Last week I was on assignment for MI6 in Syria, a very unpleasant affair indeed. When I returned, my human friend Brian began asking questions about the business of international espionage, as he is a great fan of spy movies and was wondering if the reality is anything like the fiction. Since MI6 doesn’t take kindly to their secrets being revealed to outsiders, however, I politely refused to go into detail, except to say that spying in repressive dictatorships is always a risky undertaking, even for a werewolf.
“Of course I understand that you can’t say anything about your current assignments,” said Brian, “but surely you can tell me something about your experiences in the past, spying for William Pitt and Frederick the Great, for example. They’ve been dead long enough that they shouldn’t mind.”
“That’s a good point,” I agreed. “Very well, it won’t hurt to tell you a few things. First of all, the most important principle of espionage – whether in the eighteenth century or the present day – is to have a good cover. It’s much easier to hide in plain sight, behind a profession or activity which arouses no suspicion, than to fight your way out after being discovered.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with the principle from watching Alias,” said Brian. “So you were the Sydney Bristow of the eighteenth century? You do faintly resemble Jennifer Garner…”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Unlike your television heroine, however, I only used one cover during all my years of service as ‘private correspondent’ to Pitt and the Prussians. My profession was that of a travelling harpsichord virtuoso, which gave me access to the highest circles of the nobility. Invitations came from all the royal courts, and naturally I used my concert appearances to gather intelligence about the goings-on behind closed doors in the great European palaces of state. No-one ever suspected me – ‘a mere woman’, as Frederick the Great often said – of political and military espionage.”
“But weren’t musicians generally regarded as servants in those days? How did you gain acceptance at the courts of kings and emperors?”
“Don’t forget that I was a duchess myself, though the Duchy of Caerfyrddin was rather insignificant by Continental standards. In addition to my title, I also had impeccable credentials as a musician, since I had studied with Mr Handel in my youth.”
“Handel was your teacher?” His eyes went wide in astonishment.
“He actually pronounced it Hendel,” I said. “After all, he was German, even though the English like to believe otherwise. And yes, I began studying composition with him in 1749, shortly after I arrived in London to live with my aunt. Handel rarely accepted pupils, so I was very fortunate that he agreed to teach me.”
“This is incredible,” said Brian, “I know several professors of musicology who would give anything to interview you and learn about Handel’s teaching methods. It could shed new light on his entire creative process…”
“Sorry, but you know the rules. No interviews and no public appearances. I’m sure that there are professors in many fields who would love to interview a centuries-old werewolf. Some would doubtless like to dissect me as well. But as I’ve told you repeatedly, this little experiment of ours must retain the appearance of fiction. No-one must ever suspect that I really exist.”
“Well, can you at least tell me something about your studies with Handel?”
“All right, I’ll let you read a passage from my memoirs. But you must agree not to reveal anything on to your academic friends. Otherwise, I will have to eat you.”