Never Say Die (James Bond 007) 2 / L'Uomo Che Visse Due Volte (1 of 4)
2 / L’UOMO CHE VISSE DUE VOLTE
It was a stifling day in late July (according to the radio in the staff room, one of the hottest since records began) and M, the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service, found himself cooped up in his office.
That afternoon the windows were open, the curtains drawn, and the old man’s head was inclined over a bank of files strewn across the desk. There he sat there for the whole morning, huffing on his pipe quite dismally. The weather, whatever it was, didn’t particularly affect his mood but on this occasion, it was far too stuffy for office duties and the humidity was starting to rub off on his mood. The clock on the wall ticked laboriously, too loudly for him to be fully immersed in concentration. Through the walls, Miss Moneypenny’s fingers stabbed methodically at the typewriter. Outside, a murmur of traffic which wasn’t commonplace for that time of day in Regent’s Park. He gave a thought to the possibility that there might be roadworks on the Hampstead Road again.
Sitting in the armchair across from him looking rather uncomfortable was James Bond. Some minutes had ticked by since he had walked in and taken the seat across from his superior officer. He hadn’t said a word. Eventually M raised an eye at him, finally acknowledging his presence, took one of the files, flicked through its contents with a thumb and tossed it into Bond’s lap. The movement was sudden and angry and caught him completely off-kilter. Then, fixing the pipe into the corner of his mouth, he uttered: ‘When I send you to do a job, you ensure that it’s done properly. And with no half measures.’
James Bond, who hadn’t been in this sort of situation before, felt quite ridiculous. He forced himself to look relaxed, or at the very least calm, and crossed his legs. Inside, he was both embarrassed and furious at M’s outburst. He forced himself to look at the name on the file in block capitals. He composed himself and spoke evenly so as not to trigger another show of temper. ‘Hideo Kishida was pronounced dead at the scene by the New York Police Department, sir. Felix Leiter sent me a copy of their report. A single gunshot entered through the back of the throat at a range of fifty yards and killed him instantly.’
M looked at him through narrow, judgemental eyes. A grey plume of smoke filled the room and he huffed more out through his nostrils, like some sort of seething old dragon. It added to the plume and it stretched up like a factory chimney to the ceiling. To put it candidly, he was quite unimpressed with him. He had never accused one of his operatives of insubordination and it looked like he was about to that afternoon, after a lengthy career in the Service. ‘Well, apparently not.’ he said. ‘You know, this sort of thing kicks up plenty of problems for the department. Makes me question my confidence in my operatives, and in relation to the CIA, their confidence in us. Not that I should give a damn about them at all.’ He stopped, took the pipe out of his mouth and thought the matter over. ‘We need to take care of this. Until such time, your license to kill is temporarily revoked.’
‘Sir?’ Bond said.
M sat forward in his chair. ‘You realise that you obtained your licence on the condition of two clean kills in the field? The first was this Japanese cipher man. The second was that Rolf Larsen fellow in Holland.’
Bond remembered his first two kills quite clearly. The Larsen job, as they go, had been a nasty and messy affair. He used to see the shocked mask of the man’s face when he tried to sleep at night. In recent years, he hadn’t thought about him at all. When it came to Kishida, who he had thought was his first, Bond had only seen him through the lens of a sniper-scope. He had no personal feelings towards the man back in 1952. When Bond had to kill, he never liked doing it, but he did what he was ordered as well as he knew how to and did his best to forget it. Because M had made a reference to his licence, Bond knew the direction this conversation was going to take and said nothing.
‘Since you clearly didn’t kill him. Despite what you and the authorities have said, he’s turned up very much alive in South Africa. I’m going to have to make a temporary suspension until the matter’s been rectified.’
‘I can take care of it, sir.’ Bond said.
‘Where, sir? Johannesburg?’
‘Good day, 007.’ He said, slotting the pipe back into place and without looking at him holding a hand out for the dossier. Bond swiped a glance, then handed it back to the miserable old bastard. Something about a bar. Johannesburg it was to be then. He closed the door softly after him and asked Miss Moneypenny to put him on the next flight from Heathrow Airport. He didn’t bother with the usual frivolities that afternoon, going straight upstairs to his office and ordering a cab.
The BOAC Monarch flight from London Heathrow touched down at Jan Smuts Airport (named after the South African Field Marshall) shortly after ten o’clock in the morning. James Bond, his shirt clinging to his back, stood in a short, humid queue for the Immigration desk. In his hand was a passport in the name of ‘David Somerset, Businessman’. Before he passed through, he smoked a quick cigarette, the heat was too staggering for him to actually enjoy it. Like everyone else, he was rushed through the gate and he hopped into an air-conditioned taxi cab quickly.
The Immigration people hadn’t been interested in him. If he had used his real passport the guard would have cross-referenced the name against a list on his desk. The man in front of him, a certain James Bond, would have a yellow flag in the top right corner of his papers. The office would have to send word for a more senior officer who, when he eventually made it down from his office on one of the upper floors, would be in a huff. If Bond was carrying a weapon, they would consider confiscating it from him and, per the man’s request, telephone the offices of Universal Export at once. The Immigration officer would be asked to leave the room and the more senior officer would reluctantly show him to the exit. All the while praying that nothing would come back on him. Since it was David Somerset standing in line, they had no reason to suspect him of any wrongdoing and were free to rush the remaining Heathrow passengers through Immigration. The officers, with nothing else to do, returned to the breakroom.
Bond, for want of a better word, was in South Africa, illegally. David Somerset had no diplomatic status here. His licence to kill was suspended. If he was caught, he would be arrested and imprisoned. Depending on which jail they took him to, he would likely be killed on the orders of a corrupt official or a thug in his cell before word got back to London. As in all countries, rich foreign businessmen attract investment, it would be in the constabulary’s best interest to pay ball with their newest businessman, Mr Kishida, for the time being. Bond had to assume that they were all on his payroll, or, they didn’t know he was in the country. That was also an option. Perhaps he was just enjoying his retirement in a hot and secluded part of the world, though that eventuality seemed to him rather unlikely.
When Bond arrived at The Petraeus, an establishment which is partly-owned by the Hilton Hotel Group and a conglomerate of private investors; he checked in, let himself into his room and tossed his things on the bed, settling himself down on the settee. In a matter of minutes, he was overcome with dreamless sleep.