James Bond - Seafire Part 21

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Once airborne, the craft was controlled in much the same way as a hang glider: movements of the body, with increases and decreases in power, caused the parachute to climb, turn, and descend.

The SAS had been experimenting with this popular flying machine over the past year. Bond had even flown one on a couple of occasions. The Special Air Service, who are the world's most experienced trained HALO (High Alt.i.tude, Low Opening) parachutists, had made changes in the Powerchute so that it could carry one or two people over longer distances and at greater speeds. Their favorite practice use was to travel over difficult terrain, climb to a height of around ten thousand feet, cut the engine, and glide down silently, maneuvering themselves onto a specific target.

His request for a Powerchute, he felt, had been made on the basis of the terrain around Puerto Rico, and Ann Reilly had told him that the craft would be set down and waiting for him below the outer walls of El Morro - on the Atlantic side looking out to sea - where gra.s.s sweeps up from the sea and rocks below.

Intuition had made him ask for a Powerchute. Before setting out, he had no means of knowing that Tarn would, at the moment his operation was going down, be up on the top level around the highest gun emplacements of the fortress.

Now he had put the pieces together and knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that elite troops must be nearby, probably under joint British and American command. He began to think of what action he could take to get himself to the churning water that foamed dangerously against the rocks on the outside of El Morro. It was as good a way as any to pa.s.s the time, for he was now also sure in his mind that by nine o'clock Flicka would have made her telephone calls. In that case there was no way they would even get as far as the harbor. His preparation had to be the speed with which he could escape through the trunk before the sub was shattered by depth charges.

He dozed for a while, never far from the surface of consciousness, and woke with a start to the sound of voices. s.h.i.+fting in the confined s.p.a.ce, he leaned out, surprised to discover that with only a slight dropping of his head below the level of the hatch he could hear anything said in the control room.

"If we keep this up, we're going to be in guy good time." The voice of the Scottish captain.

"Better to be early than having to dash in at the last minute." Maurice Goodwin sounded pompous.

"Aye, well, I can probably move out to sea a little. Maybe even put the pair of torps into Golden Bough before she reaches the harbor."

"You'll do no such thing," Goodwin snapped. "You're going to play this one by the book, Jock. Understand me. By the book, page, paragraph, and line. That d.a.m.ned s.h.i.+p has to be hit inside the harbor. In fact, just as it pa.s.ses in."

"I was only pullin' yer leg, mon."

"Well, kindly leave my leg alone, Jock. This is a b.l.o.o.d.y dangerous business."

"Dinna worry, mon. We'll put the fish into the tanker and be away from the area in minutes flat."

"Well, be certain you're in the right place at the right time. I want to be able to see Mare Nostrum close up on our port side before you get the torpedoes away, and you do that on the dot of eight."

"I said, dinna worry, Maurice. I'm enjoying this. Takes me back to my young days when I was chasing n.a.z.is in the Atlantic."

He withdrew his head, flexed his shoulders, again stretched his limbs as far as possible, then leaned back. The Scottish captain was obviously a man who did not take people like Maurice Goodwin seriously. Tarn must be paying the old sailor a great deal of money, though knowing him as he did, Bond wondered if the plan had actually included the captain and crew ever getting off the submarine. The thought crossed his mind that he should have made a more thorough search. It was always possible that Tarn had already sabotaged the boat so that she would be lost on the way back around the island. That would be his way, and maybe he also wanted to get rid of other weak links like Maurice Goodwin. That would fit.

He dozed again, waking at just after eight. Less than twelve hours to go and the fatigue was creeping into every sinew of his body. He slid quietly back into another doze and quickly fell down the long dark tunnel of sleep. He dreamed of diving for pearls, feeling the water wash him as he swam to the bottom of a clear sea and picked oysters from between rocks, scooping them up from the sand.

On a long beach Flicka waited for him, and there was a smile of pleasure on her face as she took the oysters from him, cutting them open to reveal the pearls in the center of the flesh.

Then the dream went and he half woke, feeling too tired to even try to move, allowing himself to sleep on.

When he woke again it was with another start, and the sensation that he had been unconscious for a very long time. He could hardly move for the cramp and ache in his limbs, but he did manage to glance at his watch. It was impossible, for the hands on the stainless-steel Rolex showed ten past three.

The submarine was still making way, rolling and pitching at speed under the surface. There was the mutter of talk coming from the control room, the hum of the engines, ping-ping of the radar, and nothing to break the smooth rhythm of their progress. For the first time he had a waking nightmare about Flicka. She was going to alert people at nine that morning, over six hours ago. If she had done so, this boat should now be either lying silent and deep, or trying to escape from sonar-dragging helicopters.

He shook his head and heard Flicka, only a short time ago, speaking to him, saying that someone had just walked over her grave. He felt a cold chill of horror envelop his body, while there seemed to be hammer blows cras.h.i.+ng down on the inside of his skull.

If anything had happened to Flicka, it was his fault and his alone. If he had listened to her, they would have been together now, bringing things to a conclusion without either of them being in any immediate physical danger.

His mind was numb, and he realized that his hands were shaking. Three o'clock in me afternoon. He looked again to make certain that he had not dreamed the time on his watch. No, it was correct, and something deep in his subconscious told him that Fredericka von Grusse was in great peril.

24 - SeaFire

The minutes became hours; hours became days. There was no question of sleep for Bond now. Every nerve and sinew had become alert, nervously jumpy with anxiety. It was not often that he allowed problems to so besiege his mind, but this was Fredericka, the woman he loved. The woman he intended to marry. In his mind a terrible ghost from the past appeared: a blurred picture of his first wife of only a few hours, Tracy di Vicenzo, lying dead, her face buried in the ruins of the steering wheel of his Lancia, which had been raked with bullets fired by his old enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The picture was overlapped in his head, Tracy's features going through a metamorphosis, changing to Flicka's own sweet face. If anything has happened to her, he thought, then pushed even the idea away. He had already made up his mind to bring Sir Max Tarn to justice, dead or alive. If anything has happened . . . death would not be enough for Tarn.

The picture returned, and with it a kind of certainty that there was something wrong. With that certainty came a new sense of hatred toward Max Tarn. In his long career, Bond had rarely allowed any true emotion to exist between himself and any target he had followed or dealt with. Now there was true anger, a fury that seemed to rend him apart. If he had the fortune to come out of this alive and face Tarn, it would be face-to-face.

At around six o'clock, his worst fears were confirmed. They had stopped engines and were simply running silent, hove to under the sea. He had heard the captain say that it would take them only a half hour to get into position. "No sense in pus.h.i.+ng our way in too early," he had told Goodwin.

Now the captain and Goodwin had walked back toward the stem, pacing along the deck as though taking a little exercise. They traversed the deck twice and finally stopped almost underneath the hatch where Bond was curled, not moving a muscle.

"So what happens when Sir Max proves his point with this AAOPS thing?" the captain asked.

"G.o.d knows." Maurice Goodwin's voice was flat, with no hint of how he really felt. "I suspect that I shall quietly disappear. I've saved enough money to keep myself comfortable for the rest of my natural, in Rio or some other place. I just don't want to be around if he gets his party really organized in Germany. The way things are in Europe, the mood of the people, leaves the way open for him. If that happens, true h.e.l.l's going to return, and this time the madman could win."

"Ye'd leave the Man, then?"

"I suggest, Jock, that you grab your money and get the h.e.l.l out as quickly as you can. I'm pretty sure that this AAOPS thing is unworkable. There's going to be disaster up there when you slam the fish into that tanker, and I've no doubt that the authorities will do their best to hunt him down. The man's mad, Jock. Mad as a hatter, but he's b.l.o.o.d.y clever. I wouldn't count on him getting caught, and if he is . . ."

"You think he'll let himself be caught?"

"You mean he'd rather be a suicide? Oh, no. Max will always think he's in the right, just as he has no true conception of right or wrong. Men like me - and you, for that matter - know where we stand. We know the things we've done and we can differentiate between good and, evil. Not so with Max. He has to be in the right. If he murdered his mother and was caught standing over her with the ax in his hand, he would have some argument, however spurious, to show that he was really doing the right thing. He's also a bad enemy to have. If you'd seen the things I've seen, Jock, you'd know."

After a few seconds' pause, the captain asked, "Wasn't there some talk of people actually after him, here in Puerto Rico?"

"Indeed, yes. One of them's still out there somewhere. British and American intelligence people. We've got the Yank and the Brit woman at the house. They're there with Beth. You've met Beth, haven't you?"

"Aye, and I'd rather not spend too much time with her. In fact, it wouldn't worry me if I never laid eyes on her again."

"She's Max's secret weapon, and a very nasty weapon at that. He provides the drugs and she gets her rocks off providing the pain and even death."

"She's not killed the Yank and the Brit?"

"Not yet, but give her time; with Max not around to control her, Beth could get homicidal. Strange woman. I've seen her kind and tender, but when she's on the drugs and Max suggests things to her, it's a different matter. Mind you, those two girls, Cathy and Anna, they can be deadly. They'll fight like trained soldiers."

"I thought as much. They like teasing the men as well."

"Either of them would sleep with a goat if they thought it'd give them pleasure."

Bond, stretching and trying to get his circulation going, had listened to the exchange with the kind of horror most people had when they faced a cobra, or even something less deadly, like a scorpion.

At least he knew Flicka was still alive, or had been when Goodwin last saw her. For the umpteenth time during that long day, his hand moved toward his pistol. Part of his senses told him to go now, try to take out the crew and to blazes with anyone else: just get to Flicka and make sure she was out of danger. The more sensible part of his emotions held him back. After all, it wouldn't be so long now.

His watch ticked on, and he began to glance at it automatically about once a minute. Finally, at around seven in the evening, they began to move again.

Half an hour later he heard the captain call, "Up periscope." The mechanism whined and shortly after: "Five degrees to port." At seven-thirty exactly the captain gave the final order. "Stop engines. We're there and Golden Bough is coming in. I can see her heading straight towards the headland. She's on time, and I reckon we'll have her bang in the sights at twenty hundred. On the b.u.t.ton."

Another wait, and Bond's watch showed seven thirty-five. Fifteen minutes before his plastique would blow the boat to h.e.l.l. Time to start getting ready. He slowly rose, his legs, arms, and back protesting after the hunched position they had been forced into all day.

From the control room he heard, "Mare Nostrum's up on our port side ready to go in. Fifty yards to port and holding steady. Stand by."

He took down one of the Steinke Hoods, then reached up, pulling himself toward the trunk. As he moved, the Hood slipped from his fingers and went clattering onto the deck.

He froze, then quietly began stretching back for another hood. As he moved, his right ankle was caught in what seemed like a steel trap. There was an immense tug, and he fell down onto the metal deck. Leaning over him was the huge shape of Kurt Rollen, who hissed, "Du englischer Schweinehund." For a fraction of a second, Bond found the words both amusing and apt, then two ham like hands grabbed him by the shoulders, lifted him high in the air, and dropped him on the deck again. He drew up his knees into a fetal position, then shot his legs forward with all the strength he could muster, his heels catching Rollen just below the knees.

The German gave out a gruff cry, half anguish and half rage, as he staggered back against a stanchion. Big he might be, but he was far from being agile. Rollen hit the metal hard, his arms waving about like branches in a whirlwind.

It gave Bond just enough time to draw his knife, and he moved in very fast, the knife held in the cla.s.sic position - thumb down and fingers curling over the haft, blade forward. He threw himself onto Rollen, who was flailing around trying to get up. The blade of the knife slid home, like pus.h.i.+ng a spade into soft ground.

Rollen managed one terrifying cry before he weakened and fell back with blood fountaining from his stomach.

The clatter and cry would certainly bring someone from the control room, so Bond slid the knife back into its scabbard and leaped upward, toward the hatch, grabbing another Steinke Hood, then scrambling into the trunk. He heard shouts and the clank of feet on the deck just before dropping the circular bottom hatch into place and rotating the wheel to lock it, making the trunk not only completely watertight but also impenetrable.

Adjusting the belt to ensure his automatic and the knife were both well strapped on, Bond turned the two palm-sized wheel taps, glancing at his watch to see that he now had very little time left. Water began to flood the compartment, much more quickly than he recalled from his last practice in one of these escapes. He put on the Steinke Hood, securing it and s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g the valve on to the air port, making sure that his head remained in the bubble at the top of the hatch.

By now the water was up to his shoulders and rising rapidly. He saw the pinpoint of light come on to show that his air reservoir was full, twisted so that he was free of the air port. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of his watch. It was seven forty-six.

The water came rus.h.i.+ng up over his head and the upper hatch popped open, catapulting him upward.

Though he rocketed to the surface in a matter of seconds, the journey seemed to take endless minutes, and when he burst through into the night above, he was completely disoriented. Just darkness, then the lights from San Juan. Tearing at the headpiece, he pulled it off, sucking in great gulps of air and kicking with his arms and legs to get moving again. He looked around a full 360 degrees and saw Mare Nostrum, with only her riding lights on, less than thirty feet away.

He began to swim, circling so that he would come in astern of Mare Nostrum, and was also aware of the sound of other engines nearby. There, coming through the channel, directly past the headland from which El Morro rose like a long stone battles.h.i.+p, was Golden Bough.

He reached the stern of Mare Nostrum just as he felt the shock wave. For a second he did not a.s.sociate it with what he had done, taking it as some freak undertow. The sea seemed to lift around him, swirling like a whirlpool, catching him with dozens of hands bent on pulling him down. Then the explosion came from under the sea, a great whooming sound followed by a plume of white water that was the precursor of an even larger, long bubble. It was as though three or four depth charges had exploded just under the surface.

He reached out, grabbing at a rope dangling from Mare Nostrum's stern, and hung on, the sea still grappling with him as if it were a human thing, a primeval being turning him around and then throwing him upward. Mare Nostrum was pitching and rolling with the boiling sea, and he finally got both hands on the rope, dragging himself up and over the stern.

There were shouts and noises coming from for'ard around the wheelhouse, and he had no guilt about what he was about to do. Unholstering the pistol, he slipped off the safety and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Connie? Connie Spicer?"

"What the h.e.l.l . . . ?" Connie lumbered from the wheel-house, peering back toward him, clinging on to keep his balance on the still-pitching deck.

Bond fired four shots, two and then another two, grouped nicely around the chest area. Spicer did not cry out or even look surprised, but went in the blink of an eye from alive to dead. His body, lifted by the bullets as they slammed home, seemed to rise slowly and levitate parallel to the deck as though hanging there before it was flung against the guardrail over which it pitched.

Vesta Motley was screaming, and he could see Fritz on the deck where Connie had stood, holding out his hands in supplication.

"It's me." Bond ran forward, the deck still moving under his feet. Over the bows he could see the sea bubbling white, with pieces of debris beginning to be thrown up. As he ran, he wondered how he could see all this in the darkness of the night, then saw that the big tanker, even half a mile away, had two searchlights playing on the water.

"Mr. Bond!" Anton Fritz's mouth hung open as he saw the tall figure trying to run toward him.

"Yes! Now, start those b.l.o.o.d.y engines for me. I've a previous appointment to keep!"

"What happened?" from Rexinus within the wheelhouse.

"Never mind what happened. I just saved you from death by fire. Get those throttles wide open and head out of the harbor. Fast as you can."

"Was that the submarine?" Rexinus had gone from panic to sudden cool, pus.h.i.+ng the throttles forward so that Bond had to grab at the wheelhouse doorway. The bows lifted, turned to circle the huge looming supertanker as Rexinus swung the wheel to take them out of the harbor.

"I want you to take her around the headland. I've got to make some kind of landing on the ocean side, as near to the rocks below El Morro as you can."

"Aye-aye," Rexinus shouted back. Then repeated, "The submarine? What happened to the submarine?"

"I think the crew must have been eating too much Indian food." Bond did not even smile. He was bracing himself against the wheelhouse and sliding a new magazine into the b.u.t.t of the ASP 9mm converted Browning.

They were rounding the headland now, where the walls of the lowest part of El Morro reach down toward the rocks. "How near do you want to get?" Rexinus shouted.

"As near as you can manage. I've got to make it to those gra.s.sy slopes on the other side of the rocks."

"Don't think I'll quite be able to get you right in."

"I'll get over the rocks myself. Just bring her in as close as you can."

Fritz and Vesta Motley were speechless, soaking wet and white with fear. Then the bullets came, smas.h.i.+ng into the woodwork on the deck as an automatic weapon opened up from the lower wall of El Morro.

"Far enough!" Bond yelled. "Get down. I'm going over the side." He saw the surf and the rocks coming up to meet him, climbed over the guardrail, and, as the boat dipped on the turn, dropped into the white foam.

It was luck rather than skill that got him over the jagged rocks. As he went into the water the tide was pulling back, gathering itself for another journey inland to slap into the sh.o.r.e. He was able to put his arms around one of the larger, slippery boulders and ride out the cras.h.i.+ng waves until the sea drew back again, allowing him to move in over the old sea-worn stones. Halfway and he found another point between two rocks, where he hung on as the sea vented its force on him. The tide sucked back again, and on the third attempt, he made it over the final barrier and onto the rough gra.s.s above.

As he lay on all fours, winded and gasping for breath, a figure rose from the ground in front of him and snapped, "Who goes?"

25 - Ride of the Valkyrie

He stayed exactly where he was, but absolutely still. "Bond," he said. "Captain James Bond, Royal Navy."

"Thank heaven it's you, boss. Dodd. Jim Dodd. Captain 22nd SAS. We've been waiting half the night for you." He put one arm under Bond's right armpit and helped him up. "The other lads are just up here. The bad boys've got automatic weapons in the fort, but I think we can deal with them without too much bother. You up to a little flight, boss?"

"Yes, Jim. Just let me get my breath back. You brought the Powerchute?"

"Five of them, chief. Four for us and one for you. Got some other surprises as well. Decent chaps, those Delta Force lads. Letting us have first crack. Old Tarn and his people - there's three of them altogether - were up there on the lowest emplacement of this amazing fortress, but I think they've moved up to the top now. Delta Force said they'd keep an eye on the other two sides. If we don't finish them, they will. Very decent." He spoke in a whisper, and Bond was breathing more normally now as they reached the towering old walls, from which another figure seemed to detach itself.

"That you, boss?"

"Yes, and I've found Captain Bond for us, so we're all set."

"Good, they were shooting at that boat."

"I know," Bond grunted. "I was aboard."

"The explosion?" Dodd asked. "That you as well? Submarine bought it?"

James Bond - Seafire Part 21

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James Bond - Seafire Part 21 summary

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