The girl said indifferently. “That's where the dragon's been.”
Quarrel turned the whites of his eyes towards her.
Bond walked slowly along the tracks. The outside ones were quite smooth with an indented curve. They could have been made by wheels, but they were vast-at least two feet across. The centre track was of the same shape but only three inches across, about the width of a motor tyre. The tracks were without a trace of tread, and they were fairly fresh. They marched along in a dead straight line and the bushes they crossed were squashed flat as if a tank had gone over them.
Bond couldn't imagine what kind of vehicle, if it was a vehicle, had made them. When the girl nudged him and whispered fiercely “I told you so”, he could only say thoughtfully, “Well, Honey, if it isn't a dragon, it's something else I've never seen before.”
Farther on, she tugged urgently at his sleeve. “Look,” she whispered. She pointed forward to a big clump of bushes beside which the tracks ran. They were leafless and blackened. In the centre there showed the charred remains of birds' nests. “He breathed on them,” she said excitedly.
Bond walked up to the bushes and examined them. “He certainly did,” he admitted. Why had this particular clump been burned? It was all very odd.
The tracks swerved out towards the lake and disappeared into the water. Bond would have liked to follow them but there was no question of leaving cover. They trudged on, wrapped in their different thoughts.
Slowly the day began to die behind the sugar-loaf, and at last the girl pointed ahead through the bushes and Bond could see a long spit of sand running out into the lake. There were thick bushes of sea-grape along its spine and, halfway, perhaps a hundred yards from the shore, the remains of a thatched hut. It looked a reasonably attractive place to spend the night and it was well protected by the water on both sides. The wind had died and the water was soft and inviting. How heavenly it was going to be to take off their filthy shirts and wash in the lake, and, after the hours of squelching through the mud and stench of the river and the marsh, be able to lie down on the hard dry sand!
The sun blazed yellowly and sank behind the mountain. The day was still alive at the eastern tip of the island, but the black shadow of the sugar-loaf was slowly marching across the lake and would soon reach out and kill that too. The frogs started up, louder than in Jamaica, until the thick dusk was shrill with them. Across the lake a giant bull frog began to drum. The eerie sound was something between a tom-tom and an ape's roar. It sent out short messages that were suddenly throttled. Soon it fell silent. It had found what it had sent for.
They reached the neck of the sandspit and filed out along a narrow track. They came to the clearing with the smashed remains of the wattle hut. The big mysterious tracks led out of the water on both sides and through the clearing and over the nearby bushes as if the thing, whatever it was, had stampeded the place. Many of the bushes were burned or charred. There were the remains of a fireplace made of lumps of coral and a few scattered cooking pots and empty tins. They searched in the debris and Quarrel unearthed a couple of unopened tins of Heinz pork and beans. The girl found a crumpled sleeping-bag. Bond found a small leather purse containing five one-dollar notes, three Jamaica pounds and some silver. The two men had certainly left in a hurry.
They left the place and moved farther along to a small sandy clearing. Through the bushes they could see lights winking across the water from the mountain, perhaps two miles away. To the eastward there was nothing but the soft black sheen of water under the darkening sky.
Bond said, “As long as we don't show a light we should be fine here. The first thing is to have a good wash. Honey, you take the rest of the sandspit and we'll have the landward end. See you for dinner in about half an hour.”
The girl laughed. “Will you be dressing?”
“Certainly,” said Bond. “Trousers.”
Quarrel said, “Cap'n, while dere's henough light I'll get dese tins open and get tings fixed for de night.” He rummaged in the knapsack. “Here's yo trousers and yo gun. De bread don't feel so good but hit only wet. Hit eat okay an' mebbe hit dry hout come de mornin'. Guess we'd better eat de tins tonight an' keep de cheese an' pork. Dose tins is heavy an' we got plenty footin' tomorrow.”
Bond said, “All right, Quarrel. I'll leave the menu to you.” He took the gun and the damp trousers and walked down into the shallow water and back the way they had come. He found a hard dry stretch of sand and took off his shirt and stepped back into the water and lay down. The water was soft but disgustingly warm. He dug up handfuls of sand and scrubbed himself with it, using it as soap. Then he lay and luxuriated in the silence and the loneliness.
The stars began to shine palely, the stars that had brought them to the island last night, a year ago, the stars that would take them away again tomorrow night, a year away. What a trip! But at least it had already paid off. Now he had enough evidence, and witnesses, to go back to the Governor and get a full-dress inquiry going into the activities of Doctor No. One didn't use machine guns on people, even on trespassers. And, by the same token, what was this thing of Doctor No's that had trespassed on the leasehold of the Audubon Society, the thing that had smashed their property and had possibly killed one of their wardens? That would have to be investigated too. And what would he find when he came back to the island through the front door, in a destroyer, perhaps, and with a detachment of marines? What would be the answer to the riddle of Doctor No? What was he hiding? What did he fear? Why was privacy so important to him that he would murder, again and again, for it? Who was Doctor No?
Bond heard splashing away to his right. He thought of the girl. And who, for the matter of that, was Honeychile Rider? That, he decided, as he climbed out on to dry land, was at least something that he ought to be able to find out before the night was over."
Bond pulled on his clammy trousers and sat down on the sand and dismantled his gun. He did it by touch, using his shirt to dry each part and each cartridge. Then he reassembled the gun and clicked the trigger round the empty cylinder. The sound was healthy. It would be days before it rusted. He loaded it and tucked it into the holster inside the waistband of his trousers and got up and walked back to the clearing.
The shadow of Honey reached up and pulled him down beside her. “Come on,” she said, “we're starving. I got one of the cooking pots and cleaned it out and we poured the beans into it. There's about two full handfuls each and a cricket ball of bread. And I'm not feeling guilty about eating your food because you made me work far harder than I would if I'd been alone. Here, hold out your hand.”
Bond smiled at the authority in her voice. He could just make out her silhouette in the dusk. Her head looked sleeker. He wondered what her hair looked like when it was combed and dry. What would she be like when she was wearing clean clothes over that beautiful golden body? He could see her coming into a room or across the lawn at Beau Desert. She would be a beautiful, ravishing, Ugly Duckling. Why had she never had the broken nose mended? It was an easy operation. Then she would be the most beautiful girl in Jamaica.
Her shoulder brushed against him. Bond reached out and put his hand down in her lap, open. She picked up his hand and Bond felt the cold mess of beans being poured into it.
Suddenly he smelled her warm animal smell. It was so sensually thrilling that his body swayed against her and for a moment his eyes closed.
She gave a short laugh in which there was shyness and satisfaction and tenderness. She said “There,” maternally, and carried his laden hand away from her and back to him.
AMIDST THE ALIEN CANE
It would be around eight o'clock, Bond thought. Apart from the background tinkle of the frogs it was very quiet. In the far corner of the clearing he could see the dark outline of Quarrel. There was the soft clink of metal as he dismantled and dried the Remington.
Through the bushes the distant yellow lights from the guanera made festive pathways across the dark surface of the lake. The ugly wind had gone and the hideous scenery lay drowned in darkness. It was cool. Bond's clothes had dried on him. The three big handfuls of food had warmed his stomach. He felt comfortable and drowsy and at peace. Tomorrow was a long way off and presented no problems except a great deal of physical exercise. Life suddenly felt easy and good.
The girl lay beside him in the sleeping-bag. She was lying on her back with her head cradled in her hands, looking up at the roof of stars. He could just make out the pale pool of her face. She said, “James. You promised to tell me what this is all about. Come on. I shan't go to sleep until you do.”
Bond laughed. “I'll tell if you'll tell. I want to know what you're all about.”
“I don't mind. I've got no secrets. But you first.”
“All right then.” Bond pulled his knees up to his chin and put his arms round them. "It's like this. I'm a sort of policeman. They send me out from London when there's something odd going on somewhere in the world that isn't anybody else's business. Well, not long ago one of the Governor's staff in Kingston, a man called Strangways, friend of mine, disappeared.
His secretary, who was a pretty girl, did too. Most people thought they'd run away together. I didn't. I..."
Bond told the story in simple terms, with good men and bad men, like an adventure story out of a book. He ended, “So you see, Honey, it's just a question of getting back to Jamaica tomorrow night, all three of us in the canoe, and then the Governor will listen to us and send over a lot of soldiers to get this Chinaman to own up. I expect that'll mean he'll go to prison. He'll know that too and that's why he's trying to stop us. That's all. Now it's your turn.”
The girl said, “You seem to live a very exciting life. Your wife can't like you being away so much. Doesn't she worry about you getting hurt?”
“I'm not married. The only people who worry about me getting hurt are my insurance company.”
She probed, “But I suppose you have girls.”
“Not permanent ones.”
There was a pause. Quarrel came over to them. “Cap'n, Ah'll take de fust watch if dat suits. Be out on de point of de sandspit. Ah'll come call yo around midnight. Den mebbe yo take on till five and den we all git goin'. Need to get well away from dis place afore it's light.”
“Suits me,” said Bond. “Wake me if you see anything. Gun all right?”
“Him's jess fine,” said Quarrel happily. He said, “Sleep well, missy,” with a hint of meaning, and melted noiselessly away into the shadows.
“I like Quarrel,” said the girl. She paused, then, “Do you really want to know about me? It's not as exciting as your story.”
“Of course I do. And don't leave anything out.”
“There's nothing to leave out. You could get my whole life on to the back of a postcard. To begin with I've never been out of Jamaica. I've lived all my life at a place called Beau Desert on the North Coast near Morgan's Harbour.”
Bond laughed. “That's odd. So do I. At least for the ' moment. I didn't notice you about. Do you live up a tree?”
“Oh, I suppose you've taken the beach house. I never go near the place. I live in the Great House.”