Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bayamo Part Two - The Story continues...

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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.
Hopefully you are still having fun – Here's Part Two – Chapters 10 to 17. Poor Jimmy Bond; he's all at sea – don't feel sorry for him though; 007 could find a girl in the middle of the Atlantic...
More to follow soon!
BAYAMO
CHAPTER 10
BLOOD AND GOLD

It was well after dark. Finally sleep had claimed James Bond for a few hours, but it was not a comfortable one. The guards had left him to his own devices, but sometimes he could still hear them through the thin steel of the bulkhead. Outside, the clouds scudded by as the moon sank to the western horizon, chased by the racing yacht. The smooth effortless power of the Bayamo seemed to settle any doubt about her power source. Being this close to an atomic reactor was an experience Bond endured without relish. The clank and scrape of the door interrupted his attempts at sleep. At once, Bond sat up, smoothing back his hair in a belated attempt at grooming. The girl shooed the guard away, pulling the heavy steel door shut behind her. For a moment, Bond sized her up in the moonlight streaming through the porthole. She was taller than he expected, just the right side of skinny with a pleasing array of curves. Even in this half light he could see she was stunning, her hair somewhere between rust and carmine with the most engaging green eyes Bond had ever seen. It was like a dream and it made his head spin. The shimmer of silk at her shoulders with that recklessness of hair made her seem like some exotic dragonfly. She held his gaze with hers for what seemed an indecently long half minute. Finally, he shook himself free.
'Well, this must be fate. Funny, I didn't see you in my horoscope.' She offered him a cigarette from a packet of Dunhill, taking one for herself.
'Thank You.' Lighting both with a gold Ronson she leaned back against the bulkhead. Both smoked without speaking, each seeming unsure at finding themselves in such an odd situation.
'That's a man's lighter. Your father's perhaps?.'
'You must be a spy – who else would notice such a thing?. Yes. My father's.' She smiled, a sad little smile and Bond was glad he was sitting. He tried to envisage 'M's face as if the Old Man were watching; he could easily imagine the disapproval and reprobation.
'Call me James. Yes, I do notice things – it's a habit of mine, like your perfume, Arpege; you wore it the other night in the alleyway. Unmistakable.' She seemed amused at having been recognised as Bond's saviour, wagging a finger in mock admonishment.
'You are a spy. A spy who's following me. I should be flattered, most men wouldn't follow a girl halfway across an ocean.'
'Well-if I'm a spy, what are you?. Why all this? - I know a girl needs to make a living, but...' He waved vaguely, letting the question hang.
'Oh, Max – he's not so bad, he really isn't, but he – takes care of me.'
Bond was standing.
'Yes I'm sure he's the life of the party – who locks passing spies up, surrounds himself with nasty men with guns and likes to relax by wearing armour.'
Her laugh lacked humour.
'Normally he wears a uniform, that or a business suit. Sometimes he dresses like a peasant. He does many unusual things, but that's just Max. He's posing for a portrait – him as a Conquistador, or some such nonsense - he wanted something to help him. James,
if I tell you any more you must understand; sometimes we get swept along by things, things we can't control. You must know that if I had realized what was happening before I was in too far... well, I am, too far now.' She smiled, bravely. Taking her by the arms he turned her to him. 'You really don't belong here – oh don't bother, I've heard them all by the way; the other men were all so boring, his wife didn't understand... whatever it is brought you into this doesn't really matter. I can help you, no really I can. The diver today – you heard?. (She nodded) Well, he was a friend of mine. A man called Chago tried to kill him, with a gun and men who like to play with guns can be very bad company for a girl. You were telling me about the portrait...'.

Over the next half hour, the girl talked and James Bond listened. He learnt that the girl was from a good family, with all the usual advantages right down to the obligatory Swiss finishing school – where she had ran away over the obligatory boy. Bond learnt that the mother had died in the Blitz, but of her father there was no mention, save that he had been 'in the war'. In disgrace after Switzerland, she had finally burned the family bridge with a job working for one of those Paris fashion houses frequented by neurotic bankers wives hoping ten thousand francs would excite husbands whose attentions were increasingly on the hungry models at the salon. She had met Maximilian at some Consulate 'do' – there was something about a fling with an under-secretary and talk of scandal – and there he was, a mystery on the circuit in the most absurd sparkle of an outfit – he was certainly too garish to miss. In his short velvet chaquetilla and cummerbund he might have passed for a matador. The girl was intrigued, then charmed. The strange Hispanic – he was from Cuba – was certainly enigmatic. Maximilian told her tales of a life of simple peasantry, born a farmer's son on a lonely hillside he had grown up knowing only the hard, spare life of his ilk. An only child, his parents had christened him Felipe. Every day before dawn his father was gone to his few goats and the meagre crops that were all the thin soil allowed. His mother supplemented their income by taking in washing from the few professionals in the village, some three miles away. The affairs of the World were nothing to him, until the day the Government men came. He had heard of the revolution of '33, but the men who hid in the hills were only ghosts and whispers; village talk. The girl recalled how his voice was a monotone as he continued the reminiscence, his eyes sad, distant even. Returning from the village school, he had found his mother holding the body of his father. Driven from her senses, she never spoke again and was taken to live in a home run by the Sisters of Charity. It was the village Doctor, a kindly old man who took the boy in, who ensured he attended school – and from whose books the young Felipe learned more of the world beyond the horizon. Doctor Juarez was relatively wealthy, keeping a modest though well-stocked library, with subjects ranging from ancient history to the sciences. One book in particular stirred the avid student, an old volume on Cortez and the New World. Heavy, yellowed and blemished with age the book might have almost been written by the great explorer himself. From its pages flowed exploits and deeds long since passed into legend, tales of gold and savage rituals, of human sacrifice and ruthless conquest. Blood and Gold. For the first time the farmers son felt a sense of destiny, of purpose to the patent fleetness that is life. Each day he would return from school – increasingly impatient – to rush through his chores and then pore over the books, avaricious in his consumption of knowledge. Eventually, at the age of fourteen he had turned every page in the room. It was time to move on. One night it was raining incessantly, the sort of weather suitable to his plans. Waiting until the old Doctor was asleep, Felipe filled his school-bag with a few things and half a loaf with some cheese that he had saved. Following his idol Cortez, he had planned carefully and provisioned himself. He regretted nothing now, though it saddened him to think of the old man alone. In the lull between rain showers he was gone, his tracks dissolving into the mud.
Bond was interested, but getting lost fast.
'Very touching – but he told you all this over cocktails?'
'Just what I've told you really, I think it was a long time since he'd spoken to anyone – anyone who could offer him what I could.'
'And what could you offer?. To dear old Max, I mean?'
'Not that, if thats the way you think. I think it was because I'm a good listener really. Anyway, the rest is part what he told me and part sailor's gossip, I'm sure the truth is in between there somewhere...'
Bond smiled disarmingly. 'Well, lets see if we can't get to it between ourselves – the truth that is.' Her eyes narrowed, but he could see he was getting to this girl. Bond could only hope he reached her before she was missed.

The Cuba that flourished after the war years was increasingly both a haven and a magnet for organized crime. The girl recounted the story of how mobsters from the USA flooded to the island, no mere bandits these, but hard-nosed men from Chicago's Lower East side, New York State or Miami beach. Such men thought nothing of mixing business with murder, extortion and the numbers rackets that sprang up to replace the old speakeasy joints. After Batista seized power things got worse, and a new breed of men started to appear. Named after the Escopeteros of old, the rebel bands in the Mountain ranges of the Sierra Maestra and Escambray claimed allegiance to a number of causes. Acting as forward scouts for larger groups, the fame of these brigands spread across the whole region. One band, the 'Midnight Men' of the Sierra Maestra became especially feared. Named for their method of raiding pro-Batista villages during the dead of night, Los Hombres de Medianoche favoured the machete over the gun, carving for themselves a brutal reputation for indiscriminate killing and bloody reprisal. Then, nothing. As quickly as they had sprung up they were gone. It was only gradually that they were found; a farmer would find a body, gruesome with mutilation, lashed to a fence-post, sometimes just a severed head in a jug, a morbid warning against betrayal with echoes of the evil days before modern America had been formed. One by one the Midnight Men had met the end they themselves had brought to so many. It was said – in whispers, that they had been killed by one of their own, a man consumed with hate and revenge, so fearful of betrayal that all he could do was betray.

Castro!, the very name evocative of the new Cuba, to some a progressive liberator of the people, to others, chief among them the United States he was viewed with increasing alarm, despite earlier encouraging Batista to stand down and offering recognition to the fledgling government of the iconic figure. Originally from a wealthy family, the young lawyer's conversion to communism was well-documented. Fleeing to the Sierra Maestra
after his failed coup of 1953 he formed the 26th of July Movement, uniting the newly formed pro-communist Escopeteros bands – one of which was making more waves than most. Known as La Venganza de Cortes, (The spelling of Cortes with an 's' is from the Castillean tradition) they numbered no more than twenty at any one time. Strange rumours began to circulate – that each of the twenty had sworn a blood oath, that they had taken Conquistadore names, that they lived in the old mines that Cortes himself had once owned. Strangest of all was their leader – a young man now known only as Maximilian, of whom little was known – save that he had an odd obsession with history, and was said to carry a sword.
It is a truth that most men are born without apparent purpose; happy accident or unwanted burden, the whim of the fates and human desire – but a few, a tiny percentage seem to be born to fulfill a specific ambition, as if working to some hidden design. These singular characters are invariably individualists, often compulsive in nature with a drive that exceeds that of the normal. As the girl paused to light another cigarette, Bond considered the nature of his strange captor. It was obvious the murder of his father had triggered more than the simple need for revenge, no, this boy – now man was on a journey approaching that of a spiritual quest. Destiny was calling both men, but to what end?.

'So, thats about all I know – the next thing I knew I received an invitation to take a holiday aboard Max's yacht. We spent a couple of weeks in the Mediterranean, the Greek islands, Sicily then Majorca – all at Max's expense. He insisted on paying for everything – including Alfie.'
'Alfie?. A poodle?.'
'A car. My Alfa – I call him Alfie.'
'Him?, I thought cars were female.'
'This one is all man. He's Italian, temperamental, and likes to shout.'
'Oh, well mines British, also temperamental and he does his fair share of whining and roaring – but thats enough about me. In fact, I have a small confession.'
'Really?, oh James you don't look the type...'
'Well, its just that I'm falling madly in love with you and simply must have you – but I don't even know your name.'
'Well, my Dad certainly had a sense of humour. His name was Peter Turner, by the way. He named me Paige.'
'Paige...Turner. Well, I'll bet your school days were never dull. Anyway, we're wasting time – by the way, what time is it exactly?.'
Her watch showed a quarter to two, which gave Bond no more than five hour until daybreak.
'Well, Miss Turner. There's a few things I need you to do for me before I can help you, it might be a little risky so if you say no I'll understand.' Her answer was in the look she gave him, her arms folded defiantly. 'Good girl. Now, tomorrow I'll need to get hold of a few things and a diversion might be required. Which just leaves this.'
He kissed her, a fierce, hungry kiss born of need and lust. Her response came with breathless passion, the arms unfolding to embrace him, nails as claws holding, hurting him. His tongue sought hers, his eyes remaining open to see hers staring back into his. He felt himself hardening. An over-noisy clattering from the gangway outside separated the pair, the girl quickly smoothing herself down before nodding conspiratorially. There was just a brief glimpse of an exchange of notes with the guard before the door was locked shut once more.
At least the arrival of the guard had saved Bond from himself. Normally there was no possible circumstance in which he might have made love to a girl in such squalid surroundings. With Paige Turner, he was no longer sure of any such thing. Angrily, he lay down to rest, sleep being a virtual impossibility.

CHAPTER 11
ATLANTIC RENDEZVOUS

There is an old, trusted and well-proven axiom in the British Military; No plan survives first contact with the Enemy. A sleepy James Bond was reminded of this when, in the crepuscular light of the false dawn the Bayamo shuddered then coasted to a halt. As the yacht rolled lazily in the gentle swell, Bond quickly splashed some water into his face and, fully awake he went over to the porthole to be rewarded with the most unexpected sight. There, lying in the water not forty feet away was a Soviet Submarine!. The sub was massive, much larger than the usual diesel-electric Atlantic patrol jobs – with an array of pipework that was being extended to mate with the Bayamo, much like the old German 'Milk-Cows' of the War that the Kriegsmarine had used to refuel U-Boats at sea. One thing had become clear to 007; whatever the Bayamo's power plant was, it wasn't atomic – those pipes were conveying liquid fuel of some kind. But why all this?, why not simply re-fuel at the Azores? - the answer had to lie in the sub's tanks. Bond needed to get out of the cell – and there wasn't time to wait for the girl. He started work straight away, working on the bolts holding the bulkhead light cover on with an improvised tool he had made from the handles of the buckets, winding them together to make a sprung clamp that, once over the bolt-heads provided the leverage to turn them. Unscrewing the bulb a quick inspection of the light fitting revealed the wiring, which went to the light-switch in a panel by the door as well as to the yacht's auxiliary lighting circuits. So far so good, thought Bond, using the blade terminals of the bulb itself to remove the screws holding the panel to the bulkhead. Next, he pulled the switch wiring through the light fitting and yanked it free from the junction box behind. Then it was simple; plugging one end of the wires into the light fitting, he wound each of the other ends around the two bucket handles, one which he had carefully wedged under the coaming beneath the watertight door - the other now back in place on the water bucket, which was resting innocently on the edge of the mattress. Picking the empty bucket up, he started up a racket, banging and smashing it against the bulkhead and shouting 'Hey! estúpido! despertar idiota!'. After a few seconds, he heard the angry protest of the guard, the door starting to open. Timing his move to the second, Bond waited for the guard's foot to touch the metal floor before kicking the water bucket over, rolling back onto the mattress, careful to avoid touching the walls or floor. There was a flash of electricity and the unfortunate man went down, falling onto the wet floor heavily, his body convulsing spasmodically. Bond yanked the wire free from the light socket, grabbing the man's sub-machine gun and whipping it around to face the guard's partner, who had appeared in the doorway. Raising his hands, the man knew Bond had him cold.
'Allí, rápidamente!' Eyes wide, the second guard stepped over his colleague, standing awkwardly in the corner of the room. Bond relieved the man of his pistol, tucking it into a pocket. Smiling, he flipped a jaunty salute with the fingers of his left hand before swinging the door shut, dogging the latches at top and bottom to lock it. Cautiously, he made his way aft, reaching the bottom-most of three ladders that led up to the promenade deck. Moving silently, he went up, leaning into the rail, letting his sleeve guide him, anxious not to make any noise. Banging the metalwork with his sub-machine gun wouldn't help his cause. The next deck was apparently abandoned, but the noise from above had increased sharply. He decided to move to a better position, reasoning a few well-aimed bursts at the pipework might cause a big enough bang for London to investigate. He was halfway up the third ladder when the tannoy blared out.
'Mr.Taylor, would you join me in my State-room please?'.
Bond thought the unprintable word, closing his eyes in disgust.
'Mr.Taylor – I know you can hear this. There is no-where to go to my friend – I think we can talk, a man in your position can only benefit from such an offer.'

The yacht was racing through the sea, at a rate of knots that defied belief. The rendezvous with the refueling submarine had gone smoothly, and the Bayamo's tanks were full, but of what?. As he stepped into the corridor leading to the reception hall, James Bond knew he had been beaten. Even if he had opened fire on the Soviet Sub, he knew he wouldn't have achieved much. Indeed, apart from risking triggering World War Three, he would have failed in his objective. 'Find the source of these forgeries, investigate and report...' M's words came back to him. All he could do was hand over the sub-machine gun, pursing his lips as the grinning Chago frisked him, finding the pistol, which he waved admonishingly at Bond.

The 'Grandee of Florida' received his guest in a cordial fashion, this time in the State-room beyond the reception hall. This room was part-office, part lounge, with comfortable leather settees and coffee tables at one end. Again, the floor was marble – this time black with flecks of gold. The lounge area featured a large circular rug with the regal 'M' woven in golden thread. Maximilian stepped out from behind his desk, waving at an open globe containing drinks.
'Please – we have much to discuss, thirsty work as you Englishmen say. First, I apologise for striking you '
'Well, it only hurts when I'm awake.' Bond poured himself two fingers of scotch, watching as Maximilian took a cigar from a humidor that was apparently built into his desk. Using a cutter, he snipped the end off and lit it from a match, waiting until the wood was burning before doing so. He held the cigar up, inclining his head to indicate the offer.
'I'd prefer a cigarette, if that's alright – not that I make a habit of turning down a vintage Bolívar .'
Smiling at Bond's knowledge, Maximilian took a pack of cigarettes from a draw, leaving them on the desk and stepping back. Curious, Bond walked over, reaching for the pack – at which point his host slapped down a large bundle of US Dollars. They were Hundred-Dollar Bills, freshly printed by the look of them.
Bond lit a cigarette, noting the brand; Monterrey Superfinos Negros, made in Havana.
'So, let me guess – you like to smoke Cuban tobacco and burn Russian fuel - by the way - I should warn you Hydrogen Peroxide is exceptionally volatile, it wouldn't do to go anyway near it with one of those cigars...ugh'. Bond pulled a face, the scotch burned his tongue. A look at the label told him why; it was a hand-printed label bearing the name James Grant above a single number; 1899. 'Be a shame to waste it.' Was his first thought.
'So, I'm guessing that money is undetectable. It is, isn't it – fake I mean?.'
Maximilian clapped his hands together.
'I see I am right. You know, Chago – he wanted to kill you, but then he is always killing people. He killed my crewman, the one that betrayed my trust with his stupidity. Spending money before everything was in place; he deserved his death, every hour of it. You are a very resourceful and capable man, I am convinced of this. Clearly, you saw our fuel delivery – and guessed, correctly that we use Hydrogen Peroxide.'
'Yes, I seem to recall something of its use by the Nazis as rocket fuel – their new submarines were to have been powered by it, but it proved highly unstable in the concentrations they were attempting.'
'I believe the science is improved now – our Soviet Comrades in the Struggle for Socialist Revolution managed to - appropriate an entire team of experts from the German fascists. These men have been only too happy to continue their vitally important work in the USSR. Thanks largely to their efforts – and the generous donation of this vessel – as we speak we are only hours from the coast of the Peoples Republic.'
'Cuba? - but, that means the Bayamo must be sailing at... it can't be, that would make this capable of incredible speed.' His only answer was a modest bow and a smile.
'You were sent to find out my plans, so I asked the Captain of the Submarine to make a little call from his radio to our comrades in Moscow. They have a lot of files, so many files it took a little while for them to look through all the faces.'
Blowing smoke, Bond perched himself on the arm of a settee, waiting for the inevitable.
'So, what did your comrades have to say that a simple ship to shore call couldn't have said?.'
'Oh, not much – James Bond, Licenced to Kill, with a Double-O number believed to be 007, current whereabouts unknown, last reports seen entering British Secret Intelligence building in Hy...but, enough perhaps. They say you are a very dangerous man, Mr. Bond. Such men can be useful. It all depends on your point of view – whether you see a man as a revolutionary, or a criminal.'
'Politics?, I don't care for them – the games of old men and young fools.'
'Well, perhaps. Personally I consider myself to be above such matters, but that is just between the two of us. I am merely a claimant to the birthright denied to me by the – old men and young fools you mention.'
'Here we go,' thought Bond, but he kept the thought private, taking another drag of his cigarette, exhaling slowly.
'Birthright?'
'As I said before, I am the Marques de Bayamo, Grandee of Florida. These titles are mine by virtue of my birth. Long and careful studies were required for me to discover this, as you can imagine such titles are protected jealously by those in power. Both the Americans and the old Cuban Government (Bond detected undertones of pure venom in these last), both have denied to recognise my claims, Comrade Castro would simply laugh if told. My ancestors were of both Spanish and Indian blood, from when a Conquistadore by the name of Diego Vasquez ran off with a Tequesta woman. As her tribe inhabited the area now known as Miami, whilst Vasquez settled in the hills near Bayamo, the nature of my claim should become clear.'
'Well, I'm no genealogist, but I see the outline of it; but it's all coming up Red to me – The Russians I mean, Russia and Cuba – hardly consistent with claims of Royal titles.'
'A means to an end, my friend. You are a perceptive man, so you can probably guess what your fate would be if you turn me down. Either way, there is no further reason for secrets between us. As I say, my claims are ignored – I cannot take my rightful position; but if things changed, if there was a Global revolution...then I am assured of my place in History.'
The shine was back in Maximilian's eyes, Bond could see he would have to tread carefully, but also knew he hadn't heard all of it yet.
'So, You've done a deal?, to help ensure a Soviet revolution – Worldwide?, but that would mean...it's not possible!. You'd have to persuade the whole of Europe, The U.S.A and the Commonwealth to overthrow everything they've believed in for centuries!.'
'Just that. Everything is ready, it will happen, of that there can be no doubt. Considering the scale of my plans my demands for land and title are modest – although I will be the richest man on Earth. Such compensations are due to one who can achieve such a change - my friends in the Politburo agree, although not publicly naturally.'
'And of course, those same friends intend to honour their part of the bargain after the Revolution?.'
'I hope so. Moscow is such a pretty place, such delicate buildings. An Atomic Bomb exploding in Red Square would make such a terrible mess, don't you think, Mr. Bond?.'
Bond could feel the blood freeze in his veins. The last thing he needed now was the girl.

CHAPTER 12
THE FOURTH MAN

'Very still please, Mr. Bond – or shall I still call you James?.' The playfulness was gone from her voice, now there was only coldness. In her hand was the ugly shape of a pistol, Bond couldn't be sure, but from where he sat it looked like a Silenced Czech Model 27, part of the old German Abwehr armoury. From the little he remembered from the reports on the Abwehr, a few truck-loads of their more exotic kit was hauled off by the Soviets during the mad days after the war in Europe. Whoever this girl worked for, she was clearly deadly serious. Gone was the silk gown, in favour of a military-cut one piece in beige. Somehow she still managed to look ravishing, even in such an austere outfit.
'Darling, I think we need to talk – its a bit soon for us to be fighting.' Bond's humour fell on stony ground.
'Personally, I am in agreement with my British friend here – why the gun?.' Maximilian turned to his desk as if to get the pile of bills. Bond guessed there was either an alarm button under the draws or a gun in one.
'Thats far enough, Max. I wouldn't want you to die without knowing why.' The self-styled Grandee smiled, his arms apart in an expansive gesture.
'O.K. - but you should know, putting that gun on the table – well, you'd become very rich indeed.'
'I am very rich – you made me rich, Max, or don't you remember?.' The two men exchanged glances, Bond reading the confusion in Maximilian's eyes – and an unspoken plea for help.
'My father's name was Turner, everyone called him Peter; he was that sort of man, but as Sir. Anthony Peter Stanley Turner (Bond nearly choked on his Scotch) the press loved to call him Turn-Coat Turner, or Red Tony. He was unmasked as the fourth man in the R.A.F. Super-sonic bomber plot, a coward who took his own life rather than face what he had done, but I suppose you listen to the World Service.'
'Of course; Radio Free Havana is a little heavy on propaganda for my tastes – though the dance programmes are delightful.' Maximilian saw the look in her eyes and stopped. Paige clenched her jaw, delaying the moment, her voice coarse with the struggle of emotion and reason.
'Was our meeting at the Consulate really chance?. You forgot to mention a few things that night; that you were responsible for my Father's death for one. All I knew was that Daddy had walked into the sea, leaving Jonny and me in that car. Only he didn't, did he?. When exactly did you decide to betray my Father?. I know he was taking us somewhere, we were going to the beach. A boat-ride, Daddy said, then we were to have a new house, clothes and all of that. A new life, Max.'
'Paige, there's more to this than it...' Bond held his hands up, his words tailing off as Maximilian stepped forward.
'Yes. I was there - the rendezvous was your Father's idea, he wanted a boat to take you to the Yugoslavian coast. At the time I was still conducting the sea-trials for this yacht – it really is most unique, such a lot of complicated machinery. Lucky for me it came with, shall we say technical experts?. I was waiting off your Kent coast, a delightful little bay – named for Saint Margaret I recall. Your Father never arrived. I am sorry, I had nothing to do with his death.'
'Yes, I rather thought so.' Bond ignored the mouth of the silencer as it followed his track across the room. Careless to the threat, he set down his glass, looking through the drinks globe, spotting a bottle of 1790 Courvoisier & Curlier brandy. He had a plan involving flaming liquid – but not sacrilege. Sighing inwardly, he selected a bottle of 1928 Krug, nonchalantly tossing it into the air to catch it single handed, a display of faux camaraderie, his fingers working fast, tearing at the foil.
'I know - let's celebrate – I mean, since old Max here is going off so suddenly it seems only fair he gets a last drink...' Bond paused, shrugging, as he walked onto the
POK! The cork shot past Paige's startled face, an inch from her nose. Bemusement turned to amusement at the near miss.
'Words fail me, James – is that the best the British Secret Service can do?.'
'Well, ask me that in a minute...' Taking his thumb from the neck of the bottle, he let her have it, a good Thousand Pound's worth right in the face, leaning down sharply to wrench the rug from under her feet. She fell awkwardly, banging her elbow hard onto a coffee table as she went, the gun shattering through the glass top to clatter harmlessly onto the marble.
'Bravo!' After a moment, Maximilian had recovered his composure enough to applaud Bond's trick as the latter checked the girl. His smile became a clench of his teeth around the cigar. 'Did she break her pretty neck?.'
The girl was soaked and dazed, but mainly furious at herself for falling for the cheap trick. Angrily, she batted away Bond's offer of a helping hand, rolling around to pull herself up with her good left arm. Her right was clearly injured. Maximilian's attention was distracted by a discreet chiming, walking across to press a button on a panel built into his desk. Bond seized the chance to scoop up the gun and whisper.
'You'll just have to believe I had no choice – you'll thank me later.'
She stared at Bond in disbelief, taking his handkerchief to wipe herself down as best as she could with one arm.
Turning towards Maximilian, 007 waited for him to finish speaking into the intercom.
'Sí, sí, lo entiendo. Vamos a necesitar que te lo arreglen, sin embargo. Informar a mí a la vez.' Taking his finger from the button, the Cuban pointed at the pistol Bond was now aiming at his heart.
'You know, you cannot kill me. My destiny is predetermined, as is your own.'
'I won't miss, Max. All I want is to know where a few things are; for starters the printing press those notes came from, the plates and so forth. Oh, and where exactly is that Atomic bomb of yours?, I think your Comrades might like to know, perhaps we'd better let them know the disarming codes as well – Two World Wars were enough, don't you agree, Miss Turner?.'
Reaching forward, Maximilian dramatically lowered a down-turned index finger slowly onto the intercom button, whistling in mimicry of a bomb falling through the air.
'Max, enough!.' But the finger was on the button.
'Chago. De aquí a dos hombres, de forma inmediata.'
Bond took the shot – or would have. An ominous snik! Told him the game was up, the noisy arrival of Chago and two goons confirming it. .
'I trust no-one, not even pretty faces. Perhaps I should have known Turner was your Father – but I only knew his code-name. By the time I put it together – well, how was I to know this?. All I knew was someone was being sent to assassinate me; and firing-pins can be so easily filed down without it being noticed.' Pressing another button, the curtains pulled back to reveal the stunning vista outside. No longer were they surrounded by the open Atlantic, but in a bay of fabulous beauty, just a small concrete jetty to show any sign of habitation amongst the sand and lush vegetation. The beach ended with the jungle to one side, the other a bluff, a rocky outcrop that would do for a cliff-diver's dreams. The sun was setting swiftly, the sky turning golden, then falling into shades of orange and red.
Chago leered at the girl, her lissom figure revealed to his lecherous gaze by the damp material clinging to it.
'Welcome to Cuba. I think you like it here, we gon' be very close you an' me, eh?.'
Bond struck the brute with a resounding slap.
'Mind your manners, she's not one of your dance hall girls.' Wiping his lip, Chago grinned, all bad teeth and worse breath.
'Okay Mister. I think you are dead, but between now an' then – well, that can be such a long time...'
Maximilian lit another cigar, walking ahead of the two prisoners and their guard. 'First we better get that arm seen to. You'll both need to be in good shape for what lies ahead.'
Turning to them, his smile was that of a shark.
'Of course, afterwards you might have preferred I let Chago have his fun – but, who knows?, perhaps it is true what they say, that there are worse things than death?.'

CHAPTER 13
THE LEITER SIDE

They were bundled into the back of a big American Ford station wagon, with one of Maximilian's men at the wheel and another covering them with a Russian Tokarev, the heavy pistol advising both passengers of the inadvisability of escape attempts. The car pulled onto the road behind a Buick sedan, which had four more aboard – presumably part of whatever organisation Maximilian was running on the island. With no choice, Bond sat back in his seat, the girl doing her furious best to ignore both him and the pain in her arm as they jolted along the rough track. From the condition of the road Bond guessed it was an old smuggler's track, but had recently been graded for some purpose. Gradually, the tension of the day faded, his resources at a low ebb. He allowed himself to nod, conserving his energy for a better time. It was no more than twenty minutes later that Bond was startled into wakefulness, even as the Ford's brakes screamed their protest at being stamped on. Bracing himself against the bench seat in front, he shielded his eyes from a blinding, dazzling light that was filling the windshield; just as the world exploded.
The volley of shots was awesome in its ferocity, the side-windows of the leading car shattering into fragments, a split-second before the windshield of the Ford crazed, the driver throwing his hands across his face even as he died. Bond threw himself across the girl, but not before he saw the thug with the Tokarev cut down after no more than three paces from the wrecked car. There were shapes, blurred shapes of men crowding in, the door was wrenched open and there were rough hands reaching in for them. As the girl was dragged screaming from the car Bond put up a struggle, but it was hopeless in such a confined space, against the roughnecks who pinned him to the side of the car. Getting a good look at the gang didn't lift Bond's spirits, a ragged bunch that seemed to have come from some second-rate Mexican western novel.
'Camaradas, eso es suficiente!' Oddly, the voice seemed familiar, coming from a hunched figure sitting on the hood of an old truck. Sliding down to stand in front of the couple, the man seemed amused at their predicament, before becoming serious again.
'Poner los cuerpos en los autos y rollo de ellos en el río, rápidamente!'. At this command the bandits set to work, moving the bodies and pushing the cars off the road, down a small incline where, with a final splash, they slowly sank from view.
'Well, don't you turn up at the darndest places?.' Bond's jaw might have sagged if it wasn't for the flush of relief he felt. It was none other than Felix Leiter!.

'I could say the same for you, Felix.' The two men shook hands, before Leiter embarrassed Bond with a crushing hug.
'Whats with the desperadoes?, have you gone into the Banditry profession or is the CIA recruiting from Pancho Villa lookalike agencies these days?.'
'Still the same British sense of humour I see – who knows, one day I might even laugh?. Come on, we'd better get going.'
Pointing at the passenger side of the cab, Felix climbed in behind the wheel, starting the engine coughing into life as the men clambered over the side into the truck-bed. Paige refusing Bond's offered help as she hauled herself up to sit on the bench, then ignoring his broad smile as he shut the door. The rangy Texan hit the gas, sending gravel chips flying. They drove without lights, using the moon as guidance to stay on the road under the royal palms. Paige couldn't help but notice the golfing glove on the right hand – which seemed oddly frozen. Looking across, Bond had seen it too.
'You approve?.'
'Well, it's better than that hook – damn thing made you look like a pirate.'
'Prosthetic hand.' Felix smiled at Paige. 'The right leg too – souvenir of an encounter with a shark.' Felix drove fast, the old truck's engine burbling and rumbling along. Lighting a Chesterfield, the CIA man offered the pack around. Ice duly broken, Bond made the introductions as they smoked. At a junction the truck took a right to start winding its way up into the hills. Cigarette between his teeth, Felix jerked a thumb backwards.
'These are my compañeros, very useful guys – not exactly the kind to ask questions or likely to go to the authorities here. They were small-time smugglers when I arrived.'
The girl seemed interested.
'And now?.'
'Now, sweetheart, they're in the big leagues. With relations as bad as they are, there's getting to be a shortage of most everything round here; auto parts, gasoline – hell even these Chesterfields had to come in through us. About the only thing they've got plenty of are cigars and Mafia bosses in hiding – I export both, by the way.'
'Mafia bosses?' Paige seemed incredulous.
'Transmissions and gas in; hand-rolled Havanas and hoodlums back out; the cigars in boxes, the hoods in, well hoods and cuffs. Our State Department doesn't ask too many awkward questions and Big Tony gets five to life.'
'O.K. Felix, I get the picture.' Bond cut in, helping himself to a swig of Bourbon from a bottle he had found wedged under the seat. 'We can't exactly talk shop here, but I'm on a job and I've come up a little short. I could use some of that American largess of yours – I'll need a few things, but first this poor creature has gone and hurt her arm, (There was a sharp kick to his ankle) I don't suppose you know any good vets?.'
Smiling, Leiter shook his head.
'Same old James. Always right in the middle of it – and there's always a girl in there with him.'
Bond tried his best to appear innocent of the charge, Paige fixing him with a wicked stare.
'Oh really, Dear, you mustn't listen to strange men, especially strange men from Texas.'
The air behind the cab was filled with singing, the rough band unwinding from the tense encounter and the shock of gunfire. Gradually the palms gave way to cuban pines and ferns, growing high either side of the track which was taking them ever deeper into the occluded slopes and safety of the Sierra Maestra.

Dawn over the mountains. Bond woke early, to find Felix already making coffee. They were in a large shack in an old mining village. In the main communal room Paige was still sleeping in the cot Felix had made up for her, her arm in a sling. At first the elbow had appeared broken, but between them Leiter and a guilty Bond had managed to twist and manipulate it back into shape, the girl's courage impressive as she took the pain in grim silence. Taking pity on his friend, Leiter had gone round his gang to return with what might have passed for clothes at a respectable distance and uncertain lighting. Bond found a stone trough and hurried through his ablutions. Toweling himself he joined his friend on the veranda, accepting a steaming mug of the coffee, the smoky brew rich and dark like the soil of the green hills. No-one actually knew the name of this place; the copper miners had laid their tools down here for the last time in the early part of the century, making the dilapidated collection of sheds and huts ideal as a base for Felix and his unorthodox associates. The two men sat together in silence, contemplating the misty valley and taking in the early morning sounds. From somewhere below a squawking was followed by a flash of iridescence as a parrot erupted from the foliage, calling out with raucous cries mid-flight. Bond had hoped to see one of the famous Tocoloro birds, but had to make do with hearing them call to each other, the distinctive sound giving them their name. He took a Chesterfield and closed his eyes, enjoying the simple feel of life.
'So, James, how am I going to get rid of you this time – and what's the story; you and the girl, I mean?.'
'Okay Felix, I'll show you mine... but you first; how did you know where to pick us up?, Thewlett?.'
'Right on the money, your Royal Marine pal. He'll live, by the way, but he won't be diving any time soon. When the equipment drop went sour your people hit the button – we were watching that boat right out of the Azores, the Navy boys are fighting to get a better look at her. Our long range patrol planes picked up the Soviet sub too – she was last seen heading back to Murmansk or wherever the hell they keep those babies.'
'So you set up that ambush last night – pretty slick. But you haven't been living up here just waiting for me to come along...'.
Getting to his feet, Felix tossed away the last remnants of his coffee, leaning against a roofing post.
'James its not a good time. Frankly, we've got a lot going on down here and Washington's furious – cables to London and all that. Your Mister 'M' is going to need broad shoulders to catch what's coming over this. Now this is strictly between us; I'm putting together a network of anti-Castro people sympathetic to US interests in the region. With orders to remove him, by peaceful means if possible...'
Bond stood.
'And if not?.'
Moodily, Leiter threw his mug down.
'Look, I don't always like my job, but I've got orders. You are out of here on the next boat – that's final, by the way. I haven't got orders about the girl, take her with you for all I care. I'm sorry James, but the interests of the United States come first.'
'So thats it – I'm stepping on toes...'. Bond was angry, he was in an impossible situation, but pushed on regardless.
'Well, I've got my orders too, Felix. I've got to find out where that lunatic Max makes his money, I'm supposed to call it in and just wait for London to make the necessary calls to your people. Well, what would you say to a bit of nuclear blackmail? - that the man's involved in some mad scheme to take over Florida – that's Florida in the United States by the way – and whatever the means behind it, he's threatening to set off an atomic bomb in the middle of Moscow. Now, supposing he does that?, who do you think will get the blame?.'
'Okay James, nice speech. In the light of what you've told me I need to make a few calls, as we're buddies I'll even spin you a quarter for an international call – I'm sure dear old 'M' is just dying to hear from you.'
The shack Felix kept his radio gear in was set apart from the others, on a hummock further up the hillside. As they walked, Bond was surprised to see a group of women washing clothes on the rocks by a small stream, there were even a few children, the urchins playing in the water or with the older women collecting leaves in baskets – presumably to roll into the crude cigarros smoked by both the compañeros and their women. Idly Bond wondered what would become of these people once the inevitable orders arrived for Felix. Assuming Castro's survival, these peasant-bandits would be hunted down, with the ruthlessness for which the revolutionary leader was becoming known. Inside, the shack itself was a sparse business; no more than an old chair and a table, the set waiting expectantly on top. The power came from a trio of truck batteries wired in series.
'O.K. James – Guests first, now this is the latest equipment, so I'll give you a run-down...'
'Ah yes, the RS-1 field set – let me see now.' Seating himself astride the chair, Bond's fingers moved expertly across the dials. 'Lets see...3-6 Mega Cycles, its half past six so Station C should be listening on this band. Really Felix, you should have done your homework – we borrowed two of these for evaluation from the manufacturer last year.'
'I might have known.' Chastened, Felix watched as Bond worked the set, one earphone to his left ear as he began tapping out high-speed morse on the key, repeating his call-sign at ten second intervals. Over his shoulder, Bond spoke quietly.
'What are the Cubans like at direction-finding?.'
'Russian equipment and instructors – so first-class, I'd say three minutes is a risk, five is dangerous.' That meant Bond had two minutes before the Cuban intelligence men were alerted to their presence by the radio waves coming from the hill-top. Luckily, Kingston was on the ball, sending the pre-arranged reply within thirty seconds. Keeping one eye on the second-hand of his watch, Bond switched over to voice transmission – the time factor making the risk a necessity.
'Station-C from Barracuda, Barracuda urgent. Respond over.' There was the briefest of delays before the voice from Kingston replied; female – a wren, no doubt, the tones neutrally British and deliberately so for clarity and reassurance to agents under pressure in the field.
'Station-C to Barracuda. Verify please, Yellow-Three, Over.' Bond shut his eyes, trawling his memory for the correct response.
'Barracuda, Blue-Five. Emergency report; Barracuda at cousin Virginia's house. Inform Father current situation unresolved. Inform Father possible situation Black Sun at Red Castle, I repeat possible Black Sun Red Castle. Do not verify, many thanks, Barracuda Out.'
'Well, that ought to set alarm bells going – thanks Felix, I'll wait outside, but first I need another favour, strictly between us, you understand.'
'Go on.'
'Just this; the girl. She said something back on that boat that set me thinking, something about her father, chap by the name of Turner, better write this down; Sir. Anthony Peter Stanley Turner no less. He was feeding the other side secrets; the new bomber fleet, that kind of stuff. He's dead, suicide by drowning, but we thought at the time there was more to it than that and...' Felix's eyebrows were raised quizzically, willing Bond to get to it. 'It's probably nothing, but I can't quite figure out how she knew.'
'Knew?, James, this really needs to make more sense.'
'Exactly; how in hell did she know that Max was involved with her father's death?, I mean, he admitted as such himself. Who put her on to him?.'
'Maybe dear old daddy told her himself.'
'Its possible. I don't like it, Felix, not a bit of it, but I can't mention this to London or the old man will have my head. Puffing at an imaginary pipe, Bond mimicked 'M's voice; “You have an assignment Double-O-Seven, I expect you to keep it.”
Smiling, Felix turned to the radio set.
'Okay James, I get the picture. Leave it to Uncle Felix, I'll ask my Uncle Sam if he knows anything about a certain green-eyed redhead.'
Patting his friend's shoulder in thanks, Bond stretched his legs while Felix sent his report. He had kept his own report to a minimum, but knew that a coded signal was being sent straight off to London. He smiled to himself at the vision of 'M' choking on his pipe over the Black Sun and Red Castle bit – the code-words for an Atom Bomb and Moscow respectively. Three short minutes passed and Felix was standing next to him.
'Well, James that was interesting – seems my reports are being flashed straight to Kennedy's desk – and I just got this, straight from the top; lets hit the town.'

CHAPTER 14
CUBA LIBRE!

Much to Bond's surprise, Havana seemed largely unchanged despite the Revolution. There were signs, of course, from the trucks full of soldiers that rushed past at intervals, to the slogans that adorned almost every large flat surface. Venceremos – ANTIIMPERIALISTA – Patria o Muerte! And images of Castro's benevolent smile seemed to follow the trio's progress into the city. They were in Felix's pride and joy – a practically new Chevrolet Impala, with Bond at the wheel. Even for someone who usually detested over-sized jukeboxes, he had to admit the car was a beauty. Enjoying the smooth power of the 300 horses mated to the Turboglide automatic transmission Bond was enthralled. The coil suspension made for easy cornering – not something for which Detroit was famous. The downtown traffic was fairly hectic, a mix of ancient farm-trucks and horse-carts at the outskirts had been replaced by taxis and motor traffic. Cruising through the streets of Habana Vieja with its Spanish colonial and baroque buildings the centuries crowded in on all sides around the singular threesome. A market was in full flow, all hustle and shouting, the goods on offer either riotous with the cheerful local colour and tastes or everyday groceries, the familiar made oddly unfamiliar by the labels and packaging.
'Turn left here, James. We need to do something about your wardrobe.'
Bond merely glanced over at his friend, himself in a loud floral shirt and white panama hat, shaking his head. Amused, Paige's smile turned to a wince of discomfort as they went over a pothole.
'How's that arm, Miss Turner?.'
'Nothing that a hot bath couldn't cure, thank you.'
'All in hand, but we need to make a stop first.'
The Chevrolet purred into a dark alleyway lined with shops. Halfway along the crumbling buildings with their faded wooden shutters Felix indicated a space beside a second hand furniture warehouse. Leading the way, the American took them through the warehouse past the piled antique mahogany and newer pine, Bond noting the decline in quality; a sure sign of economic hardship. There was a courtyard behind the warehouse, beyond that the noise and bustle of a busy cafe next door to the tailor's shop that was their destination.
'Ramon! réveiller mon pote!, voici les clients! - Ramon is a Frenchman exiled here for, lets say Political reasons. He's the best cloth cutter outside of New York.'
'I used to work in Jermyn Street before the war.' Ramon himself was, at first glance, a fish out of water. His features were lined from what looked a mixture of a life of hardship and the creases around his forehead from long hours of concentration. If Bond had to guess, he'd say a quarter jewish with morrocan or algerian lineage mixed in with a drop of gaelic for odd measure. The tape around his tired shoulders was worn as a doctors stethoscope or a P.T. Instructors whistle, there was even the expected chalk behind the ear. Standing by a wall of draws and shelves Bond idly tried one, finding it full of handkerchiefs.
'Ramon we're in your hands. My friend here needs a couple of suits and evening dress for tonight.'
'The last minute – always, a week; other people, half a day?, I should change my name to Ramon Half a day, Ramon Halfday is better – you are from England?.' Bond's look at Leiter was batted down by the yellowed hand. 'Don't worry, no questions and no drill – I know the score.' The tape measured, the chalk wrote. 'Let's have a natural shoulder with canvas – a plain weave, nice and light. I'm pushed for time here so single-breasted, two buttons and the usual. For shoes its a derby – I don't do them myself, but I know a nice man...size?.'
'I take a ten and a half wide, US eleven.' Bond looked through a selection of ties, picking a few he hoped were suitable.
'Side-adjusters or loops?' Bond chose the former.
'Right – where do I send it all, Felix?.'
'We'll be at the Capri.'
Back in the Chevrolet, Bond followed Felix's instructions, the old town giving way now to broad avenues, the buildings here more angular and purposeful than the rococo facades before them.
'I was hoping for the Nacional, by the way.'
'Well, you'll be there tonight if my information is worth the twenty sawbucks it cost.'
'Tonight?.'
'Tonight, James. First we need to check in at the Capri, I just hope Benny's still around.'
'Benny?.'
'Yes James, Benny – lets just say he's the man who put the Capo in the Capri.'
To Bond's disdain the Capri was a modern concrete brick of a place, the kind that flourished under Batista, where rich Americans left their Cadillacs with the valet and crocodile-skin luggage with the porters to head straight for the tables or the slots. Castro was famously opposed to gambling, having closed down the casino at the Nacional just the previous year. The Capri was mob money, an investment in greed that saw big returns in the post-war boom. The actor George Raft had owned a chunk of the place, along with the gangsters Trafficante and Lansky but the times had changed and the action fell away to Vegas. The desk clerk seemed suspicious of the young couple who walked nervously into the lobby, more so of the brash American who busied himself stuffing bills into the pocket of the porter and making a point of letting everyone know that he was loaded – in both senses of the word. Visibly anxious, Bond was still waiting for his papers to come through; a mix-up at Miami, his bride hadn't realised she needed papers in her married name, the Americans trust no-one going to the Republic and what nicer place to be stranded?. Falling in with the deception, Paige complained about the luggage – they didn't lose your bags in London, she would have to go shopping all over again and what would the Barrington-Smythes make of it all?. Picking his moment, rudely elbowing over to the counter, Leiter slapped down his passport (Mr.Whitman), snapping his fingers for his room key and leaning with his back to the desk. The clerk bought none of it, until Leiter butted in with his tourist guide, open at an inviting little place called bribery – US $100 the exact address. Having checked in, they went up to their rooms, 'Whitman' on the eighteenth while 'Mr and Mrs.Forbes' took the Laguna Suite above on the top floor. The clerk waited a full five minutes before dialing through to the Policía Nacional Revolucionaria.

The Laguna Suite was impressive in the American way; everywhere was a lake of sand-coloured carpet of the deepest possible pile, split-level, with anti-clockwise stairs down to a lounge area beyond the reception platform and the bedroom area opposite up another set of stairs curving to the clockwise. There was a gallery running along the back of the suite linking bedroom to bathroom to the entrance area. Bond tipped the porter and went for a walk around. The furniture was modern and looked expensive, the centre-piece of the lounge started with a monstrous crystal chandelier, a waterfall of a thing that twinkled and spiraled down to just above a large circular glass table, which itself covered a miniature rockery pool. There had probably been fish once, but not now. Idly Bond wondered if Castro had declared them political prisoners and set them free. Fishy revolutionaries. The thought amused him, so much so he began whistling 'The Red Banner'.
'A Communist anthem in a museum of Capitalism.' Paige was smiling at him from the balcony, and he was reminded of how badly he had wanted this strange girl.
'Actually, I prefer Capitalism. Neither is perfect, but at least the greed is visible.'
'Speaking of Capitalism, I'm going shopping.'
'The missing luggage?.'
'If I go another hour without some fresh clothes I'll go quite mad. Since you nearly broke my arm I don't expect any complaints.'
'Not at all. I'll stay here – just in case Felix decides to let me know what he's up to. By the way-' Bond was genuinely contrite. '- I am sorry for hurting you; no really, I am. I had to stop you because that maniac is involved in some extremely dangerous business, when I find out more you can kill him all you like. Do we have a deal?.'
'Do I have a choice?.'
Bond seized her by the good arm, spinning her to face him.
'Look, I can't play silly bloody games!. You're in over your damn head here – this is no place for a girl with revenge on her mind. To hell with it. Go and get your fresh clothes, I need a bloody drink.' She strode out, leaving Bond angry at everything and nothing. To hell with it.

'In at the deep end again, huh?.'
'Benny!. Benny the Breeze – am I glad to see you. Thank Christ for the mob.'
Felix had been nursing a coffee at the bar in the Hotel nightclub. He was the only patron there, apart from the bartender there was just a couple of dancers going through a routine for tonight's cabaret. The girls were pretty, but the dancing was more hope than talent.
Ordering a beer, Benny helped himself from a bowl of peanuts, watching the girls while he waited. 'Not exactly the Rockettes, but they were all we could get.'
'They look like a couple of chamber maids playing dress-up.'
'They are chamber maids, Felix. All the pros hoofed it back to Miami when the locals found religion. So, you came for the show?.'
Holding his hands up, the CIA man's smile was tight-lipped.
'Okay Benny. Look, some business is coming that, well it won't be nice – or quiet.' The look on 'The Breeze's' face was so markedly everyday it was a give-away. All this was meat and potatoes to this man.
'Well, what's our end? - what are the numbers?. Come on Felix, quit the choirboy routine – we both know you wouldn't be in this joint if your Hillbilly Zapatas could have done the job. Which means two things, my friend; One; Money, a lot of it. Two; More of Item One...'.
'Never a problem.'
Benny spluttered into his beer, dabbing at his shirt with a napkin.
'Whoa-whoa-now I'm worried. Somebody says 'No problem' there's problems. Who's going to get upset by this not-very-nice, not-very-quiet business?.'
Felix told him, from what he knew; the opposition was professional, but he didn't know their true extent, or if they had ties with the Cubans themselves beyond the tenuous bond of Political fraternity.
'I'll need an army, that's about all I know. If they could be exiled Cubans it would make a good cover – it's all simmering over here anyway.'
'So I hear. Me, I got friends in a lot of places, friends who tell me the future's rosier back home. Maybe you got friends. Maybe I should head for the roses. Maybe...'
'Maybe you need a cleaner record. Okay Benny, I owe you that much.'
'For what?.'
'Oh, for not squealing on my, what was that, Hillbilly Zapatas?.'
'Who says I didn't?. I told the Secret Police you were hiding out in the Escambray mountains.'
'Benny, you should have gone into Intelligence work.'
'Nah, I'd rather be wise than intelligent. Catch the midnight show, I'll keep a table back for you and those two love-birds you are babysitting.'

Room Service was neither fast nor efficient, Bond decided, calling down in annoyance to cancel the sandwich that hadn't arrived, no doubt to the amusement of the secret police. It was no great leap to guess that every line into the place was tapped. Deciding to skip lunch, he plumped for a swim instead. The hard work that had gone to making this place clockwork-smooth had obviously left to follow the money. At least the rooftop pool made up for it; the view was breathtaking, the long, dramatic curve of the bay on one side and the whole of the island the other, stretching away into its own horizons. Paige hadn't returned – still shopping with the money Felix had given her, no doubt. Bond had managed to scrounge a pair of Bermuda Shorts from one of the maids – without embarassing her too much about what else guests left behind. He'd hoped for a bar up here, but least there was a trolley. In experimental mood, he tried the local beers; the Cristal was passable, the second bottle less so. Abandoning the experiment, he went over to the glass railing, reasoning that he had might as well act like a tourist. Here was the view of American conquerors that could never have been enjoyed by the real Conquistadors – and suddenly Bond knew what it was about this place; a killer from an advanced race arriving from the sea – the thrill of blood and lure of gold, the easy metal that drives man to murder his friend, his neighbour. The natives!, they knew where it was!. Only there was no gold – had never been; just the blood of innocents washing into the surf. At once the centuries hit Bond like a fist in the stomach, and he felt sick to its pit. Suddenly he needed the cleansing embrace of the cool water. The surface erupted into foam as he dived in.
It was after six when Bond woke up, calling down to the front desk again, he ordered for two, reasoning the girl would be back before the meal – if it arrived at all. The bathroom was a lavish riot of mirrors and natural stone, all in keeping with the lagoon theme – all too natural to be anything but man-made. He poured himself a bath, finding some bath salts which he thew in to help ease the tension he was beginning to feel. He knew the feeling of old, this deep in what was effectively enemy territory. It would pass. Turning the taps off he leant back, eyes closed. After a much-needed soak he heard the door to the suite opening. It was the girl, Bond covering himself quickly with a towel as she waved in a troupe of porters laden with cases, boxes and bags of every kind. Tipping each extravagantly, she waved their gratitude off with a smile. Finding a pair of bath robes bearing the hotel's moniker Bond emerged just in time to catch her hiding something behind her back, the mischievous sparkle of emeralds in her eyes.
'Darling – there you are, I hope you don't mind I picked up a few things.'
Bond was incredulous; clearly she had thawed out somewhat.
'Well, at least the room's big enough – where did you get all this?, I thought luxury goods were hard to come by here.'
'Not as hard as American Dollars are now. Felix was incredibly generous – he said business was good, that the money couldn't leave the island anyway. Everyone's simply bursting with enthusiasm for the Revolution, James, so much so they'll sell anything to get out. The nice man in the tobacconist said he'd been keeping the box since before the war.'
'Box?.' She handed him a package wrapped in old brown paper, standing close, all pout and eyelashes.
'Don't be angry with me James, after all it is our honeymoon.' Bond couldn't keep his jaw closed as the paper tore to reveal a plain-looking cigar box. There was a label inside, a faded piece of paper bearing the inscription Montecristos with the signature A.Menéndez.
'I wouldn't have believed it. How much did you...'
But there were no more words, just her lips seeking his. They kissed hungrily, almost hurting each other in their need. Bond felt her tongue between his lips, pushing it aside with his, as if struggling with her for dominance.
They were interrupted by the arrival of dinner, Bond stepping out for a quick – much needed - cigarette on the balcony while the waiters arranged the trays on the glass and side-tables. From their suite he could see, could hardly miss the imposing facade of the Hotel Nacional, one of the most remarkable hotels anywhere in the World, the Spanish Colonial style building actually a product of a New York firm of architects. Simply the place for the 'In' crowd, a haven for every-one from The Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to the stars of sports and screen; names such as Dempsey, Keaton, Flynn, Grable and Gardner, Astaire, Romero, Cooper and Sinatra, so many names! Add Churchill and Hemingway! And the stars were serenaded by yet more names; Eartha Kitt and Nat 'King' Cole just two.
A discreet cough signaled the table was set. Paige tipped the waiters as Bond joined her, pulling a bottle of Dom Perignon '43 from the bucket.
'Max likes to open the bottle with a sword – I think he wants to style himself as some sort of Cuban Napoleon.'
Bond pulled the bottle smoothly from the cork, pouring two coupes. Handing Paige hers he raised his glass, with mock ceremony and dramatic intonation;
'Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.'
'De Gaulle?.'
'God no – almost as bad; Napoleon.'
Giggling, she took a sip. Saluting, she proposed a toast.
'To Napoleon; to all short Frenchmen everywhere – and their horses.'
Her smile fell away at the serious look on James Bond's face.
'To us. To tonight – and the devil take tomorrow.'
She touched his outstretched glass.
'To us, James.'
He drank thirstily, draining his glass.
'Now, lets see what the chef is made of.' Lifting the lids on their platters he uncovered their meal with a flourish of the hand.
'Ceviche de Langosta' - Lobster Ceviche followed by 'El Pez espada a la Plancha con Patatas dulces – Grilled Swordfish with sweet potatoes. For dessert we have Dulce de Platano, thats ripe plantains cooked in wine, sugared and spiced.'
They helped themselves, in the local style – from the bowl, eating the meal with gusto and abandon. The Ceviche was wonderfully light, the Dom Perignon perfect for cleansing the palate between each delicious mouthful. Bond had to pace himself, his stomach filling rapidly, this meal more than making up for the shabby service earlier. By the second course, any thoughts of recrimination had melted like the sea-salted butter dripping over the chunks of Swordfish, the meat being fresh and firmer than the usual flaky offerings from the freezer of European restaurants.
Paige was in heaven. She had simply never eaten so well, with no Mother to learn from and a Father not prone to wasting time or effort with fancy cuisine. By the dessert, both had to admit defeat. Bond pushing his plate away with the satisfied mien of the aesthete.
Slapping her hands together, Paige took her glass over to the couch where she had left
the cigars, producing a pair of what looked like nail scissors to cut one. Handing it to Bond, she held out her other hand – as well as the cutter there was a silver Zippo lighter.
'Well James, aren't you going to smoke it?.'
'Yes, of course. But, what's this?.' The lighter was crudely inscribed – For James, Paige.
He thanked her with a kiss, but she slipped away to get a packet of Cohibas from a clutch purse that lay on top of her pile of goods. Each lost in the view, they smoked in silence, Bond enjoying the sacrilege of sending such a rarity up in smoke. The Montecristo was cool, aromatic and burnt with a richness beyond comparison. With the sparkle of Vedado, the nightclub district around them and the low rumble of the surf beyond the inviting lights of the Nacional, they might have been in paradise had it not been for the circumstances. In the gardens surrounding the Nacional, a man lowered his binoculars. He had seen enough. He had seen Bond and the girl, had seen his target for tonight.

While Bond savoured the Montecristo, Paige took a well-earned bath, emerging clad in a towel to find him, amused, looking through the results of her expedition. Slapping his hand away from her waist, she gracefully dodged away with a bag in each hand, disappearing up the stairs with a stern look that brooked no arguments. Bond found the panel for the radio, selecting a latin dance station, practicing a few steps before going for another look at the view.
In the back of the taxi, a pair of gloved hands opened a long case, extracting a long tube of steel and a receiver, which snapped together with a twist. An 'L' shaped piece of steel with a thick rubber pad on the bottom was next, slotting into the back of the receiver. Finally, a smaller tube, a telescopic sight was clipped on top and the rifle was complete. There were two magazines in the case; one containing five rounds of standard 7.62mm Soviet rifle ammunition, one loaded with five of the steel-jacketed armour piercing type.
The glove paused before selecting the standard. At this range the 7.62 round would not miss.

CHAPTER 15
A SHOT IN THE DARK

The sight that greeted Bond as he turned around would have caused a statue to gasp. St the top of the stairs Paige stood in heels and gold ear-rings. She held an evening dress over herself, a gossamer silk number in pink. Another dress – green, dangled from its hanger over her shoulder.
'Well, Mr.Forbes, pink...or green?.' With that she let the silk slip away, to show Bond the green. As she did the switch, he could see she was naked behind the dress, a tantalising glimpse of her breasts and the down of her sex.
Climbing the stairs, Bond kept his gaze firmly on her eyes.
'Mrs.Forbes, I'd like to see both, in shall we say, an hour?.'
The shameless whore!, the cross-hairs of the telescopic sight whipped up after the retreating back of the Englishman, but he had gone from sight. Wiping his eyes after the brazen show with his gloved hand the assassin settled back into the aim. He would wait.

It was around forty minutes later, around eight when Ramon's boy delivered the bulky package to Felix's room, the American pressing a twenty dollar bill into the kid's hand. Waving the boy's thanks away,
Felix – in a cream dinner suit with blue cummerbund headed for the back-stairs, taking them two at a time so as not to waste any time. He knocked at the door of the Laguna suite, getting no reply he found a maid and persuaded her to use her pass-key.
Hearing the sounds coming from the bedroom, the CIA man let out a low chuckle, spotting the bucket, he helped himself to a glass of the '43 and a seat on one of the plush sofas scattered around the edge of the lounge.
At length, Paige emerged, heading for the bathroom. She was naked. Bond looked out after her, then down at the grinning Leiter.
'I hope you averted your gaze.'
'Not on your life, James. Ramon worked his magic, you shall go to the ball...' Aware of his nakedness, Bond ducked back into the bedroom for the robe, striding back out along the gallery towards the bathroom, to be engulfed in a blizzard of a thousand shards of razor-sharp crystal a split second before a distinct kerrak! was heard. Instinct took over; throwing his arm up, 007 pivoted on his left heel and threw himself forward over the railing, vaulting over to fall onto a table, breaking its legs as well as his fall, letting himself roll onto the pile below the gallery. The lights went out; Felix, no doubt.
'Paige, stay in there – it's a sniper!.' Bond was at the balcony, down on one knee. He saw a few cars and possibly a taxi driving away, but apart from that there was only the same scene as before.

Felix worked his magic charming the maid into cleaning up the mess without too much fuss, while Bond dressed quickly. Ramon had certainly worked miracles, the black trousers with their military cut fitted to perfection as did the shirt, a plain cotton base with stylised floral accents. Expertly, Paige tied his bow tie for him. There was an off-white tuxedo jacket on the bed, which completed the outfit.
'Well, how do I -' They laughed, having both said exactly the same thing at the same time.
Paige was simply ravishing in green. Finishing above the knees the simply cut dress was set off to perfection by a climbing rose pattern in golden thread, as well as the hair she had piled superbly above her head, a freshly-picked flower in her hair. Her bag and shoes were both glitzy-emerald. Felix was waiting patiently.
'Let's get out of here – It's only the next block over, but in case the chandelier murderer is still out there we'll sneak out the service entrance out back.'
Bond was all business, his stride bursting with renewed purpose.
'Good. I'm ready – and it's high time you filled us in on what's going on.'

The night air was sobering, as if being the target of a sniper was not enough to clear the head, Bond smoking a Chesterfield to help steady his nerve. Leiter had certainly been busy – Maximilian kept a suite of rooms at the Nacional for unforeseen emergencies, and Benny's contacts had tipped him the wink that the big man was in town tonight. Deciding to call him out, Leiter had sent word to set up a meet. Neutral territory it wasn't, but Bond trusted the Texan of old, knowing he had unfinished business with the bizarre Max. They reached the hotel, subjected themselves to the expected pat-down search. The goons at the door were thorough, even Paige's purse not escaping their scrutiny. They walked along the main hall, with its high archways and spanish timbers, to the hallway at the end. The strained party was waved through to the Casino – the doors to which had been padlocked shut, a sign proclaiming the Casino had been closed on behalf of the People, by the Vedado Revolutionary Committee. They were searched again while the padlock was ceremoniously unlocked. Once inside, the rattle of the chain signified their confinement.
The casino at the Nacional had lost none of it's majesty, the marbled walls and chandeliers bringing a piece of Versailles to the island. The thickly padded stools were empty, however; the roulette tables covered in dust sheets, as were the baccarat and blackjack tables. The only tables not covered, two at the far end, had Bond's immediate interest. At one, seated beside the loathsome Chago were two unfamiliar figures. The man in the garish pinstripe suit and homburg hat sat playing with a pack of cards, while the uniformed Policeman next to him cut a ridiculous figure, high-topped boots crossed on the table, his vast belly barely constrained by a pistol belt. A ludicrous cannon of a handgun protruded from its holster, lending the swaggering figure the air of a Mexican Bandit in a Mack Sennett film. He made no effort to conceal the bad teeth as he leered at the new arrivals, his eyes firmly on Paige's bosom.
Maximilian was dressed in a black and silver Goyesca outfit that would have suited a Spanish Noble from the last century, a silk jacket high at the waist with a cummerbund and close fitting knee-length leggings with black silk socks and Zapatilla shoes.
He greeted Bond expansively, gesturing for him to sit at his table.
'Well, I'm glad I dressed for the occasion.'
'Good evening Mr. Bond, Senorita Turner. And this must be Mr. Felix Leiter of the Central Intelligence Agency.' Felix bowed, taking a seat at the next table, close to the Policeman. Bond winked at Paige, who took the hint and found herself a stool at the edge of the unfolding scene. Seated, 007 waited for the opener. It was not long in coming.
'I could have killed you, my friend, I could have thrown you overboard. I could have told
Senor Ortega here to put his bullet through your skull.' Pinstripe inclined his head towards Bond, raising his hat.
'Yes, I rather wondered about that. Three hundred yards, forty-degree angle, little or no wind, not much chance of a professional missing in those circumstances. I'm indebted.'
Bond nodded towards the sniper in acknowledgement, one professional to another. Maximilian leaned back in his chair.
'I am a very busy man, with matters that require my attention. Despite this, I have shown mercy. The men in this room alone will hear what I now offer. You, Mr. Bond are a representative of a small island insignificant to me, but with strategic importance to my Comrades in the global struggle. You, Mr. Leiter represent in many ways the bigger threat, you both could call on your Navies, your Air Forces and your Marines to destroy myself and my plans. My supremacy is only assured with the smooth running of my plans uninterrupted and undiscovered.' Lighting a Bolivar, the Cuban exhaled, with his eyes firmly on the ceiling. He lowered his gaze to meet Bond's. 'Excuse me, my manners - ' he signaled to a flunky for drinks all round, offering Bond and Leiter a cigar. Felix took one, but Bond simply drew one of the precious Montecristos from his pocket in a wordless display of one-upmanship that did not go unnoticed by those Cubans present. Clearly, this foreigner must have connections!, Paige doing her best to hide the smile at her lips at the reaction her present had provoked. Lighting the cigar, Bond waved the offered drink away, his expression hard and sardonic, his voice matched to suit.
'So, you want us to join the firm, then?. Whats the catch – oh yes, I almost forgot. We have to betray everything we hold dear, every tradition of decency that your Comrades in the Kremlin sneer at. But, of course you aren't interested in playing revolutionary, are you? - I can only guess at the look on Castro's face when he learns of your plans. King Max the First, quite a ring to it, don't you think, Felix?.'
'Quite.'
'Well said, Mr. James Bond, your Queen would be very pleased with her most loyal servant. I suppose maybe she will give you a castle in her Scotland and a big white horse to go around on.' Kicking the chair back from the table, Maximilian was on his feet, fists balled on the green baize.
'I get what I want!.' The shining points of the eyes and the howl of the madman's struggle for control were truly frightening, even the hard faces around them seemed frozen in the face of such fury and rage. 'You don't tell ME what I get!. All I want from you two is a month, four lousy weeks!. You tell your bosses nothing, you tell them anything, but you say not one word about me. Four weeks!. I make you both rich men – or I kill you and I kill the men who come next and then again!.' Once more the mask of sanity was back on with un-natural rapidity.
'You take chances with me again. Now, I give you three chances to live, three chances of death. One game, six players. Any one of you wins, you all live. To refuse is death, to lose is death. If you win I show you what you could be part of, I show you History itself.' Bond thought hard for a moment. If he and Leiter refused the offer, they were certainly not going to walk out of there alive. It would take the Service, one, two weeks to get a satisfactory response to their inquiries – Bond absent without leave, investigate and report – yes, nearer to two. There would be the slimmest chance of interception, of stopping whatever Maximilian was about to set in motion. What choice remained?. Bond looked across at his ally of so many tight scrapes. It was almost as if the Texan agent could read his mind. With a hint of a smile, Bond popped the question.
'Felix, what do you say to a game of cards?.'
CHAPTER 16
THE GAME

Seated at the table were Paige, to Bond's left, then the Assassin Ortega, with Maximilian opposite Bond. To Maximilian's left was Captain Manuel Pinera, with Felix Leiter completing the circle. Bond's request to leave the girl out of it fell on stony ground; she was big enough to carry a gun, she could hold a hand of cards. Tonight they played Poker, the Seven Card Stud variety popular in the region - at first Bond had proposed a game of baccarat, but Chemin de Fer was not a game the Cubans were familiar with. The stakes were agreed; if Bond or one of his party won all would live. Each player had a pile of chips to the value of $10,000. The ante was set at $10, otherwise there were no limits on bets, small or big. Captain Pinera acted as dealer – in the Spanish style, i.e. counter-clockwise.

James Bond knew the percentages, playing with the cold solidity of mathematics for his foundation, but he had a keen eye and knew when to play the man and not the numbers.
They started conservatively, as most big players do, each reluctant to expose too much for fear of giving their opponents the secrets behind their style or system. From the outset it soon became apparent that while Captain Pinera was a poor player, Senor Ortega's air of mystique was only enhanced at the table, the man proving inscrutable in his delivery of the cards, his raises modest and his expression unreadable. Maximilian was bombast itself then the model of prudence in the next hand, unreliably unpredictable with a nasty habit of raising at the worst times. Felix was the steadying influence on Bond's 'team', the long hours around smoky tables in Texas and around the World a bedrock on which to build a style that offered the odd surprise, but more often the easy familiarity with money that enables Americans to risk so much with so little reserve. Bond's admiration for Felix's style was matched only by concern for Paige. She had clearly spent somewhat of a sheltered existence, her unfamiliarity with the cards apparent as she folded on a straight flush.

The hours began to drop away, the tension around the room never far from the surface. From her early setback, Paige proved to be a quick study, winning two games on the trot. Steadily, slowly the pile of chips began showing favour as the skill began to outweigh the luck. The stakes rose steadily, until the approach of midnight, when Pinera's star finally extinguished itself and he was out of chips. Bond kept his demeanour sanguine as Maximilian and, reluctantly, Ortega both pushed across two thousand dollars in chips to the pathetic, embarrassing noises of appreciation from the perspiring functionary. So be it. Well aware that he was playing for life itself, Bond kept his head, his pile of chips rising slowly. There was $60,000 to shift and he fancied an early night over an early death, both possibilities ending with Paige lying next to him, but knowing she wore nothing under her dress did nothing for the latter.

Calling a break at two, Maximilian had retired to his suite for refreshment, Bond and his allies having to make do with a shared bathroom adjoining the Casino. The man waited until Paige had 'freshened up' and 'fixed her face' first. The guards with them made for stilted conversation. Felix was busy combing his hair as Bond immersed his head in a sink of cold water. 'So, James, what do you make of the odds?.'
Gasping for air, Bond toweled himself vigorously, borrowing his friend's comb.
'Rotten, I'd say we are as good as dead and that those two charmers with Max aren't very likely to pick up their pensions either. Not much light at the end of the tunnel, I'm afraid.'
'And who says that light isn't on a train coming straight at us?. Well, James, it's been fun.'
The two men shook hands, Bond replacing his shirt and tying his bow while Felix waited.
The room fell silent as Paige Turner, flanked by James Bond and Felix Leiter strode in with the air of determination and purposeful tread of people that knew they faced death, but refused to be cowed by it.

The game began. Paige was dealing. Bond waited for third street before looking at his hand. Pinera had the 'bring' with a three, going for the jugular by setting it at $60, never taking his eyes far from Paige's figure. Maximilian called, Bond immediately alert for signs of a bluff – his show card was the Queen of Diamonds. Ortega was showing a six, calling smoothly with no trace of nerve. Would he pull the trigger?, or did Maximilian do his own dirty work after all?. Bond's jaw tightened at the thought as Paige raised on a nine. He called, showing an eight, with a Jack and the Queen of Clubs in the hole. If he was lucky he might put together a straight, probably wouldn't. Showing the King of Spades Felix seemed reluctant to call, blowing smoke from his cigar and taking a long sip of bourbon. Bond waited until Felix's call to snap his fingers, ordering a vodka martini. Paige dealt the next round, her eyes meeting Bond's as she took the players to fourth street – the second show card, each hand now shaping up. Bond winced at his four, Felix had an eight, Pinera had the Ace of Clubs , Maximilian got the Jack of Spades next to his Queen, Ortega another six whilst Paige dealt herself a two. With his double, Ortega opened, threw down a $100 chip. With admirable spirit Paige raised, throwing the chips from her dwindling stack down with abandon. Bond blew out a column of smoke from his Montecristo, staring Maximilian straight in the eyes before raising. Not wanting to be left out in the bravado stakes, Felix's reluctant call signaled trouble – with any luck a bluff in itself. Then Pinera, who was now drenched in sweat, the fat policeman wiped his brow with the back of his right hand – there!, Bond exchanged glances with Leiter, who had also seen it. The Captain was a cheat – worse, a bad one with a good hand, signifying an ace in the hole with a pudgy little finger. Somehow Bond had known the final game would be crooked – would have felt cheated if it were not so. He buried the irony with a sip of his drink as Pinera's nerve somehow held, the rotund figure doubling the bet, despite now having only a few chips left in front of him. Maximilian seemed amused, himself projecting an aura of unnerving tranquility as he raised.
Bond knew the real danger amongst the opposition was Ortega – but Maximilian was a dangerous player, Pinera less so. If the bloody awful man could keep the telegraph-station shut and his eyes off Paige he might not have made such an idiot of himself. With a barely concealed snort of derision, 007 raised, with that awful 'I'd rather be lucky than good' phrase ringing in his ears, the hallmark of a bad player and always the prelude to disaster. To hell with it – the bastard would probably kill them whoever won.

Fifth street; Bond; Queen of Hearts, Leiter; a three, Pinera; a four. Maximilian; Nine of Diamonds, Ortega; a ten, and Paige another two. Senor Ortega's $200 was followed by a furious round of betting; Paige's raise followed by a call from Bond that was aimed at raising suspicion in the enemy camp. Felix called, tossing the chips down with indecent haste. Bond covered his smile with his glass, knowing Felix was playing along. He could only hope now. Pinera was visibly in trouble – possibly too deep to get out, hands beginning to shake as he lifted his chips. It looked to Bond as if the Policeman was about to have a heart attack, but the palsied fingers opened to drop the chips into the pot. With a smoothing motion Maximilian pushed a pile of chips across, the raise coming as a warning klaxon on a U-boat, Bond knowing that his meagre pair wouldn't be any insurance against a straight – or worse. He was in trouble already, but knew one card wouldn't decide much.
.
Sixth street came and Bond's luck changed with the Jack of Clubs. Leiter had a seven, Pinera another three, Maximilian a seven, Ortega and Paige a nine and the King of Hearts respectively. Ortega launched off the pad with $1,000, which Paige couldn't match. With nowhere else to go, she folded, throwing her cards down with a stifled cry of bitterness. Bond leaned back in his seat, steepling his fingers. From here on in it was just him and Felix. He raised, throwing caution to the wind, suddenly knowing what he was going to do. Puzzled – he had expected Bond to bail the girl out – Leiter wasn't holding the best cards – a five and the Ace of Hearts in the hole. He was dead in the water, but hoped Bond had something. He raised anyway, throwing most of his remaining chips onto the table in the process. The oily grin spreading across Pinera's face as he called fooled no-one; he was bluffing and Bond knew it. If Maximilian raised now, it probably meant he had a flush – and three bodies to dispose of. Maximilian raised.
Finally, Seventh Street, the last card in the hand; the River card – face down and dangerous.
Rather than change dealers, Paige accepted Maximilian's suggestion to remain for the final deal. These are the cards the remaining players received;
James Bond; The Jack of Diamonds.
Felix Leiter; Five of Clubs.
Captain Pinera; Three of Diamonds.
Maximilian; Ten of Hearts.
Senor Ortega; The King of Clubs.

With the best cards – those on show at any rate, once more it fell to the Assassin Ortega to open the round, $500 this time, his last. The play came to Bond, who pushed all his chips over to the pot. Leiter couldn't match or raise, but pushed his chips across anyway. Pinera sneered.
'No use to a dead man, eh?.'
Maximilian cut the man short with a softly spoken curse. Immediately contrite, Pinera called, his eyes downcast as the 'Grandee' pushed his own chips into the pot.

The Showdown - If you are still in at this point, you have nowhere to hide. All bluffs are called and the inescapable truth of the cards – that no matter how poor the hand, a good player can still beat a great hand poorly played.
Each man showed his hand; Leiter was holding a pair of fives, Pinera had three of a kind, with threes beaten by Ortega's three sixes. Time seemed to slow as Maximilian turned over his cards; he had made a straight, seven through to the Jack!.
Bond took a long pull at his vodka martini, emptying the glass and loosening his bow tie. Slowly, he turned them over. 'Full House - Jacks full of Queens.'
Bond had won!.

Maximilian had been as good as his word, proving himself a gracious loser. To Bond's surprise, he even paid up, clicking his fingers for Chago to bring across a large briefcase stuffed with bills.
'You must forgive me Mr. Bond, but you will not be spending this money.'
'And why is that?.'
'Not, at least for the time being. I must insist you remain, out of – incommunicado. Three weeks, perhaps four. You will be my guests – you and your friends. Who knows?, perhaps you will like what you see. The choice will be yours entirely.'

CHAPTER 17
THE ISLAND

The Bayamo powered through the startling blue waters at forty-plus knots, an impossible speed for a conventional frigate. The Hydrogen Peroxide system ran at incredible pressures due to the advanced metallurgy provided by the former Nazi engineers working for the Soviets. As a test-bed prototype the turbines had not aroused sufficient interest from the World's intelligence services, which largely believed them to be un-reliable and overly prone to corrosion damage. Bond knew better, as the converted warship hurtled past a series of sandbars, her shallow draft a distinct advantage in these waters. They had left the main island of Cuba now, traversing west along the coastline to avoid the heavily-patrolled waters to the North.
Paige, Felix and Bond were effectively prisoners aboard, albeit in the comfortable surroundings of the State-room. Of Maximilian himself they saw nothing, until after their lunch was served when Bond was summoned to the bridge.
Any doubts about the origins of the Bayamo melted away as Bond took it all in. There was enough of the very latest navigational and communication gear to open a trade show, plus what looked to Bond ominously like a fire control panel set against one bulkhead. The 'Grandee of Florida' was on exuberant form, greeting Bond in a quasi-Naval uniform complete with a cap adorned with a golden anchor.
'So, You approve of my speedboat?.'
'Yes, she's certainly unique – Soviet Riga Class frigate with a Walter Turbine, the engineers solved the problems with the Perhydrol I take it?.'
'Precisely, Mr.Bond, precisely. The original systems were prone to exploding due to excessive pressure, but developments in the science of rocketry has brought us extreme high pressure pipes and valves...but.' Gesturing with an open hand, Maximilian went over to the helmsman, conferring in curt, brief phrases. Bond was beckoned across to the navigator's station, where a map table showed the area of the Gulf of Mexico.
'You see here, the island of Cuba, here is Florida, the Keys, so forth. We are currently here.' Using dividers, Maximilian indicated an area South of Cuba. 'Within a few hours we shall have reached these islands, the largest of which – here, is our destination.' The map showed a line of islands, some little more than a sand spar, others perhaps half a mile wide. 'These islands have gone by many names, since the original Tainos settlements. On the two largest islands, ancient ruins have been uncovered in the jungle, some of which have been dated at before the time of the Aztecs. I have made my base on the very largest, which is known locally as 'La isla de los Hijos de Oro.'
'Sounds like something from one of those old adventure serials – The Island of the Golden Sons.'
'Your Spanish does you credit, my friend. The island is some three miles in length, at its heart a valley in which a temple has been carved out of the volcanic rock. This temple was only discovered in recent times. It really is fascinating, I believe it is the only example of Aztec stonework this far to the West.'
'The islands – deserted, I take it?.'
'To all extents, yes. The original inhabitants disappeared, no-one knows why. Perhaps the ground shook and they fled – the islands were formed by volcanic activity many thousands of years ago. There has been no such activity for many centuries. When I arrived, there were a few local fishermen...'
'Were?.'
'Yes, were. Now, there are no more.' Bond looked out over the bows, deep in thought. He decided he didn't like Maximilian very much, but that would wait for a better time.

The Bayamo lay at anchor, the jolly-boat bringing them into a sheltered inlet. Bond stepped onto the jetty, helping Paige. With Maximilian was Chago, eyes narrowed and boring into Bond with silent hate. Felix was shepherded along by two sullen guards, the party completed by a squad of men carrying metal boxes between them. Clearly, whatever their contents, the boxes were exceptionally heavy, to judge from the way the men had to struggle to move them. The pathway snaked off into the lush greenery of the island, but this was no innocent atoll. Everywhere Bond looked he saw signs of fortification, cleverly disguised and camouflaged. In a clearing a quad-barreled anti-aircraft gun sat hidden beneath netting, manned by soldiers in olive green drab uniform without badges of rank or distinction. The squat outline of a self-propelled gun was expertly concealed by shrubbery, ferns appearing to grow from the tracks. The whole place was a death trap for the unwary, it would take a Naval bombardment and a full-scale air strike plus at least a regiment of amphibious troops to take the island.
'I've heard of being prepared.' Bond's muttered over his shoulder.
Leiter had been observing the hardware himself. 'Quite the Boy Scout, isn't he?. I wonder if Washington knows about this place?.'
'We won't be left alone is my guess. Think you could swim to the next island?, maybe there's fishermen.' They were cut short by Chago, who had turned to watch them both.
'You get on, keep quiet eh?.'
Bond pushed past him. 'Why don't you kiss my ahh, there's a little train!.'
There was indeed, a small-gauge mining track underneath the canopy of palms, on which sat a compact little train, a miniature electric locomotive with a battery tender behind with a string of passenger carriages and open freight cars that reminded Bond of a seaside ride he had gone on as a boy. Maximilian's men hauled and hefted the boxes onto the last of the cars, sitting astride them.
The train set off, taking the party deeper into the island. Bond smoked a Chesterfield, enjoying the ride, his trained eye noting the positions and dispensation of the island's defences. The tracks curved downwards into a narrow gorge, steeper now and beneath overhanging rockery that blocked out much of the light here. The tracks went behind a waterfall at one point, the curtain of water gouting over the rocks to leave the train virtually dry. The fauna here was wonderful, bright orchids growing in crevices and the mariposa, the so-called Butterfly of flowers blooming white, fragile.
The natural beauty served only as enhancement of the magnificent scene that they saw next.
Protruding from the rock face was what seemed to be a set of massive stone steps, wreathed in foliage and garlanded with creepers. In the centre of the pyramid was an opening, the tracks disappearing into the darkness that swallowed the little train and its passengers. Bond's eyes took a minute to adjust to the sepulcheral gloom. They were now in a tunnel of some sort, low-ceilinged and ancient. The locomotive driver switched on the headlight, throwing the beam down the narrow shaft.
After perhaps a quarter of a mile into the rock, the tunnel suddenly opened out into a large man-made cavern, perhaps fifty feet square. The tracks continued, but clearly the ride was over, Maximilian striding across to a large metal cage set in a lattice framework of steel girders, Chago opening the gate and grunting for the others to get a move on.
The cage was a cargo lift, which dropped smoothly away into the earth, starting a long descent. Despite himself, Bond was impressed at the cavern that had opened around them, a massive natural cave the size of a cathedral, with a colossal steel and concrete dome reaching up to the forest of natural stalactites hanging down from the roof. The whole place had the air of a construction site, with sparks cascading from several points around the building. Everywhere there was activity, from a gantry crane moving a giant bucket to the trucks that moved around the perimeter on a graded trackway. Something told Bond that this all boded ill, his instinct confirmed by the expectant grin on Maximilian's face as he threw his arms outwards encompassing the scene before them.
'Welcome to the source of my power, I give you Morning Star – or People's Reactor MS-1, to give the prosaic designation bestowed upon the project by the Soviet Union.'
'An atomic reactor?, to what end?. Why down here?, why not on the main island?.' Bond was sure he wouldn't like the answer when it came.
'With relations between the Soviet Union and America so tense, a reactor on Cuban soil would be unthinkable. So, I offered a solution; this cave, part of a complex uncovered by archaeologists exploring the temple site above us. All it requires is a fifteen-mile undersea cable – easily laid using underwater engineering teams and under the cover of a simple telephone line installation. The People's Republic will benefit from free electricity, the Soviet's provide the hardware and personnel – both for the reactor and the defence zone around the islands.'
'So, what do you get? - if the power's free no money changes hands, apart from your own …' Bond knew he had answered his own question; this was where Maximilian's atomic bomb was to come from!.
'I take it none of you have no desire to get closer to our stockpile of uranium, so we shall now go back up. I have one more aspect of my operation that you should be aware of.'
The lift took them back up to the railway, the train waiting to take them further along the original tunnel, turning sharply right to enter a series of rooms, their angular symmetry exaggerating the surreal. In the first two, light stands and digging tools such as those used by archaeologists or builders stood unattended, Maximilian explaining their use as cover for all the engineering work – sooner or later there were bound to be questions, what better cover than an archaeological find?. The third room was the end of the line, to all apparent purpose; the rails ending at a set of buffers with a nifty lifting jig, a sort of miniature cradle affair that the locomotive rolled into, to be lifted and turned while smoothly moved back over the carriages to be neatly deposited facing the way they had come.
'Quite a train set you have there, Max.'
Shaking his head, their host laughed, clapping Bond unexpectedly on the back.
'I knew you'd like it; here we are in the most amazing temple and the Englishman is admiring the train!. Hey, if you stay loyal maybe I give you trains of your own... how's about the Orient Express?, maybe your famous Flying Scotsman?.'
Not for the first time, Bond found himself liking this maniac, despite an urge to simply strangle him there and then. The Cuban was obviously under the delusion that two secret agents could be persuaded to betray their countries at the revelation of his scheme – so Bond would play his part - for the moment.
They smoked while they waited for the locomotive to be re-coupled, watching in bemused fascination as, at a nod, Maximilian and two of his men went to stand as if at attention in the centre of the room. Bond was just about to ask the meaning of the odd triangle when – with a sudden shudder, they all realised the chamber was getting smaller!. At first it seemed that the roof was lowering towards them – but it was an illusion, the floor section below them was actually rising, with a grating sound of smooth rock on rock and some hidden heavy machinery. Just as it seemed they would be crushed against the roof, the whole contraption shuddered to a halt, the driver starting the engine. There was, completely invisible, another level, the slabs of rock cut in a clever fashion to conceal the perspective of the upper level from the chamber below. The tracks continued, joining smoothly with the section on which the train had been raised.
'Clever, eh? - the priests that built this place had many secrets, secrets they guarded jealously. Any of the profane – outsiders – who reached that chamber below, would have been crushed to a horrible death, their remains taken through this passageway to preserve the secrets of the trap. The trap is operated by the unwary stepping on those dark green stones. Unless three men – originally the high priest and his acolytes – stand where we stood...' Maximilian ground his hands together with relish. Bond's gaze followed his host's, there were indeed rows of seemingly-innocent stones, distinguishable by the smooth shine of their surface and darker colour than the others in the floor. 'I wonder how many people have disappeared in this place over the centuries?.'
Paige felt herself tremble at Maximilian's macabre thought, holding Bond's arm. Noticing the girl's unease, Chago said something vulgar in Spanish, the guards laughing until Maximilian cut them short furiously.
The chambers ahead formed an elongated square that wasn't quite a rectangle, the outer side solid rock, roughly - hewn , the other sloping buttresses forming a three-sided gallery that over-looked an open atrium of sorts, an inner courtyard where sunlight just reached down to the first of a series of terraces that carried a stream of water down in a lazy spiral to a pool far below. The riot of vines and greenery that stretched down into the shadows was a reminder of how nature reclaims her own, gently laughing at man's foolish transient vanity. They were now approaching a set of bronzed doors, which opened at the locomotive's approach. The chamber beyond was low-ceilinged and vast, armed guards patrolling a scene that looked like a Dali painting of the Royal Mint. Bond counted upwards of twenty printing presses, most busily engaged stamping and pressing currency of various kinds. As they disembarked, Leiter let out a whistle at the cages being filled with money from several nations. American Dollars lay next to British Pounds, Spanish Peseta next to Swiss Francs. One machine lay idle, an elderly man complaining to a hulking Hispanic, who was angrily alternating gestures at the machine with a clenched fist under the older man's nose. The resigned face seemed indifferent to the threat. It was the face of a slave. Several others, most of them also in their latter years were variously engaged around the printing apparatus.
'You see my friends, this is the heart of it all. We make the money here, we deliver it after suitable aging and wear has been simulated – we find industrial washing machines and blasts of steam and hot air seem to provide the most convincing of results.'
Bond was inspecting a laundry hamper filled with creased, used notes, an array of industrial fans drying whole batches at a time.
'You take it out by train, the Bayamo is the perfect delivery service – quick, efficient and I'm guessing that submarine we saw does the rest.'
'Once again, Mr. Bond, you prove my instincts correct. Perhaps Mr. Leiter would care to guess the rest.'
'Okay, Max – I don't need glasses to see this picture clearly – you spread the phoney dough around, maybe a million here, a few million there – not enough to arouse immediate suspicion if done carefully. I can see the targets from the currency; lets take France; first you build up a network, maybe use the resident crooks, whatsit - the Union Corse?, whatever, you get them onboard with a chunk of the real McCoy, lets say more than a few million Francs – all the while you're busy taking names for when the big event comes, those old business partners can be real liabilities, right?.'
'Continue, please.'
'Well, 'kay...' Felix lit one of his eternal Chesterfields, waving smoke as he talked. 'When it's time, you hit the economy, flood the market with the fake simoleons – and Bingo!, no-one trusts their money anymore. Banks get over-run with jittery investors and the French President is crying into his handkerchief. You do that in enough places... well, you certainly don't need to be a fortune teller to guess who benefits from all this.'
Bond spelled it out; 'The World Union of Soviet Socialist Republics... apart from Florida, naturally.'
Maximilian seemed reluctant, but he gestured back to the train.
'Quite so. Now, I am afraid the tour has ended. You must understand I cannot afford the luxury of trust at this particular moment. I must insist on your indulgence.'
This time the cargo lift went upwards from the entrance cavern, up into the temple complex itself. There they followed Maximilian through a path of flagstones that went through a large rectangular room with narrow pools running alongside the walls, the far end dropping once more to form a corridor that abruptly terminated in two large bronzed doors, two guards standing to either side, guns at the ready.
'These doors lead to my personal living quarters. I assure you you will be provided for and as comfortable as myself.' The doors swung open, revealing the temple's inner sanctum, now a luxurious suite of apartments, each area delineated by different levels in a large circle, each level set at randomly stepped heights, the thousand year old stone lit by hidden lighting, an oddly well-suited backdrop for the European furniture and Spanish portraits. Mexican wall-hangings and rugs were a tasteful, if predictable complement. The whole effect was of a chaotic blend that shouldn't have worked well together, but did, and Bond found it appealed to his inner playboy.
'This is quite a place – I suppose the guards don't get any days off.' Maximilian inclined his head.
'As always, I have a schedule, as always I must be elsewhere. I have arranged for your belongings to be brought to you – I took the liberty of settling your bill at the Capri. Mr. Leiter, if you would be so kind as to accompany me – these quarters are only comfortable for two. Mr. Bond, Miss Turner, I shall return at the completion of my affairs, at which point you will be a free man – and lady, of course. We will have plenty of time to discuss our partnership at that time.' With a formal bow of the head, the bizarre figure turned on his heel and left, Felix giving Bond a nod and wave as he followed, the guards closing and locking the doors behind them.

Over four thousand nautical miles distant, in the building near Regent's Park, M was waiting for a connection with Washington DC. Consulting his clock, he saw it was exactly eight-o'clock – making it three in the morning in the anonymous office block that housed various government departments, including a modestly titled offshoot of the Bureau of Statistics that was actually a cover for the Central Intelligence Agency's liason office. Despite the unsociable hour, M knew that the Duty Officer – usually a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major or the like – would see the incoming line button flashing; not the usual blue that denoted the British Foreign Ministry, rather the urgent red that signified either the Service, MI5 or Ronnie Vallance at Special Branch. After giving his prefix (Specially allocated each month on a random basis), M would be put through to the Office of the Director, sometimes it would be Dulles himself, or his Deputy, a disagreeable type that M found faintly amusing.
'Connecting you now, Sir. Setting Three please.' The voice from the switchboard was followed by the maddening buzz of the scrambler. Stabbing angrily at the box in his unlocked drawer, M picked up, the handset now only beeped quietly and intermittently, the signal that the scrambler was working and the call secure.
The voice of the Deputy Director came through, brash, impatient.
'Hello?, this thing on?, Hello? M – that you?.'
'Deputy Director, good morning. M speaking, reference Operation Hotspur, I gather you have a briefing today.'
'Well, what of it?, we get plenty of briefings – what's so special it couldn't wait for the Director?.'
'We've got a man overdue for his report, 007, he's on detached service with your man Leiter, Felix Leiter in the Cuban theatre.'
'Yeah, I see – that's a hot potato right now, anyone mentions Castro and the Oval Office goes nuts over it. I'm looking at the files right now. We got a report from Leiter two days back, around 06:15 Eastern Standard time. Nothing since, he missed his daily radio check yesterday. We are assuming technical failure or station compromise. From the log of the last contact it seems he made his standard report, plus a trace.'
'Trace?.' M was in a sour mood, with no time for the breezy shorthand of modern America.
'Yeah, a trace – what the cops call a make or a jacket on a collar; information about a person, do they have a rap sheet?, suchlike.'
Jacket, Sheet, Collar – M was beginning to feel like a laundryman.
'And did they?, have a sheet, that is?.'
'Not with us, but you might have something at your end. Turner, Paige, no middle name. Age Twenty Five, redhead, five feet... well, you get the idea. Now here's the bit; Turner, Peter Stanley – or Sir.Anthony Peter Stanley Turner if you please, you are probably familiar with this gem - now sadly deceased - of your Royal Air Force... turns out he was her Father. Leiter didn't say what the interest was, but its likely the inquiry came from your man.'
M was kneading his temple, briefly considered taking early retirement as the various possibilities and implications began sinking in.
'Assuming they can be located, what are the chances of an assisted evacuation?. Can you set up a contingency for an escape?.'
'Not a chance. M, I'm sorry, but I gotta level with you, when it comes to Cuba all bets are off. Your man knew the risks, so did Leiter. Either they are dead already or in enemy hands, better dead in my opinion. Now, I'm willing to bet you are the kind of guy who'll stop at nothing to get his man back, I can respect that, but there is no way your Prime Minister will allow any British rescue mission; not now, not with this goddam Cold War and Soviet Russia breathing so hot. I just hope Double-O-Seven didn't have a family.'

Storming from his office, M was in a cold fury, fists clenched in impotent rage. He would go to the PM about this, he would go to Kennedy himself!, he would... he softened at the sight of Moneypenny, who had been dabbing at her face when he flung open the thick double-leather doors. With a visible effort of will, she forced herself into a semblance of composure.
'Listening on that damn intercom again?. Well, knowing Double-O-Seven he's not finished just yet.'
M handed his secretary a slip of paper with Paige Turner, British National, and her father's details in his unmistakable scrawl. 'Get on to records, would you? - name's on there – just in case you weren't paying attention. As for the Americans, they don't control the weather. Call the Air Ministry if you please Miss Moneypenny. One of our planes is about to be blown off course.'

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