Sunday, January 1, 2012
excerpt from "For Your Eyes Only"
That evening Bond's routine call with Mary Ann Russell was a stormy one. She said: "You're crazy. I'm not going to let you do it. I'm going to get Head of F to ring up Colonel Schreiber and tell him the whole story. This is SHAPE's job. Not yours."
Bond said sharply: "You'll do nothing of the sort. Colonel Schreiber says he's perfectly happy to let me make a dummy run tomorrow morning instead of the duty dispatch-rider. That's all he needs to know at this stage. Reconstruction of the crime sort of thing. He couldn't care less. He's practically closed the file on this business. Now, be a good girl and do as you're told. Just put my report on the printer to M. He'll see the point of me cleaning this thing up. He won't object."
"Damn M! Damn you! Damn the whole silly Service!" There were angry tears in the voice. "You're just a lot of children playing at Red Indians. Taking these people on by yourself! It's - it's showing off. That's all it is. Showing off."
Bond was beginning to get annoyed. He said: "That's enough, Mary Ann. Put that report on the printer. I'm sorry, but it's an order."
There was resignation in the voice. "Oh, all right. You don't have to pull your rank on me. But don't get hurt. At least you'll have the boys from the local Station to pick up the bits. Good luck."
"Thanks, Mary Ann. And will you have dinner with me tomorrow night? Some place like Armenonville. Pink champagne and gipsy violins. Paris in the spring routine."
"Yes," she said seriously. "I'd like that. But then take care all the more, would you? Please?"
"Of course I will. Don't worry. Goodnight."
Bond spent the rest of the evening putting a last high polish on his plans and giving a final briefing to the four men from the Station.
It was another beautiful day; Bond, sitting comfortably astride the throbbing BSA waiting for the off, could hardly believe in the ambush that would now be waiting for him just beyond the Carrefour Royal. The corporal from the Signal Corps who had handed him his empty dispatch-case and was about to give him the signal to go said: "You look as if you'd been in the Royal Corps all your life, sir. Time for a haircut soon, I'd say, but the uniform's bang on. How d'you like the bike, sir?"
"Goes like a dream. I'd forgotten what fun these damned things are."
"Give me a nice little Austin A40 any day, sir." The corporal looked at his watch. "Seven o'clock just coming up." He held up his thumb. "Okay."
Bond pulled the goggles down over his eyes, lifted a hand to the corporal, kicked the machine into gear and wheeled off across the gravel and through the main gates.
Off 184 and on to 307, through Bailly and Noisy-le-Roi and there was the straggle of St Nom. Here he would be turning sharp right on to D98 - the 'route de la mort', as the handler had called it. Bond pulled into the grass verge and once more looked to the long-barrel .45 Colt. He put the warm gun back against his stomach and left the jacket button undone. On your marks! Get set . . . !
Bond took the sharp corner and accelerated up to fifty. The viaduct carrying the Paris autoroute loomed up ahead. The dark mouth of the tunnel beneath it opened and swallowed him. The noise of his exhaust was gigantic, and for an instant there was a tunnel smell of cold and damp. Then he was out in the sunshine again and immediately across the Carrefour Royal. Ahead the oily tarmac glittered dead straight for two miles through the enchanted forest and there was a sweet smell of leaves and dew. Bond cut his speed to forty. The driving-mirror by his left hand shivered slightly with his speed. It showed nothing but an empty unfurling vista of road between lines of trees that curled away behind him like a green wake. No sign of the killer. Had he taken fright? Had there been some hitch? But then there was a tiny black speck in the centre of the convex glass - a midge that became a fly and then a bee and then a beetle. Now it was a crash helmet bent low over handlebars between two big black paws. God, he was coming fast! Bond's eyes flickered from the mirror to the road ahead and back to the mirror. When the killer's right hand went for his gun . . . !
Bond slowed - thirty-five, thirty, twenty. Ahead the tarmac was smooth as metal. A last quick look in the mirror. The right hand had left the handlebars. The sun on the man's goggles made huge fiery eyes below the rim of the crash helmet. Now! Bond braked fiercely and skidded the BSA through forty-five degrees, killing the engine. He was not quite quick enough on the draw. The killer's gun flared twice and a bullet tore into the saddle-springs beside Bond's thigh. But then the Colt spoke its single word, and the killer and his BSA, as if lassoed from within the forest, veered crazily off the road, leapt the ditch and crashed head-on into the trunk of a beech. For a moment the tangle of man and machinery clung to the broad trunk and then, with a metallic death-rattle, toppled backwards into the grass.
Bond got off his machine and walked over to the ugly twist of khaki and smoking steel. There was no need to feel for a pulse. Wherever the bullet had struck, the crash helmet had smashed like an eggshell. Bond turned away and thrust his gun back into the front of his tunic. He had been lucky. It would not do to press his luck. He got on the BSA and accelerated back down the road.
He leant the BSA up against one of the scarred trees just inside the forest and walked softly through to the edge of the clearing. He took up his stand in the shadow of the big beech. He moistened his lips and gave, as near as he could, the killer's bird-whistle. He waited. Had he got the whistle wrong? But then the bush trembled and the high thin whine began. Bond hooked his right thumb through his belt within inches of his gun-butt. He hoped he would not have to do any more killing. The two underlings had not seemed to be armed. With any luck they would come quietly.
Now the curved doors were open. From where he was, Bond could not see down the shaft, but within seconds the first man was out and putting on his snowshoes and the second followed. Snowshoes! Bond's heart missed a beat. He had forgotten them! They must be hidden back there in the bushes. Blasted fool! Would they notice?
The two men came slowly towards him, delicately placing their feet. When he was about twenty feet away, the leading man said something softly in what sounded like Russian. When Bond did not reply, the two men stopped in their tracks. They stared at him in astonishment, waiting perhaps for the answer to a password. Bond sensed trouble. He whipped out his gun and moved towards them, crouching. "Hands up." He gestured with the muzzle of the Colt. The leading man shouted an order and threw himself forward. At the same time the second man made a dash back towards the hideout. A rifle boomed from among the trees and the man's right leg buckled under him. The men from the Station broke cover and came running. Bond fell to one knee and clubbed upwards with his gun-barrel at the hurtling body. It made contact, but then the man was on him. Bond saw fingernails flashing towards his eyes, ducked and ran into an upper-cut. Now a hand was at his right wrist and his gun was being slowly turned on him. Not wanting to kill, he had kept the safety catch up. He tried to get his thumb to it. A boot hit him in the side of the head and he let the gun go and fell back. Through a red mist he saw the muzzle of the gun pointing at his face. The thought flashed through his mind that he was going to die - die for showing mercy . . . !
Suddenly the gun muzzle had gone and the weight of the man was off him. Bond got to his knees and then to his feet. The body, spreadeagled in the grass beside him, gave a last kick. There were bloody rents in the back of the dungarees. Bond looked round. The four men from the Station were in a group. Bond undid the strap of his crash helmet and rubbed the side of his head. He said: "Well, thanks. Who did it?"
Nobody answered. The men looked embarrassed.
Bond walked towards them, puzzled. "What's up?"
Suddenly Bond caught a trace of movement behind the men. An extra leg showed - a woman's leg. Bond laughed out loud. The men grinned sheepishly and looked behind them. Mary Ann Russell, in a brown shirt and black jeans, came out from behind them with her hands up. One of the hands held what looked like a .22 target pistol. She brought her hands down and tucked the pistol into the top of her jeans. She came up to Bond. She said anxiously: "You won't blame anybody, will you? I just wouldn't let them leave this morning without me." Her eyes pleaded. "Rather lucky I did come, really. I mean, I just happened to get to you first. No one wanted to shoot for fear of hitting you."
Bond smiled into her eyes. He said: "If you hadn't come, I'd have had to break that dinner date." He turned back to the men, his voice businesslike. "All right. One of you take the motor-bike and report the gist of this to Colonel Schreiber. Say we're waiting for his team before we take a look at the hide-out. And would he include a couple of anti-sabotage men. That shaft may be booby-trapped. All right?"
Bond took the girl by the arm. He said: "Come over here. I want to show you a bird's nest."
"Is that an order?"