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Yes, it had all been very satisfactory so far as Washington was concerned, but what about the English end? Who in America cared about the Bank of England's gold? Who cared that two English girls had been murdered in the course of this business? Who really minded that Goldfinger was still at liberty now that America's bullion was safe again?

They idled across the drab plain of Idlewild, past the ten-million-dollar steel and cement skeletons that would one day be an adult airport, and pulled up outside the makeshift huddle of concrete boxes that Bond knew so well. Already the well mannered iron voices were reaching out to them. 'Pan American World Airways announces the departure of its President Flight PA 100', 'Transworld Airways calling Captain Murphy. Captain Murphy, please.' And the pear-shaped vowels and fluted diction of BOAC, 'BOAC announces the arrival of its Bermudan Flight BA 491. Passengers will be disembarking at gate number neyne.'

Bond took his bag and said goodbye to Leiter. He said, 'Well, thanks for everything, Felix. Write to me every day.'

Leiter gripped his hand hard. He said, 'Sure thing, kid. And take it easy. Tell that old bastard M to send you back over soon. Next visit we'll take some time off from the razzmatazz. Time you called in on my home state. Like to have you meet my oil-well. 'Bye now.'

Leiter got into his car and accelerated away from the arrival bay. Bond raised his hand. The Studillac dry-skidded out on to the approach road. There was an answering glint from Leiter's steel hook out of the window and he was gone.

Bond sighed. He picked up his bag and walked in and over to the BOAC ticket counter.

Bond didn't mind airports so long as he was alone in them. He had half an hour to wait and he was quite content to wander through the milling crowds, have a bourbon and soda at the restaurant and spend some time choosing something to read at the bookstore. He bought Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals of Golf and the latest Raymond Chandler and

"sauntered along to the Souvenir Shop to see if he could find an amusing gimmick to take back to his secretary.

Now there was a man's voice on the BOAC announcing system. It called out a long list of Monarch passengers who were required at the ticket counter. Ten minutes later Bond was paying for one of the latest and most expensive ballpoint pens when he heard his own name being called. 'Will Mr James Bond, passenger on BOAC Monarch flight No 510 to Gander and London, please come to the BOAC ticket counter. Mr James Bond, please.' It was obviously that infernal tax form to show how much he had earned during his stay in America. On principle Bond never went to the Internal Revenue Office in New York to get clearance and he had only once had to argue it out at Idlewild. He went out of the shop and across to the BOAC counter. The official said politely, 'May I see your health certificate, please, Mr Bond?'

Bond took the form out of his passport and handed it over.

The man looked at it carefully. He said, 'I'm very sorry, sir, but there's "been a typhoid case at Gander and they're insisting that all transit passengers who haven't had their shots in the last six months should be topped up. It's most annoying, sir, but Gander's very touchy about these things. Too bad we couldn't have managed a direct flight, but there's a strong head-wind.'

Bond hated inoculations. He said irritably, 'But look here, I'm stuffed with shots of one kind or another. Been having them for twenty years for one damned thing or another!' He looked round. The area near the BOAC departure gate seemed curiously deserted. He said, 'What about the other passengers? Where are they?'

'They've all agreed, sir. Just having their shots now. It won't take a minute, sir, if you'll come this way.'

'Oh well.' Bond shrugged his shoulders impatiently. He followed the man behind the counter and through a door to the BOAC station manager's office. There was the usual white-clothed doctor, a mask over the bottom of his face, the needle held ready. 'Last one?' he asked of the BOAC official.

'Yes, Doctor.'

'Okay. Coat off and left sleeve up, please. Too bad they're so sensitive up at Gander.'

'Damned sight too bad,' said Bond. 'What are they afraid of? Spreading the black death?'

There came the sharp smell of the alcohol and the jab of the needle.

'Thanks,' said Bond gruffly. He pulled down his sleeve and made to pick his coat up from the back of the chair. His hand went down for it, missed it, went on down, down towards the floor. His body dived after the hand, down, down, down...

All the lights were on in the plane. There seemed to be plenty of spare places. Why did he have to get stuck with a passenger whose arm was hogging the central arm-rest. Bond made to get up and change his seat. A wave of nausea swept over him. He closed his eyes and waited. How extraordinary! He was never air-sick. He felt the cold sweat on his face. Handkerchief. Wipe it off. He opened his eyes again and looked down at his arms. The wrists were bound to the arms of his chair. What had happened? He had had his shot and then passed out or something. Had he got violent? What the hell was all this about? He glanced to his right and then stared, aghast. Oddjob was sitting there. Oddjob! Odd job in BO AC uniform!

Oddjob glanced incuriously at him and reached for the steward's bell. Bond heard the pretty ding-dong back in the pantry. There was the rustle of a skirt beside him. He looked up. It was Pussy Galore, trim and fresh in the blue uniform of a stewardess! She said, 'Hi, Handsome.' She gave him the deep, searching look he remembered so well from when? From centuries ago, in another life.

Bond said desperately, 'For Christ's sake, what's going on? Where did you come from?'

The girl smiled cheerfully, 'Eating caviar and drinking champagne. You Britishers sure live the life of Reilly when you get up twenty thousand feet. Not a sign of a Brussels sprout and if there's tea I haven't got around to it yet. Now, you take it easy. Uncle wants to talk to you.' She sauntered up the aisle, swinging her hips, and disappeared through the cockpit door.

Now nothing could surprise Bond. Goldfinger, in a BOAC captain's uniform that was rather too large for him, the cap squarely on the centre of his head, closed the cockpit door behind him and came down the aisle.

He stood and looked grimly down at Bond. 'Well, Mr Bond. So Fate wished us to play the game out. But this time, Mr Bond, there cannot possibly be a card up your sleeve. Ha!' The sharp bark was a mixture of anger, stoicism and respect. 'You certainly turned out to be a snake in my pastures.' The great head shook slowly. 'Why I kept you alive! Why I didn't crush you like a beetle! You and the girl were useful to me. Yes, I was right about that. But I was mad to have taken the chance. Yes, mad.' The voice dropped and went slow. 'And now tell me, Mr Bond. How did you do it? How did you communicate?'

Bond said equably, 'We will have a talk, Goldfinger. And I will tell you certain things. But not until you have taken off these straps and brought me a bottle of bourbon, ice, soda water and a packet of Chesterfields. Then, when you have told me what I wish to know, I will decide what to tell you. As you say, my situation is not favourable, or at least it doesn't appear to be. So I have nothing to lose and if you want to get something out of me it will be on my own terms.'

Goldfinger looked gravely down. 'I have no objection to your conditions. Out of respect for your abilities as an opponent, you shall spend your last journey in comfort. Oddjob' - the voice was sharp. 'Ring the bell for Miss Galore and undo those straps. Get into the seat in front. There is no harm he can do at the rear of the plane but he is not to approach the cockpit door. If need be, kill him at once, but I prefer to get him to our destination alive. Understand?'

'Arrgh.'

Five minutes later Bond had what he wanted. The tray in front of him was down and on it were his whisky and cigarettes. He poured himself a stiff bourbon. Goldfinger was seated in the chair across the aisle, waiting. Bond picked up his drink and sipped it. He was about to take a deeper drink when he saw something. He put the glass carefully down without disturbing the little round paper coaster that had stuck to the bottom of his glass. He lit a cigarette, picked up his drink again and removed the ice-cubes and put them back in the ice bucket. He drank the whisky down ahnost to the end. Now he could read the words through the bottom of the glass. He carefully put the glass down without disturbing the coaster. The message had read, 'I'm with you. XXX. P.'

Bond turned and made himself comfortable. He said, 'Now then, Goldfinger. First of all, what's going on, how did you get this plane, where are we heading?'

Goldfinger crossed one leg over the other. He gazed away from Bond, up the aisle. He said in a relaxed, conversational tone, 'I took three trucks and drove across country to the vicinity of Cape Hatteras. One of the trucks contained my personal hoard of gold bullion. The other two contained my drivers, spare personnel and those gangsters. I required none of them except Miss Galore. I kept a nucleus of the staff I would need, paid off the others with huge sums and dispersed them gradually along the route. At the coast I held a meeting with the four gang leaders in a deserted place, having left Miss Galore under some pretext with the trucks. I shot the four men in my usual fashion - one bullet for each. I went back to the trucks and explained that the four men had chosen money and independent action. I was now left with six men, the girl and the bullion. I hired a plane and flew to Newark, New Jersey, the crates of gold being passed off as lead for X-ray plates. From there I proceeded alone to a certain address in New York from which I talked with Moscow by radio and explained the mishap to Operation Grand Slam. In the course of the talk I mentioned your name. My friends, whom I believe you know,' Goldfinger looked hard at Bond, 'pass under the generic name of SMERSH. They recognized the name of Bond and told me who you were. I at once understood a great deal of what had previously been hidden from me. SMERSH said they would greatly like to interview you. I pondered the matter. In due course I conceived the plan which you now see in operation. Posing as a friend of yours, I had no difficulty in finding out the flight on which you were booked. Three of my men were formerly of the Luftwaffe. They assured me there would be no difficulty in flying this plane. The rest was mere detail. By cool bluffing, impersonation and the use of a certain amount of force, all the BOAC personnel at Idlewild, the crew of this plane and the passengers were given the necessary injections from which they will now be recovering. We changed clothes with the unconscious crew, the bullion was loaded on the plane, you were dealt with and carried out on a stretcher and in due course the new BOAC crew, with their stewardess, boarded the plane and we took to the air.'

Goldfinger paused. He lifted a hand resignedly. 'Of course there were small hitches. We were told to “follow taxiway Alpha to runway four”, and it was only by following a KLM plane that we were successful. The Idlewild routine was not easy to master and we must have seemed somewhat clumsy and inexperienced, but, Mr Bond, with assurance, strong nerves and a gruff, intimidating manner it is never difficult to override the Civil Service mentality of what, after all, are minor employees. I understand from the wireless operator that a search for this plane is under way. They were already questioning us before we were out of VHP range at Nan-tucket. Then the Distant Early Warning system queried us on high frequency. That did not disturb me. We have enough fuel. We have already had clearance from Moscow for East Berlin, Kiev or Murmansk. We shall take whichever route the weather dictates. There should be no trouble. If there is, I shall talk my way out of it on the radio. No one is going to shoot down a valuable BOAC plane. The mystery and confusion will protect us until we are well within Soviet territory and then, of course, we shall have disappeared without trace.'

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