Pseudonym for Kingsley Amis
To the memory of
Two methods of indicating dialogue are used in this book.
Dialogue _given in English translation__ from Russian or Greek, following Continental practice, is introduced by a dash; for example,
- Good morning, Comrade General.
Dialogue _in English__ is enclosed in the normal inverted commas; for example,
'He was hit in the back, I think.'
A Man in Sunglasses
JAMES BOND stood at the middle tees of the eighteenth on the Sunningdale New Course, enjoying the tranquil normality of a sunny English afternoon in early September. The Old Course, he considered, with its clumps of majestic oak and pine, was charmingly landscaped, but something in his nature responded to the austerity of the New: more lightly wooded, open to the sky, patches of heather and thin scrub on the sandy soil - and, less subjectively, a more testing series of holes. Bond was feeling mildly pleased with himself for having taken no more than a four at the notoriously tricky dogleg sixth, where a touch of slice in the drive was likely to land you in a devilish morass of bushes and marshy hummocks. He had managed a clear two hundred and fifty yards straight down the middle, a shot that had demanded every ounce of effort without (blessed relief) the slightest complaint from the area where, last summer, Scaramanga's Derringer slug had torn through his abdomen.
Near by, waiting for the four ahead of them to move on to the green, was Bond's opponent and incidentally his best friend in the Secret Service: Bill Tanner, M's Chief of Staff. Noticing the deep lines of strain round Tanner's eyes, his almost alarming pallor, Bond had taken the opportunity of an unusually quiet morning at Headquarters to talk him into a trip down to this sleepy corner of Surrey. They had lunched first at Scott's in Coventry Street, beginning with a dozen each of the new season's Whitstable oysters and going on to cold silverside of beef and potato salad, accompanied by a well-chilled bottle of Anjou rose. Not perhaps the ideal prelude to a round of golf, even a little self-indulgent. But Bond had recently heard that the whole north side of the street was doomed to demolition, and counted every meal taken in those severe but comfortable panelled rooms as a tiny victory over the new, hateful London of steel-and-glass-matchbox architecture, flyovers and underpasses, and the endless hysterical clamour of pneumatic drills.
The last of the four, caddie in attendance, was plodding up to the green. Tanner stepped to his trolley - having some minor Service shop to exchange, they were transporting their clubs themselves - and pulled out the new Ben Hogan driver he had been yearning for weeks to try out. Then, with characteristic deliberation, he squared up to his ball. Nothing beyond a nominal fiver hung on this game, but it was not Bill Tanner's way to pursue any objective with less than the maximum of his ability - a trait that had made him the best Number Two in the business.
The sun beat down. Insects were droning in the little belt of brambles, rowans and silver birch saplings to their left. Bond's gaze shifted from the lean, intent figure of the Chief of Staff to the putting green a quarter of a mile away, the famous, ancient oak by the eighteenth green of the Old Course, the motionless line of parked cars. Was this the right sort of life? - an unexacting game of golf with a friend, to be followed in due time by a leisurely drive back to London (avoiding the M4), a light dinner alone in the flat, a few hands of piquet with another friend - 016 of Station B, home from West Berlin on ten days' leave - and bed at eleven thirty. It was certainly a far more sensible and grown-up routine than the round of gin and tranquillizers he had been trapped in only a couple of years back, before his nightmare odyssey through Japan and the USSR. He should be patting himself on the back for having come through that sticky patch. And yet...
With the sound of a plunging sabre, Bill Tanner's driver flashed through the still, warm air and his ball, after seeming to pass out of existence for an instant, reappeared on its soaring arc, a beautiful tall shot sufficiently drawn to take him well to the left of the clump of Scotch pines that had brought many a promising score to grief at the last minute. As things stood he had only to halve the hole to win.
'It looks like your fiver, I'm sorry to say, Bill.'
'About time I took one off you.'
As James Bond stepped forward in his turn, the thought crossed his mind that there might be a worse sin than the cardinal one of boredom. Complacency. Satisfaction with the second-rate. Going soft without knowing it.
* * *
The man wearing the rather unusually large and opaque sunglasses had had no difficulty, as he sauntered past the open windows of the club lounge towards the putting-green, in identifying the tall figure now shaping up to drive off the eighteenth tee. He had had plenty of practice in identifying it over the past few weeks, at greater distances than this. And at the moment his vision was sharpened by urgency.
If any member had marked out the man in sunglasses as a stranger and approached him with inquiring offers of help, he would have been answered courteously in a faintly non-British accent - not foreign exactly, perhaps South African - to the effect that no help was needed. Any moment now, the stranger would have explained, he expected to be joined by Mr John Donald to discuss with him the possibilities of being put up for membership. (Mr John Donald was in fact in Paris, as a couple of carefully placed telephone calls had established earlier that day.) But, as it turned out, nobody went near the man in sunglasses. Nobody so much as noticed him. This was not so surprising, because a long course of training, costing a large sum of money, had seen to it that he was very good at not being noticed.
The man strolled across the putting-green and seemed to be examining, with exactly average interest, the magnificent display flower-bed and its thick ranks of red-hot pokers and early chrysanthemums. His demeanour was perfectly relaxed, his face quite expressionless, as the eyes behind the glasses looked in the direction of the flowers. His mind, however, was racing. Today's operation had been set up three times already, before being abandoned at the eleventh hour. There was a date schedule on it so tight that further postponement might mean the cancellation of the entire scheme. This would have greatly displeased him. He very much wanted the operation to go through, not for any fancy idealistic or political reason, but simply out of professional pride. What was being undertaken would, if all went well, end up as the most staggeringly audacious piece of lawlessness he had ever heard of. To be associated with the success of such a project would certainly bring him advancement from his employers. Whereas to be associated with its failure...
The man in sunglasses drew his arms in to his sides for a moment, as if the approach of evening had