Doctor No

Page 24

The women went. The girl looked in at him. When he didn't lift his head she went back into her room and left him alone. In due course Bond came into her room to get himself another drink. He said perfunctorily, “Honey, you look wonderful.” He glanced at the clock on the wall and went back and drank his drink and put on another of the idiotic kimonos, a plain black one.

In due course there came the soft knock on the door and the two of them went silently out of the room and along the empty, gracious corridor. May stopped at the lift. Its doors were held open by another eager Chinese gui. They walked in and the doors shut. Bond noticed that the lift was made by Waygood Otis. Everything in the prison was de luxe. He gave an inward shudder of distaste. He noticed the reaction. He turned to the girl. “I'm sorry, Honey. Got a bit of a headache.” He didn't want to tell her that all this luxury play-acting was getting him down, that he hadn't the smallest idea what it was all about, that he knew it was bad news, and that he hadn't an inkling of a plan of how to get them out of whatever situation they were in. That was the worst of it. There was nothing that depressed Bond's spirit so much as the knowledge that he hadn't one line of either attack or defence.

The girl moved closer to him. She said, “I'm sorry, James. I hope it will go away. You're not angry with me about anything?”

Bond dredged up a smile. He said, “No, darling. I m only angry with myself.” He lowered his voice: “Now, about this evening. Just leave the talking to me. Be natural and don't be worried by Doctor No. He may be a bit mad.”

She nodded solemnly. “I'll do my best.”

The lift sighed to a stop. Bond had no idea how far down they had gone-a hundred feet, two hundred? The automatic doors hissed back and Bond and the girl stepped out into a large room.

It was empty. It was a high-ceilinged room about sixty feet long, lined on three sides with books to the ceiling. At first glance, the fourth wall seemed to be made of solid blue-black glass. The room appeared to be a combined study and library. There was a big paper-strewn desk in one corner and a central table with periodicals and newspapers. Comfortable club chairs, upholstered in red leather, were dotted about. The carpet was dark green, and the lighting, from standard lamps, was subdued. The only odd feature was that the drink tray and sideboard were up against the middle of the long glass wall, and chairs and occasional tables with ashtrays were arranged in a semi-circle round it so that the room was centred in front of the empty wall.

Bond's eye caught a swirl of movement in the dark glass. He walked across the room. A silvery spray of small fish with a bigger fish in pursuit fled across the dark blue. They disappeared, so to speak, off the edge of the screen. What was this? An aquarium? Bond looked upwards. A yard below the ceiling, small waves were lapping at the glass. Above the waves was a strip of greyer blue-black, dotted with sparks of light. The outlines of Orion were the clue. This was not an aquarium. This was the sea itself and the night sky. The whole of one side of the room was made of armoured glass. They were under the sea, looking straight into its heart, twenty feet down.

Bond and the girl stood transfixed. As they watched, there was the glimpse of two great goggling orbs. A golden sheen of head and deep flank showed for an instant and was gone. A big grouper? A silver swarm of anchovies stopped and hovered and sped away. The twenty-foot tendrils of a Portuguese man-o'-war drifted slowly across the window, glinting violet as they caught the light. Up above there was the dark mass of its underbelly and the outline of its inflated bladder, steering with the breeze.

Bond walked along the wall, fascinated by the idea of living with this slow, endlessly changing moving picture. A frig tulip . shell was progressing slowly up the window from the floor level, a frisk of demoiselles and angel fish and a ruby-red moonlight snapper were nudging and rubbing themselves against a corner of the glass and a sea centipede quested along, nibbling at the minute algae that must grow every day on the outside of the window. A long dark shadow paused in the centre of the window and then moved slowly away. If only one could see more!

Obediently, two great shafts of light, from off the 'screen', lanced out into the water. For an instant they searched independently. Then they converged on the departing shadow and the dull grey torpedo of a twelve-foot shark showed up in all its detail. Bond could even see the piglike pink eyes roll inquisitively in the light and the slow pulse of the slanting gill-rakers. For an instant the shark turned straight into the converged beam and the white half-moon mouth showed below the reptile's flat head. It stood poised for a second and then, with an elegant, disdainful swirl, the great swept-back tail came round and with a lightning quiver the shark had gone.

The searchlights went out. Bond turned slowly. He expected to see Doctor No, but still the room was empty. It looked static and lifeless compared with the pulsing mysteries outside the window. Bond looked back. What must this be like in the colours of day, when one could see everything perhaps for twenty yards or more? What must it be like in a storm when the waves crashed noiselessly against the glass, delving almost to the floor and then sweeping up and out of sight. What must it be like in the evening when the last golden shafts of the sun shone into the upper half of the room and the waters below were full of dancing motes and tiny water insects? What an amazing man this must be who had thought of this fantastically beautiful conception, and what an extraordinary engineering feat to have carried it out! How had he done it? There could only be one way. He must have built the glass wall deep inside the cliff and then delicately removed layer after layer of the outside rock until the divers could prise off the last skin of coral. But how thick was the glass? Who had rolled it for him? How had he got it to the island? How many divers had he used? How much, God in heaven, could it have cost?

“One million dollars.”

"It was a cavernous, echoing voice, with a trace of American accent.

Bond turned slowly, almost reluctantly, away from the window.

Doctor No had come through a door behind his desk. He stood looking at them benignly, with a thin smile on his lips.

“I expect you were wondering about the cost. My guests usually think about the material side after about fifteen minutes. Were you?”

“I was.”

Still smiling (Bond was to get used to that thin smile), Doctor No came slowly out from behind the desk and moved towards them. He seemed to glide rather than take steps. His knees did not dent the matt, gunmetal sheen of his kimono and no shoes showed below the sweeping hem.

Bond's first impression was of thinness and erectness and height. Doctor No was at least six inches taller than Bond, but the straight immovable poise of his body made him seem still taller. The head also was elongated and tapered from a round, completely bald skull down to a sharp chin so that the impression was of a reversed raindrop-or rather oildrop, for the skin was of a deep almost translucent yellow.

It was impossible to tell Doctor No's age: as far as Bond could see, there were no lines on the face. It was odd to see a forehead as smooth as the top of the polished skull. Even the cavernous indrawn cheeks below the prominent cheekbones looked as smooth as fine ivory. There was something Dali-esque about the eyebrows, which were fine and black, and sharply upswept as if they had been painted on as makeup for a conjurer. Below them, slanting jet black eyes stared out of the skull. They were without eyelashes. They looked like the mouths of two small revolvers, direct and unblinking and totally devoid of expression. The thin fine nose ended very close above a wide compressed wound of a mouth which, despite its almost permanent sketch of a smile, showed only cruelty and authority. The chin was indrawn towards the neck. Later Bond was to notice that it rarely moved more than slightly away from centre, giving the impression that the head and the vertebra were in one piece.

The bizarre, gliding figure looked like a giant venomous-worm wrapped in grey tin-foil, and Bond would not have been surprised to see the rest of it trailing slimily along the carpet behind.

Doctor No came within three steps of them and stopped. The wound in the tall face opened. “Forgive me for not shaking hands with you,” the deep voice was flat and even. “I am unable to.” Slowly the sleeves parted and opened. “I have no hands.”

The two pairs of steel pincers came out on their gleam-ing stalks and were held up for inspection like the hands of a praying mantis. Then the two sleeves joined again.

Bond felt the girl at his side give a start.

The black apertures turned towards her. They slid down to her nose. The voice said flatly, “It is a misfortune.” The eyes came back to Bond. “You were admiring my aquarium.” It was a statement, not a question. “Man enjoys the beasts and the birds. I decided to enjoy also the fish. I find them far more varied and interesting. I am sure you both share my enthusiasm.”

Bond said, “I congratulate you. I shall never forget this room.”

“No.” Again a statement, perhaps with a sardonic inflection, of fact. “But we have much to talk about. And so little time. Please sit down. You will have a drink? Cigarettes are beside your chairs.”

Doctor No moved to a high leather chair and folded himself down on to the seat. Bond took the chair opposite. The girl sat between them and slightly back.

Bond felt a movement behind him. He looked over his shoulder. A short man, a Chinese Negro, with the build of a wrestler, stood at the drink tray. He was dressed in black trousers and a smart white jacket. Black almond eyes in a wide moon face met his and slid incuriously away.

Doctor No said, “This is my bodyguard. He is expert in many things. There is no mystery about his sudden appearance. I always carry what is known as a walkie-talkie here,” he inclined his chin towards the bosom of his kimono. “Thus I can summon him when he is needed. What will the girl have?”

Not 'Your Wife'. Bond turned to Honeychile. Her eyes were wide and staring. She said quietly, “A Coca-Cola, please.”

Bond felt a moment of relief. At least she was not being got down by the performance. Bond said, “And I would like a medium Vodka dry Martini-with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken-and not stirred, please. I would prefer Russian or Polish vodka.”

Doctor No gave his thin smile an extra crease. “I see you are also a man who knows what he wants. On this occasion your desires will be satisfied. Do yoju not find that it is generally so? When one wants a thing one gets it? That is my experience.”

“The small things.”

“If you fail at the large things it means you have not large ambitions. Concentration, focus-that is all. The aptitudes come, the tools forge themselves. 'Give me a fulcrum and I will move the world'-but only if the desire to move the world is there.” The thin lips bent minutely downwards in deprecation. “But this is chatter. We are making conversation. Instead, let us talk. Both of us, I am sure, prefer talk to conversation. Is the Martini to your liking? You have cigarettes-enough and the right sort to cosset your cancer? So be it. Sam-sam, put the shaker beside the man and another bottle of Coca-Cola beside the girl. It should now be eight-ten. We will have dinner at nine o'clock precisely.”

Doctor No sat slightly more upright in his chair. He inclined himself forward, staring at Bond. There was a moment's silence in the room. Then Doctor No said, “And now Mister James Bond of the Secret Service, let us tell each other our secrets. First, to show you that I hide nothing, I will tell you mine. Then you will tell me yours.” Doctor No's eyes blazed darkly. “But let us tell each other the truth.” He drew one steel claw out of the wide sleeve and held it upwards. He paused, “I shall do so. But you must do the same. If you do not, these,” he pointed the claw at his eyes, “will know that you are lying.”

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