This is a crossover between BtVS and the Modesty Blaise comic strips and books. For BtVS this is three years post Chosen; for Modesty Blaise it's after the novels but before some events in the collection Cobra Trap. The 1960s film never happened, it was a horrid figment of your imagination, but the later film, My Name is Modesty, fits the background reasonably well.
For the purposes of this story Modesty is as she is usually described, in her mid- to late twenties, and the publication date of the novels should be ignored. For a story that uses the chronology of the books see my earlier Counter-Coup.
by Marcus L. Rowland
"This is insufferable," said Professor Giulio Barbi. "You are wasting your talents! If you had come to me ten years earlier you would have had the makings of an Olympic champion. It is too late for that now, but you could compete at national levels, and you are still parrying when you could press home your attack!"
"But you would have hit me afterwards," said Modesty Blaise, trailing her épée along the strip of non-slip rubber that formed the centre piste of his salle. It was an old argument, and one she would never win without telling Barbi too much about her life.
"Afterwards does not count! You would have made the hit and won the point!"
"That's all very well in a competition, but in a real fight..."
"Fight! Who fights with swords! We are fencing, not brawling." Modesty didn't reply; she doubted that Barbi would approve of her response. She'd killed with a sword.
"Still teaching people to turn the other cheek, Professor?"
They turned to see a tall bespectacled figure in slacks and a leather jacket, standing well clear of the piste. Barbi peered at him, for a moment puzzled, then took off his mask and said "Doctor Giles? I had heard you were dead. Or in America, which is probably worse." Modesty took off her own mask as Barbi turned back to her and said "Mademoiselle Blaise, allow me to introduce you to another brawler. Doctor Giles, allow me to present Mademoiselle Blaise." For a second she thought he recognised her name, or perhaps her face, but there was nothing overt in his attitude or expression to confirm that.
Giles stepped forward and said "Rupert Giles," and offered her his hand, which she shook firmly, saying "Modesty Blaise."
"Pleased to meet you." He turned back to the Professor and said "I'm sorry to drop in without warning, but I was in London for a meeting that ended early. I came in to sign up for regular training sessions, if you can fit me in, and I was hoping I might be able to borrow an épée and get a little practice today."
"I regret, but... a moment. Mademoiselle Blaise, would you and Doctor Giles care to try a bout or two? It might amuse you both, and it would give me an opportunity to compare your techniques. Doctor Giles, you have no épée?"
"I'm afraid it's in Bath," said Giles, "but anything will do, I've given up on customised grips."
"Then I have something that will suffice. Mademoiselle Blaise, is this agreeable to you?"
"Why not?" said Modesty, guessing that this meant that Giles was a worthy opponent. Barbi led Giles off, bringing him back a few minutes later in protective clothing and carrying another épée. She fastened her own mask.
Barbi checked Modesty's equipment and whispered "He was strong and fast, and used to be quite good, but he has been fighting Americans. You should easily win." He went to check Giles, and Modesty guessed that he was saying something similar to him. After a few seconds he moved clear of the piste and said "Commence."
Helping himself to a handful of cashew nuts in Modesty's London penthouse that evening, after a swim in the basement pool, Willie Garvin asked "How was your fencing practice?"
"Barbi tried to slip in a ringer," said Modesty, heading for her bedroom to change out of her bathing suit.
"A ringer," Modesty raised her voice as she put on a bath-robe. "Named Rupert Giles, about fifty, quite good-looking. Barbi pretended he was just a good amateur, but he was well above the usual standard. If he hasn't fought at national level he's close to it."
"Naughty Barbi," Willie said disapprovingly. "Did you beat him, Princess?"
"Only just. He was good; not quite as good a classic fencer as Barbi, but much more versatile."
"How do you mean?" Willie asked as she came back in, towelling off her dark hair.
"Barbi called him a brawler. Technically a little sloppy, but not much worse than me, and has a lot of energy and power. Has the same trouble I do about getting hit after making the point. From the way he fought I'd guess he's used to heavier blades than an épée. Maybe sabre, could even be broadsword."
"That's odd. It's not like it's an Olympic sport. Film work? Or historical re-enactment?"
"Maybe. He looked... well, I'd have to say tough. Not exactly a brawler in the sense we'd use, if anything he seemed an intellectual, but he's been in a good few fights without protection. I could see some scars, and his nose has been broken at least once."
"I think he may have recognised my name or my face," said Modesty, "though he didn't say so. The odd thing is I've a feeling I've come across his name somewhere."
"I'm pretty sure he was being followed. We left the salle at the same time, there was a car waiting for him, with a woman driver and another woman sitting in the back, both young. Daughters, maybe. When they drove off another car tailed it."
"I recognised the driver. Tommy Waddell, he used to be on the fringes of Brunel's mob."
"Better tell Tarrant, then." Sir Gerald Tarrant ran one of the more effective departments of British intelligence, and Brunel had been a thorn in his side a few years earlier. Brunel was long dead, but some remnants of his old organisation occasionally surfaced.
"Mmmm," said Modesty, running her fingers along one of the bookshelves in the living room. Willie guessed that she'd remembered something, and waited while she pulled a paperback from the shelf, flicked through to the final pages, and nodded absently.
"I had an idea I'd seen the name in print, and it's here. You know that Tarrant is a fencing Blue. In the seventies he was a regular judge at the British Fencing Championships. An R. Giles was awarded the Silver medal in sabre and the Bronze in épée in seventy-nine. He was a couple of points away from the Gold in sabre."
"And nothing. He dropped out of competition completely, as far as I can tell, though he must have stayed in practice. Nobody's that good without it."
"Then Tarrant might know him," said Willie.
"It could be a coincidence," said Modesty.
"It could, only..."
"Only what, Willie?"
"Me ears are pricking." Willie had an odd sense for danger, which had saved their lives on several occasions. "Could be nothing, or my imagination, but I've just got an odd feeling..."
"Then I'd better talk to Tarrant. If I call now I ought to catch him before he leaves his office."
"That's odd," Modesty said a few minutes later, coming into the kitchen where Willie was laying the table. "I've never known Tarrant to be so cagey. He went very quiet when I mentioned the name."
"Any idea why?"
"No. But you'd better set three places, he's on his way over."