“What sort of thing?” said Bond, teasing her.
“Don’t be silly, James. You know, unmarried couples sharing the same house and so on.”
“Oh that sort of thing! Sounds pretty dashing to me. By the way, is your bedroom decorated in pink, with white jalousies, and do you sleep under a mosquito net?”
She looked surprised. “Yes. How did you know?” When he didn’t answer, she hurried on. “And James, it’s not far from the Liguanea Club, and you can go there and play bridge, and golf when you get better. There’ll be plenty of people for you to talk to. And then of course I can cook and sew buttons on for you and so on.”
Of all the doom-fraught graffiti a woman can write on the wall, those are the most insidious, the most deadly.
James Bond, in the full possession of his senses, with his eyes wide open, his feet flat on the linoleum floor, stuck his head blithely between the mink-lined jaws of the trap. He said, and meant it, “Goodnight. You’re an angel.”
At the same time, he knew, deep down, that love from Mary Goodnight, or from any other woman, was not enough for him. It would be like taking “a room with a view.” For James Bond, the same view would always pall.
Part One ‘It is better to travel hopefully… 1 SCISSORS CUT PAPER
THE geisha called ‘Trembling Leaf, on her knees beside James Bond, leant forward from the waist and kissed him chastely on the right cheek.
‘That’s a cheat,’ said Bond severely. ‘You agreed that if I won it would be a real kiss on the mouth. At the very least,’ he added.
‘Grey Pearl’, the Madame, who had black lacquered teeth, a bizarre affectation, and was so thickly made up that she looked like a character out of a No play, translated. There was much giggling and cries of encouragement. Trembling Leaf covered her face with her pretty hands as if she were being required to perform some ultimate obscenity. But then the fingers divided and the pert brown eyes examined Bond’s mouth, as if taking aim, and her body lanced forward. This time the kiss was full on the lips and it lingered fractionally. In invitation? In promise? Bond remembered that he had been promised a ‘pillow geisha’. Technically, this would be a geisha of low caste. She would not be proficient in the traditional arts of her calling – she would not be able to tell humorous stories, sing, paint or compose verses about her patron. But, unlike her cultured sisters, she might agree to perform more robust services – discreetly, of course,佛山桑拿按摩全套体验 in conditions of the utmost privacy and at a high price. But, to the boorish, brutalized tastes of a gaijin, a foreigner, this made more sense than having a tanka of thirty-one syllables, which in any case he couldn’t understand, equate, in exquisite ideograms, his charms with budding chrysanthemums on the slopes of Mount Fuji.
The applause which greeted this unbridled exhibition of lasciviousness died quickly and respectfully. The powerful, chunky man in the black yukata, sitting directly across the low red lacquer table from Bond, had taken the Dunhill filter holder from between his golden teeth and had laid it beside his ashtray. ‘Bondo-san,’ said Tiger Tanaka, Head of the Japanese Secret Service, ‘I will now challenge you to this ridiculous game, and I promise you in advance that you will not win.’ The big, creased brown 佛山夜生活qq群 face that Bond had come to know so well in the past month split expansively. The wide smile closed the almond eyes to slits – slits that glittered. Bond knew that smile. It wasn’t a smile. It was a mask with a golden hole in it.
Bond laughed. ‘All right, Tiger. But first, more sake! And not in these ridiculous thimbles. I’ve drunk five flasks of the stuff and its effect is about the same as one double Martini. I shall need another double Martini if I am to go on demonstrating the superiority of Western instinct over the wiles of the Orient. Is there such a thing as a lowly glass tumbler discarded in some corner behind the cabinets of Ming?’
‘Bondo-san. Ming is Chinese. Your knowledge of porcelain is as meagre as your drinking habits are gross. Moreover, it is unwise to underestimate sake. We have a saying, “It is the man who 佛山夜生活kb场 drinks the first flask of sake; then the second flask drinks the first; then it is the sake that drinks the man.” ‘ Tiger Tanaka turned to Grey Pearl and there followed a laughing conversation which Bond interpreted as jokes at the expense of this uncouth Westerner and his monstrous appetites. At a word from the Madame, Trembling Leaf bowed low and scurried out of the room. Tiger turned to Bond. ‘You have gained much face, Bondo-san. It is only the sumo wrestlers who drink sake in these quantities without showing it. She says you are undoubtedly an eight-flask man.’ Tiger’s face became sly. ‘But she also suggests that you will not make much of a companion for Trembling Leaf at the end of the evening.’
‘Tell her that I am more interested in her own more mature charms. She will certainly possess talents in the art of love making 广佛桑拿飞机网 which will overcome any temporary lassitude on my part.’
This leaden gallantry got what it deserved. There came a spirited crackle of Japanese from Grey Pearl. Tiger translated.
Bondo-san, this is a woman of some wit. She has made a joke. She says she is already respectably married to one bonsan and there is no room on her futon for another. Bonsan means a priest, a greybeard. Futon, as you know, is a bed. She has made a joke on your name.’
The geisha party had been going on for two hours, and Bond’s jaws were aching with the unending smiles and polite repartee. Far from being entertained by the geisha, or bewitched by the inscrutable discords issuing from the catskin-covered box of the three-stringed samisen, Bond had found himself having to try desperately to make the party go. He also knew that Tiger Tanaka had been 佛山桑拿第一站 observing his effort with a sadistic pleasure. Dikko Henderson had warned him that geisha parties were more or less the equivalent, for a foreigner, of trying to entertain a lot of unknown children in a nursery with a strict governess, the Madame, looking on. But Dikko had also warned him that he was being done a great honour by Tiger Tanaka, that the party would cost Tiger a small fortune, whether from secret funds or from his own pocket, and that Bond had better put a good face on the whole thing since this looked like being a breakthrough in Bond’s mission. But it could equally well be disaster.
So now Bond smiled and clapped his hands in admiration. He said to Tiger, ‘Tell the old bitch she’s a clever old bitch,’ accepted the brimming tumbler of hot sake from the apparently adoring hands of Trembling Leaf, and downed it in 佛山桑拿去哪里好 two tremendous gulps. He repeated the performance so that more sake had to be fetched from the kitchen, then he placed his fist decisively on the red lacquer table and said with mock belligerence, ‘All right, Tiger! Go to it!’
It was the old game of Scissors cut Paper, Paper wraps Stone, Stone blunts Scissors, that is played by children all over the world. The fist is the Stone, two outstretched fingers are the Scissors, and a flat hand is the Paper. The closed fist is hammered twice in the air simultaneously by the two opponents and, at the third downward stroke, the chosen emblem is revealed, The game consists of guessing which emblem the opponent will choose, and of you yourself choosing one that, will defeat him. Best of three goes or more. It is a game of bluff.
Tiger Tanaka rested his fist on the table opposite Bond. The two men looked carefully into each other’s eyes. 佛山桑拿按摩女服务 There was dead silence in the box-like little lath-and-paper room, and the soft gurgling of the tiny brook in the ornamental square of garden outside the opened partition could be heard clearly for the first time that evening. Perhaps it was this silence, after all the talk and giggling, or perhaps it was the deep seriousness and purpose that was suddenly evident in Tiger Tanaka’s formidable, cruel, samurai face, but Bond’s skin momentarily crawled. For some reason this had become more than a children’s game. Tiger had promised he would beat Bond. To fail would be to lose much face. How much? Enough to breach a friendship that had become oddly real between the two of them over the past weeks? This was one of the most powerful men in Japan. To be defeated by a miserable gaijin in front of the two women might be a matter of great moment to this man. The defeat might leak out through the women. In the West, such a trifle would be farcically insignificant, like a cabinet minister losing a game of backgammon at Blades. But in the East? In a very short while, Dikko Henderson had taught Bond total respect for Oriental conventions, however old-fashioned or seemingly trivial, but Bond was still at sea in their gradations. This was a case in point. Should Bond try and win at this baby game of bluff and double-bluff, or should he try to lose? But to try and lose involved the same cleverness at correctly guessing the other man’s symbols in advance. It was just as difficult to lose on purpose as to win. And anyway did it really matter? Unfortunately, on the curious assignment in which James Bond was involved, he had a nasty feeling that even this idiotic little gambit had significance towards success or failure.
As if with second sight, Tiger Tanaka spelled the problem out. He gave a harsh, taut laugh that was more of a shout than an expression of humour or pleasure. ‘Bondo-san, with us, and certainly at a party at which I am the host and you are the honoured guest, it would be good manners for me to let you win this game that we are to play together. It would be more. It would be required behaviour. So I must ask your forgiveness in advance for defeating you.’
Bond smiled cheerfully. ‘My dear Tiger, there is no point in playing a game unless you-try to win. It would be a very great insult to me if you endeavoured to play to lose. But if I may say so, your remarks are highly provocative. They are like the taunts of the sumo wrestlers before the bout. If I was not myself so certain of winning, I would point out that you spoke in English. Please tell our dainty and distinguished audience that I propose to rub your honourable nose in the dirt at this despicable game and thus display not only the superiority of Great Britain, and particularly Scotland, over Japan, but also the superiority of our Queen over your Emperor.’ Bond, encouraged perhaps by the crafty ambush of the sake, had committed himself. This kind of joking about their different cultures had become a habit between himself and Tiger, who, with a first in PPE at Trinity before the war, prided himself in the demokorasu of his outlook and the liberality and breadth of his understanding of the West. But Bond, having spoken, caught the sudden glitter in the dark eyes, and he thought of Dikko Henderson’s cautionary, ‘Now .listen, you stupid limey bastard. You’re doing all right. But don’t press your luck. T.T.’s a civilized kind of a chap – as Japs go, that is. But don’t overdo it. Take a look at that mug. There’s Manchu there, and Tartar. And don’t forget the soanso was a Black Belt at judo before he ever went up to your bloody Oxford. And don’t forget he was spying for Japan when he called himself assistant naval attache in their London Embassy before the war and you stupid bastards thought he was okay because he’d got a degree at Oxford. And don’t forget his war record. Don’t forget he ended up as personal aide to Admiral Ohnishi and was training as a kami-kaze when the Americans made loud noises over Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the Rising Sun suddenly took a backward somersault in to the sea. And, if you forget all that, just ask yourself why it’s T.T. rather than any other of the ninety million Japanese who happens to hold down the job as head of the Koan-Chosa-Kyoku. Okay, James? Got the photo?’
Since Bond had arrived in Japan he had assiduously practised sitting in the lotus position. Dikko Henderson had advised it. ‘If you make the grade with these people,’ he had said, ‘or even if you don’t, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting on your ass on the ground. There’s only one way to do it without cracking your joints; that’s in the Indian position, squatting with your legs crossed and the sides of your feet hurting like hell on the floor. It takes a bit of practice, but it won’t kill you and you’ll end up gaining plenty of face.’ Bond had more or less mastered the art, but now, after two hours, his knee-joints were on fire and he felt that if he didn’t alter his posture he would end up bandy-legged for life. He said to Tiger, ‘Playing against a master such as yourself, I must first adopt a relaxed position so that my brain may be totally concentrated.’ He got painfully to his feet, stretched and sat down again – this time with one leg extended under the low table and his left elbow resting on the bent knee of the other. It was a blessed relief. He lifted his tumbler and, obediently, Trembling Leaf filled it from a fresh flagon. Bond downed the sake, handed the tumbler to the girl and suddenly crashed his right fist down on the lacquer table so that the little boxes of sweetmeats rattled and the porcelain tinkled. He looked belligerently across .at Tiger Tanaka. ‘Right!’
Tiger bowed. Bond bowed back. The girl leant forward expectantly.
Tiger’s eyes bored into Bond’s, trying to read his plan. Bondhad decided to have no plan, display no pattern. He would play completely at random, showing the symbol that his fist decided to make at the psychological moment after the two hammer blows.
Tiger said, ‘Three games of three?’
The two fists rose slowly from the table top, quickly hammered twice in unison and shot forward. Tiger had kept his fist balled in the Stone. Bond’s palm was open in the Paper that wrapped the Stone. One up to Bond. Again the ritual and the moment of truth. Tiger had kept to the Stone. Bond’s first and second fingers were open in the Scissors, blunted by Tiger’s Stone. One all.
Tiger paused and placed his fist against his forehead. He closed his eyes in thought. He said, ‘Yes. I’ve got you, Bondo-san. You can’t escape.’
‘Good show,’ said Bond, trying to clear his mind of the suspicion that Tiger would keep to the Stone, or alternatively, that Tiger would expect him to play it that way, expect Bond to play the Paper and himself riposte with the Scissors to cut the paper. And so on and so forth. The three emblems whirled round in Bond’s mind like the symbols on a fruit machine.
The two fists were raised – one, two, forward!
Tiger had kept to his Stone. Bond had wrapped it up with the Paper. First game to Bond.
The second game lasted longer. They both kept on showing the same symbol, which meant a replay. It was as if the two players were getting the measure of each other’s psychology. But that could not be so, since Bond had no psychological intent. He continued to play at random. It was just luck. Tiger won the game. One all.
Last game! The two contestants looked at each other. Bond’s smile was bland, rather mocking. A glint of red shone in the depths of Tiger’s dark eyes. Bond saw it and said to himself, ‘I would be wise to lose. Or would I?’ He won the game in two straight goes, blunting Tiger’s Scissors with his Stone, wrapping Tiger’s Stone with his Paper.
Tiger bowed low. Bond bowed even lower. He sought for a throwaway remark. He said, ‘I must get this game adopted in time for your Olympics. I would certainly be chosen to play for my country.’
Tiger Tanaka laughed with controlled politeness. ‘You play with much insight. What was the secret of your method?’
Bond had had no method. He quickly invented the one that would be most polite to Tiger. ‘You are a man of rock and steel, Tiger. I guessed that the paper symbol would be the one you would use the least. I played accordingly.’
This bit of mumbo-jumbo got by. Tiger bowed. Bond bowed and drank more sake, toasting Tiger. Released from the tension, the geisha applauded and the Madame instructed Trembling Leaf to give Bond another kiss. She did so. How soft the skins of Japanese women were! And their touch was almost weightless! James Bond was plotting the rest of his night when Tiger said, ‘Bondo-san, I have matters to discuss with you. Will you do me the honour of coming to my house for a nightcap?’
Bond immediately put away his lascivious thoughts.According to Dikko, to be invited to a Japanese private house was a most unusual sign of favour. So, for some reason, he had done right to win this childish game. This might mean great things. Bond bowed. ‘Nothing would give me more pleasure, Tiger.’
An hour later they were sitting in blessed chairs with a drink-tray between them. The lights of Yokohama glowed a deep orange along the horizon, and a slight smell of the harbour and the sea came in through the wide-open partition leading on to the garden. Tiger’s house was designed, enchantingly, as is even the meanest Japanese salary-man’s house, to establish the thinnest possible dividing line between the inhabitant and nature. The three other partitions in the square room were also fully slid back, revealing a bedroom, a small study and a passage.
Tiger had opened the partitions when they entered the room. He had commented, ‘In the West, when you have secrets to discuss, you shut all the doors and windows. In Japan, we throw everything open to make sure that no one can listen at the thin walls. And what I have now to discuss with you is a matter of the very highest secrecy. The sake is warm enough? You have the cigarettes you prefer? Then listen to what I have to say to you and swear on your honour to divulge it to no one.’ Tiger Tanaka gave his great golden shout of mirthless laughter. ‘If you were to break your promise, I would have no alternative but to remove you from the earth.’
2 CURTAINS FOR BOND?
EXACTLY one month before, it had been the eve of the annual closing of Blades. On the next day, 1 September, those members who were still unfashionably in London would have to pig it for a month at Whites or Boodle’s. Whites they considered noisy and’smart’, Boodle’s too full of superannuated country squires who would be talking of nothing but the opening of the partridge season. For Blades, it was one month in the wilderness. But there it was. The staff, one supposed, had to have their holiday. More important, there was some painting to be done and there was dry-rot in the roof.
M., sitting in the bow window looking out over St James’s Street, couldn’t care less. He had two weeks’ trout fishing on the Test to look forward to and, for the other two weeks, he would have sandwiches and coffee at his desk. He rarely used Blades, and then only to entertain important guests. He was not a ‘clubable’ man and if he had had the choice he would have stuck to The Senior, that greatest of all Services’ clubs in the world. But too many people knew him there, and there was too much ‘shop’ talked. And there were too many former shipmates who would come up and ask him what he had been doing with himself since he retired. And the lie, ‘Got a job with some people called Universal Export,’ bored him, and though verifiable, had its risks.
Porterfield hovered with the cigars. He bent and offered the wide case to M.’s guest. Sir James Molony raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘I see the Havanas are still coming in.’ His hand hesitated. He picked out a Romeo y Julieta, pinched it gently and ran it under his nose. He turned to M. ‘What’s Universal Export sending Castro in return? Blue Streak?’
M. was not amused. Porterfield observed that he wasn’t. As Chief Petty Officer, he had served under M. in one of his last commands. He said quickly, but not too quickly, ‘As a matter of fact, Sir James, the best of the Jamaicans are quite up to the Havanas these days. They’ve got the outer leaf just right at last.’ He closed the glass lid of the case and moved away.
Sir James Molony picked up the piercer the head waiter had left on the table and punctured the tip of his cigar with precision. He lit a Swan Vesta and waved its flame to and fro across the tip and sucked gently until he had got the cigar going to his satisfaction. Then he took a sip, first at his brandy and then at his coffee, and sat back. He observed the corrugated brow of his host with affection and irony. He said, ‘All right, my friend. Now tell me. What’s the problem?’
M.’s mind was elsewhere. He seemed to be having difficulty getting his pipe going. He said vaguely, between puffs, ‘What problem?’
Sir James Molony was the greatest neurologist in England. The year before, he had been awarded a Nobel Prize for his now famous Some Psychosomatic Side-effects of Organic Inferiority. He was also nerve specialist by appointment to the Secret Service and, though he was rarely called in, and then only in extremis, the problems he was required to solve intrigued him greatly because they were both human and vital to the State. And, since the war, the second qualification was a rare one.
M. turned sideways to his guest and watched the traffic up St James’s.
Sir James Molony said, ‘My friend, like everybody else, you have certain patterns of behaviour. One of them consists of occasionally asking me to lunch at Blades, stuffing me like a Strasbourg goose, and then letting me in on some ghastly secret and asking me to help you with it. The last time, as I recall, you wanted to find out if I could extract certain information from a foreign diplomat by getting him under deep hypnosis without his knowledge. You said it was a last resort. I said I couldn’t help you. Two weeks later, I read in the paper that this same diplomat had come to a fatal end by experimenting with the force of gravity from a tenth floor window. The coroner gave an open verdict of the “Fell Or Was Pushed” variety. What song am I to sing for my supper this time?’
Sir James Molony relented. He said with sympathy, ‘Come on, M.! Get it off your chest!’
M. looked him coldly in the eye. ‘It’s 007. I’m getting more and more worried about him.’
‘You’ve read my two reports on his condition. Anything new?’
‘No. Just the same. He’s going slowly to pieces. Late at the office. Skimps his work. Makes mistakes. He’s drinking too much and losing a lot of money at one of these new gambling clubs. It all adds up to the fact that one of my best men is on the edge of becoming a security risk. Absolutely incredible considering his record.’
Sir James Molony shook his head with conviction. ‘It’s not in the least incredible. You either don’t read my reports or you don’t pay enough attention to them. I have said all along that the man is suffering from shock.’ Sir James Molony leant forward and pointed his cigar at M.’s chest. ‘You’re a hard man, M. In your job you have to be. But there are some problems, the human ones for instance, that you can’t always solve with a rope’s end. This is a case in point. Here’s this agent of yours, just as tough and brave as I expect you were at his age. He’s a bachelor and a confirmed womanizer. Then he suddenly falls in love, partly, I suspect, because this woman was a bird with a wing down and needed his help. It’s surprising what soft centres these so-called tough men always have. So he marries her and within a few hours she’s shot dead by this super-gangster chap. What was his name?’
‘Blofeld,’ said M. ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld.’
‘All right. And your man got away with nothing worse than a crack on the head. But then he started going to pieces and your MO thought he might have suffered some brain injury and sent him along to me. Nothing wrong with him at all. Nothing physical that is – just shock. He admitted to me that all his zest had gone. That he wasn’t interested in his job any more, or even in his life. I hear this sort of talk from patients every day. It’s a form of psycho-neurosis, and it can grow slowly or suddenly. In your man’s case, it was brought on out of the blue by an intolerable life-situation – or one that he found intolerable because he had never encountered it before -the loss of a loved one, aggravated in his case by the fact that he blamed himself for her death. Now, my friend, neither you nor I have had to carry such a burden, so we don’t know how we would react under it. But I can tell you that it’s a hell of a burden to lug around. And your man’s caving in under it. I thought, and I said so in my report, that his job, its dangers and emergencies and so forth, would shake him out of it. I’ve found that one must try and teach people that there’s no top limit to disaster – that, so long as breath remains in your body, you’ve got to accept the miseries of life. They will often seem infinite, insupportable. They are part of the human condition. Have you tried him on any tough assignments in the last few months?’
‘Two,’ said M. drearily. ‘He bungled them both. On one he nearly got himself killed, and on the other he made a mistake that was dangerous for others. That’s another thing that worries me. He didn’t make mistakes before. Now suddenly he’s become accident-prone.’
‘Another symptom of his neurosis. So what are you going to do about it?’
Tire him,’ said M. brutally. ‘Just as if he’d been shot to pieces or got some incurable disease. I’ve got no room in his Section for a lame-brain, whatever his past record or whatever excuses you psychologists can find for him. Pension, of course. Honourable discharge and all that. Try and find him a job. One of these new security organizations for the banks might take him.’ M. looked defensively into the clear blue, comprehending eyes of the famous neurologist. He said, seeking support for his decision, ‘You do see my point, Sir James? I’m tightly staffed at Headquarters, and in the field, for that matter. There’s just no place where I can tuck away 007 so that he won’t cause harm.’
‘You’ll be losing one of your best men.’
‘Used to be. Isn’t any longer.’
Sir James Molony sat back. He looked out of the window and puffed thoughtfully at his cigar. He liked this man Bond. He had had him as his patient perhaps a dozen times before.
He had seen how the spirit, the reserves in the man, could pull him out of badly damaged conditions that would have broken the normal human being. He knew how a desperate situation would bring out those reserves again, how the will to live would spring up again in a real emergency. He remembered how countless neurotic patients had disappeared for ever from his consulting-rooms when the last war had broken out. The big worry had driven out the smaller ones, the greater fear the lesser. He made up his mind. He turned back to M. ‘Give him one more chance, M. If it’ll help, I’ll take the responsibility.’
‘What sort of chance are you thinking of?’
‘Well now, I don’t know much about your line of business, M. And I don’t want to. Got enough secrets in my own job to look after. But haven’t you got something really sticky, some apparently hopeless assignment you can give this man? I don’t mean necessarily dangerous, like assassination or stealing Russian ciphers or whatever. But something that’s desperately important but apparently impossible. By all means give him a kick in the pants at the same time if you want to, but what he needs most of all is a supreme call on his talents, something that’ll really make him sweat so that he’s simply forced to forget his personal troubles. He’s a patriotic sort of a chap. Give him something that really matters to his country. It would be easy enough if a war broke out. Nothing like death or glory to take a man out of himself. But can’t you dream up something that simply stinks of urgency? If you can, give him the job. It might get him right back on the rails. Anyway, give him the chance. Yes?’
The urgent thrill of the red telephone, that had been silent for so many weeks, shot Mary Goodnight out of her seat at the typewriter as if it had been fitted with a cartridge ejector. She dashed through into the next room, waited a second to get her breath back and picked up the receiver as if it had been a rattlesnake.
‘No, sir. It’s his secretary speaking.’ She looked down at her watch, knowing the worst.
‘It’s most unusual, sir. I don’t expect he’ll be more than a few minutes. Shall I ask him to call you, sir?’
‘Yes, sir.’ She put the receiver back on its cradle. She noticed that her hand was trembling. Damn the man! Where the hell was he? She said aloud, ‘Oh, James, please hurry.’ She walked disconsolately back and sat down again at her empty typewriter. She gazed at the grey keys with unseeing eyes and broadcast with all her telepathic strength, ‘James! James! M. wants you! M. wants you! M. wants you!’ Her heart dropped a beat. The Syncraphone. Perhaps just this once he hadn’t forgotten it. She hurried back into his room and tore open the right hand drawer. No! There it was, the little plastic receiver on which he could have been bleeped by the switchboard. The gadget that it was mandatory for all senior Headquarters staff to carry when they left the building. But for weeks he had been forgetting to carry it, or worse, not caring if he did or didn’t. She took it out and slammed it down in the centre of his blotter. ‘Oh, damn you! Damn you! Damn you!’ she said out loud, and walked back into her room with dragging feet.
The state of your health, the state of the weather, the wonders of nature – these are things that rarely occupy the average man’s mind until he reaches the middle thirties. It is only on the threshold of middle-age that you don’t take them all for granted, just part of an unremarkable background to more urgent, more interesting things.
Until this year, James Bond had been more or less oblivious to all of them. Apart from occasional hangovers, and the mending of physical damage that was merely, for him, the extension of a child falling down and cutting its knee, he had taken good health for granted. The weather? Just a question of whether or not he had to carry a raincoat or put the hood up on his Bentley Convertible. As for birds, bees and flowers, the wonders of nature, it only mattered
whether or not they bit or stung, whether they smelled good or bad. But today, on the last day of August, just eight months, as he had reminded himself that morning, since Tracy had died, he sat in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park, and his mind was totally occupied with just these things.
First his health. He felt like hell and knew that he also looked it. For months, without telling anyone, he had tramped Harley Street, Wigmore Street and Wimpole Street looking for any kind of doctor who would make him feel better. He had appealed to specialists, GPs, quacks – even to a hypnotist. He had told them, ‘I feel like hell. I sleep badly. I eat practically nothing. I drink too much and my work has gone to blazes. I’m shot to pieces. Make me better.’ And each man had taken his blood pressure, a specimen of his urine, listened to his heart and chest, asked him questions he had answered truthfully, and had told him there was nothing basically wrong with him. Then he had paid his five guineas and gone off to John Bell and Croyden to have the new lot of prescriptions -for tranquillizers, sleeping pills, energizers – made up. And now he had just come from breaking off relations with the last resort – the hypnotist, whose basic message had been that he must go out and regain his manhood by having a woman. As if he hadn’t tried that! The ones who had told him to take it easy up the stairs. The ones who had asked him to take them to Paris. The ones who had inquired indifferently, ‘Feeling better now, dearie?’ The hypnotist hadn’t been a bad chap. Rather a bore about how he could take away warts and how he was persecuted by the BMA, but Bond had finally had enough of sitting in a chair and listening to the quietly droning voice while, as instructed, he relaxed and gazed at a naked electric light bulb. And now he had thrown up the fifty-guinea course after only half the treatment and had come to sit in this secluded garden before going back to his office ten minutes away across the park.