Thunderball by Ian Fleming

Thunderball - book cover

Ernst Blofeld does Bond a good turn. What will 007 do in return?

Read a Short Extract


007, SPECTRE and a girl's HERO.

4. Tea & Animosity

Innocently, fragment by fragment, James Bond built up a plan of operations – a plan that would leave him and Lippe alone among the machinery of the sound-proof treatment rooms.
   For there would be no other opportunity. Count Lippe kept to his room in the main building until his treatment time at noon. In the afternoons he swished away in the violet Bentley – to Bournemouth it seemed, where he had ‘business’. The night porter let him in around eleven each night. One afternoon – in the siesta hour – Bond slipped the Yale lock on Count Lippe’s room with a straight piece of plastic cut off a child’s aeroplane he had bought for the purpose in Washington. He went over the room meticulously and drew a blank. All he learned – from the clothes – was that the Count was a much travelled man – shirts from Charvet, ties from Triplet, Dior and Hardy Amies, shoes from Peel, and raw silk pyjamas from Hong Kong. The dark red morocco suitcase from Mark Cross might have contained secrets, and Bond eyed the silk linings and toyed with the Count’s Wilkinson razor. But no! Better that revenge, if it would be contrived, should come out of a clear sky.
   That same afternoon, drinking his treacly tea, Bond scraped together the meagre scraps of his knowledge of Count Lippe. He was about thirty, attractive to women, and physically, to judge from the naked body Bond had seen, very strong. His blood would be Portuguese with a dash of Chinaman and he gave the appearance of wealth. What did he do? What was his profession? At first glance Bond would have put him down as a tough maquereau from the Ritz bar in Paris, the Palace at St Moritz, the Carlton at Cannes – good at backgammon, polo, water-skiing, but with the yellow streak of the man who lives on women.  But Lippe had heard Bond making inquiries about him and that had been enough for an act of violence – an inspired act that he had carried out swiftly and coolly when he finished his treatment with the Fearing girl and knew, from her remark, that Bond would be alone on the Traction table. The act of violence might only have been designed to warn, but equally, since Lippe could only guess at the effect of a 200-lb pull on the spine, it might have been designed to kill. Why? Who was this man who had so much to hide? And what were his secrets? Bond poured the last of his tea on to a mound of brown sugar. One thing was certain – the secrets were big ones.
    Bond never seriously considered telling Headquarters about Lippe and what he had done to Bond. The whole thing, against the background of Shrublands, was so unlikely and so utterly ridiculous. And somehow Bond, the man of action and resource, came out of it all as something of a ninny. Weakened by a diet of hot water and vegetable soup, the ace of the Secret Service had been tied to some kind of rack and then a man had come along and just pulled a lever up a few notches and reduced the hero of a hundred combats to a quivering jelly! No! There was only one solution – a private solution, man to man. Later perhaps, to satisfy his curiosity, it might be amusing to put through a good Trace on Count Lippe – with SIS records, with the CID, with the Hong Kong Station. But for the time being Bond would just stay quiet, keep out of Count Lippe’s way, and plan meticulously for just the right kind of pay-off.
   By the time the fourteenth day, the last day, came, Bond had it all fixed – the time, the place, and the method.
   At ten o’clock, Mr Joshua Wain received Bond for his final check-up. When Bond came into the consulting-room, Mr Wain was standing by the open window doing deep-breathing exercises. With a final thorough exhalation through the nostrils he turned to greet Bond with an Ah! Bisto! expression on his healthily flushed face. His smile was elastic with good-fellowship. ‘And how’s the world treating you, Mr Bond? No ill effects from that unhappy little accident? No. Quite so. The body is a remarkable piece of mechanism. Extraordinary powers of recovery. Now then, shirt off, please, and we’ll see what Shrublands has managed to do for you.’
   Ten minutes later, Bond, blood pressure down to 132/84, weight reduced by ten pounds, osteopathic lesions gone, clear of eye and tongue, was on his way down to the basement rooms for his final treatment.
   As usual, it was clammily quiet and neutral-smelling in the white rooms and corridors. From the separate cubicles there came an occasional soft exchange between patient and staff, and, in the background, intermittent plumbing noises.  The steady whir of the ventilation system created the impression of the deep innards of a liner in a dead calm. It was nearly twelve thirty. Bond lay face down on the massage table and listened for the authoritative voice and the quick slap of the naked feet of his prey. The door at the end of the corridor sighed open and sighed shut again. ‘Morning, Beresford. All ready for me? Make it good and hot today.’

6. Violet-Scented Breath

Blofeld completed his inspection of the faces. As he had anticipated, only one pair of eyes had slid away from his. He had known he was right. The double-checked reportshad been entirely circumstantial, but his own eyes and his intuition had to be the seal. He slowly put both hands under the table. One hand remained flat on his thigh. The other went to a side-pocket and drew out a thin gold vinaigrette and placed it on the table in front of him. He prised open the lid with his thumbnail, took out a violet-scented cachou, and slipped it into his mouth. It was his custom, when unpleasant things had to be said, to sweeten his breath.
‘And now to the last operation, completed a month ago and yielding one million dollars.’ Blofeld’s eyes moved down the left-hand rank of members to the end of the row. He said softly, ‘Stand up No 7.’
   Marius Domingue of the Union Corse, a proud, chunky man with slow eyes, who was wearing ready-made, rather sharp clothes that probably came from the Galleries Barbes in Marseilles, got slowly to his feet. He looked squarely down the table at Blofeld. His big, rough hands hung relaxed at the seam of his trousers. Blofeld appeared to answer his gaze, but in fact he was noting the reaction of the Corsican next to No 7, No 12, Pierre Borraud. This man sat directly facing Blofeld at the far end of the long table. It was his eyes that had been evasive during the meeting. Now they were not. Now they were relaxed, assured. Whatever the eyes had feared had passed.
   Blofeld addressed the company. ‘This operation, you will recall, involved the kidnapping of the seventeen-year-old daughter of Magnus Blomberg, owner of the Principality Hotel in Las Vegas and participant in other American enterprises through his membership of the Detroit Purple Gang. The girl was abducted from her father’s suite in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo and taken by sea to Corsica. This part of the operation was executed by the Corsican section. One million dollars ransom was demanded. Mr Blomberg was willing and, in accordance with the instructions of SPECTRE, the money, in an inflated life raft, was dropped at dusk off the Italian coast near San Remo. At nightfall the raft was recovered by the ship operated by our Sicilian section. This section is to be commended for detecting the transistorized radio transmitter concealed in the raft which it was intended should allow a unit of the French Navy to direction-find our ship and hunt it down. On receipt of the ransom money, and in accordance with our undertaking, the girl was returned to her parents apparently suffering from no ill effects except for the hair-dye that had been necessary to transfer her from Corsica to a wagon-lit in the Blue Train from Marseilles. I say “apparently”. From a source in the police commissariat at Nice, I now learn that the girl was violated during her captivity in Corsica.' Blofeld paused to allow this intelligence time to sink in. He continued. ‘It is the parents who maintain that she was violated. It is possible that only carnal knowledge, with her consent, was involved. No matter. This organization undertook that the girl would be returned undamaged. Without splitting hairs about the effect of sexual knowledge on a girl, I am of the opinion that, whether the act was voluntary or involuntary on the girl’s part, she was returned to her parents in a damaged, or at least used, condition.’ Blofeld rarely employed gestures. Now he slowly opened the left hand that lay on the table. He said, in the same even tone of voice, ‘We are a large and very powerful organization. I am not concerned with morals or ethics, but members will be aware that I desire, and most strongly recommend, that SPECTRE shall conduct itself in a superior fashion. There is no discipline in SPECTRE except self-discipline. We are a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies entirely in the strength of each member. Weakness in one member is the death-watch beetle in the total structure. You are aware of my views in this matter, and on the occasions when cleansing has been necessary you have approved my action. In  this case, I have already done what I considered necessary vis-à-vis this girl’s family. I have returned half a million dollars with an appropriate note of apology. This despite the matter of the radio transmitter which was a breach of our contract with the family. I dare say they knew nothing of the ruse. It was typical police behaviour – a pattern that I was expecting. The dividend for all of us from this operation will be correspondingly reduced. Regarding the culprit. I have satisfied myself that he is guilty. I have decided on the appropriate action.'
   Blofeld looked down the table. His eyes were fixed on the man standing – on No 7. The Corsican, Marius Domingue, looked back at him steadily. He knew he was innocent. He knew who was guilty. His body was still with tension. But it was not fear. He had faith, as they all had, in the rightness of Blofeld. He could not understand why he had been singled out as a target for all the eyes that were now upon him, but Blofeld had decided, and Blofeld was always right.
   Blofeld noted the man’s courage and sensed the reasons for it. He also observed the sweat shining on the face of No 12, the man alone at the head of the table. Good! The sweat would improve the contact.
   Under the table, Blofeld’s right hand came up off his thigh, found the knob and pulled the switch.
   The body of Pierre Borraud, seized in the iron fist of 3,000 volts, arced in the armchair as if it had been kicked in the back. The rough mat of black hair rose sharply straight up on his head and remained upright, a gollywog fringe for the contorted, bursting face. The eyes glared wildly and then faded. A blackened tongue slowly protruded between the snarling teeth and remained hideously extended. Thin wisps of smoke rose from under the hands, from the middle of the back, and from under the thighs where the concealed electrodes in the chair had made contact. Blofeld pulled back the switch. The lights in the room that had dimmed to orange, making a dull supernatural glow, brightened to normal. The roasted meat and burned fabric smell spread slowly. The body of No 12 crumpled horribly. There was a sharp crack as the chin hit the edge of the table. It was all over.
   Blofeld’s soft, even voice broke the silence. He looked down the table at No 7. He noted that the staunch, impassive stance had not quavered. This was a good man with good nerves. Blofeld said, ‘Sit down No 7. I am satisfied with your conduct.’ (Satisfaction was Blofeld’s highest expression of praise.) ‘It was necessary to distract the attention of No 12. He knew that he was under suspicion. There might have been an untidy scene.’
   Some of the men round the table nodded their understanding. As usual, Blofeld’s reasoning made good sense. No one was greatly perturbed or surprised by what they had witnessed. Blofeld always exercised his authority, meted out justice, in full view of the members. There had been two previous occasions of this nature, both at similar meetings and both on security or disciplinary grounds which affected the cohesion, the inner strength, of the whole team. In one the offender had been shot by Blofeld through the heart with a thick needle fired from a compressed air pistol – no mean feat at around twelve paces. In the other, the guilty man, who had been seated next to Blofeld on his left hand, had been garrotted with a wire noose casually flicked over his head and then, with two swift steps by Blofeld, pulled tight over the back of the man’s chair. Those two deaths had been just, necessary. So had this death, the third. Now, the members, ignoring the heap of death at the end of the table, settled in their chairs. It was time to get back to business.
   Blofeld snapped shut the gold vinaigrette and slipped it into a waistcoat pocket. ‘The Corsican section, ‘ he said softly, ‘will put forward recommendations for a replacement for No 12.’

15. Cardboard Hero

She stopped abruptly. She said, ‘Give me some more champagne. All this silly talking has made me thirsty. And I would like a packet of Players’ – she laughed – ‘Please, as they say in the advertisements. I am fed up with just smoking smoke. I need my Hero.’
   Bond bought a packet from the cigarette girl. He said, ‘What’s that about a hero?’
   She had entirely changed. Her bitterness had gone, and the lines of strain on her face. She had softened. She was suddenly a girl out for the evening. ‘Ah, you don’t know! My one true love! The man of my dreams. The sailor on the front of the packet of Players. You have never thought about him as I have.’ She came closer to him on the banquette and held the packet under his eyes. ‘You don’t understand the romance of this wonderful picture – one of the great masterpieces of the world. This man,’ she pointed, ‘was the first man I ever sinned with. I took him into the woods, I loved him in the dormitory, I spent nearly all my pocket money on him. In exchange, he introduced me to the great world outside the Cheltenham Ladies’ College. He grew me up. He put me at ease with boys of my own age. He kept me company when I was lonely or afraid of being young. He encouraged me, gave me assurance. Have you never thought of the romance behind this picture? You see nothing, yet the whole of England is there! Listen,’ she took his arm eagerly, ‘this is the story of Hero, the name on his cap badge. At first he was a young man, a powder monkey or whatever they called it, in that sailing ship behind his right ear. It was a hard time for him. Weevils in the biscuits, hit with marlinspikes and ropes’ ends and things, sent up aloft to the top of all that rigging where the flag flies. But he persevered. He began to grow a moustache. He was fair-haired and rather too pretty,’ she giggled, ‘he may even have had to fight for his virtue, or whatever men call it, among all those hammocks. But you can see from his face – that line of concentration between his eyes – and from his fine head, that he was a man to get on.’ She paused and swallowed a glass of champagne. The dimples were now deep holes in her cheeks. ‘Are you listening to me? You are not bored having to listen about my hero?’
   ‘I’m only jealous. Go on.’
   ‘So he went all over the world – to India, China, Japan, America. He had many girls and many fights with cutlasses and fists. He wrote home regularly – to his mother and to a married sister who lived at Dover. They wanted him to come home and meet a nice girl and get married. But he wouldn’t. You see, he was keeping himself for a dream girl who looked rather like me. And then,’ she laughed, ‘the first steamships came in and he was transferred to an ironclad – that’s the picture of it on the right. And by now he was a bosun, whatever that is, and very important. And he saved up from his pay and instead of going out fighting and having girls he grew that lovely beard, to make himself look older and more important, and he set to with a needle and coloured threads to make that picture of himself. You can see how well he did it – his first windjammer and his last ironclad with the lifebuoy as a frame. He only finished it when he decided to leave the Navy. He didn’t really like steamships. In the prime of life, don’t you agree? And even then he ran out of gold thread to finish the rope round the lifebuoy, so he just had to tail it off. There, you can see on the right where the rope crosses the blue line. So he came back home on a beautiful golden evening after a wonderful life in the Navy and it was so sad and beautiful and romantic that he decided he would put the beautiful evening  into another picture. So he bought a pub in Bristol with his savings and in the mornings before the pub opened he worked away until he had finished and there you can see the little sailing ship that brought him home from Suez with his duffel bag full of silks and seashells and souvenirs carved out of wood. And that’s the Needles Lighthouse beckoning him in to harbour on that beautiful calm evening. Mark you,’ she frowned, ‘I don’t like that sort of bonnet thing he’s wearing for a hat, and I’d have liked him to put “HMS” before the “Hero”, but you can see that would have made it lop-sided and he wouldn’t have been able to get all the “Hero” in. But you must admit it’s the most terrifically romantic picture. I cut it off my first packet, when I smoked one in the lavatory and felt terribly sick, and kept it until it fell to pieces. Then I cut off a fresh one. I carried him with me until things went wrong and I had to go back to Italy. Then I couldn’t afford Players. They’re too expensive in Italy and I had to smoke things called Nazionales.’
   Bond wanted to keep her mood. He said, ‘But what happened to the hero’s pictures? How did the cigarette people get hold of them?’
   'Oh well, you see one day a man with a stove-pipe hat and a frock coat came into the hero’s pub with two small boys. Here,’ she held the packet sideways, ‘those are the ones, “John Player & Sons”. You see, it says that their Successors run the business now. Well they had one of the first motor-cars, a Rolls-Royce, and it had broken down outside the hero’s pub. The man in the stove-pipe hat didn’t drink of course – those sort of people didn’t, not the respectable merchants who lived near Bristol. So he asked for a ginger beer and bread and cheese while his chauffer mended the car. And the hero got it for them. And Mr John Player and the boys all admired the two wonderful tapestry pictures hanging on the wall of the pub. Now this Mr Player was in the tobacco and snuff business and cigarettes had just been invented and he wanted to start making them. But he couldn’t for the life of him know what to call them or what sort of picture to put on the packet. And he suddenly had a wonderful idea. When he got back to the factory he talked to his manager and the manager came along to the pub and saw the hero and offered him a hundred pounds to let his pictures be copied for the cigarette packet. And the hero didn’t mind and anyway he wanted just exactly a hundred pounds to get married on.’ She paused. Her eyes were far away. ‘She was very nice, by the way, only thirty and a good plain cook and her young body kept him warm in bed until he died many years later. And she bore him two children, a boy and a girl. And the boy went into the Navy like his father. Well, anyway, Mr Player wanted to have the hero in the lifebuoy on one side of the packet and the beautiful evening on the other. But the manager pointed out that would leave no room for all this’ – she turned over the packet – ‘about “Rich, Cool”, and “Navy Cut Tobacco”, and that extraordinary trade mark of a doll’s house swimming in chocolate fudge with Nottingham Castle written underneath. So then Mr Player said, “Well then, we’ll put one on top of the other.” And that’s just exactly what they did and I must say I think it fits in very well, don’t you? Though I expect the hero was pretty annoyed at the mermaid being blanked out.’
   ‘The mermaid?’
   ‘Oh yes. Underneath the bottom corner of the lifebuoy where it dips into the sea, the hero had put a tiny mermaid combing her hair with one hand and beckoning him home with the other. That was supposed to be the woman he was going to find and marry. But you can see there wasn’t room and anyway her breasts were showing and Mr Player, who was a very strong Quaker, didn’t think that was quite proper. But he made it up to the Hero in the end.’
   ‘Oh, how did he do that?’
   ‘Well you see the cigarettes were a great success. It was really the picture that did it. People decided that anything with a wonderful picture like that on the outside must be good and Mr Player made a fortune and I expect his Successors did too. So when the hero was getting old and hadn’t got long to live, Mr Player had a copy of the lifebuoy picture drawn by the finest artist of the day. It was just the same as the Hero’s except that it wasn’t in colour and it showed him very much older, and he promised the Hero that this picture too would always be on his cigarette packets, only on the inside bit. Here.’ She pushed out the cardboard container. ‘You see how old he looks? And one other thing, if you look closely, the flags on the two ships are flying at half mast. Rather sweet of Mr Player, don’t you think, to ask the artist for that. It meant that the Hero’s first and last ships were remembering him. And Mr Player and his two sons came and presented it to him just before he died. It must have made it much easier for him don’t you think?’
   ‘It certainly must. Mr Player must have been a very thoughtful man.’
   The girl was slowly returning from her dreamland. She said in a different, rather prim voice, ‘Well thank you anyway for having listened to the story. I know it’s all a fairy tale.’

Extract from Thunderball reproduced with permission from Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

Copyright © Glidrose Productions, 1961