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Let's see now! Bond's mind raced, thinking of ways out, excuses, discarding them all. Well, at least by opening the cupboard door he had exposed some of the film. Then why not expose it all? Why not, but how? How could the open cupboard door be explained except by his doing? There came a miaow from the open slit of the bedroom door. The cat! Why shouldn't the cat have done it? Pretty thin, but at least it was the shadow of an alibi. Bond opened the door. He picked the cat up in his arms. He went back with it to the cupboard, stroking it brusquely. It purred. Bond leant over the bin of film, picking it up in handfuls so that it would all get the light. Then, when he was satisfied that it must be ruined, he tossed it back and dropped the cat in on top of it. The cat would not be able to get out easily. With any luck it would settle down and go to sleep. Bond left the cupboard door three inches ajar to spoil the continuing film and the bedroom door the same amount and ran down the passage. At the top of the stairs he slowed and sauntered down. The empty hall yawned at his play-acting. He walked across to the fireplace, dashed more drink into his glass and picked up The Field. He turned to the golf commentary by Bernard Darwin, ran his eye down it to see what it was about, and then settled into one of the club chairs and lit a cigarette.

What had he found out? What was there on the plus side? Precious little except that Goldfinger suffered from constipation and a dirty mind and that he had wanted to put Bond through an elementary test. He had certainly done it expertly. This was no amateur. The technique was fully up to SMERSH standards, and it was surely the technique of somebody with a very great deal to hide. And now what would happen? For the cat alibi to stand up, Goldfinger would have to have left two doors, one of them vital, ajar, and the cat had got into the room and been intrigued by the whine of the cameras. Most unlikely, almost incredible. Goldfinger would be ninety per cent certain it was Bond -but only ninety. There would still be that ten per cent of uncertainty. Would Goldfinger have learnt much more than he knew before - that Bond was a tricky, resourceful customer and that Bond had been inquisitive, might be a thief? He would guess Bond had been to the bedroom, but Bond's other movements, for whatever they were worth, would remain a secret on the exposed film.

Bond got up and took a handful of other magazines and threw them down beside his chair. The only thing for him to do was brazen it out and make a note for the future, if there was to be a future, that he had better wake his ideas up and not make any more mistakes. There wouldn't be enough ginger cats in the world to help him out of one more tight spot like the one he was in.

There had been no noise of a car coming down the drive, not a sound from the door, but Bond felt the evening breeze on his neck and he knew that Goldfinger had come back into the room.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE ODD-JOB MAN

BOND THREW down The Field and stood up. The front door closed noisily. Bond turned. 'Hullo.' His face registered polite surprise. 'Didn't hear you arrive. How did it go?'

Goldfinger's expression was equally bland. They might have been old friends, neighbours in the country who were accustomed to drop in on each other for a drink. 'Oh, it sorted itself out. My chap had had a row in a pub with some American Air Force men who had called him a bloody Jap. I explained to the police that Koreans don't like being called Japs. They let him off with a caution. Terribly sorry to have been so long. Hope you weren't bored. Do have another drink.'

'Thanks. But it's hardly seemed five minutes since you left. Been reading what Darwin has to say about the fourteen club rule. Interesting point of view..' Bond launched into a detailed review of the article, adding his own comments on the rule.

Goldfinger stood patiently until it was over. He said, 'Yes, it's a complicated business. Of course you play rather a different game from me, more workmanlike. With my kind of swing, I find I need all the clubs I'm allowed. Well, I'll just go up and wash and then we'll have dinner. Shan't be a moment.'

Bond busied himself noisily with pouring another drink, sat down and picked up Country Life. He watched Gold finger climb the stairs and disappear down the corridor. He could visualize every step. He found he was reading the periodical upside down. He turned it round and stared blindly at a fine photograph of Blenheim Palace.

There was dead silence upstairs. Then a distant lavatory chain was pulled and a door clicked shut. Bond reached for his drink, took a deep swallow and put the glass down beside his chair. Goldfinger was coming down the stairs. Bond turned the pages of Country Life and flicked ash off his cigarette into the grate.

Now Goldfinger was crossing the floor towards him. Bond lowered his paper and looked up. Goldfinger was carrying the ginger cat tucked carelessly under one arm. He reached the fireplace, bent forward and pressed the bell.

He turned towards Bond. 'Do you like cats?' His gaze was flat, incurious.

'Sufficiently.'

The service door opened. The chauffeur stood in the frame. He still wore his bowler hat and his shiny black gloves. He gazed impassively at Goldfinger. Goldfinger crooked a finger. The chauffeur approached and stood within the circle by the fire.

Goldfinger turned to Bond. He said conversationally, 'This is my handy man.' He smiled thinly. 'That is something of a joke. Oddjob, show Mr Bond your hands.' He smiled again at Bond. 'I call him Oddjob because that describes his functions on my staff.'

The Korean slowly pulled off his gloves and came and stood at arm's length from Bond and held out his hands palm upwards. Bond got up and looked at them. They were big and fat with muscle. The fingers all seemed to be the same length. They were very blunt at the tips and the tips glinted as if they were made of yellow bone.

'Turn them over and show Mr Bond the sides.'

There were no fingernails. Instead there was this same, yellowish carapace. The man turned the hands sideways. Down each edge of the hands was a hard ridge of the same bony substance.

Bond raised his eyebrows at Goldfinger.

Goldfinger said, 'We will have a demonstration.' He pointed at the thick oak banisters that ran up the stairs. The rail was a massive six inches by four thick. The Korean obediently walked over to the stairs and climbed a few steps. He stood with his hands at his sides, gazing across at Gold-finger like a good retriever. Goldfinger gave a quick nod. Impassively the Korean lifted his right hand high and straight above his head and brought the side of it down like an axe across the heavy polished rail. There was a splintering crash and the rail sagged, broken through the centre. Again the hand went up and flashed down. This time it swept right through the rail leaving a jagged gap. Splinters clattered down on to the floor of the hall. The Korean straightened himself and stood to attention, waiting for further orders. There was no flush of effort in his face and no hint of pride in his achievement.

Goldfinger beckoned. The man came back across the floor. Goldfinger said, 'His feet are the same, the outside edges of them. Oddjob, the mantelpiece.' Goldfinger pointed at the heavy shelf of carved wood above the fireplace. It was about seven feet off the ground-six inches higher than the top of the Korean's bowler hat.

'Garch a har?'

'Yes, take off your coat and hat.' Goldfinger turned to Bond. 'Poor chap's got a cleft palate. I shouldn't think there are many people who understand him beside me.'

Bond reflected how useful that would be, a slave who could only communicate with the world through his interpreter - better even than the deaf mutes of the harems, more tightly bound to his master, more secure.

Oddjob had taken off his coat and hat and placed them neatly on the floor. Now he rolled his trouser legs up to the knee and stood back in the wide well-planted stance of the judo expert. He looked as if a charging elephant wouldn't put him off balance.

'Better stand back, Mr Bond.' The teeth glittered in the wide mouth. 'This blow snaps a man's neck like a daffodil." Goldfinger drew aside the low settee with the drink tray. Now the Korean had a clear run. But he was only three long steps away. How could he possibly reach the high mantelpiece?

Bond watched, fascinated. Now the slanting eyes in the flat yellow mask were glinting with a fierce intentness. Faced by such a man, thought Bond, one could only go down on one's knees and wait for death.

Goldfinger lifted his hand. The bunched toes in the polished soft leather shoes seemed to grip the ground. The Korean took one long crouching stride with knees well bent and then whirled off the ground. In mid-air his feet slapped together like a ballet dancer's, but higher than a ballet dancer's have ever reached, and then the body bent sideways and downwards and the right foot shot out like a piston. There came a crashing thud. Gracefully the body settled back down on the hands, now splayed on the floor, the elbows bent to take the weight and then straightened sharply to throw the man up and back on his feet.

Oddjob stood to attention. This time there was a gleam of triumph in his flat eyes as he looked at the three-inch jagged bite the edge of his foot had taken out of the mantelpiece.

Bond looked at the man in deep awe. And only two nights ago, he, Bond, had been working on his manual of unarmed combat! There was nothing, absolutely nothing, in all his reading, all his experience, to approach what he had just witnessed. This was not a man of flesh and blood. This was a living club, perhaps the most dangerous animal on the face of the earth. Bond had to do it, had to give homage to this uniquely dreadful person. He held out his hand.

'Softly, Oddjob.' Goldfinger's voice was the crack of a whip.

The Korean bowed his head and took Bond's hand in his. He kept his fingers straight and merely bent his thumb in a light clasp. It was like holding a piece of board. He released Bond's hand and went to his neat pile of clothes.

'Forgive me, Mr Bond, and I appreciate your gesture.' Goldfinger's face showed his approval. 'But Oddjob doesn't know his own strength - particularly when he is keyed up. And those hands are like machine-tools. He could have crushed your hand to pulp without meaning to. Now then,' Oddjob had dressed and was standing respectfully at attention, 'you did well, Oddjob. I'm glad to see you are in training. Here' - Goldfinger took the cat from under his arm and tossed it to the Korean who caught it eagerly-'I am tired of seeing this animal around. You may have it for dinner.' The Korean's eyes gleamed. 'And tell them in the kitchen that we will have our own dinner at once.'

The Korean inclined his head sharply and turned away.

Bond hid his disgust. He realized that all this exhibition was simply a message to him, a warning, a light rap on the knuckles. It said, 'You see my power, Mr Bond. I could easily have killed you or maimed you. Oddjob was giving an exhibition and you got in the way. I would certainly be innocent, and Oddjob would get off with a light sentence. Instead, the cat will be punished in your place. Bad luck on the cat, of course.'

Bond said casually, 'Why does the man always wear that bowler hat?'

'Oddjob!' The Korean had reached the service door. 'The hat.' Goldfinger pointed at a panel in the woodwork near the fireplace.

Still holding the cat under his left arm, Oddjob turned and walked stolidly back towards them. When he was half way across the floor, and without pausing or taking aim, he reached up to his hat, took it by the rim and flung it sideways with all his force. There was a loud clang. For an instant the rim of the bowler hat stuck an inch deep in the panel Gold-finger had indicated, then it fell and clattered on the floor.

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