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24: "Take it easy, Mr. Bond" (2)


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« on: March 30, 2023, 07:26:08 am »

FELIX Leiter came into the white, antiseptic room and closed the door conspiratorially behind him. He came and stood beside the bed where Bond lay on the edge of drugged sleep. "Howís it going, feller?"

"Not bad. Just doped."

"Doctor said I wasnít to see you. But I thought you might care to hear the score. Okay?"

"Sure." Bond struggled to concentrate. He didnít really care. All he could think about was the girl.

"Well, Iíll make it quick. Doctorís just doing his rounds and Iíll get hell if he finds me here. Theyíve recovered both bombs, and Kotze---the physicist chap---is singing like a bird. Seems SPECTREís a bunch of really big-time hoodlums---ex-operators of SMERSH, the Mafia, the Gestapo---all the big outfits. Headquarters in Paris. Top manís called Blofeld, but the bastard got away---or anyway they havenít caught up with him yet, according to CIA. Probably Largoís radio silence warned him. Must be quite a Mister Genius. Kotze says SPECTREís banked millions of dollars since they got going five or six years ago. This job was going to be the final haul. We were right about Miami. It was going to be Target No. 2. Same sort of operation. They were going to plant the second bomb in the yacht basin."

Bond smiled weakly. "So now everybodyís happy."

"Oh sure. Except me. Havenít been able to get away from my damned radio until now. Valves were almost blowing. And thereís a pile of cipher stuff from M just longing for you to get around to it. Thank God the top brass from CIA and a team from your outfit are flying in this evening to take charge. Then we can hand over and watch our two Governments getting snarled up over the epilogue----what to tell the public, what to do with these SPECTRE guys, whether to make you a lord or a duke, how to persuade me to run for President---tricky little details like that. And then weíll damned well get away and have ourselves a ball some place. Maybe youíd care to take that girl along? Hell, sheís the one that rates the medals! The guts! They cottoned on to her Geiger counter. God knows what that bastard Largo did to her. But she didnít sing---not a damned word! Then, when the team was under way, she somehow got herself out of the cabin porthole, with her gun and aqualung, and went to get him. Got him, and saved your life into the bargain! I swear Iíll never call a girl 'frail' again---not an Italian girl anyway." Leiter cocked an ear. He moved swiftly to the door. "Hell, thereís that damned medic gumshoeing down the corridor! Be seeing you, James." He quickly turned the door handle, listened for a moment, and slipped out of the room.

Feebly, desperately, Bond called, "Wait! Felix! Felix!" But the door had closed. Bond sank back and lay staring at the ceiling. Slowly anger boiled up inside him---and panic. Why in hell didnít someone tell him about the girl? What the hell did he care about all the rest? Was she all right? Where was she? Was she . . .

The door opened. Bond jerked himself upright. He shouted furiously at the white-coated figure. "The girl. How is she? Quick! Tell me!"

Dr. Stengel, the fashionable doctor of Nassau, was not only fashionable but a good doctor. He was one of the Jewish refugee doctors who, but for Hitler, would have been looking after some big hospital in a town the size of DŁsseldorf. Instead, rich and grateful patients had built a modern clinic for him in Nassau where he treated the natives for shillings and the millionaires and their wives for ten guineas a visit. He was more used to handling overdoses of sleeping pills and the ailments of the rich and old than multiple abrasions, curare poisoning and odd wounds that looked more as if they belonged to the days of the pirates. But these were Government orders, and under the Official Secrets Act at that. Dr. Stengel hadnít asked any questions about his patients, nor about the sixteen autopsies he had had to perform, six for Americans from the big submarine, and ten, including the corpse of the owner, from the fine yacht that had been in harbour for so long.

Now he said carefully, "Miss Vitali will be all right. For the moment she is suffering from shock. She needs rest."

"What else? What was the matter with her?"

"She had swum a long way. She was not in a condition to undertake such a physical strain."

"Why not?"

The doctor moved towards the door. "And now you too must rest. You have been through much. You will take one of those hypnotics once every six hours. Yes? And plenty of sleep. You will soon be on your feet again. But for some time you must take it easy, Mr. Bond."

Take it easy. You must take it easy, Mr. Bond. Where had he heard those idiotic words before? Suddenly Bond was raging with fury. He lurched out of bed. In spite of the sudden giddiness, he staggered towards the doctor. He shook a fist in the urbane face---urbane because the doctor was used to the emotional storms of patients, and because he knew that in minutes the strong soporific would put Bond out for hours. "Take it easy! God damn you! What do you know about taking it easy? Tell me whatís the matter with that girl! Where is she? Whatís the number of her room?" Bondís hands fell limply to his sides. He said feebly, "For Godís sake tell me, Doctor. I, I need to know."

Doctor Stengel said patiently, kindly, "Someone has ill-treated her. She is suffering from burns---many burns. She is still in great pain. But," he waved a reassuring hand, "inside she is well. She is in the next room, in No. 4. You may see her, but only for a minute. Then she will sleep. And so will you. Yes?" He held open the door.

"Thank you. Thank you, Doctor." Bond walked out of the room with faltering steps. His blasted legs were beginning to give again. The doctor watched him go to the door of No. 4, watched him open it and close it again behind him with the exaggerated care of a drunken man. The doctor went off along the corridor thinking: it wonít do him any harm and it may do her some good. It is what she needs---some tenderness.

Inside the small room, the jalousies threw bands of light and shadow over the bed. Bond staggered over to the bed and knelt down beside it. The small head on the pillow turned towards him. A hand came out and grasped his hair, pulling his head closer to her. Her voice said huskily, "You are to stay here. Do you understand? You are not to go away."

When Bond didnít answer, she feebly shook his head to and fro. "Do you hear me, James? Do you understand?" She felt Bondís body slipping to the floor. When she let go his hair, he slumped down on the rug beside her bed. She carefully shifted her position and looked down at him. He was already asleep with his head cradled on the inside of his forearm.

The girl watched the dark, rather cruel face for a moment. Then she gave a small sigh, pulled the pillow to the edge of the bed so that it was just above him, laid her head down so that she could see him whenever she wanted to, and closed her eyes.

THE END

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