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'I espouse any enterprise that will increase my stock of gold. I invest, I smuggle, I steal.' Goldfinger made a small gesture of the hands, opening the palms persuasively. 'If you will follow the simile, regard history as a train speeding along through time. Birds and animals are disturbed by the noise and tumult of the train's passage, they fly away from it or run fearfully or cower, thinking they hide. I am like the hawk that follows the train - you have no doubt seen them doing this, in Greece for instance - ready to pounce on anything that may be flushed by the train's passage, by the passage of history. To give you a simple example: the progress of history produces a man who invents penicillin. At die same time, history creates a world war. Many people are dying or afraid of dying. Penicillin will save them. Through bribery at certain military establishments on the Continent, I obtain stocks of penicillin. I water these down with some harmless powder or liquid and sell them at immense profit to those who crave the stuff. You see what I mean, Mr Bond? You have to wait for the prey, watch it carefully and then pounce. But, as I say, I do not search out such enterprises. I afiow the train of history to flush them towards me.'

'What's the latest one? What have Miss Masterton and I got to do with it?'

'The latest oney Mr Bond, is the last one. It is also the biggest.' Goldfinger's eyes were now blank, focused inwards. His voice became low, almost reverential at what he saw. 'Man has climbed Everest and he has scraped the depths of the ocean. He has fired rockets into outer space and split the atom. He has invented, devised, created in every realm of human endeavour, and everywhere he has triumphed, broken records, achieved miracles. I said in every realm, but there is one that has been neglected, Mr Bond. That one is the human activity loosely known as crime. The so-called criminal exploits committed by individual humans - I do not of course refer to their idiotic wars, their clumsy destruction of each other - are of miserable dimensions: little bank robberies, tiny swindles, picayune forgeries. And yet, ready to hand, a few hundred miles from here, opportunity for the greatest crime in history stands waiting. The stage is set, the gigantic prize is offered. Only the actors are missing. But the producer is at last here, Mr Bond' - Goldfinger raised a finger and tapped his chest - 'and he has chosen his cast. This very afternoon the script will be read to the leading actors. Then rehearsals will begin and, in one week, the curtain will go up for the single, the unique performance. And then will come the applause, the applause for the greatest extra-legal coup of all time. And, Mr Bond, the world will rock with that applause for centuries.'

Now a dull fire burned in Goldfinger's big pale eyes and there was a touch of extra colour in his red-brown cheeks. But it was still calm, relaxed, profoundly convinced. There's no trace here, reflected Bond, of the madman, the visionary. Goldfinger had some fantastic exploit in mind, but he had gauged the odds and knew they were right. Bond said, 'Well, come on. What is it, and what do we have to do about it?'

'It is a robbery, Mr Bond. A robbery against no opposition, but one that will need detailed execution. There will be much paper-work, many administrative details to supervise. I was going to do this myself until you offered your services. Now you will do it, with Miss Masterton as your secretary. You have already been partly remunerated for this work with your life. When the operation is successfully completed you will receive one million pounds in gold. Miss Masterton will receive half a million.'

Bond said enthusiastically, 'Now you're talking. What are we going to do? Rob the end of the rainbow?'

'Yes,' Goldfinger nodded. 'That is exactly what we are going to do. We are going to burgle fifteen billion dollars' worth of gold bullion, approximately half the supply of mined gold in the world. We are going, Mr Bond, to take Fort Rnox.'

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

HOODS' CONGRESS

'FORT KNOX.' Bond shook his head seriously. 'Isn't that rather a tall order for two men and a girl?'

Goldfinger shrugged impatiently. 'Please put away your sense of humour for one week, Mr Bond. Then laugh as much as you please. I shall have under my command approximately one hundred men and women. These people will be hand picked from the six most powerful gangster groups in the United States. This force will amount to the toughest and most compact fighting unit that has ever been assembled in peace time.'

'All right. How many men guard the vault at Fort Knox?' Goldfinger slowly shook his head. He knocked once on the door behind him. The door flicked open. Oddjob stood on the threshold, crouching, alert. When he saw that the meeting was still peaceful he straightened himself and waited. Goldfinger said, 'You will have many questions to ask, Mr Bond. They will all be answered this afternoon. Beginning at two-thirty. It is now exactly twelve o'clock.' Bond glanced at his watch and adjusted it. 'You and Miss Masterton will attend the meeting at which the proposition will be put to the heads of the six organizations I have mentioned. No doubt these people will ask the same questions as occur to you. Everything will be explained. Afterwards you will settle down to detailed work with Miss Masterton. Ask for what you want. Oddjob will see to your welfare and also be on permanent guard. Do not be obstreperous or you will in stantly be killed. And do not waste time trying to escape or to contact the outside world. I have hired your services and I shall require every ounce of them. Is that a bargain?'

Bond said drily, 'I've always wanted to be a millionaire.'

Goldfinger didn't look at him. He looked at his fingernails. Then he gave Bond one last hard glance and went out and shut the door behind him.

Bond sat and gazed at the closed door. He brusquely ran both hands through his hair and down over his face. He said 'Well, well' aloud to the empty room, got up and walked through the bathroom to the girl's bedroom. He knocked on the door.

'Who is it?'

'Me. Are you visible?'

'Yes.' The voice was unenthusiastic. 'Come in.'

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling on a shoe. She was wearing the things Bond had first seen her in. She looked cool and collected and unsurprised by her surroundings. She looked up at Bond. Her eyes were aloof, disdainful. She said coldly, precisely, 'You've got us into this. Get us out.'

Bond said amiably, 'I may be able to. I got us out of our graves.'

'After getting us into them.'

Bond looked thoughtfully at the girl. He decided it would be ungallant to spank her, so to speak, on an empty stomach. He said, 'This won't get us anywhere. We're in this together, whether we like it or not. What do you want for breakfast or lunch? It's a quarter past twelve. I've eaten. I'll order yours and then come back and tell you the score. There's only one way out of here and Oddjob, that Korean ape, is guarding it. Now then, breakfast or lunch?'

She unbent an inch. 'Thank you. Scrambled eggs and coffee, please. And toast and marmalade.'

'Cigarettes?'

'No, thank you. I don't smoke.'

Bond went back to his room and knocked on the door. It opened an inch.

Bond said, 'All right, Oddjob. I'm not going to kill you yet.'

The door opened farther. Oddjob's face was impassive. Bond gave the order. The door closed. Bond poured himself a bourbon and soda. He sat on the edge of the bed and wondered how he was going to get the girl on his side. From the beginning she had resented him. Was that only because of her sister? Why had Goldfinger made that cryptic remark about her 'inclinations'? What was there about her that he himself felt - something withdrawn, inimical. She was beautiful - physically desirable. But there was a cold, hard centre to her that Bond couldn't understand or define. Oh well, the main thing was to get her to go along. Otherwise life in prison would be intolerable.

Bond went back into her room. He left both doors open so that he could hear. She was still sitting on the bed wrapped in a coiled immobility. She watched Bond carefully. Bond leaned against the jamb of the door. He took a long pull at his whisky. He said, looking her in the eye, 'You'd better know that I'm from Scotland Yard' - the euphemism would serve. 'We're after this man Goldfinger. He doesn't mind. He thinks no one can find us for at least a week. He's probably right. He saved our lives because he wants us to work for him on a crime. It's big business. Pretty scatter-brained. But there's a lot of planning and paperwork. We've got to look after that side. Can you do shorthand and typing?'

'Yes.' Her eyes were alight. 'What's the crime?'

Bond told her. He said, 'Of course it all sounds ridiculous and I daresay a few questions and answers will show these gangsters, if they don't show Goldfinger, that the whole thing's impossible. But I don't know. Goldfinger's an extraordinary man. From what I know about him, he never moves unless the odds are right. And I don't think he's mad - at least not madder than other kinds of geniuses - scientists and so on. And there's no doubt he's a genius in his particular field.'

'So what are you going to do about it?'

Bond lowered his voice. He said, 'What are we going to do about it, you mean. We are going to play along. And to the hilt. No shirking and no funny business. We're going to be greedy for the money and we're going to give him absolutely top-notch service. Apart from saving our lives, which mean less than nothing to him, it's the only hope we, or rather I because that's my line of country, can have of a chance to queer his pitch.'

“How are you going to do that?”

'I haven't the faintest idea. Something may turn up.'

'And you expect me to go along with you?'

'Why not? Any other suggestions?'

She pursed her lips obstinately. 'Why should I do what you say?'

Bond sighed. 'There's no point in being a suffragette about this. It's either that or get yourself killed after breakfast. It's up to you.'

The mouth turned down with distaste. She shrugged her shoulders. She said ungraciously, 'Oh, all right then.' Suddenly her eyes flared. 'Only don't ever touch me or I shall kill you.'

There came the click of Bond's bedroom door. Bond looked mildly down at Tilly Masterton. 'The challenge is attractive. But don't worry. I won't take it up.' He turned and strolled out of the room.

One of the Koreans passed him carrying the girl's breakfast. In his room another Korean had brought in a typist's desk and chair and a Remington portable. He arranged them in the corner away from the bed. Oddjob was standing in the doorway. He held out a sheet of paper. Bond went up to him and took it.

It was a foolscap memo sheet. The writing, with a ball point, was neat, careful, legible, undistinguished. It said:

Prepare ten copies of this agenda.

Meeting held under the chairmanship of Mr Gold

Secretaries: J. Bond

Miss Tilly Masterton

Present

Helmut M. Springer The Purple Gang. Detroit

Jed Midnight Shadow Syndicate. Miami and Havana

Billy (The Grinner) Ring The Machine. Chicago Jack Strap The Spangled Mob. Las Vegas

Mr Solo Unione Siciliano

Miss Pussy Galore The Cement Mixers. Har lem. New York City Agenda

A project with the code name OPERATION GRAND SLAM.

(Refreshments.)

At the end of this was written, 'You and Miss Masterton will be fetched at 2.20. Both will be prepared to take notes. Formal dress, please.5

Bond smiled. The Koreans left the room. He sat down at the desk, slipped paper and carbons into the typewriter and set to. At least he would show the girl that he was prepared to do his stint. Gosh, what a crew! Even the Mafia had come in. How had Goldfinger persuaded them all to come? And who in heaven's name was Miss Pussy Galore?

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