A night of adventure

Isabelle, The Mole's spy at Renault, is a stunningly beautiful woman. When she was a teenager she could not understand why there were always road accidents when she walked down a street. She was annoyed that she was always the one who was asked to be an eyewitness. As she grew older she began to understand the effects and the power of her beauty and had soon developed that elegant confidence that beautiful women enjoy. If she had been a horse she would have won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. When Isabelle laughed men forget why it was that they had ever been mad enough to say "til death us do part". Isabelle swatted away men like flies, hoping always to find a soul-mate, a man who loved her for herself and not simply for her looks. She had never been married but had done more than her fair share of testing out possible candidates.

For reasons that were never really clear, Isabelle had a soft spot for The Mole. He was flattered (but rather frightened) and sometimes yearned to discover the exact location of Isabelle's soft spot. As a result things were always highly-charged when the pair of them got together. They both understood this and so avoided meeting one another when others were present, in order to stop rumours of a relationship. There was a complicity between them which always suggested that things between them had gone rather further than in truth was the case.

On Friday, as the office was packing up for the weekend, The Mole's assistant Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) took a phone call from Paris.

"It's Isabelle," she announced to The Mole.

"Hello darling," said Isabelle.

The Mole was instantly alert. In part because Isabelle woke up the demons that snoozed within him, but also because "darling" was the code word they used for an emergency. It was a message that high grade information needed to be imparted.

"So you want me?" The Mole, playing his role.

"Tonight," said Isabelle. "I need you. Old flame."

"I'll get the 19.09," he said. "I'll be there at 11.30."

It was going to be tight and within minutes The Mole was out of the door of the SIS building and Oswald the chauffeur was weaving through the traffic to get him to Waterloo in time for the Eurostar. The Mole rang Mrs Mole and explained that there was "a flap on" and that he would not be home. He rang the Plaza Athenee and reserved a room. And then he rang Penelope (Roedean) in Indianapolis to see if there was anything developing in the F1 world.

"Nothing happening here," she said. "I have not stopped eating since I arrived. I am fatter than a hog!"

"A delightful thought," said The Mole.

Within minutes The Mole was on the train rattling back towards Vauxhall. He looked out of the window as they went past the SIS building and thought he saw Miss Pringle-Featherby scuttling out under the large number 85 that hung over the door.

Three hours later he was in a cab in Paris, heading for their habitual meeting place at the Place de l'Alma. It was too late to dine but The Mole decided that they could talk in a corner of the bar. He looked forward to the hint of Arpege that would be in the air and the Rose Royale cocktails that they would drink.

Isabelle seemed rather flustered and almost dragged him towards the Plaza. This was a secret that was burning a hole in her little black dress.

"We have to be careful," she hissed. "This is big news."

She paused and looked around cautiously.

"Renault and General Motors are talking about a merger deal."

The Mole said "Wow!"

"It is massive," Isabelle said. "Imagine a merger between them. Renault would get into the American market, GM would get new production lines with new products based on the European cars and on Nissans. People might actually buy the cars. And imagine the cost-cutting potential! Imagine the impact in Formula 1. Renault would suddenly become the strongest team in the paddock. And you can bet that we will quickly stop arguing about the need for cost-cutting. Imagine what we can do for F1 in America with Chevrolet or Pontiac engines. Just imagine."

"I am imagining," said The Mole. "It would be huge. We could have two or three races in the United States."

"They have not got far yet," Isabelle said. "I don't know how they are going to do it. GM would have to make concessions because it has those horrible pension commitments. It is all still in the melting pot."

The Mole was silent, thinking.

"Ah," said Isabelle. "This is annoying. I cannot whisper a conversation like this. We need to talk properly. Let's go upstairs. We need to brainstorm."

"We do," said The Mole.

"Get Room Service to send up some champagne," said Isabelle. "This could be a long night."

The Mole gulped.

"And some strawberries," said Isabelle. "I forgot to have dinner."

July 2 2006

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