The room was dry. Figuratively, though also literally. If an old leather bound book was a room, it would look like this one. A lot of dark wood.
In the centre of the room sat a dishevelled man. Unshaven. Unwashed. He hadn’t changed tuxedos in weeks. Around him sat half a dozen older, less disheveled men.
‘Do you know why you’re here?’ said one of them.
‘I used to believe that God created us,’ said the dishevelled man. ‘Then I went through a Buddhist phase. Then I believed that the universe itself was God and we were all part of it, a universal consciousness. Now… Now I don’t know what I believe.’ His name was Bond. Jim Bond to the overly familiar.
‘Yes, well, I was being a bit more specific than that, but in a way you’ve answered the question.’
‘That implies that questions have answers,’ said Bond. ‘I used to believe that too. But they don’t. Questions just have more questions, like an infinite Russian nesting doll that wants you to be miserable, only with questions instead of little wooden women.’
‘Please shut up.’
‘What Bertrand is trying to say is that you are the world’s greatest spy,’ said another of the men.
‘More like the world’s greatest liar. The world’s greatest fraud. Do you know how many women I’ve given chlamydia? Because I don’t.’
‘Yes, well. Unfortunately, as you’ve so amply demonstrated, of late you have also become the world’s most depressed spy.’
‘And it’s beginning to affect your work.’
‘So instead of assassinating a father of two with the secret piano wire in my piano I broke down crying and ate a tub of ice cream, so what?’ said Bond.
‘So that father of two was also an international arms dealer who went on to sell a nuclear warhead to a terrorist organisation and now Paris isn’t there anymore.’
‘What difference does it make? Everything dies eventually, even Paris.’
‘And there was that business in Morocco.’
‘She didn’t care about the real me. She didn’t even know who I was.’
‘That was rather the point,’ said a third man.
Bond blew his nose. ‘Don’t I deserve someone who sleeps with me because of who I am on the inside? Not that anyone ever could.’
‘Well I’m not sure you would want to be loved by that particular woman.’
‘The public now know her as Theresa May.’
‘What’s the point of all this?’ said Bond. ‘Are you trying to make me feel worse?’
‘Do you recall when we said you were an alcoholic?’ said one of the men.
‘How could I forget?’
‘And we organised those meetings for you?’
‘That was the only time I’ve ever felt like anyone actually cared about me.’
‘Well, it was a mistake.’
Bond looked up from his hanky, eyes wet. ‘What?’
‘It turns out your alcoholism was the only thing holding you together.’
‘But, I was a ruthless, emotionless killer. I didn’t care who I hurt, or how many bodies I left behind. Did you know they all had loved ones? I didn’t know about loved ones until my meetings.’
The first man rang a bell, and a butler appeared with a tray. Upon it a single glass. ‘Drink up, James. It’s shaken, not stirred.’
As Bond stared silently at the glass, his hands began to shake.
‘Though to be honest I’ve never been able to see how that could make a perceivable difference.’