The girl looked like a beautiful unkempt dryad in ragged shirt and trousers. The shirt and trousers were olive green, crumpled and splashed with mud and stains and torn in places, and she had bound her pale blonde hair with golden-rod to conceal its brightness for her crawl through the meadow. The beauty of her face was wild and rather animal, with a wide sensuous mouth, high cheekbones and silvery grey, disdainful eyes. There was the blood of scratches on her forearms and down one cheek, and a bruise had puffed and slightly blackened the same cheekbone. The metal feathers of a quiver full of arrows showed above her left shoulder. Apart from the bow, she carried nothing but a hunting knife at her belt and, at her other hip, a small brown canvas bag that presumably carried her food. She looked like a beautiful, dangerous customer who knew wild country and forests and was not afraid of them. She would walk alone through life and have little use for civilisation.

Bond thought she was wonderful. He smiled at her. He said softly, reassuringly: “I suppose you're Robina Hood. My name's James Bond.” He reached for his flask and unscrewed the top and held it out. “Sit down and have a drink of this - firewater and coffee. And I've got some biltong. Or do you live on dew and berries?”

She came a little closer and sat down a yard from him. She sat like a Red Indian, her knees splayed wide and her ankles tucked up high under her thighs. She reached for the flask and drank deeply with her head thrown back. She handed it back without comment. She did not smile. She said “Thanks” grudgingly, and took her arrow and thrust it over her back to join the others in the quiver. She said, watching him closely: “I suppose you're a poacher. The deer-hunting season doesn't open for another three weeks. But you won't find any deer down here. They only come so low at night. You ought to be higher up during the day, much higher. If you like, I'll tell you where there are some. Quite a big herd. It's a bit late in the day, but you could still get to them. They're up-wind from here and you seem to know about stalking. You don't make much noise.”

“Is that what you're doing here - hunting? Let's see your licence.”

Her shirt had buttoned-down breast pockets. Without protest she took out from one of them the white paper and handed it over.

The licence had been issued in Bennington, Vermont. It had been issued in the name of Judy Havelock. There was a list of types of permit. 'Non-resident hunting' and 'Non-resident bow and arrow' had been ticked. The cost had been $18.50, payable to the Fish and Game Service, Montpelier, Vermont. Judy Havelock had given her age as twenty-five and her place of birth as Jamaica.

Bond thought: 'God Almighty!' He handed the paper back. So that was the score! He said with sympathy and respect: “You're quite a girl, Judy. It's a long walk from Jamaica. And you were going to take him on with your bow and arrow. You know what they say in China: 'Before you set out on revenge, dig two graves.' Have you done that, or did you expect to get away with it?”

The girl was staring at him. “Who are you? What are you doing here? What do you know about it?”

Bond reflected. There was only one way out of this mess and that was to join forces with the girl. What a hell of a business! He said resignedly: “I've told you my name. I've been sent out from London by, er, Scotland Yard. I know all about your troubles and I've come out here to pay off some of the score and see you're not bothered by these people. In London we think that the man in that house might start putting pressure on you, about your property, and there's no other way of stopping him.”

The girl said bitterly: “I had a favourite pony, a Palomino. Three weeks ago they poisoned it. Then they shot my Alsatian. I'd raised it from a puppy. Then came a letter. It said, 'Death has many hands. One of these hands is now raised over you.' I was to put a notice in the paper, in the personal column, on a particular day. I was just to say, 'I will obey. Judy.' I went to the police. All they did was to offer me protection. It was people in Cuba, they thought. There was nothing else they could do about it. So I went to Cuba and stayed in the best hotel and gambled big in the casinos.” She gave a little smile. “I wasn't dressed like this. I wore my best dresses and the family jewels. And people made up to me. I was nice to them. I had to be. And all the while I asked questions. I pretended I was out for thrills - that I wanted to see the underworld and some real gangsters, and so on. And in the end I found out about this man.” She gestured down towards the house. “He had left Cuba. Batista had found out about him or something. And he had a lot of enemies. I was told plenty about him and in the end I met a man, a sort of high-up policeman, who told me the rest after I had,” she hesitated and avoided Bond's eyes, “after I had made up to him.” She paused. She went on: “I left and went to America. I had read somewhere about Pinkerton's, the detective people. I went to them and paid to have them find this man's address.” She turned her hands palm upwards on her lap. Now her eyes were defiant. “That's all.”

“How did you get here?”

“I flew up to Bennington. Then I walked. Four days. Up through the Green Mountains. I kept out of the way of people. I'm used to this sort of thing. Our house is in the mountains in Jamaica. They're much more difficult than these. And there are more people, peasants, about in them. Here no one ever seems to walk. They go by car.”

“And what were you going to do then?”

“I'm going to shoot von Hammerstein and walk back to Bennington.” The voice was as casual as if she had said she was going to pick a wild flower.

From down in the valley came the sound of voices. Bond got to his feet and took a quick look through the branches. Three men and two girls had come on to the patio. There was talk and laughter as they pulled out chairs and sat down at the table. One place was left empty at the head of the table between the two girls. Bond took out his telescopic sight and looked through it. The three men were very small and dark. One of them, who smiled all the time and whose clothes looked the cleanest and smartest, would be Gonzales. The other two were low peasant types. They sat together at the foot of the oblong table and took no part in the talk. The girls were swarthy brunettes. They looked like cheap Cuban whores. They wore bright bathing dresses and a lot of gold jewellery, and laughed and chattered like pretty monkeys. The voices were almost clear enough to understand, but they were talking Spanish.

Bond felt the girl near him. She stood a yard behind him. Bond handed her the glass. He said: “The neat little man is called Major Gonzales. The two at the bottom of the table are gunmen. I don't know who the girls are. Von Hammerstein isn't there yet.” She took a quick look through the glass and handed it back without comment. Bond wondered if she realised that she had been looking at the murderers of her father and mother.

The two girls had turned and were looking towards the door into the house. One of them called out something that might have been a greeting. A short, square, almost naked man came out into the sunshine. He walked silently past the table to the edge of the flagged terrace facing the lawn and proceeded to go through a five-minute programme of physical drill.

Bond examined the man minutely. He was about five feet four with a boxer's shoulders and hips, but a stomach that was going to fat. A mat of black hair covered his breasts and shoulder blades, and his arms and legs were thick with it. By contrast, there was not a hair on his face or head and his skull was a glittering whitish yellow with a deep dent at the back that might have been a wound or the scar of a trepanning. The bone structure of the face was that of the conventional Prussian officer - square, hard and thrusting - but the eyes under the naked brows were close-set and piggish, and the large mouth had hideous lips - thick and wet and crimson. He wore nothing but a strip of black material, hardly larger than an athletic support-belt, round his stomach, and a large gold wrist-watch on a gold bracelet. Bond handed the glass to the girl. He was relieved. Von Hammerstein looked just about as unpleasant as M's dossier said he was.

Bond watched the girl's face. The mouth looked grim, almost cruel, as she looked down on the man she had come to kill. What was he to do about her? He could see nothing but a vista of troubles from her presence. She might even interfere with his own plans and insist on playing some silly role with her bow and arrow. Bond made up his mind. He just could not afford to take chances. One short tap at the base of the skull and he would gag her and tie her up until it was all over. Bond reached softly for the butt of his automatic.

Nonchalantly the girl moved a few steps back. Just as nonchalantly she bent down, put the glass on the ground and picked up her bow. She reached behind her for an arrow, and fitted it casually into the bow. Then she looked up at Bond and said quietly: “Don't get any silly ideas. And keep your distance. I've got what's called wide-angled vision. I haven't come all the way here to be knocked on the head by a flat-footed London bobby. I can't miss with this at fifty yards, and I've killed birds on the wing at a hundred. I don't want to put an arrow through your leg, but I shall if you interfere.”

Bond cursed his previous indecision. He said fiercely: “Don't be a silly bitch. Put that damned thing down. This is man's work. How in hell do you think you can take on four men with a bow and arrow?”

The girl's eyes blazed obstinately. She moved her right foot back into the shooting stance. She said through compressed, angry lips: “You go to hell. And keep out of this. It was my mother and father they killed. Not yours. I've already been here a day and a night. I know what they do and I know how to get Hammerstein. I don't care about the others. They're nothing without him. Now then.” She pulled the bow half taut. The arrow pointed at Bond's feet. “Either you do what I say or you're going to be sorry. And don't think I don't mean it. This is a private thing I've sworn to do and nobody's going to stop me.” She tossed her head imperiously. “Well?”

Bond gloomily measured the situation. He looked the ridiculously beautiful wild girl up and down. This was good hard English stock spiced with the hot peppers of a tropical childhood. Dangerous mixture. She had keyed herself up to a state of controlled hysteria. He was quite certain that she would think nothing of putting him out of action. And he had absolutely no defence. Her weapon was silent, his would alert the whole neighbourhood. Now the only hope would be to work with her. Give her part of the job and he would do the rest. He said quietly: “Now listen, Judy. If you insist on coming in on this thing we'd better do it together. Then perhaps we can bring it off and stay alive. This sort of thing is my profession. I was ordered to do it - by a close friend of your family, if you want to know. And I've got the right weapon. It's got at least five times the range of yours. I could take a good chance of killing him now, on the patio. But the odds aren't quite good enough. Some of them have got bathing things on. They'll be coming down to the lake. Then I'm going to do it. You can give supporting fire.” He ended lamely: “It'll be a great help.”

“No.” She shook her head decisively. “I'm sorry. You can give what you call supporting fire if you like. I don't care one way or the other. You're right about the swimming. Yesterday they were all down at the lake around eleven. It's just as warm today and they'll be there again. I shall get him from the edge of the trees by the lake. I found a perfect place last night. The bodyguard men bring their guns with them - sort of tommy-gun things. They don't bathe. They sit around and keep guard. I know the moment to get von Hammerstein and I'll be well away from the lake before they take in what's happened. I tell you I've got it all planned. Now then. I can't hang around any more. I ought to have been in my place already. I'm sorry, but unless you say yes straight away there's no alternative.” She raised the bow a few inches.


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com