Or my Adventures with One Feisty Old Lady
I’m sorry, Mrs. P., I know you prefer not to be referred to as old, but what else could I say? Elderly is even worse, and Senior just doesn’t describe you at all. I can only hope I’ve known you long enough to get away with a little cheek. I hear that you are unofficially retiring from our organization, which you never officially worked for to begin with. I shall have to miss the lovely garden party, and seeing your Cyrus beaming over you like a benevolent guardian Cyclops, only Cyrus has both his eyes. (I was trying to think of someone very tall and strong -- oh well, if you don’t know what I mean after all these years and all we’ve been through, well, shame on you.) Of course this is a time to look back, and funnily enough my first memory of you, Emily, isn’t a memory at all. It’s that check-up you told me about during that cold, frightening night we were locked with Hafez in Castle de Chillon. The check-up where that pathetic young doctor ask you if there wasn’t something you always wanted to do with your life, and when you told him he laughed in your face. I like to think he’s a lonely old doctor by now, thinking of the dreams he once had and how sorry he is that he didn’t take them more seriously. (Don’t say that’s unkind of me, I know it is but I wish it anyway; you’re much more lady like than I.) I feel like I knew you then, but of course I didn‘t see you until you stepped off the bus, walked into the office, and offered your services. You realize, I’m sure, that everyone else thought you were nuts, but I understood your logic. You said you’d lived a full life, you were in excellent health, and our country could better afford to lose you than a young person. (You were wrong there.) I guess I understood even though I was much younger than you. (Why do I feel much closer in age to you now? You just get younger all the time.) At that point my life seemed destined to be, to my great disappointment, kind of ‘samey’ and safe. Because you took courage in hand and stepped in Headquarters, both our lives drastically changed, dear friend, and I am so thankful! You deserve to ‘retire’ but oh how I shall hate not working with you again.
I am looking forward to having you over when you get back from Sofia. Make sure Cyrus keeps you out of trouble, I should hate to miss out on any last minute escapades you might fall into. Have you talked about driving around the little square one more time? No one could justify the Panchevsky ‘Institute’ as a tourist site, except maybe those of us who helped Phillip and the others escape. Do you know what I wish? That somehow I’d managed to hold on to the list you made at our planning meeting-- the one where you recorded all our assets: geese, one pistol, fireworks, knots, motorcycle, bow and arrow. Can you believe we actually got everyone out of that prison fortress, toppled General Ignatov and managed to get that nasty Nikki in trouble, too, with only those assets, and your refusal to give up? So much has changed in Bulgaria since then, I wonder if any of the rest of them are still alive? Bishop says there’s no way to tell, and he would know. I’m sure you’ll go by the government cemetery while you’re there. Please leave a token for ‘Tsanko’. For me.
You were right about being married to Bishop, you know. He spends all day at work organizing people’s lives to protect the free world, and then he tries to organize and protect me. If you asked him who I need to be protected from, I’m afraid he might say you. But don’t worry, when he gets too bothersome I suggest a nice excursion to Mexico, perhaps a visit to a bookshop where we can look for a copy of a certain book. He starts muttering about Albania and Ferrell, and gets very pale. Personally I don’t think you can be persona non grata in a country you never officially entered and from which you escaped as quickly and quietly as you possibly could. But you know how he worries, so it works every time. I once tried to blackmail him by offering to travel back to Turkey and introduce him to Anyeta and the other gypsies. He thought it sounded like fun, so if you get a postcard of a caravan from us some day, you’ll know he took me up on it. Speaking of the gypsies, Cyrus would just adore them, and if we could arrange another love-in, well, can you imagine watching him dancing with flowers in his hair, if he had any, with all the lovely Turkish girls? There are so many fond memories of that mission I can almost forget finding Magda drugged and held prisoner in the house of Dr. Belleaux, the man who was supposed to be helping us. I learned what courage is when you and Colin dragged her down the main staircase and out the front door in the sight of him and all his important guests. Not to mention Magda, Colin, you and I hurling ourselves into the police helicopter while they chased and shot at us. I’ve always felt one of your crowning moments, Emily, was when Magda asked you if you knew how to fly a helicopter. You said “Of course not!” and proceeded to do it anyway. How many cars did you take out on the way to the Kayseri Airport? I’ve forgotten.
There is so much more to talk about, but my plane from Hong Kong is about to leave. I’ll take a bit of a nap -- or sleep like the dead, as Bishop insists -- and write more tomorrow, my dear Mrs. P. (as you will always be to me.)
Your Friend in Adventure.
Read Well, Friend
Hear about Mrs. Pollifax on NPR by clicking here.
(Books referred to in this post are The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, and The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, some of the series written by Dorothy Gilman.)