Wednesday, 15 August 2012


NOTE TO THE READER: This is the uncorrected first-draft of a James Bond story. Unabridged and unashamed, with not the slightest attempt at grammaticals. I s'pose you'll expect a copyright bit, so here, have one – its on the house.
Mark Sohn reserves the right to be recognised as the author of this work, but certain characters are Ian Fleming's, as far as I am dimly aware the wonderful folk at Eon Productions own 007. For a better explanation of copyright, open a book.
Please enjoy the first Ten Chapters – I shall add more soon, trust me, the ending will be fun – when I've written it, ta-ta for now...                                                                         



Harris lay still on his back, cigarette held loosely between dry lips. The only sign of nerves a trickle of sweat at the temple, a lazy bead of betrayal that didn’t escape the attention of the others in the guard-room. Across the expanse of frayed carpet the man perched on the government issue steel desk took careful aim at the cigarette, a thick comma of unruly black hair and cruel eyes above the ugly mouth of the Browning.
‘O.k. Bond, you’ve made your point - lets call it quits at forty, eh?.’ Definitely sweating now.
‘Now where’s the fun in that?.’ With that, the finger tightened around the trigger, the hammer released to crash forward, sending the pencil inside the barrel through the air, the point lodging itself firmly into the prone Harris’ ear. As the others rushed to his aid, James Bond reached for his wallet, tossing the notes onto the desk, along with the pistol. Leaving the unfortunate victim writhing in pain on the floor, Bond made for the door, striding across the hall to the bank of lifts. As he waited, one of the men from the guard-room joined him. Maybridge, an analyst from the European desk seemed somewhat uneasy at the scene he had just witnessed.
‘Bit over the top, that, eh Bond?.’ ‘Perhaps - but he was well overdue, fifty pounds worth, at least.’
Depositing Maybridge on five, the lift took Bond up to the communications section on the eighth floor, where he signed in at the security desk to be handed an envelope before grabbing a thick bundle of newspapers and magazines then a black coffee from the pot in the small galley before making his way to the duty room. A tired, but pretty looking girl gratefully vacated the desk, leaving Bond alone with a room full of radio equipment, teleprinters and the hated array of telephones that would serve as his shackles for the next eight hours. It wasn’t so much that Bond hated the duty room - the radio gear was always good to practice his morse - as that he despised any office duties. At least his own office had a view; the secretaries and office girls took their lunch in the small courtyard below, and skirts seemed to get shorter as the fifties receded. Settling in with the Times, Bond checked his Rolex against the London clock, one of seven on the wall above the racks of gear.
Time runs slowly for no man, but for James Bond, checking the time some two hours later, it certainly seemed to. Cursing softly, he stretched his arms, reaching for the headphones. Idly flicking through the switches and dials, he checked each station’s frequencies against the listing card from the envelope he had been given. One by one, the stations began their hourly reports - each staggered five minutes to allow the lone operator to receive and record them all, a dexion shelf sagging under the weight of a row of tape machines, each operated in turn by a timer mechanism to allow automated recording of the day’s reports. Strictly against protocol, Bond began the laborious process of decoding some of the likelier candidates for entertainment, using a code-sheet marked ‘SECTION CHIEF ONLY - UNAUTHORISED USAGE STRICTLY PROHIBITED’. It took him the best part of the next three hours and a pack of cigarettes, at the end of which he knew that while station V (Vienna) had nothing better to report than a negative sighting of a missing Soviet Atomic scientist and a shortage of office stationery - and station AU (Australasia) was requesting a spare set of valves for its transmitter, station C in Kingston was in the lead by sending home a wren in disgrace. Despite himself, Bond had to smile - having spent time there on assignment he knew that after rummy the station girls were the best game in town.
Finally, the hands arranged themselves at five to six, as a familiar face arrived to relieve Bond; the same poor girl he had taken over from.
‘Anything to report?.’ Her question prompted a shrug and a shake of the head. On a whim, Bond stuck his head back round the door. ‘You seem a little pale - may I suggest a transfer request?. I hear station C is short-handed.’
With a little over an hour to kill before his club opened, Bond decided on a change of clothes and a shower. The small suite of rooms on five were set aside for the temporary accommodation of agents and defectors during their period of interrogation and debriefing. Naturally, Bond had acquired a key, so after five minutes under a stream of near-scalding water he had a quick shave before changing into a fresh suit - a single-breasted number in lightweight navy serge by Benson, Perry and Whitley of Cork Street. Still with fifty minutes on his hands, he took the lift down to the sub-basement which housed the Armoury and the series of vaults which were the private domain of the man known as ‘Q’ to the handful subject to the privilege.
The low-ceiling of the room stretched back into darkness, the whole place resembling nothing so much as an untidy mixture of scrapyard and laboratory. Major Boothroyd, the Service’s weapons and equipment expert was busily tinkering with a steel tube mounted on a test-bench. A small cylinder marked ‘Co2 - Carbon Dioxide’ was linked to the tube by a steel reinforced pipe. At Bond’s approach, Boothroyd set down his spanner and waved the younger man across.
‘Ah, Double-O-Seven. Good, I was hoping you’d drop by.’ ‘Major.’ Bond couldn’t help but like the old recluse; he had a shared dislike of authority as well as all the best toys in the shop. Indicating the pipe and cylinder contraption, ‘Q’ explained its purpose.
‘An engine compartment fire suppression system, intended for fitment to all Service cars. Now listen in; I had a look at your Walther and there’s nothing wrong with it, apart from you evidently mistaking it for a hammer.’
‘The old Beretta...’ Boothroyd held up a finger to silence Bond. ‘Message from the top, M himself no less. Here, read it for yourself.’ Sifting rapidly through a pile of papers on one end of his battered old workbench, Boothroyd handed his visitor a sheet of notepaper. Under the heading ‘Q Branch Only’ was a terse missive from the Chief of the Service, known only as a cypher. ‘Reminder - The Walther PPK is now standard-issue for the ‘00’-section, no, repeat NO other sidearm to be issued under ANY circumstance without approval. Above goes especially for certain adherents of unreliable Italian arse-ticklers - signed ‘M’. The last a plainly worded dig at Bond’s fondness for his old Beretta, which had jammed and cost him several months in hospital as a result.
‘Well, that’s certainly clear enough - the Walther it is, then.’ Bond accepted the wooden box from the Major, setting it down to examine the contents.
‘One Walther PPK, Service Issue. Re-furbished and re-finished to remove obvious signs of abuse.’ Ignoring the dig, Bond let his benefactor continue the inventory. ‘Two barrels - one threaded for a Brausch silencer. Four magazines and two boxes of standard ammunition, calibre 7.65, second box contains sub-sonic ammunition for use with the silencer. Note the phosphorescent dots on rear and fore-sights - a new development to aid in the accuracy of shooting under low light conditions.’ With quick, professional efficiency, Bond assembled the pistol, the slide klacking into place. Thumbing a round into the magazine, he slipped it home with a satisfying click, thumbing the hammer back as he looked around for something suitable for what had come to mind, his eye coming to rest on an optician’s eye chart hung on the far wall. Spotting an orange in ‘Q’s open lunchbox, he waited until the Major’s back was turned before grabbing it, stuffing the fruit into the pipe on the bench then yanking the release lever on the Co2 cylinder. To Boothroyd’s shout of alarm, the orange shot from the pipe like a citrus cannon-ball, Bond’s arm whipping up after it, a deafening KRAK! splitting the air as the orange exploded into droplets of pulp.
‘Bloody hell!, you might have killed one of us!. If that bullet had ricocheted...’.
‘Easy, old boy - I made sure of my shot. Anyway, I’m for my club. Thanks for the Walther, Major - I’ll take better care of it this time round.’ Leaving ‘Q’ to contemplate the mess he had made of the place, James Bond patted the Major on the shoulder and left. Alone with his work once more, Boothroyd returned his attention to the eye chart. The point at the middle of the letter ‘Q’ was now sporting a bullet-hole.


Try as he might, James Bond could not shut it out any longer. No man can compete with the animated noise that is early morning Chelsea on a February Monday. Muttering darkly, he padded to his bathroom for the three ‘s’s instilled into every serviceman. His coffee machine fussed and gurgled as it processed the beans - the strongest blend De Bry’s could find for him. He made an edible bacon and eggs with a pile of toast, taking his breakfast out onto the modest rooftop balcony. He checked his watch, the battered Rolex showing he would be late. Reluctantly, he left the last two pieces of toast for the pigeons and went inside to dress, choosing a navy pinstripe  with a plain grey silk tie - a gift from May, his housekeeper, whose yearly weekly absence was the cause of the heartburn now beginning to nag at him. He called down for a taxi, which was waiting by the time he had exited the lift. Bill the Concierge came to attention and snapped Bond a smart salute, the result of thirty year’s practice in the Guards. Bond’s ‘Morning, Bill’ got the usual ‘Morning, Sah’ in return.
Bond paid the cabbie and walked the last few streets to the drab building overlooking Regent’s Park that was both his prison and the launch pad for so many of his adventures. He had just made his office when the phone rang. It was Moneypenny, personal secretary to the Chief. ‘James, he wants you in ten minutes, it’s going mad up here, he’s even put his report to the FO on the backburner.’ Bond felt the flush of his blood running, that feeling he had almost forgotten after months of office-work and exercises. He took the stairs, two at a time, to the thirteenth floor.

In the outer office, Moneypenny lit up at the sight of Bond, discretely moving her foot from the button in the floor (Ten seconds until thirty-eight Stone of ex - Royal Marines with guns crashing in). ‘James - how nice to have a man who’ll drop everything for me...’ ‘Penny - and in Chanel, too. I approve.’ ‘But I always wear Chanel...’ Bond smiled at the offended pout. ‘I meant the dress, Couture on your salary?.’ ‘Actually, there was a sale at Selfridges.’ The buzzer angrily interrupted them, Moneypenny flushing slightly, as a schoolgirl caught behind the bicycle sheds by a headmaster. Bond winked and went through the double doors, the light above going from green to red.
Admiral Sir.Miles Messervy, known as ‘M’, was standing awkwardly behind his desk. Two men, one distinguished and mid-fifties, the other with the look of a junior clerk sat in easy chairs beside the well-worn oak desk. ‘Double-O Seven, about time too. This is Sir.Charles Berkley from the Treasury, Benjamin Fowler here is from the Bank of England. Take a seat and we can begin.’

Without asking, Bond lit up one of his Morlands, made especially for him from a Turkish blend, white with three gold bands. Bond was a willing slave to two things; ‘M’ and the Morlands. ‘M’ reached for his pipe, filling it with ‘ships’, gesturing for Sir.Charles to start the briefing. Reaching inside his jacket, he produced a banknote, a crisp £5 which he handed silently to ‘M’. Shrugging, the Chief passed the note to Bond, who examined it cursorily before handing it on to Fowler. Screwing a loupe into his eye, the younger man held the note up to the light for scrutiny, humming distractedly to himself. ‘Yes, unmistakable. This is a series ‘B’ five pound note, paper from Porters of Bournemouth, issued in 1958. Unmistakable, yes.’
‘It’s a forgery.’ Sir.Charles let the words sink in before continuing. ‘Two days ago, a routine sweep picked up three of these notes in the Plymouth area. One had been tendered in a public house - the Eight Bells, I believe, the others at a Chandlers Yard. They were only identified after second examinations were conducted - apparently the quality of production was too high for the batch they were purported to be from. Naturally, there’s been the hell of a flap - the opposition has got wind of it somehow and theres calls for questions in the House. You can imagine the effect on the economy if this got out into the open - only a ‘D’ notice has kept the press quiet - and it’s a matter of time.’
Leaning back in his seat, M regarded the air between the men thoughtfully. ‘007 - first impressions?.’ Drawing deeply on his cigarette, Bond waved it in the air in a vague gesture. ‘It all sounds rather like that business during the war - Operation Bernhard, if I recall. SS Operation, ran out of Sachenhausen Concentration Camp. Hitler planned to flood England with forged five pound notes, cause a panic that would make a Nazi invasion easier. Whatever the truth behind it, someone has gone to an awful lot of trouble... reeks of the opposition.’
‘Yes, well, I’ve heard enough. Sir.Charles, Mr.Fowler, thank you for your time - I assure you both our full resources will be directed at this matter. I need hardly remind you of the need for secrecy, but I’m afraid I must ask you to sign the OSA forms as a matter of routine. My secretary Miss Monepenny has a pile of them in her desk.’

When the two men had left, M steepled his fingers, as if struggling to summon the resolve he needed. Bond sat, alert to the electric tension now present in the air between him and the man who would doubtless be about to send him into the firing line once more. Pressing the button, M spoke.
‘Moneypenny - drop everything. Recall Double-O’s Three and Five, call Double-O Eight back from leave, immediate. Call the PM’s office, book me in for an hour, request the Foreign Secretary attends. Get hold of the Admiralty, Rear Admiral Blake’s office, I want a call for five minutes on the Scrambler phone.’
Turning to Bond, M’s face was grave, the gaze that of a judge announcing the death sentence.
‘Double-O Seven. Your mission is as follows. You will find the source of these forgeries, investigate and report. If I were you, I’d start in Plymouth - better get up to Natural Cover, see Billy Cohen, while you wait you can ask him about Operation Bernhard. I’ll get someone onto Porters, the paper people - could be an inside job.’ Bond had remained in his seat.
'Just this, Sir – and with respect, I had hoped to get the Blue Steel job. Isn't this all a little excessive, for a few notes of funny money?.'
'Look here, Bond, I wouldn't call Sir.Charles Berkley prone to excess – if he's worried then I'm worried, that means you are worried too. Now, Blue Steel is over and done – there's little if any chance of recovery. You'll either go to Plymouth or to the Labour Exchange, do I make myself clear?.'
'Yes, you do, Sir.' Bond considered saying more – quite a bit more in fact – but at least it was a job, however dull the prospects. He left M perusing the contents of his pipe.

Bond cut the usual banter to a wink, blowing Moneypenny a kiss as he departed. He took the lift to the fifteenth floor, a darkly-lit place with peeling linoleum-floored corridors leading off to gloomily mysterious suites of rooms. In one such suite, little more than a glorified storage area, he found the cheerful Cohen at his business. Wrinkled olive skin and a bent frame could not hide the vitality of this old man, the life in him a joyous contrast to his surroundings.
‘James - how good of you to come, the Boss said I’d see you. Put the kettle on, there’s a jar of real coffee under the sink.’ Amused, Bond did as he was told, finding two chipped service enamel mugs and the coffee - some truly hideous freeze-dried instant powder with a picture of a smiling Bolivian peasant on the label. Handing Cohen his mug, Bond experimentally sipped at his, wincing at the taste. He doubted the man would have been smiling if forced to drink his own coffee.
‘Billy, M said you knew about an old job from the war - Operation Bernard?.’ Suddenly a change came over the old man, somehow the life seemed to drain from the eyes, which were now misty, distant. ‘Bernhard, Operation Bernhard. Yes, I know about it. Here, I’ve a small souvenir....’. Bond set his mug down with a thump, spilling some of the noxious liquid. M - the bastard!. Before he could think of anything to say, Cohen had rolled his sleeve back down, covering the tattoo he had hidden these last fifteen years - the series of numbers denoting a Concentration Camp inmate. ‘Now, James - I’ll tell you all you need to know. But first, lets take some for the family album...’

There are times in the lives of a professional when he gets to see something truly exceptional; a master at his craft. For the next forty minutes or so, Bond watched spellbound as Billy Cohen showed the magic of his trade - that of master forger. Asking Bond what was required, Cohen set to work. Plymouth being a maritime town, Bond chose to become a Merchant Mariner, one of the many itinerant sailors to be found in such places. First, the photographs; Bond as a younger man, then a recent shot of him with his arm around a tailor’s dummy. Rummaging through a drawer full of wallets, a well-worn Moroccan leather example was selected to host Cohen’s work. Setting about the negatives in his dark-room, the Service’s wizard artfully applied various solvents, producing subtle alterations before developing them. As the strips dried, Cohen produced the documents, some from original blanks, others from carefully studied originals. Finally, a carefully smudged rubber stamp here and there and, now straight-backed, he handed Bond the papers that would form his new identity. ‘Right; Merchant Seaman’s card, Deckhand, then Able Seaman rating, Crane Operators ticket Class II, Passport, Driving Licence, heavily endorsed, Communist Party member’s card - careful with that, the number’s a bit dodgy - and some photos; you on the deck of an unidentifiable ship, you with arm round a blonde by the harbour at Valletta. Say hello to James Taylor, good enough?.’
‘Billy, these are fantastic, the picture with the girl- how?...’ Tapping his nose, Cohen smiled ruefully. ‘Never ask, ‘cos I’m not saying - now about that, what was it, ‘old job from the war?’  make us another cup and I’ll tell you.’


Barry Bailey was always easy to find; he would either be in the inspection pit or the wooden hut that was the Service Garage Office. Bond lit a Morland, the flare of his Ronson briefly illuming a ‘SMOKING STRICTLY FORBIDDEN’ sign on one of the concrete slabs that both defined and divided the space under the building. Originally an air-raid shelter, the Garage was home to several long rows of vehicles, most shrouded in dust covers. The old girl was at the end, her blunt nose peeping out from under her sheet. Bond felt the usual pang of guilt, as if the old Bentley was a neglected horse left in some forgotten field.
‘She’s still not ready, Sir.’ Bailey had heard Bond’s approach.
‘The supercharger?.’ The chief mechanic made a doubtful face. ‘Not just that, she’s, well-getting on, isn’t she?. I don’t know how much more she’s got before she needs more care than I can give her, Sir.’
‘Perhaps I should let her go - anyway, I’m here...’ ‘For a car, yes, Sir. The Chief’s office called down, left you a message - about Service property being used as a private garage... I filed it in the usual place.’ Bailey mimed throwing a ball of paper over his shoulder. ‘Thanks, Barry, I’ll get her shifted when I’m back in town. What about a Jag?.’ Bailey smiled, holding up a key. ‘Vauxhall Victor, 1957 - like I said, the Chief’s office called...’.
As Bond pulled out of the garage, he stuck his head out of the window.
‘How much will you pay me to write this thing off?.’
‘It won’t go fast enough to be written off... drive safe, Sir.’ Bond made a reply, but not a printable one.
Taking the fast A303, Bond reckoned on making Plymouth by the evening. The Victor was gutless and slow, but held a steady sixty on a flat road and at least there was a radio, though it seemed to drift off station every five minutes, much to Bond’s annoyance. He let his mind drift, seeing Billy Cohen’s face as he re-lived the nightmare that was Nazi Germany to a Jew. British by birth, Cohen had gone back to the ‘old country’ to take over his ailing father’s photographic supplies business - then came the war. Sachenhausen had been a turn-up, the SS usually wasted no time showing what they thought of ‘Juden’, here, after the de-humanisation of the ‘De-Lousing’ and ‘Intake Processing’, Cohen, arrested in a swoop on jews still hiding in Berlin was shown to a hut with several others, mostly old men. At forty-eight, he did not expect to last long, but then he hadn’t reckoned on Sturmbannfuhrer Bernhard Kruger. The SS man had conceived a plot to flood the British economy with forged notes, assembling what was then the greatest team of Master-forgers in existence. Cohen had kept himself busy while hiding - busy and useful, providing high-quality Ausweis and Reisepassen in exchange for shelter and food. The quality of his work had brought him to the attention of Major Kruger - and saved his life.

Life in Sachenhausen, for the Forgers at least, was bearable; hot food, clean bedding and easy work details. Once a month there was a film, always some god-awful UFA-studio romance or propoganda clap-trap featuring well-fed heros and pale girls with adoring eyes bursting into song every ten minutes. The work itself was demanding; to produce - in large quantities, the best forged banknotes possible. The paper had been the hardest; Porters knew how to keep a secret, but it was only a matter of time before the correct mixture of cotton and hemp could be found. Now, it seemed, a new enemy was waiting in the shadows.
Bond skirted the bleak expanse of Dartmoor, the A38 lazily dropping down towards the channel. Unbidden, the memories came and went; ghosts of the past exercising across the boggy, treacherous clumps of moongrass, a young Bond among them being relentlessly driven on by the dog teams and the eager young eyes of the Marines - two week’s leave for any of them able to catch the ‘escaped prisoners’. He remembered the dog, a great brute of a German Shepherd, how the beast had nearly torn him apart. Those eyes - he saw them again, flashing green then gold as the teeth ripped into the greatcoat he wore. Then, the same eyes, dull and lifeless, staring at nothing after he had strangled the dog. A hell of a mess, indignant cables from the War Ministry and the usual placations from the Service... it was time to change, both mentally and appearance-wise. Pulling over at a small picnic spot, Bond opened the boot, retrieving an old navy kitbag. The ladies from Properties and Clothing had come up trumps, as always. A pair of heavy corduroy trousers, patched with leather and badly oil-stained went on over a pair of heavy sea-boots. A lumberjack shirt and an Arran sweater followed, with a heavy pea-coat and a woollen cap. Finally, the old Rolex came off, replaced by a Timex. Placing the Rolex in a paper bag in the boot, Bond added his Dunhill lighter and the battered case with the Morlands.

The blur of colour in the mirror was followed by the playful tooting of the horn, a pillar-box red Alfa sports job, flashing past the Victor on the approach to a tight bend. Bond's first view of the girl was as breathtaking as her driving was risky; head ablaze with red hair and a dazzling smile beneath a pair of sun-glasses. Instinctively, he wrenched at the gears, hopelessly he pounded the wheel as the blare from the disappearing Alfa's exhaust told him there would be no chasing this girl.

Pulling into the car park by the Station, Bond put her from his mind and went straight to the nearest phone box, dialling from memory. The voice that answered was flat, neutral. ‘Good evening, A-One Garage.’ ‘Bond, request pickup Vauxhall Victor Plymouth railway station car park.’ Hanging up, Bond shouldered his kitbag and went off in search of the Seaman’s Mission. By the time he had signed in, it was already dark, a weak rain made worse by a strong breeze lashing the seafront. Somehow the protective walls of the harbour only served to intensify the effect of the weather. Setting off into the gathering gloom, Bond made for the first public house he saw. Inside, the heat and fug of the place hit him like a hot towel, but there was a cigarette machine and the bitter was agreeable, cheap and served in a clean glass. He bought a box of matches, then after finding a seat near the fire, made himself smaller by hanging his coat over his chair, then lit up a Capstan. It soon became clear this was a rough, but decent place - more spit and sawdust than a gentleman’s club. By the second pint, he decided to move on.


The Eight Bells was a typical sailors haunt; the languages Bond  could identify spoke of the polyglot nature of the clientelle, the great seafaring nations all represented. Bond noticed the scrutiny of a man drinking alone at the bar, a hard-faced individual who kept his face in shadow, but then his attention turned to a small group of men, perhaps of Mediterranean origins. Unlike the lone drinker, these men were gay and carefree, laughter occasionally breaking out as they went deeper into their cups. Deciding to make an approach, Bond waited for one of the men to head to the gents, at once raising his glass and turning into the man. Half of Bond's pint was thrown onto the floor, his immediate protest loud with indignance. The reply came in Spanish, the man refusing all blame.
'Pancho – STOP.' This came from what was apparently the senior man, pale gray eyes regarded him coolly from a face lined from years spent 'under the mast.' Apparently, Bond was to be made welcome, a seat appearing opposite the older man. these were clearly seasoned men, their manner assured and unhurried, no doubt an acquisition well paid for by the look of them.

After signaling for a fresh round of drinks, the senior man turned his attention back to the newcomer. 'My name Vicente, I keep – I have charge of this crew. ' Bond reached for both his pint and the opportunity. 'Oh, really?, how fortunate... I need work. Perhaps you know if there is anything going; I know my way around a ship and I'll take anything – I've been on dry land too long.' Vicente seemed to consider for a moment before replying. 'I ask for you – who knows?, there are boats here all the time I think. Now, we drink.' As Bond drank, he noticed the lone drinker empty his glass and go to leave. The man paused at the door, glowered at Bond briefly and left the pub, pushing past a couple of men on their way in.
If it hadn’t been for the worsening weather – and the drink, Bond might have picked them up sooner. As it was, he was halfway down an alleyway when he realised he was about to be ‘rolled’. The  shape that emerged from the recess of a doorway was large, menacing - the dull glimmer of steel carried below the waist and the muffled rush of steps from behind; the cut-off man, no doubt wielding a cosh. Without a word, Bond broke stride, throwing his feet forward to close the gap unexpectedly. As the knife flashed, Bond’s left hand clamped onto the inside of the wrist, wrenching hard counter-clockwise to straighten and extend the knife-arm. In one movement, he switched hands, stepping around to the left of the downturned blade as he jerked the wrist down across his knee, ramming the elbow down – ONCE!-TWICE!. Even as his ears registered the sounds of the knife dropping onto the flags a hammer of Bond's left hand onto the man’s nose and he was free to deal with the second, turning into him as the open razor - Bond’s cosh guess was wrong  - came across in a wicked hook towards his right ear. Left hander. Anger now. Right hand clamping onto inside of wrist - left hand striking upwards into the face, fingers outstretched for extra strength - then left hand run along top of the man’s left arm, ramming edge of left into elbow, folding the arm with the right the razor biting deep into the cheek of its owner. A scream. Left fist swung up, thumb braced - HARD into groin, then left formed into a claw grabbing, twisting and pulling, destroying the manhood. A HIGH scream. Flinging the razor away over the wall of the alley, Bond turned – and froze, the knife's evil point a silent threat. The bottle smashing onto the head of the knife-man ended it, the knife dropping to the stones for the second time. Leaning gratefully back against the wall, Bond ran a hand through his hair, looking to thank his benefactor, but there was no-one there, just the merest hint of something familiar hanging in the dank air.
Scowling, Bond rifled through the pockets of the two thugs. The first contained some loose change and a few notes, at a glance the wallet of the second lacked items of interest – a seaman's card and a piece of broken chain next to a faded photo of a sweetheart with an inscription in Spanish... and a small enameled badge, fixed to the inside of the wallet. The badge looked military to Bond – a sea-lion or walrus over a stylized anchor with cyrillic characters. Fixing the image in his mind, he threw the wallet onto the comatose man's chest, looking down the alleyway he couldn't help a bemused smile.     

It was near to midnight when James Bond lurched up the stairs to his room at the Seamans Mission. Locking the door behind him, he took a moment to focus, squinting in the stark light offered by the bare bulb hanging from an ornate plaster rose. Judging by the plaster work, the building was once a sumptuous private house, perhaps for a wealthy merchant or the like. The room slept four, two metal-framed bunk beds against the far walls, a wash basin with chipped mirror in the corner and a simple table with chairs spoke of the spartan nature of the place. A wardrobe with a splintered door completed the furniture.

Sighing inwardly, Bond splashed some water on his face to shake off the haze of a pint too many before retrieving the kitbag from the nearest bunk. Rifling through the contents, he pulled out a leather wash-roll which he untied and laid out on the table. In one of the compartments, an old, but servicable Gillette safety razor was wrapped in a piece of grubby cloth. Placing the cloth in the wash basin, Bond relieved himself over it – glad no-one could see this odd performance. Washing the sodden rag clean, he first placed it flat onto a small metal shaving mirror, then pressed the rag between it and the grimy mirror above the basin. Seating himself at the table, Bond wearily lit a Capstan, inhaling deeply, his mind now resolved to the task ahead. Peeling away the damp cloth unveiled a series of small letters on the metallic surface, arranged in groups of six forming a square grid. Taking out a packet of cigarette-papers and a pencil he began the slow, laborious work of encoding his initial report. Try as he might, he couldn't get the image of the girl from his mind.


The first light of the dawn had been washed away by a cold sun, a few sparse clouds high in the atmosphere not enough to shade the port. Plymouth at dawn was a mixture of the waking and those yet to sleep; work at the docks slowed during the dark hours, but rarely ever stopped. Among the worn figures silently trudging the flags was Bond – in his role as James Taylor, itinerant seaman. He turned east from Devonport - the Naval yard of no use in the business at hand. Traversing the Stonehouse pool, he turned south for Devil's Point, eyes and ears tuned for anything, the sign of something out of place, something not as it should be. Seeing only sightseers, he walked on, seeing a phonebox by the ancient stone of the wall. A young couple, no more than kids probably, laughed and jostled Bond in their gaiety. He forced a smile as the boy produced an old Agfa, snapping the girl as she posed by an old tower, a relic of Napoleon's time. Reaching into his pocket as if reaching for change, Bond entered the phonebox, opening the directory to the first page of 'X' then pantomiming the actions of paying and dialling a number. The receiver held to his ear, he looked through the glass, turning away from the couple as if seeking privacy – while smoothly placing an envelope onto the directory, closing it as he hung up.
As 007 walked away briskly, the girl made her own call – a genuine one. She dialled a number in London and spoke a few, terse words into the receiver before collecting the report and hanging up.

It would take, Bond knew, a few hours for the report to be first decoded then evaluated. He decided to reconnoiter the area around West Hoe, more as a means of filling the empty day than in any real hope of a discovery. James Bond hated detective work, treating it as a tiresome necessity, an expedient to be endured if it brought the required outcome. Far better the thrill of the chase. Ignoring the pangs of hunger from his stomach, he kept at it, hour following hour, the history of the place making his task not entirely an unpleasant one. At length the path followed the contours of the man-made coast to lead him past the imposing Smeaton Tower and up to the foreboding walls of the Royal Citadel. At the service gate, a Bedford 3-tonne lorry waited to be admitted, an Army vehicle in standard drab green. Bond slipped out of sight behind the lorry. The gates closed behind the '3-tonner' as it pulled up by a stores building, the driver jumping down from the cab and entering the office. Rolling smoothly from the canvas roof, Bond dropped cat-like to the ground. He quickly made his way to a nearby archway, stepping through into a dark passageway, the noise of his steps muffled by the thick soles of his sea-boots. After thirty feet or so, the passage angled abruptly to the right, Bond coming face to face with two massive guards, whose caps identified them as belonging to the Royal Military Police. One of them stared straight ahead while his companion spoke, voice clipped and precise.
'You are expected, Sir. One second, please.' The silent guard reached backwards with his knuckles, knocking twice. At once, a familiar voice bade Bond to enter.

The room was more of a vault, low-ceilinged and dark, racks of equipment to either side with a few sparse lights throwing the occupants into sharp relief. A thickly muscled man stood at ease, his eyes piercing Bond from a boxer's face. The rooms other inhabitant was, however, instantly recognisable.
'Taking the sea air, Q? - if I'd have known this was a works outing I'd have brought my bucket and spade.'
Shooting Bond a look of exasperated disgust, Major Boothroyd shook his head ruefully. 'Really, 007, sometimes I wonder at the Selection Board, how someone with your asinine sense of humour ever managed to... oh, this is Sergeant Thewlett - he's from the Royal Marines. I read your report; thought you could use a refresher on the diving part of the job.' 'I'm qualified on mixed gas and oxygen, Q.' Looking at the expression on Boothroyd's face, Bond paused. 'Well, why not? - o.k. Sergeant, classroom time. I'm all yours.' The expression on the Marine Sergeant's face told his charge that this would not be plain sailing. He held up a bulky contraption that was familiar to Bond as a rebreather. 'Now, as you may know this is a rebreather, latest kit, made by Drager in Germany. The principal feature of the rebreather is it allows the swimmer to operate underwater without any air bubbles to mark his position...'. Bond folded his arms, hoping this would be brief.

By four o'clock James Bond's brain was reeling from the sheer amount of knowledge it had had to digest. Under Sergeant Thewlett's patient, methodical instruction, 007 was slowly brought up to date with the latest in diving equipment and safety practice. Meanwhile, Q had busied himself with setting out an array of equipment on a long table before rigging a makeshift screen over one wall. When Sergeant Thewlett pronounced Bond qualified, the Major thanked him and, showing him to the door, bolted it firmly closed behind him. Q turned the lights off, which was followed by a startling clatter of metal as he fumbled his way towards the table. An amused smile on his face, Bond reached across and flicked a switch, a slide projector throwing a stark square of light onto the screen. Brushing himself down, Q regained his composure and reached for a pointer and a remote button. The first slide showed an Admiralty Chart covering the area of Plymouth harbour. 'Now pay attention; here is the area of Plymouth Sound; an exceptionally busy area for both military and civilian sea traffic. Here – Q tapped the screen with the pointer – here you see areas reserved for anchorage of deep and medium water vessels. Now...' A click of the button saw the chart replaced by a black and white aerial photograph, covering a similar area to the chart. This picture was evidently taken from extreme altitude judging by the sheer scale of the imagery. Bond let the implication of the thought sink in a moment.'The Americans?.' Nodding, Q continued.
'Precisely. Only the United States currently possesses the aircraft with suitable capabilities for this type of high-altitude reconnaissance and the ability to supply the developed image inside of such a tight time scale. However, the real focus of all this effort is this.' Another click. An enlargement of the previous shot now centred on a large private motor yacht – in size almost a small cruise liner. 'This is the Bayamo. Registered in Panama – the details are in the folder I shall give you after this briefing.'
Bond lit a cigarette, taking his time to study the details of the overhead view. 'Quite something – what is she, two hundred feet?.' 'Nearer to three hundred, with a beam measuring over thirty. Her draught; calculated to be ten feet.' 'But, that would make her the size of....' 'A frigate?, yes, that's what the boys at photo-interpretation thought. We still can't be certain about this, but discreet inquiries seem to indicate – well, we think those notes came from her crew. This...' Q clicked once again 'This is the body of a male, age mid twenties. The local Police found him with a cut throat the day after the notes were tendered. He has been positively identified as tendering one of the forged notes by the manager of the Chandlers Yard.' Leaning closer, Bond saw the distorted, twisted features of a young Latin lying on a mortuary slab. Clearly, death had come as something of a blessing.' 'Tortured?' Q's  head nodded grimly in response. 'Brutally... and by an expert. From the marks around the abdomen and neck areas the poor chap must have been kept alive for several hours. The  Soviet desk say they haven't seen this sort of work since Beria's time.' Setting the clicker down, Q wound up the briefing. 'Now, M has informed the Admiralty of our interest, but your presence here has remained a secret – even to the harbour patrols, against the wishes of the Navy. This operation is strictly covert, however there was one condition the Admiralty wouldn't budge on...'


The Commer van pulled to a lurching halt, jolting the occupants in the back. Next to him, Bond sensed the bulky figure of Sergeant Thewlett opening the back doors, turning to take the first of the bags that contained their equipment. Grunting with the effort, Bond shouldered a bag before following the broad backed Thewlett along the pathway leading around the headland. Bond had to admit to himself, although he had protested it, the Admiralty edict that he could not work alone made sense. Even though his own role ended at the water's edge, the presence of the Marine – there, in his own words as 'A bit of insurance in case of difficulties' – was not unwelcome. Divers usually work in pairs, with good reason. The underwater environment that waited beneath the cool moonlight was coldy hostile. Stark against the sky, the headland of Dunstone Point stood as a silent  warning to the unwary seeking to hide their presence; it was far too bright for Bond's liking. Cursing inwardly, he hefted his load down a little-used pathway winding and looping down to the shoreline, the sound of the surf gently breaking now distinct against the receding noises of the port.

Allowing himself a look out into the Sound, Bond was rewarded with his first sight of the target. Although showing only a handful of lights, the Bayamo was there, her sleek lines in clear contrast with the dark waters around her. Drake's Island was visible behind; the navigation light on the radio mast staring across the waters like some evil eye, glowing red with anger. As silently as was possible, the two men donned their gear, each man helping the other, tightening straps and making adjustments until each was satisfied. Thewlett clipped a compact reel to Bond's weight belt then a rubberised bag; the latter contained a new underwater camera system – adapted by Q-branch from a standard  Nikon model. The reel was used as an aid to navigation in night diving; attached to a spike it paid out a thin cable behind the diver, ironically nick-named 'Minotaur'. Finally, it was time. With a nod to his partner, Bond checked his dive watch and made entry, stepping out into the icy waters until they were level with his chest. Fixing his face-mask, Bond gave the thumbs up before leaning forward and going under. From his viewpoint kneeling on the shore, Sergeant Thewlett saw only a ripple, then nothing to indicate the strange young man from London had ever existed. With a grim resolution, the Sergeant stabbed the spike deep into the sand. Bond was alone.

The webbed feet that had hampered him on shore now proved their worth in the water, the fins propelling Bond through the water despite the weight of his equipment. Arms thrust forward, he kept one eye firmly on the compass board he held, the phosphorescence of the dial clear in the gloom. By keeping the needle North, he was able to stay on course, his direction dictated by an arrow, its radiance his guide. Depth too was vital, with Bond deciding on twenty-eight feet as a compromise between safety and the risk of detection. With some two hundred yards to the Bayamo he estimated it would take around four minutes before he made contact. The exertion was becoming a concern; his relative lack of conditioning for this work added to the strain on his nerves was combining to sap his resources. Even a Double-O is human, the nature of the job not always allowing time for physical training – at least, not to the standard of a professional frogman. Bond cursed himself for a fool for not taking benzedrine tablets on this mission. Instead, he steeled himself, forcing his breathing to match the demands of his screaming muscles, a check on his tank gauge confirming his consumption was draining his precious supply. It was then that he saw the other diver.

Bond hit the bottom in a spray of mud, quickly ditching the compass board and turning his face downwards, praying the flash of glass from his face-mask hadn't betrayed him to the torch beam probing the waters around him. How could they have known?...for a second Bond's thoughts flashed angrily to betrayal, but then he reprimanded himself for the unworthy notion. Drawing his diving knife, he waited, hardly risking a glance upwards. Suddenly, a hand wrenched his mask away, Bond reflexively rolling to one side as the other man grabbed at his air hose. Clenching his teeth to retain his mouthpiece, Bond nearly bit through the rubber, thrusting up with the knife. This was clearly no amateur, however – the other diver blocking the thrust, forcing 007's knife arm down onto his knee with sickening force. Bond knew he was dead if he didn't kill first, his mind desperately searching for a way to end this. As he saw his attacker's hand reach to his leg, he snatched up the compass board as a shield, bracing himself against the mud. It was no knife though; instead the ugly stub of what looked like a pistol of some kind was coming at him. With a burst of released gases, something flashed through the water between them, slamming into the hard plastic of the board, the wicked barb of a dart bursting through to halt an inch from Bond's exposed chest. Without time to think, 007 launched himself forward, flipping the board around to smash it into the enemy diver's face-plate, the dart from his own gun shattering the toughened glass. With a hard left into the back of the board for measure, 007 kicked out with his fins to move past the other man, a tug at his waist a sudden reminder of the thin steel cable trailing behind him.  Bond saw the strange gun being reloaded and with the desperation of the moment he looped the cable around the man's air tank, pulling down with all his strength to cut through the rubber hose, an explosion of bubbles erupting forth. The doomed man dropped his weapon, hands scrabbling for the hose in a futile attempt to save himself. As Bond watched his would-be killer's death agonies, he felt the weight of guilt replaced with a grim determination; he would see this through to the end. Spotting his discarded knife through the murk, he grabbed it, stabbing it hard into the bottom, wrapping the cable around the hilt to anchor the now lifeless evidence of his presence and retrieving his mask from the mud where it lay.


This time the report could wait. An open bottle of whisky and a chipped mug on the table were the focus of Bond's activity as he unwound from the drama of the night. Sending a plume of smoke up to join the haze of the last half-hour, he reached for the mug, instead grasping the bottle and inspecting the label. A misty-eyed rendition of a highland scene and a contrived motto betrayed the contents, no more than a carelessly blended mess of third-rate malts. Bond found the contents palatable when thrown straight down, which suited him fine. The hot flush of the spirit did nothing to improve his surroundings, but at least he had the room to himself. He soon returned to the eventful dive; the diver was not a sportsman, rather a guard assigned to patrol the waters around and beneath the yacht – more in keeping with a warship than the routine of a pleasure craft. The only other thing of note was at the end, both of the boat and the dive. Tasked with inspecting the yacht, 007 had followed in the footsteps – so to speak – of such Naval divers as 'Buster' Crabb, who had died while on a Service job to inspect the hull of a Soviet warship. There was disappointingly little of interest about the Bayamo beneath the waterline – apart from her propellers; twin high-speed screws of a metal and design unfamiliar to Bond. An odd sheen and an unnatural smoothness hinted at the exotic, as did the angle of the blades, which were hinged at the base and appeared jointed a third and two-thirds of the way down the vanes. Carefully, Bond extracted a tool-roll, selecting a tungsten-tipped scraper and a sample tube. To his bafflement, the probe failed to make a scratch; a second attempt with a diamond-tipped tool yielding a tiny curl of dull golden metal. Risking a photograph, he had first surfaced to listen for any activity before taking the shots; two, one from astern and one from the side. There were only a few questions left begging to be answered; who owned the Bayamo? - and what was her true purpose?. Both were questions Bond knew could only be answered by going further. Once again, Commander James Bond was going to sea.

This time 007's report had really stirred the place up, Moneypenny hadn't been this busy in months; first the dispatch rider had delivered the coded report, flown up from Plymouth in a Hawker Hunter from the Fleet Air Arm. Dropped by the pilot 'the old-fashioned way' over Northolt in – of all things – a tobacco tin, the report, with the precious propeller sample was rushed into London with a Police escort. On receipt of the  precious tin, its contents were divided; the report hurried up to Cryptography to be decoded and transcribed while the sample and negatives went for analysis by the boffins in Operational Research Department M/1 (Materials). Hardly a minute after M had read the plain-text of  Bond's report and the buzzer had gone. As the first of the early-morning visitors started arriving, Moneypenny knew that whatever James Bond had uncovered was something big. Sighing to herself, she forced a genuine warmth into the smile she reserved for such days. She could only pray that whatever 007 was getting into wouldn't kill him.

If the eyes truly are the windows to a man's soul, then this man had lost his some years back, the surly face that inspected the newcomer's cards at the quayside was suspicious, seemingly taking an age in the process. Silently, Bond offered a prayer to whatever gods looked over forgers that Billy Cohen hadn't slipped up. Apparently not, as he was waved unceremoniously aboard the gangplank to the Bayamo.  Hefting his kitbag, 'James Taylor' followed a sailor across the after-deck and through a hatchway. The crew quarters were down a ladder and up a narrow gangway, a group of bunk-rooms leading off from either side. At the end of the gangway a ladder led down to, Bond presumed, an engineering deck. There was no time for sight-seeing, though; the double blast of the yacht's klaxon signaling her preparations were complete and departure imminent. Finding an empty bunk, Bond stowed his gear and went back on deck for a cigarette. A gentle shudder of engines starting, no more than the merest vibration through the deckplates told Bond they were about to weigh anchor, but a slap on the back shook him from his reverie. It was Pepe, the Spaniard refusing a smoke with a smile and shake of the head.
'We go to Sao Miguel – the Azores, yes?.' 'Oh, whats in the Azores?.' The smile flashed wider. 'Women, James – many pretty girls. Look though, here is Chago. A bad man if he no like – they say he kill many enemy during La Guerra civilista... but then say he also kill friend. You are careful with him I think.' Bond made the glance a casual one; the figure coming their way instantly familiar as the lone drinker from the Eight Bells. The glance told him all he needed to know; the man was indeed a killer. Bearded and swarthy, the arrogance and swagger of the man might have invited trouble, but that, Bond sensed, would be later.

'My name is Chago. I tell you two things; you work and maybe we are o.k. Also, I tell you this second thing. I only ever trust one man; and he is me. I don' know you, Mister Taylor, but I know you type and I have trouble. We need a hand, so you work now. Here is Fredi, he is to tell you your work.' The welcome over, Chago stood and waited for Bond to turn away. Biting down his natural defiance, Bond forced himself into an attitude of subservience, waving a finger in mock salute as a crewman beckoned him with a wave. Fredi – Alfredo was Bond's guess – was an older man, likable in a rough way with poor English and little patience. Under his scrutiny, Bond/Taylor was put to work, his taskmaster pitching in to do his share with the new man. As the Bayamo eased into the channel, the pile of crates on deck started to diminish, a loading hatch and lift easing the work somewhat. The yacht certainly moved, fairly clipping down the coast at a high rate of knots. Bond tried to guess her speed, but observation proved impossible, the lack of visible landmarks hampering his attempts as the unseen engines powered the craft into deeper waters.

It was past six when a halt was called for dinner, a choice between paella or a meat broth. Choosing the latter, Bond was surprised to find it edible, if a touch over-seasoned. The chatter around the food was lively enough, lifted by the rough camaraderie and an eye-watering rioja, but Bond found himself largely ignored – one exception being Fredi, who took the time to tell the newcomer something of the routine aboard ship, as it were. As he was due to take over watch duties in the early hours, 'Taylor' thanked his friend and headed on deck for a Capstan – not for the first time regretting the growing distance from his beloved Morlands. Bond was on routine deck duties, but any hopes of a better look around the yacht were doomed by the constant presence of one or more of the crew. Fortunately, the odious presence of Chago was absent, which at least allowed Bond the luxury of confirmation. The washroom was empty, Bond ducking into the nearest head. Quickly, he extracted the Gillette, unscrewing the handle with a clockwise action – the French thread concealing the presence of an old trick from the War – a tiny compass. Mentally adding the direction of travel and time to his list he flushed and made for the galley. There was a hotplate of tepid coffee, which Bond gratefully swigged, repeating the figures in his head. Estimating their speed was impossible, but it had to be more than nought and under thirty knots. Hardly the usual precision associated with the Admiralty, little better than a series of guesses all dependent on the precedent, but without access for'ard it would suffice. The Azores it was.


As the Bayamo's jolly-boat cast away with the last shore party, Bond hoped his smile looked rueful enough, waving them off before throwing his cigarette butt over the side. The light was fading quickly, as it did this close to the Equator. Before him was spread a sparkling tableau; the island was perhaps no more than a few miles in length, dominated by the volcano that had given birth to it. The bay at the southern tip was a natural harbour, with a scattering of buildings and the occasional glare of headlights from the road that wound into the town and around the coast. As the new man, 'Taylor' would naturally be last on the list for shore leave - time he would make good use of. The yacht's engine room was always sealed off, but he had seen enough to convince him he had to get in there – namely the Russians. It was more by chance than design; the galley had been cooking Borscht, which definitely wasn't on the menu in his mess. Sure enough, he saw the man who collected it; a white European with the troglodytic pallor of an engine room mate. Then there was the question of who owned all this; getting 'above decks' would take time. The yacht's master clearly valued his privacy; of Bond's crew-mates only the stewards and, of course Chago ever seemed to go up to the private decks. It was a risk, but he was getting nowhere fast; time to chance his luck. Luckily, the cook and his assistant were busy, allowing Bond to snatch up a dixie of the bitter coffee that seemed to be the crew's drink of choice. Turning into the gangway he was halfway down the ladder when the hatchway ahead was flung open by a thin man with an unlit cigarette hanging from his lips.
'Chto eto?' Smiling apologetically, Bond held up the dixie. 'The cook sent me. For you.'
'My poluchaem nash sobstvennyÄ­-Vg skazali!'. Feigning ignorance, Bond tapped the dixie, the inane grin fixed at the Russian, who leaned backwards into the hatch to shut it, twisting then lighting his machorka with narrowed eyes that searched Bond's face suspiciously. With a cheerful wave and a shrug of his shoulders, Bond took his dixie and turned to the ladder. He had seen enough; aside from the man's overalls, which were spotless, the room itself was no ordinary engine room. Where there should have been a massive diesel there was a long angular box-like affair, about the same size but obviously electrical in nature. From that momentary glimpse, Bond knew he was, literally in deep waters; it looked for all the World as if the Bayamo's power plant was atomic. Smoothly setting the coffee back  Bond was startled by the sudden, shrill tones of a klaxon that ripped apart the silence. Out on deck, he tensed at the scene he had stepped into. A small group of armed crewmen stood round something on the wooden decking, something dark and glistening wet. There, obviously enjoying himself enormously was the hated figure of Chago, busy lighting an obscenity of a cigar.
'Hey, British-come here.' With a wave Chago beckoned Bond over, but as he approached, the Agent's heart sank; there on the planks was the slumped figure of Thewlett!. Two of the crew were hauling something over the rail, a familiar bulky rubber bag that both were struggling to shift.
'What's with all the guns?, why the frogman? - well, Chago?'. The laughter that came in reply carried little humour.
'This man is a frog, yes?. Oh, no... I think maybe I catch a frog instead of the man...' The smoke in Bond's face was propelled by venom, the cold eyes dull in their contempt. Bond's mind was racing, even as he fought down the rising urge to vomit. Why?, why had the mandarins at Whitehall insisted on sending the diver?. Those bloody fools!. Bond's mind was dragged back to the immediate as Chago pulled an automatic from his belt, cocked it and aimed it at the still prone Thewlett.
'Now Mister Frog. I think this. We had a little frog too, but he don' come back from the water-now we have YOU, so...maybe we shoot you and jus' maybe we don'. Maybe you wan' tell how you here.' With a fixed grin, Thewlett got himself upright, clearly suffering the effects of a beating.
'Well, Pancho – you think a lot. Tell you what I think, shall I? I think you can go and get f-' The explosion was deafening, even on the open deck. His left kneecap destroyed, Thewlett fell hard against the rail, teeth bared in feral agony. Defiance blazing through him, the Marine Sergeant could only grip the metalwork for support. Casting his eyes around for inspiration, Bond saw none; but he saw something that gave him an idea; another diver in the water!. Obviously Thewlett was following standard procedure and had a dive partner; all Bond had seen was the top of the man's faceplate as he had come up to observe – none of the crew seemed to have seen him. With slow, cruel deliberation, Chago raised the barrel again, this time the ugly mouth gaping at the Englishman's heaving chest. Like a knife, the edge of Bond's hand slashed downwards into the wrist as he fired, the shot blasting into the woodwork, 007 following up with an elbow to the stomach that would have winded a lesser man. Instead, the enraged Hispanic smashed the gun down hard onto Bond's skull, sending him sprawling across the feet of the helpless Thewlett. Using all his strength, Bond moved fast, throwing his arm around the injured man's ankles as he thrust himself upwards. Unbalanced, Thewlett could only flail at thin air as his own weight and gravity conspired to topple him over the rail into the sea. Throwing his hands upwards, Bond stepped forwards, to save the Sergeant from Chago's vengeance. It would be over quickly, at least, reasoned Bond, as the hatred flashed through the air between them... but the shot never came.
'Chago!, dejo caer.' The voice was calm, yet commanding instant obedience. It was the voice of a general. Somehow Bond knew he would find answers, but from the smile on Chago's face, it looked like he had little cause for congratulation. By the time he saw it, it was too late – the butt of the crewman's rifle smashed brutally into the back of Bond's head. The deck dissolved into hazy darkness.


Modestly sized, the reception hall was a curious mixture of rococo and baroque styles from across the Globe; the floor Italian marble, doubtless from the quarries at Pietrasanta, but the paired chandelier were of Austrian crystal, hanging as they did above walls hung with ornately gilded Louis Quatorze mirrors that made the space seem vast. At intervals, recesses housed busts of ancient Spanish nobles interspersed with sets of lavishly engraved Conquistador armour. Carven Chinese lions either side of a set of double doors set the seal on the absurdity. As Bond rose – he had found himself on a sumptuous divan -  he rubbed his head ruefully, taking in the curious scene. Dimly he realized the Timex was missing -  a quick search revealed he had also lost his lighter and cigarettes. Looking around he couldn't help but stare; emblazoned across the join of the doors was a cipher, in the form of a stylized 'M'.
The irony was not lost on Bond, even as the doors swung silently open to admit an extraordinary figure. The man was, in himself ordinary enough – perhaps late thirties, medium build and no more than five-feet eight inches. Nor was the mane of silver hair, which flowed past the shoulders the exceptional; it was the clothes. Clad in a plumed morion helmet, cuirass and sash with pantaloons and knee-length leather boots and a sword at his waist. Bond couldn't have been more confused.
'I was aboard a yacht...'
'Yes. As you are now. You are in my quarters aboard the Bayamo.' Bond cast an eye around; the windows to either side were clever shams; at first glance picture windows, the 'views' from them were merely illuminated paintings of sky and cloud. The movie-studio trickery was underlined by the feeling of motion underfoot; they were indeed, still aboard the yacht. Striding across to the furthest side of the room the bizarre figure set his helmet and sword down on a divan before waving his hand across one of the mirrors. Instantly, some hidden mechanism propelling it, the glass slid across to reveal a drinks cabinet. Bond had to admit, this was impressive, but he needed to regain some of the initiative, to get to the purpose behind all this madness.
'Well, if you're offering – mines a dry martini, with two fingers of vodka, if you have any thing worthy of the name in that mirror of yours.'
If the intent was to rile, it failed. After the merest of pauses, the man made the drinks, pouring himself a dark rum over ice. Bond took his and memorized the face. A thin scar ran along a finely-boned jaw, fiercely blue eyes set in rather high sockets with an aquiline nose that failed to flatter. Taken altogether with the remarkable hair this was not a face to be forgotten. Setting himself down on the divan across from his bemused guest, the man finally spoke, his accent Latino in origin, perhaps with a touch of creole or seminole.
'My name is Maximilian. To be more exact, more formal I am His Excellency Maximilian, by the Grace of God Marques de Bayamo and Grandee of Florida.'
Bond's glass was frozen half-way.
'You aren't serious?.'
'My friend, I am always serious; but I remain at a disadvantage. Who, exactly are you?.'
In the mirror, Bond was suddenly aware of the presence of an eavesdropper, no more than the slightest movement of the double doors. It was enough.
'Well, the name's Taylor. I would bow, by the way, but as I don't go a whole lot on that sort of thing... your excellency.' The vodka was no Wolfschmidt, but passable. More disturbing than that was the familiarity – Bond had tasted this drink before.
'Now that we have broken the ice, perhaps you would share the joke?... I mean if there's going to be a party I wish I'd brought something along. Who knows, perhaps you have a Napoleon outfit too-behind one of these mirrors, perhaps?.'
Maximilian chuckled heartily at the dig. Divested now of armour, the man still dominated the room. This was clearly a charismatic character, but fragmented, as he now showed.
Spinning to face Bond his voice became a snarl.
'You laugh at me?, ME!. You British!, still clever and the World is dumb, always the Master, holding the leash – well look again, who exactly is on the end of the leash?,  your friend America? Ha!. Levar en el bolso!' At the command, Chago appeared, hauling in Thewlett's dry bag. Bond could guess at the contents; they would either be some mission-specific kit intended for himself, or limpet mines – the latter indicating a worrying lack of confidence in his abilities. In that, at least his fears were unfounded; the opened bag that the brutish henchman set down contained an incriminating collection. A silenced pistol,  one of the new Armalite AR-7 component rifles lay next to photographic equipment, a long-range agent communication set, plastic explosive and various detonators - time pencils and electrical - as well as the usual lock-picking set, survival gear and rations. Topping the lot was a linen roll which Bond knew contained silk escape maps wrapped around gold sovereigns – intended to aid an agent's escape with the gold as barter material.
'So Mr.Taylor, let me be your Sherlock Holmes. I don't know who you are; but...' At a snap of his fingers, Chago grabbed Bond, wresting him into a stifling headlock, cord-like arms around his neck and shoulders. '...This much is apparent to me; My diver goes missing in British water; I think he was careless. Mr.British Taylor appears from nothing and thinks we are careless. Now I have a British diver who is definitely not in your British water and what does he leave behind?.' Maximilian walked around the mutely struggling pair, stooping to pick up the roll of sovereigns. As the odd figure studied the coins a change seemed to come across him. 'Careless, careless, careless, and also...ONE-TWO-THREE-' The blows across Bond's face were stunning, the heavy gold threatening to knock the senses from him.'-Three British too many for me my friend...'. Bond sagged, would have fallen had it not been for the vice-like grip. In front of his victim the Latino had become suddenly hideous with the shining pointed eyes and twisted lip of the madman.
'Chago, encerrarlo, mantenga una guardia en el' The voice fell as quickly as it had risen, the mask of sanity back in place. Released from that awful hold, an unsteady Bond turned his body, but any thoughts of escape were dashed by the presence of two armed crewmen who stood impassively, Chinese sub-machine guns at the ready. This was turning into some pleasure cruise. Holding his hand to his face, Bond had no choice but to take it. As he was led from the room, he risked another beating by 'falling' heavily against the panel-work by the double doors – which is when he saw her. The urgent motion of a gun barrel brought his attention back sharply. 
'Aqui hombre!.'  Bond smiled in apology, moving on, smiling to himself. There had been no mistaking that red hair.   

Bond found himself shoved rudely into what obviously passed as the ship's brig; a cramped storeroom that had been emptied of everything save a mattress and two buckets, one filled with water. Upturning one, Bond utilized it as a makeshift stool, preferring not to think too closely about the use to which the other might be put. Looking around gave little hope for the spirit; there was a small porthole and a bulkhead lamp. After what seemed an age, the watertight door was opened and a bowl of dubious content thrust at him. Obviously, they were professionals, judging by the way he was being covered from the end of the gangway. He was given five minutes to eat – it was some kind of fish with onion sauce – after which he was relieved of bowl and spoon. Perhaps out of sympathy for a fellow addict, the guard lit a cigarette, which he tossed on the floor next to the captive Bond. Nodding his thanks, Bond took a drag – fighting the urge to choke on the foul-smelling tobacco. Try as he might, he couldn't put it all together. Some of it was clear enough; but where did the Russians fit in?, then there was the Bayamo herself; this was no yacht. Despite all the fancy trimmings, all that marble she was clearly a converted frigate, perhaps even one of the feared Soviet Riga class. If so, where were the weapons systems?. Curiouser still even was the nature of her power plant; the Rigas were steam turbine-driven, with boilers not an Atomic reactor. One question was resolved; the 'yacht's' owner – a lunatic of some kind, who fancied himself as some sort of latter-day Conquistador. Bond could only hope Thewlett was following standard operational procedure and was diving with a partner. Without any line of communication, no agent-not even a Double-O can be truly effective. Sometimes, though fate can take a hand in the affairs of men - and half of everything, so they say is luck...


1 comment:

  1. Your such a good writer,hope someone realises this