Moonraker (James Bond #3)

Chapter 17



Drax pointed at the second of the two maps. This was a diagram of the rocket’s flight ellipse from firing point to target. There were more columns of figures. “Speed of the. earth and its effect on the rocket’s trajectory,” explained Drax. “The earth will be turning to the east while the rocket’s in flight. That factor has to be married in with the figures on the other map. Complicated business. Fortunately you don’t have to understand it. Leave it to Miss Brand. Now then,” he switched off the lights and the wall went blank, “any particular questions about your job? Don’t think there’ll be much for you to do. You can see that the place is already riddled with security. The Ministry’s insisted on it from the beginning.”

“Everything looks all right,” said Bond. He examined Drax’s face. The good eye was looking at him sharply. Bond paused. “Do you think there was anything between your secretary and Major Tallon?” he asked. It was an obvious question and he might just as well ask it now.

“Could have been,” said Drax easily. “Attractive girl. They were thrown together a lot down here. At any rate she seems to have got under Bartsch’s skin.”

“I hear Bartsch saluted and shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ before he put the gun in his mouth,” said Bond.

“So they tell me,” said Drax evenly. “What of it?”

“Why do all the men wear moustaches?” asked Bond, ignoring Drax’s question. Again he had the impression that his question had nettled the other man.

Drax gave one of his short barking laughs. “My idea,” he said. “They’re difficult to recognize in those white overalls and with their heads shaved. So I told them all to grow moustaches. The thing’s become quite a fetish. Like in the RAF during the war. See anything wrong with it?”

“Of course not,” said Bond. “Rather startling at first. I would have thought that large numbers on their suits with a different colour for each shift would have been more effective.”

“Well,” said Drax, turning away towards the door as if to end the conversation, “I decided on moustaches.”



ON WEDNESDAY morning Bond woke early in the dead man’s bed.

He had slept little. Drax had said nothing on their way back to the house and had bidden him a curt good-night at the foot of the stairs. Bond had walked along the carpeted corridor to where light shone from an open door and had found his things neatly laid out in a comfortable bedroom.

The room was furnished in the same expensive taste as the ground floor and there were biscuits and a bottle of Vichy (not a Vichy bottle of tap-water, Bond established) beside the Heal bed.

There were no signs of the previous occupant except a leather case containing binoculars on the dressing-table and a metal filing cabinet which was locked. Bond knew about filing cabinets. He tilted it against the wall, reached underneath, and found the bottom end of the bar-lock which protrudes downwards when the top section has been locked. Upwards pressure released the drawers one by one and he softly lowered the edge of the cabinet back on to the floor with the unkind reflection that Major Tallon would not have survived very long in the Secret Service.

The top drawer contained scale maps of the site and its component buildings and Admiralty Chart No. 1895 of the Straits of Dover. Bond laid each sheet on the bed and examined them minutely. There were traces of cigarette ash in the folds of the Admiralty chart.

Bond fetched his tool-box-a square leather case that stood beside the dressing-table. He examined the numbers on the wheels of the combination lock and, satisfied that they had not been disturbed, turned them to the code number. The box was closely fitted with instruments. Bond selected a fingerprint powder-spray and a large magnifying glass. He puffed the fine greyish powder foot by foot over the whole expanse of the chart. A forest of fingerprints showed.

By going over these with the magnifying glass he established that they belonged to two people. He isolated two of the best sets, took a Leica with a flashbulb attachment out of the leather case and photographed them. Then he carefully examined through his glass the two minute furrows in the paper which the powder had brought to light.

These appeared to be two lines drawn out from the coast to form a cross-bearing in the sea. It was a very narrow bearing, and both lines seemed to originate from the house where Bond was. In fact, thought Bond, they might indicate observations of some object in the sea made from each wing of the house.

The two lines were drawn not with a pencil, but, presumably to avoid detection, with a stylus which had barely furrowed the paper.

At the point where they met there was the trace of a question mark, and this point was on the twelve-fathom fine about fifty yards from the cliff on a direct bearing from the house to the South Goodwin Lightship.

There was nothing else to be gathered from the chart. Bond glanced at his watch. Twenty minutes to one. He heard distant footsteps in the hall and the click of a light being extinguished. On an impulse he rose and softly switched off the lights in his room, leaving only the shaded reading-light beside the bed.

He heard the heavy footsteps of Drax approaching up the stairs. There was the click of another switch and then silence. Bond could imagine the great hairy face turned down the corridor, looking, listening. Then there was a creak and the sound of a door being softly opened and as softly closed. Bond waited, visualizing the motions of the man as he prepared for bed. There was the muffled sound of a window being thrown open and the distant trumpet of a nose being blown. Then silence.

Bond gave Drax another five minutes then he went over to the filing cabinet and softly pulled out the other drawers. There was nothing in the second and third, but the bottom one was solid with files arranged under index letters. They were the dossiers of all the men working on the site. Bond pulled out the ‘A’ section and went back to the bed and started to read.

In each case the formula was the same: full name, address, date of birth, description, distinguishing marks, profession or trade since the war, war record, political record and present sympathies, criminal, record, health, next of kin. Some of the men had wives and children whose particulars were noted, and with each dossier there were photographs, full face and profile, and the fingerprints of both hands.

Two hours and ten cigarettes later he had worked through all of them and had discovered two points of general interest. First, that every one of the fifty men appeared to have led a blameless life without a breath of political or criminal odium. This seemed so unlikely that he decided to refer every single dossier back to Station D for a thorough recheck at the first opportunity.

The second point was that none of the faces in the photographs bore a moustache. Despite Drax’s explanations, this fact raised a second tiny question mark in Bond’s mind.

Bond got up from the bed and locked everything away, putting the Admiralty Chart and one of the files in his leather case. He turned the wheels of the combination lock and thrust the case far under his bed so that it rested directly beneath his pillow at the inside angle of the wall. Then he quietly washed and cleaned his teeth in the adjoining bathroom and eased the window wide open.

The moon was still shining : as it must have shone, Bond thought, when, aroused perhaps by some unusual noise, Tallon had climbed up to the roof, maybe only a couple of nights before, and had seen, out at sea, what he had seen. He would have had his glasses with him and Bond, remembering, turned back from the window and picked them up. They were a very powerful German pair, booty perhaps from the war, and the 7 x 50 on the top plates told Bond that they were night glasses. And then the careful Tallon must have walked softly (but not softly enough?) to the other end of the roof and had raised his glasses again, estimating the distance from the edge of the cliff to the object in the sea, and from the object to the Goodwin Lightship. Then he would have come back the way he had gone, and softly re-entered his room.

Bond saw Tallon, perhaps for the first tune since he had been in the house, carefully lock the door and walk over to the filing cabinet and take out the chart which he had hardly glanced at till then and on it softly mark the lines of his rough bearing. Perhaps he looked at it for a long while before putting the minute question mark beside it.

And what had the unknown object been? Impossible to say. A boat? A light? A noise?

Whatever it was Tallon had not been supposed to see it. And somebody had heard him. Somebody had guessed he had seen it and had waited until Tallon had left his room next morning. Then that man had come into his room and had searched it. Probably the chart had revealed nothing, . but there were the night glasses by the window.

That had been enough. And that night Tallon had died. Bond pulled himself up. He was going too fast, building up a case on the flimsiest evidence. Bartsch had killed Tallon and Bartsch was not the man who had heard the noise, the man who had left fingerprints on the chart, the man whose dossier Bond had put away in his leather case.

That man had been the oily ADC, Krebs, the man with the neck like a white slug. They were his prints on the chart. For a quarter of an hour Bond had compared the impressions on the chart with the prints on Krebs’s dossier. But who said Krebs had heard a noise or done anything about it if he had? Well, to begin with, he looked like a natural snooper. He had the eyes of a petty thief. And those prints of his had definitely been made on the chart after Tallon had studied it. Krebs’s fingers overlaid Tallon’s at several points.

But how could Krebs possibly be involved, with Drax’s eye constantly on him? The confidential assistant. But what about Cicero, the trusted valet of the British Ambassador in Ankara during the war? The hand in the pocket of the striped trousers hanging over the back of the chair. The Ambassador’s keys. The safe. The secrets. This picture looked very much the same.

Bond shivered. He suddenly realized that he had been standing for a long time in front of the open windows and that it was time to get some sleep.

Before he got into bed he took his shoulder-holster from the chair where it hung beside his discarded clothes and removed the Beretta with the skeleton grip and slipped it under his pillow. As a defence against whom? Bond didn’t know, but his intuition told him quite definitely that there was danger about. The smell of it was insistent although it was still imprecise and lingered only on the threshold of his subconscious, s, In fact he knew his feelings were based on a number of tiny question-marks which had materialized during the past twenty-four hous-the riddle of Drax; Bartsch’s ‘Heil Hitler”; the bizarre moustaches; the fifty worthy Germans; the chart; the night glasses; Krebs.

First he must pass on his suspicions to Vallance. Then explore the possibilities of Krebs. Then look to the defences of the Moonraker-the seaward side for instance. And then get together with this Brand girl and agree on a plan for the next two days. There wasn’t much time to lose.

While he forced sleep to come into his teeming mind, Bond visualized the figure seven on the dial of a clock and left it to the hidden cells of his memory to wake him. He wanted to be out of the house and on the telephone to Vallance as early as possible. If his actions aroused suspicion he would not be dismayed. One of his objects was to attract into his orbit the same forces that had concerned themselves with Tallon, for of one thing he felt reasonably certain, Major Tallon had not died because he loved Gala Brand.


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