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“Ah, nine o'clock already.” Doctor No rose slowly to his feet. “Come alone. We can continue our conversation in more intimate surroundings. It is kind of you both to have listened to me with such exemplary patience. I hope the modesty of my cuisine and my cellar will not prove a further imposition.”

Double doors stood open in the wall behind the two white-jacketed men. Bond and the girl followed Doctor No through into a small octagonal mahogany panelled room lit by a central chandelier in silver with storm glasses round the candles. Beneath it was a round mahogany table laid for three. Silver and glass twinkled warmly. The plain dark blue carpet was luxuriously deep. Doctor No took the centre high-backed chair and bowed the girl into the chair on his right. They sat down and unfolded napkins of white silk.

The hollow ceremony and the charming room maddened Bond. He longed to break it up with his own hands-to wind his silk napkin round Doctor No's throat and squeeze until the contact lenses popped out of the black, damnable eyes.

The two guards wore white cotton gloves. They served the food with a suave efficiency that was prompted by an occasional word in Chinese from Doctor No.

At first, Doctor No seemed preoccupied. He slowly ate through three bowls of different soup, feeding himself with a spoon with a short handle that fitted neatly between the pincers. Bond concentrated on hiding his fears from the girl. He sat relaxed and ate and drank with a forced good appetite. He talked cheerfully to the girl about Jamaica-about the birds and the animals and the flowers which were an easy topic for her. Occasionally his feet felt for hers under the table. She became almost gay. Bond thought they were putting on sab excellent imitation of an engaged couple being given dinner by a detested uncle.

Bond had no idea if his thin bluff had worked. He didn't give much for their chances. Doctor No, and Doctor No's story, exuded impregnability. The incredible biography rang true. Not a word of it was impossible. Perhaps there were other people in" the world with their private kingdoms-away from the beaten track, where there were no witnesses, where they could do what they liked. And what did Doctor No plan to do next, after he had squashed the flies that had come to annoy him? And if-when-he killed Bond and the girl, would London pick up the threads that Bond had picked up? Probably they would. There would be Pleydell-Smith. The evidence of the poisoned fruit. But where would Bond's replacement get with Doctor No? Not far. Doctor No would shrug his shoulders over the disappearance of Bond and Quarrel, Never heard of them. And there would be no link with the girl. In Morgan's Harbour they would think she had been drowned on one of her expeditions. It was hard to see what could interfere with Doctor No-with the second chapter of his life, whatever it was.

Underneath his chatter with the girl, Bond prepared for the worst. There were plenty of weapons beside his plate. When the cutlets came, perfectly cooked, Bond fiddled indecisively with the knives and chose the bread knife to eat them with. While he ate and talked, he edged the big steel meat knife towards him. An expansive gesture of his right hand knocked over his glass of champagne and in the split second of the crash his left hand flicked the knife into the deep sleeve of his kimono. In the midst of Bond's apologies and the confusion as he and the bodyguard mopped up the spilled champagne, Bond raised his left arm and felt the knife slip back to below his armpit and then fall inside the kimono against his ribs. When he had finished his cutlets he tightened the silk belt round his waist, shifting the knife across his stomach. The knife nestled comfortingly against his skin and gradually the steel grew warm.

Coffee came and the meal was ended. The two guards came and stood close behind Bond's chair and the girl's. They stood with their arms crossed on their chests, impassive, motionless, like executioners.

Doctor No put his cup softly down on his saucer. He laid his two steel claws down on the table in front of him. He sat a fraction more upright. He turned his body an inch in Bond's direction. Now there was no preoccupation in his face. The eyes were hard and direct. The thin mouth creased and opened. “You have enjoyed your dinner, Mister Bond?”

Bond took a cigarette from the silver box in front of him and lit it. He played with the silver table-lighter. He smelled bad news coming. He must somehow pocket the lighter. Fire might perhaps be another weapon. He said easily, “Yes. It was excellent.” He looked across at the girl. He leant forward in his chair and rested his forearms on the table. He crossed them, enveloping the lighter. He smiled at her. “I hope I ordered what you like.”

“Oh yes, it was lovely.” For her the party was still going on.

Bond smoked busily, agitating his hands and forearms to create an atmosphere of movement. He turned to Doctor No. He stubbed out his cigarette and sat back in his chair. He“ folded his arms across his chest. The lighter was in his left armpit. He smiled cheerfully. ”And what happens now, Doctor No?"

“We can proceed to our after-dinner entertainment, Mister Bond.” The thin smile creased and vanished. “I have examined your proposition from every angle. I do not accept it.”

Bond shrugged his shoulders. “You are unwise.”

“No, Mister Bond. I suspect that your proposition is a gold brick. People in your trade do not behave as you suggest. They make routine reports to their headquarters. They keep their chief aware of the progress of their investigations. I know these things. Secret agents do not behave as you suggest you have done. You have been reading too many novels of suspense. Your little speech reeked of grease-paint and cardboard. No, Mister Bond, I do not accept your story. If it is true, I am prepared to face the consequences. I have too much at stake to be turned from my path. So the police come, the soldiers come. Where are a man and a girl? What man and what girl? I know nothing. Please go away. You are disturbing my guanera. Where is your evidence? Your search warrant? The English law is strict, gentlemen. Go home and leave me in peace with my. beloved cormorants. You see, Mister Bond? And let us even say that the worst comes to the worst. That one of my agents talks, which is highly improbable (Bond remembered the fortitude of Miss Chung). What have I to lose? Two more deaths on the charge sheet. But, Mister Bond, a man can only be hanged once.” The tall pear-shaped head shook gently from side to side. “Have you anything else to say? Any questions to ask? You both have a busy night ahead of you. Your time is getting short. And I must get my sleep. The monthly ship is putting in tomorrow and I have the loading to supervise. I shall have to spend the whole day down on the quay. Well, Mister Bond?”

Bond looked across at the girl. She had gone deathly pale. She was gazing at him, waiting for the miracle he would work. He looked down at his hands. He examined his nails carefully. He said, playing for time, “And then what? After your busy day with the bird dung, what comes next on your programme? What is the next chapter you think you're going to write?”

Bond didn't look up. The deep quiet authoritative voice came to him as if it was coming down from the night sky.

“Ah, yes. You must have been wondering, Mister Bond. You have the habit of inquiry. It persists even to the last, even into the shadows. I admire such qualities in a man with only a few hours to live. So I will tell you. I will turn over the next page. It will console you. There is more to this place than bird dung. Your instincts did not betray you.” Doctor No paused for emphasis. “This island, Mister Bond, is about to be developed into the most valuable technical intelligence centre in the world.”

“Really?” Bond kept his eyes bent on his hands.

“Doubtless you know that Turks Island, about three hundred miles from here through the Windward Passage, is the most important centre for testing the guided missiles of the United States?”

“It is an important centre, yes.”

“Perhaps you have read of the rockets that have been going astray recently? The multi-stage SNARK, for instance, that ended its flight in the forests of Brazil instead of the depths of the South Atlantic?”

“Yes.”

“You recall that it refused to obey the telemetred instructions to change its- course, even to destroy itself. It developed a will of its own?”

“I remember.”

“There have been other failures, decisive failures, from the long list of prototypes-the ZUNI, MATADOR, PETREL, REGULUS, BOMARC-so many names, so many changes, I can't even remember them all. Well, Mister Bond,” Doctor No could not keep a note of pride out of his voice, “it may interest you to know that the vast majority of those failures have been caused from Crab Key.”

“Is that so?”

“You do not believe me? No matter. Others do. Others who have seen the complete abandonment of one series, the MASTODON, because of its recurring navigational errors, its failure to obey the radio directions from Turks Island. Those others are the Russians. The Russians are my partners in this venture. They trained six of my men, Mister Bond. Two of those men are on watch at this moment, watching the radio frequencies, the beams on which these weapons travel. There is a million dollars' worth of equipment up above us in the rock galleries, Mister Bond, sending fingers up into the Heavyside Layer, waiting for the signals, jamming them, countering beams with other beams. And from time to time a rocket soars up on its way a hundred, five hundred miles into the Atlantic. And we track it, as accurately as they are tracking it in the Operations Room on Turks Island. Then, suddenly, our pulses go out to the rocket, its brain is confused, it goes mad, it plunges into the sea, it destroys itself, it roars off at a tangent. Another test has failed. The operators are blamed, the designers, the manufacturers. There is panic in the Pentagon. Something else must be tried, different frequencies, different metals, a different radio brain. Of course,” Doctor No was fair, “we too have our difficulties. We track many practice shoots without being able to get through to the brain of the new rocket. But then we communicate urgently with Moscow. Yes, they have even given us a cipher machine with our own frequencies and routines. And the Russians get thinking. They make suggestions. We try them out. And then, one day, Mister Bond, it is like catching the attention of a man in a crowd. Up in the stratosphere the rocket acknowledges our signal. We are recognized and we can speak to it and change its mind,” Doctor No paused. “Do you not find that interesting, Mister Bond, this little sideline to my business in guano? It is, I assure you, most profitable. It might be still more so. Perhaps Communist China will pay more. Who knows? I already have my feelers out.”

Bond lifted his eyes. He looked thoughtfully at Doctor No. So he had been right. There 'had been more, much more, in all this than met the eye. This was a big game, a game that explained everything, a game that was certainly, in the international espionage market, well worth the candle. Well, well! Now the pieces in the puzzle fell firmly into place. For this it was certainly worth scaring away a few birds and wiping out a few people. Privacy? Of course Doctor No would have to kill him and the girl. Power? This was it. Doctor No had really got himself into business.

Bond looked into the two black holes with a new respect. He said, “You'll have to kill a lot more people to keep this thing in your hands, Doctor No. It's worth a lot of money. You've got a good property here-a better one than I thought. People are going to want to cut themselves a piece of this cake. I wonder who will get to you first and kill you. Those men up there,” he gestured towards the ceiling, “who were trained in Moscow? They're the technicians. I wonder what Moscow is .telling them to do? You wouldn't know that, would you?”

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