He said, or thought he said, `I’ve already got the loveliest. . . .’ Bond pivoted slowly on his heel and crashed headlong to the wine-red floor.
You know what?” said Major Dexter Smythe to the octopus. “You’re going to have a real treat today if I can manage it.”
He had spoken aloud, and his breath had steamed up the glass of his Pirelli mask. He put his feet down to the sand beside the coral boulder and stood up. The water reached to his armpits. He took off the mask and spat into it, rubbed the spit round the glass, rinsed it clean, and pulled the rubber band of the mask back over his head. He bent down again.
The eye in the mottled brown sack was still watching him carefully from the hole in the coral, but now the tip of a single small tentacle wavered hesitatingly an inch or two out of the shadows and quested vaguely with its pink suckers uppermost. Dexter Smythe smiled with satisfaction. Given time-perhaps one more month on top of the two during which he had been chumming the octopus-and he would have tamed the darling. But he wasn’t going to have that month. Should he take a chance today and reach down and offer his hand, instead of the expected lump of raw meat on the end of his spear, to the tentacle? Shake it by the hand, so to speak? No, Pussy, he thought. I can’t quite trust you yet. Almost certainly other tentacles would whip out of the hole and up his arm. He only needed to be dragged down less than two feet for the cork valve on his mask to automatically close, and he would be suffocated inside it 长沙桑拿按摩中心 or, if he tore it off, drowned. He might get in a quick lucky jab with his spear, but it would take more than that to kill Pussy. No. Perhaps later in the day. It would be rather like playing Russian roulette, and at about the same five-to-one odds. It might be a quick, a whimsical, way out of his troubles! But not now. It would leave the interesting question unsolved. And he had promised that nice Professor Bengry at the Institute…. Dexter Smythe swam leisurely off toward the reef, his eyes questing for one shape only, the squat, sinister wedge of a scorpionfish, or, as Bengry would put it, Scorpaena plumieri.
Major Dexter Smythe, O.B.E., Royal Marines (Retd.), was the remains of a once brave and resourceful officer and of a handsome man who had had the sexual run of his teeth all his life, particularly among the Wrens and 长沙桑拿论坛sn Wracs and ATS who manned the communications and secretariat of the very special task force to which he had been attached at the end of his service career. Now he was fifty-four and slightly bald, and his belly sagged in his Jantzen trunks. And he had had two coronary thromboses, the second (the “second warning” as his doctor, Jimmy Greaves, who had been one of their high poker game at Prince’s Club when Dexter Smythe had first come to Jamaica, had half jocularly put it) only a month before. But, in his well-chosen clothes, with his varicose veins out of sight, and with his stomach flattened by a discreet support belt behind an immaculate cummerbund, he was still a fine figure of a man at a cocktail party or dinner on the North Shore. And it was a mystery to his friends and neighbors why, in defiance of the two ounces of whiskey 长沙桑拿会 and the ten cigarettes a day to which his doctor had rationed him, he persisted in smoking like a chimney and going to bed drunk, if amiably drunk, every night.
The truth of the matter was that Dexter Smythe had arrived at the frontier of the death wish. The origins of this state of mind were many and not all that complex. He was irretrievably tied to Jamaica, and tropical sloth had gradually riddled him so that, while outwardly he appeared a piece of fairly solid hardwood, inside the varnished surface, the termites of sloth, self-indulgence, guilt over an ancient sin, and general disgust with himself had eroded his once hard core into dust. Since the death of Mary two years before, he had loved no one. (He wasn’t even sure that he had really loved her, but he knew that, every hour of the day, he missed her love of him and her gay, untidy, chiding, and often irritating presence.) 长沙桑拿论坛贴吧 And though he ate their canapйs and drank their martinis, he had nothing but contempt for the international riffraff with whom he consorted on the North Shore. He could perhaps have made friends with the more solid elements-the gentleman-farmers inland, the plantation owners on the coast, the professional men, the politicians-but that would mean regaining some serious purpose in life which his sloth, his spiritual accidie, prevented, and cutting down on the bottle, which he was definitely unwilling to do. So Major Smythe was bored, bored to death, and, but for one factor in his life, he would long ago have swallowed the bottle of barbiturates he had easily acquired from a local doctor. The lifeline that kept him clinging to the edge of the cliff was a tenuous one. Heavy drinkers veer toward an exaggeration of their basic temperaments, the classic four-sanguine, phlegmatic,长沙桑拿会所推荐 choleric, and melancholic. The sanguine drunk goes gay to the point of hysteria and idiocy; the phlegmatic sinks into a morass of sullen gloom; the choleric is the fighting drunk of the cartoonists who spends much of his life in prison for smashing people and things; and the melancholic succumbs to self-pity, mawkishness, and tears. Major Smythe was a melancholic who had slid into a drooling fantasy woven around the birds and insects and fish that inhabited the five acres of Wavelets (the name he had given his small villa was symptomatic), its beach, and the coral reef beyond. The fish were his particular favorites. He referred to them as “people,” and since reef fish stick to their territories as closely as do most small birds, he knew them all, after two years, intimately,
“loved” them, and believed that they loved him in return.
They certainly knew him, as the denizens of zoos know their keepers, because he was a daily and 长沙桑拿论坛 a regular provider, scraping off algae and stirring up the sand and rocks for the bottom-feeders, breaking up sea eggs and sea urchins for the small carnivores, and bringing out scraps of offal for the larger ones. And now, as he swam slowly and heavily up and down the reef and through the channels that led out to deep water, his “people” swarmed around him fearlessly and expectantly, darting at the tip of the three-pronged spear they knew only as a prodigal spoon, flirting right up to the glass of the Pirelli, and even, in the case of the fearless, pugnacious demoiselles, nipping softly at his feet and legs.
Part of Major Smythe’s mind took in all these brilliantly colored little “people” and he greeted them in unspoken words. (“Morning, Beau Gregory” to the dark blue demoiselle sprinkled with bright blue spots-the jewelfish that exactly resembles the starlit fashioning of a bottle of Guerlain’s Dans La Nuit; “Sorry. Not today, sweetheart” to a fluttering butterflyfish with false black eyes on its tail; and “You’re too fat anyway, 长沙桑拿会所哪里最好 Blue Boy,” to an indigo parrotfish that must have weighed a good ten pounds.) But today he had a job to do and his eyes were searching for only one of his “people”-his only enemy on the reef, the only one he killed on sight, a scorpionfish.
The scorpionfish inhabits most of the southern waters of the world, and the rascasse that is the foundation of bouillabaisse belongs to the family. The West Indian variety runs up to only about twelve inches long and perhaps a pound ha weight. It is by far the ugliest fish in the sea, as if nature were giving warning. It is a mottled brownish gray with a heavy wedge-shaped shaggy head. It has fleshy pendulous “eyebrows” that droop over angry red eyes and a coloration and broken silhouette that are perfect camouflage on the reef. Though a small fish, its heavily toothed mouth is so wide that it can swallow whole most of the smaller reef fishes, but its supreme weapon lies in its erectile dorsal fins, the first few of which, acting on contact like hypodermic needles, are fed by poison glands containing enough dotoxin to kill a man if they merely graze him in a vulnerable spot-in an artery, for instance, or over the heart or in the groin. It constitutes the only real danger to the reef swimmer, far more dangerous than the barracuda or the shark, because, supreme in its confidence in its camouflage and armory, it flees before nothing except the very close approach of a foot or actual contact. Then it flits only a few yards, on wide and bizarrely striped pectorals, and settles again watchfully either on the sand, where it looks like a lump of overgrown coral, or among the rocks and seaweed where it virtually disappears. And Major Smythe was determined to find one and spear it and give it to his octopus to see if it would take it or spurn it-to see if one of the ocean’s great predators would recognize the deadliness of another, know of its poison. Would the octopus consume the belly and leave the spines? Would it eat the lot? And if so, would it suffer from the poison? These were the questions Bengry at the Institute wanted answered, and today, since it was going to be the beginning of the end of Major Smythe’s life at Wavelets-and though it might mean the end of his darling Octopussy-Major Smythe had decided to find out the answers and leave one tiny memorial to his now futile life in some dusty corner of the Institute’s marine biological files.
For, in only the last couple of hours, Major Dexter Smythe’s already dismal life had changed very much for the worse. So much for the worse that he would be lucky if, in a few weeks’ time-time for an exchange of cables via Government House and the Colonial Office to the Secret Service and thence to Scotland Yard and the Public Prosecutor, and for Major Smythe’s transportation to London with a police escort-he got away with a sentence of imprisonment for life.
And all this because of a man called Bond, Commander James Bond, who had turned up at ten-thirty that morning in a taxi from Kingston.
* * *
The day had started normally. Major Smythe had awakened from his Seconal sleep, swallowed a couple of Panadols (his heart condition forbade him aspirin), showered, skimped his breakfast under the umbrella-shaped sea almonds, and spent an hour feeding the remains of his breakfast to the birds. He then took his prescribed doses of anticoagulant and blood-pressure pills and killed time with the Daily Gleaner until it was time for his elevenses, which, for some months now, he had advanced to ten-thirty. He had just poured himself the first of two stiff brandy and ginger ales (The Drunkard’s Drink) when he heard the car coming up the drive.
Luna, his colored housekeeper, came out into the garden and announced “Gemmun to see you, Major.”
“What’s his name?”
“Hun doan say, Major. Him say to tell you him come from Govment House.”
Major Smythe was wearing nothing but a pair of old khaki shorts and sandals. He said, “All right, Luna. Put him in the living room and say I won’t be a moment.” And he went round the back way into his bedroom and put on a white bush shirt and trousers and brushed his hair. Government House! Now what the hell?
As soon as he had walked through into the living room and seen the tall man in the dark blue tropical suit standing at the picture window looking out to sea, Major Smythe had somehow sensed bad news. And, when the man had turned slowly toward him and looked at him with watchful, serious gray-blue eyes, he had known that this was officialdom, and when his cheery smile was not returned, inimical officialdom. And. a chill had run down Major Smythe’s spine. “They” had somehow found out.
“Well, well. I’m Smythe. I gather you’re from Government House. How’s Sir Kenneth?”
There was somehow no question of shaking hands. The man said, “I haven’t met him. I only arrived a couple of days ago. I’ve been out round the island most of the time. My name’s Bond, James Bond. I’m from the Ministry of Defense.”
Major Smythe remembered the hoary euphemism for the Secret Service. He said bonhomously, “Oh. The old firm?”
The question had been ignored. “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“Rather. Anywhere you like. Here or in the garden? What about a drink?” Major Smythe clinked the ice in the glass he still held in his hand. “Rum and ginger’s the local poison. I prefer the ginger by itself.” The lie came out with the automatic smoothness of the alcoholic.
“No thanks. And here would be fine.” The man leaned negligently against the wide mahogany windowsill.
Major Smythe sat down and threw a jaunty leg over the low arm of one of the comfortable planters’ chairs he had had copied from an original by the local cabinetmaker. He pulled out the drink coaster from the other arm, took a deep pull at his glass, and slid it, with a consciously steady hand, down into the hole in the wood. “Well,” he said cheerily, looking the other man straight in the eyes, “what can I do for you? Somebody been up to some dirty work on the North Shore and you need a spare hand? Be glad to get into harness again. It’s been a long time since those days, but I can still remember some of the old routines.”
“Do you mind if I smoke?” The man had already got his cigarette case in his hand. It was a flat gun-metal one that would hold around twenty-five. Somehow this small sign of a shared weakness comforted Major Smythe.
“Of course, my dear fellow.” He made a move to get up, his lighter ready.
“It’s all right, thanks.” James Bond had already lit his cigarette. “No, it’s nothing local. I want to… I’ve been sent out to… ask you to recall your work for the Service at the end of the war.” James Bond paused and looked down at Major Smythe carefully. “Particularly the time when you were working with the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau.”
Major Smythe laughed sharply. He had known it. He had known it for absolutely sure. But when it came out of this man’s mouth, the laugh had been forced out of Major Smythe like the scream of a hit man. “Oh Lord, yes. Good old MOB. That was a lark all right.” He laughed again. He felt the anginal pain, brought on by the pressure of what he knew was coming, build up across his chest. He dipped his hand into his trouser pocket, tilted the little bottle into the palm of his hand, and slipped the white TNT pill under his tongue. He was amused to see the tension coil up in the other man, the way the eyes narrowed watchfully. It’s all right, my dear fellow. This isn’t a death pill. He said, “You troubled with acidosis? No? It slays me when I go on a bender. Last night. Party at Jamaica Inn. One really ought to stop thinking one’s always twenty-five. Anyway, let’s get back to MOB Force. Not many of us left, I suppose.” He felt the pain across his chest withdraw into its lair. “Something to do with the Official History?”
James Bond looked down at the tip of his cigarette. “Not exactly.”
“I expect you know I wrote most of the chapter on the Force for the War Book. It’s fifteen years since then. Doubt if I’d have much to add today.”
“Nothing more about that operation in the Tirol-place called Oberaurach, about a mile east of Kitzbьhel?”
One of the names he had been living with for fifteen years forced another harsh laugh out of Major Smythe. “That was a piece of cake! You’ve never seen such a shambles. All those Gestapo toughs with their doxies. All of ’em hog-drunk. They’d kept their files all ticketty-boo. Handed them over without a murmur. Hoped that’d earn ’em easy treatment I suppose. We gave the stuff a first going-over and shipped all the bods off to the Munich camp. Last I heard of them. Most of them hanged for war crimes I expect. We handed the bumf over to HQ at Salzburg. Then we went on up the Mittersill valley after another hideout.” Major Smythe took a good pull at his drink and lit a cigarette. He looked up. “That’s the long and the short of it.”
“You were Number Two at the time, I think. The CO was an American, a Colonel King from Patton’s army.”
“That’s right. Nice fellow. Wore a mustache, which isn’t like an American. Knew his way among the local wines. Quite a civilized chap.”
“In his report about the operation he wrote that he handed you all the documents for a preliminary run-through as you were the German expert with the unit. Then you gave them all back to him with your comments?” James Bond paused. “Every single one of them?”
Major Smythe ignored the innuendo. “That’s right. Mostly lists of names. Counterintelligence dope. The CI people in Salzburg were very pleased with the stuff. Gave them plenty of new leads. I expect the originals are lying about somewhere. They’ll have been used for the Nuremberg Trials. Yes, by Jove!”-Major Smythe was reminiscent, pally-“those were some of the jolliest months of my life, haring around the country with MOB Force. Wine, women, and song! And you can say that again!”
Here, Major Smythe was saying the whole truth. He had had a dangerous and uncomfortable war until 1945. When the commandos were formed in 1941, he had volunteered and been seconded from the Royal Marines to Combined Operations Headquarters under Mountbatten. There his excellent German (his mother had come from Heidelberg) had earned him the unenviable job of being advanced interrogator on commando operations across the Channel. He had been lucky to get away from two years of this work unscathed and with the O.B.E. (Military), which was sparingly awarded in the last war. And then, in preparation for the defeat of Germany, the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau had been formed jointly by the Secret Service and Combined Operations, and Major Smythe had been given the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel and told to form a unit whose job would be the cleaning up of Gestapo and Abwehr hideouts when the collapse of Germany came about. The OSS got to hear of the scheme and insisted on getting into the act to cope with the American wing of the front, and the result was the creation of not one but six units that went into operation in Germany and Austria on the day of surrender. They were units of twenty men, each with a light armored car, six jeeps, a wireless truck, and three lorries, and they were controlled by a joint Anglo-American headquarters in SHAEF, which also fed them with targets from the Army Intelligence units and from the SIS and OSS. Major Smythe had been Number Two of “A” Force, which had been allotted the Tirol-an area full of good hiding places with easy access to Italy and perhaps out of Europe-that was known to have been chosen as funkhole Number One by the people MOB Force was after. And, as Major Smythe had just told Bond, they had had themselves a ball. All without firing a shot-except, that is, two fired by Major Smythe.
James Bond said casually, “Does the name of Hannes Oberhauser ring a bell?”
Major Smythe frowned, trying to remember. “Can’t say it does.” It was eighty degrees in the shade, but he shivered.
“Let me refresh your memory. On the same day as those documents were given to you to look over, you made inquiries at the Tiefenbrьnner Hotel, where you were billeted, for the best mountain guide in Kitzbьhel. You were referred to Oberhauser. The next day you asked your CO for a day’s leave, which was granted. Early next morning you went to Oberhauser’s chalet, put him under close arrest, and drove him away in your jeep. Does that ring a bell?”
That phrase about “refreshing your memory.” How often had Major Smythe himself used it when he was trying to trap a German liar? Take your time! You’ve been ready for something like this for years. Major Smythe shook his head doubtfully. “Can’t say it does.”
“A man with graying hair and a gammy leg. Spoke some English, he’d been a ski teacher before the war.”
Major Smythe looked candidly into the cold, clear blue eyes. “Sorry. Can’t help you.”