Thunderball Page 22

Back in the hotel, a dispatch rider from Government House was waiting for Bond. He saluted smartly, handed over an O.H.M.S. envelope, and got Bond's signed receipt in exchange. It was a cable from the Colonial Office “Personal to the Governor.'' The text was prefixed PROBOND. The cable read: ”YOUR 1107 RECORDS HAVE NOTHING REPEAT NOTHING ON THESE NAMES STOP INFORMATIVELY ALL STATIONS REPORT NEGATIVELY ON OPERATION THUNDERBALL STOP WHAT HAVE you QUERY.'' The message was signed "PRISM,'' which meant that M had approved it.

Bond handed the cable to Leiter.

Leiter read it. He said, "See what I mean? We're on a bum steer. This is a thumb-twiddler. See you later in the Pineapple Bar for a dry martini that's half a jumbo olive. I'll go send a postcard to Washington and asked them to send down a couple of WAVES. We're going to have time on our hands.''


Sour Martinis

As it turned out, the first half of Bond's program for the evening went by the board. On the telephone Domino Vitali said that it would not be convenient for them to see the house that evening. Her guardian and some of his friends were coming ashore. Yet it was indeed possible that they might meet at the Casino that evening. She would be dining on board and the Disco would then sail round and anchor off the Casino. But how would she be able to recognize him in the Casino? She had a very poor memory for faces. Would he perhaps wear a flower in his buttonhole or something?

Bond had laughed. He said that would be all right. He would remember her by her beautiful blue eyes. They were unforgettable. And the blue rinse that matched them. He had put the receiver down halfway through the amused, sexy chuckle. He suddenly wanted to see her again very much.

But the movement of the ship altered his plans for the better. It would be much easier to reconnoitre her in the harbor. It would be a shorter swim and he would be able to go into the water under cover of the harbor police wharf. Equally, with her anchorage empty, it would be all the easier to survey the area where she had been lying. But if Largo moved the yacht about so nonchalantly was it likely the bombs, if there were any, would be hidden at the anchorage? If they were, surely the Disco would stand watch over them. Bond decided to put a decision aside until he had more and more expert information about the ship's hull.

He sat in his room and wrote his negative report to M. He read it through. It would be a depressing signal to get. Should he say anything about the wisp of a lead he was working on? No. Not until he had something solid. Wishful intelligence, the desire to please or reassure the recipient, was the most dangerous commodity in the whole realm of secret information. Bond could imagine the reaction in Whitehall where the Thunderball war room would be ready, anxious to grasp at straws. M's careful “I think we may conceivably have got a lead in the Bahamas. Absolutely nothing definite, but this particular man doesn't often go wrong on these things. Yes, certainly I'll check back and see if we can get a follow-up.'' And the buzz would get around: ”M's on to something. Agent of his thinks he's got a lead. The Bahamas. Yes, I think we'd better tell the P.M.'' Bond shuddered. The MOST IMMEDIATES would pour in to him: “Elucidate your 1806.'' ”Flash fullest details.'' “Premier wants detailed grounds for your 1806.'' There would be no end to the flood. Leiter would get the same from C.I.A. The whole place would be in an uproar. Then, in answer to Bond's tatty little fragments of gossip and speculation, there would come the blistering: ”Surprised you should take this flimsy evidence seriously.'' “Futurely confine your signals to facts,'' and, the final degradation, ”View speculative nature your 1806 and subsequents comma future signals must repeat must be joint and countersigned by CIA representative.''

Bond wiped his forehead. He unlocked the case containing his cipher machine, transposed his text, checked it again, and went off to Police Headquarters, where Leiter was sitting at his keyboard, the sweat of concentration pouring down his neck. Ten minutes later Leiter took off his earphones and handed over to Bond. He mopped his face with an already drenched handkerchief. “First it's sunspots, and I had to swap over to the emergency wavelength. There I found they'd put a baboon on the other end---you know, one of the ones that can write the whole of Shakespeare if you leave him at it long enough.'' He angrily waved several pages of cipher groups. ”Now I've got to unscramble all this. Probably from Accounts about how much extra income tax this sunshine trip will cost me.'' He sat down at a table and began cranking away at his machine.

Bond put his short message over quickly. He could see it being punched out on the tapes in one of those busy rooms on the eighth floor, going to the supervisor, being marked "Personal for M, copy to OO Section and Records,'' then another girl hurrying off down the passage with the flimsy yellow forms on a clip file. He queried whether there was anything for him and signed off. He left Leiter and went down to the Commissioner's room.

Harling was sitting at his desk with his coat off, dictating to a police sergeant. He dismissed him, pushed a box of cigarettes over his desk to Bond, and lit one himself. He smiled quizzically. "Any progress?''

Bond told him that the Trace on the Largo group had been negative and that they had called on Largo and gone over the Disco with a Geiger counter. This also had been negative. Bond still wasn't satisfied. He told the Commissioner what he wanted to know about the fuel capacity of the Disco and the exact location of the fuel tanks. The Commissioner nodded amiably and picked up the telephone. He asked for a Sergeant Molony of the Harbor Police. He cradled the receiver and explained, “We check all fueling. This is a narrow harbor crammed with small craft, deep-sea fishing boats, and so on. Quite a fire hazard if something went wrong. We like to know what everyone is carrying and whereabouts in the ship. Just in case there's some fire-fighting to be done or we want a particular ship to get out of range in a hurry.'' He went back to the telephone. ”Sergeant Molony?'' He repeated Bond's questions, listened, said thank-you, and put the receiver down. "She carries a maximum of five hundred gallons of Diesel. Took that amount on on the afternoon of June 2nd. She also carries about forty gallons of lubricating oil and a hundred gallons of drinking water---all carried amidships just forrard of the engine room. That what you want?''

This made nonsense of Largo's talk of lateral tanks and the difficult ballast problem and so forth. Of course he could have wanted to keep some secret treasure-hunting gear out of sight of the visitors, but at least there was something on board he wanted to hide, and, for all his show of openness, it was now established that Mr. Largo might be a rich treasure hunter, but he was also an unreliable witness. Now Bond's mind was made up. It was the hull of the ship he wanted to have a look at. Leiter's mention of the Olterra had been a long shot, but it just might pay off.

Bond passed on a guarded version of his thoughts to the Commissioner. He told him where the Disco would be lying that night. Was there on the force a totally reliable man who could give him a hand with his underwater recce, and was there a sound aqualung, fully charged, available?

Harling gently asked if this was wise. He didn't exactly know the laws of trespass, but these seemed to be good citizens and they were certainly good spenders. Largo was very popular with everyone. Any kind of scandal, particularly if the police were involved, would create the hell of a stink in the Colony.

Bond said firmly, “I'm sorry, Commissioner. I quite see your point. But these risks have to be run and I've got a job to do. Surely the Secretary of State's instructions are sufficient authority,'' Bond fired his broadside. ”I could get specific orders from him, or from the Prime Minister for the matter of that, in about an hour if you feel it's necessary.''

The Commissioner shook his head. He smiled. "No need to use the big guns, Commander. Of course you shall have what you want. I was just giving you the local reaction. I'm sure the Governor would have given you the same warning. This is a small puddle here. We're not used to the crash treatment from Whitehall. No doubt we'll get used to it if this flap last long enough. Now then. Yes, we've got plenty of what you want. We've got twenty men in the Harbor Salvage Unit. Have to. You'd be surprised how often a small boat gets wrecked in the fairway, just where some cruise ship's going to anchor. And of course there's the occasional body. I'll have Constable Santos assigned to you. Splendid chap. Native of Eleuthera, where he used to win all the swimming prizes. He'll have the gear you want where you want it. Now just give me the details. . . .''

Back in his hotel, Bond took a shower, swallowed a double bourbon old-fashioned, and threw himself down on his bed. He felt absolutely beat---the plane trip, the heat, the nagging sense that he was making a fool of himself in front of the Commissioner, in front of Leiter, in front of himself, added to the dangers, and probably futile ones at that, of this ugly night swim, had built up tensions that could only be eased by sleep and solitude. He went out like a light---to dream of Domino being pursued by a shark with dazzling white teeth that suddenly became Largo, Largo who turned on him with those huge hands. They were coming closer, they reached slowly for him, they had him by the shoulder. . . . But then the bell rang for the end of the round, and went on ringing.

Bond reached out a drugged hand for the receiver. It was Leiter. He wanted that martini with the jumbo olive. It was nine o'clock. What the hell was Bond doing? Did he want someone to help with the zipper?

The Pineapple Room was paneled in bamboo carefully varnished against termites. Wrought-iron pineapples on the tables and against the wall contained segments of thick red candle, and more light was provided by illuminated aquaria let into the walls and by ceiling lights enclosed in pink glass starfish. The Vinylite banquettes were in ivory white and the barman and the two waiters wore scarlet satin calypso shirts with their black trousers.

Bond joined Leiter at a corner table. They both wore white dinner jackets with their dress trousers. Bond had pointed up his rich, property-seeking status with a wine-red cummerbund. Leiter laughed. "I nearly tied a gold-plated bicycle chain round my waist in case of trouble, but I remembered just in time that I'm a peaceful lawyer. I suppose it's right that you should get the girls on this assignment. I suppose I just stand by and arrange the marriage settlement and later the alimony. Waiter!''

Leiter ordered two dry martinis. “Just watch,'' he said sourly. The martinis arrived. Leiter took one look at them and told the waiter to send over the barman. When the barman came, looking resentful, Leiter said, ”My friend, I asked for a martini and not a soused olive.'' He picked the olive out of the glass with the cocktail stick. The glass, that had been three-quarters full, was now half full. Leiter said mildly, "This was being done to me while the only drink you knew was milk. I'd learned the basic economics of your business by the time you'd graduated to Coca-Cola. One bottle of Gordon's gin contains sixteen true measures---double measures, that is, the only ones I drink. Cut the gin with three ounces of water and that makes it up to twenty-two. Have a jigger glass with a big steal in the bottom and a bottle of these fat olives and you've got around twenty-eight measures. Bottle of gin here costs only two dollars retail, let's say around a dollar sixty wholesale. You charge eighty cents for a martini, a dollar sixty for two. Same price as a whole bottle of gin. And with your twenty-eight measures to the bottle, you've still got twenty-six left. That's a clear profit on one bottle of gin of around twenty-one dollars. Give you a dollar for the olives and the drop of vermouth and you've still got twenty dollars in your pocket. Now, my friend, that's too much profit, and if I could be bothered to take this martini to the management and then to the Tourist Board, you'd be in trouble. Be a good chap and mix us two large dry martinis without olives and with some slices of lemon peel separate. Okay? Right, then we're friends again.''

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