'I thought it must be some kind of a spiel like that. No. You stay away from me. I'm hot as a pistol, going to be hotter later in the day when they find a certain Mercedes at the bottom of a precipice. I'll get off the line now. Sorry to have wrecked your Christmas. 'Bye.'


Bond put down the receiver and went up to the restaurant. Tracy had been watching the door. Her face lit up when she saw him. He sat down very close to her and took her hand, a typical airport farewell couple. He ordered plenty of scrambled eggs and coffee. 'It's all right, Tracy. I've fixed everything at my end. But now about you. That car of yours is going to be bad news. There'll be people who'll have seen you drive away with the Mercedes on your tail. There always are, even at midnight on Christmas Eve. And the big man on top of the mountain has got his men down here too. You'd better finish your breakfast and get the hell on over the frontier. Which is the nearest?'

'Schaffhausen or Konstanz, I suppose, but' - she pleaded -'James, do I have to leave you now? It's been so long waiting for you. And I have done well, haven't I? Why do you want to punish me?' Tears, that would never have been there in the Royale days, sparkled in her eyes. She wiped them angrily away with the back of her hand.

Bond suddenly thought, Hell! I'll never find another girl like this one. She's got everything I've ever looked for in a woman. She's beautiful, in bed and out. She's adventurous, brave, resourceful. She's exciting always. She seems to love me. She'd let me go on with my life. She's a lone girl, not cluttered up with friends, relations, belongings. Above all, she needs me. It'll be someone for me to look after. I'm fed up with all these untidy, casual affairs that leave me with a bad conscience. I wouldn't mind having children. I've got no social background into which she would or wouldn't fit. We're two of a pair, really. Why not make it for always?

Bond found his voice saying those words that he had never said in his life before, never expected to say.

'Tracy. I love you. Will you marry me?'

She turned very pale. She looked at him wonderingly. Her lips trembled. 'You mean that?'

'Yes, I mean it. With all my heart.'

She took her hand away from his and put her face in her hands. When she removed them she was smiling. ' I'm sorry, James. It's so much what I've been dreaming of. It came as a shock. But yes. Yes, of course I'll marry you. And I won't be silly about it. I won't make a scene. Just kiss me once and I'll be going.' She looked seriously at him, at every detail of his face. Then she leaned forward and they kissed.

She got up briskly. 'I suppose I've got to get used to doing what you say. I'll drive to Munich. To the Vier Jahreszeiten. It's my favourite hotel in the world. I'll wait for you there. They know me. They'll take me in without any luggage. Everything's at Samaden. I'll just have to send out for a tooth-brush and stay in bed for two days until I can go out and get some things. You'll telephone me? Talk to me? When can we get married? I must tell Papa. He'll be terribly excited.'

'Let's get married in Munich. At the Consulate. I've got a kind of diplomatic immunity. I can get the papers through quickly. Then we can be married again in an English church, or Scottish rather. That's where I come from. I'll call you up tonight and tomorrow. I'll get to you just as soon as I can. I've got to finish this business first.'

'You promise you won't get hurt?'

Bond smiled. 'I wouldn't think of it. For once I'll run away if someone starts any shooting.'

'All right then.' She looked at him carefully again. 'It's time you took off that red handkerchief. I suppose you realize it's bitten to ribbons. Give it to me. I'll mend it.'

Bond undid the red bandanna from round his neck. It was a dark, sweat-soaked rag. And she was right. Two corners of it were in shreds. He must have got them between his teeth and chewed on them when the going was bad down the mountain. He couldn't remember having done so. He gave it to her.

She took it and, without looking back, walked straight out of the restaurant and down the stairs towards the exit.

Bond sat down. His breakfast came and he began eating mechanically. What had he done? What in hell had he done? But the only answer was a feeling of tremendous warmth and relief and excitement. James and Tracy Bond! Commander and Mrs Bond! How utterly, utterly extraordinary!

The voice of the Tannoy said, 'Attention, please. Passengers on Swissair Flight Number 110 for London, please assemble at gate Number 2. Swissair Flight Number 110 for London. Passengers to gate Number 2, please.'

Bond stubbed out his cigarette, gave a quick glance round their trysting-place to fix its banality in his mind, and walked to the door, leaving the fragments of his old life torn up amidst the debris of an airport breakfast.

20

M en Pantoufles

BOND SLEPT in the plane and was visited by a terrible nightmare. It was the hallway of a very grand town-house, an embassy perhaps, and a wide staircase led up under a spangled chandelier to where the butler was standing at the door of the drawing-room, from which came the murmur of a large crowd of guests. Tracy, in oyster satin, was on his arm. She was loaded with jewels and her golden hair had been piled up grandly into one of those fancy arrangements you see in smart hairdressers' advertisements. On top of the pile was a diamond tiara that glittered gorgeously. Bond was dressed in tails (where in hell had he got those from?), and the wing collar stuck into his neck below the chin. He was wearing his medals, and his order as CMG, on its blue and scarlet ribbon, hung below his white tie. Tracy was chattering, gaily, excitedly, looking forward to the grand evening. Bond was cursing the prospect before him and wishing he was playing a tough game of bridge for high stakes at Blades. They got to the top of the stairs and Bond gave his name.

'Commander and Mrs James Bond!' It was the stentorian bellow of a toast-master. Bond got the impression that a sudden hush fell over the elegant crowd in the gilt and white drawing-room.

He followed Tracy through the double doors. There was a gush of French from Tracy as she exchanged those empty 'Mayfair' kisses, that end up wide of the kissers' ears, with her hostess. Tracy drew Bond forward. 'And this is James. Doesn't he look sweet with that beautiful medal round his neck? Just like the old De Reszke cigarette advertisements!'

'Fasten your seat belts, please, and extinguish your cigarettes.'

Bond awoke, sweating. God Almighty! What had he done? But no! It wouldn't be like that! Definitely not. He would still have his tough, exciting life, but now there would be Tracy to come home to. Would there be room in his flat in Chelsea? Perhaps he could rent the floor above. And what about May, his Scottish treasure? That would be tricky. He must somehow persuade her to stay.

The Caravelle hit the runway and there came the roar of jet deflection, and then they were trundling over the tarmac in a light drizzle. Bond suddenly realized that he had no luggage, that he could go straight to Passport Control and then out and back to his flat to change out of these ridiculous skiing clothes that stank of sweat. Would there be a car from the pool for him? There was, with Miss Mary Goodnight sitting beside the driver.

'My God, Mary, this is a hell of a way to spend your Christmas! This is far beyond the line of duty. Anyway, get in the back and tell me why you're not stirring the plum pudding or going to church or something.'

She climbed in to the back seat and he followed. She said, 'You don't seem to know much about Christmas. You make plum puddings at least two months before and let them sort of settle and mature. And church isn't till eleven.' She glanced at him. 'Actually I came to see how you were. I gather you've been in trouble again. You certainly look pretty ghastly. Don't you own a comb? And you haven't shaved. You look like a pirate. And' - she wrinkled her nose -'when did you last have a bath? I wonder they let you out of the airport. You ought to be in quarantine.'

Bond laughed. 'Winter sports are very strenuous - all that snowballing and tobogganing. Matter of fact, I was at a Christmas Eve fancy-dress party last night. Kept me up till all hours.'

'In those great clod-hopping boots? I don't believe you.'

'Well, sucks to you! It was on a skating-rink. But seriously, Mary, tell me the score. Why this VIP treatment?'

'M. You're to check with HQ first and then go down to lunch with him at Quarterdeck. Then, after lunch, he's having these men you wanted brought down for a conference.

Everything top priority. So I thought I'd better stand by too. As you're wrecking so many other people's Christmases, I thought I might as well throw mine on the slag-heap with the others. Actually, if you want to know, I was only having lunch with an aunt. And I loathe turkey and plum pudding. Anyway, I just didn't want to miss the fun and when the duty officer got on to me about an hour ago and told me there was a major flap, I asked him to tell the car to pick me up on the way to the airport.'

Bond said seriously, 'Well, you're a damned good girl. As a matter of fact it's going to be the hell of a rush getting down the bare bones of a report. And I've got something for the lab to do. Will there be someone there?'

'Of course there will. You know M insists on a skeleton staff in every Section, Christmas Day or not. But seriously, James. Have you been in trouble? You really do look awful.'

'Oh, somewhat. You'll get the photo as I dictate.' The car drew up outside Bond's flat. 'Now be an angel and stir up May while I clean myself up and get out of these bloody clothes. Get her to brew me plenty of black coffee and to pour two jiggers of our best brandy into the pot. You ask May for what you like. She might even have some plum pudding. Now then, it's nine-thirty. Be a good girl and call the Duty Officer and say OK to M's orders and that we'll be along by ten-thirty. And get him to ask the lab to stand by in half an hour.' Bond took his passport out of his hip-pocket. 'Then give this to the driver and ask him to get the hell over and give it to the Duty Officer personally. Tell the DO' - Bond turned down the corner of a page -'to tell the lab that the ink used is - er - home-made. All it needs is exposure to heat. They'll understand. Got that? Good girl. Now come on and we'll get May going.' Bond went up the steps and rang two shorts and a long on the bell.

* * *

When Bond got to his desk a few minutes after ten-thirty, feeling back to nine-tenths human, he found a folder on his desk with the red star in the top right corner that meant

Top Secret. It contained his passport and a dozen copies of blown-up photostats of its page 21. The list of girls' names was faint but legible. There was also a note marked 'personal'. Bond opened it. He laughed. It just said, "The ink showed traces of an excess of uric acid. This is often due to a super-abundancy of alcohol in the blood-stream. You have been warned!' There was no signature. So the Christmas spirit had permeated even into the solemn crevices of one of the most secret Sections in the building! Bond crumpled the paper and then, thinking of Mary Goodnight's susceptibilities, more prudently burned it with his lighter.

She came in and sat down with her shorthand book. Bond said, 'Now this is only a first draft, Mary, and it's got to be fast. So don't mind about mistakes. M'U understand. We've got about an hour and a half if I'm to get down to Windsor by lunch-time. Think you can manage it? All right then, here goes. “Top Secret. Personal to M. As instructed, on December 22nd I arrived at Zurich Central Airport at 1330 by Swissair to make first contact in connexion with Operation 'Corona'...”'

Bond turned sideways to his secretary and, as he talked, looked out across the bare trees in Regent's Park, remembering every minute of the last three days - the sharp, empty smell of the air and the snow, the dark green pools of Blofeld's eyes, the crunch as the edge of his left hand, still bruised, thudded down across the offered neck of the guard. And then all the rest until Tracy, whom, without mention of romance, he left in his report on her way to the Vier Jahres-zeiten in Munich. Then the report was finished and the muted clack of Mary's typewriter came from behind the closed door. He would ring Tracy up that night when he got back to his flat. He could already hear her laughing voice at the other end of the wire. The nightmare in the plane was forgotten. Now there was only the happy, secret looking-forward to the days to come. Bond lost himself in his plans -how to get the days off, how to get the necessary papers, where to have the service in Scotland. Then he pulled himself together, picked up the photostat containing the girls'

Source: www.StudyNovels.com