Never Say Die (James Bond 007) 2 / L'Uomo Che Visse Due Volte (2 of 4)
It was a twenty-five-minute drive from the hotel across Johannesburg. At first, Bond thought the cab driver was taking him on a longer route, but the vehicle reached sixty on the Main Reef road to Soweto. The houses and buildings that made up the city limits were disappearing at a vast rate. They drove for miles before the cab driver brought his 1951 Volkswagen, around in a U-turn. In the rear-view mirror, Bond could see a block neon sign, ‘LE TIGRE BAR’.
When the cab driver asked for three pounds, Bond paid him without hesitation and exited the vehicle. The driver nodded his thanks. The VW sped away, kicking up a mist of dirt. Clearly, there was no business for him to be made in these parts, perhaps a thousand tin shacks were dotted along the cusp of the falling horizon and the taxi was racing back the way he came. Bond was left with the timid trilling of the evening insects. The Tigre Bar was not what Bond had expected, though It had appeared in the file. Kishida savoured expensive tastes, he was known for them during the War. What was his business with a place like this? It was a modest establishment with three wooden steps climbing to an open door. The neon sign hung above the lintel. There were others with ‘SNAX’, ‘Red Stripe’ and ‘Coca-Cola’ – the last was hand-painted, worn and rather dusty, an antique. It would be worth a pretty penny on the American market. There were two broad windows with no pane in them. Shutters hung above. Bond imagined this to be the heart of the local community, no tourists would dare venture this far out of the city. He would be the first they had hosted in recent years, that was certain.
Standing in the doorway was the barmaid, for she was far too young to be the owner, Bond reflected. She was a pretty girl, with big brown eyes, black silk hair tied in a short bob with messy curls, it accentuated the lightness of her black skin. (She was probably of mixed heritage, Bond thought.) She was dressed in a white blouse and denim jeans. The eyes and mouth smiled as the suited white man started to climb the wooden steps into her place of work. A customer. She moved swiftly inside and stood behind the counter when he made it to the door. ‘Evenin’, mister.’
‘Good evening. Could I have a Red Stripe, please?’
‘Course.’ She leant under the counter and retrieved a bottle. Kneeing the fridge shut, she placed it on the counter and produced an unpolished glass from a shelf behind her. ‘That’ll be one and five.’
Bond paid. She rang the money into a cash register. He drew up a barstool and watched her. He enjoyed watching her – she was ravishing. She rested her elbows on the counter and decidedly took an interest in him. The big brown eyes sparkled. When they had finished their examination, she spoke: ‘Passin’ through?’
‘Something like that,’ he said.
‘A cab brought you here, mister. I saw it, it came from that way. Nowhere in the city take your fancy?’
Bond smiled widely. ‘The concierge at The Petraeus recommended you. Said your bottled beer was to die for.’
She laughed, it wasn’t genuine. ‘You here for the girls over the way then? I wouldn’t recommend them if I was you. They might drug you and take your wallet, mister.’
‘No,’ Bond said. ‘I’m not into that sort of thing. Girls like you perhaps.’
She laughed, genuinely now. ‘Oh, I’m not like that. I get by with this place and that’s enough for me.’ So, she was the owner. Bond swivelled around, there were three empty tables with four plastic chairs. A door at the back of the hut had the male and female signs painted on a piece of plywood. A jukebox sat in the corner. The song ‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder’ by Paul Anka murmured in the background. The place could be described as ‘chic’ despite its lack of furnishings or budget. He could see it appeal to those Western tourists, out in the wilderness looking for a slice of the true South African way of living or those minimalist types. For her age, Bond thought she had done quite well for herself. She would have encountered many tribulations in her short life under the Apartheid system.
‘It’s a handsome bar, your family must be proud.’
‘Don’t have none.’
‘I’m sorry to hear,’ Bond said. ‘Myself included.’
She smiled. ‘I’m Lesedi. Means light.’
He smiled. ‘I’m Bond, James Bond. It doesn’t mean a lot though if anyone comes in here, please call me Mr Somerset. I would appreciate discretion.’
‘No problem, mister. Another beer?’ He looked down, it was quite empty. Though the sun was nearly gone, it was still humid and still conjured one’s thirst. ‘Please,’ he finally said.
The girl stood up from the counter and leant into the fridge. His eyes scoured the shelves behind her. Bottles of neat whisky came in every shape and size. He was looking something out of the ordinary, something special. When she returned with another Red Stripe, he hadn’t seen anything that inspired curiosity. He wondered if had got the right place when she said. ‘Are you here to meet with one of the Kishidas?’
Bond smiled. ‘Possibly,’ he said. ‘What do you know about them?’
Lesedi shrugged, took a beer out of the fridge for herself and opened it. She drank it halfway down and left it on a placemat. ‘They come here for this.’ She produced a bottle with a blueish hue and set it down on the counter. Leaves were engraved, quite expertly in various floral patterns around the bottom, the numbers 117 were printed on the bottleneck. ‘It’s tequila,’ she said. ‘Like the flower it is called La Damiana, comes from the mountains of Jalisco apparently. Real expensive stuff.’
‘Might I try some?’
‘Not unless you buy the whole bottle, mister.’
‘Well, how dear is it?’
‘One is enough to keep this place runnin’ for three months. I get it from a doorman at the Mexican Embassy in the city. He lets me have it at,’ she pauses. ‘A discount.’
Bond said nothing.
‘I do what I have to do to get by, mister. I make no apologies for that.’
‘I wasn’t expecting any.’ He said.
The girl looked past him.
James Bond turned his head slowly around. Dust blew in from the evening all the way across the wooden floor. A mixture of dead leaves and sand brushed against his feet. The pale, tall outline of a man filled the doorway. Bond’s fingers crept into his jacket, he felt the Walther PPK tucked in its holster press against his shirt. He recognised the look in Lesedi’s eyes. It was one equal of surprise and horror. The tall man moved forward with what he could describe as slow, calculated, even-footed steps. His movements made no sound on the wooden floorboards.
Lesedi stepped out from behind the counter and bowed lowly. ‘Otto-san.’
Bond said easily, ‘You frightened us, old man.’
Otto-san came up to the counter. The cold, grey eyes looking at him were aloof. Emotionless. He had a high forehead, pencil-thin brows and a rectangular jaw. The face, which was lightly sunburned, accentuated his white hair. The man was in his late twenties, around six-feet-four. Otto-san, or Otto, was a Nazi, a product of the Lebensborn initiative.
In 1935, Lebensborn – which translates word-for-word as ‘Fount of Life’ – was a project initiated by the SS to raise the birth-rate of Aryan children in Nazi Germany. Racially desirable women of the Third Reich were offered stay in facilities dotted around the country (and in many Nordic states during the War) in order to reproduce with Nazi officers. They were encouraged to raise them, in many cases when the question of genuine Aryan origin was brought up, the offspring were kidnapped by the SD and carted off for experimentation. The women received The Cross of Honour of the German Mother and for those who bore the most children, a state sponsorship and a meeting with The Führer himself. James Bond knew what Otto-san was and what he represented, and it appalled him.
Lesedi, who was still bent over, spoke: ‘Would you like me to gift wrap your order, Otto-san?’
The German, who was in the traditional Japanese dress of a Keikogi (or a uniform of the Japanese martial arts) and an obi (or sash), nodded perfunctorily. The girl went out the back to make the necessary adjustments.
‘Something for the wife?’ Bond asked.
The German batted the question away by gazing into space. Bond looked outside, there was a motorcar parked out the front. The local men walked past it without fussing, they had clearly seen it a dozen times before. It was a 1943 Mercedes-Benz Type 770 – a six-seater – a touring car from the days of the War. Bond expected it to have an eight-cylinder engine and a price-tag of at least $60,000. If it had belonged to someone of considerable influence in the Nazi party, like Himmler or Goebbels for instance, then it would fetch $100,000 at an auction. Hideo Kishida still lives a lavish lifestyle it seems, Bond thought. ‘Your car?’ he asked finally.
The German didn’t look at him. ‘My employer’s.’
‘Must be a wealthy man your employer, owning a car like that. ‘41 is it?’
‘A ‘43.’ Otto-san grunted.
‘How famous was the previous owner?’ Bond said.
He smiled at the question and gave a curt reply: ‘Considerably. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to deliver my package. Girl!’
Lesedi returned at once. ‘Here you are, Otto-san.’ She said, bowing lowly once again.
He looked at her through his nose. Reaching into his gi, he placed a wad of notes on the counter. They were in £10 denominations and were kept together with an elastic band. She remained bowed. He turned swiftly on his heel and marched out of the bar. The locals hurried out of sight and stayed well away from The Tigre Bar. He got into the car and started the ignition. It was then that Bond noticed somebody moving around in the back. He saw a silhouette darker than the evening behind it. The glass was shaded with an illegal tint. Bond walked out after him and waited in the doorway. He could hear the engine struggling. Otto-san, for all his perfections it seemed, wasn’t hired as a skilled chauffeur. He was flooding it. The engine sneered back at him like some sort of angry beast.
‘What are you doin’, mister?’ Lesedi said, crossing the room deftly and joining Bond.
‘I’m wondering what the hell he’s doing is what. Shall I lend him a hand?’
Lesedi shook her head. ‘He doesn’t like no-one touching his precious car.’
James Bond smiled. ‘That’s what I thought.’ Taking the steps in a hop, he trudged across the dirt to the driver’s side. ‘Can I help you, old man?’
The German stabbed at the gas pedal repeatedly. Bond used the distraction as an opportunity to see who was inside the car. His response was to bow.
Sitting with arms and legs folded in the backseat was a was a beautiful woman of Japanese origin. She had a particularly high forehead, a blood-red mouth and a callous expression smeared across it. The cheeks were unusually rounded, and the chin met them in the middle with a perfect ‘V’. She was incredibly well put together. The jet-black hair was cropped just below the ears and the dark brown eyeliner was meticulously applied in the modern fashion. She wore a shimmering red evening dress with what Bond noticed to be a plunging neckline. It was sequin-embellished and sleeveless. She was in her mid-to-late twenties and from the look of disdain in her eyes, typical of one born to considerable wealth, she had to be Ichiko Kishida, the only surviving blood relative of Hideo Kishida. His youngest daughter.
‘Pardon me,’ Bond said. She rolled her eyes at him. He returned his attentions to the German, ‘If you will allow me, Otto-san.’
The German regarded him for a moment, sharing a half-look with Ichiko. She nodded back at him and with her permission stepped out of the car. His eyes didn’t leave the Englishman for a second. James Bond climbed into the driver’s seat and switched the ignition off.
Lesedi stood in the doorway, scared. Some of the locals had stopped to watch these two cocksure white men make themselves look like fools. When every eye was on him, Bond pushed the accelerator all the way down to the floor and twisted the key in the ignition. The Mercedes erupted into life, purring gratefully. Bond got out. ‘That’ll be five pounds, please.’ he jested.
The German pushed past him, unable to take a joke and neither could the young Miss Kishida, who spoke to him: ‘I’m afraid we don’t carry any cash on us… (Like hell you don’t, Bond thought) … but I can offer you dinner at our house tomorrow evening… if you would feel compelled to join us.’ She added that as an afterthought, a smirk began in the corner of her mouth.
‘That would be hospitable,’ Bond said.
‘Half seven collection from here?’ She asked.
‘Half seven it is.’
‘Well that settles it. Good evening, mister…’
‘Bond.’ He said.
‘Bondo-san.’ She replied. ‘I am Ichiko Kishida.’
‘Miss.’ And with that, the Mercedes-Benz shot off into the darkness.
Victorious, Bond trudged back up the wooden steps and inside. Lesedi was waiting for him on a barstool. ‘I’ve been granted an audience.’
‘That was dumb luck, mister.’ She said. She was right. It was dumb luck. For all he knew, she had brought her father the very man who had shot him all those years ago. Bond had no idea what he was walking into.
He spent the remainder of the evening drinking with the locals with that thought firmly cast in his mind. Tomorrow's meal might well be my last.