Tiger said, ‘Three games of three?’
The two fists rose slowly from the table top, quickly hammered twice in unison and shot forward. Tiger had kept his fist balled in the Stone. Bond’s palm was open in the Paper that wrapped the Stone. One up to Bond. Again the ritual and the moment of truth. Tiger had kept to the Stone. Bond’s first and second fingers were open in the Scissors, blunted by Tiger’s Stone. One all.
Tiger paused and placed his fist against his forehead. He closed his eyes in thought. He said, ‘Yes. I’ve got you, Bondo-san. You can’t escape.’
‘Good show,’ said Bond, trying to clear his mind of the suspicion that Tiger would keep to the Stone, or alternatively, that Tiger would expect him to play it that way, expect Bond to play the Paper and himself riposte with the Scissors to cut the paper. And so on and so forth. The three emblems whirled round in Bond’s mind like the symbols on a fruit machine.
The two fists were raised – one, two, forward!
Tiger had kept to his Stone. Bond had wrapped it up with the Paper. First game to Bond.
The second game lasted longer. They both kept on showing the same symbol, which meant a replay. It was as if the two players were getting the measure of each other’s psychology. But that could not be so, since Bond had no psychological intent. He continued to play at random. It was just luck. Tiger won the game. One all.
Last game! The two contestants looked at each other. Bond’s smile was bland, rather mocking. A glint of red shone in the depths of Tiger’s dark eyes. Bond saw it and said to himself, ‘I would be wise to lose. Or would I?’ He won the game in two straight goes, blunting Tiger’s Scissors with his Stone, wrapping Tiger’s Stone with his Paper.
Tiger bowed low. Bond bowed even lower. He sought for a throwaway remark. He said, ‘I must get this game adopted in time for your Olympics. I would certainly be chosen to play for my country.’
Tiger Tanaka laughed with controlled politeness. ‘You play with much insight. What was the secret of your method?’
Bond had had no method. He quickly invented the one that would be most polite to Tiger. ‘You are a man of rock and steel, Tiger. I guessed that the paper symbol would be the one you would use the least. I played accordingly.’
This bit of mumbo-jumbo got by. Tiger bowed. Bond bowed and drank more sake, toasting Tiger. Released from the tension, the geisha applauded and the Madame instructed Trembling Leaf to give Bond another kiss. She did so. How soft the skins of Japanese women were! And their touch was almost weightless! James Bond was plotting the rest of his night when Tiger said, ‘Bondo-san, I have matters to discuss with you. Will you do me the honour of coming to my house for a nightcap?’
Bond immediately put away his lascivious thoughts.According to Dikko, to be invited to a Japanese private house was a most unusual sign of favour. So, for some reason, he had done right to win this childish game. This might mean great things. Bond bowed. ‘Nothing would give me more pleasure, Tiger.’
An hour later they were sitting in blessed chairs with a drink-tray between them. The lights of Yokohama glowed a deep orange along the horizon, and a slight smell of the harbour and the sea came in through the wide-open partition leading on to the garden. Tiger’s house was designed, enchantingly, as is even the meanest Japanese salary-man’s house, to establish the thinnest possible dividing line between the inhabitant and nature. The three other partitions in the square room were also fully slid back, revealing a bedroom, a small study and a passage.
Tiger had opened the partitions when they entered the room. He had commented, ‘In the West, when you have secrets to discuss, you shut all the doors and windows. In Japan, we throw everything open to make sure that no one can listen at the thin walls. And what I have now to discuss with you is a matter of the very highest secrecy. The sake is warm enough? You have the cigarettes you prefer? Then listen to what I have to say to you and swear on your honour to divulge it to no one.’ Tiger Tanaka gave his great golden shout of mirthless laughter. ‘If you were to break your promise, I would have no alternative but to remove you from the earth.’
CURTAINS FOR BOND?
EXACTLY one month before, it had been the eve of the annual closing of Blades. On the next day, 1 September, those members who were still unfashionably in London would have to pig it for a month at Whites or Boodle’s. Whites they considered noisy and’smart’, Boodle’s too full of superannuated country squires who would be talking of nothing but the opening of the partridge season. For Blades, it was one month in the wilderness. But there it was. The staff, one supposed, had to have their holiday. More important, there was some painting to be done and there was dry-rot in the roof.
M., sitting in the bow window looking out over St James’s Street, couldn’t care less. He had two weeks’ trout fishing on the Test to look forward to and, for the other two weeks, he would have sandwiches and coffee at his desk. He rarely used Blades, and then only to entertain important guests. He was not a ‘clubable’ man and if he had had the choice he would have stuck to The Senior, that greatest of all Services’ clubs in the world. But too many people knew him there, and there was too much ‘shop’ talked. And there were too many former shipmates who would come up and ask him what he had been doing with himself since he retired. And the lie, ‘Got a job with some people called Universal Export,’ bored him, and though verifiable, had its risks.
Porterfield hovered with the cigars. He bent and offered the wide case to M.’s guest. Sir James Molony raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘I see the Havanas are still coming in.’ His hand hesitated. He picked out a Romeo y Julieta, pinched it gently and ran it under his nose. He turned to M. ‘What’s Universal Export sending Castro in return? Blue Streak?’
M. was not amused. Porterfield observed that he wasn’t. As Chief Petty Officer, he had served under M. in one of his last commands. He said quickly, but not too quickly, ‘As a matter of fact, Sir James, the best of the Jamaicans are quite up to the Havanas these days. They’ve got the outer leaf just right at last.’ He closed the glass lid of the case and moved away.
Sir James Molony picked up the piercer the head waiter had left on the table and punctured the tip of his cigar with precision. He lit a Swan Vesta and waved its flame to and fro across the tip and sucked gently until he had got the cigar going to his satisfaction. Then he took a sip, first at his brandy and then at his coffee, and sat back. He observed the corrugated brow of his host with affection and irony. He said, ‘All right, my friend. Now tell me. What’s the problem?’
M.’s mind was elsewhere. He seemed to be having difficulty getting his pipe going. He said vaguely, between puffs, ‘What problem?’
Sir James Molony was the greatest neurologist in England. The year before, he had been awarded a Nobel Prize for his now famous Some Psychosomatic Side-effects of Organic Inferiority. He was also nerve specialist by appointment to the Secret Service and, though he was rarely called in, and then only in extremis, the problems he was required to solve intrigued him greatly because they were both human and vital to the State. And, since the war, the second qualification was a rare one.
M. turned sideways to his guest and watched the traffic up St James’s.
Sir James Molony said, ‘My friend, like everybody else, you have certain patterns of behaviour. One of them consists of occasionally asking me to lunch at Blades, stuffing me like a Strasbourg goose, and then letting me in on some ghastly secret and asking me to help you with it. The last time, as I recall, you wanted to find out if I could extract certain information from a foreign diplomat by getting him under deep hypnosis without his knowledge. You said it was a last resort. I said I couldn’t help you. Two weeks later, I read in the paper that this same diplomat had come to a fatal end by experimenting with the force of gravity from a tenth floor window. The coroner gave an open verdict of the “Fell Or Was Pushed” variety. What song am I to sing for my supper this time?’
Sir James Molony relented. He said with sympathy, ‘Come on, M.! Get it off your chest!’
M. looked him coldly in the eye. ‘It’s 007. I’m getting more and more worried about him.’
‘You’ve read my two reports on his condition. Anything new?’
‘No. Just the same. He’s going slowly to pieces. Late at the office. Skimps his work. Makes mistakes. He’s drinking too much and losing a lot of money at one of these new gambling clubs. It all adds up to the fact that one of my best men is on the edge of becoming a security risk. Absolutely incredible considering his record.’
Sir James Molony shook his head with conviction. ‘It’s not in the least incredible. You either don’t read my reports or you don’t pay enough attention to them. I have said all along that the man is suffering from shock.’ Sir James Molony leant forward and pointed his cigar at M.’s chest. ‘You’re a hard man, M. In your job you have to be. But there are some problems, the human ones for instance, that you can’t always solve with a rope’s end. This is a case in point. Here’s this agent of yours, just as tough and brave as I expect you were at his age. He’s a bachelor and a confirmed womanizer. Then he suddenly falls in love, partly, I suspect, because this woman was a bird with a wing down and needed his help. It’s surprising what soft centres these so-called tough men always have. So he marries her and within a few hours she’s shot dead by this super-gangster chap. What was his name?’
‘Blofeld,’ said M. ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld.’
‘All right. And your man got away with nothing worse than a crack on the head. But then he started going to pieces and your MO thought he might have suffered some brain injury and sent him along to me. Nothing wrong with him at all. Nothing physical that is – just shock. He admitted to me that all his zest had gone. That he wasn’t interested in his job any more, or even in his life. I hear this sort of talk from patients every day. It’s a form of psycho-neurosis, and it can grow slowly or suddenly. In your man’s case, it was brought on out of the blue by an intolerable life-situation – or one that he found intolerable because he had never encountered it before -the loss of a loved one, aggravated in his case by the fact that he blamed himself for her death. Now, my friend, neither you nor I have had to carry such a burden, so we don’t know how we would react under it. But I can tell you that it’s a hell of a burden to lug around. And your man’s caving in under it. I thought, and I said so in my report, that his job, its dangers and emergencies and so forth, would shake him out of it. I’ve found that one must try and teach people that there’s no top limit to disaster – that, so long as breath remains in your body, you’ve got to accept the miseries of life. They will often seem infinite, insupportable. They are part of the human condition. Have you tried him on any tough assignments in the last few months?’
‘Two,’ said M. drearily. ‘He bungled them both. On one he nearly got himself killed, and on the other he made a mistake that was dangerous for others. That’s another thing that worries me. He didn’t make mistakes before. Now suddenly he’s become accident-prone.’
‘Another symptom of his neurosis. So what are you going to do about it?’
Tire him,’ said M. brutally. ‘Just as if he’d been shot to pieces or got some incurable disease. I’ve got no room in his Section for a lame-brain, whatever his past record or whatever excuses you psychologists can find for him. Pension, of course. Honourable discharge and all that. Try and find him a job. One of these new security organizations for the banks might take him.’ M. looked defensively into the clear blue, comprehending eyes of the famous neurologist. He said, seeking support for his decision, ‘You do see my point, Sir James? I’m tightly staffed at Headquarters, and in the field, for that matter. There’s just no place where I can tuck away 007 so that he won’t cause harm.’