To make the contact easy, Bond went out and stood in the corridor. He ran over the details of the code of the day, the few harmless phrases, changed on the first of each month, that served as a simple recognition signal between English agents.
The train gave a jerk and moved slowly out into the sunshine. At the end of the corridor the communicating door slammed. There was no sound of steps, but suddenly the red and gold face was mirrored in the window.
`Excuse me. Could I borrow a match?'
`I use a lighter.' Bond produced his battered Ronson and handed it over.
`Until they go wrong.'
Bond looked up into the man's face, expecting a smile at the completion of the childish `Who goes there? Pass, Friend' ritual.
The thick lips writhed briefly. There was no light in the very pale blue eyes.
The man had taken off his macintosh. He was wearing an old reddish-brown tweed coat with his flannel trousers, a pale yellow Viyella summer shirt, and the dark blue and maroon zig-zagged tie of the Royal Artillery. It was tied with a Windsor knot. Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad. Bond decided to forget his prejudice. A gold signet ring, with an indecipherable crest, glinted on the little finger of the right hand that gripped the guard rail. The corner of a red bandana handkerchief flopped out of the breast pocket of the man's coat. On his left wrist there was a battered silver wrist watch with an old leather strap.
Bond knew the type–a minor public school and then caught up by the war. Field Security perhaps. No idea what to do afterwards so he stayed with the occupation troops. At first he would have been with the military police, then, as the senior men drifted home, there came promotion into one of the security services. Moved to Trieste where he did well enough. Wanted to stay on and avoid the rigours of England. Probably had a girl friend, or had married an Italian. The Secret Service had needed a man for the small post that Trieste had become after the withdrawal. This man was available. They took him on. He would be doing routine jobs–have some low-grade sources in the Italian and Yugoslav police, and in their intelligence networks. A thousand a year. A good life, without much being expected from him.
Then, out of the blue, this had come along. Must have been a shock getting one of those Most Immediate signals. He'd probably be a bit shy of Bond. Odd face. The eyes looked rather mad. But so they did in most of these men doing secret work abroad. One had to be a bit mad to take it on. Powerful chap, probably on the stupid side, but useful for this kind of guard work. M had just taken the nearest man and told him to join the train.
All this went through Bond's mind as he photographed an impression of the man's clothes and general appearance. Now he said, `Glad to see you. How did it happen?'
`Got a signal. Late last night. Personal from M. Shook me I can tell you, old man.'
Curious accent. What was it? A hint of brogue–cheap brogue. And something else Bond couldn't define. Probably came from living too long abroad and talking foreign languages all the time. And that dreadful `old man' at the end. Shyness.
`Must have,' said Bond sympathetically. `What did it say?'
`Just told me to get on the Orient this morning and contact a man and a girl in the through carriage. More or less described what you look like. Then I was to stick by you and see you both through to Gay Paree. That's all, old man.'
Was there defensiveness in the voice? Bond glanced sideways. The pale eyes swivelled to meet his. There was a quick red glare in them. It was as if the safety door of a furnace had swung open. The blaze died. The door to the inside of the man was banged shut. Now the eyes were opaque again–the eyes of an introvert, of a man who rarely looks out into the world but is for ever surveying the scene inside him.
There's madness there all right, thought Bond, startled by the sight of it. Shell-shock perhaps, or schizophrenia. Poor chap, with that magnificent body. One day he would certainly crack. The madness would take control. Bond had better have a word to Personnel. Check up on his medical. By the way, what was his name?
`Well I'm very glad to have you along. Probably not much for you to do. We started off with three Redland men on our tail. They've been got rid of, but there may be others on the train. Or some more may get on. And I've got to get this girl to London without trouble. If you'd just hang about. Tonight we'd better stay together and share watches. It's the last night and I don't want to take any chances. By the way, my name's James Bond. Travelling as David Somerset. And that's Caroline Somerset in there.'
The man fished in his inside pocket and produced a battered note-case which seemed to contain plenty of money. He extracted a visiting card and handed it to Bond. It said `Captain Norman Nash', and in the left-hand bottom corner, `Royal Automobile Club'.
As Bond put the card in his pocket he slipped his finger across it. It was engraved. `Thanks,' he said. `Well, Nash, come and meet Mrs Somerset. No reason why we shouldn't travel more or less together.' He smiled encouragingly.
Again the red glare quickly extinguished. The lips writhed under the young golden moustache. `Delighted, old man.'
Bond turned to the door and knocked softly and spoke his name.
The door opened. Bond beckoned Nash in and shut the door behind him.
The girl looked surprised.
`This is Captain Nash, Norman Nash. He's been told to keep an eye on us.'
`How do you do.' The hand came out hesitantly. The man touched it briefly. His stare was fixed. He said nothing. The girl gave an embarrassed little laugh, `Won't you sit down?'
`Er, thank you.' Nash sat stiffly on the edge of the banquette. He seemed to remember something, something one did when one had nothing to say. He groped in the side pocket of his coat and produced a packet of Players. `Will you have a, er, cigarette?' He prised open the top with a fairly clean thumb nail, stripped down the silver paper and pushed out the cigarettes. The girl took one. Nash's other hand flashed forward a lighter with the obsequious speed of a motor salesman.
Nash looked up. Bond was standing leaning against the door and wondering how to help this clumsy, embarrassed man. Nash held out the cigarettes and the lighter as if he was offering glass beads to a native chief. `What about you, old man?'
`Thanks,' said Bond. He hated Virginia tobacco, but he was prepared to do anything to help put the man at ease. He took a cigarette and lit it. They certainly had to make do with some queer fish in the Service nowadays. How the devil did this man manage to get along in the semi-diplomatic society he would have to frequent in Trieste?
Bond said lamely. `You look very fit, Nash. Tennis?'
`Been long in Trieste?'
There came a brief red glare. `About three years.'
`Sometimes. You know how it is, old man.'
Bond wondered how he could stop Nash calling him `old man'. He couldn't think of a way. Silence fell.
Nash obviously felt it was his turn again. He fished in his pocket and produced a newspaper cutting. It was the front page of the Corrière della Sera. He handed it to Bond. `Seen this, old man?' The eyes blazed and died.
It was the front page lead. The thick black lettering on the cheap newsprint was still wet. The headlines said:
TERRIBLE ESPLOSIONE IN ISTANBUL
UFFICIO SOVIETICO DISTRUTTO
TUTTI I PRESENTI UCCISI
Bond couldn't understand the rest. He folded the cutting and handed it back. How much did this man know? Better treat him as a strong-man arm and nothing else. `Bad show,' he said. `Gas main I suppose.' Bond saw again the obscene belly of the bomb hanging down from the roof of the alcove in the tunnel, the wires that started off down the damp wall on their way back to the plunger in the drawer of Kerim's desk. Who had pressed the plunger yesterday afternoon when Tempo had got through? The `Head Clerk'? Or had they drawn lots and then stood round and watched as the hand went down and the deep roar had gone up in the Street of Books on the hill above. They would all have been there, in the cool room. With eyes that glittered with hate. The tears would be reserved for the night. Revenge would have come first. And the rats? How many thousand had been blasted down the tunnel? What time would it have been? About four o'clock. Had the daily meeting been on? Three dead in the room. How many more in the rest of the building? Friends of Tatiana, perhaps. He would have to keep the story from her. Had Darko been watching? From a window in Valhalla? Bond could hear the great laugh of triumph echoing round its walls. At any rate Kerim had taken plenty with him.
Nash was looking at him. `Yes, I daresay it was a gas main,' he said without interest.
A hand-bell tinkled down the corridor coming nearer. `Deuxième Service. Deuxième Service. Prenez vos places, s'il vous plait.'
Bond looked across at Tatiana. Her face was pale. In her eyes there was an appeal to be saved from any more of this clumsy, non-kulturny man. Bond said, `What about lunch?' She got up at once. `What about you, Nash?'
Captain Nash was already on his feet. `Had it, thanks old man. And I'd like to have a look up and down the train. Is the conductor–you know . . .?' he made a gesture of fingering money.
`Oh yes, he'll co-operate all right,' said Bond. He reached up and pulled down the heavy little bag. He opened the door for Nash. `See you later.'
Captain Nash stepped into the corridor. He said, `Yes I expect so, old man.' He turned left and strode off down the corridor, moving easily with the swaying of the train, his hands in his trouser pockets and the light blazing on the tight golden curls at the back of his head.
Bond followed Tatiana up the train. The carriages were crowded with holiday-makers going home. In the third-class corridors people sat on their bags chattering and munching at oranges and at hard-looking rolls with bits of Salami sticking out of them. The men carefully examined Tatiana as she squeezed by. The women looked appraisingly at Bond, wondering whether he made love to her well.
In the restaurant car, Bond ordered Americanos and a bottle of Chianti Broglio. The wonderful European hors d'oeuvres came. Tatiana began to look more cheerful.
`Funny sort of man,' Bond watched her pick about among the little dishes. `But I'm glad he's come along. I'll have a chance to get some sleep. I'm going to sleep for a week when we get home.'
`I do not like him,' the girl said indifferently. `He is not kulturny. I do not trust his eyes.'
Bond laughed. `Nobody's kulturny enough for you.'
`Did you know him before?'
`No. But he belongs to my firm.'
`What did you say his name is?'
`Nash. Norman Nash.'
She spelled it out. `N.A.S.H.? Like that?'
The girl's eyes were puzzled. `I suppose you know what that means in Russian. Nash means ``ours''. In our Services, a man is nash when he is one of ``our'' men. He is svoi when he is one of ``theirs''–when he belongs to the enemy. And this man calls himself Nash. That is not pleasant.'
Bond laughed. `Really, Tania. You do think of extraordinary reasons for not liking people. Nash is quite a common English name. He's perfectly harmless. At any rate he's tough enough for what we want him for.'
Tatiana made a face. She went on with her lunch.
Some tagliatelli verdi came, and the wine, and then a delicious escalope. `Oh it is so good,' she said. `Since I came out of Russia I am all stomach.' Her eyes widened. `You won't let me get too fat, James. You won't let me get so fat that I am no use for making love? You will have to be careful, or I shall just eat all day long and sleep. You will beat me if I eat too much?'
`Certainly I will beat you.'
Tatiana wrinkled her nose. He felt the soft caress of her ankles. The wide eyes looked at him hard. The lashes came down demurely. `Please pay,' she said. `I feel sleepy.'
The train was pulling into Maestre. There was the beginning of the canals. A cargo gondola full of vegetables was moving slowly along a straight sheet of water into the town.
`But we shall be coming into Venice in a minute,' protested Bond. `Don't you want to see it?'
`It will be just another station. And I can see Venice another day. Now Iwant you to love me. Please, James.' Tatiana leaned forward. She put a hand over his. `Give me what I want. There is so little time.'
Then it was the little room again and the smell of the sea coming through the half-open window and the drawn blind fluttering with the wind of the train. Again there were the two piles of clothes on the floor, and the two whispering bodies on the banquette, and the slow searching hands. And the love-knot formed, and, as the train jolted over the points into the echoing
Outside the vacuum of the tiny room there sounded a confusion of echoing calls and metallic clanging and shuffling footsteps that slowly faded into sleep.
Padua came, and Vicenza, and a fabulous sunset over Verona flickered gold and red through the cracks of the blind. Again the little bell came tinkling down the corridor. They woke. Bond dressed and went into the corridor and leant against the guard rail. He looked out at the fading pink light over the Lombardy Plain and thought of Tatiana and of the future.
Nash's face slid up alongside his in the dark glass. Nash came very close so that his elbow touched Bond's. `I think I've spotted one of the oppo, old man,' he said softly.
Bond was not surprised. He had assumed that, if it came, it would come tonight. Almost indifferently he said, `Who is he?'
`Don't know what his real name is, but he's been through Trieste once or twice. Something to do with Albania. May be the Resident Director there. Now he's on an American passport. ``Wilbur Frank.'' Calls himself a banker. In No. 9, right next to you. I don't think I could be wrong about him, old man.'
Bond glanced at the eyes in the big brown face. Again the furnace door was ajar. The red glare shone out and was extinguished.
`Good thing you spotted him. This may be a tough night. You'd better stick by us from now on. We mustn't leave the girl alone.'
`That's what I thought, old man.'
They had dinner. It was a silent meal. Nash sat beside the girl and kept his eyes on his plate. He held his knife like a fountain pen and frequently wiped it on his fork. He was clumsy in his movements. Half way through the meal, he reached for the salt and knocked over Tatiana's glass of Chianti. He apologized profusely. He made a great show of calling for another glass and filling it.
Coffee came. Now it was Tatiana who was clumsy. She knocked over her cup. She had gone very pale and her breath was coming quickly.
`Tatiana!' Bond half rose to his feet. But it was Captain Nash who jumped up and took charge.
`Lady's come over queer,' he said shortly. `Allow me.' He reached down and put an arm round the girl and lifted her to her feet. Til take her back to the compartment. You'd better look after the bag. And there's the bill. I can take care of her till you come.'
`Is all right,' protested Tatiana with the slack lips of deepening unconsciousness. `Don' worry, James, I lie down.' Her head lolled against Nash's shoulder. Nash put one thick arm round her waist and manoeuvred her quickly and efficiently down the crowded aisle and out of the restaurant car.
Bond impatiently snapped his fingers for the waiter. Poor darling. She must be dead beat. Why hadn't he thought of the strain she was going through? He cursed himself for his selfishness. Thank heavens for Nash. Efficient sort of chap, for all his uncouthness.
Bond paid the bill. He took up the heavy little bag and walked as quickly as he could down the crowded train.
He tapped softly on the door of No. 7. Nash opened the door. He came out with his finger on his lips. He closed the door behind him. `Threw a bit of a faint,' he said. `She's all right now. The beds were made up. She's gone to sleep in the top one. Been a bit much for the girl I expect, old man.'
Bond nodded briefly. He went into the compartment. A hand hung palely down from under the sable coat. Bond stood on the bottom bunk and gently tucked the hand under the corner of the coat. The hand felt very cold. The girl made no sound.
Bond stepped softly down. Better let her sleep. He went into the corridor.
Nash looked at him with empty eyes. `Well, I suppose we'd better settle in for the night. I've got my book.' He held it up. `War and Peace. Been trying to plough through it for years. You take the first sleep, old man. You look pretty flaked out yourself. I'll wake you up when I can't keep my eyes open any longer.' He gestured with his head at the door of No. 9. `Hasn't shown yet. Don't suppose he will if he's up to any monkey tricks.' He paused. `By the way, you got a gun, old man?'
`Yes. Why, haven't you?'
Nash looked apologetic. `Fraid not. Got a Luger at home, but it's too bulky for this sort of job.'
`Oh, well,' said Bond reluctantly. `You'd better take mine. Come on in.'
They went in and Bond shut the door. He took out the Beretta and handed it over. `Eight shots,' he said softly. `Semi-automatic. It's on safe.'
Nash took the gun and weighed it professionally in his hand. He clicked the safe on and off.
Bond hated someone else touching his gun. He felt naked without it. He said gruffly, `Bit on the light side, but it'll kill if you put the bullets in the right places.'
Nash nodded. He sat down near the window at the end of the bottom bunk. `I'll take this end,' he whispered. `Good field of fire.' He put his book down on his lap and settled himself.
Bond took off his coat and tie and laid them on the bunk beside him. He leant back against the pillows and propped his feet on the bag with the Spektor that stood on the floor beside his attaché case. He picked up his Ambler and found his place and tried to read. After a few pages he found that his concentration was going. He was too tired. He laid the book down on his lap and closed his eyes. Could he afford to sleep? Was there any other precaution they could take?
The wedges! Bond felt for them in the pocket of his coat. He slipped off the bunk and knelt and forced them hard under the two doors. Then he settled himself again and switched off the reading light behind his head.
The violet eye of the nightlight shone softly down.