Thunderball Page 6


By the time the fourteenth day, the last day, came, Bond had it all fixed---the time, the place, and the method.

At ten o'clock Mr. Joshua Wain received Bond for his final checkup. When Bond came into the consulting room, Mr. Wain was standing by the open window doing deep-breathing exercises. With a final thorough exhalation through the nostrils he turned to greet Bond with an Ah! Bisto! expression on his healthily flushed face. His smile was elastic with good-fellowship. "And how's the world treating you, Mr. Bond? No ill effects from that unhappy little accident? No. Quite so. The body is a most remarkable piece of mechanism. Extraordinary power of recovery. Now then, shirt off, please, and we'll see what Shrublands has managed to do for you.''

Ten minutes later, Bond, blood pressure down to 132/84, weight reduced by ten pounds, osteopathic lesions gone, clear of eye and tongue, was on his way down to the basement rooms for his final treatment.

As usual, it was clammily quiet and neutral-smelling in the white rooms and corridors. From the separate cubicles there came an occasional soft exchange between patient and staff, and, in the background, intermittent plumbing noises. The steady whir of the ventilation system created the impression of the deep innards of a liner in a dead calm. It was nearly twelve-thirty. Bond lay face down on the massage table and listened for the authoritative voice and the quick slap of the naked feet of his prey. The door at the end of the corridor sighed open and sighed shut again. "Morning, Beresford. All ready for me? Make it good and hot today. Last treatment. Three more ounces to lose. Right?''

“Very good, sir.'' The gym shoes of the chief attendant, followed by the slapping feet, came down the corridor outside the plastic curtain of the massage room and on to the end room of all, the electric Turkish bath. The door sighed shut and a few minutes later sighed again as the attendant, having installed Count Lippe, came back down the corridor. Twenty minutes went by. Twenty-five. Bond rolled off the table. ”Well, thanks, Sam. You've done me a power of good. I'll be back to see you again one of these days, I expect. I'll just go along and have a final salt rub and a sitz bath. You cut along to your carrot cutlets. Don't worry about me. I'll let myself out when I've finished.'' Bond wrapped a towel round his waist and moved off down the corridor. There was a flurry of movement and voices as the attendants got rid of their patients and made their way through the staff door for the luncheon break. The last patient, a reformed drunk, called back from the entrance, “See you later, Irrigator!'' Somebody laughed. Now the petty-officer voice of Beresford sounded down the corridor, making certain that everything was shipshape: ”Windows, Bill? Okay. Your next is Mr. Dunbar at two sharp. Len, tell the laundry we shall need more towels after lunch. Ted . . . Ted. You there, Ted? Well, then, Sam, look after Count Lippe, would you, Turkish bath.''

Bond had listened to this routine for a whole week, noting the men that cut minutes off their duty and got off early to lunch, noting the ones that stayed to do their full share of the last chores. Now, from the open door of the empty shower room, he called back, in Sam's deep voice, "Okay, Mr. Beresford,'' and waited for the crisp squeak of the gym shoes on the linoleum. There it was! The brief pause halfway down the corridor and then the double sigh as the staff door opened and shut. Now there was dead silence save for the hum of the fans. The treatment rooms were empty. Now there was only James Bond and Count Lippe.

Bond waited a moment and then came out of the shower room and softly opened the door to the Turkish bath. He had had one session in the place, just to get the geography clear in his mind, and the scene was exactly as he remembered.

It was a white cubicle treatment room like all the others, but in this one the only object was a big cream metal-and-plastic box about five feet tall by four feet square. It was closed on all sides but the top. The front of the big cabinet was hinged to allow a patient to climb in and sit inside and there was a hole in the top with a foam-rubber support for the nape of the neck and the chin, through which the patient's head emerged. The rest of his body was exposed to the heat from many rows of naked electric bulbs inside the cabinet and the degree of heat was thermostatically controlled by a dial at the back of the cabinet. It was a simple sweat box, designed, as Bond had noticed on his previous visit to the room, by the Medikalischer Maschinenbau G.m.b.H., 44 Franziskanerstrasse, Ulm, Bavaria.

The cabinet faced away from the door. At the hiss of the hydraulic fastener, Count Lippe said angrily, "Goddammit, Beresford. Let me out of this thing. I'm sweating like a pig.''

"You said you wanted it hot, sir.'' Bond's amiable voice was a good approximation to the chief attendant's.

"Don't argue, goddammit. Let me out of here.''

"I don't think you quite realize the value of heat in the H-cure, sir. Heat resolves many of the toxins in the blood stream and for the matter of that in the muscle tissue also. A patient suffering from your condition of pronounced toxemia will find much benefit from the heat treatment.'' Bond found the H-lingo rattling quite easily off the tongue. He was not worried about the consequences to Beresford. He would have the solid alibi of luncheon in the staff canteen.

"Don't give me that crap. I tell you, let me out of here.''

Bond examined the dial on the back of the machine. The needle stood at 120. What should he give the man? The dial ran up to 200 degrees. That much might roast him alive. This was only to be a punishment, not a murder. Perhaps 180 would be a just retribution. Bond clicked the knob up to 180. He said, “I think just half an hour of real heat will do you the world of good, sir.'' Bond dropped the sham voice. He added sharply, ”And if you catch fire you can sue.''

The dripping head tried to turn, failed. Bond moved toward the door. Count Lippe now had a new voice, controlled but desperate. He said woodenly, concealing the knowledge and the hate, “Give you a thousand pounds and we're quits.'' He heard the hiss of the open door. ”Ten thousand. All right then, fifty.''

Bond closed the door firmly behind him and walked quickly down the corridor to put on his clothes and get out. Behind him, deeply muffled, came the first shout for help. Bond closed his ears. There was nothing that a painful week in hospital and plenty of gentian violet or tannic acid jelly wouldn't cure. But it did cross his mind that a man who could offer a bribe of fifty thousand pounds must be either very rich or have some very urgent reason for needing freedom of movement. It was surely too much to pay just for avoidance of pain.

***

James Bond was right. The outcome of this rather childish trial of strength between two extremely tough and ruthless men, in the bizarre surroundings of a nature clinic in Sussex, was to upset, if only in a minute fashion, the exactly timed machinery of a plot that was about to shake the governments of the Western world.

5.

S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

The Boulevard Haussmann, in the VIIIth and IXth Arrondissements, stretches from the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré to the Opéra. It is very long and very dull, but it is perhaps the solidest street in the whole of Paris. Not the richest---the Avenue d'Iéna has that distinction ---but rich people are not necessarily solid people and too many of the landlords and tenants in the Avenue d'Iéena have names ending in “escu,'' ”ovitch,'' “ski,'' and ”stein,'' and these are sometimes not the endings of respectable names. Moreover, the Avenue d'Iéna is almost entirely residential. The occasional discreet brass plates giving the name of a holding company in Liechtenstein or in the Bahamas or the Canton de Vaud in Switzerland are there for tax purposes only---the cover names for private family fortunes seeking alleviation from the punitive burden of the Revenue, or, more briefly, tax-dodging. The Boulevard Haussmann is not like that. The massive, turn-of-the-century, bastard Second Empire buildings in heavily ornamented brick and stucco are the “sieges,'' the seats, of important businesses. Here are the head offices of the gros industriels from Lille, Lyons, Bordeaux, Clermont Ferrand, the locaux of the gros légumes , the ”big vegetables'' in cotton, artificial silk, coal, wine, steel, and shipping. If, among them, there are some fly-by-nights concealing a lack of serious capital--- des fonds sérieux ---behind a good address, it would only be fair to admit that such men of paper exist also behind the even solider frontages of Lombard and Wall Streets.

It is appropriate that among this extremely respectable company of tenants, suitably diversified by a couple of churches, a small museum and the French Shakespeare Society, you should also find the headquarters of charitable organizations. At No. 136 bis , for instance, a discreetly glittering brass plate says: “F.I.R.C.O.'' and, underneath: ” Fraternité Internationale de la Résistance Contre l'Oppression .'' If you were interested in this organization, either as an idealist or because you were a salesman of, say, office furniture, and you pressed the very clean porcelain bell button, the door would in due course be opened by an entirely typical French concierge. If your business was serious or obviously well-meaning, the concierge would show you across a rather dusty hall to tall, bogus Directoire double doors adjoining the over-ornamented cage of a shaky-looking lift. Inside the doors you would be greeted by exactly what you had expected to see---a large dingy room needing a fresh coat of its café-au-lait paint, in which half a dozen men sat at cheap desks and typed or wrote amidst the usual accouterments of a busy organization---IN and OUT baskets, telephones, in this case the old-fashioned standard ones that are typical of such an office in this part of Paris, and dark green metal filing cabinets in which drawers stand open. If you were observant of small details, you might register that all the men were of approximately the same age group, between thirty and forty, and that in an office where you would have expected to find women doing the secretarial work, there were none.

Inside the tall door you would receive the slightly defensive welcome appropriate to a busy organization accustomed to the usual proportion of cranks and time-wasters but, in response to your serious inquiry, the face of the man at the desk near the door would clear and become cautiously helpful. The aims of the Fraternity? We exist, monsieur, to keep alive the ideals that flourished during the last war among members of all Resistance groups. No, monsieur, we are entirely unpolitical. Our funds? They come from modest subscriptions from our members and from certain private persons who share our aims. You have perhaps a relative, a member of a Resistance group, whose whereabouts you seek? Certainly, monsieur. The name? Gregor Karlski, last heard of with Mihailovitch in the summer of 1943. Jules! (He might turn to a particular man and call out.) Karlski, Gregor. Mihailovitch, 1943. Jules would go to a cabinet and there would be a brief pause. Then the reply might come back, Dead. Killed in the bombing of the General's headquarters, October 21st, 1943. I regret, monsieur. Is there anything further we can do for you? Then perhaps you would care to have some of our literature. Forgive me for not having time to spare to give you more details of FIRCO myself. But you will find everything there. This happens to be a particularly busy day. This is the International Refugee Year and we have many inquiries such as yours from all over the world. Good afternoon, monsieur. Pas de quoi . So, or more or less so, it would be and you would go out on to the Boulevard satisfied and even impressed with an organization that was doing its excellent if rather vague work with so much dedication and efficiency.

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