Octopussy & the Living Daylights (James Bond #14)

929
22.05.2019

* According to family tradition, this lot was formerly the property of Mrs. Fitzherbert (1756-1837) whose marriage to The Prince of Wales afterwards Geo. IV was definitely established when in 1905 a sealed packet deposited at Coutts Bank in 1833 and opened by Royal permission disclosed the marriage certificate and other conclusive proofs.

These bracelets were probably given by Mrs. Fitzherbert to her niece, who was described by the Duke of Orleans as "the prettiest girl in England."

While the bidding progressed, Bond slipped out of his seat and went down the aisle to the back of the room where the overflow audience spread out into the New Gallery and the Entrance Hall to watch the sale on closed-circuit television. He casually inspected the crowd, seeking any face he could recognize from the 200 members of the Soviet embassy staff whose photographs, clandestinely obtained, he had been studying during the past days. But amidst an audience that defied classification—a mixture of dealers, amateur collectors and what could be broadly classified as rich pleasure-seekers—was not a feature, let alone a face, that he could recognize except from the gossip columns. One or two sallow faces might have been Russian, but equally they might have belonged to half a dozen European races. There was a scattering of dark glasses, but dark glasses are no longer a disguise. Bond went back to his seat. Presumably the man would have to divulge himself when the bidding began.

"Fourteen thousand I am bid. And fifteen. Fifteen thousand." The hammer came down. "Yours, sir."

There was a hum of excitement and a fluttering of catalogs. Mr. Snowman wiped his forehead with a white silk handkerchief. He turned to Bond. "Now I’m afraid you are more or less on your own. I’ve got to pay attention to the bidding and anyway for some unknown reason it’s considered bad form to look over one’s shoulder to see who’s bidding against you—if you’re in the trade that’s to say—so I’ll only be able to spot him if he’s somewhere up front here, and I’m afraid that’s unlikely. Pretty well all dealers, but you can stare around as much as you like. What you’ve got to do is to watch Peter Wilson’s eyes and then try and see who he’s looking at, or who’s looking at him. If you can spot the man, which may be quite difficult, note any movement he makes, even the very smallest. Whatever the man does—scratching his head, pulling at the lobe of his ear or whatever, will be a code he’s arranged with Peter Wilson. I’m afraid he won’t do anything obvious like raising his catalog. Do you get me? And don’t forget that he may make absolutely no movement at all until right at the end when he’s pushed me as far as he thinks I’ll go, then he’ll want to sign off. Mark you," Mr. Snowman smiled, "when we get to the last lap I’ll put plenty of heat on him and try and make him show his hand. That’s assuming of course that we are the only two bidders left in." He looked enigmatic. "And I think you can take it that we shall be."

From the man’s certainty, James Bond felt pretty sure that Mr. Snowman had been given instructions to get the Emerald Sphere at any cost.

A sudden hush fell as a tall pedestal draped in black velvet was brought in with ceremony and positioned in front of the auctioneer’s rostrum. Then a handsome oval case of what looked like white velvet was placed on top of the pedestal and, with reverence, an elderly porter in gray uniform with wine-red sleeves, collar and back belt, unlocked it and lifted out Lot 42, placed it on the black velvet and removed the case. The cricket ball of polished emerald on its exquisite base glowed with a supernatural green fire and the jewels on its surface and on the opalescent meridian winked their various colors. There was a gasp of admiration from the audience and even the clerks and experts behind the rostrum and sitting at the tall counting-house desk beside the auctioneer, accustomed to the Crown jewels of Europe parading before their eyes, leaned forward to get a better look.

James Bond turned to his catalog. There it was, in heavy type and in prose as stickily luscious as a butterscotch sundae:

THE TERRESTRIAL GLOBE

DESIGNED IN 1917 BY CARL FABERGÉ FOR A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN AND NOW THE PROPERTY OF HIS GRANDDAUGHTER

42 A VERY IMPORTANT FABERGÉ TERRESTRIAL GLOBE. A sphere carved from an extraordinarily large piece of Siberian emerald matrix weighing approximately one thousand three hundred carats and of a superb color and vivid translucence, represents a terrestrial globe supported upon an elaborate rocaille scroll mount finely chased in quatre-couleur gold and set with a profusion of rose-diamonds and small emeralds of intense color, to form a table-clock.

Around this mount six gold putti disport themselves among cloud-forms which are naturalistically rendered in carved rock-crystal finished matt and veined with fine lines of tiny rose-diamonds. The globe itself, the surface of which is meticulously engraved with a map of the world with the principal cities indicated by brilliant diamonds embedded within gold collets, rotates mechanically on an axis controlled by a small clock-movement, by G. Moser, signed, which is concealed in the base, and is girdled by a fixed gold belt enameled opalescent oyster along a reserved path in champlevé technique over a moiré guillochage with painted Roman numerals in pale sepia enamel serving as the dial of the clock, and a single triangular pigeon-blood Burma ruby of about five carats set into the surface of the orb, pointing the hour. Height: 7½ in. Workmaster, Henrik Wigström. In the original double-opening white velvet, satin-lined, oviform case with the gold key fitted in the base.

* The theme of this magnificent sphere is one that had inspired Fabergé some fifteen years earlier, as evidenced in the miniature terrestrial globe which forms part of the Royal Collection at Sandringham. (See plate 280 in The Art of Carl Fabergé, by A. Kenneth Snowman.)

After a brief and searching glance round the room, Mr. Wilson banged his hammer softly. "Lot 42—an object of vertu by Carl Fabergé." A pause. "Twenty thousand pounds I am bid."

Mr. Snowman whispered to Bond, "That means he’s probably got a bid of at least fifty. This is simply to get things moving."

Catalogs fluttered. "And thirty, forty, fifty thousand pounds I am bid. And sixty, seventy, and eighty thousand pounds. And ninety." A pause and then: "One hundred thousand pounds I am bid."

There was a rattle of applause round the room. The cameras had swiveled to a youngish man, one of three on a raised platform to the left of the auctioneer who were speaking softly into telephones. Mr. Snowman commented, "That’s one of Sotheby’s young men. He’ll be on an open line to America. I should think that’s the Metropolitan bidding, but it might be anybody. Now it’s time for me to get to work." Mr. Snowman flicked up his rolled catalog.

"And ten," said the auctioneer. The man spoke into his telephone and nodded. "And twenty."

Again a flick from Mr. Snowman.

"And thirty."

The man on the telephone seemed to be speaking rather more words than before into his mouthpiece—perhaps giving his estimate of how much further the price was likely to go. He gave a slight shake of his head in the direction of the auctioneer and Peter Wilson looked away from him and round the room.

"One hundred and thirty thousand pounds I am bid," he repeated quietly.

Mr. Snowman said, softly, to Bond, "Now you’d better watch out. America seems to have signed off. It’s time for your man to start pushing me."

James Bond slid out of his place and went and stood amongst a group of reporters in a corner to the left of the rostrum. Peter Wilson’s eyes were directed towards the far right-hand corner of the room. Bond could detect no movement, but the auctioneer announced "And forty thousand pounds." He looked down at Mr. Snowman. After a long pause Mr. Snowman raised five fingers. Bond guessed that this was part of his process of putting the heat on. He was showing reluctance, hinting that he was near the end of his tether.

"One hundred and forty-five thousand." Again the piercing glance towards the back of the room. Again no movement. But again some signal had been exchanged. "One hundred and fifty thousand pounds."

There was a buzz of comment and some desultory clapping. This time Mr. Snowman’s reaction was even slower and the auctioneer twice repeated the last bid. Finally he looked directly at Mr. Snowman. "Against you, sir." At last Mr. Snowman raised five fingers.

"One hundred and fifty-five thousand pounds."

James Bond was beginning to sweat. He had got absolutely nowhere and the bidding must surely be coming to an end. The auctioneer repeated the bid.

And now there was the tiniest movement. At the back of the room, a chunky-looking man in a dark suit reached up and unobtrusively took off his dark glasses. It was a smooth, nondescript face—the sort of face that might belong to a bank manager, a member of Lloyd’s, or a doctor. This must have been the prearranged code with the auctioneer. So long as the man wore his dark glasses he would raise in tens of thousands. When he took them off, he had quit.

Bond shot a quick glance towards the bank of cameramen. Yes, the M.I.5 photographer was on his toes. He had also seen the movement. He lifted his camera deliberately and there was the quick glare of a flash. Bond got back to his seat and whispered to Snowman, "Got him. Be in touch with you tomorrow. Thanks a lot." Mr. Snowman only nodded. His eyes remained glued on the auctioneer.

Bond slipped out of his place and walked swiftly down the aisle as the auctioneer said for the third time, "One hundred and fifty-five thousand pounds I am bid," and then softly brought down his hammer. "Yours, sir."

Bond got to the back of the room before the audience had risen, applauding, to its feet. His quarry was hemmed in amongst the gilt chairs. He had now put on his dark glasses again and Bond put on a pair of his own. He contrived to slip into the crowd and get behind the man as the chattering crowd streamed down the stairs. The hair grew low down on the back of the man’s rather squat neck and the lobes of his ears were pinched in close to his head. He had a slight hump, perhaps only a bone deformation, high up on his back. Bond suddenly remembered. This was Piotr Malinowski, with the official title on the Embassy staff of "Agricultural Attaché." So!

Outside, the man began walking swiftly towards Conduit Street. James Bond got unhurriedly into a taxi with its engine running and its flag down. He said to the driver, "That’s him. Take it easy."

"Yes, sir," said the M.I.5 driver, pulling away from the curb.

The man picked up a taxi in Bond Street. The tail in the mixed evening traffic was easy. Bond’s satisfaction mounted as the Russian’s taxi turned up north of the Park and along Bayswater. It was just a question whether he would turn down the private entrance into Kensington Palace Gardens, where the first mansion on the left is the massive building of the Soviet Embassy. If he did, that would clinch matters. The two patrolling policemen, the usual Embassy guards, had been specially picked that night. It was their job just to confirm that the occupant of the leading taxi actually entered the Soviet Embassy.

Then, with the Secret Service evidence and the evidence of Bond and of the M.I.5 cameraman, there would be enough for the Foreign Office to declare Comrade Piotr Malinowski persona non grata on the grounds of espionage activity and send him packing. In the grim chess game that is secret service work, the Russians would have lost a queen. It would have been a very satisfactory visit to the auction rooms.