Moonraker (James Bond #3)

Chapter 14

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The people at the Ministry had their own view of Drax. In their dealings with him they had found him a dedicated man, completely bound up in the Moonraker, living for nothing but its success, driving his men to the limit, fighting for priorities in material with other departments, goading the Ministry of Supply into clearing his requirements at Cabinet level. They disliked his hectoring manners but they respected him for his know-how and his drive and his dedication. And, like the rest of England, they considered him a possible saviour of the country.

Well, thought Bond, accelerating down the straight stretch of road past Chilham Castle, he could see that picture too and if he was going to work with the man he must adjust himself to the heroic version. If Drax was willing, he would put the whole affair at Blades out of his mind and concentrate on protecting Drax and his wonderful project from their country’s enemies. There were only about three days to go. The security precautions were already minute and Drax might resent suggestions for increasing them. It was not going to be easy and a great deal of tact would have to be used. Tact. Not Bond’s long suit and not, he reflected, connected in any way with that he knew of Drax’s character.

Bond took the short cut out of Canterbury by the Old Dover road and looked at his watch. It was six-thirty. Another fifteen minutes to Dover and then another ten minutes along the Deal road. Were there any other plans to be made? The double killing was out of his hands, thank heaven. ‘Murder and suicide while of unsound mind’ had been the coroner’s verdict. The girl had not even been called. He would stop for a drink at the ‘World Without Want’ and have a quick word with the innkeeper, The next day he would have to try and smell out the ’something fishy” that Tallon had wanted to see the Minister about. No clue about that. Nothing had been found in Tallon’s room, which presumably he would now be taking over. Well, at any rate that would give him plenty of leisure to go through Tallon’s papers.

Bond concentrated on his driving as he coasted down into Dover. He kept left and was soon climbing out of the town again past the wonderful cardboard castle.

There was a patch of low cloud on top of the hill and a spit of rain on his windshield. There was a cold breeze coming in from the sea. The visibility was bad and he switched on his lights as he motored slowly along the coast-road, the ruby-spangled masts of the Swingate radar station rising like petrified Roman candles on his right.

The girl? He would have to be careful how he contacted her and careful not to upset her. He wondered if she would be any use to him. After a year on the site she would have had all the opportunities of a private secretary to ‘The Chief to get under the skin of the whole project-and of Drax. And she had a mind trained to his own particular craft. But he would have to be prepared for her to be suspicious of the new broom and perhaps resentful. He wondered what she was really like. The photograph on her record-sheet at the Yard had shown an attractive but rather severe girl and any hint of seductiveness had been abstracted by the cheerless jacket of her policewoman’s uniform.

Hair : Auburn. Eyes : Blue. Height: 5 ft 7. Weight: 9 stone. Hips: 38. Waist: 26. Bust: 38. Distinguishing marks : Mole on upper curvature of right breast.

Hm! thought Bond.

He put the statistics out of his mind as he came to the turning to the right. There was a signpost that said Kingsdown, and the lights of a small inn.

He pulled up and switched off the engine. Above his head a sign which said ‘World Without Want” in faded gold lettering groaned in the salt breeze that came over the cliffs half a mile away. He got out, stretched and walked over to the door of the public bar. It was locked. Closed for cleaning? He tried the next door, which opened and gave access to the small private bar. Behind the bar a stolid-looking man in shirt-sleeves was reading an evening paper.

He looked up as Bond entered, and put his paper down. “Evening, sir,” he said, evidently relieved to see a customer.

“Evening,” said Bond. “Large whisky and soda, please.”

He sat up at the bar and waited while the man poured two measures of Black and White and put the glass in front of him with a syphon of soda.

Bond filled the glass with soda and drank. “Bad business you had here last night,” he said, putting the glass down.

“Terrible, sir,” said the man. “And bad for trade. Would you be from the Press, sir? Had nothing but reporters and policemen in and out of the house all day long.”

“No,” said Bond. “I’ve come to take over the job of the fellow who got shot. Major Tallon. Was he one of your regular customers?”

“Never came here but the once, sir, and that was the end. of him. Now I’ve been put out of bounds for a week and the public has got to be painted from top to bottom. But I will say that Sir Hugo has been very decent about it. Sent me fifty quid this afternoon to pay for the damage. He must be a fine gentleman that. Made himself well liked in these parts. Always very generous and a cheery word for all.”

“Yes. Fine man,” said Bond. “Did you see it all happen?”

“Didn’t see the first shot, sir. Serving a pint at the time. Then of course I looked up. Dropped the ruddy pint on the floor.”

“What happened then?”

“Well, everybody’s standing back of course. Nothing but Germans in the place. About a dozen of them. There’s the body on the floor and the chap with the gun looking down at him. Then suddenly he stands to attention and sticks his left arm up in the air. ‘Eil!’ he shouts like the silly bastards used to do during the war. Then he puts the end of the gun in his mouth. Next thing,” the man made a grimace, “he’s all over my ruddy ceiling.”

“That was all he said after the shot?” asked Bond, “Just ‘Heil’?”

“That’s all, sir. Don’t seem to be able to forget the bloody word, do they?”

“No,” said Bond thoughtfully, “they certainly don’t.”

CHAPTER XI

POLICEWOMAN BRAND

FIVE MINUTES later Bond was showing his Ministry pass to the uniformed guard on duty at the gate in the high wire, fence.

The RAF sergeant handed it back to him and saluted. “Sir Hugo’s expecting you, sir. It’s the big house up in the woods there.” He pointed to some lights a hundred yards further on towards the cliffs.

Bond heard him telephoning to the next guard point. He motored slowly along the new tarmac road that had been laid across the fields behind Kingsdown. He could hear the distant boom of the sea at the foot of the tall cliffs and from somewhere close at hand there was a high-pitched whine of machinery which grew louder as he approached the trees.

He was stepped again by a plain-clothes guard at a second wire fence through which a five-bar gate gave access to the interior of the wood, and as he was waved through he heard the distant baying of police dogs which suggested some form of night patrol. All these precautions seemed efficient. Bond decided that he wouldn’t have to worry himself with problems of external security.

Once through the trees the car was running over a flat concrete apron the limits of which, in the bad light, were out of range even of the huge twin beams of his Marchal headlamps. A hundred yards to his left, on the edge of the trees, there were the lights of a large house half-hidden behind a wall six feet thick, that rose straight up off the surface of the concrete almost to the height of the house. Bond slowed the car down to walking pace and turned its bonnet away from the house towards the sea and towards a dark shape that suddenly glinted white in the revolving beams of the South Goodwin Lightship far out in the Channel. His lights Cut a path down the apron to where, almost on the edge of the cliff and at least half a mile away, a squat dome surged up about fifty feet out of the concrete. It looked like the top of an observatory and Bond could distinguish the flange of a joint running east and west across the surface of the dome.

He turned the car back and slowly ran it up between what he now assumed to be a blast-wall and the front of the house. As he pulled up outside the house the door opened and a manservant in a white jacket came out. He smartly opened the door of the car.

“Good evening, sir. This way please.” He spoke woodenly and with a trace of accent. Bond followed hint into the house and across a comfortable hall to a door on which the butler knocked. “In.”

Bond smiled to himself at the harsh tone of the well-remembered voice and at the note of command in the single monosyllable.

At the far end of the long, bright, chintzy living-room Drax was standing with his back to an empty grate, a huge figure in a plum-coloured velvet smoking-jacket that clashed with the reddish hair on his face. There were three other people standing near him, two men and a woman.

“Ah, my dear fellow,” said Drax boisterously, striding forward to meet him and shaking him cordially by the hand. “So we meet again. And so soon. Didn’t realize you were a ruddy spy for my Ministry or I’d have been more careful about playing cards against you. Spent that money yet?” he asked, leading him towards the fire.

“Not yet,” smiled Bond. “Haven’t seen the colour of it.”

“Of course. Settlement on Saturday. Probably get the cheque just in time to celebrate our little firework display, . what? Now let’s see.” He led Bond up to the woman. “This is my secretary, Miss Brand.”

Bond looked into a pair of very level blue eyes. “Good evening.” He gave her a friendly smile. There was no answering smile in the eyes which looked calmly into his. No answering pressure of her hand. “How do you do,” she said indifferently, almost, Bond sensed, with hostility.

It crossed Bond’s mind that she had been well-chosen. Another Loelia Ponsonby. Reserved efficient, loyal, virginal. Thank heavens, he thought. A professional.

“My right-hand man, Dr Walter.” The thin elderly man with a pair of angry eyes under the shock of black hair seemed not to notice Bond’s outstretched hand. He sprang to attention and gave a quick nod of the head. “Valter,” said the thin mouth above the black imperial, correcting Drax’s pronunciation.

“And my-what shall I say-my dogsbody. What you might call my ADC, Willy Krebs.” There was the touch of a slightly damp hand. “Ferry pleased to meet you,” said an ingratiating voice and Bond looked into a pale round unhealthy face now split in a stage smile which died almost as Bond noticed it. Bond looked into his eyes. They were like two restless black buttons and they twisted away from Bond’s gaze.

Both men wore spotless white overalls with plastic zip fasteners at the sleeves and ankles and down the back. Their hair was close-cropped so that the skin shone through and they would have looked like people from another planet but for the untidy black moustache and imperial of Dr Walter and the pale wispy moustache of Krebs. They were both caricatures-a mad scientist and a youthful version of Peter Lorre.

The colourful ogreish figure of Drax was a pleasant contrast in this chilly company and Bond was grateful to him for the cheerful roughness of his welcome and for his apparent wish to bury the hatchet and make the best of his new security officer.

Drax was very much the host. He rubbed his hands together. “Now, Willy,” he said, “how about making one of your excellent dry Martinis for us? Except, of course, for the Doctor. Doesn’t drink or smoke,” he explained to Bond, returning to his place by the mantelpiece. “Hardly breathes.” He barked out a short laugh. “Thinks of nothing but the rocket. Do you, my friend?”

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