James Bond roared with laughter. ‘You’ve got a bloody cheek, Tiger! You ought to write that out and sign it “Octogenarian” and send it in to The Times. You just come over and take a look at the place. It’s not doing all that badly.’
‘Bondo-san, you have pleaded guilty out of your own mouth. “Not doing too badly,” indeed! That is the crybaby excuse of a boy who gets a thoroughly bad end-of-term report. In fact you are doing very badly indeed in the opinion of your few remaining friends. And now you come to me and ask for some very important intelligence material to bolster up the pitiful ruins of a once great Power. Why should we give it to you? What good will it do us? What good will it do you, Bondo-san? It is like giving smelling salts to a punch-drunk heavy-weight just before the inevitable knockout.’
Bond said angrily, ‘Balls to you, Tiger! And balls again! Just because you’re a pack of militant potential murderers here, longing to get rid of your American masters and play at being samurai again, snarling behind your subservient smiles, you only judge people by your own jungle standards. Let me tell you this, my fine friend. England may have been bled pretty thin by a couple of World Wars, our Welfare State politics may have made us expect too much for free, and the liberation of our Colonies may have gone too fast, but we still climb Everest and beat plenty of the world at plenty of sports and win Nobel Prizes. Our politicians may be a feather pated bunch, and I expect yours are too. All politicians are. But there’s nothing wrong with the British people – although there are only fifty million of them.’
Tiger Tanaka smiled happily. ‘Well spoken, Bondo-san. I thought your famous English stoicism might break down if I hit hard enough. I just wanted to see. And, for your information, those are very similar to the words I addressed to my Prime Minister. And do you know what he said? He said, all right, Mr Tanaka. Put this Commander Bond to the test. If he succeeds, I will agree that there is still an elite in Britain and that this valuable material would be safe in their hands. If he fails, you will politely turn down the request.’
Bond shrugged impatiently. He was still smarting under Tiger’s onslaught, and the half-truths which he knew lay behind his words. ‘All right, Tiger. What is this ridiculous test? Some typical bit of samurai nonsense, I suppose.’
‘More or less,’ agreed Tiger Tanaka, with equanimity. ‘You are to enter this Castle of Death and slay the Dragon within.’
THE black Topoyet hurtled through the deserted streets which were shiny with the dew of what would be a beautiful day.
Tiger had dressed in casual clothes as if for a country outing. He had a small overnight bag on the seat beside him. They were on the way to a bathhouse which Tiger said was of a very special, a very pleasurable nature. It was also, Tiger said, very discreet, and the opportunity would be taken to make a start in transforming Bond’s appearance into something more closely resembling a Japanese.
Tiger had overridden all Bond’s objections. On all the evidence, this doctor was a purveyor of death. Because he was mad? Because it amused him? Tiger neither knew nor cared. For obvious reasons of policy, his assassination, which had been officially agreed to, could not be carried out by a Japanese. Bond’s appearance on the scene was therefore very timely. He had had much practice in such clandestine operations and, if he was subsequently arrested by the Japanese police, an adequate cover story involving foreign intelligence services could be cooked up. He would be tried, sentenced, and then quietly smuggled out of the country. If he failed, then presumably the doctor or his guards would kill him. That would be too bad. Bond argued that he had personally nothing against this Swiss botanist. Tiger replied that any good man’s hand would be against a man who had already killed five hundred of his fellow creatures. Was that not so? And, in any case, Bond was being hired to do this act in exchange for MAGIC 44. Did that not quieten his conscience? Bond agreed reluctantly that it did. As a last resort, Bond said that the operation was in any case impossible. A foreigner in Japan could be spotted five miles away. Tiger replied that this matter had been provided for and the first step was a visit to this most discreet bathhouse. Here Bond would receive his first treatment and then get some sleep before catching the train on which Tiger would be accompanying him. And Tiger, with a devilish grin, had assured him that at any rate part of his treatment would be most pleasurable and relaxing.
The exterior of the bathhouse looked like a Japanese inn – some carefully placed stepping-stones meandering briefly between dwarf pines, a wide-open, yellow-lighted doorway with a vista of polished wood floors behind, three bowing smiling women in traditional dress, as bright as birds although it was nearly five in the morning, and the inevitable row of spotless, but undersi2ed slippers. After much bowing and counter-bowing and a few phrases from Tiger, Bond took off his shoes and, in his socks (explanation by Tiger; polite giggles behind raised hands), did as Tiger told him and followed one of the women along a gleaming corridor and through an open partition that revealed a miniature combination of a bedroom and a Turkish bath. A young girl, wearing nothing but tight, brief shorts and an exiguous white brassiere, bowed low, said, ‘Excuse, please,’ and began to unbutton Bond’s trousers. Bond held the pretty hand where it was. He turned to the older woman who was about to close the partition and said, ‘Tanaka-san,’ in a voice that pleaded and ordered. Tiger was fetched. He was wearing nothing but his underpants. He said, ‘What is it now?’
Bond said, ‘Now listen, Tiger, I’m sure this pretty girl and I will get along very well indeed. But just tell me what the menu is. Am I going to eat her or is she going to eat me?’
Tiger said patiently, ‘You really must learn to obey orders without asking questions, Bondo-san. That is the essence of our relationship during the next few days. You see that box? When she has undressed you, she will put you in the box which has a charcoal fire under it. You will sweat. After perhaps ten minutes she will help you out of the box and wash you from head to foot. She will even tenderly clean out your ears with a special ivory instrument. She will then pour a very tenacious dark dye with which she has been supplied into that tiled bath in the floor and you will get in. You will relax and bathe your face and hair. She will then dry you and cut your hair in the Japanese style. She will then give you a massage on that couch and, according to your indications, she will make this massage as delightful, as prolonged as you wish. You will then go to sleep. When you are awakened with eggs and bacon and coffee you will kiss the girl good morning and shave, or the other way round, and that will be that.’ Tiger curtly asked the girl a question. She brushed back her bang of black hair coquettishly and replied. ‘The girl says she is eighteen and that her name is Mariko Ichiban. Mariko means “Truth” and Ichiban means “Number One”. The girls in these establishments are numbered. And now, please don’t disturb me any more. I am about to enjoy myself in a similar fashion, but without the walnut stain. And please, in future, have faith. You are about to undergo a period of entirely new sensations. They may be strange and surprising. They will not be painful – while you are under my authority, that is. Savour them. Enjoy them as if each one was your last. All right? Then good night, my dear Bondo-san. The night will be short, alas, but if you embrace it fully, it will be totally delightful up to the last squirm of ecstasy. And,’ Tiger gave a malicious wave of the hand as he went out and closed the partition, ‘you will arise from it what is known as “a new man”.’
James Bond got at any rate part of the message. As Mariko’s busy fingers proceeded to remove his trousers and then his shirt, he lifted her chin and kissed her full on the soft, yielding, bud-like mouth.
Later, sitting sweating and reflecting in the comfortable wooden box, very tired, slightly, but cheerfully, drunk, he remembered his dismal thoughts in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. He also remembered his interview with M., and M. saying that he could leave the hardware behind on this purely diplomatic assignment; and the lines of irony round Bond’s mouth deepened.
Mariko was looking into the wall mirror and fiddling with her hair and eyebrows. Bond said, ‘Mariko. Out I’
Mariko smiled and bowed. She unhurriedly removed her brassiere and came towards the wooden box.
Bond reflected: What was it that Tiger had said about becoming a new man? and he reached for Mariko’s helping hands and watched her breasts tauten as she pulled him out and towards her.
It was indeed a new man who followed Tiger through the thronged halls of Tokyo main station. Bond’s face and hands were of a light brown tint, his black hair, brightly oiled, was cut and neatly combed in a short fringe that reached halfway down his forehead, and the outer corners of his eyebrows had been carefully shaved so that they now slanted upwards. He was dressed, like so many of the other travellers, in a white cotton shirt buttoned at the wrists and a cheap, knitted silk, black tie exactly centred with a rolled gold pin. His ready-made black trousers, held up by a cheap black plastic belt, were rather loose in the fork, because Japanese behinds are inclined to hang low, but the black plastic sandals and dark blue nylon socks were exactly the right size. A much-used overnight bag of Japan Air Lines was slung over his shoulder, and this contained a change of shirt, singlet, pants and socks, Shinsei cigarettes, and some cheap Japanese toilet articles. In his pockets were a comb, a cheap, used wallet containing some five thousand yen in small denomination notes, and a stout pocket knife which, by Japanese law, had a blade not more than two inches long. There was no handkerchief, only a packet of tissues. (Later, Tiger explained. ‘Bondo-san, this Western habit of blowing the nose and carefully wrapping up the result in silk or fine linen and harbouring it in your pocket as if it were something precious 1 Would you do the same thing with the other excretions of your body? Exactly! So, if in Japan you wish to blow your nose, perform the act decorously and dispose at once, tidily, of the result.’)
Despite his height, Bond merged quite adequately into the bustling, shoving crowd of passengers. His’disguise’ had mysteriously appeared in his room at the bathhouse and Mariko had greatly enjoyed dressing him up. ‘Now Japanese gentleman,’ she had said approvingly as, with a last lingering kiss, she had gone to answer Tiger’s rap on the partition. Bond’s own clothes and possessions had already been taken away.
‘They and your things from the hotel will be transferred to Dikko’s apartment,’ Tiger had said. ‘Later today, Dikko will inform your Chief that you have left Tokyo with me for a visit to the MAGIC establishment, which is, in fact, a day’s journey from Tokyo, and that you •will be away for several days. Dikko believes that this is so. My own department merely know that I shall be absent on a mission to Fukuoka. They do not know that you are accompanying me. And now we will take the express to Gamagori on the south coast and the evening hydrofoil across Ise Bay to the fishing port of Toba. There we will spend the night. This is to be a slow journey to Fukuoka for the purpose of training and educating you. It is necessary that I make you familiar with Japanese customs and folkways so that you make as few mistakes as possible – when the time comes.’
The gleaming orange and silver express slid to a stop beside them. Tiger barged his way on board. Bond waited politely for two or three women to precede him. When he sat down beside Tiger, Tiger hissed angrily, ‘First lesson, Bondo-san! Do not make way for women. Push them, trample them down. Women have no priority in this country. You may be polite to very old men, but to no one else. Is that understood?’