Page 16


Bond, after a great show of taking pains, brought his hands down well ahead of the club and smothered his number three iron so that the topped ball barely scrambled over the cross-bunkers. He then wedged the ball on to the green twenty feet past the pin. He was where he wanted to be - enough of a threat to make Goldfinger savour the sweet smell of victory, enough to make Goldfinger really sweat to get his four.

And now Goldfinger really was sweating. There was a savage grin of concentration and greed as he bent to the long putt up the bank and down to the hole. Not too hard, not too soft. Bond could read every anxious thought that would be running through the man's mind. Goldfinger straightened up again, walked deliberately across the green to behind the flag to verify his line. He walked slowly back beside his line, brushing away - carefully, with the back of his hand - a wisp or two of grass, a speck of top-dressing. He bent again and made one or two practice swings and then stood to the putt, the veins standing out on his temples, the cleft of concentration deep between his eyes.

Goldfinger hit the putt and followed through on the line. It was a beautiful putt that stopped six inches past the pin. Now Goldfinger would be sure that unless Bond sank his difficult twenty-footer, the match was his!

Bond went through a long rigmarole of sizing up his putt. He took his time, letting the suspense gather like a thunder cloud round the long shadows on the livid, fateful green.

'Flag out, please. I'm going to sink this one.' Bond charged the words with a deadly certitude, while debating whether to miss the hole to the right or the left or leave it short. He bent to the putt and missed the hole well on the right.

'Missed it, by God!' Bond put bitterness and rage into his voice. He walked over to the hole and picked up the two balls, keeping them in full view.

Goldfinger came up. His face was glistening with triumph. 'Well, thanks for the game. Seems I was just too good for you after all.'

'You're a good nine handicap,' said Bond with just sufficient sourness. He glanced at the balls in his hand to pick out

Goldfinger's and hand it to him. He gave a start of surprise. 'Hullo!' He looked sharply at Goldfinger. 'You play a Number One Dunlop, don't you?'

'Yes, of course.' A sixth sense of disaster wiped the triumph off Goldfinger's face. 'What is it? What's the matter?'

'Well,' said Bond apologetically.' "Fraid you've been playing with the wrong ball. Here's my Penfold Hearts and this is a Number Seven Dunlop.' He handed both balls to Gold-finger. Goldfinger tore them off his palm and examined them feverishly.

Slowly the colour flooded over Goldfinger's face. He stood, his mouth working, looking from the balls to Bond and back to the balls.

Bond said softly, 'Too bad we were playing to the rules. Afraid that means you lose the hole. And, of course, the match.' Bond's eyes observed Goldfinger impassively.

'But, but...'

This was what Bond had been looking forward to - the cup dashed from the lips. He stood and waited, saying nothing.

Rage suddenly burst Goldfinger's usually relaxed face like a bomb. 'It was a Dunlop Seven you found in the rough. It was your caddie that gave me this ball. On the seventeenth green. He gave me the wrong ball on purpose, the damned che-'

'Here, steady on,' said Bond mildly. 'You'll get a slander action on your hands if you aren't careful. Hawker, did you give Mr Goldfinger the wrong ball by mistake or anything?'

'No, sir.' Hawker's face was stolid. He said indifferently, 'If you want my opinion, sir, the mistake may have been made at the seventeenth when the gentleman found his ball pretty far off the line we'd all marked it on. A Seven looks very much like a One. I'd say that's what happened, sir. It would have been a miracle for the gentleman's ball to have ended up as wide as where it was found.'

'Tommy rot!' Goldfinger gave a snort of disgust. He turned angrily on Bond. 'You saw that was a Number One my caddie found.'

Bond shook his head doubtfully. 'I didn't really look closely, I'm afraid. However,' Bond's voice became brisk, businesslike, 'it's really the job of the player to make certain he's using the right ball, isn't it? I can't see that anyone else can be blamed if you tee the wrong ball up and play three shots with it. Anyway,' he started walking off the green, 'many thanks for the match. We must have it again one day.'

Goldfinger, lit with glory by the setting sun, but with a long black shadow tied to his heels, followed Bond slowly, his eyes fixed thoughtfully on Bond's back.

CHAPTER TEN

UP AT THE GRANGE

THERE ARE some rich men who use their riches like a club. Bond, luxuriating in his bath, thought that Goldfinger was one of them. He was the kind of man who thought he could flatten the world with his money, bludgeoning aside annoyances and opposition with his heavy wad. He had thought to break Bond's nerve by playing him for ten thousand dollars -a flea-bite to him but obviously a small fortune to Bond. In most circumstances he might have succeeded. It needs an iron nerve to 'wait for it' on your swing, to keep your head down on the short putts, when big money hangs on every shot, over eighteen long holes. The pros, playing for their own bread and butter and for their families', know the cold breath of the poor-house on the back of their necks as they come to the eighteenth tee all square. That is why they lead careful lives, not smoking or drinking, and why the one that wins is usually the one with the least imagination.

But, in Bond's case, Goldfinger could not have known that high tension was Bond's natural way of life and that pressure and danger relaxed him. And he could not have known that Bond wanted to play Goldfinger for the highest possible stakes and that he would have the funds of the Secret Service behind him if he lost. Goldfinger, so used to manipulating others, had been blind to the manipulation for once being practised upon himself.

Or had he been? Thoughtfully Bond got out of the bath and dried himself. That powerful dynamo inside the big round head would be humming at this very moment, wondering about Bond, knowing he had been out-cheated, asking itself how it came about that twice Bond had appeared out of the blue and twice queered his pitch. Had Bond played his cards right? Had he made himself appear an interesting challenge, or would Goldfinger's sensitive nose smell a threat? In the latter case there would be no follow-up by Goldfinger and Bond would have to bow out of the case and leave it to M to devise a new approach. How soon would he know if the big fish was hooked? This one would take plenty of time sniffing the bait. It would be good to have just one small bite to tell him he had chosen the right lure.

There was a knock on the door of his bedroom. Bond wrapped the towel round him and walked through. He opened the door. It was the hall porter. 'Yes?'

'Telephone message from a Mr Goldfinger, sir. His compliments and would you care to come to his house for dinner tonight. It's the Grange over at Reculver, sir. Six-thirty for drinks beforehand and not to bother to dress.'

'Please thank Mr Goldfinger and say I shall be delighted.' Bond shut the door and walked across to the open window and stood looking out across the quiet evening sea. 'Well, well! Talk of the devil!' Bond smiled to himself, 'And then go and sup with him! What was that about a long spoon?'

At six o'clock Bond went down to the bar and had a large vodka and tonic with a slice of lemon peel. The bar was empty save for a group of American Air Force officers from Mansion. They were drinking whisky and water and talking baseball. Bond wondered if they had spent the day toting a hydrogen bomb round the skies over Kent, over the four little dots in the dunes that had been his match with Goldfinger. He thought wryly, Not too much of that whisky, cousins, paid for his drink, and left.

He motored slowly over to Reculver, savouring the evening and the drink inside him and the quiet bubble of the twin exhausts. This was going to be an interesting dinner-party. Now was the moment to sell himself to Goldfinger. If he put a foot wrong he was out, and the pitch would have been badly queered for his successor. He was unarmed - it would be fatal for Goldfinger to smell that kind of rat. He felt a moment's qualm. But that was going too fast. No state of war had been declared - the opposite if anything. When they had parted at the golf club, Goldfinger had been cordial in a rather forced, oily fashion. He had inquired where he should send Bond's winnings and Bond had given him the address of Universal Export. He had asked where Bond was staying and Bond had told him and added that he would only be at Ramsgate a few days while he made up his mind about his future. Goldfinger hoped that they would one day have a return match but, alas, he was leaving for France tomorrow and wasn't certain when he would be back. Flying? Yes, taking the Air Ferry from Lydd. Well, thanks for the match. And thank you, Mr Bond. The eyes had given Bond one last X-ray treatment, as if fixing him for a last time in Gold-finger's filing system, and then the big yellow car had sighed away.

Bond had had a good look at the chauffeur. He was a chunky flat-faced Japanese, or more probably Korean, with a wild, almost mad glare in dramatically slanting eyes that belonged in a Japanese film rather than in a Rolls Royce on a sunny afternoon in Kent. He had the snout-like upper lip that sometimes goes with a cleft palate, but he said nothing and Bond had no opportunity of knowing whether his guess was right. In his tight, almost bursting black suit and farcical bowler hat he looked rather like a Japanese wrestler on his day off. But he was not a figure to make one smile. If one had been inclined to smile, a touch of the sinister, the unexplained, in the tight shining patent-leather black shoes that were almost dancing pumps, and in the heavy black leather driving gloves, would have changed one's mind. There was something vaguely familiar to Bond in the man's silhouette. It was when the car drove away and Bond had a glimpse of the head from the rear that he remembered. Those were the head and shoulders and bowler hat of the driver of the sky-blue Ford Popular that had so obstinately hugged the crown of the Herne Bay road at about twelve o'clock that morning. Where had he been coming from? What errand had he been on? Bond remembered something Colonel Smithers had said. Could this have been the Korean who now travelled the country collecting the old gold from the chain of Goldfinger jewellery shops? Had the boot of the innocent, scurrying little saloon been stuffed with the week's takings of presentation watches, signet rings, lockets, gold crosses? As he watched the high, primrose-yellow silhouette of the Silver

Ghost disappearing towards Sandwich, Bond thought the answer was yes.

Bond turned off the main road into the drive and followed it down between high Victorian evergreens to the gravel sweep in front of just the sort of house that would be called The Grange - a heavy, ugly, turn-of-the-century mansion with a glass-enclosed portico and sun parlour whose smell of trapped sunshine, rubber plants and dead flies came to Bond in his imagination before he had switched off the engine. Bond got slowly out of the car and stood looking at the house. Its blank, well-washed eyes stared back at him. The house had a background noise, a heavy rhythmic pant like a huge animal with a rather quick pulse. Bond assumed it came from the factory whose plumed chimney reared up like a giant cautionary finger from the high conifers to the right where the stabling and garages would normally be. The quiet watchful facade of the house seemed to be waiting for Bond to do something, make some offensive move to which there would be a quick reply. Bond shrugged his shoulders to lighten his thoughts and went up the steps to the opaque glass-panelled door and pressed the bell. There was no noise of it ringing, but the door slowly opened. The Korean chauffeur still had his bowler hat on. He looked without interest at Bond. He stood motionless, his left hand on the inside doorknob and his outstretched right pointing like a signpost into the dark hall of the house.

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***