A Dull, Yet Important, Briefing
Finnegan Roquefort, the head of European Operations for the CIA, begins the proceedings. It's hard to imagine that this walrus masquerading as a human is a spy master but three decades of espionage makes for a pretty impressive CV. He takes a sip of cheap rum that's been dancing around with a few lime wedges from a dirty glass, burps and begins the proceedings. 'Many of you know,' he begins with a gruff voice, an avalanche of cigarette butts, 'of the target here in question. At least by rumours and such. Hell, he's been around the traps since Ah was a pup.' Sip. Burp. 'But Ah likes to make sure we unnerstand the exact nature of this here monster we're about to deal with. So ferget everything you know about him.'
'Way ahead of you,' I mumble, unheard.
'Target is one Leopold Grimshawe, a.k.a. the Alchemist.'
Heads nod around the room. Some faces blanch quite noticeably.
'Exact age is unknown. We have some sources that cite 'im being born in Nottingham in 1942. But there are others that put 'im about five years either side of that.'
My mathematical skills are pretty non-existent but I creak my rusted mental gears into use. 'He's sixty years old?' I hissed at Oslo Fontina, paint chip-munching CIA operative.
'You really haven't heard of him?'
'I'm not CIA you mo-ron!'
'Will you dudes shut the hell up?', pipes up a fresh-faced Agent, 'I'm trying to listen to this shit.'
'...which is pretty unusual considerin' 'is pappy was Lemuel Grimshawe, the industrialist. So, well known, high-profile family with a son they tried to hide. Whatever. By 1950 the family has emigrated to the US. Where Grimshawe pere and wifey number three die in a horrific car crash. Slide!'
A black & white slide projection of a '50s car crash. Police. Journalists. And a haunted-looking boy, dry-eyed, looking on.
'Yadda, yadda, yadda. Inherited a bunch of moolah. Signs 'imself up to Marines in '58- the year of falling Sputniks, Castro v Batista fight in Cuba, Arturo Frondizi is Argentinian prez and Chucky De Gaulle, former tank tactician who gets airports named after 'im, gets yanked back to lead the Frogs. I digress,' Sip. Burp. 'Surprise, surprise Grimshawe has a genius-level IQ. Mensa candidate volunteers to get 'is head blown off with the rest of the commoners even though he's rich enough to buy Utah and parts of Mexico. Commendable. Sharp eyes and good concentration makes 'im an ideal marksman, so it's sniping duties for Leopold Grimshawe.' Roquefort wheezes, pauses for breath. 'You wanna take over for a minute Muffins? My...er...titanium knee is playing up.'
The other man heading this operation takes the podium. Sir Hugo Muffington, MI-6 higher up and a likely candidate to be the next 'C' (head of the British Secret Intelligence Service). Muffington is as tall as Roquefort is large. Ducking slightly so he doesn't scrape his head on the ceiling Sir Hugo keeps the proceedings going with the most monotonous drone I've ever heard.
The words coming out of his mouth are like sand entering my ears. It is congealed goose blood. It is the vocal equivalent of drying paint. Duller even than the dullest Dharma & Greg episode. It is taking every ounce of willpower not to fall asleep. I concentrate on the zit in the back of Agent Tito Pecorino's (the CIA agent sitting directly in front of me) neck in the vague hope that this will anchor me in the waking world. That horrible, pulsating pimple is a beacon of fading hope. I fall...I fall....
This is exactly why I skim through "briefing bits" in novels,