Bond’s heart had temporarily risen. Now it plummeted again. The old man was being kind, trying to let him down lightly. He said, ‘Then, if it’s all the same to you, sir, I’d still like to put in my resignation. I’ve held the Double-O number for too long. I’m not interested in staff work, I’m afraid, sir. And no good at it either.’
M. did something Bond had never seen him do before. He lifted his right fist and brought it crashing down on the desk. ‘Who the devil do you think you’re talking to? Who the devil d’you think’s running this show? God in Heaven! I send for you to give you promotion and the most important job of your career and you talk to me about resignation I Pig-headed young fool!’
Bond was dumbfounded. A great surge of excitement ran through him. What in hell was all this about? He said, ‘I’m terribly sorry, sir. I thought I’d been letting the side down lately.’
‘I’ll soon tell you when you’re letting the side down.’ M. thumped the desk for a second time, but less hard. ‘Now listen to me, I’m giving you acting promotion to the Diplomatic Section. Four figure number and a thousand a year extra pay. You won’t know much about the Section, but I can tell you there are only two other men in it. You can keep your present office and your secretary, if you like. In fact I would prefer it. I don’t want your change of duty to get about. Understand?’
‘In any case, you’ll be leaving for Japan inside a week. The Chief of Staff is handling the arrangements personally. Not even my secretary knows about it. As you can see,’ M. waved his hand, ‘there’s not even a file on the case. That’s how important it is.’
‘But why have you chosen me, sir?’ Bond’s heart was thumping. This was the most extraordinary change in his fortunes that had ever come about! Ten minutes before he had been on the rubbish heap, his career, his life in ruins, and now here he was being set up on a pinnacle! What the hell was it all about?
For the simple reason that the job’s impossible. No, I won’t go as far as that. Let’s say totally improbable of success.
You’ve shown in the past that you have an aptitude for difficult assignments. The only difference here is that there won’t be any strong-arm stuff,’ M. gave a frosty smile, ‘none of the gun-play you pride yourself on so much. It’ll just be a question of your wits and nothing else. But if you bring it off, which I very much doubt, you will just about double our intelligence about the Soviet Union.’
‘Can you tell me some more about it, sir?’ ‘Have to, as there’s nothing written down. Lower echelon stuff, about the Japanese Secret Service and so forth, you can get from Section J. The Chief of Staff will tell Colonel Hamilton to answer your questions freely, though you will tell him nothing about the purpose of your mission. Understood?’ ‘Yes, sir.’
‘Well now. You know a bit about cryptography?’ ‘The bare bones, sir. I’ve preferred to keep clear of the subject. Better that way in case the Opposition ever got hold of me.’
‘Quite right. Well now, the Japanese are past masters at it. They’ve got the right mentality for finicky problems in letters and numbers. Since the war, under CIA guidance, they’ve built incredible cracking machines – far ahead of IBM and so forth. And for the last year they’ve been reading the cream of the Soviet traffic from Vladivostok and Oriental Russia – diplomatic, naval, air-force, the lot.’ ‘That’s terrific, sir.’ ‘Terrific for the CIA.’
‘Aren’t they passing it on to us, sir? I thought we were hand in glove with CIA all along the line.’
‘Not in the Pacific. They regard that as their private preserve. When Allan Dulles was in charge, we used at least to get digests of any stuff that concerned us, but this new man McCone has cracked down on all that. He’s a good man, all right, and we get along well personally, but he’s told me candidly that he’s acting under orders – National Defence Council. They’re worried about our security. Can’t blame them. I’m equally worried about theirs. Two of their top cryptographers defected a couple of years ago and they must have blown a lot of the stuff we give the Americans. Trouble with this so-called democracy of ours is that the Press get hold of these cases and write them up too big. Pravda doesn’t burst into tears when one of their men come over to us. Izvestia doesn’t ask for a public inquiry. Somebody in KGB gets hell, I suppose. But at least they’re allowed to get on with their job instead of having retired members of the Supreme Soviet pawing through their files and telling them how to run a secret service.’
Bond knew that M. had tendered his resignation after the Prenderghast case. This had involved a Head of Station with homosexual tendencies who had recently, amidst world-wide publicity, been given thirty years for treason. Bond himself had had to give evidence in that particular case, and he knew that the Questions in the House, the case at the Old Bailey, and the hearings before the Farrer Tribunal on the Intelligence Services that had followed, had held up all work at Headquarters for at least a month and brought about the suicide of a totally innocent Head of Section who had taken the whole affair as a direct reflection on his own probity. To get M. back on the track, Bond said, ‘About this stuff the Japanese are getting. Where do I come in, sir?’
M. put both hands flat on the table. It was the old gesture when he came to the 64-dollar question, and Bond’s heart lifted even further at the sight of it. ‘There’s a man in Tokyo called Tiger Tanaka. Head of their Secret Service. Can’t remember what they call it. Some unpronounceable Japanese rubbish. He’s quite a man. First at Oxford. Came back here and spied for them before the war. Joined the Kempeitai, their wartime Gestapo, trained as a kami-kaze and would be dead by now but for the surrender. Well, he’s the chap who has control of the stuff we want, I want, the Chiefs of Staff want. You’re to go out there and get it off him. How, I don’t know. That’s up to you. But you can see why I say you’re unlikely to succeed. He’s in fief – Bond was amused by the old Scottish expression -‘to the CIA. He probably doesn’t think much of us.’ M.’s mouth bent down at the corners. ‘People don’t these days. They may be right or wrong. I’m not a politician. He doesn’t know much about the Service except what he’s penetrated or heard from the CIA. And that won’t be greatly to our advantage, I’d say. We haven’t had a Station in Japan since 1950. No traffic. It all went to the Americans. You’ll be working under the Australians. They tell me their man’s good. Section J says so too. Anyway, that’s the way it is. If anyone can bring it off, you can. Care to have a try, James?’
M.’s face was suddenly friendly. It wasn’t friendly often. James Bond felt a quick warmth of affection for this man who had ordered his destiny for so long, but whom he knew so little. His instinct told him that there were things hidden behind this assignment, motives which he didn’t understand. Was this a rescue job on him? Was M. giving him his last chance? But it sounded solid enough. The reasons for it stood up. Hopeless? Impossible? Perhaps. Why hadn’t M. chosen a Jap speaker? Bond had never been east of Hongkong. But then Orientalists had their own particular drawbacks – too much tied up with tea ceremonies and flower arrangements and Zen and so forth. No. It sounded a true bill. He said, ‘Yes, sir. I’d like to have a try.’
M. gave an abrupt nod. ‘Good.’ He leant forward and pressed a button on the intercom. ‘Chief of Staff? What number have you allotted to 007? Right. He’s coming to see you straight away.’
M. leant back. He gave one of his rare smiles. ‘You’re stuck with your old digit. All right, four sevens. Go along and get briefed.’
Bond said, ‘Right, sir. And, er, thank you.’ He got up and walked over to the door and let himself out. He walked straight over to Miss Moneypenny and bent down and kissed her on the cheek. She turned pink and put a hand up to where he had kissed her. Bond said, ‘Be an angel, Penny, and ring down to Mary and tell her she’s got to get out of whatever she’s doing tonight. I’m taking her out to dinner. Scotts. Tell her we’ll have our first roast grouse of the year and pink champagne. Celebration.’
‘What of?’ Miss Moneypenny’s eyes were suddenly wide and excited.
‘Oh I don’t know. The Queen’s birthday or something. Right?’ James Bond crossed the room and went into the Chief – of Staff’s office.
Miss Moneypenny picked up the inter-office telephone and passed on the message in a thrilled voice. She said, ‘I do think he’s all right again, Mary. It’s all there again like it used to be. Heaven knows what M.’s been saying to him. He had lunch with Sir James Molony today. Don’t tell James that. But it may have something to do with it. He’s with the Chief of Staff now. And Bill said he wasn’t to be disturbed. Sounds like some kind of a job. Bill was very mysterious.’
Bill Tanner, late Colonel Tanner of the Sappers and Bond’s best friend in the Service, looked up from his heavily laden desk. He grinned with pleasure at what he saw. He said, ‘Take a pew, James. So you’ve bought it? Thought you might. But it’s a stinker all right. Think you can bring it off?’
‘Not an earthly, I’d guess,’ said Bond cheerfully. ‘This man Tanaka sounds a tough nut, and I’m no great hand at diplomacy. But why did M. pick on me, Bill? I thought I was in the dog house because of messing up those last two jobs. I was all set to go into chicken farming. Now, be a good chap and tell me what’s the real score.’
Bill Tanner had been ready for that one. He said easily, ‘Balls, James. You’ve been running through a bad patch. We all hit ’em sometimes. M. just thought you’d be the best man for the job. You know he’s got an entirely misplaced opinion of your abilities. Anyway, it’ll be a change from your usual rough-housing. Time you moved up out of that damned Double-O Section of yours. Don’t you ever think about promotion?’
‘Absolutely not,’ said Bond with fervour. ‘As soon as I get back from this caper, I’ll ask for my old number back again. But tell me, how am I supposed to set about this business? What’s this Australian cover consist of? Have I got anything to offer this wily Oriental in exchange for his jewels? How’s the stuff to be transmitted back here if I do get my hands on it? Must be the hell of a lot of traffic.’
‘He can have the entire product of Station H. He can send one of his own staffers down to Hongkong to sit in with us if he likes. He’ll probably be pretty well off on China already, but he won’t have anything as high grade as our Macao link, the “Blue Route”. Hamilton will tell you all about that. In Tokyo, the man you’ll be working with is an Aussie called Henderson – Richard Lovelace Henderson. Fancy name, but Section J and all the old Jap hands say he’s a good man. You’ll have an Australian passport and we’ll fix for you to go out as his number two. That’ll give you diplomatic status and a certain amount of face, which counts for damn near everything out there according to Hamilton. If you get the stuff, Henderson will push it back to us through Melbourne. We’ll give him a communications staff to handle it. Next question.’
‘What are the CIA going to say about all this? After all, it’s bare-faced poaching.’
‘They don’t own Japan. Anyway, they’re not to know. That’s up to this fellow Tanaka. He’ll have to fix the machinery for getting it into the Australian Embassy. That’s his worry. But the whole thing’s on pretty thin ice. The main problem is to make sure he doesn’t go straight along to the CIA and tell ’em of your approach. If you get blown, we’ll just have to get the Australians to hold the baby. They’ve done it before when we’ve been bowled out edging our way into the Pacific. We’re good friends with their Service. First-rate bunch of chaps. And, anyway, the CIA’s hands aren’t as clean as all that. We’ve got a whole file of cases where they’ve crossed wires with us round the world. Often dangerously. We can throw that book at McCone if this business blows up in our faces. But part of your job is to see that it doesn’t.’