Goldfinger

Page 23

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They came out into the foothills. There was a long straight stretch of road and in the distance the small group of buildings of the French Customs.

The girl gave him no chance to get a glimpse of her passport. As soon as the car stopped she said something about tidying up and disappeared into the 'Dames'. Bond had gone through the Controle and was dealing with the triptyque when she reappeared, her passport stamped. At the Swiss Customs she chose the excuse of getting something out of her suitcase. Bond hadn't got time to hang about and call her bluff.

Bond hurried on into Geneva and pulled up at the imposing entrance of the Bergues. The baggagiste took her suitcase and golf clubs. They stood together on the steps. She held out her hand. 'Goodbye.' There was no melting of the candid blue eyes. 'And thank you. You drive beautifully.' Her mouth smiled. 'I'm surprised you got into the wrong gear at Macon.'

Bond shrugged. 'It doesn't often happen. I'm glad I did. If I can get my business finished, perhaps we could meet again.'

'That would be nice.' The tone of voice said it wouldn't be. The girl turned and went in through the swingdoors.

Bond ran down to his car. To hell with her! Now to pick up Goldfinger. Then to the little office on the Quai Wilson. He tuned the Homer and waited a couple of minutes. Gold-finger was close, but moving away. He could either be following the right or the left bank of the lake. From the pitch of the Homer, he was at least a mile outside the town. Which way? To the left towards Lausanne? To the right towards Evian? The DB III was already on the left-hand road. Bond decided to follow its nose. He got moving.

Bond caught up with the high yellow silhouette just before

Coppet, the tiny lakeside hamlet made famous by Madame de Stael. He hid behind a lorry. At his next reconnaissance the Rolls had disappeared. Bond motored on, watching to the left. At the entrance to the village, big solid iron gates were closing in a high wall. Dust hung in the air. Above the wall was a modest placard. It said, in faded yellow on blue, ENTREPRISES AURIC A.G. The fox had gone to earth!

Bond went on until he found a turning to the left. He followed this until there was a lane which led back through the vineyards to the woods behind Coppet and to the chateau of Madame de Stael. Bond stopped among the trees. Now he should be directly above the Entreprises Auric. He took his binoculars, got out and followed a foot-path down towards the village. Soon, on his right, was a spiked iron railing. There was rolled barbed wire along its top. A hundred yards lower down the hill the railing merged into a high stone wall. Bond walked slowly back up the path looking for the secret entrance the children of Coppet would have made to get at the chestnut trees. He found it - two bars of the railing widened to allow a small body through. Bond stood on the lower railing with all his weight, widened the gap by another couple of inches and wormed his way through.

Bond walked warily through the trees, watching each step for dead branches. The trees thinned. There were glimpses of a huddle of low buildings behind a small manoir. Bond picked the thick trunk of a fir tree and got behind it. Now he was looking down on the buildings. The nearest was about a hundred yards away. There was an open courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard stood the dusty Silver Ghost.

Bond took out the binoculars and examined everything minutely.

The house was a well-proportioned square block of old red brick with a slate roof. It consisted of two storeys and an attic floor. It would probably contain four bedrooms and two principal rooms. The walls were partly covered by a very old wistaria in full bloom. It was an attractive house. In his mind's eye Bond could see the white-painted panelling inside. He smelled the sweet musty sunshiny smell of the rooms. The back door gave on to the wide paved courtyard in which stood the Rolls. The courtyard was open on Bond's side but closed on the other two sides by single-storey corrugated iron workshops. A tall zinc chimney rose from the angle of the two workshops. The chimney was topped by a zinc cowl. On top of the zinc cowl was the revolving square mouth of what looked to Bond like a Decca radar scanner you see on the bridges of most ships. The apparatus whirled steadily round. Bond couldn't imagine what purpose it served on the roof of this little factory among the trees.

Suddenly the silence and immobility of the peaceful scene were broken. It was as if Bond had put a penny in the slot of a diorama on Brighton pier. Somewhere a tinny clock struck five. At the signal, the back door of the house opened and Goldfinger came out, still dressed in his white linen motoring coat, but without the helmet. He was followed by a nondescript, obsequious little man with a toothbrush moustache and horn-rimmed spectacles. Goldfinger looked pleased. He went up to the Rolls and patted its bonnet. The other man laughed politely. He took a whistle out of his waistcoat pocket and blew it. A door in the right-hand workshop opened and four workmen in blue overalls filed out and walked over to the car. From the open door they had left there came a whirring noise and a heavy engine started up and settled into the rhythmic pant Bond remembered from Reculver.

The four men disposed themselves round the car. At a word from the little man, who was presumably the foreman, they began to take the car to pieces.

By the time they had lifted the four doors off their hinges, removed the bonnet cover from the engine and had set about the rivets on one of the mudguards, it was clear that they were methodically stripping the car of its armour plating.

Almost as soon as Bond had come to this conclusion, the black, bowler-hatted figure of Oddjob appeared at the back door of the house and made some sort of a noise at Gold-finger. With a word to the foreman, Goldfinger went indoors and left the workmen to it.

It was time for Bond to get going. He took a last careful look round to fix the geography in his mind and edged back among the trees.


'I am from Universal Export.'

'Oh yes?' Behind the desk there was a reproduction of the Annigoni portrait of the Queen. On the other walls were advertisements for Ferguson tractors and other agricultural machinery. From outside the wide window came the hum of traffic along the Quai Wilson. A steamer hooted. Bond glanced out of the window and watched it ride across the middle distance. It left an enchanted wake across the flawless evening mirror of the lake. Bond looked back into the politely inquiring eyes in the bland, neutral, businessman's face.

'We were hoping to do business with you."

'What sort of business?'

'Important business.'

The man's face broke into a smile. He said cheerfully, 'It's 007, isn't it? Thought I recognized you. Well now, what can I do for you?' The voice became cautious. 'Only one thing, better make it quick and get along. There's been the hell of a heat on since the Dumont business. They've got me taped -the locals and Redland. All very peaceful of course, but you won't want them sniffing round you.'

'I thought it might be like that. It's only routine. Here.' Bond unbuttoned his shirt and took out the heavy chunk of gold. 'Get that back, would you? And transmit this when you have a chance.' The man pulled a pad towards him and wrote in shorthand to Bond's dictation.

When the man had finished he put the pad in his pocket. 'Well, well! Pretty hot stuff. Wilco. My routine's at midnight. This' - he indicated the gold - 'can go to Berne for the bag. Anything else?'

'Ever heard of the “Entreprises Auric” at Coppet? Know what they do?'

'I know what every engineering business in the area does. Have to. Tried to sell them some hand riveters last year. They make metal furniture. Pretty good stuff. The Swiss railways take some of it, and the airlines.'

'Know which airlines?'

The man shrugged. 'I heard they did all the work for Mecca, the big charter line to India. Their terminus is Geneva. They're quite a big competitor with All-India. Mecca's privately owned. Matter of fact, I did hear that • Auric & Co. had some money in it. No wonder they've got the contract for the seating.'

A slow, grim smile spread across Bond's face. He got up and held out his hand. 'You don't know it, but you've just done a whole jigsaw puzzle in under a minute. Many thanks.

Best of luck with the tractor business. Hope we'll meet again one day.'

Out in the street, Bond got quickly into his car and drove along the quai to the Bergues. So that was the picture! For two days he'd been trailing a Silver Ghost across Europe. It was an armour-plated Silver Ghost. He'd watched the last bit of plating being riveted on in Kent, and the whole lot being stripped off at Coppet. Those sheets would already be in the furnaces at Coppet, ready to be modelled into seventy chairs for a Mecca Constellation. In a few days' time those chairs would be stripped off the plane in India and replaced with aluminium ones. And Goldfinger would have made what? Half a million pounds? A million?

For the Silver Ghost wasn't silver at all. It was a Golden Ghost - all the two tons of its bodywork. Solid, eighteen-carat, white gold.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

THINGS THAT GO THUMP IN THE NIGHT

JAMES BOND booked in at the Hotel des Bergues, took a bath and shower and changed his clothes. He weighed the Walther PPK in his hand and wondered whether he should take it or leave it behind. He decided to leave it. He had no intention of being seen when he went back to the Entreprises Auric. If, by dreadful luck, he was seen, it would spoil everything to get into a fight. He had his story, a poor one, but at least one that would not break his cover. He would have to rely on that. But Bond did choose a particular pair of shoes that were rather heavier than one could expect from their casual build.

At the desk he asked if Miss Soames was in. He was not surprised when the receptionist said they had no Miss Soames staying in the hotel. The only question was whether she had left the hotel when Bond was out of sight or had registered under another name.

Bond motored across the beautiful Pont du Mont Blanc and along the brightly lit quai to the Bavaria, a modest Alsatian brasserie that had been the rendezvous of the great in the days of the League of Nations. He sat by the window and drank Enzian washed down with pale Lowenbrau. He thought first about Goldfinger. There was now no doubt what he was up to. He financed a spy network, probably SMERSH, and he made fortunes smuggling gold to India, the country where he could get the biggest premium. After the loss of his Brixham trawler, he had thought out this new way. He first made it known that he had an armoured car. That would only be considered eccentric. Many English bodybuilders exported them. They used to go to Indian rajahs; now they went to oil sheiks and South American presidents. Goldfinger had chosen a Silver Ghost because, with his modifications, the chassis was strong enough, the riveting was already a feature of the bodywork, and there was the largest possible area of metal sheeting. Perhaps Gold-finger had run it abroad once or twice to get Ferryfield used to it. Then, on the next trip, he took off the armour plating in his works at Reculver. He substituted eighteen-carat white gold. Its alloy of nickel and silver would be strong enough. The colour of the metal would not betray him if he got in a smash or if the bodywork were scratched. Then off to Switzerland and to the little factory. The workmen would have been as carefully picked as the ones at Reculver. They would take off the plates and mould them into aircraft seats which would then be upholstered and installed in Mecca Airlines - run presumably by some stooge of Goldfinger's who got a cut on each 'gold run'. On these runs -once, twice, three times a year? - the plane would accept only light freight and a few passengers. At Bombay or Calcutta the plane would need an overhaul, be re-equipped. It would go to the Mecca hangar and have new seats fitted. The old ones, the gold ones, would go to the bullion brokers. Goldfinger would get his sterling credit in Nassau or wherever he chose. He would have made his hundred, or two hundred, per cent profit and could start the cycle all over again, from the 'We Buy Old Gold' shops in Britain to Reculver - Geneva -Bombay.

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