The Spy Who Loved Monty
Agnes smiled again and waved farewell to Jeff. As she strolled through the streets of New York, her thoughts returned to Percival. It had been many years since she’d seen him, and she never thought she would again. The journey took her into New York’s historic district, and made her wish she had time to sightsee. She had taken Percival’s address out of the dossier folder and now rechecked it.
When Percival Alistair Montgomery had come home, he’d received much acclaim for his heroics as an agent. He’d resisted the limelight as much as possible, and when R.A.S.C.A.L.S. had asked him to take over as head of the organization he’d refused them flatly. Percival was a painter first, not a soldier, as he’d told them. All he asked was for solitude and the chance to paint. He’d been granted both, and his paintings of scenes from his missions brought top dollar among the collectors of the world.
Agnes was reflecting on these things as she found the home Percival now called his own. It was a human dwelling known as the Tierney House—a Victorian structure built in the 1890’s. The white exterior of the house did not reveal the craftsmanship of the elegant interior. The house was on New York’s tour of homes, and received many visitors. However, the most unique portion of the Tierney House was the turret built into the left front portion of the house, which was off-limits to the tourists’ curious eyes. If a curious tourist had ventured up the ornate oaken stairway, they would have met with a sight far surpassing any other in the home.
Twelve large windows let more than sufficient light in the small room at the garret’s top—small by human standards, that is. For a mouse, the room was more than sufficient for living quarters, an art studio and spacious storage area. Agnes was looking up at the high garret now, and wondering how she should get up there when she noticed a mouse in a butler’s outfit leave the building on the side wall of the garret. She found the concealed entrance easily enough, which led to a dumbwaiter, likely forgotten by the city which maintained the old structure.
Agnes reached the top and found a mouse-sized mahogany door preventing her passage. "Well, back into the past again. C’est la guerre." Agnes knocked on the door.
Inside the large apartment, a pair of bushy eyebrows raised. A somewhat deep male voice muttered something in a bothered British tone and then the chipmunk put down the paintbrush he was using and made his way across the room. A small window in the door opened. The eyebrows frowned as they saw who it was.
"I am not interested in anything you might be selling. Leave me to my privacy," the chipmunk said.
Agnes took on a sarcastic tone. "It’s good to see you too, Percival."
The eyebrows shifted up. "That voice...I know it." Percival’s eyes suddenly were pulled to a wall in his apartment "It’s you! Come, come quickly!" Percival opened the door.
Agnes walked into the room. She smiled warmly at Percival. "It’s wonderful to see you again Percy. I’m sorry to intrude on your solitude. Can you forgive me, old friend?"
Agnes remembered Percival with that gruff yet friendly demeanor of his. The artist was dressed in a purple dressing-gown and slippers. The chipmunk’s dark eyebrows and moustache still provided the same striking contrast she’d seen years ago.
Percival saluted her hand. "I would forgive no one but you, Miss Agnes. But you I forgive with my full heart. What brings you here?"
Percival showed Agnes to a chair--the only empty one in the studio which they’d just entered. The walls were covered in oils and acrylics, and stands held several more paintings, including one that was obviously Percival’s latest work. It was a female chipmunk with red hair, sitting on a grey stone wall. She was writing in a notepad.
Agnes was startled to see the painting of herself. It was remarkably good, considering Percy hadn’t seen her for about fifteen years. "Percival, that’s an amazing picture! Did you do it entirely from memory? It’s a very flattering likeness."
"Yes, Miss Agnes. This is fortunate, because I’d forgotten the shade of green those lovely eyes of yours possess." Percival went to his canvas and looked back at Agnes, still sitting.
Percival selected the colors with a trained eye. "2/3 prussian blue, 1/4 cadmium yellow, and a touch of violet...." Soon the eyes in the painting matched Agnes’ perfectly. Percival stood back, admiring the scene. "I remember that day so well. We three called it ‘the perfect day’--and in some ways it’s been the only one. But enough of that. You obviously have a mission. Not another global terrorism organization planning to do us in, I trust? Or did you come sip tea and reminisce with an old friend?"
She looked from the painting to Percival, the memory it dredged up causing her smile to fade. "Percival, I wish it could be for more pleasant reasons, but unfortunately ‘Operation Immunity’ is about to be de-classified and somehow my editor-in-chief found out about it. He asked me to get the complete story from all its surviving members. You, me...and Monzy."
"Monty?! That old bruiser made it out, then? How is the old chap?" Percival asked.
Agnes looked pained, remembering how she’d left him. "I’m not sure, Percy. He seemed okay at first, but his friends said that he was troubled by what happened during the mission, and when I met him he blamed himself for Ramrod’s death! He started sobbing and kept saying he betrayed me! I don’t understand what is wrong with him!"
Percival’s face darkened, and his brow knotted as he put down his tea cup. "Ramrod...dead? No, that’s not right! Miss Agnes, Ramrod made it out--I know, because the home office confirmed it!"
Agnes gasped and put her hands to her face. "Oh, my! Poor Monzy believes that he is responsible for his death! All these years he has felt so guilty. He will be overjoyed to hear this! But where is Ramrod? Is he well? Perhaps I could talk to him also…"
Percival shrugged his shoulders and lit a pipe he had close at hand. "I couldn’t say, Miss Agnes. The report said he’d been captured by agents of the R.O.D.E.N.T.S. upon their discovering him in the woods near Brie. That’s the last I heard of him."
Agnes quickly rose to her feet and walked over to Percival’s seat. She placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Percival, again you have been the great hero! I must go to Monzy and tell him what you have told me! Thank you, my dear friend."
Percival grabbed Agnes’ arm and she quickly looked back at him with a question in her face. "Wait, there is more....much more," Percy said. His face was suddenly stern. "Some of it may not be easy to hear, but if you want to know the full reason for Monty’s reaction you must stay with me a little while longer."
Percival escorted Agnes over to the far wall. A painting on the far left side depicted a mouse-sized warehouse with large rose bushes in the background as far as the eye could see. "Do you remember it?" Percival asked. Agnes looked downcast. "Yes, how could I forget it? It was there that Monzy and I fell in love...and where we were parted...forever."
"There are some times in one’s life that are forever seared into the mind. As you can see, my paintings are full of that time," Percival noted. He led her to another painting, this time of a chipmunk. This fellow was young, with narrow-set eyes and wore a black trenchcoat and grey sailor’s hat. The face bespoke power, or rather desire for power.
Agnes shuddered a bit at the face. "Your paintings are remarkable, Percy. We have all been etched into your memory. Ramrod is every bit as intense and powerful as he was when we last saw him."
Percival’s frown was set in stone. "And as treacherous. Your emotions blinded you to much of what happened at that time. It is my duty and indeed my honor to fill in the gaps for you." Percival led her back to the chair. "Were you aware that Ramrod had feelings for you?"
Agnes looked alarmed by Percival’s words. She looked at him with searching eyes. "Why do you speak of treachery and of feelings? I don’t understand. I did not know he had feelings for me."
Percival pressed her hand lightly, then cleared off another chair and sat down "The first thing an artist learns to paint are the eyes, thus I have learned to study others’ eyes. His eyes never left you when you were with us. And when we’d had to leave you and Monty alone, I noticed jealousy in those eyes when he returned."
Agnes wasn’t sure that she wanted him to continue, but she knew that more than her own peace of mind was at stake. "I can understand jealousy, but what of the treachery that you spoke of?" Agnes asked.
Percival got up and interlaced his hands behind him. "The last night we were all together has haunted me for years and I did not entirely know why. It’s deucedly difficult for me to sleep some nights--the dreams have robbed me of a lot of rest. And not until you told me Monty’s words and reaction did I fully understand."
Percival returned to the painting of the warehouse and touched it with his hand, several layers of dried paint covering it. "It was lights-out. You had gone to the far side of the warehouse to guard the south entrance. I was across from you, and was about to settle in. Then I remembered I’d forgotten my infrared field glasses." Percival returned slowly to his chair and sat down. "I returned to the other side, where Ramrod and Monty were watching the west. I was embarrassed at first, because I caught the two in conversation. I was going to make myself known, as any proper gentleman would. Then I caught their words and decided to listen. Ramrod had told Monty to stay away from you and Monty had taken offense to it. That’s when he told Monty that you’d just accepted his proposal for marriage."
Agnes nearly fell out of the chair. "Proposal?! Oh, my dear Monzy, he must have thought he was responsible for the death of the munk I would marry!" The more Agnes thought about it, the angrier she became. "How could Ramrod have said such a thing!? He made no proposal to me!" Then she paused and smiled. "But if Monzy had proposed, I would have accepted."
"Yes, quite," Percival said. The mouse went to a private bureau and pulled out a sheet of paper. "I wrote down some of the account. I don’t know exactly why I kept it—I guess it was a means of self-therapy for the nightmare." Percival produced a pair of reading spectacles from his dressing-gown’s lapel pocket and began to read. "Monty was taken aback at first, and said he didn’t believe Ramrod. That was when he mentioned the kiss you’d given him. Ramrod said that was when you’d accepted and Monty believed it."
Agnes was beside herself with anger. "But it was just a little kiss, like to a friend! Why would he lie to Monzy like that? He never said anything to me about his feelings! That terrible, wicked munk to say and do such things to his friends!"
Percival put the paper away. "He was a selfish, conceited chipmunk. Plus, I think he hated the idea of you and a mouse together—or at least that one. When we were alone earlier that day, he’d made reference to that ‘foul mouse’. I guess I didn’t really give it proper thought at the time--any more than his comments to Monty. Just seemed a bit of puffery."
Agnes’ features filled with anger. "That…that fiend!"
"Yes, Miss Agnes. But there is something else you should know—something that I would never have suspected had I not been there myself. On that fateful morning, I was awakened by hushed voices coming from the floor. I concentrated and realized that Ramrod had ventured down into the cheese locker with the enemy spies. My German is not what it should be, but I could catch enough of their conversation to realize that Ramrod was being paid off to betray us!"
"No!" Agnes said. "Then, he was a double agent?"
"He may have been. I’m not entirely sure," Percival said, "But he said he had switched the true ebola vial for a placebo filled with water that he had placed in my jacket. I crept swiftly to my overcoat and took out the fake. Then I waited. Five minutes later they came out. It was dark, so they never saw the piano wire I’d set up on the floor. The spy in the lead tripped right where I thought he would. Ramrod and the other spy tumbled over him. I was ready with my infrared lenses, and while he was recovering himself, I managed to spot which pocket had the vial and replace it with his placebo."
"So you outsmarted him! Good for you, Percy! You are truly the heroic mouse. That traitor Ramrod! Enough of him, though. I have another mouse on my mind, who has suffered much at his hand," Agnes said.
Percival patted Agnes’ hand. "But you can set his heart at rest, my dear. But before you do, could I ask a favor of you?" Percival asked. Agnes hugged Percival. "My friend, you have put my broken heart back together. There is nothing I would not do for you!"
Percival looked at her meaningfully. "Do you still have it?"
Agnes smiled and unclasped the slender necklace around her neck. "It has been next to my heart since the day I received it." At the end of the necklace was a silver-gilt locket. Percival gently opened it and looked at the picture of a younger Monty.
Percival’s eyes glowed with memory. "Ah, yes. I still remember sitting there on those cheese crates and painting it. If you please, bring Monty by so that I can see the other one and speak to him myself. I want to create larger versions of them--as a wedding gift."
Percival smiled knowingly and winked as he closed the locket. Agnes blushed at the suggestion, looking away. "It has been such a long time. Perhaps my Monzy does not feel so strongly about me now…"
Percival reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold sovereign and put it in her hand. "If he doesn’t, keep that because I’ll have lost the wager. I know the love I saw in that lad’s eyes. I could paint it anytime. If he was that broken up over you, he’ll ask you, by George!"
Agnes squealed with delight at the thought and hugged Percival again. "I must go to my Monzy right away! Every second apart is a second that we are not loving each other!"
Percival opened the door. "Go then! But remember to bring him back with you. Oh, and I will be glad to grant you another interview for your story...." Agnes looked at him suspiciously, and Percival held up last month’s copy of the International Mouse-O-Graphic. "One of the old team in the British office called me. Congratulations, my dear! Congratulations twice over!"
Agnes lad to laugh. Spies would be spies, even in civilian life it seemed. "It seems Jeffrey isn’t the only one who knows secrets. Thank you, my friend. You must promise me that you will be at our wedding."
Percival took her arm and led her to the door. He saluted her hand again. "For you and that lad, I’d go much farther than that. May you find together the happiness you so richly deserve."
Agnes hurried out of the Tierney House determined to get to Monty as fast as possible. Recruiting a pigeon for transport, she was soon in the air and within one minute she was within sight of Ranger Headquarters. Her eyes shone as she looked on the goal of her happiness. If those eyes had not been so preoccupied, they might would have noticed a larger shadow striking the ground. It came from behind her fast--talons grabbed the pigeon and held it and her in a crushing grip.
The falcon dove quickly into an alleyway. As the bird of prey dropped its target, Agnes fell to the ground, unconscious. Then gloved hands shook as arms robed in black picked her up and quickly carried her to a waiting cart. Two eyes looked about quickly. No one had noticed. The shadowy hooded figure covered its secret with a tarp and rolled the cart out of the alleyway. Footsteps made their way down the street as the shadowy figure shuffled its left leg and pushed its charge along, turned a corner, and disappeared from view.