‘Oh, all right,’ said Bond resignedly. ‘Now let’s have a look at a photograph of this chap. Has the Superintendent got one?’
It had been taken from a long way away with a telephoto lens. It showed a giant figure in full medieval chain armour with the jagged, winged helmet of ancient Japanese warriors. Bond studied the photograph carefully, noting the vulnerable spots at neck and joints. A metal shield protected the man’s groin. A wide-bladed samurai sword hung from his waist, but there was no sign of any other weapon. Bond said thoughtfully, ‘He doesn’t look as daft as he ought to. Probably because of the Dracula setting. Have you got one of his face? Perhaps he looks a bit madder in the raw.’
The Superintendent went to the bottom of his file and extracted what looked like a blown-up copy of Doctor Gun-tram Shatterhand’s passport photograph and handed it over.
Bond took it nonchalantly. Then his whole body stiffened. He said to himself, God Almighty! God Almighty! Yes. There was no doubt, no doubt at all! He had grown a drooping black moustache. He had had the syphilitic nose repaired. There was a gold-capped tooth among the upper frontals, but there could be no doubt. Bond looked up. He said, ‘Have you got one of the woman?’
Startled by the look of controlled venom on Bond’s face, and by the pallor that showed through the walnut dye, the Superintendent bowed energetically and scrabbled through his file.
Yes, there she was, the bitch – the flat, ugly wardress face, the dull eyes, the scraped-back bun of hair.
Bond held the pictures, not looking at them, thinking.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Irma Bunt. So this was where they had come to hide! And the long, strong gut of fate had lassoed him to them! They of all people 1 He of all people! A taxi-ride down the coast in this remote corner of Japan. Could they smell him coming? Had the dead spy got hold of his name and told them? Unlikely. The power and prestige of Tiger would have protected him. Privacy, discretion, are the heartbeat of Japanese inns. But would they know that an enemy was on his way? That fate had arranged this appointment in Samara? Bond looked up from the pictures. He was in cold control of himself. This was now a private matter. It had nothing to do with Tiger or Japan. It had nothing to do with MAGIC 44. It was ancient feud. He said casually, ‘Tiger, could the Superintendent inquire what his detectives have made of that Black Dragon agent? And of his belongings? I am particularly interested to know whether he may have telephoned or telegraphed my description or my purpose in coming down here.’
There was a long and electric silence in the room. Tiger examined Bond’s face with piercing interest before he passed the inquiry on to the Superintendent. The Superintendent picked up the receiver of an old-fashioned telephone on a double hook. He spoke into it, then, a Japanese habit, blew sharply into the mouthpiece to clear the line, and spoke again at length. He said, ‘A.h, so desu ka!’ many times. Then he put down the receiver. When he had finished talking, Tiger turned to Bond. Again with the same piercing appraisal of Bond’s face, he said, ‘The man came from these parts. He has a police record. Fortunately, he was poorly educated and is known as nothing more than a stupid thug. On the first page of the diary he wrote down his assignment, which was only to follow me to my destination and then report to his master. It seems unlikely that he was provided with funds for expensive communications. But what is it, Bondo-san? Is it that you know these people?’
James Bond laughed. It was a laugh that grated. Even to Bond, it sounded harsh and false in the small room. He had immediately made up his mind to keep his knowledge to him self. To reveal the true identity of Doctor Shatterhand would be to put the whole case back into official channels. The Japanese Secret Service and the CIA would swarm down to Fukuoka. Blofeld and Irma Bunt would be arrested. James Bond’s personal prey would be snatched from him. There would be no revenge I Bond said, ‘Good lord, no I But I am something of a physiognomist. When I saw this man’s face, it was as if someone had walked over my grave. I have a feeling that, whether I succeed or not, the outcome of this mission is going to be decisive for one or the other of us. It will not be a drawn game. But now I have a number of further questions with which I must worry you and the Superintendent. They are small matters of detail, but I want to get everything right before I start.’
Tiger looked relieved. The raw animalism in Bond’s face had been so different from the stoical, ironical face of the Bondo-san for whom he had come to have so much affection. He gave his great golden smile and said, ‘But of course, my friend. And I am pleased with your worries and with the trouble you are taking to make sure of everything in advance. You will forgive me if I quote you one last Japanese proverb. It says, “A reasonable number of fleas is good for a dog. Otherwise the dog forgets he is a dog.”’
‘Good old Basho!’ said Bond.
JAMES BOND went through the rest of the morning like an automaton. While he tried on his ninja equipment and watched each item being carefully packed into a floatable plastic container, his mind was totally occupied with the image of his enemy – this man Blofeld, the great gangster who had founded SPECTRE, the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, the man who was wanted by the police of all the NATO countries, the man who had murdered Tracy, Bond’s wife for less than a day, a bare nine months ago. And, in those nine months, this evil genius had invented a new method of collecting death, as Tiger had put it. This cover as the Swiss Doctor Shatterhand, as a rich botanist, must have been one of the many he had wisely built up over the years. It would have been easy. A few gifts of rare plants to famous botanical gardens, the financing of a handful of expeditions, and all the while in the back of his mind the plan one day to retire and ‘cultiver son jardin’. And what a garden! A garden that would be like a deadly fly-trap for human beings, a killing bottle for those who wanted to die. And of course, Japan, with the highest suicide statistics in the world, a country with an unquenchable thirst for the bizarre, the cruel and the terrible, would provide the perfect last refuge for him. Blofeld must have gone off his head, but with a monstrous, calculating madness – the madness of the genius he undoubtedly was. And the whole demoniac concept was on Blofeld’s usual grand scale – the scale of a Caligula, of a Nero, of a Hitler, of any other great enemy of mankind. The speed of execution was breathtaking, the expenditure fabulous, the planning, down to the use of the Black Dragon Society, meticulous, and the cover as impeccable as the Piz Gloria Clinic which, less than a year before, Bond had helped to destroy utterly. And now the two enemies were lined up again, but this time David was spurred on to kill his Goliath not by duty but by blood feud! And with what weapons? Nothing but his bare hands, a two-inch pocket knife and a thin chain of steel. Well, similar weapons had served him before. Surprise would be the determining factor. Bond added a pair of black flippers to his equipment, a small supply of pemmican-like meat, benzedrine tablets, a plastic flask of water. Then he was ready.
They motored down the main street to where the police launch was waiting at the jetty and set off at a good twenty knots across the beautiful bay and round the headland into the Sea of Genkai. Tiger produced sandwiches and a flask of sake for each of them, and they ate their luncheon as the jagged green coast -with its sandy beaches passed slowly by to port. Tiger pointed out a distant dot on the horizon. ‘Kuro Island,’ he said. ‘Cheer up, Bondo-san 1 You seem preoccupied. Think of all those beautiful naked women you will soon be swimming with! And this Japanese Greta Garbo with whom you will be passing the nights!’
‘And the sharks who will already be gathering at the news of my swim to the castle!’
‘If they do not eat the Amas, why should they eat a bit of tough Englishman? Look at the two fish eagles circling 1 That is an excellent augury. One alone would have been less propitious. Four would have been disastrous, for with us four is the same as your thirteen – the worst number of all. But, Bondo-san, does it not amuse you to think of that foolish dragon dozing all unsuspecting in his castle while St George comes silently riding towards his lair across the waves? It would make the subject for a most entertaining Japanese print.’
‘You’ve got a funny sense of humour, Tiger.’
‘It is merely different from yours. Most of our funny stories involve death or disaster. I am not a “picture-daddy” – a professional story-teller – but I will tell you my favourite. It concerns the young girl who comes to the toll bridge. She tosses one sen, a very small piece of money, to the watchman, and walks on. The watchman calls after her, “Hey! You know that the toll for crossing the bridge is two sen.” The girl answers, “But I do not intend to cross the bridge. I intend only to go halfway and then throw myself into the river.” ‘ Tiger laughed uproariously.
Bond smiled politely. ‘I must save that one up for London. They’ll split their sides over it.’
The small speck on the horizon grew larger and soon revealed itself as a horned island about five miles in circumference with steep cliffs and a small harbour facing north. On the mainland, Doctor Shatterhand’s small peninsula reached out into the sea, and the fortress-like black wall soared up out of the breaking waves. Above it were the tops of trees, and, behind them, in the distance, the winged roof of the topmost storey of the castle broke the skyline. The formidable silhouette reminded Bond vaguely of photographs of Alcatraz taken from sea-level. He shivered slightly at the thought of the night’s swim across the half-mile channel and of the black spider that would then scale those soaring fortifications. Ah well! He turned his attention back to Kuro Island.
It appeared to be made of black volcanic rock, but there was much green vegetation right up to the summit of a small peak on which there was some kind of a stone beacon. When they rounded the headland that formed one arm of the bay, a crowded little village and a jetty appeared. Out to sea, thirty or more rowing boats were scattered and there was the occasional glint of pink flesh in the sunlight. Naked children were playing among the big smooth black boulders that tumbled like bathing hippos along the shoreline, and there were green nets hung up to dry. It was a pretty scene, with the delicate remoteness, the fairyland quality, of small fishing communities all the world over. Bond took an immediate liking to the place, as if he was arriving at a destination that had been waiting for him and that would be friendly and welcoming.
A group of village elders, grave, gnarled old men with the serious expressions of simple people on important occasions, led by the Shinto priest, was on the jetty to welcome them. The priest was in ceremonial robes, a dark-red, three-quarter-length kimono with vast hanging sleeves, a turquoise skirt in broad pleats and the traditional shining black hat in the shape of a blunt cone. He was a man of simple dignity and considerable presence, middle-aged, with a round face and round spectacles and a pursed, judging mouth. His shrewd eye took them in one by one as they came ashore, but they rested longest on Bond. Superintendent Ando was greeted with friendship as well as respect. This was part of his parish, and he was the ultimate source of all fishing permits, reflected Bond ungraciously, but he had to admit that the deference of the bows was not exaggerated and that he was lucky in his ambassador. They proceeded up the cobbled path of the main street to the priest’s house, a modest, weather-beaten affair of stone and carpentered driftwood. They entered and sat on the spotless polished wood floor in an arc in front of the priest, and the Superintendent made a long speech punctuated by serious ‘Hai’s’ and ‘Ah, so desu ka’s’ from the priest, who occasionally let his wise eyes rest thoughtfully on Bond. He made a short speech in return, to which the Superintendent and Tiger listened with deference. Tiger replied, and the business of the meeting was over save for the inevitable tea.