‘I appreciate your point of view, Commander. There is of course, in this instance, an alternative route for this information to reach your government.’ Mr Tanaka’s face crinkled wickedly.
Bond leant urgently over the desk. ‘But I gave my word of honour!’
Mr Tanaka’s face underwent a curious change. All the upward lines turned downwards. The dark eyes lost their glitter and assumed an inward look. In a curious way, the whole face slumped into melancholy. He said, ‘Commander, I was very happy in England. Your people were very good to me. I repaid them in an unworthy fashion.’ (Ah! thought Bond. The ON.) ‘I plead youth and the heat of a war that I thought would bring much glory to my country. I was mistaken. We were defeated. The expiation of that dishonour is a large matter, a matter for the youth of this country. I am not a politician and I do not know what course that expiation will take. At present we are going through the usual transition period of the vanquished. But I, Tanaka, have my own private accounting to balance. I am in great debt to your country. This morning I have betrayed a State secret to you. I was encouraged in my action by my friendship for Dikko. I was also encouraged by the sincerity of your bearing and the honesty of your approach to the duty that has been laid upon you. I fully realize the importance of this piece of paper to Britain. You remember its contents?’
‘Exactly, I think.’
‘And you are on your honour not to communicate it elsewhere.’
Tiger Tanaka got to his feet and held out his hand. ‘Goodbye for the time being, Commander. I hope that we shall be seeing more of each other.’ The powerful face lit up again.
Now there was no pretence in the great golden smile. ‘Honour is a pattern of behaviour, Commander. The bamboo must bend to the breeze. But equally the cedar must bend to the typhoon. The meaning of this is that sometimes duty is more compelling than any words. A car is waiting to take you back to your hotel. Please give my deep respects to Dikko and tell him he owes me one thousand yen for repairs to electronic equipment that is the property of the State.’
James Bond took the hard dry paw. He said from his heart: ‘Thank you, Mr Tanaka.’ He walked out of the little secret room with one thought uppermost in his mind. How fast were Dikko’s communications to Melbourne? How fast from Melbourne to London?
AND now it was a month later and Mr Tanaka had become ‘Tiger’ and Commander Bond had become ‘Bondo-san’. Tiger had explained his name for James Bond. ‘James,’ he had said. ‘That is a difficult work in Japanese. And it does not convey sufficient respect. Bond-san is too much like the Japanese word bonsan, which means a priest, a greybeard. The hard consonants at the end of “Bond” are also not easy for the Japanese, and when these occur in a foreign word we add an O. So you are Bondo-san. That is acceptable?’
‘Does Bondo mean a pig or anything like that in Japanese?’
‘No. It has no meaning.’
‘Forgive my asking. The Japanese seem to enjoy many private jokes at the expense of the gaijin. I referred the other day to a friend of mine called “Monkey” McCall whom we used to call “Munko”. You told me that this was an unmentionable word in your language. So I thought “Bondo” might be equally unmentionable.’
‘Have no fear. It is totally respectable.’
The weeks had passed without any significant progress in Bond’s mission except in the direction of what seemed to be a genuine friendship between Bond, Tiger and Dikko. Outside working hours the three men became wellnigh inseparable, but Bond sensed that on their excursions into the countryside and during their roistering in the evenings he was being constantly, but with great discretion, sized up. Dikko had confirmed Bond’s impression. ‘I think you’re making progress, champ. Tiger would regard it as dishonourable to lead you up the garden path and then pull the rug out from under you with a flat refusal. Something’s definitely cooking in the background, but what it is I haven’t the faintest idea. I guess the ball’s with Tiger’s superiors, but with Tiger on your side. And, in the vernacular, Tiger’s got what’s called “a broad face”. That means he has great powers as a fixer. And this ON he’s got in respect of Britain is a huge factor in your favour. What he gave you on your first meeting was an unheard-of presento, as we call it here. But watch out! You’re piling up a great heap of ON in respect of Tiger. And if it comes to striking a bargain, I hope you’ve got a pretty massive presento up your sleeve so that the ON on both sides is more or less evenly balanced. None of this salmon and shrimp business! Have got? Can do?’
‘I’m not so sure,’ said Bond doubtfully. The Macao ‘Blue Route’ material had already dwindled in his mind to the size of a minnow in comparison with the salmon that was Tiger’s to give or withhold. The impact of the single slice he had handed Bond had already been formidable. The test of the zoo-megaton bomb had duly taken place and had been greeted by the public uproar anticipated by Moscow. But counter-action by the West had been swift. On the excuse of protecting Soviet personnel in England from demonstrations of public animosity, they had been confined within a radius of twenty miles of their homes, and ‘for their protection’ police were thick round the Soviet Embassy, the consulates and their various trading offices. There had, of course, been reprisals on British diplomats and journalists in Russia, but these were to have been expected. Then President Kennedy had come out with the strongest speech of his career, and had committed total reprisals from the United States in the event of a single nuclear device being exploded by the Soviet Union in any country in the world outside Soviet territory. This thundering pronouncement, which had produced a growl of dismay from the American man-in-the-street, was greeted from Moscow by the feeble riposte that they would take similar action in answer to any Western nuclear device exploded on the territory of the USSR or her allies.
A few days later Bond had been summoned again to Tiger’s underground hideout. ‘You will not of course repeat this,’ Tiger had said with his wicked smile. ‘But action in respect of the matter of which you are privately aware has been indefinitely postponed by the Central Authority.’
‘Thank you for this private information,’ Bond had said. ‘But you do realize how your kindness of three weeks ago has greatly alleviated the international tension, particularly in relation to my country. My country would be immensely grateful if they knew of your personal generosity to me. Have I grounds for hoping for your further indulgence?’ Bond had got used to the formalities of Oriental circumlocution, although he had not yet attained the refinements of Dikko’s speech with Tiger, which included at least one four-letter word in each flowery sentence and which caused Tiger much amusement.
‘Bondo-san, this implement which you wish to rent from us, in the most improbable event that it is made available, will command a very high price. As a fair trader, what has your country to offer in exchange for the full use of MAGIC 44?’
‘We have a most important intelligence network in China known as the Macao “Blue Route”. The fruits of this source would be placed entirely at your disposal.’
Melancholy settled over Tiger’s massive face, but deep down in the Tartar eyes there was a wicked gleam. ‘I am very much afraid that I have bad news for you, Bondo-san. “Blue Route” has been penetrated by my organization almost since its inception. We already receive the entire fruits of that source. I could show you the files if you wish. We have simply renamed it “Route Orange”, and I admit that the material is very acceptable. But we already have it. What other goods had you in mind for exchange?’
Bond had to laugh. The pride of Section J – and of M., for that matter! The work, the expense, the danger of running the ‘Blue Route’. And at least fifty per cent in aid of Japan! By God, his eyes were being opened on this trip. This news would put a fine cat among the pigeons at HQ. He said blandly, ‘We have many other commodities. Now that you have demonstrated the undoubted value of your implement, may I suggest that you name your price?’
‘You believe that you have something on your shelves that is of comparable value? Perhaps material from a similar, though no doubt inferior, source that would be of equal importance in the defence of our country?’
‘Undoubtedly,’ said Bond staunchly. ‘But, my dear Tiger, would it not be a good idea, once your mind is made up, for you to pay a visit to London and inspect the shelves for yourself? I am sure my Chief would be honoured to receive you.’
‘You do not possess full powers of negotiation?’
‘That would be impossible, my dear Tiger. Our security is such that even I have not full knowledge of all our merchandise. So far as I personally am concerned, I am only in a position to pass on to my Chief the substance of what you say or to render you any other personal services you might ask of me.’
For a moment, Tiger Tanaka looked thoughtful. He seemed to be turning Bond’s last words over in his mind. Then he closed the interview with the invitation to the geisha restaurant, and Bond went off with mixed feelings to report to Melbourne and London what he had gleaned.
In the room where he now sat after the geisha party, and where Tiger had just cheerfully threatened him with death, tigers’ heads snarled at him from the walls and gnashed at him from the floor. His ashtray was enclosed in a stuffed tiger’s paw and the chair in which he was sitting was upholstered in tiger’s skin. Mr Tanaka had been born in the year of the Tiger, whereas Bond, as Tiger had taken much pleasure in telling him, had been born in the year of the Rat.
Bond took a deep drink of sake and said, ‘My dear Tiger, I would hate to put you to the inconvenience of having to remove me from the face of the earth. You mean that this time the cedar may not bow before the typhoon? So be it. This time you have my very topmost word of honour.’
Tiger pulled up a chair and faced Bond across the low drink table. He poured himself a liberal tot of Suntory and splashed in the soda. The sound of night traffic from the main Tokyo-Yokohama road came in from some way beyond the surrounding houses, only a few of which now showed doll’s-house squares of yellow light. It was the end of September, but warm. It was ten minutes to midnight. Tiger began talking in a soft voice. ‘In that case, my dear Bondo-san, and since I know you to be a man of honour, except, of course, in matters affecting your country, which this does not, I will tell you quite an interesting story. This is how it is.’ He got out of his chair and sat down on the tatami and arranged himself in the lotus position. He was obviously more comfortable in this posture. He said, in an expository tone of voice, ‘Ever since the beginning of the era of Meiji, who you will know was the Emperor who fathered the modernization and Westernization of Japan from the beginning of his reign nearly a hundred years ago, there have from time to time been foreigners who have come to this country and settled here. They have for the most part been cranks and scholars, and the European-born American Lafcadio Hearn, who became a Japanese citizen, is a very typical example. In general, they have been tolerated, usually with some amusement. So, perhaps, would be a Japanese who bought a castle in the Highlands of Scotland, and who learned and spoke Gaelic with his neighbours and expressed unusual and often impertinent interest in Scottish folkways. If he went about his researches politely and peaceably, he would be dubbed an amiable eccentric. And so it has been with the Westerners who have settled and spent their lives in Japan, though occasionally, in time of war, as would no doubt be the case with our mythical Japanese in Scotland, they have been regarded as spies and suffered internment and hardship. Now, since the occupation, there have been many such settlers, the great majority of whom, as you can imagine, have been American. The Oriental way of life is particularly attractive to the American who wishes to escape from a culture which, I am sure you will agree, has become, to say the least of it, more and more unattractive except to the lower grades of the human species to whom bad but plentiful food, shiny toys such as the automobile and the television, and the “quick buck”, often dishonestly earned, or earned in exchange for minimal labour or skills, are the summum bonum, if you will allow the sentimental echo from my Oxford education.’