But the scream was only in her mind and Gala, her body a twisted black potato crisp amongst a million others, had already fainted.
CHAPTER XIX MISSING PERSON
BOND SAT at his favourite restaurant table in London, the right-hand corner table for two on the first floor, and watched the people and the traffic in Piccadilly and down the Haymarket.
It was 7.45 and his second Vodka dry Martini with a large slice of lemon peel had just been brought to him by Baker, the head waiter. He sipped it, wondering idly why Gala was late. It was not like her. She was the sort of girl who would telephone if she had been kept at the Yard. Vallance, whom he had visited at five, had said that Gala was due with him at six.
Vallance had been very anxious to see her. He was a worried man and when Bond reported briefly on the security of the Moonraker, Vallance seemed to be listening with only half his mind.
It appeared that all that day there had been heavy selling of sterling. It had started in Tangier and quickly spread to Zurich and New York. The pound had been fluctuating wildly in the money markets of the world and the arbitrage dealers had made a killing. The net result was that the pound was a whole three cents down on the day and the forward rates were still weaker. It was front-page news in the evening papers and at the close of business the Treasury had got on to Vallance and told him the extraordinary news that the selling wave had been started by Drax Metals Ltd. in Tangier. The operation had begun that morning and by close of business the firm had managed to sell British currency short to the tune of twenty million pounds. This had been too much for the markets, and the Bank of England had had to step in and buy in order to stop a still sharper run. It was then that Drax Metals had come to light as the seller.
Now the Treasury wanted to know what it was all about-whether it was Drax himself selling or one of the big commodity interests who were clients of his firm. The first thing they did was to tackle Vallance. Vallance could only think that in some way the Moonraker was to be a failure and that Drax knew it and wanted to profit by his knowledge. He at once spoke to the Ministry of Supply, but they pooh-poohed the idea. Tiere was no reason to think the Moonraker would be a failure and even if its practice flight was not successful the fact would be covered up with talk of technical hitches and so forth. In any case, whether the rocket was a success or not, there could be no possible reaction on British financial credit. No, they certainly wouldn’t think of mentioning the matter to the Prime Minister. Drax Metals was a big trading organization. They were probably acting for some foreign govern ment. The Argentine. Perhaps even Russia. Someone with big sterling balances. Anyway it was nothing to do with the Ministry, or with the Moonraker, which would be launched punctually at noon the next day.
This had made sense to Vallance, but he was still worried. He didn’t like mysteries and he was glad to share his concern with Bond. Above all he wanted to ask Gala if she had seen any Tangier cables and if so whether Drax had made any comment on them.
Bond was sure Gala would have mentioned anything of the sort to him, and he said so to Vallance. They had talked some more and then Bond had left for his headquarters where M. was expecting him.
M. had been interested in everything, even the shaven heads and moustaches of the men. He questioned Bond minutely and when Bond finished his story with the gist of his last conversation with Vallance M. sat for a long time lost in thought.
“007,” he said at last, “I don’t like any part of this. There’s something going on down there but I can’t for the life of me make any sense out of it. And I don’t see where I can possibly interfere. All the facts are known to the Special Branch and to the Ministry and, God knows, I’ve got nothing to add to them. Even if I had a word with the PM, which would be damned unfair on Vallance, what am I to tell him? What facts? What’s it all about? There’s nothing but the smell of it all. And it’s a bad smell. And,” he added, “a very big one, if I’m not mistaken.
“No,” he looked across at Bond and his eyes held an unusual note of urgency. “It looks as if it’s all up to you. And that girl. You’re lucky she’s a good one. Anything you want? Anything I can do to help?”
“No, thank you, sir,” Bond had said and he had walked out through the familiar corridors and down in the lift to his own office where he had terrified Loelia Ponsonby by giving her a kiss as he said good-night. The only times he ever did that were at Christmas, on her birthday, and just before there was something dangerous to be done.
Bond drank down the rest of his Martini and looked at his watch. Now it was eight o’clock and suddenly he shivered.
He got straight up from his table and walked out to the telephone.
The switchboard at the Yard said that the Assistant Commissioner had been trying to reach him. He had had to go to a dinner at the Mansion House. Could Commander Bond please stay by the telephone? Bond waited impatiently. All his fears surged up at him from the chunk of black bakelite. He could, see the rows of polite faces. The uniformed waiter slowly edging his way round to Vallance. The quickly pulled-back chair. The unobtrusive exit. Those echoing stone lobbies. The discreet booth.
The telephone screamed at him. “That you, Bond? Vallance here. Seen anything of Miss Brand?”
Bond’s heart went cold. “No,” he said sharply. “She’s half an hour late for dinner. Didn’t she turn up at six?”
“No, and I’ve had a ‘trace’ sent out and there’s no sign of her at the usual address she stays at when she come to London. None of her friends have seen her. If she left in Drax’s car at two-thirty she should have been in London by half-past four. There’s been no crash on the Dover road during the afternoon and the AA and the RAC are negative.” There was a pause. “Now listen.” There was urgent appeal in Vallance’s voice. “She’s a 长沙桑拿哪里便宜 good girl that, and I don’t want anything to happen to her. Can you handle it for me? I can’t put out a general call for her. The killing down there has made her news and we’d have the whole Press round our ears. It will be even worse after ten tonight. Downing Street are issuing a communique about the practice shoot and tomorrow’s papers are going to be nothing but Moonraker. The PM’s going to broadcast. Her disappearance would turn the whole thing into a crime story. Tomorrow’s too important for that and anyway the girl may have had a fainting fit or something. But I want her found. Well? What do you say? Can you handle it? You can have all the help you want. I’ll tell the Duty Officer that he’s to accept your orders.”
“Don’t worry,” said Bond. “Of course I’ll look after it.” He paused, his mind racing. “Just tell me something. 长沙桑拿场子推荐 What do you know about Drax’s movements?”
“He wasn’t expected at the Ministry until seven,” said Vallance. “I left word…” There was a confused noise on the line and Bond heard Vallance say “Thanks.” He came back on the line. “Just got a report passed on by the City police,” he said. “The Yard couldn’t get me on the ‘phone.
Talking to you. Let’s see,” he read, ” ‘Sir Hugo Drax arrived Ministry 1900 left at 2000. Left message dining at Blades if wanted. Back at site 2300.'” Vallance commented: “That means he’ll be leaving London about nine. Just a moment.” He read on : ” ‘Sir Hugo stated Miss Brand felt unwell on arrival in London but at her request he left her at Victoria Station bus terminal at 16.45. Miss Brand stated she would rest with some friends, address unknown, and contact Sir Hugo at Ministry at 1900. She had not 长沙桑拿spa会所 done so.’ And that’s all,” said Vallance. “Oh, by the way, we made the inquiry
about Miss Brand on your behalf. Said you had arranged to meet her at six and she hadn’t turned up.”
“Yes,” said Bond, his thoughts elsewhere. “That doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. I’ll have to get busy. Just one more thing. Has Drax got a place in London, flat or anything like that?”
“He always stays at the Ritz nowadays,” said Vallance. “Sold his house in Grosvenor Square when he moved down to Dover. But we happen to know he’s got some sort of an establishment in Ebury Street. We checked there. But there was no answer to the bell and my man said the house looked unoccupied. Just behind Buckingham Palace. Some sort of hideout of his. Keeps it very quiet. Probably takes his women there. Anything else? I ought to be getting back or all this big brass will think the Crown Jewels have been stolen.”
“You go ahead,” said Bond.
“I’ll do my best and if I get stuck I’ll call on your men to help. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me. So long.”
“So long,” said Vallance with a note of relief in his voice. “And thanks. Best of luck.”
Bond rang off.
He picked up the receiver again and called Blades.
“This is the Ministry of Supply,” he said. “Is Sir Hugo Drax in the club?”
“Yes, sir,” it was the friendly voice of Brevett. “He’s in the dining-room. Do you wish to speak to him?”
“No, it’s all right,” said Bond. “I just wanted to make certain he hadn’t left yet.”
Without noticing what he was eating Bond wolfed down some food and left the restaurant at 8.45. His car was outside waiting for him and he said good-night to the driver from Headquarters and drove to St James’s Street. He parked under cover of the central row of taxis outside Boodle’s and settled
himself behind an evening paper over which he could keep his eyes on a section of Drax’s Mercedes which he was relieved to see standing in Park Street, unattended.
He had not long to wait. Suddenly a broad shaft of yellow light shone out from the doorway of Blades and the big figure of Drax appeared. He wore a heavy ulster up round his ears and a cap pulled down over his eyes. He walked quickly to the white Mercedes, slammed the door, and was away across to the left-hand side of St James’s Street and braking to turn opposite St James’s Palace while Bond was still in third.
God, the man moves quickly, thought Bond, doing a racing change round the island in the Mall with Drax already passing the statue in front of the Palace. He kept the Bentley in third and thundered in pursuit. Buckingham Palace Gate. So it looked like Ebury Street. Keeping the white car just in view, Bond made hurried plans. The lights at the corner of Lower Grosvenor Place were green for Drax and red for Bond. Bond jumped them and was just in time to see Drax swing left into the beginning of Ebury Street. Gambling on Drax making a stop at his house, Bond accelerated to the corner and pulled up just short of it. As he jumped out of the Bentley, leaving the engine ticking over, and took the few steps towards Ebury Street, he heard two short blasts on the Mercedes’ horn and as he carefully edged round the corner he was in time to see Krebs helping the muffled figure of a girl across the pavement. Then the door of the Mercedes slammed and Drax was off again.
Bond raced back to his car, whipped into third, and went after him.
Thank God the Mercedes was white. There it went, its stop-lights blazing briefly at the intersections, the headlamps full on and the horn blaring at any hint of a check in the sparse traffic.
Bond set his teeth and rode his car as if she was a Lipizaner at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. He could not use headlights or horn for fear of betraying his presence to the car in front. He just had to play on his brakes and gears and hope for the best.
The deep note of his two-inch exhaust thundered back at him from the houses on either side and his tyres screamed on the tarmac. He thanked heavens for the new set of racing
Michelins that were only a week old. If only the lights would be kind. He seemed to be getting nothing but amber and red while Drax was always being swept on by the green. Chelsea Bridge. So it did look like the Dover road by the South Circular! Could he hope to keep up with the Mercedes on A20? Drax had two passengers. His car might not be tuned. But with that independent springing he could corner better than Bond, The old Bentley was a bit high off the ground for this sort of work. Bond stamped on his brakes and risked a howl on his triple klaxons as a homeward-bound taxi started to weave over to the right. It jerked back to the left and Bond heard a four-letter yell as he shot past.
Clapham Common and the flicker of the white car through the trees. Bond ran the Bentley up to eighty along the safe bit of road and saw the lights go red just in time to stop Drax at the end of it. He put the Bentley into neutral and coasted up silently. Fifty yards away. Forty, thirty, twenty. The lights changed and Drax was over the crossing and away again, but not before Bond had seen that Krebs was beside the driver and there was no sign of Gala except the hump of a rug over the narrow back seat.
So there was no question. You don’t take a sick girl for a drive like a sack of potatoes. Not at that speed for the matter of that. So she was a prisoner. Why? What had she done? What had she discovered? What the hell, in fact, was all this about?
Each dark conjecture came and for a moment settled like a vulture on Bond’s shoulder and croaked into his ear that he had been a blind fool. Blind, blind, blind. From the moment he had sat in his office after the night at Blades and made his mind up about Drax being a dangerous man he should have been on his toes. At the first smell of trouble, the marks on the chart for instance, he should have taken action. But what action? He had passed on each clue, each fear. What could he have done except kill Drax? And get hanged for his pains? Well, then. What about the present? Should he stop and telephone the Yard? And let the car get away? For all he knew Gala was being taken for a ride and Drax planned to get rid of her on the way to Dover. And that Bond might conceivably prevent if only his car could take it.
As if to echo his thoughts the tortured rubber screamed as he left the South Circular road into A20 and took the round about at forty. No. He had told M. that he would stay with it. He had told Vallance the same. The case had been dumped firmly into his lap and he must do what he could. At least if he kept up with the Mercedes he might shoot up its tyres and apologize afterwards. To let it get away would be criminal.
So be it, said Bond to himself.
He had to slow for some lights and he used the pause to pull a pair of goggles out of the dashboard compartment and cover his eyes with them. Then he leant over to the left and twisted the big screw on the windscreen and then eased the one beside his right hand. He pressed the narrow screen flat down on the bonnet and tightened the screws again.
Then he accelerated away from Swanley Junction and was soon doing ninety astride the cat’s eyes down the Farningham by-pass, the wind howling past his ears and the shrill scream of his supercharger riding with him for company.