The locker at Kings Cross Railway Station has a small envelope in it, inside which are concise instructions and a car key. Ronni’s destination is an anonymous industrial estate off the M4, where she’s to go and retrieve the contents of another locker from a self-storage company. There’s also a picture: Ronni realises with a stab of horror that hard work was finally going to reap a real and tangible benefit, one she’d assured Q she was capable of providing.
She is to kill Louis Kendrick.
Ronni had until 3.15 that afternoon to get to the spot, across from his apartment on the river, to set herself up in the harness and then wait. One shot to the head was all it needed, so he’d be dead before hitting the balcony floor… but as it was Friday, he’d not be alone. There’d be a call girl there too, and Ronni can’t help but think that Q is playing on multiple fears simultaneously, all meticulously anticipated. Thank God for a glorious day and no wind, the British weather could so easily have scuppered her at the eleventh hour. The man is due to return to Dubai the following week, and clearly MI6 had decided he was better off never boarding the Airbus.
This triumph will show 007 he’s wrong, in the most spectacular style possible, or she falls from an unrecoverable height.
Ronni doesn’t know how she gets to the storage bay, watching the owner opening the big purple door, wondering if Bond made it back on the books. He’d told the story of the Section Chief and his contact, that he’d been on a military transport before there was even time to grasp what transpired, that their joint demises still haunted him on difficult days. The Texan remained anonymous, and because she didn’t know a name the entire experience was somehow less personal, easier to rationalise, but this guy was amongst other things a trafficker of women, embodiment of many things Ronni found physically repulsive.
This had been made intentionally personal for a very good reason.
There’s a guitar case in the storage space and nothing else. Ronni is ready with an explanation but doesn’t need it.
‘Your boyfriend said he’d left you something, but if you want any of the other stuff you’ll need to talk to his lawyers.’
The man walks away, and Veronica approaches the case, noticing a piece of paper stuck to its lid. She can’t help but smile, despite the terror inside, because it means her back is covered from this moment until the day she has to be forcibly made to retire.
‘I can’t do this, but you can.’
Inside will be a telescopic rifle, plus climbing equipment. I have to kill a man, in broad daylight, hanging off the side of a building. If anyone wanted a genuine test of her abilities, then this would provide it in spades.
Bond’s drunk more water of late than he ever did before: undoubtedly her influence, quite apart from finally purchasing a music player and spending hours at night recalling moments from his youth to download. Bond finishes the latest bottle and leans back, checking clock on the live feed above his head: 15.12. Q was about to use only the second woman to successfully negotiate Active Consideration this century to send a message to the country’s enemies: British Intelligence was back in the game. Raoul Silva’s destructive influence is a distant memory, and the scum and villainy that exists in the country’s own Capital would soon be officially on notice.
No one screwed the system on MI6’s doorstep and got away with it.
He has a front seat for her debut performance, but Bond can’t shake the nerves. Q might joke about Ronni, that she’s almost too perfect, but he knows enough about how to wear a facade to understand what could be buried beneath. She would be nervous, scared, conflicts of interest that she’d spend hours, even weeks arguing with herself about afterwards…
‘Feet off the equipment, Bond, show some respect.’
M appears at his shoulder, Tanner not far behind, and 007 is surprised to see Eve is in tow, impeccable as always. She makes a bee line for him and he gets up to offer the seat, which is politely declined: Moneypenny staring just a little longer than necessary.
‘There’s no need James, but thank you. I’m here to learn, not to watch. Shooting people in broad daylight is something I could use practice at, I think Ashby’s about to teach everyone a lesson.’
‘You’re regretting not taking me out properly when you had the chance?’
‘If I had, Veronica wouldn’t be here. I think everyone benefits from my inability to follow orders.’
Bond doesn’t stare at Eve either, and she’ll know why. Ronni makes things interesting, for all manner of reasons. It’s the first time Eve’s joked about that moment in Istanbul too, so her time with Gregory is at least producing some benefit. M and Tanner come to stand by him, deep in conversation over the execution of the shot, and Bond simply tunes everything out except the screen. She’ll be there now, attached to the platform, waiting for the moment.
Nothing matters now except the kill.
Almost on cue, at 15.15 Kendrick appears, with a conservative woman by his standards in tow. There’s a cocktail in his hand, gaudy umbrellas and too much fruit: if Bond was doing this, he’d wait until the man tried to drink and deny the final pleasure. M turns, directing his conversation finally at 007.
‘How long do you-‘
Kendrick suddenly crumples, woman falling with him, trapped under his now lifeless corpse, screaming silently: everyone in the room is stunned into silence. Except Bond.
‘You were right Q. I’ll never be as good as that.’
Q scrabbles for rewind on the feed and returns the picture on screen to the moment Kendrick turns and his face is clearly visible, frame after frame as a clear red dot appears between his eyes, a second before a bullet ends life with clinical precision. They’d come for a show, expecting a tense wait for the moment, and she’d just turned up and done the job, exactly as had been the case since first hired.
‘Nobody else with the designation’s as good as that.’
Eve’s praise is genuine, and Bond happily loses the bet he made with Q when Ronni lay unconscious on the Millbank floor, day of acceptance into Active Consideration. He knew. She is more than a worthy successor for what would have been Eve’s job.
M is clearly impressed, watching as the video moves backwards and forwards from the second of impact, unexpected smile mirrored by Tanner. Bond also knows he’ll be pleased Ronni finally stepped up and did what she’d always wanted, and stopped caring about what other people thought.
‘She was an excellent choice, Sir. Ashby’s never been anything other than efficient.’
‘Well, without yours and Bond’s recommendation, Tanner, she wouldn’t be here. I think however Veronica wanted this more than any of us realised. Particularly me. Every day is a school day.’
Bond feels for the tin in his jacket pocket, and knows he’ll have plenty of time to deliver his package on the way to the City Airport. If he’s lucky, the assignment he has will be finished in a week, just as Ronni is done with her inaugural mission. He has to try his luck, the pleasure that results from knowing someone’s interests match your own. Flirting with ex-field agents is all well and good, but he liked variety in hobbies: anything that kept things interesting.
Anyone that forced him out of his comfort zone.
‘Indeed, everybody should learn from this. Even you could take notes, 007.’
M comes and stands, clearly waiting for a response but Bond doesn’t take the comeback, or the clever one liner.
James knows he’s already been educated.