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Bond was impressed. Goldfinger had, in three minutes flat, got the meeting on his side. Now everyone was looking towards Goldfinger with profound attention. Even Miss Pussy Galore's eyes were rapt. Bond knew nothing about the Golden Poppy Distributors or the Happy Landings Agency, but they must have run like clockwork from the expressions on their former customers' faces. Now everyone was hanging on Goldfinger's words as if he was Einstein.

Goldfinger's face showed no emotion. He made a throw-away gesture of his right hand. He said flatly, 'I have mentioned two projects of mine that were successful. They were small. There have been many others of a higher calibre. Not one of them has failed, and, so far as I know, my name is on the police files of no country. I say this to show you that I thoroughly understand my - our - profession. And now, gentlemen and madam, I propose to offer you partnership in an undertaking that will assuredly place in each of your treasuries, within one week, the sum of one billion dollars.' Mr Goldfinger held up his hand. *We have different views in Europe and America as to what constitutes the arithmetical expression “a billion”. I use the word in the sense of one thousand million. Do I make myself clear?'

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CRIME DE LA CRIME

A TUG hooted on the river. Another answered. A flurry of engine noises receded.

Mr Jed Midnight, on Bond's right, cleared his throat. He said emphatically, 'Mister Gold, or whatever your name is, don't you worry about definitions. A billion dollars is a lot of money whichever way you say it. Keep talking.'

Mr Solo raised slow black eyes and looked across the table at Goldfinger. He said, 'Is very moch money, yess. But how moch your cut, mister?'

'Five billion.'

Jack Strap from Las Vegas gave a short boisterous laugh. 'Listen fellers, what's a few billion between friends. If Mister - er - Whoosis can lead me to a billion dollars I'll be glad to slip him a fin or even maybe a mega-fin for his trouble. Don't let's be small-minded about this, huh?'

Mr Helmut Springer tapped his monocle on the gold brick in front of him. Everyone looked towards him. 'Mister - ah -Gold.' It was the grave voice of the family lawyer. 'These are big figures you mention. As I understand it, a total of some eleven billion dollars is involved.'

Mr Goldfinger said with precision, 'The exact figure will be nearer fifteen billion. For convenience I referred only to the amounts I thought it would be possible for us to carry away.'

A sharp excited giggle came from Mr Billy Ring.

'Quite, quite, Mr Gold.' Mr Springer screwed his monocle back into his eye to observe Goldfinger's reactions. 'But quantities of bullion or currency to that amount are to be found gathered together in only three depositories in the United States. They are the Federal Mint in Washington, the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, and Fort Knox in Kentucky. Do you intend that we should - er - "knock off' one of these? And if so which?'

'Fort Knox.'

Amidst the chorus of groans, Mr Midnight said resignedly, 'Mister, I never met any guy outside Hollywood that had what you've got. There if'scalled “vision”. And vision, mister, is a talent for mistaking spots before the eyes for fabulous projects. You should have a talk with your head-shrinker or get yourself Miltownized.' Mr Midnight shook his head sorrowfully. 'Too bad. That billion sure felt good while I had it.'

Miss Pussy Galore said in a deep, bored voice, 'Sorry mister, none of my set of bent pins could take that kind of piggy-bank.' She made to get up.

Goldfinger said amiably, 'Now hear me through, gentlemen and - er - madam. Your reaction was not unexpected. Let me put it this way: Fort Knox is a bank like any other bank. But it is a much bigger bank and its protective devices are correspondingly stronger and more ingenious. To penetrate them will require corresponding strength and ingenuity. That is the only novelty in my project - that it is a big one. Nothing else. Fort Knox is no more impregnable than other fortresses. No doubt we all thought the Brink organization was unbeatable until half a dozen determined men robbed a Brink-armoured car of a million dollars back in 1950. It is impossible to escape from Sing Sing and yet men have found ways of escaping from it. No, no, gentlemen. Fort Knox is a myth like other myths. Shall I proceed to the plan?'

Billy Ring hissed through his teeth, like a Japanese, when he talked. He said harshly, 'Listen, shamus, mebbe ya didn't know it, but the Third Armoured is located at Fort Knox. If that's a myth, why don't the Russkis come and take the

United States the next time they have a team over here playing ice-hockey?'

Goldfinger smiled thinly. 'If I may correct you without weakening your case, Mr Ring, the following is the order of battle of the military units presently quartered at Fort Knox. Of the Third Armoured Division, there is only the Spearhead, but there are also the 6th Armoured Cavalry Regiment, the 15th Armour Group, the 160th Engineer Group and approximately half a division from all units of the United States Army currently going through the Armoured Replacement Training Centre and Military Human Research Unit No 1. There is also a considerable body of men associated with Continental Armoured Command Board No 2, the Army Maintenance Board and various activities connected with the Armoured Centre. In addition there is a police force consisting of twenty officers and some four hundred enlisted men. In short, out of a total population of some sixty thousand, approximately twenty thousand are combat troops of one sort or another.'

'And who's going to say boo to them?' jeered Mr Jack Strap through his cigar. Without waiting for an answer he disgustedly tore the tattered stump out of his mouth and mashed it to fragments in the ash-tray.

Next to him Miss Pussy Galore sucked her teeth sharply with the incisiveness of a parrot spitting. She said, 'Go buy yourself some better smokes, Jacko. That thing smells like burning wrestlers' trunks.'

'Shove it, Puss,' said Mr Strap inelegantly.

Miss Galore was determined to have the last word. She said sweetly, 'Know what, Jacko? I could go for a he-man like you. Matter of fact I wrote a song about you the other day. Care to hear its title? It's called “If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it all over you”.'

A bray of laughter came from Mr Midnight, a high giggle from Mr Ring. Goldfinger tapped lightly for order. He said patiently, 'Now hear me through, please, gentlemen.' He got up and walked to the blackboard and pulled a roll map down over it. It was a detailed town map of Fort Knox including the Godman Army Airfield and the roads and railway tracks leading into the town. The committee members on the right of the table swivelled their chairs. Goldfinger pointed to the Bullion Depository. It was down on the left-hand corner en closed in a triangle formed by the Dixie Highway, Bullion Boulevard and Vine Grove Road. Goldfinger said, 'I will show you a detailed plan of the depository in just a moment.' He paused. 'Now, gentlemen, allow me to point out the main features of this fairly straightforward township. Here' - he ran his finger from the top centre of the map down through the town and out beyond the Bullion Depository - 'runs the line of the Illinois Central Railroad from Louisville, thirty-five miles to the north, through the town and on to Elizabeth-town eighteen miles to the south. We are not concerned with Brandenburg Station in the centre of the town, but with this complex of sidings adjoining the Bullion Vault. That is one of the loading and unloading bays for the bullion from the Mint in Washington. Other methods of transport to the vault, which are varied in no particular rotation for security reasons, are by truck convoy down the Dixie Highway or by freight plane to Godman Airfield. As you can see, the vault is isolated from these routes and stands alone without any natural cover whatsoever in the centre of approximately fifty acres of grassland. Only one road leads to the vault, a fifty-yard driveway through heavily armed gates on Bullion Boulevard. Once inside the armoured stockade, the trucks proceed on to this circular road which runs round the vault to the rear entrance where the bullion is unloaded. That circular road, gentlemen, is manufactured out of steel plates or flaps. These plates are on hinges and in an emergency the entire steel surface of the road can be raised hydraulically to create a second internal stockade of steel. Not so obvious to the eye, but known to me, is that an underground delivery tunnel runs below the plain between Bullion Boulevard and Vine Grove Road. This serves as an additional means of access to the vault through steel doors that lead from the wall of the tunnel to the first sub-ground floor of the depository.'

Goldfinger paused and stood away from the map. He looked round the table. 'All right, gentlemen. There is the vault and those are the main approaches to it with the exception of its front door which is purely an entrance to the reception hall and offices. Any questions?'

There were none. All eyes were on Goldfinger, waiting. Once again the authority of his words had gripped them. This man seemed to know more about the secrets of Fort Knox than had ever been released to the outside world.

Goldfinger turned back to the blackboard and pulled down a second map over the first. This was the detailed plan of the Gold Vault. Goldfinger said, 'Well, gentlemen, you can see that this is an immensely solid two-storey building somewhat like a square, two-layered cake. You will notice that the roof has been stepped for bomb protection, and you will observe the four pill boxes on the ground at the four corners. These are of steel and are connected with the interior of the building. The exterior dimensions of the vault are a hundred and five by a hundred and twenty-one feet. The height from ground level is forty-two feet. The construction is of Tennessee granite, steel-lined. The exact constituents are: sixteen thousand cubic feet of granite, four thousand cubic yards of concrete, seven hundred and fifty tons of reinforcing steel and seven hundred and sixty tons of structural steel. Right? Now, within the building, there is a two-storey steel and concrete vault divided into compartments. The vault door weighs more than twenty tons and the casing of the vault is of steel plates, steel I-beams and steel cylinders laced with hoopbands and encased in concrete. The roof is of similar construction and is independent of the roof of the building. A corridor encircles the vault at both levels and gives access both to the vault and to the offices and storerooms that are housed in the outer wall of the building. No one person is entrusted with the combination to the door of the vault. Various senior members of the depository staff must separately dial combinations known only to each of them. Naturally the-building is equipped with the latest and finest protective devices. There is a strong guardpost within the building and immensely powerful reinforcements are at all times available from the Armoured Centre less than a mile distant. Do you follow me? Now, as to the actual content of the vault - these amount, as I said earlier, to some fifteen billion dollars' worth of standard mint bars one thousand fine. Each bar is double the size of the one before you and contains four hundred Troy ounces, the avoirdupois weight being some twenty-seven and a half pounds. These are stored without wrappings in the compartments of the vault.' Goldfinger glanced round the table. 'And that, gentlemen and madam,' he concluded flatly, 'is all I can tell you, and all I think we need to know, about the nature and contents of Fort Knox Depository. Unless there are any questions at this stage, I will proceed to a brief explanation of how this depository may be penetrated and its contents seized.'

There was siknce. The eyes round the table were rapt, intent. Nervously, Mr Jack Strap took a medium-sized cigar out of his vest pocket and stuffed it in the corner of his mouth.

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