Spies/Firing

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen is at a desk. There is a knock at the door, and Hugh enters.

Hugh Hello, Control.

Stephen Tony. It's you.

Hugh That's right. I understand from Valerie that you wanted reasonably strongly to see me.

Stephen Valerie is by no means leading you up the garden path, Tony, because I do want to see you.

Hugh I find Valerie's usually right in these little matters.

Stephen Ng.

Hugh Control?

Stephen Yes, Tony?

Hugh Did you want, I'm wondering, to speak to me as well, or was it just seeing me that was on your mind?

Stephen Well now Tony, there was something I wanted to ask you, but it's a little bit tricky actually.

Hugh Tricky?

Stephen Yes, Tony. Have you ever been in the position where you've had to tell someone you like quite a lot that you've got to fire them from their job?

Hugh No.

Stephen Ah.

Hugh That didn't turn out to be too tricky a thing to ask me, did it?

Stephen Yes. Thing is, Tony, I haven't quite said the really tricky thing yet.

Hugh Ah. Would it be the kind of thing that would go better with a good cup of coffee, Control?

Stephen Perhaps a little later, Tony. I wouldn't want to be thought of as hiding behind that cup of coffee.

Hugh That's just as well, Control, because the cup of coffee I had in mind was going to be quite small.

Stephen Tell me Tony, have you, in your position as subsection chief of the East German and related satellites desk, noticed the way the wind is blowing on the other side of the curtain?

Hugh It's been blowing in odd kinds of ways, hasn't it, Control?

Stephen It has, Tony. Glasnost, perestroika and related phenomena have had their effect on the political map of Europe in no uncertain terms.

Hugh Yes, Control. Only this morning, I had to ask Valerie if she wouldn't mind going out and buying some new political maps of Europe, as ours were really quite out of date.

Stephen Yes, it's shaken all our lives up a bit, certainly. But Tony ...

Hugh Yes, Control?

Stephen It's also meant that our masters in Whitehall have started wondering whether they need quite so many people involved with spying.

Hugh I'm not sure I fully understand, Control.

Stephen Well they take the view, Tony, that nowadays, with the Russians simply ringing us up and telling us most of their secrets, we don't need to spend such a lot of money on finding them out.

Hugh That's an astute piece of political thinking by our masters in Whitehall, Control.

Stephen Yes, Tony, it is.

Hugh How about that coffee now, Control?

Stephen No, Tony. Not yet. Anyway, what this is all leading up to, Tony, if you haven't already guessed, is that I'm going to have to fire you from your job.

Hugh Control. I'm slightly at a loss for words.

Stephen Please don't think, Tony, that I'm getting any enjoyment out of this situation. This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in all my years of running the Secret Service.

Hugh Mmm. I certainly don't envy you, Control, having to pass on a bit of news like the one you've just passed on to me.

Stephen Yes, it is very hard, Tony.

Hugh Oh well, Control. I suppose that's that, then.

Stephen Yes, Tony, I'm afraid it is. I really am very sorry.

Hugh May I take this opportunity of saying how much I've enjoyed working with you, Control, and wish you the very best of luck with all your future spying.

Stephen Thank you Tony. I can honestly say that this place won't be the same without you.

Hugh No, I suppose it will be a bit different because I won't be here.

Stephen That's right.

Hugh I'll be somewhere else.

Stephen Yes.

Hugh Well goodbye, Control. They shake hands.

Stephen Goodbye, Murchison. Hugh exits. Stephen sits down again and blows his nose. He picks up the phone. Valerie? Could you bring me a cup of coffee? (Pause) How do I like it? I like it the way Tony Murchison used to make it.

Vox Pop

Stephen If things had worked out differently it's strange to think I would now be Foreign Secretary and Douglas Hurd would be an assistant librarian. Wierd, isn't it?

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