The girl was sitting by herself, with half a bottle of Bol-linger in front of her, staring moodily at nothing. She barely looked up when Bond slipped into the chair next to hers and said, 'Well, I'm afraid our syndicate lost again. I tried to get it back. I went “avec”. I should have left that brute alone. I stood on a five and he had a “buche” and then drew a nine.'

She said dully, 'You should have drawn on the five. I always do.' She reflected. 'But then you would have had a four. What was the next card?'

'I didn't wait to see. I came to look for you.'

She gave him a sideways, appraising glance. 'Why did you rescue me when I made the “coup du deshonneur”?'

Bond shrugged. 'Beautiful girl in distress. Besides, we made friends between Abbeville and Montreuil this evening. You drive like an angel.' He smiled. 'But I don't think you'd have passed me if I'd been paying attention. I was doing about ninety and not bothering to keep an eye on the mirror. And I was thinking of other things.'

The gambit succeeded. Vivacity came into her face and voice. 'Oh, yes. I'd have beaten you anyway. I'd have passed you in the villages. Besides' - there was an edge of bitterness in her voice - 'I would always be able to beat you. You want to stay alive.'

Oh, lord! thought Bond. One of those! A girl with a wing, perhaps two wings, down. He chose to let the remark lie. The half-bottle of Krug he had ordered came. After the huissier had half filled the glass, Bond topped it to the brim. He held it towards her without exaggeration. 'My name is Bond, James Bond. Please stay alive, at any rate for tonight.' He drank the glass down at one long gulp and filled it again.

She looked at him gravely, considering him. Then she also drank. She said, 'My name is Tracy. That is short for all the names you were told at the reception in the hotel. Teresa was a saint. I am not a saint. The manager is perhaps a romantic. He told me of your inquiries. So shall we go now? I am not interested in conversation. And you have earned your reward.'

She rose abruptly. So did Bond, confused. 'No. I will go alone. You can come later. The number is 45. There, if you wish, you can make the most expensive piece of love of your life. It will have cost you forty million francs. I hope it will be worth it.'

4

All Cats are Grey

SHE WAS waiting in the big double bed, a single sheet pulled up to her chin. The fair hair was spread out like golden wings under the single reading light that was the only light in the room, and the blue eyes blazed with a fervour that, in other girls, in other beds, James Bond would have interpreted. But this one was in the grip of stresses he could not even guess at. He locked the door behind him and came over and sat on the edge of her bed and put one hand firmly on the little hill that was her left breast. 'Now listen, Tracy,' he began, meaning to ask at least one or two questions, find out something about this wonderful girl who did hysterical things like gambling without the money to meet her debts, driving like a potential suicide, hinting that she had had enough of life.

But the girl reached up a swift hand that smelt of Guerlain's 'Ode' and put it across his lips. 'I said “no conversation”. Take off those clothes. Make love to me. You are handsome and strong. I want to remember what it can be like. Do anything you like. And tell me what you like and what you would like from me. Be rough with me. Treat me like the lowest whore in creation. Forget everything else. No questions. Take me."

An hour later, James Bond slipped out of bed without waking her, dressed by the light of the promenade lights filtering between the curtains, and went back to his room.

He showered and got in between the cool, rough French sheets of his own bed and switched off his thinking about her. All he remembered, before sleep took him, was that she had said when it was all over, 'That was heaven, James. Will you please come back when you wake up. I must have it once more.' Then she had turned over on her side away from him and, without answering his last endearments, had gone to sleep - but not before he had heard that she was crying.

What the hell? All cats are grey in the dark.

True or false?

Bond slept.

At eight o'clock he woke her and it was the same glorious thing again. But this time he thought that she held him to her more tenderly, kissed him not only with passion but with affection. But, after, when they should have been making plans about the day, about where to have lunch, when to bathe, she was at first evasive and then, when he pressed her, childishly abusive.

'Get to hell away from me! Do you hear? You've had what you wanted. Now get out!'

'Wasn't it what you wanted too?'

'No. You're a lousy goddam lover. Get out!'

Bond recognized the edge of hysteria, at least of desperation. He dressed slowly, waiting for the tears to come, for the sheet that now covered her totally to shake with sobs. But the tears didn't come. That was bad! In some way this girl had come to the end of her tether, of too many tethers. Bond felt a wave of affection for her, a sweeping urge to protect her, to solve her problems, make her happy. With his hand on the door-knob he said softly, 'Tracy. Let me help you. You've got some troubles. That's not the end of the world. So have I. So has everyone else.'

The dull cliches fell into the silent, sun-barred room, like clinker in a grate.

'Go to hell!'

In the instant of opening and closing the door, Bond debated whether to bang it shut, to shake her out of her mood, or to close it softly. He closed it softly. Harshness would do no good with this girl. She had had it, somehow, somewhere - too much of it. He went off down the corridor, feeling, for the first time in his life, totally inadequate.

* * *

(The Bombard thrashed on up river. It had passed the marina and, with the narrowing banks, the current was stronger. The two thugs in the stern still kept their quiet eyes on Bond. In the bows, the girl still held her proud profile into the wind like the figure-head on a sailing ship. In Bond, the only warmth was in his contact with her back and his hand on the haft of his knife. Yet, in a curious way, he felt closer to her, far closer, than in the transports of the night before. Somehow he felt she was as much a prisoner as he was. How? Why? Way ahead the lights of the Vieux Port, once close to the sea, but now left behind by some quirk of the Channel currents that had built up the approaches to the river, shone sparsely. Before many years they would go out and a new harbour, nearer the mouth of the river, would be built for the deep-sea trawlers that served Royale with their soles and lobsters and crabs and prawns. On this side of the lights were occasional gaunt jetties built out into the river by private yacht-owners. Behind them were villas that would have names like 'Rosalie', 'Toi et Moi', 'Nid Azur' and 'Nouvelle Vague'. James Bond nursed the knife and smelt the 'Ode' that came to him above the stink of mud and seaweed from the river banks. His teeth had never chattered before. Now they chattered. He stopped them and went back to his memories.)

Normally, breakfast was an important part of Bond's day, but today he had barely noticed what he was eating, hurried through the meal and sat gazing out of his window and across the promenade, chain-smoking and wondering about the girl. He knew nothing positive about her, not even her nationality. The Mediterranean was in her name, yet she was surely neither Italian nor Spanish. Her English was faultless and her clothes and the way she wore them were the products of expensive surroundings - perhaps a Swiss finishing school'. She didn't smoke, seemed to drink only sparingly, and there was no sign of drugtaking. There had not even been sleeping pills beside the bed or in her bathroom. She could only be about twenty-five, yet she made love with the fervour and expertness of a girl who, in the American phrase, had 'gone the route'. She hadn't laughed once, had hardly smiled. She seemed in the grip of some deep melancholy, some form of spiritual accidie that made life, on her own admission, no longer worth living. And yet there were none of those signs that one associates with the hysteria of female neurotics - the unkempt hair and sloppy make-up, the atmosphere of disarray and chaos they create around them. On the contrary, she seemed to possess an ice-cold will, authority over herself and an exact idea of what she wanted and where she was going. And where was that? In Bond's book she had desperate intentions, most likely suicide, and last night had been the last fling.

He looked down at the little white car that was now not far from his in the parking lot. Somehow he must stick close to her, watch over her, at least until he was satisfied that his deadly conclusions were wrong. As a first step, he rang down to the concierge and ordered a drive-yourself Simca Aronde. Yes, it should be delivered at once and left in the parking lot. He would bring his international driving licence and green insurance card down to the concierge who would kindly complete the formalities.

Bond shaved and dressed and took the papers down and returned to his room. He stayed there, watching the entrance and the little white car until 4.30 in the afternoon. Then, at last, she appeared, in the black and white striped bathing-wrap, and Bond ran down the corridor to the lift. It was not difficult to follow her as she drove along the promenade and left her car in one of the parking lots, and it was also no problem for the little anonymous 2CV Citroen that followed Bond.

And then had been set up the train of the watchers and the watched which was now drawing to its mysterious climax as the little Bombard thrashed its way up the River Royale under the stars.

What to make of it all? Had she been a witting or unwitting bait? Was this a kidnapping? If so, of one or of both? Was it blackmail? The revenge of a husband or another lover? Or was it to be murder?

Bond was still raking his mind for clues when the helmsman turned the Bombard in a wide curve across the current towards a battered, skeletal jetty that projected from the muddy bank into the stream. He pulled up under its lee, a powerful flashlight shone down on them out of the darkness, a rope clattered down and the boat was hauled to the foot of muddy wooden steps. One of the thugs climbed out first, followed by the girl, the white bottom of her bathing dress lascivious below Bond's coat, then Bond, then the second thug. Then the Bombard backed quickly away and continued up river, presumably, thought Bond, to its legitimate mooring in the Vieux Port.

There were two more men, of much the same build as the others, on the jetty. No words were spoken as, surrounded, the girl and Bond were escorted up the small dust road that led away from the jetty through the sand dunes. A hundred yards from the river, tucked away in a gully between tall dunes, there was a glimmer of light. When Bond got nearer he saw that it came from one of those giant corrugated aluminium transport-trucks that, behind an articulated driver's cabin, roar down the arterial routes of France belching diesel smoke and hissing angrily with their hydraulic brakes as they snake through the towns and villages. This one was a glinting, polished affair. It looked new, but might just be well cared for. As they approached, the man with the flashlight gave some signal, and an oblong of yellow light promptly blazed as the caravan-like door in the rear was thrown open. Bond fingered his knife. Were the odds in any way within reason? They were not. Before he climbed up the steps into the interior, he glanced down at the numberplate. The commercial licence said, 'Marseille-Rhone. M. Draco. Appareils fiectriques. 397694.' So! One more riddle!

Inside it was, thank God, warm. A passage-way led between stacked rows of cartons marked with the famous names of television manufacturers. Dummies? There were also folded chairs and the signs of a disturbed game of cards. This was presumably used as the guard-room. Then, on both sides, the doors of cabins. Tracy was waiting at one of the doors. She held out his coat to him, said an expressionless 'Thank you' and closed the door after Bond had caught a brief glimpse of a luxurious interior. Bond took his time putting on his coat. The single man with the gun who was following him said impatiently, 'Allez!' Bond wondered whether to jump him. But, behind, the other three men stood watching. Bond contented himself with a mild' Merde a vous!' and went ahead to the aluminium door that presumably sealed off the third and forward compartment in this strange vehicle. Behind this door lay the answer. It was probably one man - the leader. This might be the only chance. Bond's right hand was already grasping the hilt of his knife in his trouser pocket. Now he put out his left hand and, in one swirl of motion, leaped through, kicked the door shut behind him and crouched, the knife held for throwing.

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