At You, Kid
It was a, warm, balmy
summer evening as I walked along the Avenue de
Monte Carlo towards the Casino de Monte Carlo.
An eclectic mix of
characters were promenading that evening. There
were package tourists, like myself. There were
also those who were very obviously better heeled.
Wealth and style were apparent in abundance.
Such company, this location
and a little imagination allowed me a fleeting
glimpse into the world of those who in the
seventies had been described as the jet
set the world in which my boyhood
hero, James Bond, had lived and loved.
Theirs was, of course, a
very alien lifestyle compared to mine. I would
never have been in Monte Carlo had it not been
for the last minute offer by my local travel
agent of a cut price coach trip to Monaco. Even
then, I had had to share a room with another
single man on the trip to bring the cost within
my limited budget.
As I walked past the Casino
de Monte Carlo, an impulse came upon me to climb
the eight steps that led to the entrance. This
was partly to take in the view of the gardens at
the front of the building and the hills that rose
behind the city, but also to briefly further
indulge the fantasy of being one of the rich and
As I approached the steps,
I noted an S-Class Mercedes draw up in front of
the casino. The driver opened one of the rear
doors and a strikingly attractive woman emerged.
By coincidence, she and I began to ascend the
stairs together, side by side. I briefly glanced
at her Hollywood style appearance and wondered
what attributes a man might have to possess to
warrant even a glance from her.
We reached the entrance to
the casino at almost the same moment. I was about
to turn, admire the view and return to the street
below when the doorman spoke to me:
Im sorry sir,
he said, you are not permitted into this
Although I had no intention
of going into the building, curiosity led me to
enquire why I could not be allowed inside.
To be frank, sir, I
dont know, he politely replied. He
glanced at the screen of a tablet that he was
holding. All major international casinos
are linked by a computer network. Cameras record
everyone who enters or tries to enter any casino.
The automated system notes all activity, checks
past records and makes a judgement as to whether
any specific person should be admitted or allowed
to stay. He pointed to the cameras looking
down upon the area around the casino. The
CCTV is fed to face recognition software.
He pressed a key on his tablet. You appear
to have been banned due to your gambling
activities in Las Vegas.
It was true that I had been
in Las Vegas during the previous year. I had also
been a computer analyst prior to retirement and
was familiar with the computer systems used by
the casinos. In fact, coincidentally, I had
briefly been involved in casino software design.
I glanced at the
doormans tablet and noted that the system
had designated me to code 666.
Ah yes, I
finally replied to the doorman, I think I
might be able to guess why the computers consider
me to be an unsuitable patron.
I smiled at him, turned and
began to descend the steps.
Excuse me. A
soft, sensual, female voice halted me in my
I turned to see the woman
who had accompanied me in my ascent of the casino
Hello, I said
in a somewhat gauche manner, unaccustomed to
being addressed by a female who appeared to have
stepped from the front cover of Vogue magazine.
I couldnt help
overhearing your discussion with the doorman. He
said you were banned from the casino because of
the outcome of your gambling in Las Vegas.
I said. I knew that their inter-casino
computer systems were sophisticated, but I
hadnt thought theyd identify me
before I even got onto the gaming floor.
Look, she said,
Ill come straight to the point. At
first glance, you look like
paused and appeared slightly self-conscious,
well, you look like a nobody,
she laughed, - almost as if you were here
on some cheap tourist package.
I remained silent and tried
to look enigmatic while awaiting some clue as to
why she doubted this totally accurate initial
Nobodies on package
tours dont get banned from international
casinos, she clarified. But you
dont look like a high roller, either.
She looked me in the eyes. You must be one
of those geniuses that beat casinos by card
counting or some of that other clever stuff. I
bet youre just dressed like a tasteless
jerk to allay suspicions. She paused for a
few moments. Im right arent I?
I considered correcting her
error by pointing out that I was a nobody on a
package tour also that I was a little
offended by her analysis of the holiday wardrobe
I had carefully chosen from Asda. I then pondered
on simply continuing with the enigmatic
expression, loosely modelled on that of Sean
Connery, just to see what happened. I opted for
the latter, and added a knowing smile for good
measure - rather reminiscent, it seemed to me, of
Seans first meeting with Tatiana Romanova
in From Russia, with Love.
continued, youre not getting into any
of the casinos tonight. Do you want to come back
to my hotel to pass the time?
I thought of Reg, my
roommate, and our rather dingy room in that one
star hotel on the unfashionable outskirts of the
city. I then thought of
know her name
and the top class Monte
Carlo penthouse she was undoubtedly staying in.
Reg would have to find someone else to share a
beer this evening.
Ive got some
advance trading I need to do on the Net, before
the markets open, I lied to feed the
fantasy she had begun to create, but I
guess I can spare some time. My names
actually Swan Morrison sounds
cool enough. Neednt go for Brad or Pierce
Morrison, I said,
Swan Morrison. I pronounced the names
with the same measured cadence as Sean Connery,
and every Bond since, has said: Bond, James
Bond. I looked deep into her beautiful
brown eyes. What can I call you?
People call me Bunny,
she replied, further contributing to the
impression that we were on the set of a Bond
movie, or possibly Austin Powers.
OK, I said,
you summon your driver. Ill tell mine
not to wait. I pulled my mobile from my
pocket. I love minimalist retro, I
added rapidly, making an excuse for my Nokia 1100.
I dialled the speaking
clock: Hi Jooles, I spoke into the
phone, take the Porsche back to the hotel
and have the night off.
Jooles informed me that it
was seven sixteen pm and thirty seconds.
You guys are so cool,
said Bunny as her chauffeur drove us the short
distance to the Hermitage Hotel. Most men I meet
are rich bankers, financiers, film stars
that sort of thing. They play by the old rules
and think thats cool. Ill tell you,
she said with passion, its boring
theyre boring! You
guys think outside the box. You invent stuff in
your heads that no one else has done, and the big
they dont even get what
youve done until youve done it ...
and then they dont understand it. She
paused and looked me in the eyes. I find
that really sexy.
Time for that enigmatic
look and the smile again, I thought, perhaps
a bit more like Roger Moore this time.
We pulled up outside her
hotel. I followed her from the car to the lift
and then to the Diamond Suite.
Youve a great
view of the Med, I said, looking from the
panoramic windows across the Port of Monaco.
I always stay here
when Im in Monte Carlo, she replied,
passing me a vodka martini.
I took a sip. I had never
had one before and immediately disliked the taste.
I thought it best not to mention the fact,
however, as I had specifically asked for it.
You mix a perfect martini, I said, in
the manner Bond had complimented Judy Havelock in
For Your Eyes Only.
The sun had begun to set
into the sea, splashing its golden colours onto
the water while the distant waves had stirred,
not shaken, them into its Mediterranean cocktail.
So tell me about Las
Vegas, said Bunny as we sank back into the
sumptuous chairs on her private terrace.
I thought back to that
morning in the Bellagio. I had visited Las Vegas
on another cheap, last minute, package trip. I
had never been one for gambling, but, as I was in
the gambling capital of the world, I thought I
would give it a try.
I had put a dollar bill
into a gaming machine. The machine had rejected
the bill. I had smoothed out the wrinkles in the
bill and put it back into the machine the other
way up. The machine had again rejected it. I had
then thought Oh well, sod that! and put
the dollar back into my wallet. That had marked
the end of my high-rolling in Vegas.
I knew that casinos
monitored everyone who entered, and that their
computers analysed each persons gambling. I
also knew that the computers automatically
alerted other casinos, internationally, if
someone exhibited unusually successful winning
Before I retired, I had
coincidentally done some work on the algorithms
used by casino computers to decide which punters
to ban. My best guess about what had happened at
the Bellagio was that I had appeared to gamble,
but had then made neither a profit nor a loss
in other words I had made a very rare zero
profit or loss.
I suspected that the
Bellagio program had divided a critical number by
my zero, and concluded that I had made
an infinite profit. The 666 code represented a
very high win for a small bet and so was highly
consistent with that theory.
Casino software seemed
prone to that sort of bug, and it would certainly
be sufficient to trigger my ban at the Casino de
I made a mistake.
I returned from my mental analysis and responded
to Bunnys question. I didnt
fully understand the way their computers
identified people and calculated risk. Ill
be more careful in Rio, I added, selecting
a location from Moonraker to further
develop my intriguing and mysterious persona.
Tell me more about
yourself, she said.
A further enigmatic
expression and a sip of vodka martini, ugh,
gave me time to think. There was virtually
nothing I could say about myself that would not
bring my embryonic, fantasy persona crashing down
in flames, every bit as spectacular as those in
the final scene of any Bond movie. I was a
retired computer analyst. I lived in a small
terraced house in Blackpool, England, and I liked
to take as many economical holidays as possible
by exploiting special offers. I was also a
lifelong fan of, and something of an expert on,
those Bond movies.
You came straight to
the point with me earlier, I said, so
Ill be totally honest with you. Im
not entirely what I seem to be, but I cant
tell you anything about what I really do or why
Im really in Monte Carlo. I seemed to
recall that Bond had said something of the like
to Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, which,
as the film had been set in Monte Carlo, seemed
Wow, she said,
clearly impressed. I expect the skills of
you guys are in demand for all sorts of things.
She paused. I guessed she was trying to think of
a way of discovering more. Youre
probably working under cover for some
intelligence agency, she finally ventured,
looking at my face for a tell-tale reaction.
I concluded that the
enigmatic look and knowing smile required a
further encore. I also raised an eyebrow, in the
style of Pierce Brosnan, and gestured towards the
open door of her bedroom.
Can I see you again?
Bunny had asked on the following morning, as I
paused at the door of her suite to say goodbye.
As I told you last night, life can be
really tedious and lonely when youre in my
position. Meeting someone like you has reminded
me of all the mystery and excitement my life
I thought back to the
previous night. Bunny had talked a lot about
herself, particularly about how isolated her
inherited wealth and her beauty had led her to
become. In that brief time I had also become
quite fond of her. It crossed my mind that, had
our lives turned out differently, we might have
been friends. As things were, the Bunny I knew
may as well have lived in a different universe,
and the Swan Morrison we had somehow concocted
from her hopes and dreams, and from my
encyclopaedic knowledge of Bond movies, did not
exist at all.
I looked at my watch. My
coach was due to leave from the bus station at
lunchtime on its return journey to Blackpool.
I have to move-on, today, I said.
I could come with you,
she added with a tone of desperation in her voice.
I could think of nothing
appropriate that Bond had ever said in such
circumstances, although, of course, he had never
had to hurry to catch a coach at the end of a
package holiday. Fortunately Humphrey Bogart was
on hand to help:
Last night we did and
said a great many things, I began quoting,
with amendments to fit the current circumstances,
but because you can know so little about me,
we agreed that I have to do the thinking for both
'You have to stay here
where you belong. Youve no idea what
youd have to look forward to if you came
with me. If you joined me, youd regret it -
maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon,
and for the rest of your life.
have Monte Carlo, I continued. Where
I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do,
you can't be any part of. Bunny, I'm no good at
being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that
the problems of two little people don't amount to
a mound of pulses in this insane world. Someday
you'll understand that.
As I walked out of the door,
I glanced back at her tear stained face. I smiled
reassuringly, winked, then turned and walked away.
Our coach drove past the
Hermitage Hotel as it left Monte Carlo. I looked
up at the terrace of Bunnys suite. That
mound of pulses paraphrase had been a
touch of genius to conceal the origins of my
The final line of
Ricks testament came to mind, and I found
myself saying it out loud: Heres
looking at you, kid.