James Bond - Seafire Part 2
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"Sets full of clever lawyers. An organization with the power to wipe out traces of a paper trail that goes far beyond the Tarn International offices. Our lords and masters're scared to death that Tarn would be out, at least on bail, in a matter of hours, and that Dolmech just wouldn't be able to follow through with his promises. In other words, the entire case would turn to dust and ashes and a lot of people would end up with egg on their faces."
Flicka grunted. Then: "And they really believe that we can put the fear of G.o.d into him and make him run for cover?"
"Yes, and we probably can. The real problem is whether they can keep a trace on him and stop him removing any hard evidence. If Tarn's the man I think he is, he's probably too clever to leave any clues, any kind of trail. In Cambridge we'll undoubtedly be hedged about with security people - watchers, vans and cars with all the latest gizmos and gadgets intent on running Tarn to earth. Whether, in the real world, they'll actually be able to do that is a moot point. What they're after is headlines on Monday which say that Sir Max and Lady Tarn have disappeared. Foul Play Suspected. Suspicious Circ.u.mstances. Enough clout to let the police go in and root around - with some of our people in tow - without a great legal chorus telling them they can't do this, or that, or the other thing. Everybody'll be forced to cooperate or look guilty as h.e.l.l. They'll only be doing a public service. Looking for clues. Trying to find out if the Tarns've been kidnapped, or whether there's something even worse lurking at the heart of his organization."
"I suppose that might just work."
"They're banking on it, Fredericka, and I have to admit that it's probably a safer way than going in blind and having the Tarn legal department shouting "Unfair! Foul! Hands off!' while other people are disposing of the evidence. Nowadays you can get rid of records in a matter of hours. In fact, the real records might not actually be there. Our tame police commissioner actually told me that Tarn imagines he's fireproof, and in some ways he probably is."
"How're we going to get him trotting off to his favorite hiding place, then?"
"By doing what we can do best as a team. I reckon we have until late on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps a note left at the University Arms. A cryptic message which he can't ignore. That's the way I think we've got to do it."
"Mmmm," Flicka mused. "'Meet me at midnight, under the blasted oak. I have information that will save your life.'" She mimicked a witch's cackle.
"Nothing quite as dramatic as that. I'd rather tell him to his face. After all, our mentors and guides say that he'll already have my name on file - from the Caribbean Prince. They tell me he never misses a trick, not if he thinks it's going to be of use to him."
"He can't be that omnipotent. You did your best to save his d.a.m.ned s.h.i.+p, tried to save one of the officer's lives. Christ, James, you can't believe he's got unlimited power?"
Bond shook his head. "No, I believe that's just Micro-Globe One's paranoia, but we might as well be prepared." He glanced at his watch. "Time we were going. At least we'll have missed the worst traffic out of London by now."
As it turned out, most of London appeared to have decided to postpone leaving the city. Flicka drove, cursing other motorists and generally carrying on a running commentary, laced with liberal epithets concerning all drivers in general apart from herself.
Bond leaned back in the pa.s.senger seat, put on the map-reading light, and opened up the slim dossier on Tarn. It began with a series of photographs. The familiar fit-looking, sharp-but-pleasant features stared back at him; the eyes - even frozen by the camera - seemed to glitter in their usual amiable manner below the neatly trimmed iron-gray hair. Max Tarn's friendliness and approachability were traits often commented on by the press, though other tales persisted, hinting at a darker, brooding, more sinister side.
About three pages in, he found the usual red flag denoting that the rest of the file - some thirty pages - was cla.s.sified.
It began with a long note on Tarn's lineage:
Born: circa 1939 - possibly 20th June - and probably to the old Prussian Tarn family whose estates, ten kilometers from Wa.s.serburg am Inn - some seventy kilometers from the Austrian border - were eventually confiscated by the n.a.z.is. (See Note C.)
His mother, Ilse Tarn, had supposedly taken him out of Germany shortly after his birth. He was certainly registered as an alien in London in 1940. The doc.u.ments were extant, as were the naturalization papers that were dated 20th April 1940, but on these the Tarns - mere et fils - were described as Austrian Jews and cla.s.sified as refugees. To this was appended a note that they were "not lacking funds."
The Tarns settled in a small market town in Surrey, and eventually Max was educated at a local grammar school, winning a scholars.h.i.+p to Oxford, where he read PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics).
Attached to the section on Tarn's background was a short study by the Security Service, which had performed a detailed scrutiny in 1968 when the Monopolies Commission was trying to rule on a takeover of one of the largest freight-carrying companies in England by Tarn Freight Ltd.
The investigation turned up some odd stories but could not gather any firm evidence. The then Director General of the Security Service had noted that, bearing in mind the circ.u.mstances of the Tarns' arrival in Britain, the stories were almost certainly true, but any release to the press or through any other agency would in all probability bring legal action. Max Tarn and his mother - it was suggested - had all the necessary doc.u.mentation to prove they were of Jewish origin and came from Linz, Austria.
The report from the two officers who had traveled to Wa.s.serburg (Note C in the file) was of more than pa.s.sing interest. The old and proud military family with their huge estates near the unique town of Wa.s.serburg appeared to have come to the end of its line, while the old Tarn mansion - Tarnenwerder - was, in effect, still there, a crumbling Gothic ruin harboring tales of ghosts and b.l.o.o.d.y deeds. The local authorities had been attempting to have the entire estate cleared and developed for the construction of much-needed housing, but the old family lawyers - Saal, Saal u. Rollen, who still had offices in the Marienplatz, Wa.s.serburg am Inn - had fought every step of the way, claiming that any attempt would be met by legal action as at least one member of the family may still be alive.
In Wa.s.serburg, however, there were elderly men and women who had worked for the Tarns. They had a different tale - especially of the last days of the great family. The old Graf von Tarn and the Grafin, they said, had been dragged from the house, in September 1939, by members of the SS who pillaged the place, removing the entire family, which consisted of the two elderly people, their son, Klaus, and one daughter, Elsa. Their fate was generally believed to have been in one of the death camps, though some said they knew for certain that the last four Tarns had been shot and buried on the estate. The house became a recovery center for SS officers, but was left to go to wrack and ruin at the end of the war.
A further interesting story was turned up in interviews with two old people who were certainly members of the Tarn household during that fateful period. They claimed - but would not give a signed legal statement - that in the late 1930s the head housekeeper of Tarnenwerder was a young Austrian woman called Ilse Katz, or strictly Katzstein. Ilse, they told the investigating officers, became pregnant by Klaus von Tarn and the family kept that secret close. Belowstairs there was talk that the old Graf von Tarn had promised to have the girl looked after and would provide for the child in return for a legal doc.u.ment stating that Ilse's offspring would never attempt to claim the family name, or attempt to make any financial demands on the von Tarn fortune. No legal doc.u.ment had ever surfaced.
Ilse Katz, the story went, had given birth to a son in the summer of 1939, and a couple of days before the SS arrived to arrest the family and take over Tarnenwerder and its lands, she suddenly disappeared, together with a vast haul of von Tarn jewelry valued at millions of reichsmarks.
Both the former retainers swore the story was true, though other locals claimed that the pair were in the first stages of senility. What did appear to be certain was that the vast fortune in jewelry and other valuables disappeared - though many said that senior SS officers looted it to line their own pockets.
If the supposed Tarns who arrived in England as Jewish Austrian refugees in early 1940 were in fact the housekeeper, Ilse, and her illegitimate son, it would account for the wealth they brought with them - the same wealth that had started Max Tarn in the freight-haulage business in the early 1960s.
The rest, Bond thought as he read it, was history: Max Tarn of Tarn Freight Ltd. had branched out; invested; acquired the stock of other companies until his freight business was the largest in the United Kingdom. To Tarn Freight he had added four major magazines, and in the boom caused by the likes of Playboy and Penthouse, in the mid-sixties he had launched Tarn Man and Tarn Girl, followed by King of Hearts and King of Clubs, the latter almost a house magazine for his famous chain of Black s.h.i.+eld Clubs, which took off not merely in the U.K. but also in the United States and, then, almost worldwide.
The huge amounts of money engendered by these businesses financed Tarn s.h.i.+pping and, later, the relatively new Tarn Cruise Lines, Inc.
Money begets money, and the business empire stretched its tentacles into almost every lucrative field, from the business of import and export through the chains of clubs and magazines, to luxury hotels. His estimated personal wealth now ran to many billions, while he owned properties in every major world city. There was even a rumor - never traced - of a private island in the Caribbean, according to some.
The knighthood had come in the mid-seventies, for services to charity organizations. Max Tarn was full of charity, it appeared, and, after all, most of the money could be run tax-free. In 1982, at the age of forty-three, he had married the twenty-six-year-old Trish Nuzzi, arguably the most sought-after model of her time. There were those who predicted the marriage could not last more than a year or so because of Max Tarn's constant traveling in search of bigger and better money-spinning ventures, but the Ca.s.sandras were proved wrong. Lady Trish blossomed, and wherever Max Tarn went, on business or pleasure. Lady Trish went with him, both of the Tarns trailing a small entourage of hairdressers, secretaries, and bodyguards.
The mult.i.tude of Tarn companies worldwide supplied company jets, and it appeared to most people - from economic editors to the man in the street - that the Tarns lived and worked as a new world-cla.s.s royalty.
The final pages of the dossier dealt with the scant evidence that had sparked the recent probings. Plenty of smoke, but as yet no real fire. Enough hard evidence to warrant an investigation - which would alert Tarn - but not really enough to make arrests.
"Interesting reading?" Flicka had remained moderately silent while he had leafed through the doc.u.ment, and Bond snapped off the reading light, looked up, and saw they had about twenty minutes before reaching Cambridge. He returned the dossier to his briefcase and sighed.
"It appears we'll be moving in a rarefied atmosphere if we get close to Sir Max and Lady Trish." He stretched in his seat. "I'm really quite surprised that they're actually staying in a hotel like normal human beings. Reading that thing, you'd think he owned one of the colleges as his personal home."
"They are noted for parading their riches, James. Or hadn't you noticed?"
"I'm not strong on the gossip columns."
"You're not exactly weak on the financial pages, though, are you?"
"I see the names, yes. But I didn't quite realize how powerful he really was. A field marshal of industry rather than a captain. The man's like a Renaissance prince, Fredericka."
"The man is a Renaissance prince, my dear. Jealous?"
"Never fancied being one, actually. Too many courtiers waiting around to stab you in the back."
"But Max Tarn is something else. Not just a Renaissance prince, but a saint - contributions to every known charity, hospital wards, libraries, art collections named after him. The man's a king in his own right. That's why I wondered if he could be frightened enough to do a runner. People like that usually imagine they're above the law."
"There are things in his background," Bond mused. "Dirty work in his lineage. That could be a nice little lever."
"Really? Go on, James, tell me about his grubby background."
"Well, it appears that he might or might not really be connected to the old and revered Prussian family whose name he bears."
"Has he ever claimed to be?"
"Not in so many words."
"There's firm evidence?"
"No. But there's enough to make him pause for a moment. Reading between the lines, his birthright may well have been stolen on his behalf, and there's no evidence that he's actually been back to the supposed site of his inheritance, which, incidentally, is in need of the Tarn billions. The old estate is in ruins, and you'd have thought that he'd have dropped in to lay the ghosts of his past - that is, if he really believed himself to have come from old German n.o.bility. The place, it appears, reeks with specters from long ago."
"You going to haunt him a bit, then?"
"Nothing like disturbing a few shades to put the mockers on the living." Bond smiled to himself.
A light sprinkle of rain fell as Flicka threaded the car through the Cambridge one-way system into Regent Street and to the front of the University Arms Hotel by the wide tract of parkland known to generations of students as Parker's Piece.
It was just past ten o'clock, and in front of them a Rolls Royce was being unloaded, boxed in by two sleek black Rovers.
One of the porters motioned to them to stay back, while another came running over: "If you'd just wait a moment, ma'am." He bent to speak with Flicka through her rolled-down window. "We'll be with you in a second. Checking in?"
She nodded, but her eyes were on four people alighting from the Rolls. One was a tall, slender woman, one hand lifted to a mane of black hair, her head thrown back as she laughed at something the man next to her was saying.
"Trish Nuzzi, model extraordinary, as I live and go green with envy," she muttered.
"And there's our specter," Bond breathed, taking in the equally slim, agile-looking man following Lady Trish. He had a dark, velvet-collared coat slung over his shoulders and a wide-brimmed hat set at a jaunty angle over the famous iron-gray hair. His back was ramrod straight and he looked as fit as an athlete about to take part in some strenuous Olympic sport. As the pair walked elegantly toward the hotel doors, Bond whispered, "They even look like Renaissance royalty. Lord, you can smell the money."
"And they have their courtiers with them," Flicka added. The other two men, staying a respectful couple of paces behind the famous couple, were equally well-dressed but did not seem to have the same polish as their employers. One was tall, well-built, even burly, carrying himself like a boxer, his head turning from side to side, then back to throw careful scrutiny over Bond's Saab 9000. His companion was shorter and had his hands thrust into the pockets of a long stylish raincoat that looked like some kind of riding dustcoat from the old American West.
Around the cars, more people were being off-loaded, the drivers in livery, the other young men in stylish street clothes.
As the Tarns reached the hotel doors, Sir Max paused, glancing back toward Bond's car. There was plenty of illumination around the hotel facade, and for a moment it was as though their eyes locked and Tarn recognized something of which he should be aware.
Bond quietly said: "My worn reeds broken,/The dark tarn dry."
"You what?" Flicka asked.
"Bit of a poem I once had to learn. Forget where it comes from, but that man will never break my worn reeds."
"James, I don't know what you're talking about. It can't be a touch of the sun, because we haven't been out in any lately."
He turned and gave her a smile that twisted his mouth. "I'm being ambiguous, Flicka. Didn't you feel anything as you watched them?"
"A pinch of jealousy over that incredible figure of hers. What did you feel?"
"Evil," he snapped. "You talk of him as a Renaissance prince. He looked more like the Prince of Darkness to me."
"Can't say I noticed that particular Gothic charm, but you're probably right."
"Going to light him up like a bonfire." Bond reached for the door handle only to be blocked from getting out by one of the other young men, who had moved from the Rover directly in front of them. The young man held the door almost closed. "If you'd wait for just one minute, sir . . ."
Bond flicked the cutting edge of his hand against the young man's wrist, smacking it hard against the edge of the door. There was a nasty cracking sound, an almost feminine yelp as he immediately let go of the door. "And who are you to ask me to wait, and to prevent me from getting out of my own car, Sunny Jim?"
The young man moved closer, nursing his wrist. "I won't ask you again, sir . . ."
"Good. Who are you?"
"Security, sir. I must ask you to get back inside your car."
"No, I'm . . ."
"An agent of the Security Service, then?"
"No, sir. I'm privately employed. Security for . . ."
"The people who left that Rolls? Well, don't worry about us, lad. You might tell your employer that I might be able to help him in a matter which he will find fairly pressing in a day or so." He pushed the door wide open and quietly told Flicka to get out. Then, turning to the young bodyguard: "If I were you, laddie, I'd watch yourself. Also, I'd get that wrist seen to. Nasty bruise, by the look of it."
A voice called out, "Okay, Archie. They're upstairs."
The young man turned away and scurried in the direction of the man who had called him from beside the Rolls, and at the same moment one of the hotel porters came hurrying up.
"Now, sir. Sorry to have kept you waiting. The luggage, sir?"
Bond looked across the car toward Flicka. "Light him up like a bonfire," he said. "Or even like a Christmas tree."
"A Tarn-enbaum. Give me half a chance and I'll do some of the destroying with you," she said softly.
5 - Truth or Dare
The next day, Sat.u.r.day, it was as though Sir Max and Lady Trish did not even exist. Neither Bond nor Flicka mentioned them - not at breakfast, nor during their walk along King's Parade, past the Senate House, and on down to Trinity and a casual stroll through St. John's College. They walked, hand in hand, through the wonderful old courts, then across the Bridge of Sighs and through the great stone filigree of New Court - taking them out onto the Backs: the long gra.s.sy, tree-dotted parkland, past the old bridges leading to the major colleges. There were even a few punts out on the river, and the banks were covered with their springtime carpet of flowers.
Bond had always preferred Cambridge to Oxford. Here the colleges were more visible, and apart from the somewhat brash, angular additions of the twentieth century, colleges like King's, Trinity, and John's looked much as they had since they were first built. He even enjoyed the nineteenth-century addition of New Court at St. John's College; blasted by many as a Gothic horror, its cloisters and carved intricacies had long since mellowed, while the great views from the Backs gave an almost timeless atmosphere to the old University City.
During lunch, which they took at a favorite restaurant on King's Parade, there was still no mention of the Tarns, nor during their hike out to Grantchester, across the meadows, and back again. By early evening they both felt the fresh glow of good health that came from the exercise, and the mutual pleasure of each other's company. It had just been warm enough for them to sit in the gardens at the Grantchester Arms and have tea with plates of triangular sandwiches and cream cakes before the trek back to the University Arms. Once back they rode the birdcage lift up to their room and hung out the Do Not Disturb sign.
A couple of hours later, Bond broached the subject.
"You spot them?" he asked.
"Our friends the watchers. Our guardian angels and Tarn's messengers of doom."
"Oh, them. I think I noticed the odd car, and they seemed to have a series of footpads walking and loitering."
"The footpads might just belong to Tarn. I spotted our nasty little friend from last night, in street clothes. He had his hand taped up."
"Well, you did clobber him rather hard."
"Not hard enough, but, yes, there are around six or seven cars and vans. I shouldn't be surprised if Tarn's people've spotted them as well. The vans are pretty obvious, with that reflective gla.s.s in the sides and those d.a.m.ned great aerials. There's also a British Telecom van across the road, which they're digging up: playing with wires and getting visits from Head Office. Did you see the couple they've got on the inside?"
James Bond - Seafire Part 2
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James Bond - Seafire Part 2 summary
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