The International Men Of Mystery were children of the latter half of the 1960s. Dashing, suave and of independent means, they wafted across Europe in Jensen Interceptors and Aston Martins in a tireless quest for mystery and adventure.
Theirs was a golden era of Savile Row suits, vintage champagne, exotic locations, obsequious waiters, pantomime villains and beautiful, begowned damsels in distress. But as they swashbuckled and caroused, change rode in to their world upon the wings of social and technological revolution.
Cheap air travel and package holidays opened up Europe to the common man. The exotic soon became familiar and, worse, homogenised – many of the things that gave Milan, Paris and Vienna their unique flavours were trampled under the heavy feet of corporate communism.
For all their capitalistic leanings, that didn’t suit the International Men Of Mystery. Who in their right mind, they reasoned, would willingly eschew the delights of Enzo’s filetta di orata al cartoccio at La Scorpione Rosso or Chez Sebastien’s renowned blanquette de volaille for a slab of beef of questionable origin served in a freshly defrosted bun? The answer served up to them was as emphatic as it was predictable.
Even as they watched their world crumble through flinty eyes, the International Men Of Mystery clung to the hope that they may yet have a role to play. But it was not to be. The energy crisis that followed in the tank tracks of the Yom Kippur War hit both old and new money with equal alacrity. Belts were tightened and businesses small and large withered and died.
The world which emerged from the energy crisis was smaller, leaner, nastier. The kaleidoscopic playground of the International Men of Mystery reverberated to the toll of the bell; their day was done. A pitiful few eked out a modest place in the new world, swapping the vibrant colours of carefree existence for the monochrome of commerce. They were the fortunate ones. The rest clung desperately to the flotsam of their old lives, gradually becoming sad, lonely caricatures of their former selves until attrition finally reduced them to nothing more than a footnote in the annals of history.
But for reasons best known to them, the unseen forces that move among us decreed that one International Man of Mystery should survive, sleeping underneath the Eildon Hills until the time should come for him to return.
That time is now.
Dateline: April, 2017
Location: Somewhere beneath the Eildon Hills, Melrose, United Kingdom.
Clad all in black, the colour of the night (and, as his faithful valet Tupper was apt to observe, of the knight-errant), our revived International Man of Mystery regards himself in the mirror. The man who returns his stare is of indeterminate age, tall, athletic and square jawed. His face is clean shaven, his hair worn a little long by contemporary standards. The beginning of either a smile or a scowl plays on his lips and his eyes are cool, deep, unreadable.
A message booms out on an unseen speaker, calling him to the garage. He arrives there to find a revitalised Tupper standing at the head of a long line of cars. His question is rhetorical: “For me?” Tupper nods. “Hmmm,” says our man, taking in the unfamiliar shapes, “one has been asleep for a long time…”
TO BE CONTINUED.
Whoa! Not so fast, dear reader. We’re not done here yet: International Man of Mystery HQ (in association with PetrolBlog) has a job for you.
Imagine, if you will, that YOU are the revived International Man of Mystery (the Equality Act doesn’t apply to this post – we checked), brought back from your slumber, recalibrated for a new era and ready to tackle the cads, footpads, rapscallions and rotters of the 21st century. The bad news is that you have to work on Mondays, but by way of consolation you get to choose the car that will convey you from one adventure to the next.
And that’s your mission: make your choice then tell us what it is and why you’ve chosen it. We’d suggest that you choose wisely – dark times are at hand and your enemies are legion. But we’re not your keepers and far be it from us to tell you what to do. It’s your choice and yours alone, be it subtle or brash, rapier or bludgeon, razor’s edge or armchair.
As for the International Man of Mystery, he’ll return soon to tell you all what you should have chosen. He’s like that…