Aspen, Colorado, USA.
Gilbert Van Heldensomer, Director of Intelligence Department 14a and his Deputy Director Darrel Johnson of the CIA, had been kept waiting almost three hours. The congenial and apologetic servant plied them with drinks and canapés, repeating consistently the mantra he must have used for so many years, "My Master the Marquis de Seclair, has regretfully been detained, on his behalf please accept his deepest apologies!"
Gilbert cast his mind back to the previous day trying to discern what the Marquis was after. The summons had been delivered by snail mail, the sort of antiquated letter he'd not had the pleasure of receiving in a long time. They'd travelled by CIA shuttle to Brussels, obtaining a hire car which they drove to the remote castle an hour’s drive away.
All operations were more or less going to plan, some delays perhaps but nothing to be overly concerned about. Once again he nervously glanced at his watch. Sometimes he regretted being involved in the murky dirty business he was in! But it was too late to turn the clock back. He'd bluffed his way out of many political problems in his time and was confident that today was going to be no exception.
The wooden footsteps of the servant sounded hollow on the fine ancient parquet flooring. "The Marquis will be pleased to see you now, Sir!" Gilbert felt like saying aloud, damn right about time too, as his deputy stood up also.
The servant gestured with his right hand whilst posturing, "The Marquis will see Monsieur Gilbert alone!" The instructions convoluted and rather strange were to go down the staircase and through the fifth door on the right. Under different circumstances Gilbert would have rebelled and declined, but the Marquis was not likely to be so accommodating.
The stairs were no ordinary stairs and reminded Gilbert of horror movies he had seen, dank, dark with faint bare electric bulbs spaced every twenty metres, meant carefully walking down the badly worn steep stone steps that seemed to stretch forever into the distance. No handrail exacerbated the feeling of helplessness beginning to affect his normally positive self. Finally after what seemed like far too long, he reached the door in semi darkness, opening the antiquated latch he peered into a room covered in pitch-black darkness. For several minutes he paused standing on the threshold, feeling almost certain doom.
Gradually his eyes became accustomed to the dim blackout, a faint glow became apparent deep within the doorway. As if to accentuate the dismal theatricality of the scenario, a deep booming voice beckoned him to enter, "Gilbert, come into my most humble abode, forgive me for keeping you waiting for so long, but do pray come enter in!"
Like a blind man deprived of his walking stick, Gilbert felt his way into the room, arms stretched out in front of him, he gingerly waved his hands to feel for any obstacles. After slowly groping his way along, Gilbert reached the faint glow, which was a light emanating from a candle within a heavily stained glass holder. Gilbert now accustomed to the dim light, saw at the far end of the room the Marquis sat in an armchair behind a bare wooden desk. The Marquis gestured Gilbert to sit down on the chair in front of the desk.
Gilbert couldn't stop wondering why the Marquis was spending his time in this dingy room deep inside his castle. As if reading his thoughts the Marquis answered him. "I'm an old man, my eyes cannot cope with bright light, please forgive me." The Marquis offered Gilbert a drink of wine, which he accepted.