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“Gloves!”  Simpson tore open a desk drawer and tossed a pair at Carson before triggering the door’s security to ‘Disengaged.’  “Mark to memory every place you touch him and keep contact to a minimum. Need to secure him for chain of evidence.”

They were outside in a trice.  “Quartermaster. I’m IO Simpson.   Medical and the Chief of Staff are on the way.  You’re in safe hands now.” Simpson knelt beside him on the tarmac as his level. Carson stood back waiting at the entrance for Medical to arrive.

“Need to see the Major, Boothroyd. Please...”  Eyes trying to search the entry doors for a familiar face. “Need... Quartermaster... ‘m on his staff.   I don’t know what...”

“Quartermaster, we’re getting you assistance. Can you tell me..”

“I’m ... R !   My name is Ifan.  Ifan Kingsley. My ID is gone.  The Major will confirm.”

“Major Boothroyd?” Carson questioned cautiously.  Simpson quickly shook her head at him to stop just as Medical staff came bursting through the entryway. 

“It’s okay.  We know who you are … Ifan R , ” Simpson said cautiously, stressing both the name and the designation for the doctor who sank to her knees at their side, kit in hand. 

“And you know me, don’t you, R ,” Doctor Haldar said as she, with Simpson’s assistance, eased him from his knees onto his back on the tarmac.  

“Amara,” he mumbled with a nod as she took stock of his injuries, grateful for a familiar face.  “Dunno … what happened. Woke up next to the river … ‘s why I’m muddy. ‘M sorry. Got you muddy, too.”  He swiped weakly at the mud he’d tracked on the leg of her clean scrubs.  

Haldar caught his hand and gently pressed it back to his chest, wrapping his fingers around his clearly broken left hand and wrist and wincing sympathetically at his whimper of pain.  “You help me by keeping that there, R. Keep it stable until I can get you treated, yeah?” She spoke in the soothing tones one would use for a frightened child for the Quartermaster appeared ready to jump out of his own skin.  “You tell IO Simpson and Carson what you remember, and I’ll have you downstairs in a trice.”

Whilst the Quartermaster -- still R, he believed himself to be -- spoke brokenly to the IOs it became clear to Haldar that his injuries would tell a far more comprehensive tale than he would be able to do.  She wrapped up her assessment quickly, far longer than Q’s report, and it was as two medical technicians were wheeling him inside Six toward the elevator that Tanner arrived.

“Bill!”  Q would have reached out for his friend as he passed, but he had been strapped securely to the gurney.

“He’ll be with you shortly, R ,” Haldar said, eyeing Tanner purposefully.

“Soon as you’re settled, R,” Bill agreed, sliding into the unexpected narrative with the expertise born from years as a field agent and as Chief of Staff, but soon as the lift doors were shut, he turned to the Chief Medical Officer.  “R?!”

“Given the skull fracture I felt underneath that mop of hair of his, we count ourselves lucky he’s alive and coherent first and worry about who he thinks he is second.”

“Sitrep,” Tanner demanded, keeping in step with her to catch the second lift.

“Details of what happened are sketchy, but your security IOs have them.  I’ll give you the specifics on his physical condition once they’re a bit more clear, but he was beaten, Bill.  Severely. Along with the skull fracture, his left hand is a broken mess, his feet are in tatters, and there are cracked, possibly broken ribs.  He was kicked, repeatedly.”


“Some prayers wouldn’t go amiss, I think,” Haldar said gravely.  “For him, and maybe for the bastards who did this to him because when Bond and Trevelyan find out ...” She nodded at the mobile he held in his hand.  “When do they get back, anyway?”

The mobile buzzed with a message lighting up the dark screen.  Tanner sighed. He didn’t even have to look at it to know. “Just landed at Heathrow.”

“They’ll want to know why he’s not responding to their texts.  Primed before they even get here. Keep them out of Medical until I tell you otherwise, Bill.”  The elevator doors opened and Haldar stepped inside. “I don’t need them mucking about until I know what’s going on with his head.”

“Oh shite!”  The realisation of what Amara was really telling him sunk in.  “If Q thinks he’s still R …”

“Then Ifan Kingsley has no idea he’s romantically involved with not just one but two Double-Os,” she completed as the doors slid shut.  “Your problem. And Mallory’s. Not mine.”  

Tanner’s sigh echoed through the small elevator lobby.  “Bugger me.”