Marked Man

MI5 bars applicants with visible tattoos (BBC’s 10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week)…

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Bond woke in a hotel in Marrakesh to find himself naked and tied to a bed. It took him a couple of seconds to realise that this was not a good thing.

There was a swivel chair beside the bed, facing away from him. It turned and he found himself face to face with Blofeld who, and this is not a euphemism, was stroking his cat.

“We meet again, Mr Bond,” said Blofeld.

“Blofeld,” said Bond in disgust. “How did you find me?”

“Bug in your jacket pocket,” said Blofeld. “Though the fact that you’ve said ‘my name is Bond. James Bond’ to absolutely everyone you’ve met since you got here also helped.”

Bond looked away from him, and at the slim rifle-like object on a flexible arm at the end of the bed. “What’s this?” he asked. “A laser?”

“No, Mr Bond,” said Blofeld. “It’s a tattoo gun.”

“Er, what?”

“I’ve discovered that MI5 won’t employ you if you have a tattoo,” said Blofeld. “So I intend to give you one. I’m basically going to write you a P45 in very, very permanent ink.”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler just to shoot me?” said Bond.

“Yes, but then you wouldn’t be able to witness me achieving world domination,” said Blofeld. “It’s going to be so much more fun having you around to watch.”

“It’s going to be so much less fun having me around to stop you,” said Bond. “Don’t think that I won’t continue to hunt you down just because I’ve suddenly got a dolphin on my butt.”

“Will you really, Bond? Without the Secret Service paying all your bills? Without Q there to provide a ready supply of helicopters disguised as wheelie-bins? Without a pension to look forward to?”

Blofeld was right, Bond realised. He had worked for them for years, he had abided by their stupid rules – aside from the tattoo ban, there was also the embargo on drinking anything but cocktails, the mandatory use of bad puns and the compulsory wearing of formal dress when grappling underwater with sharks – but one black mark, literally, and they would simply cast him adrift. Why should he bother?

“Can I pick the tattoo?” he asked.

Blofeld smiled. “Why, of course. What are you thinking of? A scorpion? An anchor? A symbol that looks Chinese, but was actually just the tattoo-artist clearing the ink out of his gun?”

Bond knew that there was only one option, the person who had always held him dear, no matter how often he had refused to hold her at all. “I want it to say ‘Moneypenny’,” he said.

“In your dreams,” snorted Blofeld. “Where I plan to put it there’s no way that’ll fit. You should just go for ‘Mum’.”

“Then your plan has a fatal flow, Blofeld,” said Bond. “I’ll only be fired if I have a visible tattoo.”

“Yes, an interesting rule,” said Blofeld. “Sometimes I wonder why MI5 have the word ‘Intelligence’ in their title. Who is to decide whether a tattoo is visible or not?”

“Who indeed,” said Bond.

“Well, the dictionary for one, and this is where your lifestyle catches up with you. One definition is ‘often in the public view’ so I reckon that, as at the end of all your missions, you’re screwed.”

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