Page 6


The sharp explosion of the bulb and the blinding flash of light forced a quick scream out of the girl. She swivelled round.

Bond stepped down off the chair. 'Good afternoon.'

'Whoryou? Whatyouwant?' The girl's hand was up to her mouth. Her eyes screamed at him.

'I've got what I want. Don't worry. It's all over now. And my^jmme's Bond, James Bond.'

Bond put his camera carefully down on the chair and came and stood in the radius of her scent. She was very beautiful. She had the palest blonde hair. It fell heavily to her shoulders, unfashionably long. Her eyes were deep blue against a lightly sunburned skin and her mouth was bold and generous and would have a lovely smile.

She stood up and took her hand away from her mouth. She was tall, perhaps five feet ten, and her arms and legs looked firm as if she might be a swimmer. Her breasts thrust against the black silk of the brassiere.

Some of the fear had gone out of her eyes. She said in a low voice, 'What are you going to do?'

'Nothing to you. I may tease Goldfinger a bit. Move over like a good girl and let me have a look.'

Bond took the girl's place and looked through the glasses. The game was going on normally. Goldfinger showed no sign that his communications had broken down.

'Doesn't he mind not getting the signals? Will he stop playing?'

She said hesitatingly, 'It's happened before when a plug pulled or something. He just waits for me to come through again.'

Bond smiled at her. 'Well, let's let him stew for a bit. Have a cigarette and relax,' he held out a packet of Chesterfields. She took one. 'Anyway it's time you did the nails on your right hand.'

A smile flickered across her mouth. 'How long were you there? You gave me a frightful shock.'

'Not long, and I'm sorry about the shock. Goldfinger's been giving poor old Mr Du Pont shocks for a whole week.'

'Yes,' she said doubtfully. 'I suppose it's really rather mean. But he's very rich, isn't he?'

'Oh yes. I shouldn't lose any sleep over Mr Du Pont. But Goldfinger might choose someone who can't afford it. Anyway, he's a millionaire himself. Why does he do it? He's crawling with money.'

Animation flooded back into her face. 'I know. I simply can't understand him. It's a sort of mania with him, making money. He can't leave it alone. I've asked him why and all he says is that one's a fool not to make money when the odds are right. He's always going on about the same thing, getting the odds right. When he talked me into doing this,' she waved her cigarette dt the binoculars, 'and I asked him why on earth he bothered, took these stupid risks, all he said was, “That's the second lesson. When the odds aren't right, make them right'”

Bond said, 'Well, it's lucky for him I'm not Pinkertons or the Miami Police Department.'

The girl shrugged her shoulders. 'Oh, that wouldn't worry him. He'd just buy you off. He can buy anyone off. No one can resist gold.'

'What do you mean?'

She said indifferently, 'He always carries a million dollars' worth of gold about with him except when he's going through the Customs. Then he just carries a belt full of gold coins round his stomach. Otherwise it's in thin sheets in the bottom and sides of his suitcases. They're really gold suitcases covered with leather.'

'They must weigh a ton.'

"He always travels by car, one with special springs. And his chauffeur is a huge man. He carries them. No one else touches them.'

'Why does he carry around all that gold?'

'Just in case he needs it. He knows that gold will buy him anything he wants. It's all twenty-four carat. And anyway he loves gold, really loves it like people love jewels or stamps or - well,' she smiled, 'women.'

Bond smiled back. 'Does he love you?'

She blushed and said indignantly, 'Certainly not.' Then, more reasonably, 'Of course you can think anything you like. But really he doesn't. I mean, I think he likes people to think that we - that I'm - that it's a question of love and all that. You know. He's not very prepossessing and I suppose it's a question of - well - of vanity or something.'

'Yes, I see. So you're just a kind of secretary?'

'Companion,' she corrected him. 'I don't have to type or anything.' She suddenly put her hand up to her mouth. 'Oh, but I shouldn't be telling you all this! You won't tell him, will you? He'd fire me.' Fright came into her eyes. 'Or something. I don't know what he'd do. He's the sort of man who might do anything.'

'Of course I won't tell. But this can't be much of a life for you. Why do you do it?'

She said tartly, 'A hundred pounds a week and all this,'

she waved at the room,'doesn't grow on trees. I save up. When I've saved enough I shall go.'

Bond wondered if Goldfinger would let her. Wouldn't she know too much? He looked at the beautiful face, the splendid, unselfconscious body. She might not suspect it, but, for his money, she was in very bad trouble with this man.

The girl was fidgeting. Now she said with an embarrassed laugh, 'I don't think I'm very properly dressed. Can't I go and put something on over these?'

Bond wasn't sure he could trust her. It wasn't he who was paying the hundred pounds a week. He said airily, 'You look fine. Just as respectable as those hundreds of people round the pool. Anyway,' he stretched, 'it's about time to fight a fire under Mr Goldfinger.'

Bond had been glancing down at the game from time to time. It seemed to be proceeding normally. Bond bent again to the binoculars. Already Mr Du Pont seemed to be a new man, his gestures were expansive, the half-profile of his pink face was full of animation. While Bond watched, he took a fistful of cards out of his hand and spread them down - a pure canasta in kings. Bond tilted the binoculars up an inch. The big red-brown moon face was impassive, uninterested. Mr Goldfinger was waiting patiently for the odds to adjust themselves back in his favour. While Bond watched, he put up a hand to the hearing aid, pushing the amplifier more firmly into his ear, ready for the signals to come through again.

Bond stepped back. 'Neat little machine,' he commented. "What are you transmitting on?'

'He told me, but I can't remember.' She screwed up her eyes. 'A hundred and seventy somethings. Would it be mega-somethings?'

'Megacycles. Might be, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a lot of taxicabs and police messages mixed up with your talk. Must have fiendish concentration.' Bond grinned. 'Now then. All set? It's time to pull the rug away.'

Suddenly she reached out and put a hand on his sleeve. There was a Claddagh ring on the middle finger - two gold hands clasped round a gold heart. There were tears in her voice. 'Must you? Can't you leave him alone? I don't know what he'll do to me. Please.' She hesitated. She was blushing furiously. 'And I like you. It's a long time since I've seen someone like you. Couldn't you just stay here for a little more?' She looked down at the ground. 'If only you'd leave him alone I'd do' - the words came out in a rush - 'I'd do anything.'

Bond smiled. He took the girl's hand off his arm and squeezed it. 'Sorry. I'm being paid to do this job and I must do it. Anyway' - his voice went flat - 'I want to do it. It's time someone cut Mr Goldfinger down to size. Ready?'

Without waiting for an answer he bent to the binoculars. They were still focused on Goldfinger. Bond cleared his throat. He watched the big face carefully. His hand felt for the microphone switch and pressed it down.

There must have been a whisper of static in the deaf aid. Goldfinger's expression didn't alter, but he slowly raised his face to heaven and then down again, as if in benediction.

Bond spoke softly, menacingly into the microphone. 'Now hear me, Goldfinger.' He paused. Not a flicker of expression, but Goldfinger bent his head a fraction as if listening. He studied his cards intently, his hands quite still.

'This is James Bond speaking. Remember me? The game's finished and it's time to pay. I have a photograph of the whole set-up, blonde, binoculars, microphone and you and your hearing aid. This photograph will not go to the FBI and Scotland Yard so long as you obey me exactly. Nod your head if you understand.'

The face was still expressionless. Slowly the big round head bent forward and then straightened itself.

'Put your cards down face upwards on the table.'

The hands went down. They opened and the cards slid off the fingers on to the table.

'Take out your cheque book and write a cheque to cash for fifty thousand dollars. That is made up as follows, thirty-five you have taken from Mr Du Pont. Ten for my fee. The extra five for wasting so much of Mr Du Font's valuable time.'

Bond watched to see that his order was being obeyed. He took a glance at Mr Du Pont. Mr Du Pont was leaning forward, gaping.

Mr Goldfinger slowly detached the cheque and countersigned it on the back.'

'Right. Now jot this down on the back of your cheque book and see you get it right. Book me a compartment on the Silver Meteor to New York tonight. Have a bottle of vintage champagne on ice in the compartment and plenty of caviar sandwiches. The best caviar. And keep away from me. And no monkey business. The photograph will be in the mails with a full report to be opened and acted upon if I don't show up in good health in New York tomorrow. Nod if you understand.'

Again the big head came slowly down and up again. Now there were traces of sweat on the high, unlined forehead.

'Right, now hand the cheque across to Mr Du Pont and say, “I apologize humbly. I have been cheating you.” Then you can go.'

Bond watched the hand go across and drop the cheque in front of Mr Du Pont. The mouth opened and spoke. The eyes were placid, slow. Goldfinger had relaxed. It was only money. He had paid his way out.

'Just a moment, Goldfinger, you're not through yet.' Bond glanced up at the girl. She was looking at him strangely. There was misery and fear but also a look of submissiveness, of longing.

'What's your name?'

'Jill Masterton.'

'Goldfinger had stood up, was turning away. Bond said sharply, 'Stop.'

Goldfinger stopped in mid-stride. Now his eyes looked up at the balcony. They had opened wide, as when Bond had first met him. Their hard, level, X-ray gaze seemed to find the lenses of the binoculars, travel down them and through Bond's eyes to the back of his skull. They seemed to say, 'I shall remember this, Mr Bond.'

Bond said softly, 'I'd forgotten. One last thing. I shall be taking a hostage for the ride to New York. Miss Masterton. See that she's at the train. Oh, and make that compartment a drawing-room. That's all.'

CHAPTER FIVE

NIGHT DUTY

IT WAS a week later. Bond stood at the open window of the seventh-floor office of the tall building in Regent's Park that is the headquarters of the Secret Service. London lay asleep under a full moon that rode swiftly over the town through a shoal of herring-bone clouds. Big Ben sounded three. One of the telephones rang in the dark room. Bond turned and moved quickly to the central desk and the pool of light cast by the green shaded reading-lamp. He picked up the black telephone from the rank of four.

He said, 'Duty officer.'

'Station H, sir.'

'Put them on.'

There was the echoing buzz and twang of the usual bad radio connection with Hongkong. Why were there always sunspots over China? A sing-song voice asked, 'Universal Export?'

'Yes.'

A deep, close voice - London - said, 'You're through to Hongkong. Speak up, please.'

Bond said impatiently, 'Clear the line, please.'

The sing-song voice said, 'You're through now. Speak up, please.'

'Hullo! Hullo! Universal Export?'

'Yes.'

'Dickson speaking. Can you hear me?'

'Yes.'

'That cable I sent you about the shipment of mangoes. Fruit. You know?'

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***