Let Nothing You Dismay
(A Bond Holiday Story)
I. Home for the Holidays
Not for the first time, James Bond cursed his traitorous leg. It was deadweight, propped uselessly on a chair, a cast running from his right ankle almost to his knee. It had been useless for a month and would be for at least six more weeks. A broken ankle was a small price for escaping Volkov’s bodyguards on the train. So, at least, he kept telling himself. He lit one of his Morland Special cigarettes with the three gold bands and stared morosely at his cast, sticking out the leg of his irretrievably altered suit. A cold December rain pounded against his office window.
As he contemplated smashing the window with his crutch, the red telephone rang. Miss Moneypenny informed him he was wanted directly by M. Bond stubbed out his cigarette, pushed himself upright, and maneuvered around his desk. As he crutched through the outer office he shot a stern look at the latest in a string of unacceptable girls from the typing pool. He hoped she would not again make the mistake of trying to assist him.
“Simply out of the question 007". M looked at Bond with uncharacteristic warmth. “The operation requires an agent at 100 percent physical capacity.”
“With respect Sir, it’s a sniper job. There’s nothing wrong with those reflexes or my ability to hold a rifle.”
“Yes, but we have to get you into position unobserved. We can’t very well carry you upstairs. Even more fundamentally, if something goes wrong we’d never get you out. I can’t risk the operation or the safety of others just because you’re bored.”
“Sir, it’s just that my skills have always been more operational than administrative. I’d like to be of use to the service.”
“According to the surgeon’s report, it won’t be that long before you’re able to return to your regular duties. In the meantime, why don’t you accept my offer of some extended leave? This isn’t the first time that you’ve needed a break to convalesce.”
“I’d prefer not to at this time. What about my other request?”
‘If you’re sure that’s what you really want. You don’t normally accept that assignment with such good grace.”
“My duties aren’t always so limited.”
“Very well, I’ll have the Chief of Staff put your name on the duty roster. I’m sure it will be appreciated.” A frown creased his lined sailor’s face. “Frankly, I’d just as soon join you but it would upset Mrs. Hammond.”
“Is there anything further sir?”
“No, you’re dismissed.”
Bond rose and M, always uncomfortable with any signs of physical infirmities in his agents, pretended to focus on a memo from Head of S. When Bond arrived into the outer office he was greeted by Bill Tanner, the Chief of Staff and Bond’s best friend in the Service.
“Didn’t go for it, did he?” Bond shook his head.
“I could’ve told you as much. Still, I’d have put my money on you to pull off the job”
“Well thanks for the vote of confidence. You’ll be hearing from him about tomorrow’s duty roster.”
“You’re serious about that? I don’t understand why you don’t get away somewhere warm like Jamaica or Barbados.”
“Have you ever tried walking a beach on crutches?”
“It still seems a damn site better than London in December. Can I at least stand you a drink? In appreciation for you freeing me from the office. Are you really sure you want to do this James? Duty Officer on Christmas?”
“Consider it my present.”
“Well, you do owe me after last night’s bridge game. You’ve been playing far too much lately. You need to either cut back or turn professional. At the rate you’re going we’ll be reading ‘Bond on Bridge’ in the Times.”
“These days I like to focus on the things I can still do well. Fortunately, it includes drinking. So, I’ll buy, since your talents don’t seem to include bridge”. Bond and his partner MacLeod, had hit a small slam against Tanner and his partner, the affable, but hopeless, Commander White. It was not what either considered important money.
“Fair enough. But James are you sure you want to do this? I’m used to coming in and except for the Asian stations it’s a slow day.”
“As I said, these days I like to focus on the things I can still do well.”
As his taxi motored through the rain slicked streets towards his flat in the Kings Road, Bond sat back and lit a cigarette. Damn fool! If he’d paid attention he would’ve known they were on his scent. He’d already identified Volkov as the head of the network, which could’ve been rolled up in Paris. It was his own pride, wanting to finish the job personally, that led to this. Couldn’t even drive a car. You’d think Q Branch could have rigged up some hand controls, but both the service’s motor expert and Bond’s personal mechanic refused to tinker with the Bentley’s elegant machinery.
At least he’d have something to do on Christmas. It was a day to be endured and the more activity the better. There were few options this time of year. Spending Christmas with a woman always sent the wrong signal and made the inevitable break up worse. Jamaica was out of the question. Disentangling himself from the darling Mary Goodnight had been messy and unpleasant. His arrival in Kingston could only end badly. He only hoped there would be some flap, something out of the ordinary, providing some excitement and a chance to be useful.
Bond’s thoughts were interrupted as the taxi pulled up to his flat. He paid the driver, refused all efforts of assistance and made his way in. Despite her protests, May, his Scottish Treasure, had been put on a train to be with her family. Bond sank into an armchair and poured himself a large whisky from the bottle on the conveniently placed sideboard.
His synchraphone gave off multiple “bleeps” indicating that he was to contact headquarters. He made his way to his bedroom, unlocked the cabinet containing the handset for his secure, scrambled line, and dialed the number only used by senior officers.
“007 here, secure line.”
“Message from Mailfist. Important client of sister company arriving from New York Office via Virginia. Greet on way to office and provide friendly reception for twenty four hour layover. Full hospitality extended. Home Office will send car for you with sales figures at 2100. Oh and Merry Christmas”
II. Gold, Silverman and Death
As he sat in the backseat of the service “taxi” waiting for arrivals at Heathrow, Bond mentally reviewed his orders. He was to escort an important CIA source to a Service safe house and make them comfortable during their layover between flights. Apart from the recognition codes, Bond had been provided little additional information except that the source was named Shel Gold, was arriving from New York, and would be flying to Tel Aviv on Christmas Day. Bond could have left the reception and delivery to the two service “minders” who were already inside the terminal. But, as his orders had directed that Gold receive red carpet treatment, Bond rationalized that his personal attention, as Duty Officer, was warranted. Playing tour guide to Mr. Sheldon Gold was not a particularly engaging assignment, but at least it got him out of his flat!
Bond imagined that Shel Gold would be a brash New Yorker, like one of the comedians from the Greenwich Village club Solange dragged him to. With luck they might find some conversational common ground on the merits of Manhattan bars. Otherwise it might be a very long evening. He was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of the car door opening. “Welcome to London, Mr. Gold,” Bond began and then was struck speechless. Instead of a middle aged New Yorker, a strawberry blonde in a beige raincoat leaned into the car..
“Hi, I’m Shelly Gold. Before I get in the car I think I’m supposed to ask you how many reindeer Santa Claus has for his sleigh.”
“That depends on whether Mrs. Claus is driving.”
“I thought Mrs. Claus stayed home with the elves.”
“She has to do her Christmas shopping sometime.”
“That’s right.” She climbed into the backseat next to Bond. By the dome light he could see that she was in her mid twenties, had freckles on her nose and cheeks, and wide cheekbones that suggested Eastern Europe. With an innocent smile that lit up her entire face, she said, “Thanks for meeting me. I still don’t understand this silly stuff about reindeer.” She crossed her right leg over her left, hiking her coat and skirt above the knee and providing an appealing view.
Bond was dumbfounded. Who was she? His orders hadn’t explicitly stated that Shel Gold was a man, but this girl was no CIA asset. She clearly had no basic understanding of tradecraft. Still she had known the correct recognition codes (he would have to give Tanner hell about those silly lines) and nothing about her engaged Bond’s sense of danger. But why was she important to two intelligence services? She was a puzzle and Bond would be troubled until he could explain her. In the meantime, his orders were clear. Although he would watch her carefully, unless he got solid information she was a fake he would keep her safe and comfortable until tomorrow.
The car pulled away from the curb on its way to the Service safe house.
“Well, we were told to keep you safe and comfortable until your flight leaves tomorrow.”
“Not to be rude, but looking at your leg it seems you’re the one in need of someone keeping you safe and comfortable. What happened?”
“Oh, I play a very violent game of bridge.”
“Somehow I think it’s a little more than that. Every time I visit my Uncle Sol I always end up meeting someone like you. The minute I leave New York he always wants me escorted. He’s such a worry wart.” She smiled and shook her head.
“Is that why you’re going to Tel Aviv?”
“Yes, Uncle Sol’s my only surviving family. He’s my mother’s older brother”
“Do you see him every Christmas?” Something was nagging at Bond. Something about the Middle East, which was not Bond’s normal area of operations.
“I try. The holidays are hard when you’re by yourself and even in New York, it’s different when you’re Jewish.”
A blast rocked the car and the front end jerked violently to the left. The car veered off the road, crashed across the shoulder and came to rest in a ditch. Bond immediately pushed the girl down below the window line and drew his Walther. Saunders the minder in the passenger seat, reached for the Sterling submachine gun on the floor, while Standish, the driver, attempted unsuccessfully to re-start the stalled engine. A second blast tore the front end off the car and left nothing recognizable as either Saunders or Standish.
A gray Mercedes sedan pulled off the road and three men got out. The first two carried submachine guns. The third, a slender man in a perfectly tailored topcoat, set a grenade launcher on the floor of the car before approaching the wreckage of the service taxi. He stopped twenty yards behind the car and called out, “Anyone left alive has thirty seconds to show themselves. After that I will launch another grenade into your car. “
His ears ringing and fighting off waves of nausea from the smell of burning flesh, Bond calculated the odds. Although the service taxi was armor plated and could withstand most small arms fire indefinitely, another grenade would leave nothing but burning corpses and twisted metal. If these people were trying to take the girl, they’d have to come through the door one at a time and he might have a chance. But, if they really needed her alive they wouldn’t have risked shooting two grenades at the car. There was only one play and it depended on the girl keeping her head. He slid off the girl and in the calmest voice he could muster said, “open the door slowly and get out. It’ll be alright, I promise. I’ve been in plenty of situations like this before. If they were going to hurt us they would’ve already”. (Bond hoped she was unsophisticated enough to believe that lie!).
As the girl scrambled out the door, Bond added, “and pay attention to what I do”.
He holstered the Walther, opened the left passenger door, grabbed his crutches, and slid out. With obvious difficulty he propped himself up onto his crutches. A cold rain spat at him and he flexed his fingers to keep them warm and limber. The beam of an electric torch played across him and then to Shelly on the other side of the car.
“Well, it appears that the British have sent Tiny Tim to greet their guest this Christmas. No wonder they lost an Empire. Miss Gold, you will please walk slowly in my direction. You may not be able to see them but my two helpers both have sub-machine guns which are easy to aim, even in the dark.” The slender man spoke proper English with a slight Russian accent. “As for you Sir, I cannot for the life of me understand why a cripple would be sent to protect Ms. Gold. Sadly for you I have neither the time nor the inclination to find out.” He issued a sharp command in Russian and one of the gunmen, a tall, broad shape in an army coat, grabbed Shelly by the arm. “Miss. Gold, you will please accompany Piotr, to my car.”She looked at Bond, who nodded slightly in her direction and she began walking.
Bond, looked up. “I suppose you’ve got a boat, but you won’t get to it before our people pick you up. I can help. I could tell you where they’ll be coming from and how to avoid them. If you make it worth my while I can get you and the girl out safely.”
“Sir, apparently you think that I have a tiny mind. I do not need your help or believe in the sincerity of your offer. The girl is coming with me, but not out of the country. We have our own house, quite safe, to which we will take her. She will be killed, quite painfully and slowly. Photographs will be taken of the process. These will be sent to her Uncle. We are doing this as a favor for those who would like to send a message to the Mossad and its Uncle Sol.”
With that, the puzzle pieces fell into place! Shelly’s uncle was Sol Silverman, known in the trade as “Uncle Sol”, the head of covert operations for Israel’s intelligence service. But no time to dwell on that now. Bond needed to focus. If he could find a way to keep their captor talking, he and Shelly might get out of this alive. Perhaps if Bond preyed on the man’s vanity, made him need to prove how smart he was.
“Then you’re a stupid bastard for almost killing her with the grenades.”
“As long as I could confirm her remains, it would have fulfilled my assignment. There are only so many ways to take a guarded person from an armor plated car, even on Christmas Eve. I was given permission, if I could take her alive, to send a more vivid message. It was thought that this would be more effective in achieving our result. That it will be more satisfying personally is just a happy bonus, a sort of Christmas present to me, if I believed in such a decadent holiday.” The smile that followed his words was cold and bonechilling.
“Seems rather pointless and stupid.”
“To the contrary. My government cements a useful alliance in the Middle East. The only stupidity is that our friends believe that this will demoralize Uncle Sol and render him ineffective. We are quite sure that this will not be the case. Instead, the Mossad will retaliate and the cycle of violence will escalate. There will be more instability and this will be good for us. It will give us many friends and many customers. It is this conversation that is pointless and stupid.” The slender man pulled a small automatic from his coat and pointed it at Bond. “Please stand still and keep your hands on your crutches. It strikes me that as you are clearly no bodyguard you may be a courier. Therefore, I need to search your person. Dmitri will also have his weapon pointed at you.” He spat out more Russian.
The other gunman, standing a few feet from the Mercedes, responded, “Da Comrade Vanko” and trained his sub-machine gun on Bond.
Bond continued leaning against the side of the car until Vanko was within a few feet of him. As he approached Bond could make out his black pomaded hair, kept carefully in place, even in the rain and his pencil moustache. Vanko switched his gun to his left hand, stuck it against Bond’s chest and set the flashlight on the roof of the car. He began running his right hand along Bond’s body. He found the Walther in its Berns Martin holster and stuck it in his coat pocket. Continuing his search he found a black book in Bond’s inside jacket pocket. He reached for the flashlight to help make out the contents and in that instant Bond made his move. Bracing his back against the side of the car, Bond brought his right crutch up violently between Vanko’s legs and into his groin. As Vanko bent double Bond jumped on him and they fell onto the cold wet ground. As he anticipated, Dmitri the gunman had to hold his fire in the darkness for fear of hitting his superior. As he held the struggling man, Bond retrieved the Walther from his pocket and hit him on the head with the butt. Dmitri ran toward him and Bond calmly squeezed off two shots, killing the man.
At the sound of the shots, the left back door of the Mercedes flew open and Piotr, crouched over, began running towards Bond, in trained zig-zag fashion to avoid Bond’s fire. This was the moment if the girl only had the sense to get away. Bond fired at Piotr, who, in professional fashion, continued his advance as the shot ricocheted harmlessly off a rock. The car’s engine turned over. Now, get away, damn you, thought Bond, as he tried to fix Piotr in his sight. Then, the engine roared, there was a sickening crunch, and Piotr’s body was underneath the Mercedes. His head, neck and torso were sticking out from the front at an unnatural angle. Even in the dark, he was quite obviously dead.
Shelly opened the door and ran to him. “Are you alright? I didn’t know what to think when I heard the shooting.” She was breathing rapidly, and her hair had fallen down onto her forehead, but all in all seemed remarkably composed.
“Actually, I’m fine. It turns out there’s still things I can do well even if the leg does hurt a bit. I might need a hand up though. But, why didn’t you just drive away?”
“Well I couldn’t just leave you there. Anyway, I wouldn’t have known where to go.”
“But where did you learn to drive like that?”
“Silly man, haven’t you ever been to New York?”
Vanko moaned and began to move. “Stay still you bastard,” Bond commanded and jammed the Walther against Vanko’s head .
As Bond anticipated, two cars of service back up arrived five minutes later. Six armed men and Bill Tanner poured out of the cars.
“Well, Bill, it took you long enough.”
“Lying down on the job again, I see. Sorry James, we left as soon as the automatic homer signal died.”
“Well, I’m not sure how much longer I could have stalled him with the secrets of my address book. Fortunately, he left himself wide open, so to speak.”
“What about Saunders and Standish?”
“I’m afraid two grenades took out more than the homer. It’s this bastard’s doing. Could you see he’s taken someplace unpleasant for rude inquiries.”
One of the backup assisted Bond and handed him his crutches while two others trained their guns on Vanko and roughly brought him to his feet. Another handcuffed him and placed a hood over his head. They marched Vanko to the back of a service taxi, where they continued to guard him.
Tanner walked up to Bond and in a low voice asked, “how’s the girl holding up?”
“Remarkably well. Nerves of steel actually. If you don’t believe me look under the Mercedes.”
“I believe you, I just found out who her Uncle is.”
Shelly walked toward them.
Bond nodded in Tanner’s direction. “Miss Gold, this is Mr. Tanner. He’s from my company and he’s my friend. He and some very large, well armed men will be taking you somewhere very safe and staying with you until your flight leaves tomorrow.”
“Actually James, there’s been a change of plans. We received a request that Miss Gold be escorted all the way to Tel Aviv. Our Managing Director has given you the assignment. We’ll take you to your flat for your clothes and so you can get cleaned up.”
Bond smiled. “Sorry about spoiling your Christmas, Bill. Ms. Gold, will you mind if I accompany you on your trip?”
“I think I’d like that very much and please call me Shelly”
“Then we should be properly introduced. My names Bond, James Bond.”
“Well, James what does a girl have to do around here to get a drink?”
“When we get to my flat, I’ll show you.”
“I think I’d like that very much too.” She smiled.
The soft, cold rain started turning to snow. “God bless us everyone,” Bond muttered under his breath.
III. Dinner with a Wise Man
Solomon Silverman was stocky, with black, tightly curled hair, graying at his temples. His hairline receded from a prominent forehead. His nose was wide and flattened as though it had been broken at least once. His crisp blue short sleeve shirt revealed powerful biceps, but also the first stages of middle aged paunch. He poured himself a glass of after dinner liqueur, leaned back in his chair and smiled at Bond across the dining room table.
“Are you sure you won’t have some Sabra, James?”
Bond shook his head. “No, thank you. Liqueurs always make me feel liked I’m trapped in a sweets shop. Plus, you make yourself ill long before you feel you’ve had a proper drink.” He leaned back and lit one of his Morland Specials. The smoke mingled with the lingering aroma of spiced lamb.
“Ah, James, you’re thinking of it as a means to an end, rather than desert. Well, perhaps I can offer you something more to your taste. Some information perhaps. Are you curious about your friend Comrade Vanko?”
Bond leaned forward in his chair and tapped the end of his cigarette in a crystal ashtray. “What do you know about him?” Then looking over at Shelly seated next to her uncle, Bond added, “do you really want to hear this?” while shooting a quick glance at Silverman intended to convey “do you really want her to hear this?”
Silverman smiled. “I think you underestimate my niece. It has been a long time since she believed I was just a government bureaucrat. Obviously, I don’t share the details of my work with her. But I think she might like to know what it was all about.”
“Actually I know more than I need to already. That horrible man was your enemy and James took care of him. You men talk. The wine made me sleepy. I’m going to bed with my book.” She got up from the table, leaned over Silverman and kissed him on the forehead. She turned to Bond and flashed him a contented smile that briefly brought Bond back to their Christmas Eve in London and a much better Christmas morning than he had anticipated. He was brought back from his reminiscence when she added, “you will let me show you Tel Aviv tomorrow, won’t you?”
“Of course, if you don’t think I’ll hold you back. I’m afraid I’m still a man on one leg.”
“Nonsense. I’m sure you’re capable of all sorts of wonderful things with one leg.” She shot Bond another satisfied smile, which Silverman pretended not to notice, and started down the hallway to her bedroom. Bond watched her retreat and then focused on Silverman.
“What do you know about Vanko?”
“I have dealt with him before and each time it has been unpleasant. After the first time I began compiling a rather lengthy dossier on him. Konstantin Vanko is the son of a Red Army Attache and an Egyptian mother. He was born in Cairo. When he was eight, his father whipped his mother to death in front of the boy, for some imagined infidelity. The local authorities covered up the crime, the father was transferred to the Chinese border and Vanko was sent to Moscow to be raised by a paternal Aunt and Uncle, who, according to my sources, beat him mercilessly for the crime of his mixed blood. He had a gift with languages and studied Arab culture and history at Moscow University. Upon his graduation in 1955, he was recruited into the KGB and is primarily concerned with creating trouble in the Middle East. He is frequently an intermediary for weapons and expertise for people who do not believe my country should exist. He also inspires and helps plan acts of violence. Not all of these are directed at Israelis. He has staged many atrocities in a manner that placed blame upon my government. As I said, he creates chaos. He pretends that he does this for the good of the Soviet state but in reality, he is a sadistic killer. I am aware of at least three brutal murders which he committed for no purpose but his own pleasure.”
“Yes, I’ve dealt with that type before. The Russians seem to have a knack for recruiting them as killers. If they can be properly manipulated, they can be quite deadly.” As
Bond’s dented cigarette case from his trip on the Orient Express could verify.
“So, James, you have done the world as well as me a favor by taking him out of action. I imagine your people will learn even more interesting facts. I hope they are not too gentle. There’s no ideology in that man, just the urge to kill.”
“Aren’t you concerned someone else will come after your niece?”
“I think Comrade Vanko was looking for an excuse to indulge in his hobby. Rather like Beria. Most of my enemies would rather come directly at me. My identity is not much of a secret and as you see I live here rather simply, without bodyguards. When Shelly is in New York, I’m a much easier and more satisfying target.”
“But she’s a target nonetheless. You obviously care for her greatly. What would you do if one of your enemies struck at her?”
“I would not let it destroy me and I would not strike out senselessly.” Silverman took another sip of Sabra and leaned back in his chair. “But I prefer not to dwell on this. She is my only living relative and I take what precautions I can.”
“You run a terrible risk bringing her here.”
“Shelly is an adult. Do not be fooled because she understands the value of sometimes pretending to know less than she does. She is aware of the risk but insists on seeing me each year”.
”You could forbid it. Men in our profession shouldn’t endanger innocents. We have to make choices. You can’t be careless with her safety. How would you live with yourself if something happened to her?” Bond found his voice rising. Where was that coming from? It wasn’t anger. It was something else. “Sol, I’m sorry. I know she means the world to you. Let’s change the subject. Do you have any whiskey?”
“Of course.” Silverman got up and grabbed a decanter from a circular drink cart laden with bottles. He handed it and a glass to Bond.
Bond poured himself a stiff three fingers and took a long pull. He exhaled sharply, lit another Morland and took a deep drag.
Silverman looked at Bond quizzically then smiled to himself. “James, may I tell you about my family? I think you might find it interesting.”
“Of course, I’d be delighted to hear about them.” In fact, Bond was anything but delighted. But, after his outburst, he thought he owed some politeness. He took another long pull on the whiskey.
“I’m originally from Warsaw. We were a reasonably prosperous family. My father was a doctor and my mother was a music teacher. In 1938 my sister Anna, the smartest in the family, was sent to America to attend college at the University of Michigan. I lacked her self-discipline and at age twenty three was working in a factory and living with my parents and two teenaged sisters.”
Bond found his mind wandering. Perhaps if he asked a question he could speed up the narrative. “Did you see what was coming?”
“Of course, we saw that central Europe would not be safe for Jews, but when has it ever been? That’s why Anna was sent to America. My parents tried to send Celia and Sophie to Amsterdam, but this was very expensive. Even with my earnings added, we could not raise enough before the Nazis invaded. After that, it was not possible. I will not bore you with details of the horrors that were inflicted upon us under the occupation.”
“Were you involved in the uprising?”
“No, by that time we had already been deported. Eventually, we were taken to Auschwitz. If you have not experienced it, I cannot describe it. I can only say that the German talent for both efficiency and cruelty were amply demonstrated.” Silverman paused and looked into space.
“Yes, I had my own experience with that. Nothing like yours, of course, and with a much better ending.” Bond thought back to the rubble, bombed buildings, and stench of death that permeated Berlin in those last, clean up days, when he raced the Russians to bring in the remnants of Hitler’s spymasters.
“Have you heard about the camps? They were most simply killing factories. Arrivals were sorted at Selection and the old, the young, the weak and the handicaps were immediately gassed. The rest were stripped of their clothes, their possessions and their dignity. The men and women were separated and sent to separate compounds. Those who were spared from selection were starved and worked, until they either died from disease, starvation, exhaustion or were eventually gassed. Of course, the slightest disobedience was punished by death. Sometimes there were beatings and killings merely for amusement. It is really quite astounding what people can do when they stop seeing you as human.”
“How did you survive?” Bond had become engaged in the tale.
“I was lucky and my father saved me. The Germans gave us little food. This was very shrewd. A starving man cannot concentrate on escape or rebellion. Even if he knows he is doomed, his next meal becomes his sole obsession. Although I was a hearty boy, I soon was sickly and emaciated. This is where my father saved me. As I said, he was a physician and even in the camp would try to help others. When the Germans caught him, they beat him savagely. He never fully recovered. Each day he insisted I take half his meager food ration. If I refused he would give it to someone else. So, I began accepting it and got just enough strength to think of escape. You may be surprised, but the Germans were quite sloppy in their security. They relied on fear and the weakened condition of the inmates to do their work for them. There was a wood pile just outside the perimeter. Our work party would pass it every day on our way to clear rocks and brush. With the help of my father and a friend, I hollowed out a hiding place in the wood pile and concealed myself in it. I stayed there for four days after I was discovered missing. The Germans always searched for an escapee for three days, then they would assume he got away. The dogs almost found me, but I had been able to prepare a powder that concealed my scent. On the fourth night, desperately hungry and thirsty I was able to get to the woods. I eventually connected with some partisans who instead of shooting me, as also happened to escaped Jews, let me fight with them until the War’s end.”
“A remarkable story. You’re to be commended.”
“Am I James? All the rest of my family died in the camp. Perhaps if I had stayed I could have found a way to help them. It’s even worse than that. Do you know what the Germans did every time there was a successful escape? They shot ten random prisoners. I have no doubt that my escape doomed ten innocents.”
“Surely they were doomed anyway.”
“Yes, it is good to think so. And I had help. There were others, braver than I, who helped conceal me and distract the dogs. They knew there was no hope for them, but risked themselves for me. But in the end, they died and I survived. My mother, my father, Celia, Sophie, literally nothing but ash.”
“You can’t blame yourself for surviving.”
“No, my friend James, you can’t. But many do. I was one of them. After the war, I came here to build, but felt I deserved nothing for myself. I did many brutal things, some of which put me at odds with your government. I took outrageous risks, because I did not think I deserved to live. Then, five years ago, I received a letter from Shelly. It told me of Anna’s death and asked if she could visit. At first I resisted, but she was persistent, and against my better judgment, I permitted it. Since then she has visited every year at this time. She is aware of the danger, but believes her life is richer for having family. As is mine.”
Bond, orphaned since childhood, had long steeled himself against the weakness of sentiment. In the life he led, he could only guarantee his own safety. “That’s fine for you, Sol, now that you’re behind a desk, but for my work, family is a weakness.”
“Do you really believe so? You strike me as a man of great courage. Are you brave enough to accept you are not perfect?”
“Every man accepts that.”
“Do they James, do you?”
“Of course, but...” Bullets smashed the windshield and the Lancia swerved off the road. Bond drained the rest of his glass.
“But what, James?”
“But when we make mistakes people die.”
“This is also true of my doctor but I still call him when my throat is sore. James, we do our best. Thanks to your best, my Shelly is here with me. “
”And if I’d failed?”
“As you said James, you can’t blame yourself for surviving.”
IV. New Year’s Resolution
Bond returned to the gray building on Regents Park on December 29. Uncle Sol had insisted on arranging for a magnificent hotel suite and Shelly had proved a wonderful companion. She was remarkably intelligent, and below the surface of her cheerful good humor was a hard edge Bond found appealing. At night she made love with a passionate intensity while making it clear she understood that for both of them this was an interlude and not their future. Sol was equally good company, although of a quite different sort. Bond loved his tales of guerilla action against the Nazis and his (undoubtedly sanitized) version of the Eichmann kidnaping. Nonetheless, Bond was always impatient relying on another man’s hospitality and he did not wish to intrude on Sol and Shelly’s time together.
The weather had broken while he was away and sunlight from the window caught dust motes in the air. Bond regarded his empty in-tray, when his intercom buzzed and the voice of his present unacceptable secretary squawked. “Sir, there’s a Mr. Largo on the public line for you. Says he wants to sell you some property in Nassau.”
What the hell? Bond pressed the yellow light on his telephone engaging the only unscrambled line available, the one that was routed through the Ministry of Defense switchboard, and used for persons trying to contact “civil servant James Bond.” “Hullo, Bond here. What’s this about?”
“I heard you scraped your leg, but I guess you’ve lost your sense of humor too, you gloomy Limey.”
Bond instantly recognized Felix Leiter’s distinctive Texas drawl and reflexively smiled. “Felix, isn’t it a little late your time for prank calls? Shouldn’t you be off tailing stray husbands or locating stolen jewels or at least sleeping with the ugliest woman in New Jersey?”
“Well, I’ve seen your English girls and I know why you’re always drinking double martinis. Listen you upper class snob, my sources tell me you’ve been a little down in the mouth lately. Why don’t you fly out to New York for New Year’s Eve. I know some friendly models and the owners of most of the good jazz joints owe me a favor. I’ll give you a lesson in managing adversity.”
Bond, aware of the burdens Leiter had to bear, and how he had incurred them, was ashamed of his own prolonged self-pity. Leiter never mentioned his injuries, except in joking, and they never stopped him from being a valuable ally. Bond doubted he would have handled them so well. His friend was truly remarkable.
“It sounds wonderful, but I’m afraid you’ll have to handle the models without me. I have to be somewhere on New Years. I should be in New York soon though and I’ll stand you a drink or even better several when I come. Oh, and don’t get claw marks on the girls.”
“Alright James, but if you change your mind or you need to get away, remember Pinkerton’s never sleeps and neither does Leiter.”
“Thank you Felix. Best for the New Year.”
“And you as well, James.” There was a click and the transatlantic line went dead. Bond lit one of his Morlands and smoked it to the end. He stared at the telephone. There was one more thing he had to do. He lit another Morland, pressed the yellow button for the public line and dialed the private number possessed by only a few. It rang and he heard the answering click.
“Hello, Marc-Ange. It’s James. I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch. I’m going to Kitzbuhel on New Years. Yes, to see her. I haven’t been there since the service and...” Bond paused and caught his breath. “I was hoping you might like to come.”