The question had been ignored. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"
"Rather. Anywhere you like. Here or in the garden? What about a drink?" Major Smythe clinked the ice in the glass he still held in his hand. "Rum and ginger’s the local poison. I prefer the ginger by itself." The lie came out with the automatic smoothness of the alcoholic.
"No thanks. And here would be fine." The man leaned negligently against the wide mahogany windowsill.
Major Smythe sat down and threw a jaunty leg over the low arm of one of the comfortable planters’ chairs he had had copied from an original by the local cabinetmaker. He pulled out the drink coaster from the other arm, took a deep pull at his glass, and slid it, with a consciously steady hand, down into the hole in the wood. "Well," he said cheerily, looking the other man straight in the eyes, "what can I do for you? Somebody been up to some dirty work on the North Shore and you need a spare hand? Be glad to get into harness again. It’s been a long time since those days, but I can still remember some of the old routines."
"Do you mind if I smoke?" The man had already got his cigarette case in his hand. It was a flat gun-metal one that would hold around twenty-five. Somehow this small sign of a shared weakness comforted Major Smythe.
"Of course, my dear fellow." He made a move to get up, his lighter ready.
"It’s all right, thanks." James Bond had already lit his cigarette. "No, it’s nothing local. I want to… I’ve been sent out to… ask you to recall your work for the Service at the end of the war." James Bond paused and looked down at Major Smythe carefully. "Particularly the time when you were working with the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau."
Major Smythe laughed sharply. He had known it. He had known it for absolutely sure. But when it came out of this man’s mouth, the laugh had been forced out of Major Smythe like the scream of a hit man. "Oh Lord, yes. Good old MOB. That was a lark all right." He laughed again. He felt the anginal pain, brought on by the pressure of what he knew was coming, build up across his chest. He dipped his hand into his trouser pocket, tilted the little bottle into the palm of his hand, and slipped the white TNT pill under his tongue. He was amused to see the tension coil up in the other man, the way the eyes narrowed watchfully. It’s all right, my dear fellow. This isn’t a death pill. He said, "You troubled with acidosis? No? It slays me when I go on a bender. Last night. Party at Jamaica Inn. One really ought to stop thinking one’s always twenty-five. Anyway, let’s get back to MOB Force. Not many of us left, I suppose." He felt the pain across his chest withdraw into its lair. "Something to do with the Official History?"
James Bond looked down at the tip of his cigarette. "Not exactly."
"I expect you know I wrote most of the chapter on the Force for the War Book. It’s fifteen years since then. Doubt if I’d have much to add today."
"Nothing more about that operation in the Tirol—place called Oberaurach, about a mile east of Kitzbühel?"
One of the names he had been living with for fifteen years forced another harsh laugh out of Major Smythe. "That was a piece of cake! You’ve never seen such a shambles. All those Gestapo toughs with their doxies. All of ’em hog-drunk. They’d kept their files all ticketty-boo. Handed them over without a murmur. Hoped that’d earn ’em easy treatment I suppose. We gave the stuff a first going-over and shipped all the bods off to the Munich camp. Last I heard of them. Most of them hanged for war crimes I expect. We handed the bumf over to HQ at Salzburg. Then we went on up the Mittersill valley after another hideout." Major Smythe took a good pull at his drink and lit a cigarette. He looked up. "That’s the long and the short of it."
"You were Number Two at the time, I think. The CO was an American, a Colonel King from Patton’s army."
"That’s right. Nice fellow. Wore a mustache, which isn’t like an American. Knew his way among the local wines. Quite a civilized chap."
"In his report about the operation he wrote that he handed you all the documents for a preliminary run-through as you were the German expert with the unit. Then you gave them all back to him with your comments?" James Bond paused. "Every single one of them?"
Major Smythe ignored the innuendo. "That’s right. Mostly lists of names. Counterintelligence dope. The CI people in Salzburg were very pleased with the stuff. Gave them plenty of new leads. I expect the originals are lying about somewhere. They’ll have been used for the Nuremberg Trials. Yes, by Jove!"—Major Smythe was reminiscent, pally—"those were some of the jolliest months of my life, haring around the country with MOB Force. Wine, women, and song! And you can say that again!"
Here, Major Smythe was saying the whole truth. He had had a dangerous and uncomfortable war until 1945. When the commandos were formed in 1941, he had volunteered and been seconded from the Royal Marines to Combined Operations Headquarters under Mountbatten. There his excellent German (his mother had come from Heidelberg) had earned him the unenviable job of being advanced interrogator on commando operations across the Channel. He had been lucky to get away from two years of this work unscathed and with the O.B.E. (Military), which was sparingly awarded in the last war. And then, in preparation for the defeat of Germany, the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau had been formed jointly by the Secret Service and Combined Operations, and Major Smythe had been given the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel and told to form a unit whose job would be the cleaning up of Gestapo and Abwehr hideouts when the collapse of Germany came about. The OSS got to hear of the scheme and insisted on getting into the act to cope with the American wing of the front, and the result was the creation of not one but six units that went into operation in Germany and Austria on the day of surrender. They were units of twenty men, each with a light armored car, six jeeps, a wireless truck, and three lorries, and they were controlled by a joint Anglo-American headquarters in SHAEF, which also fed them with targets from the Army Intelligence units and from the SIS and OSS. Major Smythe had been Number Two of "A" Force, which had been allotted the Tirol—an area full of good hiding places with easy access to Italy and perhaps out of Europe—that was known to have been chosen as funkhole Number One by the people MOB Force was after. And, as Major Smythe had just told Bond, they had had themselves a ball. All without firing a shot—except, that is, two fired by Major Smythe.
James Bond said casually, "Does the name of Hannes Oberhauser ring a bell?"
Major Smythe frowned, trying to remember. "Can’t say it does." It was eighty degrees in the shade, but he shivered.
"Let me refresh your memory. On the same day as those documents were given to you to look over, you made inquiries at the Tiefenbrünner Hotel, where you were billeted, for the best mountain guide in Kitzbühel. You were referred to Oberhauser. The next day you asked your CO for a day’s leave, which was granted. Early next morning you went to Oberhauser’s chalet, put him under close arrest, and drove him away in your jeep. Does that ring a bell?"
That phrase about "refreshing your memory." How often had Major Smythe himself used it when he was trying to trap a German liar? Take your time! You’ve been ready for something like this for years. Major Smythe shook his head doubtfully. "Can’t say it does."
"A man with graying hair and a gammy leg. Spoke some English, he’d been a ski teacher before the war."
Major Smythe looked candidly into the cold, clear blue eyes. "Sorry. Can’t help you."
James Bond took a small blue leather notebook out of his inside pocket and turned the leaves. He stopped turning them. He looked up. "At that time, as side arms, you were carrying a regulation Webley-Scott forty-five with the serial number eight-nine-six-seven-three-sixty-two."
"It was certainly a Webley. Damned clumsy weapon. Hope they’ve got something more like the Luger or the heavy Beretta these days. But I can’t say I ever took a note of the number."
"The number’s right enough," said James Bond. "I’ve got the date of its issue to you by HQ and the date when you turned it in. You signed the book both times."
Major Smythe shrugged. "Well then, it must have been my gun. But"—he put rather angry impatience into his voice—"what, if I may ask, is all this in aid of?"
James Bond looked at him almost with curiosity. He said, and now his voice was not unkind, "You know what it is all about, Smythe." He paused and seemed to reflect. "Tell you what. I’ll go out into the garden for ten minutes or so. Give you time to think things over. Give me a hail." He added seriously "It’ll make things so much easier for you if you come out with the story in your own words."
Bond walked to the door into the garden. He turned around. "I’m afraid it’s only a question of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. You see I had a talk with the Foo brothers in Kingston yesterday." He stepped out onto the lawn.
Something in Major Smythe was relieved. Now at least the battle of wits, the trying to invent alibis, the evasions, were over. If this man Bond had got to the Foos, to either of them, they would have spilled the beans. The last thing they wanted was to get in bad with the government, and anyway there was only about six inches of the stuff left.
Major Smythe got briskly to his feet and went to the loaded sideboard and poured himself out another brandy and ginger ale, almost fifty-fifty. He might as well live it up while there was still time! The future wouldn’t hold many more of these for him. He went back to his chair and lit his twentieth cigarette of the day. He looked at his watch. It said eleven-thirty. If he could be rid of the chap in an hour, he’d have plenty of time with his "people." He sat and drank and marshaled his thoughts. He could make the story long or short, put in the weather and the way the flowers and pines had smelled on the mountain, or he could cut it short. He would cut it short.
Up in that big double bedroom in the Tiefenbrünner, with the wads of buff and gray paper spread out on the spare bed, he hadn’t been looking for anything special, just taking samples here and there and concentrating on the ones marked, in red, KOMMANDOSACHE—HÖCHST VERTRAULICH. There weren’t many of these, and they were mostly confidential reports on German top brass, intercepts of broken allied ciphers, and information about the whereabouts of secret dumps. Since these were the main targets of "A" Force, Major Smythe had scanned them with particular excitement—food, explosives, guns, espionage records, files of Gestapo personnel. A tremendous haul! And then, at the bottom of the packet, there had been the single envelope sealed with red wax and the notation ONLY TO BE OPENED IN FINAL EMERGENCY. The envelope contained one single sheet of paper. It was unsigned, and the few words were written in red ink. The heading said VALUTA, and beneath it was written: WILDE KAISER. FRANZISKANER HALT. 100 M. ÖSTLICH STEINHÜGEL. WAFFENKISTE. ZWEI BAR 24 KT. Under that was a list of measurements in centimeters. Major Smythe held his hands apart as if telling a story about a fish he had caught. The bars would be about as wide as his shoulders and about two by four inches. And one single English sovereign of only eighteen carats was selling nowadays for two to three pounds! This was a bloody fortune! Forty, fifty thousand pounds worth! Maybe even a hundred! He didn’t stop to think, but, quite coolly and speedily, in case anyone should come in, he put a match to the paper and the envelope, ground the ashes to powder, and swilled them down the lavatory. Then he took out his large-scale Austrian ordnance map of the area and in a moment had his finger on the Franziskaner Halt. It was marked as an uninhabited mountaineer’s refuge on a saddle just below the highest of the easterly peaks of the Kaiser mountains, that awe-inspiring range of giant stone teeth that gave Kitzbühel its threatening northern horizon. And the cairn of stones would be about there—his fingernail pointed—and the whole bloody lot was only ten miles and perhaps a five hours’ climb away!