I love a good international spy story. I was reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond series when I was less than thirteen, much to my parents chagrin. I’d only read one of Alex Shaw’s books, Cold Blood, before diving into his short story in the anthology Twisted Tales. The Agent is a well written short that packs a neat punch.
Set in Spain, British international criminal Big Chris Cotton irritated me from the beginning of the story. Egotistical, he reminisces on bygone days when he was known as one of the ‘original Knife Men’, something he now considers ‘beneath him’. Now Big Chris hires thugs to do his dirty work and to protect him from other thugs. Preferring Russians, who he calls ‘Vlads’, he seems to think he is doing them a favor by hiring them.
As the story progresses Chris thinks about slowing down and enjoying life a little, especially since he had recently relieved himself of his wife. There can be no doubt he didn’t send her on an extended vacation or that he paid her an exorbitant amount of money to go away. It’s apparent he has killed her off.
Pursuing his desire to kick back and take pleasure in his newly acquired freedom from marriage and revel in his ill gotten gains he seeks to find an upscale home in sunny Spain. It is at a luxurious estate he is checking out that we meet the attractive real estate agent Terri French. Bit by bit the somewhat seductive Terri shows him around the estate, pointing out all the lavish selling points of the house. When it appears Chris is open to the idea of dropping a cool one point one million pounds, pending negotiations of course, Terri produces a bottle of champagne and two glasses to toast the sale. After downing one glass of the bubbly Terri spills a second glass on her blouse causing it to become transparent.
It’s pretty obvious Terri French is not only an adept real estate sales woman, she is also something of a seductress. She leads Chris upstairs to explore the bedrooms and bathrooms where she hopes to find a towel to clean off her blouse. By now she has Big Chris’s full attention and he is ready to seal the sale with more than a glass of Bollinger’s; checking out the comfort of the bed he plans for a quick test drive.
It’s when Terri returns from the bathroom without her blouse that things take an unexpected turn. Shaw has led us irresistibly down the garden path, blurring our view so expertly we didn’t notice the thorny bushes along the way. Once he has us set up it’s a no hold barred rumble to a hard edged conclusion. Shaw’s character Aidan Snow makes a brief appearance but the story is really about karma. Big Chris Cotton reaps what he has sown. When you play with the big dogs you better not lose your edge; it can have deadly consequences.
I’d already decided I wanted to read more books by Alex Shaw. This tightly plotted short story sealed the deal.