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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Here's Looking 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 glamorous.

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:

‘I’m sorry sir,’ he said, ‘you are not permitted into this casino.’

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 don’t 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 doorman’s 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 tracks.

I turned to see the woman who had accompanied me in my ascent of the casino steps.

‘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 couldn’t 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.’

‘That’s right,’ I said. ‘I knew that their inter-casino computer systems were sophisticated, but I hadn’t thought they’d identify me before I even got onto the gaming floor.’

‘Look,’ she said, ‘I’ll come straight to the point. At first glance, you look like …’ she 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 analysis.

‘Nobodies on package tours don’t get banned from international casinos,’ she clarified. ‘But you don’t 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 you’re just dressed like a tasteless jerk to allay suspicions.’ She paused for a few moments. ‘I’m right aren’t 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 Sean’s first meeting with Tatiana Romanova in From Russia, with Love.

‘Hey,’ she continued, ‘you’re 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 … I don’t 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.

‘I’ve 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 name’s …’ actually Swan Morrison sounds cool enough. Needn’t go for Brad or Pierce or Kurt … ‘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. I’ll 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 that’s cool. I’ll tell you,’ she said with passion, ‘it’s boringthey’re boring! You guys think outside the box. You invent stuff in your heads that no one else has done, and the big boys … they don’t even get what you’ve done until you’ve done it ... and then they don’t 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.

‘You’ve a great view of the Med,’ I said, looking from the panoramic windows across the Port of Monaco.

‘I always stay here when I’m 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 person’s gambling. I also knew that the computers automatically alerted other casinos, internationally, if someone exhibited unusually successful winning behaviour.

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 Monte Carlo!

‘I made a mistake.’ I returned from my mental analysis and responded to Bunny’s question. ‘I didn’t fully understand the way their computers identified people and calculated risk. I’ll 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 I’ll be totally honest with you. I’m not entirely what I seem to be, but I can’t tell you anything about what I really do or why I’m 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 particularly apposite.

‘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. ‘You’re 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 you’re in my position. Meeting someone like you has reminded me of all the mystery and excitement my life lacks.’

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 of us.

'You have to stay here where you belong. You’ve no idea what you’d have to look forward to if you came with me. If you joined me, you’d regret it - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

‘We’ll always 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 Bunny’s suite. That “mound of pulses” paraphrase had been a touch of genius to conceal the origins of my farewell speech.

The final line of Rick’s testament came to mind, and I found myself saying it out loud: ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’