Doctor No

Page 25

Doctor No brought the steel claw delicately in front of each eye and tapped the centre of each eyeball.

Each eyeball in turn emitted a dull ting. “These,” said Doctor No, “see everything.”



James Bond picked up his glass and sipped at it thought-fully. It seemed pointless to go on bluffing. His story of representing the Audubon Society was anyway a thin one which could be punctured by anyone who knew about birds. It was obvious that his own cover was in shreds. He must concentrate on protecting the girl. To begin with he must reassure her.

Bond smiled at Doctor No. He said, “I know about your contact in King's House, Miss Taro. She is your agent. I have recorded the fact and it will be divulged in certain circumstances”-Doctor No's expression shewed no interest-“as will other facts. But, if we are to have a talk, let us have it without any more stage effects. You are an interesting man. But it is not necessary to make yourself more interesting than you are. You have suffered the misfortune of losing your hands. You wear mechanical hands. Many men wounded in the war wear them. You wear contact lenses instead of spectacles. You use a walkie-talkie instead of a bell to summon your servant. No doubt you have other tricks. But, Doctor No, you are still a man who sleeps and eats and defecates like the rest of us. So no more conjuring tricks, please. I am not one of your guano diggers and I am not impressed by them.”

Doctor No inclined his head a fraction. “Bravely spoken, Mister Bond. I accept the rebuke. I have no doubt developed annoying mannerisms fromliving too long in the company of apes. But do not mistake these mannerisms for bluff. I am a technician. I suit the tool to the material. I possess also a range of tools for working with refractory materials. However,” Doctor No raised his joined sleeves an inch and let them fall back in his lap, “let us proceed with our talk. It is a rare pleasure to have an intelligent listener and I shall enjoy telling you the story of one of the most remarkable men in the world. You are the first person to hear it. I have not told it before. You are the only person I have ever met who will appreciate my story and also-” Doctor No paused for the significance of the last words to make itself felt-“keep it to himself.” He continued, “The second of these considerations also applies to the girl.”

So that was it. There had been little doubt in Bond's mind ever since the Spandau had opened up on them, and since, even before then, in Jamaica, where the attempts on him had not been half-hearted. Bond had assumed from the first that this man was a killer, that it would be a duel to the death. He had had his usual blind faith that he would win the duel-all the way until the moment when the flame-thrower had pointed at him. Then he had begun to doubt. Now he knew. This man was too strong, too well equipped.

Bond said, “There is no point in the girl hearing this. She has nothing to do with me. I found her yesterday on the beach. She is a Jamaican from Morgan's Harbour. She collects shells. Your men destroyed her canoe so I had to bring her with me. Send her away now and then back home. She won't talk. She will swear not to.”

The girl interrupted fiercely, “I will talk! I shall tell everything. I'm not going to move. I'm going to stay with you.”

Bond looked at her. He said icily, “I don't want you.”

Doctor No said softly, “Do not waste your breath on these heroics. Nobody who comes to this island has ever left it. Do you understand? Nobody-not even the simplest fisherman. It is not my policy. Do not argue with me or attempt to bluff me. It is entirely useless.”

Bond examined the face. There was no anger in it, no obstinacy-nothing but a supreme indifference. He shrugged his shoulders. He looked at the girl and smiled. He said, “All right, Honey. And I didn't mean it. I'd hate you to go away. We'll stay together and listen to what the maniac has to say.”

The girl nodded happily. It was as if her lover had threatened to send her out of the cinema and now had relented.

Doctor No said, in the same soft resonant voice, “You are right, Mister Bond. That is just what I am, a maniac. All the greatest men are maniacs. They are possessed by a mania which drives them forward towards their goal. The great scientists, the philosophers, the religious leaders-all maniacs. What else but a blind singleness of purpose could have given focus to their genius, would have kept them in the groove of their purpose? Mania, my dear Mister Bond, is as priceless as genius. Dissipation of energy, fragmentation of vision, loss of momentum, the lack of follow-through-these are the vices of the herd.” Doctor No sat slightly back in his chair. “I do not possess these vices. I am, as you correctly say, a maniac-a maniac, Mister Bond, with a mania for power. That”-the black holes glittered blankly at Bond through the contact lenses-“is the meaning of my life. That is why I am here. That is why you are here. That is why here exists.”

Bond picked up his glass and drained it. He filled it again from the shaker. He said, “I'm not surprised. It's the old business of thinking you're the King of England,',or the President of the United States, or God. The asylums are full of them. The only difference is that instead of being shut up, you've built your own asylum and shut yourself up in it. But why did you do it? Why does sitting shut up in this cell give you the illusion of power?”

Irritation flickered at the corner of the thin mouth. “Mister Bond, power is sovereignty. Clausewitz's first principle was to have a secure base. From there one proceeds to freedom of action. Together, that is sovereignty. I have secured these things and much besides. No one else in the world possesses them to the same degree. They cannot have them. The world is too public. These things can only be secured in privacy. You talk of kings add presidents. How much power do they possess? As much as their people will allow them. Who in the world has the power of life or death over his people? Now that Stalin is dead, can you name any man except myself? And how do I possess that power, that sovereignty? Through privacy. Through the fact that nobody knows. Through the fact that I have to account to no one.”

Bond shrugged. “That is only the illusion of power, Doctor No. Any man with a loaded revolver has the power of life and death over his neighbour. Other people beside you have murdered in secret and got away with it. In the end they generally get their deserts. A greater power than they possess is exerted upon them by the community. That will happen to you, Doctor No. I tell you, your search for power is an illusion because power itself is an illusion.”

Doctor No said equably, “So is beauty, Mister Bond. So is art, so is money, so is death. And so* probably, is life. These concepts are relative. Your play upon words does not shake me. I know philosophy, I know ethics, and I know logic-better than you do, I daresay. But let us move away from this sterile debate. Let us return to where I began, with my mania for power, or, if you wish it, for the illusion of power. And please, Mister Bond,” again the extra crease in the fixed smile, '“please do not imagine that half an hour's conversation with you will alter the pattern of my life. Interest yourself rather in the history of my pursuit, let us put it, of an illusion.”

“Go ahead.” Bond glanced at the girl. She caught his eyes. She put her hand up to her mouth as if to conceal a yawn. Bond grinned at her. He wondered when it would amuse Doctor No to crack her pose of indifference.

Doctor No said benignly, “I shall endeavour not to bore you. Facts are so much more interesting than theories, don't you agree?” Doctor No was not expecting a reply. He fixed his eye on the elegant tulip shell that had now wandered half way up the outside of the dark window. Some small silver fish squirted across the black void. A bluish prickle of phosphorescence meandered vaguely. Up by the ceiling, the stars shone more brightly through the glass.

The artificiality of the scene inside the room-the three people sitting in the comfortable chairs, the drinks on the sideboard,'the rich carpet, the shaded lights, suddenly seemed ludicrous to Bond. Even the drama of it, the danger, were fragile things compared with the progress of the tulip shell up the glass outside. Supposing the glass burst. Supposing the stresses had been badly calculated, the workmanship faulty. Supposing the sea decided to lean a little more heavily against the window.

Doctor No said, “I was the only son of a German Methodist missionary and a Chinese girl of good family. I was born in Pekin, but on what is known as 'the wrong side of the blanket'. I was an encumbrance. An aunt of my mother was paid to bring me up.” Doctor No paused. “No love, you see, Mister Bond. Lack of parental care.” He went on, “The seed was sown. I went to work in Shanghai. I became involved with the Tongs, with their illicit proceedings. I enjoyed the conspiracies, the burglaries, the murders, the arson of insured properties. They represented revolt against the father figure who had betrayed me. I loved the death and destruction of people and things. I became adept in the technique of criminality-if you wish to call it that. Then there was trouble. I had to be got out of the way. The Tongs considered me too valuable to kill. I was smuggled to the United States. I settled in New York. I had been given a letter of introduction, in code, to one of the two most powerful Tongs in America-the Hip Sings. I never knew what the letter said, but they took me on at once as a confidential clerk. In due course, at the age of thirty, I was made the equivalent of treasurer. The treasury contained over a million dollars. I coveted this money. Then began the great Tong wars of the late 'twenties. The two great New York Tongs, my own, the Hip Sings, and our rival, the On Lee Ongs, joined in combat. Over the weeks hundreds on both sides were killed and their houses and properties burned to the ground. It was a time of torture and murder and arson in which I joined with delight. Then the riot squads came. Almost the whole police force of New York was mobilized. The two underground armies were prised apart and the headquarters of the two Tongs were raided and the ringleaders sent to jail. I was . tipped off about the raid on my own Tong, the Hip Sings. A few hours before it was due, I got to the safe and rifled the million dollars in gold and disappeared into Harlem and went to ground. I was foolish. I should have left America, gone to the farthest corner of the earth. Even from the condemned cells in Sing Sing the heads of my Tong reached out for me. They found me. The killers came in the night. They tortured me. I would not say where the gold was. They tortured me all through the night. Then, when they could not break me, they cut off my hands to show that the corpse was that of a thief, and they shot me through the heart and went away. But they did not know something about me. I am the one man in a million who has his heart on the right side of his body. Those are the odds against it, one in a million. I lived. By sheer willpower I survived the operation and the months in hospital. And all the time I planned and planned how to get away with the money-how to keep it, what to do with it.”

Doctor No paused. There was a slight flush at his temples. His body fidgeted inside his kimono. His memories had excited him. For a moment he closed his eyes, composing himself. Bond thought, now! Shall I leap at him and kill him? Break off my glass and do it with the jagged stem?

The eyes opened. “I am not boring you? You are sure? For an instant I felt your attention wandering.”

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