“Cloak and dagger man?” asked Clunch.
“My name is Grey, Parma Grey,” I replied, “like a mouse’s back, and I have a cloak, incarnadine in hue, but, alas, no dagger.”
He gave that queer, lopsided grin of his. “Ah, Mr Grey, immortalised throughout our fair islands. Do come in.”
I followed Clunch into a blue pavilion. The Ministry of Covert Warfare’s idea of keeping a low profile. “Hardly immortalized, I’m supposed to be a secret agent!”
Clunch gave a throat-clearing splutter as he pressed a lift button. “Ah, but immortalized amongst we secret people, the cognoscenti of the garotte and poisoned umbrella!”
I tried to suppress a smug smile as the lift proceeded downwards.
The door opened onto a long corridor and we entered the first room on our left, where I was to be given a briefing on my mission. A huge bald man sat in a huge chair behind a huge desk. His name, appropriately, was Hugo. Hugo Mann.
“Mr Clunch, please bring Mr Grey the latest assortment of, er, gadgets.”
Things had moved on since the days of Aston Martin ejector seats and boats that could take off and fly. Now it was all microelectronics, miniature cameras and bio-weapons. But there was still time for what I called ‘fun things.’ Umbrellas that could blow a hole in someone and phones that could burn people’s hands off.
So, I was shown a range of new gadgets, amongst which I rather took a fancy to a laser pen. Innocuous-looking but with enough power to fry an enemy’s eyeballs. “Be sure to keep the safety catch in the ‘on’ position,” exhorted Clunch. Then there was what appeared to be an ammonite, an ancient fossil in two halves, but which had been impregnated with a special kind of plutonium. “Quite harmless,” said Clunch, “but put the two halves together for sixty seconds and … well, you’ll need a fast car to get out of range!”
“You mean …?”
Finally, clutching a briefcase with enough firepower to start – and finish – a small war, I found myself seated and facing the enormous Mr. Mann again. Surely there was some diet he could go on, I thought.
“No there isn’t,” he said, as if having read my mind. “It’s a genetic thing.”
Genetic thing my arse. I’d bet he liked his doughnuts soaked in double cream.
He laughed. ““And brandy. Well, Parma,” he said, jabbing a finger in my direction, “your mission is to wipe out the Taliban.”
“With pleasure,” I exclaimed, “the uneducated swine!”
“You’ll be parachuting into Kabul tomorrow morning.”
“Couldn’t I just go by passenger plane, y’know, incognito?”
Mr Hugo Mann’s expansive pink face took on a shiny, sweaty hue. “Hmm. That’d mean getting you a ticket.”
“Blimey. Surely the Ministry could manage that!”
“Well, er, I suppose so, if you really don’t want to parachute.”
“Um, I’d rather not,” I said. “You know, there are a lot of insects floating around up above the desert. I don’t fancy a mouthful of flying earwig.”
He stood up, with difficulty, and reached out a huge sweaty paw. “Good luck, Parma, the country, and indeed the world, is depending on you!”
I shook his hand and surreptitiously wiped the grease off on a handkerchief. “Lead on, Mr Clunch,” I cried, “Afghanistan here I come!”
Taken from the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth, 146 pp. Dec 2021
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4 thoughts on “The Name is Grey”
First things first: thank you for choosing the delightful image of my favorite James Bond actor as your graphic. Much appreciated. This was so much fun to read! The names you chose for your characters were spot on and their descriptions were flawless. The mention of Hugo Mann conjured up visions of Sydney Greenstreet or Charles Laughton. As a fan of the Bond movies, I could easily see Q showing off all the new toys to James as I read about the laser pen and the ancient fossil. The clipped dialogue was perfect and would make Ian Fleming proud. As always, extremely entertaining and imaginative; I hope to see more of Parma Grey et al in the future. An excellent, fun read! Now I need to get the James Bond theme music out of my head! 🍸
Ha ha. For once it took no time to find a good image! I was a big fan of Ian Fleming and have all his books AFAIK, including the Kemsley Manual of Journalism with his first appearance in print. I read the biography by John Pearson and used to read all the JB books from Casino Royale through to Octopussy in order. It’s been a very long time since I did that though. Maybe time to dig out my IF collection?!
Same here! I’ve read all the Bond books as well. The question is: have you read Chitty-Chity-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car? 😂 The screenplay for the movie was co-written by Roald Dahl based loosely on IF’s book. I must confess I have not read it although I did watch the movie. Six degrees of separation: Desmond Llewelyn, the actor who played Q for a very long time, was also in CCBB! 🌟
Actually, no, I’m pretty sure I don’t have that one, actually. As I recall it was issued in three volumes when first published. Scarce! Yes, RD got paid $125,000 plus a share of the profits, so I read. Didn’t know that about DL. Hmm. Movie trivia!