Bond surveyed his weapons. They were only his hands and feet, his Gillette razor and his wrist-watch, a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet. Used properly, these could be turned into most effective knuckledusters. Bond got up, took the blade out of his Gillette and dropped the razor into his trouser pocket. He slipped the shaft between the first and second fingers of his left hand so that the blade-carrier rested flat along his knuckles. Yes, that was the way! Now was there anything, any evidence he should try and take with him? Yes, he must try and get more, if not all, of the girls' names and, if possible, addresses. For some reason he knew they were vital. For that he would have to use Ruby. His head full of plans for getting the information out of her, Bond went out of the bathroom and sat down at his desk and got on with a fresh page of de Bleuvilles. At least he must continue to show willing, if only to the recording eye in the ceiling.
* * *
It was about twelve-thirty when Bond heard his doorknob being softly turned. Ruby slipped in and, her finger to her lips, disappeared into his bathroom. Bond casually threw down his pen, got up and stretched and strolled over and went in after her.
Ruby's blue eyes were wide and frightened. 'You're in trouble,' she whispered urgently. 'What have you been doing?'
'Nothing,' said Bond innocently. 'What's up?'
'We've all been told that we mustn't talk to you unless Miss Bunt is there.' Her knuckles went distractedly up to her teeth. 'Do you think they know about Mi?'
'Couldn't possibly,' said Bond, radiating confidence. 'I think I know what it is.' (With so much obfuscation in the air, what did an extra, a reassuring, lie matter?) 'This morning the Count told me I was an upsetting influence here, that I was what he called “disruptive”, interfering with your treatments. He asked me to keep myself more to myself. Honestly' - (how often that word came into a lie!) - 'I'm sure that's all it is. Rather a pity really. Apart from you - I mean you're sort of special - I think all you girls are terribly sweet. I'd like to have helped you all.'
'How do you mean? Helped us?'
'Well, this business of surnames. I talked to Violet last night. She seemed awfully interested. I'm sure it would have amused all the others to have theirs done. Everyone's interested in where they came from. Rather like palmistry in a way.' Bond wondered how the College of Arms would have liked that one! He shrugged. 'Anyway, I've decided to get the hell away from here. I can't bear being shepherded and ordered about like this. Who the hell do they think I am? But I'll tell you what I'll do. If you can give me the names of the girls, as many as you know, I'll do a piece on each of them and post them when you all get back to England. How much longer have you got, by the way?'
'We're not told exactly, but the rumour is about another week. There's another batch of girls due about then. When we're slow at our work or get behind-hand with our reading,
Miss Bunt says she hopes the next lot won't be so stupid. The old bitch! But Sir Hilary' - the blue eyes filled with concern - 'how are you going to get away? You know we're practically prisoners up here.'
Bond was off-hand. 'Oh, I'll manage somehow. They can't hold me here against my will. But what about the names, Ruby? Don't you think it would give the girls a treat?'
'Oh, they'd love it. Of course I know all of them. We've found plenty of ways of exchanging secrets. But you won't be able to remember. Have you got anything to write down on?'
Bond tore off some strips of lavatory paper and took out a pencil. 'Fire away!'
She laughed. 'Well, you know me and Violet, then there's Elizabeth Mackinnon. She's from Aberdeen. Beryl Morgan from somewhere in Herefordshire. Pearl Tampion, Devonshire - by the way, all those simply loathed every kind of cattle. Now they live on steaks! Would you believe it? I must say the Count's a wonderful man."
'Then there's Anne Charter from Canterbury and Caresse Ventnor from the National Stud, wherever that is - fancy her working there and she came up in a rash all over whenever she went near ajhorse! Now all she does is dream of pony clubs and read every word she can get hold of about Pat Smythe! And Denise Robertson..."
The list went on until Bond had got the whole ten. He said, 'What about that Polly somebody who left in November?'
'Polly Tasker. She was from East Anglia. Don't remember where, but I can find out the address when I get back to England. Sir Hilary' - she put her arm round his neck -'lam going to see you again, aren't I?'
Bond held her tight and kissed her. 'Of course, Ruby. You can always get me at the College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street. Just send me a postcard when you get back. But for God's sake cut out the “ Sir”. You're my girl friend. Remember?'
'Oh, yes, I will - er - Hilary,' she said fervently. 'And you will be careful, getting away I mean. You're sure it's all right? Is there anything I can do to help?'
'No, darling. Just don't breathe a word of all this. It's a secret between us. Right?'
'Of course, darling.' She glanced at her watch. 'Oh lord! I must simply fly. Only ten minutes to lunch-time. Now, can you do your trick with the door? There shouldn't be anyone about. It's their lunch-time from twelve till one.'
Bond, out of any possible line of vision from the eye in the ceiling, did his trick with the door and she was gone with a last whispered goodbye.
Bond eased the door shut. He let out a deep sigh and went over to the window and peered out through the snow-heaped panes. It was thick as Hades outside and the fine powder snow on the veranda was whirling up in little ghosts as the wind tore at the building. Pray God it would let up by nighttime! Now, what did he need in the way of equipment? Goggles and gloves were two items he might harvest over lunch. Bond went into the bathroom again and rubbed soap into his eyes. It stung like hell, but the blue-grey eyes emerged from the treatment realistically bloodshot. Satisfied, Bond rang for the 'warden' and went thoughtfully off to the restaurant.
Silence fell as he went through the swing doors, followed by a polite, brittle chatter. Eyes followed him discreetly as he crossed the room and the replies to his good-mornings were muted. Bond took his usual seat between Ruby and Fraulein Bunt. Apparently oblivious to her frosty greeting, he snapped his fingers for a waiter and ordered his double vodka dry Martini. He turned to Fraulein Bunt and smiled into the suspicious yellow eyes. 'Would you be very kind?'
'Yes, Sair Hilary. What is it?'
Bond gestured at his still watering eyes. 'I've got the Count's trouble. Sort of conjunctivitis, I suppose. The tremendous glare up here. Better today of course, but there's still a lot of reflection from the snow. And all this paperwork. Could you get me a pair of snow-goggles? I'll only need to borrow them for a day or two. Just till my eyes get used to the light. Don't usually have this sort of trouble.'
'Yes. That can be done. I will see that they are put in your room.' She summoned the head waiter and gave him the order in German. The man, looking at Bond with overt dislike, said, 'Sofort, gnadiges Fraulein,' and clicked his heels.
'And one more thing, if you will,' said Bond politely. 'A small flask of schnapps.' He turned to Fraulein Bunt. 'I find I am not sleeping well up here. Perhaps a nightcap would help. I always have one at home - generally whisky. But here I would prefer schnapps. When in Gloria, do as the Glorians do. Ha ha!'
Fraulein Bunt looked at him stonily. She said to the waiter curtly, 'In Ordnung!' The man took Bond's order of Pat6 Maison followed by CEufs Gloria and the cheese tray (Bond thought he had better get some stuffing into him!), clicked his heels and went away. Was he one of those who had been at work in the interrogation room? Bond silently ground his teeth. By God, if it came to hitting any of these guards tonight, he was going to hit them damned hard, with everything he'd got! He felt Fraulein Bunt's eyes inquisitively on him. He untensed himself and began to make amiable conversation about the storm. How long would it last? What was the barometer doing?
Violet, guardedly but helpfully, said the guides thought it would clear up during the afternoon. The barometer was rising. She looked nervously at Fraulein Bunt to see if she had said too much to the pariah, and then, not reassured, went back to her two vast baked potatoes with poached eggs in them.
Bond's drink came. He swallowed it in two gulps and ordered another. He felt like making any gesture that would startle and outrage. He said, combatively, to Fraulein Bunt, 'And how is that poor chap who came up in the cable car this morning? He looked in terrible shape. I do hope he's up and about again.'
'He makes progress.'
'Oh! Who was that?' asked Ruby eagerly.
'It was an intruder.' Fraulein Bunt's eyes were hard with warning. 'It is not a subject for conversation.'
'Oh, but why not?' asked Bond innocently. 'After all, you can't get much excitement up here. Anything out of the ordinary should be a bit of a relief.'
She said nothing. Bond raised his eyebrows politely and then accepted the snub with a good grace. He asked if any newspapers came up. Or was there a radio bulletin like on board ship? Did they get any news from the outside world?
Bond gave up the struggle and got on with his lunch. Ruby's foot crept up against his in sympathy with the man sent to Coventry. Bond gave it a gentle kick of warning and withdrew his. The girls at the other tables began to leave. Bond toyed with his cheese and coffee until Fraulein Bunt got to her feet and said, 'Come, girls.' Bond rose and sat down again. Now, except for the waiters clearing up, he was alone in the restaurant. That was what he wanted. He got up and strolled to the door. Outside, on pegs against the wall, the girls' outdoor coats and siding gloves hung in an orderly row. The corridor was empty. Bond swept the largest pair of leather gauntlets he could see off the peg where they hung by their joining cord and stuffed them inside his sweater. Then he sauntered along to the reception room. It was empty. The door to the ski-room was open and the surly man was at his work-bench. Bond went in and made one-sided conversation about the weather. Then, under cover of desultory talk about whether the metal skis were not more dangerous than the old wooden ones, he wandered, his hands innocently in his pockets, round the numbered racks in which the skis stood against the wall. They were mostly the girls' skis. No good! The bindings would be too small for his boots. But, by the door, in unnumbered slots, stood the guides' skis. Bond's eyes narrowed to slits as he scanned them, measuring, estimating. Yes, the pair of metal Heads with the red V's painted on the black curved tips was the best bet. They were of the stiffer,
Master's, category, designed for racing. Bond remembered reading somewhere that the Standard model was inclined to 'float' at speed. His choice had the Attenhofer Flex forward release with the Marker lateral release. Two transverse leather thongs wound round the ankle and buckled over the instep would, if he fell, which he was certain to do, ensure against losing a ski.
Bond made a quick guess at how much the bindings would need adjustment to fit his boots and went off down the corridor to his room.
Now IT was just a question of sitting out the hours. When would they have finished with Campbell? Quick, rough torture is rarely effective against a professional, apart from the likelihood of the man rapidly losing consciousness, becoming so punch-drunk that he is incoherent. The pro, if he is a tough man spiritually, can keep the 'game' alive for hours by minor admissions, by telling long, rambling tales and sticking to them. Such tales need verification. Blofeld would undoubtedly have his man in Zurich, would be able to contact him on his radio, get him to check this or that date or address, but that also would require time. Then, if it was proved that Campbell had told lies, they would have to begin again. So far as Bond and his identity were concerned, it all depended on Campbell's reading of why Bond was up at the Gloria Club. He must guess, because of Bond's curt disavowal of him, that it was something clandestine, something important. Would he have the wits to cover up Bond, the guts, against the electrical and mechanical devices they would surely use against him? He could say that, when he came to and saw Bond, in his semi-conscious state he had for a moment thought Bond was his brother, James Campbell. Some story like that. If he had the wits! If he had the guts! Had Campbell got a death pill, perhaps one of the buttons on his ski-jacket or trousers? Bond sharply put the thought away. He had been on the edge of wishing that Campbell had!
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