and one moving to a small ante-room with Peterson.
Bond waited until they had disappeared, hearing the click of a lock, before he launched himself into the room. Taken by surprise, the two guards' delayed response allowed Bond to get the upper hand and had already delivered a stunning blow to one before the other sprang into action. He blocked a fist, ducking under the man's arm but the guard predicted his movements and caught him, pulling him back and landing a blow on his side, coming close to breaking one of his ribs. Bond adjusted his fighting to match his opponent and span, taking the man by the throat and pinning him against the wall, trying to ignore the direct blows to his stomach.
The guard was strong, but Bond was stronger. He waited until his opponent was starting to tire ever so slightly and ended his consciousness with one last punch. Letting him drop to the floor, he strode over to the locked door of the ante-room and kicked it down. Two pairs of startled eyes stared back at him, Peterson and his accomplice frozen, obviously in the middle of the transaction. A hard case sat open in the middle of the table with a small unusual shaped device nestled in the centre.
"I'll take that, thank you very much..." Bond grabbed the case, his revolver out and pointing at the two men. Peterson sat calmly, his stillness almost unnerving, but his companion decided to try and get one over Bond by suddenly producing a gun. The movement merely made Bond fire, catching the man in the shoulder and downing him. But as he did so, Peterson moved with the swift skill of someone well trained, and dropped a small capsule on the floor which started fizzing and hissing. Smoke billowed out and before Bond could even take a step in his direction he was gone, his weight not even a hindrance to his speed.
Coughing, Bond followed him but it was too late - the corridor was empty and he suspected by the time he reached reception Peterson would be long gone. He took a leisurely stroll back through the hotel, dropping in to reception on the way to his room and cheerfully told a nonplussed night porter to tell the Scotland Yard officers in rooms 248 through 251 they'd find the men they were looking for in conference room 2.
The case safely in his grip, he looked forward to the vintage wine he had left sitting on the coffee table to breathe.
The dinner and ball heralded the end of the symposium; the organisers had wanted to show off their skills and the evening was a light-hearted social event. Men in tuxedos mingled with women in a myriad of coloured evening gowns, each slinkier and more daring than the last. Bond usually loved these nights as he could spend a while admiring each female that caught his eye, imagining them without the dresses, and then go off in pursuit of one. It would inevitably lead to his or her room, minus clothing, and he could then see whether his speculation had been near the mark.
But tonight, although a few of the women caught his eye (one or two quite deliberately on their part), he was interested only in one. Steve Trent was proving to be quite elusive and he briefly considered the possibility that she wasn't attending when he saw her step in through the set of double doors. Her midnight blue silk gown fitted perfectly around the bodice and then flowed from her waist to the floor, a shimmery wrap over her shoulders, revealing very little but showing off her figure to perfection. He started to move towards the door but a hand on his shoulder stopped him and he turned to see the smiling face of Sir Graham.
"Aha, just the man I wanted to see," the tall Commissioner said, lifting his glass in a silent toast. "Job well done, and you left enough of them for us to round up. We'll be thanking MI6 for lending you. Shame about Peterson, but that's up to your agency."
"He's clearly a slippery character, I'm sure we'll catch up with him soon."
"Well, we have the men we wanted minus Peterson, and you have the prototype. Well spotted - sometimes it's the people you'd never expect."
"Well I do have to say Steve Trent was rather instrumental. She pointed out things in the files I wouldn't have noticed ordinarily." Over Sir Graham's shoulder he noticed Steve making her way to the bar, Temple by her side. They appeared to be deep in discussion and Bond felt a brief flash of something close to jealousy as Temple's hand rested on the small of her back.
Sir Graham grinned broadly. "Why do you think we chose her? MI6 requested our best woman and while she may not be in the force, a little woman's intuition can go a long way."
"Wait, MI6 specifically requested a woman?" Bond snapped his attention back to Sir Graham, noting the older man's amused smirk.
"Apparently some of your superiors have a sense of humour?"
Bond rolled his eyes, taking a sip of his drink. "Apparently."
Sir Graham stepped to the side and revealed Steve and Temple approaching. The Commissioner noticed them and waved his hand toward them. "I don't think you've been formally introduced, Mr Bond." Bond raised his eyebrow, nodding in greeting. "Paul Temple, and his wife, Steve."
Bond couldn't stop the word, "Wife?" before it escaped with no small measure of surprise, and Temple's arm slid round Steve's shoulders in what he took to be a very possessive stance.
"Yes," Sir Graham continued cheerfully, "I believe the term 'newly weds' still applies?" His glance at the pair for confirmation was met.
Between Sir Graham's broad smile, Steve's amused expression and Temple's steely gaze, Bond could only assume that he had been set up by his superiors taking advantage of his fondness of the fairer sex. For once, a woman hadn't fallen for his charms and he'd started to appreciate her for than just her looks, but she had blocked him at every turn and he now realised it was because her heart had been captured by someone else.
It appeared to Bond that Steve Trent - Temple - would forever be known as 'the one that got away'.
Author's Note: Meh. It always sounds better in my head, but then I guess it's just a good way of practising my writing abilities. Currently writing a novel, so trying to get inspiration flowing freely!