Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Je suis, William Sans Amis

The "mate" of mine who decided, without my permission, to tell my story has, after a stern talking to, allowed me control of this space to actually try to explain the truth. Although the truth is as elusive as a greased pig, I will try, within certain parameters, to tell the actual truth.

My "mate" is correct in saying that I told him my "story" over many a pint. After all, lies come out much more smoothly when the way is paved by liquid refreshments. It also is a plus that the hearer of your lies gets a little tight as well. That way the memory starts to fade in and out when they are trying to piece together the details of the long story you told them the night before.  The story that my father killed my mother and then himself was absolute bollocks. My father was quite simply a spy. He was not Sidney Reilly or some James Bond type of fellow, he was just a clerk in the foreign service that had a gift for languages and lying. Gifts that he passed on to his only loving son, me.  The horrible accident that my "mate" relates was the cover story that I was told to repeat if I was ever asked about my parents. The man telling me to relate this story was dressed in a pinstriped grey suit, and looked very calm as he related to me that it was "more likely than not that both of your parents are as dead as dead can be."  It seems that my father's gift for lying ran out before his gift of languages, and some Eastern European country had decided to offer him "a place to stay for a few years" while he learned how to tell the truth. My mother, who was with him at the time, was extended the same generous offer, but her quite place was hundreds of miles away from where my father was "vacationing."

I've yet to find out, or unearth exactly what happened to either of my parents. The respective prisons they were sent to are not the type of places that answer polite inquiries as to their "guest's" welfare or ultimate fate. It is probably safe to say that I, at some point, did become the orphan that my "mate" thought I was, but as to the exact date of my orphan-hood I am not entirely sure. I do have hopes that perhaps with the "thaw" in the relations between my country and the country that so generously provided a vacation spot for my parents, that I will one day be able to at least know their fate to some degree of certainty. For now, as I was told then, I figure they are more than likely dead, and have been for decades. It is not a particularly warming thought, but one has to move on with ones life at some point, and let the lost be lost.

The "uncle and aunt" that I was shunted off to live with were no relations of mine. My actual  relations hardly knew of my existence, and it was certainly too late to spring me upon some elderly aunt, and tell her that she had a new ward to take care of in her declining years. "Uncle and Aunt" were two former colleagues of my father who had "played the great game, and then got the fuck out whilst the getting was good." They did not love me, and nor I them. After all, I was a stranger to them, as they were to me. They were also retired spies, people who had spent the majority of their lives neither trusting or loving anyone with any real conviction. It was unlikely, and proved true, that they were not going to suddenly take a shine to some awkward boy of a presumed dead colleague. They raised me because the Service "asked" them to, and then paid them handsomely for doing it.  Money is not a magic cure that makes you really love someone, and my "uncle and aunt" only saw me as a walking supplement to their retirement income. They provided for me, and didn't let me starve, but as for affection, well affection is not needed to keep someone from starving to death.

The stutter that I developed when I learned to talk, was probably and outgrowth of the sterile environment in which I was reared. It was not some Oliver Twist like upbringing, but it was not far off, and the children should be seen (rarely) and not heard mantra was something that my adopted family followed like it was the golden rule.  Who was I to tarnish that by actually trying to talk to them?  The part that my "mate" doesn't know (at least until he reads this) was that it was actually a medical condition that caused my stutter, and by the time we were sharing those pints, I had long since had the simple operation that corrected it. That was why he says drunk me stuttered less. After a few pints, I sometimes forgot that I was supposed to stutter, and began to talk like I normally would. A mistake that fortunately he was too drunk to realize I was making. 

However, before the operation that fixed it, my stutter was fairly pronounced, and did cause me to have an extremely awkward childhood (aren't all childhoods awkward?).  It did provide me with the convenient excuse for not making friends, which was fantastic as I discovered early on in my life that I, for the most part, absolutely loathe people.  Which is why following in my presumably dead father's footsteps made sense. Spies don't have to love the people they are defending from the Red or White or Green Terror, they just have to do their job. In fact, being a spy, even if it wasn't the James Bond swashbuckling type, gave me free rein to lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise be an absolute prick to almost every person I came into contact with. Since I rarely came into contact with any person that could be described as "innocent" (even using the term very broadly), I never felt a twinge of guilt when I gave them a fake name, told them I did really love them or that the dress they were wearing did not make them look at all fat.

Once my stutter was surgically repaired, I discover my ability for languages, and quickly thereafter my ability to lie in several languages. It proved a useful thing to discover. I still affected my stutter to people because it is a great way to be ignored. That was useful in two ways. One, it allowed me to observe things without the burden of having to make "small talk." Observing it a very important skill to have, and when people think you can't talk or that talking to you is too much of a burden, you get unlimited time to observe. Two, being known as a stutter also was to be mistaken for an idiot. People, those rat bastards, seem to think that just because you can't complete a sentence smoothly without stuttering, you must be mental enfeebled. Nothing can be further from the truth, but I never felt the need to explain that to anyone (well maybe to a few members of the fairer sex).  This core misunderstanding of the nature of stuttering generally meant that people underestimated me, usually to their cost.  On many occasions, the urge was great to tell whatever miscreant that was getting the bracelets placed on him that the idiot stutterer was the cause of their downfall, and to express a wish that they enjoyed prison. However, that was never possible because the Foreign Office still had uses for me, and to gloat as a spy is to die.

Besides to gloat when someone get the bracelets is to tempt fate, and while I didn't tempt fate the fickle bitch still had unpleasant things in store for me. I will never forget the day in Zagreb at the seedy little outdoor cafe when the unshaven man in the cheap suit leaned over, tapped me on the shoulder and said " Mr. W__________, to put it in terms you can understand, you are nicked."  And I was nicked, caught as bare assed as new born babe with no excuse, and no means of escape. My "mate" wasn't exactly correct it wasn't a Turkish prison that I spent some time in, it was a Croatian one. I hear the Turkish ones are nice by comparison.  Stone walls, and iron bars make a pretty decent prison, and damn if those iron bars weren't cold, but I had long ago decided that I was too pretty for prison, and had determined to do whatever I needed to do in order to make my stay as short as possible.

I resolved to tell as many lies in as many languages as possible, even perhaps mixing in just enough truth to make it easy to swallow to get my ass out of this cold prison.  The HMFIC, came on my second day to inquire if my stay had been as pleasant as I had hoped, and to see if I had anything I would like to share. I told him that I certainly did have things to share, and "that it would be a mistake to let me die."  This piqued his interest, and we had many a sit down chat about things I knew, and the things that I made him think I knew. I am no hero, I am not willing to have my fingernails pulled out with wire pliers if I can help it. I detected early on in my life that I had an allergic reaction to physical pain, and since the old methods die hard, my captors were certain to apply the "old let's beat the shit out of him until he talks" approach. That was a bit of distress that I wanted to avoid, so I talked. Sure I talked, and talked and talked. I told some astounding lies, and some half truths, and I even brought back the stutter in the hopes they would get tired of listening to me try to talk. The stutter helped it kept the talking going on longer and longer each time that eventually the beatings stopped. Possibly because after each beating I made my stutter that much worse.

Eventually, my captors figured that I was a well that had run dry, and they were faced with the three major choices that happens in that situation. To kill me, to turn me, or to exchange me. I was vehemently opposed to the first, and therefore resolved to allow them to think they had accomplished the second in order for them to do the third. I was exchanged for some other poor sap from the other side who had the same shitty luck that I had, on a desolate road outside of some nameless city on the Hungarian/Austrian border. I was flown back to the mother country, taken into the office of some fellow I'd never met before, and asked "how compromised are you?, for as you know a compromised spy might as well be a dead spy."  I wasn't sure exactly how to answer that question, and it took a while for the powers that be to figure out that I wasn't entirely useless to them, but that I was going to have to take a rather long vacation somewhere quite for the world to forget about me for a while. The good news, if there was any good news, is that once that sorted out what I had told those Croatian bastards was more lie than truth, they gave me my second nickname. Which after consideration is probably why the the first nickname of "Billy No Mates" is still true. They dubbed me, with considerable pride and just a bit too much glee, "Billy Liar."