And now there were the gray-slimed motor tires, the bottles, the cans, and the scaffolding of the wharf. Bond slid over the shelving sand and knelt in the shallows, his head down, not capable of carrying the heavy aqualung up the beach, an exhausted animal ready to drop.

17.

The Red-Eye Catacomb

Bond, putting on his clothes, dodged the comments of Constable Santos. It seemed there had been sort of underwater explosions, with eruptions on the surface, on the starboard side of the yacht. Several men had appeared on deck and there had been some kind of commotion. A boat had been lowered on the port side, out of sight of the shore. Bond said he knew nothing of these things. He had cracked his head against the side of the ship. Silly thing to do. He had seen what he had wanted to see and had then swum back. Entirely successful. The Constable had been a great help. Thank you very much and good night. Bond would be seeing the Commissioner in the morning.

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Bond walked with careful steadiness up the side street to where he had parked Leiter's Ford. He got to the hotel and telephoned Leiter's room and together they drove to police headquarters. Bond described what had happened and what he had discovered. Now he didn't care what the consequences might be. He was going to make a report. It was eight a.m. in London and there were under forty hours to go to zero hour. All these straws added up to half a haystack. His suspicions were boiling like a pressure cooker. He couldn't sit on the lid any longer.

Leiter said decisively, "You do just that. And I'll file a copy to C.I.A and endorse it. What's more, I'm going to call up the Manta and tell her to get the hell over here.''

“You are?'' Bond was amazed at this change of tune. ”What's got into you all of a sudden?''

“Well, I was sculling around the Casino taking a good look at anyone I thought might be a shareholder or a treasure hunter. They were mostly in groups, standing around trying to put up the front of having a good time---sunshine holiday and all that. They weren't succeeding. Largo was doing all the work, being gay and boyish. The others looked like private dicks or the rest of the Torrio gang just after the St. Valentine Day massacre. Never seen such a bunch of thugs in my life---dressed up in tuxedos and smoking cigars and drinking champagne and all that---just a glass or two to show the Christmas spirit. Orders, I suppose. But all of them with that smell one gets to know in the Service, or in Pinkertons for the matter of that. You know, careful, cold-fish, thinking-of-something-else kinda look the pros have. Well, none of the faces meant anything to me until I came across a little guy with a furrowed brow and a big egghead with pebble glasses who looked like a Mormon who's got into a whorehouse by mistake. He was peering about nervously and every time one of these other guys spoke to him he blushed and said what a wonderful place it was and he was having a swell time. I got close enough to hear him say the same thing to two different guys. Rest of the time he just mooned around, sort of helpless and almost sucking a corner of his handkerchief, if you get me. Well that face meant something to me. I knew I'd seen it before somewhere. You know how it is. So after puzzling for a bit I went to the reception and told one of the guys behind the desk in a cheery fashion that I thought I'd located an old classmate who'd migrated to Europe, but I couldn't for the life of me remember his name. Very embarrassing as he seemed to recognize me. Would the guy help? So he came along and I pointed this feller out and he went back to his desk and went through the membership cards and came up with the one I wanted. Seemed he was a man called Traut, Emil Traut. Swiss passport. One of Mr. Largo's group from the yacht.'' Leiter paused. ”Well, I guess it was the Swiss passport that did it.'' He turned to Bond. "Remember a fellow called Kotze, East German physicist? Came over to the West about five years ago and sang all he knew to the Joint Scientific Intelligence boys? Then he disappeared, thanks to a fat payment for the info, and went to ground in Switzerland. Well, James. Take my word for it. That's the same guy. The file went through my hands when I was still with C.I.A. doing desk work in Washington. All came back to me. It was one hell of a scoop at the time. Only saw his mug on the file, but there's absolutely no doubt about it. That man's Kotze. And now what the hell is a top physicist doing on board the Disco ? Fits, doesn't it?''

They had come to police headquarters. Lights burned only on the ground floor. Bond waited until they had reported to the duty sergeant and had gone up to their room before he answered. He stood in the middle of the room and looked at Leiter. He said, "That's the clincher, Felix. So now what do we do?''

"With what you got this evening, I'd pull the whole lot in on suspicion. No question at all.''

“Suspicion of what? Largo would reach for his lawyer and they'd be out in five minutes. Democratic processes of the law and so forth. And what single fact have we got that Largo couldn't dodge? All right, so Traut is Kotze. We're hunting for treasure, gentlemen, we need an expert mineralogist. This man offered his services. Said his name was Traut. No doubt he's still worried about the Russians getting after him. Next question? Yes, we've got an underwater compartment on the Disco . We're going to hunt treasure through it. Inspect it? Well, if you must. There you are gentlemen---underwater gear, skids, perhaps even a small bathyscaphe. Underwater sentry? Of course. People have spent six months trying to find out what we're after, how we're going to get it. We're professionals, gentlemen. We like to keep our secrets. And anyway, what was this Mr. Bond, this rich gentleman looking for a property in Nassau, doing underneath my ship in the middle of the night? Petacchi? Never heard of him. Don't care what Miss Vitali's family name was. Always known her as Vitali . . .'' Bond made a throwaway gesture with one hand. ”See what I mean? This treasure-hunting cover is perfect. It explains everything. And what are we left with? Largo pulls himself up to his full height and says, `Thanks gentlemen. So I may go now? And so I shall, within the hour. I shall find another base for my work and you will be hearing from my lawyers forthwith---wrongful detention and trespass. And good luck to your tourist trade, gentlemen.' '' Bond smiled grimly. "See what I mean?''

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Leiter said impatiently, "So what do we do? Limpet mine? Send her to the bottom---in error, so to speak?''

“No. We're going to wait.'' At the expression on Leiter's face, Bond held up a hand. ”We're going to send our report, in careful, guarded terms so we don't get an airborne division landing on Windsor Field. And we're going to say the Manta is all we need. And so it is. With her, we can keep tabs on the Disco just as we please. And we'll stay under cover, keep a hidden watch on the yacht and see what happens. At present we're not suspected. Largo's plan, if there is one, that is, and don't forget this treasure-hunting business still covers everything perfectly well, is going along all right. All he's got to do now is collect the bombs and make for Target No. 1 ready for zero hour in around thirty hours' time. We can do absolutely nothing to him until he's got one or both of those bombs on board or we catch him at their hiding place. Now, that can't be far away. Nor can the Vindicator, if she's hereabouts. So tomorrow we take that amphibian they've got for us and hunt the area inside a radius of a hundred miles. We'll hunt the seas and not the land. She must be in shoal water somewhere and damned well hidden. With this calm weather, we should be able to locate her---if she's here. Now, come on! Let's get those reports off and get some sleep. And say we're out of communication for ten hours. And disconnect your telephone when you get back to your room. However careful we are, this signal is going to set the Potomac on fire as well as the Thames.''

Six hours later, in the crystal light of early morning, they were out at Windsor Field and the ground crew was hauling the little Grumman Amphibian out of the hangar with a jeep. They had climbed on board and Leiter was gunning the engines when a uniformed motorcycle dispatch rider came driving uncertainly toward them across the tarmac.

Bond said, "Get going! Quick! Here comes paper work.''

Leiter released the brakes and taxied fast toward the single north-south runway. The radio crackled angrily. Leiter took a careful look over the sky. It was clear. He slowly pushed down on the joystick and the little plane snarled its way faster and faster down the concrete and, with a final bump, soared off over the low bush. The radio still crackled. Leiter reached up and switched it off.

Bond sat with the Admiralty chart on his lap. They were flying north. They had decided to start with the Grand Bahama group and have a first look at the possible area of Target No. 1. They flew at a thousand feet. Below them the Berry Islands were a necklace of brown spits set in cream and emerald and turquoise. “See what I mean?'' said Bond. ”You can see anything big through that water down to fifty feet. Anything as big as the Vindicator would have been spotted anywhere on any of the air routes. So I've marked off the areas where there's the minimum traffic. They'd have ditched somewhere well out of the way. Assuming, and it's the hell of an assumption, that, when the Disco made off to the southeast on the night of the third, it was a ruse, it'll be reasonable to hunt to the north and the west.

She was away eight hours. Two of those would have been at anchor doing the salvage work. That leaves six hours' sailing at around thirty knots. Cut an hour off for laying the false trail, and that leaves five. I've marked off an area from the Grand Bahamas down to south of the Bimini group. That fits---if anything fits.''

"Did you get on the the Commissioner?''

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"Yes. He's going to have a couple of good men with day-and-night glasses keeping an eye on the Disco . If she moves from her Palmyra anchorage where she's due back at midday, and if we're not back in time, he'll have her shadowed by one of the Bahama Airways charter planes. I got him quite worried with just one or two bits of information. He wanted to go to the Governor with the story. I said not yet. He's a good man. Just doesn't want too much responsibility without someone else's okay. I used the P.M.'s name to keep him quiet until we get back. He'll play all right. When do you think the Manta could be here?''

“S'evening, I'd say.'' Leiter's voice was uneasy. ”I must have been drunk last night to have sent for her. Christ, we're creating one hell of a flap, James. It doesn't look too good in the cold light of dawn. Anyway, what the hell? There's Grand Bahama coming up dead ahead. Want me to give the rocket base a buzz? Prohibited flying area, but we might as well go in up to our ears while we're about it. Just listen to the bawling out we'll be getting in just a minute or two.'' He reached up and switched on the radio.

They flew eastward along the fifty miles of beautiful coast toward what looked like a small city of aluminum hutments among which red and white and silver structures rose like small skyscrapers above the low roofs. “That's it,'' said Leiter. ”See the yellow warning balloons at the corners of the base? Warning to aircraft and fishermen. There's a flight test on this morning. Better get out to sea a bit and keep south. If it's a full test, they'll be firing toward Ascension Island---about five thousand miles east. Off the African coast. Don't want to get an Atlas missile up our backsides. Look over there to the left-sticking up like a pencil beside that red and white gantry! Atlas or a Titan---intercontinental. Or might be a prototype Polaris. The other two gantries'll be for Matador and Snark and perhaps your Thunderbird. That big gun thing, like a howitzer, that's the camera tracker. The two saucer-shaped reflectors are the radar screen. Golly! One of them's turning away toward us! We're going to get hell in a minute. That strip of concrete down the middle of the island. That's the skid strip for bringing in missiles that are recallable. Can't see the central control for telemetering and guidance and destruction of the things if they go mad. That'll be underground---one of those squat blockhouse things. Some brass hat'll be sitting down there with his staff getting all set for the countdown or whatever's going to happen and telling someone to do something about that goddamn little plane that's fouling up the works.''

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