Thunderball Page 31

"We have got to know when those bombs are on board the Disco . That is all that matters. Then we can act with all our weight. And we have one great factor on our side. We are pretty sure that Largo feels secure. He still believes that the wonderful plan, and it is wonderful, is going exactly as it was meant to do. That is our strength and our only strength. You see that?''

"And how are you to know when the bombs come on board the yacht?''

"You must tell us.''

“Yes.'' The monosyllable was dull, indifferent. ”But how am I to know? And how am I to tell you? This man is no fool. He is only foolish in wanting his mistress''---she spat the word out---“when so much else is at stake.'' She paused. ”These people have chosen badly. Largo cannot live without a woman within reach. They should have known that.''

"When did Largo tell you to come back on board?''

"Five. The boat is coming to fetch me at Palmyra.''

Bond looked at his watch. "It is now four. I have this Geiger counter. It is simple to use. It will tell at once if the bombs are on board. I want you to take it with you. If it says there is a bomb on board, I want you to show a light at your porthole---switch the lights on in your cabin several times, anything like that. We have men watching the ship. They will be told to report. Then get rid of the Geiger counter. Drop it overboard.''

She said scornfully, "That is a silly plan. It is the sort of melodramatic nonsense people write about in thrillers. In real life people don't go into their cabins and switch on their lights in daylight. No. If the bombs are there, I will come up on deck---show myself to your men. That is natural behavior. If they are not there, I will stay in my cabin.''

“All right. Have it your own way. But will you do this?'' ”Of course. If I can prevent myself killing Largo when I see him. But on condition that when you get him you will see that he is killed.'' She was entirely serious. She looked at him with matter-of-fact eyes as if he were a travel agent and she were reserving a seat on a train.

"I doubt if that will happen. I should say that every man on board will get a life sentence in prison.''

She considered this. "Yes. That will do. That is worse than being killed. Now show me how this machine works.'' She got to her feet and took a couple of steps up the beach. She seemed to remember something. She looked down at the bracelet in her hand. She turned and walked down to the edge of the sea and stood for a moment looking out across the quiet water. She said some words that Bond couldn't hear. Then she leaned back and with all her strength threw the gold chain far out over the shoal into the dark blue. The chain twinkled briefly in the strong sun and there was a small splash. She watched the ripples widen and, when the smashed mirror was whole again, turned and walked back up the sand, her small limp leaving footmarks of uneven depth.

Bond showed her the working of the machine. He eliminated the wrist-watch indicator and told her to depend entirely on the telltale clicking. “Anywhere in the ship should be all right,'' he explained. ”But better near the hold if you can get there. Say you want to take a photograph from the well deck aft or something. This thing's made up to look like a Rolleiflex. It's got all the Rolleiflex lenses and gadgets on the front, lever to press and all. It just hasn't got a film. You could say that you'd decided to take some farewell pictures of Nassau and the yacht, couldn't you?''

“Yes.'' The girl, who had been listening attentively, now seemed distracted. Tentatively she put out a hand and touched Bond's arm. She let the hand fall. She looked up at him and then swiftly away. She said shyly, ”What I said, what I said about hating you. That is not true. I didn't understand. How could I---all this terrible story? I still can't quite believe it, believe that Largo has anything to do with it. We had a sort of an affair in Capri. He is an attractive man. Everyone else wanted him. It was a challenge to take him from all these other smart women. Then he explained about the yacht and this wonderful trip looking for treasure. It was like a fairy tale. Of course I agreed to come. Who wouldn't have? In exchange, I was quite ready to do what I had to do.'' She looked briefly at him and away. “I am sorry. But that is how it is. When we got to Nassau and he kept me ashore, away from the yacht, I was surprised but I was not offended. The islands are beautiful. There was enough for me to do. But what you have told me explains many small things. I was never allowed in the radio room. The crew were silent and unfriendly---they treated me like someone who was not wanted on board, and they were on curious terms with Largo, more like equals than paid men. And they were tough men and better educated than sailors usually are. So it all fits. I can even remember that, for a whole week before last Thursday, Largo was terribly nervous and irritable. We were already getting tired of each other. I put it down to that. I was even making plans for flying home by myself. But he has been better the last few days and when he told me to be packed and ready to come on board this evening, I thought I might just as well do as he said. And of course I was very excited over this treasure hunt. I wanted to see what it was all about. But then''---she looked out to sea---”there was you. And this afternoon, after what happened, I had decided to tell Largo I would not go. I would stay here and see where you went and go with you.'' For the first time she looked him full in the face and held his eyes. "Would you have let me do that?''

Bond reached out and put his hand against her cheek. "Of course I would.''

"But what happens now? When shall I see you again?''

This was the question Bond had dreaded. By sending her back on board, and with the Geiger counter, he was putting her in double danger. She could be found out by Largo, in which case her death would be immediate. If it came to a chase, which seemed almost certain, the Manta would sink the Disco by gunfire or torpedo, probably without warning. Bond had added up these factors and had closed his mind to them. He kept it closed. He said, “As soon as this is over. I shall look for you wherever you are. But now you are going to be in danger. You know this. Do you want to go on with it?'' She looked at her watch. She said, ”It is half past four. I must go. Do not come with me to the car. Kiss me once and stay here. Do not worry about what you want done. I will do it well. It is either that or a stiletto in the hack for this man.'' She held out her arms. "Come.'' Minutes later Bond heard the engine of the MG come to life. He waited until the sound had receded in the distance down the Western Coast Road; then he went to the Land Rover and climbed in and followed.

A mile down the coast, at the two white obelisks that marked the entrance to Palmyra, dust still hung in the driveway. Bond sneered at his impulse to drive in after her and stop her from going out to the yacht. What in hell was he thinking of? He drove on fast down the road to Old Fort Point, where the police watchers were housed in the garage of a deserted villa. They were there, one man reading a paperback in a canvas chair while the other sat before tripod binoculars that were trained on the Disco through a gap in the blinds of a side window. The khaki walkie-talkie set was beside them on the floor. Bond gave them the new briefing and got on the radio to the Police Commissioner and confirmed it to him. The Commissioner passed two messages to him from Leiter. One was to the effect that the visit to Palmyra had been negative except that a servant had said the girl's baggage had gone on board the Disco that afternoon. The boathouse was completely innocent. It contained a glass-bottomed boat and pedallo. The pedallo would have made the tracks they had seen from the air. The second message said that the Manta was expected in twenty minutes. Would Bond meet Leiter at the Prince George, Wharf, where she would dock.


The Manta , coming with infinite caution up-channel, had none of the greyhound elegance of the conventional submarine. She was blunt and thick and ugly. The bulbous metal cucumber, her rounded nose shrouded with tarpaulin to hide the secrets of her radar scanner from the Nassavians, held no suggestion of her speed, which Leiter said was around forty knots submerged. "But they won't tell you that, James. That's Classified. I guess we're going to find that even the paper in the can is Classified when we go aboard. Watch out for these Navy guys, Nowadays they're so tight-lipped they think even a belch is a security risk.''

"What else do you know about her?''

"Well, we won't tell this to the captain, but of course in C.I.A. we had to be taught the basic things about these atom subs, so we could brief agents on what to look for and recognize clues in their reports. She's one of the George Washington Class, about four thousand tons, crew of around a hundred, cost about a hundred million dollars. Range, anything you want until the chow runs out or until the nuclear reactor needs topping up---say every hundred thousand miles or so. If she has the same armament as the George Washington, she'll have sixteen vertical launching tubes, two banks of eight, for the Polaris solid-fuel missile. These have a range of around twelve hundred miles. The crews call the tubes the `Sherwood Forest' because they're painted green and the missile compartment looks like rows of great big tree trunks. These Polaris jobs are fired from way down below the surface. The sub stops and holds dead steady. They have the ship's exact position at all times through radio fixes and star sights through a tricky affair called a star-tracker periscope. All this dope is fed into the missiles automatically. Then the chief gunner presses a button and a missile shoots up through the water by compressed air. When it breaks surface the solid-fuel rockets ignite and take the missile the rest of the way. Hell of a weapon, really, when you come to think of it. Imagine these damned things shooting up out of the sea anywhere in the world and blowing some capital city to smithereens. We've got six of them already and we're going to have more. Good deterrent when you come to think of it. You don't know where they are or when. Not like bomber bases and firing pads and so on you can track down and put out of action with your first rocket wave.''

Bond commented drily, "They'll find some way of spotting them. And presumably an atomic depth charge set deep would send a shock wave through hundreds of miles of water and blow anything to pieces over a huge area. But has she got anything smaller than these missiles? If we're going to do a job on the Disco what are we going to use?''

“She's got six torpedo tubes up front and I dare say she's got some smaller stuff---machine guns and so forth. The trouble's going to be to get the commander to fire them. He's not going to like firing on an unarmed civilian yacht on the orders of a couple of plainclothes guys, and one of them a Limey at that. Hope his orders from the Navy Department are as solid as mine and yours.'' The huge submarine bumped gently against the wharf. Lines were thrown and an aluminum gangplank was run ashore. There was a ragged cheer from the crowd of watchers being held back by a cordon of police. Leiter said, ”Well, here we go. And to one hell of a tad start. Not a hat between us to salute the quarter deck with. You curtsy, I'll bow.''


Time for Decision

The interior of the submarine was incredibly roomy, and it was stairs and not a ladder that led down into the interior. There was no clutter, and the sparkling paintwork was in two-tone green. Powerlines painted in vivid colors provided a cheerful contrast to the almost hospital decor. Preceded by the officer of the watch, a young man of about twenty-eight, they went down two decks. The air (70º with 46% humidity, explained the officer) was beautifully cool. At the bottom of the stairs he turned left and knocked on a door that said " Commander P. Pedersen, U.S.N. ''

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