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THE NEW NOVEL STARRING

JAMES BOND

THE KILLING ZONE

JIM HATFIELD

JAMES BOND

007 IS BACK!

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In this new high voltage spy thriller, Secret Agent 007 must "liquidate" ruthless billionaire kingpin Klaus Doberman. But James Bond has his hands full as he battles a lucious lady assassin who offers lethal love Russian style and a slit-eyed Oriental sadist who is an elusive and deadly Ninja. Aided by his sex-galore confederate Lotta Head and his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter, 007 is pitted against Klaus Doberman in his heavily armed fortress high in the Mexican Sierra Madres... in the most bloodcurdling death duel in the great Bond saga.

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JAMES BOND IS BACK!

Millions of readers and countless filmgoers the world over have met British Secret Service agent James Bond 007 the superhero with a enormous appetite for the good things in life - food, women and international intrigue.

This time Bond's assignment is more awesome. His weapons are more potent. His foes are more fiendish. His women are more willing. And James Bond is better than ever!

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THE KILLING

ZONE

Jim Hatfield

A CHARTER BOOK

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All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

THE KILLING ZONE: A James Bond Adventure

A CHARTER BOOK, London

Copyright 1985 by Glidrose Publications Limited and Jim Hatfield

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the Publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

0-425-06534-0

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For my parents with love

and to the memory of Ian Lancaster Fleming.

And You and Me Only.

"I write for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, aeroplanes and beds."

-Ian Fleming

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I owe deep gratitude to so many people for their help with The Killing Zone that numerous pages would be required simply to list them all. The following are pre-eminent:

Norma Rodriquez, one of my best friends for many years, journeyed with me - not just once - but three times to the Mexican resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. Her invaluable command of the Spanish language and dedicated research assistance supplied much of the cultural material that I have woven around the lives of the people in this book.

Obviously, The Killing Zone could not have been written had it not been for Larry Burk and Kay Burrow of CFC for allowing me unrestricted time away from the company to describe the sights, sounds, and textures of Mexico. I would also like to express my personal gratitude to them and everyone at CFC for their kindness and faith in this book's eventual worth. I owe all of them a great debt for sharing and salving my frustrations throughout the sixteen months of this novel's research and writing. For his help, good counsel and general "Godfathering," a special note of thanks and appreciation to Sam Wolfson. Though I did not adopt all of her suggestions after careful reading of the manuscript, Corrie Harrison's contribution to a clearer and more accurate text has been indispensable.

Special thanks would not be complete without reference to Rhonda Traylor and Marie Van Wey, the most lovely and competent typists an author could ever want or need; Dale McFarland typeset the final draft of the manuscript for publication with exemplary thoughtfulness and meticulous care. Dana Conley, my capable and efficient secretary, beat the clock with her rewarding research assistance, which saved me the embarrassment of requesting a deadline extension.

Jake Jatras and John Donovan of Soldier of Fortune magazine stand in my particular debt for their unending quest to put the most accurate weapons in James Bond's possession. I must also thank the men of the Cotton Exchange Breakfast Club: Jack Allen, George Drewery, Alton Gardner, John Duncan, Les Lewis and John Garner, for their invaluable opinions, advice and companionship at the crack of dawn. The Killing Zone exists in its fullness because these men suffered and sustained the author during the throes of composition.

I would like, especially, to thank the Board of Directors of Glidrose Publications Limited, the owners of the James Bond literary copyright, for inviting me to follow in Ian Fleming's somewhat daunting footsteps. In particular, my thanks to Ms. Janet Dailey of Bronson, Missouri, the bestselling female author of all time, for acting as the "Go-Between." Great acknowledgement must also go to my literary agent, Irving Weintraub, without whose patience and guiding hand this book could not have been written. And finally, my deepest thanks to "three wise women" of Dixon Travel - Linda Tabell, Connie Carlson and Adriane Strauss - who always make the time, no matter hour busy they are, to send me on some adventurous trip to the ends of the earth.

All the others who helped me transform 007 from a cardboard automaton of the movies to a living and breathing British spy with a license to kill, are entitled to my heartfelt thanks, and if I omitted your name please forgive me.

Jim Hatfield

Puerto Vallarta, 1986

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Contents

1. Suddenly a Corpse [6]

2. Welcome Back, Mr. Bond [10]

3. Dossier of a New Enemy [20]

4. Hide and Go Die [29]

5. The Woman in the White Spyder [37]

6. Lotta Head [46]

7. Twice Removed [56]

8. Old Enemies Are Hard to Break [73]

9. Love Is Never Enough [91]

10. The Last Good Kiss [110]

11. Things That Go Bump in the Night [124]

12. Double-Crosses and Cross-Outs [145]

13. The Long Hard Scream [155]

14. Some Guns Listen, Other Guns Speak [170]

15. The Long Harm of the Law [183]

16. Out of the Frying Pan... [196]

17. ...And Into the Fire [215]

18. Sudden Death [246]

19. A Far, Far Better Rest [249]

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AUTHOR'S NOTE

In an effort to accommodate each reader's familiarity with their particular country's phraseology, both British and American spellings or forms of measurement have been used alternately in this binational edition; for example,

The blue-grey colour of his eyes sparkled (British)

The yacht was fifty yards away and closing (American)

J.H.

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-1-

Suddenly a Corpse

BILL TANNER, CHIEF OF STAFF OF HER MAJESTY'S Secret Service, paced impatiently back and forth on the cobblestone sidewalk outside of the British Consulate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He gazed up and down the street. It was virtually deserted from the earlier sights and sounds of commuters hurrying home to their families and dinners; the stillness was somehow ominous. It was as though he stood in a vacuum, the very air holding its breath.

Tanner studied the darkening sky as a natural ocean breeze began to rise. A quick glance at his watch revealed that his driver was now twenty-seven minutes in the arrears.

Faintly, he began to hear sounds. They were distant at first, almost subliminal, gradually growing in intensity until he realized they were footsteps.

"Senor Tanner?" a thick, heavy accent startled him from behind. Tanner whirled. A tall, moose-like Mexican dressed in a faded blue State Police officer's uniform stared down at him through mirrored sunglasses.

[6]

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Tanner backed away from the officer's intimidating form, but the Mexican grabbed his arm, halting his progress with a grip of steel.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? I'm a diplomat," Tanner argued as he felt the fingers bite painfully into his bicep.

The Mexican nodded towards an approaching white Mercedes-Benz 1000SEL limousine. "Someone is anxious to meet you, Senor Tanner."

"Tell him to make an appointment like everyone else," he answered sharply, pulling away from the large man's painful clutch.

Tanner didn't see the knee come up. But he felt it, and a split second later he had caromed off the side of the limousine. On his way down, the knee delivered again, this time in the center of his gut. He was helped to his hands and knees by a vise-like grip around his neck. Simultaneously, a backhanded blow made contact with the side of his head, so hard he could not believe the pain that shot through his skull. His knees felt like rubber as they lost all feeling of motion and sensation. On his way down, a highly polished boot caught him flush in the mouth.

Adrenalin is produced by the adrenal glands, two small bodies situated on the upper surface of the kidneys. Because of the circumstances which cause its release into the circulation, and its effect on the body, it is sometimes known as the drug of fright, fight and flight. Now at the sight of blood trickling down from the corners of his mouth, Tanner's adrenals fell into their primeval work, pumping their secretion into his bloodstream and thus quickening respiration to fill his blood with oxygen, speeding up the heart's action to improve the blood-supply to the muscles,

[7]

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closing the smaller blood vessels near the skin to minimize loss in case of wounding, even causing the hair on his scalp to lift minutely. And while Tanner was still paralyzed, there came to him from somewhere or other, perhaps from the adrenalin itself, a strange exultation. He knew instantly that he had not gone soft from too many years in an administrative capacity, that at need he was the same efficient fighting machine. He quickly spun on his own hip, connected solid with his assailant's legs. The Mexican went down, and Tanner was on his feet lunging, lunging toward the iron gates of the consulate's compound...

Tanner's arms were seized from behind and jerked backwards - he had not thought the Mexican could recover and resume the chase so quickly. Before the nelson grip was complete, Tanner had lashed backwards with his heel and made contact causing one arm to become free. An elbow jab that just missed the groin brought the top of Tanner's body forward. Before he could recover, ten fingers that felt like steel bolts had sunk into the ganglia at the base of his neck, rendering Tanner unconscious immediately.

When he awoke, he was in the back of the traveling limousine with the giant police officer seated on his left and a muscular Chinese man in a black yukata to his right. Sitting directly across from them in the jump seat was a long-haired German with a black patch over his right eye, who Tanner immediately recognized as Klaus Doberman, a much-wanted billionaire narcotics overlord.

The German rapped his knuckles on the glass plate separating them from the front seat, and the driver turned the car down an isolated and narrow dirt road.

Tanner suddenly felt a burning ache in his gut and his

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neck felt as though it had turned into a thin stream of cold mud. "Where are you taking me, Doberman?" he asked, his eyes straining to focus on the German through a veil of blurred vision.

The limousine abruptly came to a halt. Doberman could hardly contain his glee. "To meet your God, Mr. Tanner," he replied, stroking back a white mane of hair from out of his good eye.

At that point the Chinese man's mouth split expansively as he produced a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver from inside his black clothing and pointed it to the side of Tanner's head.

Tanner smiled sardonically. "I'll tell my God to leave the pearly gates open since you'll be joining us soon."

Doberman frowned and nodded to the Chinese whose smile closed the almond eyes to slits - slits that glittered. Then he pulled the trigger, effectively covering the rear windshield with the head of Lieutenant-Colonel William "Bill" Tanner, second highest-ranking member of the British Secret Service and, incidentally, Commander James Bond's best friend.

[9]

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-2-

Welcome Back, Mr. Bond

THE FIRST LIGHTS OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS GLEAMED below TWA Flight 123B in the darkness. The air brakes grumbled down, the undercarriage thudded into place; St. Thomas lay straight ahead.

A little earlier, Sir Miles Messervy, known only as M., Head of the British Secret Service, had been reclining, apparently relaxed and at ease in an aisle seat on the starboard side of the first class area.

In fact, the ex-Admiral was far from relaxed. Anyone looking closely would have seen the strain behind the damnably grey sailor's eyes. His mind was in top gear as it relived the disappointing events of the past year which eventually led to James Bond's resignation from the service.

During this period the Secret Service was under fire from the politicians and there was fresh talk on purges from security. The Double-0 section had come under

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frequent criticism as a source of provocation to the enemy, and M. was tired of defending it. The rumors of disbanding the section naturally irritated M. and worried Bond: without his Double-0 rating, it was doubtful whether he would wish to stay within the Secret Service. Then on top of this came the big reshuffle at the Regents Park Headquarters just after New Year's. For Bond, a true conservative at heart, the shake-up was far more disturbing than he cared to admit.

M.'s office was moved up from the sixth to the seventh floor, and Bond, to his horror, found himself divorced from his office which he shared with 008 and 0011, and relegated to a small, grey-painted hencoop of a place. In the circumstances, the move seemed ominous.

Then came the so-called Ides of March Massacre, in which large numbers of loyal agents and operatives were forced to "resign" or were directly dismissed, literally overnight. Finally, as Bond had feared, M. broke the news that the elite Double-0 section - which meant being licensed to kill in the line of duty - was being abolished. For Bond, who relished the dangerous lifestyle associated with the Double-0 status, this was the last bloody straw. So Commander James Bond, Agent 007 of Her Majesty's Secret Service, resigned and relocated to the Caribbean.

[* * * * * *]

The night air was warm and scented. Stepping down the aircraft was like the beginning of a dream for M. There were palm trees beside the airport building, hibiscus and azaleas in bloom. For the first time, M. actually envied Bond. One really couldn't blame him for settling for the soft life at last. He'd earned every bit of luxury he got.

[11]

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In immigration M. produced his passport. The official expressed pleasantries, then signaled to someone behind him. An attractive young black woman came over to M., smiled, said she hoped he'd had a lovely trip and would he come this way? Outside the airport concourse a large, equally dark-skinned chauffeur had just finished putting M.'s luggage in the trunk of an old-model, bright-red Cadillac. He saluted lazily, opened the rear door for M., then drove him effortlessly along a road beside the clear, sparkling, moonlit waters of the Caribbean. M. tried making conversation, without much success. M. finally asked when they would arrive.

"You'll see," the black man answered. "We'll be there soon."

M. grunted contemptuously.

They purred across a causeway. There was a glimpse of palm trees, lights that glittered from the ocean. Then they drove through high gates, along a graveled drive, and there before them, floodlit and gleaming stood the hotel - the old-style colonial, pink walls, white louvered shutters, pillars by the door. The pool was lit up, too. People were swimming, others on the terrace. A doorman in top hat and wasp-coloured waistcoat took M.'s distinctly meager luggage to the lift.

M.'s bath was already steaming with great fruition, drinks were waiting on the table and a discreet manservant asked if he had eaten or would like something from the restaurant.

"No, thank you," M. told him.

"Shall I make you a vodka martini, sir?"

"Rot-gut!" M. answered sharply. "I'll make my own drink, good man." Then he proceeded to pour a whiskey

[12]

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and soda. "Thank you just the same," he added hesitantly.

"Commander Bond asked me, sir, to kindly welcome you and tell you to treat this place as your own home. When you are ready, sir, say in half an hour, please ring for me and I will take you to Commander Bond."

M. bathed luxuriously, changed into a lightweight dark-grey suit, stiff white collar, dark blue bow tie with spots, rather loosely. After another whiskey and soda, he lit his pipe with a match and rang the bell. The manservant appeared at once, led M. along a corridor, and then unlocked a door which led to a private lift. Before starting it the man picked up a red telephone inside the lift.

"Augustus here, sir. Bringing your guest up now."

M. heard a faint reply from the telephone. The lift ascended slowly.

At the top there was a slight delay, as the doors evidently opened by remote control from the other side. When they did M. walked straight into an enormous room, most of it in shadow. On three sides long, plate glass windows looked out on the dark night sea. The lights were low, the shutters were drawn back and M. seemed suspended high above the Caribbean waters. Far to the right the lights were glittering along the coastline of Magen's Bay.

From the slightly eerie shadows of the fourth side of the suite a figure that M. immediately recognized emerged. His was a dark, clean-cut face, with a three-inch scar showing whitely down the suntanned skin of the right cheek. The eyes were wide under straight, rather long black brows. The dark hair, with grey streaks in the temples now, still fell in a thick black comma over the forehead. The longish straight nose ran down to a short

[13]

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upper lip below which was a wide and finely drawn but cruel mouth. The line of the jaw was straight and firm. He was physically fit, bright-eyed, no sign of tension or wariness positively breezy. He was wearing white cotton trousers and a dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt which showed off the width of the shoulder and solidity of chest. There was no hint of a paunch or thickness of hips. James Bond reached out to shake M.'s hand in a gesture of deepest respect.

["]The same warm, dry handshake, James," M. said cheerfully. Gone was the crabbiness that had characterized him in previous years.

Bond laughed and produced a familiar object from a gun-metal cigarette case. "The first today," he said. "I hope you weren't expecting Morlands Specials. Officially I have given up, but one can't be too strict about these things. They are the latest denicotined and absolutely revolting."

"Miss Moneypenny sends a loving kiss."

"Pity you didn't bring Penny with you."

"You two would be flirting too bloody much."

Bond laughed deeply, then asked, "How's Bill coming along without me as his golf partner. I'm sure he's become fat and lazy on dry martinis and white bread."

There was an uncomfortable pause, and M. suddenly looked awkwardly towards his feet. "That's why I'm here, James. I'm sorry, but Bill is missing, believed killed, while on official duty in Mexico."

Bond's face suddenly went white and an air of tension surrounded him. He had the look of someone who had suffered and who was wary of the pain's return.

The metamorphose would have continued, but at that

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moment Augustus appeared. "Are you gentlemen ready for dinner, Commander?" he asked politely.

Bond nodded.

"Customary table, sir?"

Bond grunted his assent. M. checked an urge to smile.

"Forgive me, sir," Bond said to his former employer. "I am now a creature of routine. A dangerous thing in our profession, but now that I am retired I feel it does no harm."

The customary table proved to be the best in the hotel - set close enough to the pool so that Bond could closely observe the scantily-clad women. As always, the sight of female flesh clearly relaxed him. With most women his manner was a mixture of tactiturnity and passion. The lengthy approaches to a seduction bored him almost as the subsequent mess of disentanglement.

"Something to quench the thirst, sir?" Bond asked M., his blue-grey eyes following the shapely rears of women coming up from the beach for dinner.

M. relit his pipe and nodded.

Bond gave the order to Augustus in the precise, clipped voice of the man who knows exactly what he wants and is used to getting it. "The Admiral will have a half-bottle of a twenty-year-old Mouton Rothschild and I'll have a small carafe of Stolichnaya vodka resting in a bowl of crushed ice."

After drinks arrived, M. had a chance to observe Bond more carefully. He was, if anything, taller and slightly thinner than he had remembered him a year before; the arms below the short sleeves sinewy rather than muscular. What would one have thought of him from first impressions? A colonial administrator here on convalescent

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leave? An aging playboy between marriages? Only the face might make one wonder - that bronzed Scottish face whose hardness seemed so out of place among the lush surroundings; a hardness made up of new walls built around himself since his traumatic ordeals of the past years. The death of his wife, Tracy; the fight with Blofeld in Japan; the subsequent year of amnesia; the brainwashing ordeal in Russia; the assassination attempt on M.; and the fight against death after Scaramanga's poison-tipped bullet almost eliminated the agent forever - all had a toll on Bond. He was in a new cycle of his life.

Bond's sardonic mouth relaxed, the cruel eyes softened and he asked M. to explain the tragedy concerning Bill Tanner's disappearance.

M. leaned back in his chair, massaging his neck, then poured himself another drink. He began speaking very calmly then - one could detect an ordered mind, the logical delivery of the well-trained military intelligence. Bond listened intently.

"During your absence, James," M. began, his grey eyes clearer and brighter than Bond ever remembered them, "the drug war has moved onto the offensive and the Secret Service has been doing its best to meet the challenge. Operation `Snow White' extends from the coca fields of Peru, Bolivia and Equador to the jungle refineries of Colombia and Brazil. Its outposts are remote piers and airstrips in Mexico and right here in the Caribbean; its ports of entry dot the American South and Southwest. With profits running into billions of dollars, the cocaine lords vie with Third World governments in wealth and power. The traffickers tried to blow up the British Consulate in Guadulajara last November, and our allies fear

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that they are undermining the fragile political systems of Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Jamaica and the Bahamas. There is no greater destabilizing force for democratic government than the power of the narcotrafico."

Bond noted M.'s commanding voice was calm. Only the way he gripped his pipe revealed a little of the tension that he felt. "Until recently," he continued, "many Latin American countries shrugged off their drug traffickers, partly because they viewed narcotics as other countries' problems, and partly because they were more worried about left-wing terrorists and guerrillas. That attitude is giving way to a sense of alarm. There is hardly an area of political activity or institutional life that in some way has not been affected by drug corruption. The drug lords have vowed to kill Colombian officials from the president on down and we have recently learned that they've offered one million dollars to anyone who will kidnap our own Prime Minister or other Cabinet Members. Evidently, the kingpins want to exchange the PM for six Colombian accused traffickers now in custody in London."

M. absentmindedly refilled and relit his pipe, which had died. "The empire grows like a poisonous weed. So great are its profits that every local victory against the cocaine lords only seems to open markets in other areas. In many rural areas, the drug kings are seen as Robin Hoods, spreading wealth in countries that are desperately poor. Snowy riches have corrupted officials and produced strange alliances. Neo-Nazi drug lord, Klaus Doberman, has offered to cast his lot with the leftist M-19 guerrillas, while peasant coca growers in Peru are tied to Maoist Shing Path guerrillas. In addition, we've learned that the governments of Nicaragua and Cuba wink at drug dealing

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that brings in badly needed Western currency."

Bond lit another cigarette, half-filled his glass with ice and added three fingers of vodka. He then drank it down in two long draughts, feeling its friendly bite at the back of his throat and in his stomach. "Where did Bill figure into all of this?" he asked M. through a veil of pipe and cigarette smoke.

"The new cocaine traffickers selected the coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta as their headquarters. It was bordering on the Sierra Madres mountain range which runs the length of the country, the Pacific Ocean for access to other other countries by boat and two major highways connected to the United States. Its booming economy and real estate market made laundering money relatively convenient. Most important, however, was its proximity to the marijuana and poppy fields of Northwest Mexico - and the families who had developed drug-running experience in exploiting them. To crimp those families, we organized Operation `Snow White,' the investigation to which Bill was assigned. The drug runners suffered extraordinary losses. Because of Snow White and other operations, one ring alone had lost some twenty-six million dollars and six thousand pounds of cocaine. There was a six hundred million dollar bust in Miami a week before Bill was kidnapped and agents broke up a smuggling ring in Mexico City which was shipping Cocaine in film cannisters from the international section of the press office. But there have been losses on our side also. 008 was found floating face down on the American side of the Rio Grande River; three weeks later, 0011's body was found decapitated and stuffed in a steel drum at an abandoned cocaine refinery in the jungles of Tranquilandia, Colombia; 003, one of the

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most experienced senior agents, had been dragged from a blazing car outside of Acapulco. He will live - for a while at least - but his days of usefulness to the Secret Service, or to anybody else, are over."

Bond drank the cigarette's smoke into his lungs and expelled it slowly through his nostrils. "Do we have any leads to Bill's whereabouts?"

M. shook his head. "Our sources have informed us that Bill drove the last nail in the coffin when Klaus Doberman lost twenty million dollars in Snow White's detonation of a huge marijuana warehouse in Chihuahua. Accounts of witnesses state that the following day, Doberman agreed to organize a kidnapping of Bill, using assassins posing as State Police officers. Two days later, Bill was abducted from the British Consulate in Puerto Vallarta and no one has seen or heard from him since. Unfortunately, we can only draw our own conclusions."

Bond's narrow eyes squinted with a hint of anger. "Who is this bastard Klaus Doberman?"

M.'s eyes ceased to focus on Bond. For a moment they were blank, looking inward. Then he slowly reached inside his suit coat and extracted a thin file with the usual top-secret red star. He placed the file squarely in from of himself and pushed it gently across the table to Bond.

The red sans-serif letters said: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

Bond said nothing. He nodded and tore away the seal and began to read.

[19]

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-3-

Dossier of a New Enemy

TO: Special Services Agent, 007.

FROM: M.

SUBJECT: Klaus Doberman is the narcotraficante numero uno - a long-haired one-eyed cocaine smuggler who bought an entire in the Bahamas. He is a "Robin Hood" to his neighbors in Central and South America, where he built housing for the poor. Informed sources say he rose from dealing small bags of cocaine to amassing a two billion dollar fortune. He is a cocky adventurer who flaunts his billions, buying everything from banks and hotels to soccer teams and fighting bulls.

DESCRIPTION: Age about thirty-five. Height six foot, three inches. Slim and fit. Eyes blue, right eye

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blind since horseback riding accident at age twelve: Hair, white-blonde, shoulder-length, worn sometimes in ponytail fashion. Gaunt, sombre face. Ears very flat to the head. Ambidextrous. Hands very small and immaculately manicured. Distinguishing characteristics: wears black patch over right eye at all times. Is an insatiable but indiscriminate homosexual who invariably has sexual intercourse on a daily basis.

BACKGROUND DETAILS: Doberman has become Colombia's cocaine overlord and almost as rich and powerful as the Colombian government itself. From a heavily armed stronghold deep in the Andes Mountains, he refines and smuggles two billion dollars a year in cocaine to the United States and the rest of the world. To protect his extensive interests, Doberman has formed his own cartel, buying as many opponents as he can, murdering some of those he can't.

Doberman started small. The son of a German SS officer who later fled to Colombia, he left home at the age of eighteen, bound for the United States. In 1973 he was arrested in Detroit for smuggling stolen cars from South America. He skipped bail, but was arrested again in Miami for possession of two hundred pounds of marijuana. He served nearly two years at Danbury Correctional Institution, then in 1975 was put on a plane to Bogota.

In 1979, we learned that Doberman had purchased Norman's Cay in the Bahamas. He was listed as the president of Air Montes, a Bahamian

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corporation; but we were convinced that his real business was ferrying marijuana and cocaine from Colombia to the United States. He built a 3,300-foot runway protected by radar, bodyguards and namesake attack dogs. He also commanded a fleet of aircraft - some bought, according to an informant, through an associate of the Bahamas' Prime Minister. The allegation has not been proved, and the PM has denied any involvement with Doberman. While in the Bahamas, he lives in a sprawling villa. He owns a yacht, nineteen cars and four motorcycles. Another informant states that Doberman spends his time there with fugitive financier Robert Vescoe, wandering around Norman's Cay shooting automatic weapons at lizards and coconuts.

In 1981, he was suspected as the source of 1,197 pounds of cocaine seized in New Iberia, Louisiana. When Customs officials in Miami made the largest U.S. cocaine seizure ever - 3,800 pounds found in a shipment of blue jeans on a plane from Colombia - Doberman was once again suspected. In 1982, he and five other men were arrested in Cartegena for selling 6,450 pounds of cocaine paste. They were never convicted: two of the policemen who apprehended them were assassinated, and the arrest record disappeared from the courthouse. About that time he purchased a farm at La Tebaida, just outside the Colombian city of Armenia. He bought out a local newspaper, the Quinidia Libre, which he used to make strident attacks on U.S., British and Colombian officials. He also indulged

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his taste for wild parties and young men. At his private resort, the Hotel Posada Alemana, he built a discoteca dedicated to John Lennon; its centerpiece was a statue of Lennon, nude except for a helmet and a guitar - with a bullet hole through the heart. Young men flocked to his side, attracted by his movie-star looks and charisma.

Doberman has another bizarre obsession - Adolf Hitler. He recently called Hitler "the greatest warrior in history"; he also stated that all Jews killed by his father and other Nazis during World War II had "died only working in the fields and the factories." To forward his views he formed a fanatically nationalist political party, The Order. Hundreds of people went to Doberman's "patriotic Saturday" rallies - drawn, according to some reports, by five hundred and one thousand peso notes handed out at the gate. Doberman is also responsible for funding a right-wing paramilitary group called The Legion of Doom, which is charged with killing dozens of leftists and labor organizers; it is also said to number former police and military officials among its ranks.

After the Colombian President vowed to begin enforcing a two-year-old extradition treaty with the United States and England last spring, Doberman went underground. For two years the Colombian President has ignored the extradition treaty on the ground that it violated national sovereignty. But Doberman made the costly mistake of having the Colombian Justice Minister assassinated because of his public crusade against his drug

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smuggling. In April, hired killers headed by a Chinese hitman named Fuji Chen, machine-gunned the Justice Minister to death on a Bogota street. Doberman never claimed responsibility, but he is universally believed to have financed the assassination. The murder outraged many Colombians who had seen Doberman as an appealing hero battling against the country's entrenched elites. More important, it enraged the Colombian President, who at the Justice Minister's gravesite, vowed to uphold the treaty. He declared a state of siege and went on television to proclaim "a war without quarter" on Doberman.

Doberman has grown increasingly wealthy over the past few years - ostensibly in the "tourist development" business. He acquired extensive land holdings, built a huge soccer complex and collected a personal zoo. His mountaintop ranch in Puerto Vallarta features a small airstrip for shipping cocaine, along with several swimming pools, a fleet of motor launches and a bullring. He raises prize fighting bulls and was charged with smuggling 120 of them from Spain. Forced to retrench from Colombia, he has begun spending more time at his Puerto Vallarta ranch in Mexico, where he has acquired political influence. He has donated one million dollars to two main political parties and "owns" many of the officials, judges and policemen in Mexico.

In May, police and soldiers raided a hideout in the Llanos, Colombia's eastern plains, and found evidence that Doberman had been there; they also

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found bulldozers, barracks and laboratory facilities capable of processing six to ten tons of cocaine per month. Doberman was next sighted on May 28, by a drug pilot working undercover for the C.I.A. in Colombia. The agent said he saw Doberman and crew load more than six thousand pounds of cocaine onto a plane bound for Nicaragua. When that aircraft crashed, Doberman provided a Titan plane, according to the agent. The pilot flew the plane to Managua and handed the cocaine over to an aide to Nicaragua's Minister of the Interior.

Last month, Doberman brazenly invited a British Broadcasting television crew to meet him aboard his private yacht anchored in Puerto Vallarta's bay. He was surrounded by machine gun-toting bodyguards and looked eerily cool and self-confident in a sleeveless black shirt. He didn't deny being Colombia's premier drug trafficker, but he tried to portray himself as a revolutionary with a vision. He referred to cocaine as a "Latin American atom bomb" that would win respect from imperialists. He made a vague - and ideologically ambiguous - threat to join forces either with disgruntled military officers or with Colombia's Marxist M-19 guerrilla movement. He also bragged of escaping a recent government sweep through the inland.

PROPOSED PLAN OF ACTION: In conclusion, even if life has become a bit harder for Klaus Doberman, the odds against shutting him down remains overwhelming. We can only concede that at most, we can hope to keep Doberman off balance and

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prevent him from enlarging his empire. But as long as he can sell billions of dollars' worth of coke abroad - and as long as the domestic market for cocaine keeps expanding - he will have the money and clout he needs to fend off the government's attacks, which would most definitely be a long, costly and probably very bloody war.

Therefore, as the Head of the British Secret Service, I strongly recommend that Klaus Doberman be immediately "terminated" with extreme prejudice. (Signed "M.")

James Bond closed the file and pushed it back across the table to M., who immediately returned it to the inside pocket of his coat. "007, I'm at a stalemate, and you are our country's only hope in neutralizing the threat of Doberman."

Bond was flattered and warmly pleased that M. had come to him in this matter. But he shrugged his shoulders. "Doberman's a no good son-of-a-bitch without a doubt. But the Double-0 section has been disbanded and London knows quite well I'm retired."

For years, Bond's most important function in the British Secret Service was to perform the role of executioner for the government. The privilege of holding a Double-0 number meant that Bond had to kill people in the line of duty. It was something that he had accepted and was expected to perform without regret. Many times an assignment involved nothing but the elimination of an enemy operative. He had never liked killing people and when he had to he carried out the unpleasant task as best

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he could without second thought - but even Bond was not immune to the repercussions of this burden on his psyche. Luckily, Bond had a strong sense of patriotism and his loyalty to England was a strong motivating force in his attitude toward his profession.

M. crammed his pipe with fresh tobacco, lit it with a match and leaned forward in the bamboo chair, staring uncompromisingly into. Bond's eyes. "As far as I'm concerned, 007, you will remain 007. The Prime Minister has granted me full responsibility for your actions, and you will, as ever, accept orders and assignments only from me. There are times when our Queen and Country need a specialist and now is the time. Those damn fool politicians in Parliament can abolish the Double-0 section, but we'll simply change its name. It will now be the Special Services section and you are it. Understand, 007? Doberman can't do this to our agents and live to brag about it."

Bond was in an elated mood. To him, M. was the Service, and the Service was Bond's life. More importantly, Bond loved M. as a father. "I will hunt this man Doberman down and destroy him. If he finds he can get away with this kind of thing he'll decide the English people are as soft as some other people seem to think we are. This is a case for rough justice - an eye for an eye."

M. went on looking at Bond. He gave no further encouragement, made no further comments. What Bond would do was left unsaid. It was always left unsaid.

By the telepathy that marks the finest waiters in the very best hotels, Augustus was waiting for their order just as it appeared that they had completed their business.

Once more, Bond did the ordering - "I always have lobster done with coconut and lime juice, and avocado

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salad. Suit you, sir?"

M. nodded his approval.

"The usual, twice, Augustus. And bring us your best bottle of Dom Perignon with a side dish of Beluga caviar. We have some celebrating to do." Bond was as determined as ever, but with a renewed strength.

M grinned with a rare smile which seemed to light up the deep grey eyes and said with a sigh of relief, "Well, that's that. The bastard's back."

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-4-

Hide and Go Die

TURQUOISE BLUE WATERS WAVED WHITE GLOVED hands as they rolled onto the sands of Puerto Vallarta's coastline. Voluminous clouds frolicked across the sky and headed toward the Sierra Madres. On board his sailing vessel in Banderas Bay, Klaus Doberman meditated on what was truly a picture-postcard day.

The motor yacht, Buenaventura, was one hundred and twenty feet of luxury, built for Doberman with cartel funds, by the Italian constructors Picchoitti and Viareggio. With a hull of aluminum and magnesium alloy, two Baudoin seven-hundred-and-fifty horsepower diesel engines, Kohler generators, Naid stabilizers, the Buenaventura could move her seventy tons at a continuous running speed of sixteen knots. Superb electronics included: Sat-Com with Telex, autopilot, on-board computers that assisted the ship's management and relayed data to and from anywhere in the world.

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From the bridge of the yacht, Doberman watched as members of the cartel arrived for an emergency meeting called for seven o'clock in the evening. The men, for they were all men, came from all over Central and South America, ferried from the shore by small motorboats. They came singly and in pairs, at intervals during the late afternoon and evening. Each man had his allotted time for arriving at these meetings - so many minutes, up to two hours, before zero hour.

They dined magnificently at an elaborately set table. Pink and white Limoges china serving pieces held bacon-wrapper filet mignon, pommes au beurre and julienne carrots. Later, after the liquers and coffee, the twelve men who made up the cartel went into the spacious stateroom on the main deck.

The long room was decorated in soft blue. Heavy matching drapes covered the portholes which looked out onto the Pacific Ocean. The drapes were closed by the time the men strode, lounged, or sidled, each according to his character, to the polished oak table occupying most of the center of the room. It was set for twelve people, complete with blotters, drinks, pens, paper, ashtrays, and agendas.

Doberman took the place at the end of the table, while the others filed to their seats all marked with number cards, which were their only names. No greetings were exchanged. They were ruled by Doberman to be a waste of breath. They did not sit until their leader had taken the chair and then they sat still with expressions of sharpest interest.

And now Klaus Doberman gazed slowly around the faces of his eleven men, and looked for eyes that didn't

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squarely meet his left one. The ever-present black patch covered his right eye, but his left eye was a deep blue pool surrounded - totally surrounded, as Mussolini's were - by very clear whites. The doll-like effect of this unusual symmetry was enhanced by a long silken eyelash that should have belonged to a woman. The gaze of the soft doll's eye was totally relaxed and rarely held any expression stronger than a mild curiosity in the object of its focus. To the innocent it exuded confidence, a wonderful cocoon of confidence in which the observed one could relax, knowing that he was in comfortable, reliable hands. But they stripped the guilty and made him feel as transparent as an aquarium.

Doberman completed his inspection of the faces. As he had anticipated, only one pair of eyes had avoided contact. He had known he was right. The reports which he had checked had been entirely circumstantial, but his one good eye and his intuition had to be the seal. He slowly put his right hand under the table where it remained flat on his thigh.

"I am greatly pleased to inform you all of the sudden, but timely demise of Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Tanner of the British Secret Service," Doberman began in a soft, resonant, and very beautifully modulated voice. "His services to his Queen and Country will certainly not be missed by anyone at this table." Doberman looked mildly around the table. The same pair of eyes were evasive. He continued in a narrative tone of voice: "We will now proceed with the area of our financial reports. Number 7?"

The gentleman from Equador rose to his feet. He was a tall, dark man with immensely handsome features and a deep, husky voice that had charmed many a young woman

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in its time. "We have invested extensively in Central and South America," he said, "to promote insurgency and revolution. Fortunately, our capital outlay has been handsomely offset by the manufacture and resultant sale of the cocaine derivative, basuco. You will note that we have financed both terrorists and government forces on an equal basis. In matters of business, we are strictly impartial. Even with the destruction of the Chihuahua factory and the ten-thousand tons of marijuana it contained, our bank accounts in Switzerland, London, and New York have balances, respectively, of four-hundred-million dollars; fifty-million pounds sterling; and nine-hundred million dollars. The total, according to our calculations, will suffice for our present purposes, and if operations succeed according to budget - as Senor Doberman predicts - we can expect to double the amount in one year. This income, as each of you are aware, has been distributed in accordance with our charter as to ten percent for overheads and working capital, ten percent to Senor Doberman, and the remainder in equal shares of four percent to the members." He gave his most charming smile, and asked amiably, "Any questions?"

The assembled company sat back, satisfied. Each man had made his own calculation, knew his own mind.

Doberman's hand came down on the table. "Then so be it." His left eye moved down the length of the table and shot a look of disgust at Number 12. It was his eyes that had been evasive during the meeting. Doberman said softly, "Stand up, Number 12."

The head of the leading drug family in Guadalajara, a proud, chunky man with slow eyes, and dressed in a well-tailored Gianni Versace three-piece suit, got slowly to his

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feet. His big, rough hands hung relaxed at the seams of his trousers. The man stood facing Doberman at the far end of the table.

Doberman addressed the company. "We are a large and powerful organization. I am not concerned with morals or ethics, but members must be aware that I desire, and most strongly recommend, that this cartel conduct itself in a superior fashion. There is no discipline here among us except self-discipline. We are a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies entirely in the strength of each member. You are aware of my views in this matter, and on the occasions when cleansing has been necessary, you have approved my action." Doberman's voice had taken on a rasping edge. "The neutralization of our warehouse in Chihuahua was inexcusable. Particularly since you were responsible for security measures, Number 12. Be advised that your neglect and conscious disregard for the safeguarding of the Chihuahua operation cannot go unpunished. I have decided on the appropriate action." Doberman observed the sweat shining on the face of Number 12. Under the table, Doberman's right hand came off his thigh, found the mechanism he sought, and pulled the switch.

Number 12 felt the colour drain from his face as the mahogany floor beneath him opened up and swallowed his body like an erupting earthquake.

The room lights dimmed and a large projection screen stealthily glided down from the ceiling and suspended itself midair at the far end of the table. Instantly, the image of Number 12 appeared on the screen as he began to swim in the ocean with the jerky, head-above-water stroke of the untutored. His eyes rolled wildly, as he desperately searched for a way of escape from something not defined,

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but obviously terrible.

Doberman beamed, the hands coming together in a clap which sounded like a pistol shot. "This area of the Pacific, between Los Arcos and Quimixto, is well-known for its large, schools of barracuda. With their fierce and aggressive nature and long, powerful jaws, many Mexican fishermen fear them more than the shark. I've always wanted to see a barracuda eat a man whole."

A hundred yards away, the two barracudas sensed a change in the ocean's rhythm. They did not see Number 12, nor yet did they smell him. Running within the length of their bodies were series of thin canals, filled with mucus and dotted with nerve endings, and these nerves detected vibrations and signaled their brains. The barracudas turned toward the man.

Number 12 continued to swim away from the Buenaventura, stopping now and then to check his position by the houses on the beach. The tide was slack, but he was tiring, so he rested for a moment, treading water, and then started for the shore.

The vibrations were stronger now, and the barracudas recognized prey. The sweeps of their tails quickened, thrusting their six- and eight-foot bodies, respectively, forward with a speed that agitated the other small ocean life.

The barracudas closed on Number 12 and hurtled past, a dozen feet the the side and six feet below surface. He stopped swimming as he felt a wave of pressure. Feeling nothing further, he resumed his lurching stroke.

The barracudas smelled him now, and the vibrations - eratic and sharp - signaled distress. They began to circle close to the surface. Their tails, thrashing back and forth,

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cut the glassy surface with a hiss.

For the first time, Number 12 felt fear, though he did not know why. He guessed that he was fifty yards from shore. He could see the line of white foam where the waves broke on the beach. A tingling heat generated through his limbs, urging him to swim faster.

The barracudas were about forty feet from the man, off to the side, when they turned suddenly to the left, dropped entirely below the surface, and, with two quick thrusts of their tails hurtled themselves on their prey. Number 12 was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness as one of the barracudas severed his right leg neatly off with teeth as straight and cutting as a razor.

His groping fingers found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. He knew that the warm, pulsing flow over his fingers in the chill water was his own blood. And pain and panic struck together.

The other barracuda, with its extended and forceful jaws, snapped shut around the man's screaming head, crushing the skull and flesh and brain into a jelly.

The entire process took less than fifteen minutes, yet the group of twelve men remained fascinated, hypnotized. The two barracudas cut back through the dissipating cloud of blood, opening and closing their mouths, seining for a random piece of corpse.

"An interesting lesson for us all." Doberman's hands came together again, and the screen rose to its hideaway in the ceiling, the lights flickered back on. Some of the men around the table nodded their understanding. As usual, Doberman's reasoning made good sense, although some were visibly shaken at what they had witnessed. Doberman always exercised his authority, meted out justice, in

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full view of the members. Now they ignored what had just happened, settled in their chairs. It was time to get back to business...

Doberman's soft, even voice broke the silence. He looked down the table at each man. "Our sources in London have informed me that the British Secret Service has sent their best agent to investigate Senor Tanner's disappearance."

The men around the table waited, an air of expectancy permeating the room.

"His name is Commander James Bond."

The faces around the table hardened as the name struck a chord in their memories; all turned toward Doberman.

At last it was Number 3 who spoke: "You want me to put out a contract on Bond. I have men to-"

Doberman cut him short. "It has been tried before. No. No contracts; no specialists. This Commander Bond has a weakness for women and wine and a trap has been devised accordingly by our best team. Like the barracudas, we will strike when the time is right."

There were murmurs of grim agreement from around the table before Doberman, glancing at his gold, diamond-studded Omega watch, spoke again. "In fact, our bait should have been taken by now. Soon, gentlemen, Commander Bond will become a very extinct species."

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-5-

The Woman in the White Spyder

JAMES BOND SAW THE TWO MEN APPROACHING. THEY were tall, lean, darkly tanned Mexican men with white shirts open to show hairy, muscular chests, and khaki slacks. One man was taller with a completely shaven head, wearing a single gold pierced earring in his left lobe; the other - like so many men in Puerto Vallarta - had straight black hair with streaks of grey and a thick black mustache. They were the same men who had tailed him from his hotel the day before, sizing him up.

Bond stopped, fixing the bald man with a look that said: No.

The man stopped, answered his stare steadily.

Bond noted that the stanch, impressive stance had not quavered. This was a man with good nerves.

Bond tossed three one-thousand-peso notes onto the restaurant table to pay for his lunch, and turned his back on the two men - whoever they were. He stepped into the

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crowded shop-lined street fronting the Vallarta Bar and Grill, facing the beach. He looked around distastefully, blinking at the sunlight and turned toward his black Gemballa Porsche in the row of parked cars across the street.

He felt them behind him. He supposed they were trying to shake him up now by tailing him so closely. He pointedly ignored them.

Bond unlocked the personalized Porsche and slid behind the wheel. With fuel costs running high, and the inevitability that they would continue to do so, he had allowed the beloved old Mark II Continental Bentley to go the way of its predecessor, the 4.5 liter Bentley. Some eyebrows were raised at his choice of a foreign car, when all the pressure was on to buy British, but Bond shrugged it off by pointing to the fact that it was a British specialist firm which carried out the particularly complex and sophisticated personalization - such as the electronic dash and climate control, TV monitor road atlas, cellular phone, built-in safe, refrigerated ice box, six-hundred watt, six-way control, twenty-five-speaker Clarion sound system, and several other pieces of mighty microchip magic.

The Multinational Control System (MCS) company, added some of their own standard refinements. There were certain security devices that one could not fail to notice - such as the electric-tinted bullet proof glass, steel-reinforced ram bumpers, heavy-duty Pirelli P-7 tires, self-sealing even after being hit by bullets, and dart-firing electric sideview mirrors. There were other highly-advance modifications such as twin heat-seeking missile launching systems mounted behind the park lights, smoke

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screen, oil slick sprayer, satellite navigation system, rear mine bay and Chapman Burglar Protection System. Major Boothroyd of the Q Branch would have approved, and probably envied, Bond's choice of such a specialized automobile. But because of the disbandment of the Double-0 section and severe financial restraint of the Q Branch, Boothroyd had resigned from the British Secret Service and accepted an offer from the C.I.A.

With a top speed of two-hundred-and-eighty-five kilometers, the Porsche now suited Bond's purposes. The four-hundred-horsepower turbocharged engine could easily achieve zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds.

The bald man opened the driver's-side door of Bond's car and bent down to speak, smirking. Bond, in turn, slammed the corner of the car door into the side of the man's mouth, breaking several teeth. He fell on his rear, clutching his mouth, while blood ran between his fingers.

Bond was out of the car in a single quick motion, turning to face the others...

But the two men had now become six. They had signaled four of their associates while Bond had his back turned.

Bond shrugged.

The five other men were just thirty feet from him. They rushed him, and it took them only three seconds to come within reach.

In those three seconds, James Bond took note of several aspects of the situation: first, the men were not reaching for weapons, and anyway were too thinly clad to conceal guns, though there might be knives in thigh sheaths; second, there was the space of about a yard and a half between the cars, through which the men could come - only two could get at him at once, unless they came around

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behind; third, there was a man across the street running toward a pay phone in a way that was the same all over the world, his manner all official and self-important because he was calling the police; fourth, there was an aluminum oar affixed by an elastic rope to the roof of the VW on his right, beside a rubber boat; and fifth, he would have just enough time to get hold of the oar and use it.

So there was no need to go for the reliable Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum in a trick compartment under the front seat of the Porsche.

He'd unsnapped the elastic rope, leaned back, slid the oar off the roof, braced - in a second and a half, a blur to the men approaching him.

And just as he angled the oar at the man in the lead, he told himself: Don't kill them. The policia will be on the way.

He jabbed twice with the blade of the oar, charitably opting for the bellies in place of the throats; two men doubled up; but one behind them managed to get hold of the oar. Bond waited until the man had a film grip, then yanked the oar so that the thug fell facedown. Bond twisted the oar away and cracked those three on the sides of their heads with it, wielding it like a long-shafted hammer, crack crack crack in quick succession. They slumped, stunned. The remaining two hesitated, crouching, wary of Bond now. Bond heard the warble of approaching sirens... and he noticed a young woman sitting in an open Lancia Flaminia Zagato Spyder double-parked across the street. She was watching the fight with an air of rueful amusement. When she saw him looking at her, she smiled and inclined her head. She was tanned with blonde hair that hung straight and simple to the final inward curl below the chin. There was something pleasantly innocent

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about her despite her obvious pleasure in watching the fight. It took Bond less than two seconds to take in all this. Deciding he wanted to continue amusing her, he began to replace the oar on the roof of the car it had come from; he hummed like a tourist preparing for a trip to the beach, deliberately turning his back to the two men crouching a few yards behind and to the left, about to spring on him - but never really ignoring them. Bond was too professional to be overconfident.

He strapped the oar in place under the elastic rope. Whistling, he wished he had a cigarette, mostly it would make him seem even more absurdly relaxed if he were to light a cigarette, as the crouching thugs jumped him.

They jumped - and he was ready: he watched them from the corners of his eyes. He caught the first with his elbow, pile-driving it, crunching the man squarely between the eyes; an unpleasant shiver went through the bones of his elbow, but nothing broke - except the bridge of his assailant's nose.

The man fell back across the three Bond had stunned earlier, who were just getting to their knees, flattening them once more; he was out cold. The last one swung at Bond's kidney's; Bond had swiveled when he hit the other with his elbow, so the blow meant for his kidneys fell on his tensed leathery abdominal muscles - he hardly felt it. He caught the kidney puncher on the point of his jaw with a basic round-house right - the man staggered backward. Bond was surprised: he should have fallen. Bond waited. The man reeled, scowled beneath his thick black mustache, blinked twice - and fell. He toppled backward, atop the others, who were once again trying to stand - carrying them back down. The man whose teeth Bond smashed had

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bolted.

Nerves singing with adrenaline, Bond looked around for the police. He saw the blue VW Thing patrol car, its toylike gum ball lights flashing down the street. There were four uniformed officers in it, looking for him. They didn't see him deal with his attackers - too many cars blocked their view. Just when they drew near, when Bond thought sure they'd see the stunned men groaning between the cars, the blonde in the white convertible stood up and dropped her bikini top. She let it fall away from two beautiful firm breasts. Shoulders thrown back, breasts thrusting with every movement, she waved at the police. She had their full attention, so when they pulled up, they didn't see Bond or his victims. The eyes of the four policia were fixed on her faultless and deeply V-ed breasts. "That way!" she shouted in Spanish. "Down the road, there... at the end of the street... in the market! A man hitting another man with an oar! It was awful! Quick! Get him!" She pointed them away from Bond. "Muchas gracias, Senorita!" they shouted in unison. Tearing their eyes away from her, they drove on, siren yammering.

Bond sighed in relief. Local police were a complication. He preferred to work around them. He went to the white Spyder and said, "That was decent of you, getting rid of the policia. You saved me a great deal of trouble."

"It was my pleasure, Senor." Her English was clear, only mildly accented. "You were outnumbered, and you defended yourself with grace... ah, it was impressive. You made them look like fools."

Bond shrugged. "They challenged me at my own sport. They're probably good at bullfighting, and the time I tried I almost ended up with a horn permanently growing out of

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my stomach." He smiled.

She laughed. A sweet, honest laugh. "Everyone is equal in the end, that is true. You know, someone may have noticed your license plate. I can give you a lift and you can send for your car when it's safer for you."

"Like me, the car can take care of itself. But thanks."

She seemed to hesitate. Then, as she replaced her bikini top - taking her time, Bond noted, though he tried not to stare - she said, "If you're in trouble and you need a secluded place to stay, there's a hotel in Careyes called Posada La Brissa. I recommend it."

And she drove off, with the sexy boom of the car's twin exhausts desperately seeking to seduce Bond into hot pursuit.

He returned to the Porsche, stepping over his assailants. They were just beginning to rise, rubbing their bruises. He settled back into the leather-covered Recaro seat, started the car, and reached for a switch on the dashboard which activated the revolving license plate mechanism.

[* * * * * *]

Wishing for a real cigarette, Bond drove between the ocean and the Sierra Madres. He took long, slow breaths to calm himself, but it didn't help much because he was thinking about the woman in the white Spyder. The woman with the blonde hair and blue eyes. And the big brown breasts. A little too much like Tracy, perhaps. And the memory brought a stab in his gut.

Tracy - his wife of only a few hours when Ernst Stavro Blofeld so viciously gunned her down on the Autobahn from Munich to Kufstein, as they were heading for their

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honeymoon. Bond thought of the other women who had played such a decisive role in his Service career. Vesper Lynd, who in death, had been molded like a stone effigy; Gala Brand, now Mrs. Vivian, with three kids and a nice house in Richmond - they exchanged Christmas cards but he had never seen her again after the Drax business; Honey Rider, Tiffany Case; Domino Vital; Solitaire; Pussy Galore; Mary Goodnight; the exquisite Kissy Suzuki. Again and again his thoughts turned to Tracy di Vecenzo - Tracy Bond.

He looked in his rearview mirror, expecting to see a police car. None yet. He drove lazily on, musing, following the curving coast road north. Watching the ocean to his right go from aquamarine to indigo as the night came on.

He realized that something was worrying him. Something just coming in the forefront of his mind. It was the way the car behaved. It swung out a bit too much on the curves. Just fractionally too much. It might be the tires, of course, or the alignment, but he hadn't noticed it before. It was as if there were too much weight in the car. Just as if... as if there were someone heavy crouched behind the front seat.

Bond was just about to hit the brakes hard, which he hoped would disorient whoever it was, throw the person off balance long enough for him to get his Walter PPK out, when someone pressed the cold muzzle of a gun against the back of his neck.

"All right, Limey. Stop here unless you want lead for dinner," said a deep, vaguely familiar voice.

Bond pulled over at the next shoulder, atop an ocean cliff.

He looked in the rearview mirror... but the man was

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positioned so that, looking in the mirror, all Bond could see was a big white-toothy grin.

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-6-

Lotta Head

"GET THE HELL OUT OF THE CAR, JAMES. VERY SLOWLY and cautiously."

Bond complied - he could almost feel the man's finger twitching on the trigger.

He slid out of the Porsche, wondering if, after all these years, this was how it would end: executed on the edge of a cliff and thrown into the Pacific. Well, it was a picturesque spot, really; little yellow wildflowers around the edge of the cliff; the shadows of the headlands reaching across white beaches; the first few stars showing above the deepening orange of the sunset...

Not a bad place to die.

But all the time he was trying to see the man in the reflection on the windshield, hoping he would see him look away just for a second, long enough to duck the gun muzzle, whirl, and kick.

Bond stood beside the car, glanced at the windshield,

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and for a moment could only stare with blank disbelief into the grinning, hawklike face of his old friend from the C.I.A. "Felix Leiter, you bastard," he finally said.

Leiter laughed, and the gun clattered on the hood of the car, thrown casually aside.

Exhaling windily, Bond turned and gazed at the tall thin American who came forward with a wide grin, his hand outstretched, to where Bond stood rooted with astonishment. "You crooked spy, how the hell are you?" Bond grasped the black glove which covered an artificial limb.

Leiter examined the Englishman affectionately. "I'm as mean as a rattlesnake going through menopause. They've fixed me up with the latest thing in artificial limbs. I've got an incredible new hand, which can do anything. I spend a lot of time shooting and practicing quick-draw techniques like Roy Rogers."

In a split-second, Bond relived the time in his life he would rather banish into oblivion - the time when Felix had lost an arm and a leg, as well as suffering other damage which called for years of work by plastic surgeons. James Bond often blamed himself for Felix Leiter's predicament, though they had both been after a black gangster whose sadistic madness was an almost unique danger. Buonaparte Ignace Gallia: Mr. Big. In any case, as Felix would have been the first to admit, he was lucky to be alive at all after the shark attack engineered by Mr. Big; while Bond took consolation in the fact that, in the end, he had put the gangster away for good - and in the most unpleasant way possible, letting the punishment fit the crime. Bond shook his head ruefully. "Goddamn, Felix, you've got a bizarre sense of humor!"

Leiter's laugh still had the fun and impetuosity that

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Bond had always warmed to, trusted, and admired. He leaned back against the car, crossing his arms. "It was not humor, James, old buddy, not entirely - I was afraid you would break my face first and then look to identify this face later, you see? I had to get you out of the car and out of arm's reach before I felt safe. I know you to be a hair-trigger man, James Bond."

"What the hell's the idea of hiding in the car?"

Leiter laughed and took two Camels from his shirt pocket. He offered one to Bond, who accepted happily. Bond lit both cigarettes with his battered black Ronson lighter. Leiter blew grey smoke at the ocean. "Ah, James, it was partly a little humor, yes - you know I love my little jokes. But you know, I sent those beach bums to look for you, to ask you to come to see me. Hell, that's the only reason there were so many of them - so they could split up and find you quickly, you see? But when one found you, he called the others over, and... he misunderstood me, poor boy. He was supposed to ask you politely to come."

"All you lying Texans are alike. You must have been nearby. You knew where I was - you were hoping that little `misunderstanding' would happen."

Leiter showed his big white teeth in a grin; the last rays of the setting sun caught a glimpse of metal in his arm and glimmering on it. "Ah, well, perhaps it's true. Those boys have annoyed me so much, strutting about Vallarta, and it was so amusing to watch."

"And you sneaked into the backseat while they had me occupied," Bond snorted. "For a moment you almost had me feeling a little nervous."

"Nervous, I'd say!" Leiter laughed scornfully. "You were as nervous as a whore in a church!"

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Bond looked at the American with delight and added up his impressions. There were imperceptible scars below the hairline above the right eye that suggested a good deal of grafting, but otherwise Leiter looked in reasonable shape. The steady eyes were undefeated, the straw-coloured hair had no hint of grey in it and there was none of the bitterness of a cripple around the mouth.

Bond threw down the butt of the Camel, got in the driver's seat, closed the door, and started the motor. He sat hunched behind the wheel, glowering up at Leiter. "Get in, goddamn you; get in and tell me why you're here."

As Leiter walked to the passenger's side of the car, Bond noticed that his old friend had a decided limp. There was also a hint of reticence in Leiter's manner, and Bond felt this had something to do with him, Bond, and perhaps with Leiter's present activities. Certainly not, he thought as he threw the car into reverse, with Leiter's injuries. Then Bond shifted gears, swung into the road and screeched off down the highway...

[* * * * * *]

"Don't tell me they've put you on this job?" Bond said as they cruised inland toward Careyes.

Leiter slit open a fresh pack of Camels with his thumbnail and handed it to Bond. "You said it. That's exactly what they done. What a break! At least it is for me. C.I.A. thought we did all right together on the Scaramanga job, so they hauled my ass away from an assignment in Paris to the Joint Intelligence people in Washington and here I am. I'm sort of liaison between the Central Intelligence Agency and our friends at the Drug Enforcement Agency. It's their case, of course - at least the American

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end of it is - but as you know there are some big multinational angles which are the C.I.A.'s territory, so we're running it jointly. Now you're here, James, to handle the British end and the team's complete."

"Well, I'm damned," said Bond, once again lighting one cigarette for himself and another for Leiter. "Of course, that old devil M. never told me. He just gives one the facts. Never tells one any good news. I suppose he thinks it might influence one's decision to take a case or not. Anyway, it's grand to be working together again."

Leiter sighed and exhaled the Camel's grey smoke through his clenched teeth. "Sorry to hear about Bill. I know you two were the best of friends."

Bond's eyes clouded slightly, as though he had suffered a quick physical pain. When he spoke, the voice was low and husky. "I'm here for only one reason, Felix, and that's to kill Klaus Doberman."

Leiter raised his eyebrows. "That son of a bitch? Now, there categorically, I've got to admit, is a man who deserves death, and quickly. The trouble is, he is so goddamn wealthy and he uses his money to keep himself well protected. He's got the best bodyguards in the world, they say. And he himself is a formidable fighter. Always armed, always suspicious."

Bond glanced at Leiter. "The best bodyguards in the world, you say? I suppose he's hired Chen and Huggins?"

Leiter nodded.

Bond was secretly pleased. Suddenly the boredom, for months eating at him like rust eating the hull of a ship, had vanished. "I'll probably get my ass blown away," he reflected.

"I'll cover your ass - from a safe distance." Leiter said.

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"You always were a lot of help," Bond answered sarcastically.

"Major Boothroyd asked if you'll need the usual equipment?"

Bond frowned and shook his head in bewilderment. "Times have certainly changed, Felix. We'll talk about the equipment over drinks. I have to think about it. Depends on where Doberman's holed up, for one thing. Is he at his mountaintop ranch or on the yacht?"

"He's on the Buenaventura anchored a few hundred meters offshore, not far from here."

"And where are you staying?"

"The Hotel Plaza Vallarta."

"You're checking out of that fleabag," Bond demanded.

"Where are we staying?"

"At the hotel in Careyes called the Posada La Brissa." Bond smiled to himself, daydreaming of the blonde in the white Spyder convertible. "It comes highly recommended."

Leiter laughed. "Same old James. What's her name?"

[* * * * * *]

The next morning, as Bond made arrangements at the front desk of Posada La Brissa to take a room for two weeks, he saw the woman. The woman with the deep blue eyes and quick wits and perfect sun-ripened breasts. Today she wore a sheer gold bikini and a white scarf holding her blonde hair back. She strolled past him without a glance, he thought: Good. Don't get distracted from your assignment. He signed over a traveler's check, then turned away from the front desk and headed for the door. He was mildly surprised to find her at the door waiting for him.

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Don't get distracted. He smiled at her and said, "Good morning." And putting on his sunglasses, he stepped past her out the door. He paused to look around for Leiter. Damn him, he was late... The hotel was a sprawling Spanish structure with white stucco and roofed with red tiles; it was set atop a low ridge and surrounded by palm trees and cacti with red blooms. To the left was a small goldfish pond, the water deep green with algae, lilies opened white on its surface.

"Lilies are sexy, don't you think?" the woman asked him casually, coming up from behind.

"Yes, they are. Where did you learn to speak English so well?"

"My parents. They're Americans. They own the place. What beach are you going to?"

"What?" Bond was startled.

"You're wearing a bathing suit and a T-shirt - you look very macho in them - and I'm wearing a bathing suit, so why don't we swim?"

"Ah, I'd love to. I can't though. Got to see a gentleman about a boat." He started to walk away into the constantly churning background of the Mariachi with its music of love between men and women.

"Bond!" the woman called after him.

He came to an abrupt halt and swung to face her.

The fear showed in her face - when she saw what was in his.

"Who are you?" he demanded, his fingers closing an the butt of the Walther PPK hidden in his rolled beach towel. "How did you know my name?" He'd signed the register Charles Crawford.

The beach towel was tucked under Bond's left arm; he'd

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slipped his right hand into its folds.

How could she be working for them, he thought. But almost anyone could be.

"I know your name," she said haltingly, staring at his beach towel, "because..." she lowered her voice. Glanced around. They stood on the sun-washed terrace between the lobby doors and the parking lot. "Because my father has bugged some of the rooms. He's a little perverted, my father, I'm afraid. He likes to listen when people are making love. There's one in your room, and I listened when you went in there to talk to the other man called Felix. I wanted to find out what you're doing around here. I heard him call you Bond. And he's going to bring some guns today, and some spying equipment, and you're doing something secret. And it's not safe."

Bond relaxed a little and took his hand away from the gun. He believed her. He'd have to clean the microphones from his room immediately. What to do about the woman? Most men in his position would have killed her. But Bond wasn't like most "professionals." Still, last night in Bond's room, Leiter had mentioned the location of the temporary anchorage of the Buenaventura. So she'd know the objective, in a general way. If he ditched her, she'd probably follow him there, if he was any judge of character.

There was no choice - he had to enlist her.

Or was it, he wondered, just an excuse to get to know her more intimately?

"What's your name?"

"My name's Lotta."

"Lotta what?"

She smiled beguilingly. "Lotta Head."

Bond gave her an astonished look. "You are joking, of

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course?"

"No, I'm serious. My father named me after the wild night of lovemaking between he and my mother in which I was conceived."

"Your mother must have made your father a very happy man," Bond replied, trying to suppress a smile.

She moved closer to him and stood so near he could smell the Chanel No. 5; he thought he might fall into her deep blue eyes. "Bond... let me help you."

"You don't even know what I'm doing. You might not like it."

"Then tell me and let me be the judge."

He shook his head. "Not now. Maybe later, Lotta. If you promise not to get in my way today, I'll tell you tomorrow."

"Get in your way! You're a sexist, Mr. Bond! I would be a big help to you!"

"Please call me James. And besides, anyone, any gender, would get in my way. Even Felix won't be in close when... Look, forget it. But I'll talk to you tonight, okay?"

Leiter was just driving up, watching the scene with open amusement from the air-conditioned interior of the Porsche.

"See you later, Lotta." And he got in the car with Leiter. "You bring everything, Felix?"

Leiter gestured toward Lotta who was strutting back into the hotel. "I think I should ask that young lady if you've got everything."

"I haven't had any complaints so far," Bond answered, smirkingly. Then his disposition returned to a more serious nature. "You didn't answer my question."

"All that had arrived from Major Boothroyd. Some will take a couple of more days."

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"I may not need them. I may get lucky and finish today. Let's head for the anchorage and have a closer look at the Buenaventura."

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-7-

Twice Removed

IT WAS MONDAY AFTERNOON: THE CURVING WHITE sand beach of Careyes wasn't crowded. The few inhabitants that took advantage of the unspoiled environment were sunbathing or relaxing; horseback riding or parasailing. At the far end of the secluded beach were thousands of leatherback turtles which came each summer for centuries to lay their eggs.

Leiter parked the Porsche in an isolated corner of the shady tree-edged parking lot. Bond took the gargantuan suitcase from the trunk and with a quiet pleasure looked over its contents.

There were two disassembled rifles, one submachine gun, two pistols, and various special-purpose commando knives. The rifles were a Heckler & Koch FN-FAL semiautomatic assault rifle using 7.62 ammunition, and an M-LA Match rifle; the Match rifle was a World War II-vintage semiautomatic, the more accurate of the two, with

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very close tolerances and sniper-scope attachment. Beneath the rifles were an Ingram Mac 10 submachine gun, 9mm, not much bigger than a Colt .45, and the pistols, an AMT .22 backup pistol so small Bond could hide it in the palm of his hand, and a.25 caliber automatic Beretta. With its extended spur on the magazine, the Beretta had snagged in Bond's jacket during his Russian assignment. And just before his encounter with Dr. No., M. and Major Boothroyd made him turn in the pistol, calling it a "lady's" gun. But after fifteen years, Bond was loathe to give up his faithful Beretta for the Walther PPK 7.6mm. The Beretta was light. Discreet. And damned effective at close range. Simply put, it got the job done. Bond's Beretta was like a natural extension of his arm, doubtlessly increasing the lethality of the weapon in his hands.

Bond stared at the Beretta with blank disbelief; "So you even got the Beretta - great piece of iron. Flatter projectory, better penetration, and its got that extra round. Thanks, Felix old buddy," Bond said to his associate. "How did you get everything so quickly?"

Leiter laughed. "I already had most of it. Major Boothroyd knows what you go for. He said for you to try to be a little less than your usual frivolous self, 007, and treat the equipment with equal care instead of equal contempt."

"One fool deserves another, I guess. He always found this business of equipping me in the field highly irregular," Bond snorted. "How about the tricks of the trade?"

"The radar equipment and night-seers will take longer, but here is the soundscope. The small belt-attachment variety," Leiter explained as he handed Bond a small black object that looked much like the detached lens of a 35mm camera.

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Bond toyed with the gadget in the palm of his hand. "Come on. Let's go hear what Mr. Doberman has to say."

[* * * * * *]

The beach was horseshoe-shaped, cupped by two tree-thatched headlands; the water was translucent blue and fairly calm. A couple of cabin cruisers were anchored about forty yards out, and at the mouth of the little bay the Buenaventura rocked at anchor - about a hundred yards from where Bond and Leiter sat on a boulder, in the shade of a viney cliff.

Bond peered through a pair of rugged compact binoculars supplied by Major Boothroyd. The secret for their brightness and power was precision-ground roof prisms which channeled light through a condensed optical path. They magnified distant objects ten times with remarkably high resolution and a wide field of view (262 feet at 1000 yards). And despite their shirt-pocket size, the binoculars' innovative long eye relief design provided increased distance between them and the eyes - for maximum viewing comfort, even while wearing glasses or sunglasses. Magnesium flouride coated lenses blocked reflected glare. A vulcanized rubber armor protected the strong aluminum alloy housing. With a precise center wheel focusing and fold back rubber eyecups for flexibility and comfort, the binoculars only weighed twelve ounces.

"I see three guys on deck, two of them armed, looking like pros, one some sort of deckhand. No sign of Doberman." He passed the binoculars to Leiter.

"They might well be ashore," mused Leiter. "Or still asleep belowdecks - that's the biggest yacht I've seen since I left Texas."

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Bond chuckled and glanced at his gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer. Nine-thirty A.M. "Yeah, they're probably late sleepers."

"Are you taking the scuba equipment?" Leiter asked, still eyeing the yacht.

"No, just a mask and snorkel - if that's Chen on deck, he'll keep his eye on the water. If he sees something that looks like scuba bubbles, he'll get suspicious... And there are lots of people swimming with snorkels here. So the guards are used to that... How long they here for?"

"Perhaps another day. Then they go to his ranch. A small castle, really, on a tip of the Sierra Madres overlooking the ocean. A fortification - harder to get to Doberman there."

Bond's eyes narrowed with a hint of revenge. "Then I'll get him here."

He stood, and strapped on a belt containing a commando knife and the small soundscope, a device for knowing what's on the other side of a wall - or a hull. He pulled on the surgical-grade, lightweight diving mask, and equally lightweight, flexible fins, bit down on the self-draining snorkel, and slipped into the water.

He entered another world. It was cool and blue - four or five shades of blue - and shot through the shivering light shafts. The outcropping of volcanic rock was pitted, crusted with mussels and sea urchins, waving with purple and lime-green seaweed, flowery with sea anemones. Schools of yellow-stripped fish grazed the seaweed; clouds of purple minnow-sized fish broke up the light confetti.

Bond enjoyed the swim, skimming along near the surface, feeling almost as if he were flying, so effortlessly did he move through the balm-cool waters. The new diving

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mask and snorkel represented the cutting edge in underwater wear technology. Molded of allergy-tested silicone and comfortable, they were virtually immune to the effects of sunlight, saltwater and age. The mask was anatomically curved and its low-volume design insured easy clearing. Optical-grade lenses were angled at ninety-degrees to minimize distortion and reflection. The snorkel had a large diameter one-way valve which automatically purged ninety-percent of trapped water when Bond surfaced, reducing fatigue. The tube-tab mouthpiece swiveled three-hundred-and-sixty-degrees and the collapsible tooth lugs conformed to individual bite, eliminating jaw fatigue. Its elastomeric barrel was as flexible as neoprene, but three times more tear resistant. The fins were engineered to generate the greatest kicking power with the least effort. Unlike a stiff, heavy rubber fin, Bond's fins were molded polyurethane which caused the blades to fold down on the upkick to reduce water resistance, and snap open for full power on the downstroke. Lighter than rubber and only weighing twenty-four ounces, the fins were so comfortable thay made Bond feel like he was not wearing anything on his feet at all.

There was nothing sinister in the waters - except men. Two snorkelers swam side by side, with spearguns in hand, their skins ghostly blue-white underwater, about twenty yards off. But they were looking for fish - their spearguns weren't the big "industrial-sized" sort men used to hunt other men in the sea.

Bond swam with occasional kicks, strokes of his arms: he'd kick, stroke, and coast. He'd move through the grottoes, over patches of rocks and spreads of white sand that rippled with the wave-shaped rainbow patterns

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refracted from the surface. Gradually the water got a little more turbulent, as he passed the sheltering arms of the headlands. He could see a white fizzing above and left where the surf smacked the rocks, marking the end of the bay water. A shadow loomed: the hull of the Buenaventura.

The yacht was fairly new, there were only a few barnacles on the white-painted hull. He swam close, hoping he was right that the guards, if they spotted his snorkel tube, were used to seeing them. But maybe not this far out from shore. He shrugged off that worry and dived, holding his breath. He kicked to the rudder, held on there with one hand, with the other removing the soundscope from his belt and holding it on the hull. He pressed the button on the scope's side and moved forward to a position just under the tea deck, where he repeated the process. And again just under the bow. His lungs nearly bursting, he kicked off from the hull, heading toward shore. He tucked the scope into his belt.

Later, ashore, he'd read off the sonar signals recorded by the soundscope. They'd tell him how many rooms there were in the boat, about how thick the hull was - and how many people were belowdeck. The sound waves bounced around inside the boat, and some returned, altered; from the difference between the original send and the return signal, it was possible to calculate fairly closely what the sonar waves had come into contact with.

Bond swam to the surface about twenty yards from the boat, sputtered, and cleared his snorkel. Biting down an the mouthpiece, he kicked off once more toward shore, thinking: Maybe I'll blow a small hole in her, sink her, give it time so everyone can get safely in a boat. And then I can separate the innocents from the targets once they're ashore.

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Maybe tonight.

He paused in his swimming, floating to listen: he'd heard a sound he didn't like.

It took him a moment to identify it. He had to separate it from the various eerie noises and the rasping, repetitive sound of his own breathing. There: the sound of an outboard motor, coming his way. From behind. From Doberman's yacht.

They'd seen his snorkel, and someone had become suspicious. Probably Chen, who'd decided it was unlikely a snorkel swimmer would wander so far from shore. Maybe he'd recognized Bond through binoculars when he'd come to the surface to clear his lungs.

Bond looked over his shoulder - the boat was speeding toward him, just ten yards behind. He veered off sharply to the left. The boat changed course to intersect him. It was him they were after, all right.

Bond spate out the snorkel, took a deep breath, and dived. He swam furiously to the right, as deeply as he could bear it. He heard a thud-shush and looked up - the boat was nearly overhead, idling, and someone had dived overboard. The diver was an ominous silhouette against the scattered light of the surface. Whoever it was wore a scuba tank, flippers, face mask - and carried one of the "special" spearguns.

The sort used for hunting men.

Bond dived deeper, till the pressure brought a pounding in his temples, and found a turret-shaped outcropping of volcanic rock. He swam hastily, his lugs beginning to ache, to put the jutting pitted black rock between himself and the man with the speargun.

He looked up, spotted the diver making straight for him;

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the diver was just five yards off, coming from above at a forty-five-degree angle. Bond drew his commando knife and looked around, wondering if he could outswim the other man, and thinking: One year out of action, doing calisthenics and keeping my hand at the firing range and thinking it was enough. It wasn't.

Now the killer in the red bathing suit, speargun gleaming dully in his hand, was close enough so his face was visible through the glass of the diving mask. Bond knew him - he could see the scar. He'd put it there with a broken bottle one night, when his other weapons had been taken. Paul Huggins. Former British Secret Service agent. Former friend. Former SPECTRE hit man. Now a traitor and bitter enemy.

Huggins was only three yards off now, and raising the speargun to shoot past the rock. He knew it was Bond, and he probably looked forward to killing the man who'd taken his eye. He was grinning under the breathing apparatus.

Bond could see Huggins' finger twitching on the trigger - and the speargun spat bubbles and steel. Bond jerked aside, timing it. The spear hit the rock close behind him. With spears, unlike bullets, there was a moment for an artful man to dodge.

Bond snatched up the spear with one hand, his long commando knife in the other, and kicked off from the rock, lunging through the water at Huggins' torso.

Huggins' speargun carried three twenty-inch spears, and one had been shot. He cocked the gun to shoot the second as Bond closed with him. Bond angled to come from Huggins' left, his blind side. A spear was pointing directly at his liver, from within arm's reach. Bond brought his knee up to deflect it, just as Huggins fired. He caught

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the spear mid-shaft with his knee, turning it aside, and he felt a biting pain at his ear.

Bond - eyesight obscured by dark splotches as his brain begged for oxygen, his lungs screaming - jabbed the captured spear at Huggins' side. It deflected from the scuba tank as Huggins twisted to get at him. Bond dropped the spear, swung the knife at Huggins' throat - but the water resistance prevented his moving swiftly. Huggins brought the speargun up to block the knife. They were too close now for the speargun to be useful for anything else.

Bond clawed at Huggins' breathing apparatus, got his fingers around the rubber tube, and yanked.

The rubber mouthpiece came free, vomiting bubbles. Huggins got hold of Bond's wrist, tried to bend it backward, and with his other arm brought the speargun in close, hoping to tilt it at a usable angle.

Bond was near blacking out from lack of air. He had to finish it now. He dragged the knife away from the speargun, giving Huggins an opportunity to point the spear at him. But before Huggins could find a shooting angle, Bond had driven his knife through the rubber fitting at the side of Huggins' face mask, digging the blade into the killer's remaining eye.

Bond thought he heard the man scream - in the water the scream was just a muffled whimper followed by an eruption of bubbles.

Instinctively Huggins' dropped his speargun and let go to claw at his gore-spouting eye socket. The water in several shades of blue became, in a cloud around them, a single shade of red.

Bond withdrew the knife and plunged it once more - this time into Huggins' throat. He thrashed, deepening the

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blood cloud's shade of red, and Bond kicked free of him, heading to the surface.

Yes, dammit, he thought, the son-of-a-bitch is dead now.

Bond broke from the water, gasping for air and watching out for the enemy boat.

Funny - he didn't see it...

He swam toward shore. Behind him, Paul Huggins' body bobbed to the surface, floating limply.

Bond swam quickly to the nearest outcropping of rock beneath the headland's outermost cliff face. Breathing raggedly, he clambered up onto the boulders and made his way, slipping now and then, to the little path that led up into the palm trees, around to the right of the cliff.

Minutes later he was walling along the patch in the shade of the palm trees, cursing himself. You blew it, you blew it, you blew it.

Doberman would be warned now. He might leave the country entierly. Bond shrugged. Hell he'd follow.

He turned a bend in the trail, saw Leiter limping toward him. He was carrying Bond's towel, and shaking his head. "Goddamn, James, looks like somebody wanted to see how your ear tasted."

Bond looked at Leiter, was struck by the odd look on his scarred face. Leiter seemed to be looking at someone behind Bond - someone he wasn't happy to be seeing, judging by his expression.

Bond casually reached out and took the rolled towel from Leiter. He tucked it unconcernedly under his left arm - and slipped his right hand into the towel, gripping the butt of the Beretta wrapped it in, thinking: The boat must have come ashore somewhere. Whoever was in it hid in the rocks, then followed me up the trail to look for a secluded

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spot...

They stood between high boulders in a copse of palms. A secluded spot.

Very slowly Bond turned till he found he was staring into the muzzle of a submachine gun in the capable hands of a professional killer.

Bond smiled, and he hoped it was a "disarming" smile. "Well, hello, Chen," he said. "Good to see you. On the Mexican Riviera for a little R and R? Or..." he glanced at the submachine gun. It was an Israeli Uzi, ostensibly - but Chen always customized his weapons. He'd probably reset the sights, updated the feeding mechanism. Bond always admired Chen's handiness as a gunsmith. "Or for a little target practice?"

Bond raised his eyes to meet Chen's, and it wasn't much different from looking down the barrel of a gun. You felt, looking into Chen's almond slits of eyes, unwavering as steel, that you were looking down the double barrels of a shotgun. The rest of Chen's face was less threatening, marked by weather, deeply tanned from the Mexican sun. Bond hadn't seen him in four years, he hadn't aged much. Must be about forty by now. He was clothed in black from head to toe in the ancient Ninja uniform. Over one shoulder he'd slung a canvas bag, in case he needed to conceal the machine gun. The only visible scars were on Chen's knuckles.

"You know why I'm here," Chen said softly. He stood about two yards from Bond. He was a head shorter, so the gun was tilted up: a twitch of his finger and it would stitch half a dozen holes across Bond's chest. His hands were rock steady. He smiled faintly. His eyes flicked past Bond to Leiter. "Your friend had better stand real still. If he

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thinks I'm going to miss him because I'm going to shoot you first..."

"He won't miss, Felix. No matter how fast you jump," Bond said calmly. He said it calmly, but his heart was pounding; he seemed to hear his blood sizzling in his veins. He had to stay externally cool - if he tensed, it might make Chen nervous. And Chen's gun was never on safety - he filed the safety mechanism off his guns. "I assure you," Bond went on, playing for time, "The guy can handle that thing. And don't forget that deep down inside his pockets he has weapons like spikes and throwing stars which he can throw as fast as-"

"That's enough stalling, Bond," Chen clipped.

"You're not going to blow me away, Chen. You're not that kind of mercenary. You're the soldier kind. Not the butcher kind." But Bond was no longer sure of that. He'd heard that Chen had gone sour on life, had stopped caring about whom he worked for or what he did for them. And the fact he worked for Klaus Doberman now was proof.

"I could have killed you before you turned around," Chen pointed out. "I would have. But Doberman wants you brought back alive, if possible. You pissed him off, killing Huggins. He valued Huggins."

Maybe someone would come up the trail, Bond thought. Chen wouldn't want to blow his boss's cover by killing them in front of a crowd. Sooner or later the police would connect it with the big yacht. But if no one came, Chen might blow them away and then hide the bodies in the brush.

Chen snarled. "Are you coming, or do I bring your head back to show Doberman I got 007 for him?"

"So that's the way it is?"

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"That's right."

Bond dropped his smile. "Now don't get jumpy - because I'm not going to use the gun unless you make me."

Chen didn't ask: What gun? His eyes flicked to the rolled towel under Bond's arm and to Bond's right hand hidden in the folds of that towel.

"Now you're wondering if I'm bluffing," Bond began. "Well..."

"Now that you mention it," Chen said wearily, "I can see the outline of the gun in the towel. But it isn't pointed at me."

"No. But you used to make bets with people about my reflexes. Remember that little bet in Hong Kong? You bet a guy I could shoot three dimes with a.45 before they hit the ground. Remember? You tossed three dimes in the air over your head - you trusted me that much, because they weren't far over your head. And-"

"I remember," Chen had to grin.

"Want to bet now that I couldn't whip this gun around and drill you before your little Uzi puts an end to me? Sure, you'd hit me first - but I'm betting that in the two seconds before I died I'd plug you. What do you say?" Bond's voice was dead soft. "Fifty bucks?"

Chen's grip on the gun tightened; his knuckles went white; a muscle jumped in his cheek. The tension would have screamed if it had a mouth.

Bond heard Leiter shift uneasily. Dammit, Felix, Bond thought, stay still! Don't move or you'll make him go for it!

Very slowly, Chen lowered the submachine gun. He smiled crookedly. "Bond, you are a dirty son-of-a-bitch. I guess you know it goes both ways. You try to use that pistol..."

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Bond nodded. "I know. You'd get me." He took a step backward.

Chen smiled grimly. "You think too much of yourself, Bond." And with that he backed behind a boulder and was gone from sight.

Bond and Leiter hurried down the trail and were quickly among the crowd on the beach. Someone was shouting that there was a dead man floating in the surf. Huggins' body. How could Doberman explain that? Probably pretend the guy had never been with him.

They trudged back to the Porsche, Leiter looked nervously at the brush. "He could have skirted us, could be waiting for us at the car, James. Chen's like a bad Bruce Lee."

"I don't think so," Bond said. "It was sort of understood a truce till we got back to our home camps. But that'll be the last truce. He won't give me another chance for another Mexican standoff. He'll tell Doberman I got away - and then he'll tell him all about me." Bond sighed. "So Doberman will be ready."

"He'll go to his ranch," Leiter said, nodding.

"It'd be smarter for him to leave the country."

"He's got an important meeting here within the next few days and he'll consider himself well-protected in a fortress like his ranch."

"The funny thing about a fortress," Bond said, getting into the Porsche, "is that it can trap you as well as protect you. And assaulting fortified positions is one of my specialities."

"Yes, indeed," Leiter said, chuckling. "I've seen you at work with the reluctant ladies. They don't remain reluctant for long."

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Bond grinned and thought about Lotta. There was nothing reluctant about her. But there was lots of charm. She probably had some surprises in store for him. Women usually did.

"What's this meeting Doberman's waiting for?" Bond asked as Leiter started the car.

"I haven't been able to find out - except that it involves a representative from another country and not a member of the cartel. Prehaps a new business partner, eh?"

The car tooled smoothly between the hills, whipping around ribboning curves on its way back to Posada La Brissa. Bond didn't say a word till they got there. He was brooding on strategy. He was completely caught up in the campaign against Doberman. He'd follow his quarry to the ends of the earth if he had to.

When they arrived at the hotel, Bond said, "See that those goods are delivered to me tomorrow, Felix. And find out what you can about Doberman's movements - and that ranch of his."

Leiter nodded. He knew from years of intelligence experience that disarming your opponent was one part fast footwork and four parts thorough homework.

[* * * * * *]

Thousands of miles across the Pacific, a massive Soviet MIL MI-24 helicopter streaked down with unbelievable grace onto the frigid wasteland of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Northeastern Russia.

The side door slid open - the rotors whining slowly to a halt - and three elite Soviet Airborne Division soldiers appeared.

And then General Leo Gogol, head of the KGB and M.'s

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counterpart, stepped out into the bone-chilling cold. All he could see beneath the grey sky was ice - ice so hard his boots did not even leave a trail of footprints. He was dressed for the Arctic conditions normal to the Siberian submarine base. Five layers of wool and oilskin enclosed him.

At once the Soviet group formed ranks and snapped to attention, saluting. General Gogol studied them critically, walking past them on his way to the water-filled concrete dock, one of the many specially-built to shelter Typhoon-class submarines from the region's harsh elements.

As the customary cold north wind blew stronger, General Gogol quickly clambered down the ladder with the usual awkwardness of a landsman. He was more than anxious to leave behind the major wind storm that had savaged Moscow and the monotony of his official administrative duties.

On the dock's edge, a collection of sailors and dockyard workers watched in stolid Russian fashion, without a cheer or wave, as the choppy waters of the channel began to lap over the sub's spherical bow.

"Increase speed to one-third," the Captain ordered his navigator.

General Gogol stripped himself of the cumbersome outer garments and settled contentedly into his small bunk. He did not resent the close confinement aboard submarines, something that many men could not tolerate. To him, the cubicle was much less claustrophobic than the bureaucratic and political atmosphere of his office at Number Thirteen on the Sretenka Ulitas in Moscow. Although regimes and leaders changed behind the grey walls of the Kremlin, Gogol had managed to remain intact.

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He smiled to himself. The submarine's thirty-thousand-ton bulk accelerated slowly, diving deeper and then leveling at the proper depth in the Pacific. Within a few days, General Gogol would be in the sunny and tropical climate of Central America, where he would conduct business as usual with Klaus Doberman and supervise the overdue elimination of James Bond.

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-8-

Old Enemies Are Hard to Break

THE BAR OF THE POSADA LA BRISSA WAS AN ATTEMPT to reproduce what the Mexicans thought of as an "American-style cocktail bar," which meant it was dark and tackily furnished, with a small mirror ball throwing off shards of light as it rotated in the silence of the deserted dance floor.

The bar was empty except for Lotta. She looked as if she'd been forced to swallow something bitter. A great deal of something bitter. Wearing a light blue bathrobe, she sat on a stool scowling, obviously arguing with the bartender. "I'm sorry, senorita, but your father said you were to have no more than one drink a day from-"

Lotta swore at him in Spanish, and swung to face Bond, who was grinning on his way to the pool, where he ordered a bottle of Clicquot and two glasses from the poolside waiter.

Lotta strode past him to the pool and dropped her

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bathrobe, exposing a black-and-white striped bikini that was sinfully tight at the bust and hips. They were alone at the poolside except for the waiter.

"You want to take a glass of champagne with you into the swimming pool?" Bond said, holding a fizzing glass under her nose. She hesitated, then took the crystal champagne glass and drained it.

"Come for a swim, James," she beckoned to him bright-eyed.

Bond casually tossed his dark-blue beach jacket and leather sandals to the side. Her subtle, but profound, sensuality whipped at his senses.

They swam, and sunned, and talked. She was only twenty-eight, it turned out. Her father still kept her on a tight rein, though. In some matters her father was very old-fashioned. Lotta Head was treated like a fragile piece of China. Private tutors when she was a kid, trips abroad only when accompanied by her father. She'd had two years at Princeton, but never returned - she wanted to be a performer. A singer and songwriter. She played the violin. She liked skiing and snorkeling. She'd taken second prize in an amateur photography competition - photos of Mexican peasants scrounging for morsels of food in garbage cans in Mexico City. Bond told her a little about himself - only a little.

"Where's your violin?" he asked as the evening came on.

"You'd like me to play for you?" she laughed. "My father's gone - I'll play for you in my room. I've got my own suite."

Later, they sat in candlelight drinking chilled white wine. She played the violin, and he was relieved to be able to say honestly, "You've got a real talent." Three songs

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later she put the violin aside and looked at him, waiting, waiting like a predatory night animal in the flickering candlelight.

Bond took the cue. Holding her right hand, he said amorously, "This bit of flesh in the palm of your hand below your thumb, the Cayman Islanders call it the Love Mount. They say a girl's good in bed if her Love Mount is well developed." Then he added, passionately, "Like yours."

Lotta pretended to wrestle him for a while, giggling, playing as if she would try to throw him off; he let her nearly win free. Moving almost with a life of its own, her left hand caressed inside of his bathing-suit zipper. And began to work skillfully to open it.

He burned hard in her hand. Her caresses became more daring.

He took her by the shoulders, lifted her off her feet, swept her onto the bed. She gasped, and opened her arms for him; he threw himself onto her, feeling her now naked body under him, her legs entwining, her fingers feathery on the back of his neck, her lips parting under his. He forced his tongue into her mouth, and she moaned - and he took her, and took her.

[* * * * * *]

"Why should I risk your life just to satisfy your curiosity?" Bond said, sipping coffee. He glanced at Lotta, was now surprised to see she was sulking. "Believe me, you'll read about it in the paper. Eventually." He put the coffee cup aside, got out of bed, and dressed himself.

"Where are you going?"

"To open some presents." He kissed her good-bye.

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The "presents" were waiting for him in his room. Three large wooden crates. He used a screwdriver to pry them open, one by one, after inspecting them to see if they'd been tampered with - no, Leiter's code seal was there, in wax at the joints.

In the first crate were fragmentation grenades, flares, tracer ammunition, and the real prize - a pair of night-seeing infrared glasses with radar accessory. The glasses combined several functions; held by attachable grip, they became something like the radar gun used by highway patrolmen to check speeds. He could use them to know how far away a moving vehicle was, in precisely what direction it was going, and how fast - they were useful in calculating for anti-tank guns and other field weapons.

In the second crate was a portable missile launcher and four Eagle-Eye missles. Very expensive prototype models - Major Boothroyd had definitely outdone himself this time. Bond was impressed. Each missile had a small TV camera mounted on the snout. After launching, the missile would transmit a picture back to a monitor screen on the back of the tracking unit the screen would show just what a man would see if he could ride the missile. Using a remote-control unit, the missle could then be guided with great accuracy to its target using a complex "joystick" and the TV screen. Each missile was no bigger than a yard high, and thick as his arm - and each one had enough explosive charge in it to blow a fatal hole in a battleship.

In the third crate: a mortar, a bazooka, and half a dozen land mines.

Bond meticulously examined the weapons. He'd have to field-test them later. Because atop the crates was a note from Leiter, saying only: "Who says you can never go home

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again?"

So Doberman had dug in at his ranch. That made it necessary for Bond to learn as much about the place as possible.

He'd just closed the last crate when there was a light knocking at the door. He caught up his Beretta and barked, "Who is it?"

"Lotta. Can I come in?"

He sighed. But he let her in.

"James?" she began, purring up against him. "Tell me what you're doing here - exactly. I want to help."

"I'll think about it. We'll do it this way: first you help, then I tell you. Maybe."

"I can help?" she asked eagerly. "What... what can I do?" She noticed the crates. "What's this?"

"That's how you can help. I need to hide these things - somewhere they won't be bothered."

"I know a place - my cousin's casita. It's all overgrown with cacti. But there's a path through. He used to hide things in it - for smuggling. But he's in jail now. The police never found out about the casita. It's not far from the hotel. About a half kilometer. I can get someone to move them there tonight-"

"Someone who won't open them. They're booby-trapped."

Her eyes widened. "I'll see to it that no one opens them."

"One more thing: you know anything about Klaus Doberman's ranch?"

"A little. It's up in the mountains a ways. All alone on a private road. No houses near it. An old castle, rebuilt to be modern. It's on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It used to be

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owned by a Mafia don now living in Acapulco. A man named Scalise."

"Scalise?" Bond smiled grimly. "I know Scalise. And where to find him."

"But, James, why do you want to know about-"

"I'll tell you later.["] he grinned. "Maybe. But now I've got to take a short trip to Acapulco. Probably be back tonight. With luck. See you later."

"But wait, James-"

"Later." And, the Beretta cold and reassuringly solid in the chamois-leather shoulder-holster under his left armpit, he went to the parking lot and the waiting Porsche.

[* * * * * *]

Scalise's villa was situated on the unspoiled enclave of tranquil blue water and ivory sand of Acapulco's Puerto Marques Beach, only a half a kilometer from the quays where his ships unloaded their heroin - hidden in bales of cotton and crates of coffee beans. That, at least, was the sum of Scalise's operation the last Bond had heard. Now, though Bond didn't know it, Scalise had become Number 3, a ranking member of Klaus Doberman's cocaine cartel. It was Scalise who had offered to put out a contract on Bond at their last conference.

Bond parked the Porsche a short distance from Scalise's sprawling estate. He walked around the perimeter, getting a lay of the place.

It was set well apart from the others, its landscaped acreage bounded by a hurricane fence. It was a brick-fronted four-story structure, shielded by palm trees and hedges. A balcony at the third floor overlooked the courtyard. A red Ferrari, a white BMW 635CSi and a

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Lincoln limousine were parked in the courtyard at the end of a long drive. Bond saw a guard with a shotgun on the balcony. He was relaxed, had probably never had trouble at Scalise's house.

There's a first time for everything.

Bond, leather satchel slung over his arm, climbed over the hurricane fence at one of the house's blind spots. He dropped to the ground inside, expecting a snarling Doberman. There were only the chirping of birds, the breeze bringing the briny perfume of the ocean. It was twilight; the shadows grew long under the trees, over the neatly manicured grass.

He ran in a crouch to a front corner of the house; he heard two guards telling stories in Spanish at the rear-right corner. He listened. Their voices got softer - they were walking away from him. He bent and hid his satchel in the flowerbed around the corner from the front of the house. Then he retraced his steps to the fence, climbed over in less than three seconds, and sprinted back to the road. He took thirty seconds to light a cigarette and compose himself. And then he walked up to the front gate and rang the bell.

A spiked-topped black iron gate closed off the driveway; it was electrically locked, between two high stone fenceposts capped with barbed wire.

Bond rang the bell again. Two thick-chested, dark eyed men carrying sidearms - they'd stowed their shotguns when they heard the ring, for the sake of public appearances - wearing guard uniforms complete with badges, came from the house to the front gate.

"Whaddayou want, Gringo?" one of the men asked with his best appearance of civility. He looked like one of the

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malcontents of Pancho Villa's renegades.

"Tell Scalise a friend of his cousin Bonasera is here," Bond said. He crushed the cigarette out on the driveway. "My name is Bond... James Bond"

"You wait."

One of the guards went into the house; the other remained on the other side of the iron gate, glowering out through the metal bars. Bond chuckled.

"What's so funny, Gringo?" the guard snapped.

"You look like you're behind bars, through the gate - and it's funny, because that's just where you ought to be. But then, I could be wrong about you. You might be a soccer coach for little kids at the YMCA in your spare time."

"Eh?" The man didn't understand the words, but Bond's tone told him he was being mocked. His face clouded, and his fingers hovered near his gun. Bond grinned and turned his back on the man, showing utter unconcern.

He turned when he heard the crunch of the other guard's bootsteps on the gravel drive. The two men muttered together in Spanish, and then one threw a switch. The gates hummed and swung inward. The two guards just behind him - one now carrying a shotgun - Bond walked up toward the house. Ornamental black iron buttresses divided the front of the house into three sections; the central sections, containing the balcony, stuck out a little past the others. It would be easy to shimmy up that ornamental buttress, then climb over to the balcony, if it worked out that he had to do it that way.

The guards escorted him into the house, stopped him in the anteroom for a weapons check - he was carrying

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none - and then took him into a black metal lift cage. They stood behind him in the small lift, literally breathing down his neck; he could smell their heavy cologne, their sweat, and underlying, well-oiled gun-metal.

The lift creaked up with annoying sluggishness, rising past two floors of antiques, yellowed oil paintings, spiral staircase with brass handles, marble steps. It was a big house, and Bond reflected, probably held a great many things of interest to the police - the few uncorrupted police.

The lift made a lot of noise, and Bond took note of that.

They stopped at the third floor, went down the hall to dark-paneled double doors. One of the guards rapped on the door and gave a password. The door was opened from the inside - just a crack at first. A man with sagging scarred cheeks and blue sunglasses inspected Bond, grunted, and opened the door wider for him. They went in, Bond first. The man with blue sunglasses stood to one side, shotgun in the crook of his arm, its muzzle pointed at Bond's feet. Two armed men stood behind Bond, and two faced him. One of those in front was the guard who'd stood on the balcony; the other was Scalise. Scalise was a barrel-shaped man with a squarish head, thinning hair combed in a poor attempt at covering his bald spots. There were deep lines around his black eyes. He smoked incessantly; the glass ashtray at his elbow was overflowing with butts. He sat behind a big antique wooden desk, leaning back in a leather swivel chair. He looked annoyed and mildly puzzled as Bond calmly lit a cigarette and looked around the room with casual interest, as if he were mildly curious about Scalise's interior decorating scheme. On the floor there was a locked wooden cabinet, a grey metal safe

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beside it, and on the blue velvet flower-patterned walls, a couple of badly executed seascapes. And a framed certificate from the Acapulco Lions Club for Public Service. Bond laughed.

Realizing what it was Bond was laughing at, Scalise went red. "What the hell are you doing here, Bond? What's this bullshit about my cousin? You're no friend of Bonasera's."

"Oh, that's a matter of perspective. We're not enemies. Why, he took me out to dinner at the 21 Club in New York once and offered me a job and-"

"Yeah, I know. You told him not only wouldn't you work for him, you couldn't even stomach eating with him. You left five minutes after you got there. Too big a man to take a hit job from an Italian, eh? Instead you work for peanuts, a hearty `well-done' from her Majesty the Queen and pennies you call a pension. After that, we are the same."

"When I kill it is upon the specific orders of my government. And those that I kill are themselves killers."

Scalise smiled. "Come now, Bond, you disappoint me. You get as much fulfillment out of killing as I do. So why don't you go ahead and admit it."

"I admit killing you would be a pleasure."

"You should have done that when you first saw me. But, of course, the English don't consider it sporting to kill in cold blood, do they? You're just a goddamn hired killer. And what's the difference, hired killer for the Queen or hit man for the Brotherhood? We've got respect, that's the difference. We've got family. What have you got? You've got nothing. You insulted my family, turning down that job. And then you come around here talking like you're a friend of my family? I ought to kill you myself. But you're

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an English citizen, and the goddamn British embassy gives me a headache when an Englishman gets snuffed. So you can leave your lily-pure, high-minded license to kill ass intact."

Bond smiled coldly. "All through now? You want to know why I'm here, or you want to play godfather some more?"

Scalise made a brisk gesture, and the two guards behind Bond seized his arms and held him; the man in the sunglasses stepped in close and gave Bond a crack across the chin with his shotgun-butt. Bond's head jerked, and then he looked calmly back at Scalise. He smiled, blood running from a cut on his jaw. He made no move to break free.

"You talk to me respectfully, Bond," Scalise said, crushing his cigarette out and lighting another. "Or I let these boys take you apart arm by arm, piece by piece. Now what do you want?"

"I came to buy something. The plans for Klaus Doberman's estate. You used to own it, and had it rebuilt, rewired - you probably still have a copy of the plans. I need them. I'll give you five thousand dollars for them."

"Raphael..." Scalise addressed the man in the blue sunglasses. "Can you believe this guy?" He said something in Spanish Bond couldn't make out. Bond's Spanish was pretty shaky.

Raphael snorted and shook his head.

Scalise blew smoke in Bond's face. "I'm an honest businessman: I sold the house to a man, he is now the owner, and I'd be dishonest and low..." he smiled sadly, "if I give this thing to you. Because I know what you want: you want it so you can kill this man. This man has done

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nothing to me - he has paid me well. He's good business. You, you're bad business. Get the hell out of here! Getim outta here, Raphael!"

Raphael and the two guards shoved Bond into the hall; he pretended to stagger, and acted as it he were beaten and scared when they prodded him down the hallway to the lift. He feigned cringing after Raphael slapped him when he was slow too get into the lift, thinking: That's right, make me good and mad at you.

Raphael said in Spanish, "He's nothing. I'll take him out. You go back and see if the boss wants anything."

The two guards returned to the study. Raphael, shotgun in hand, got into the lift facing Bond.

Bond waited till the lift had sunk almost to the first floor. He'd noticed it made a loud clattering noise in its flywheels as it approached the ground floor. He slumped against the metal cage of the lift, waiting. When the clattering came, he snapped from a slump into attack position. There was less than a yard's space between him and Raphael.

The Mexican had the shotgun tilted upward. Bond seized it at the stock and slammed the barrel upward, crushing Raphael's nose. He'd gotten the angle just right: bone splinters from the bridge of the nose were driven up and in, penetrating Raphael's brain. The man slid to the floor, stone-cold dead.

Bond dragged Raphael into the ground-floor hallway, then took the shotgun to the front door. He looked through the windows - no one in sight outside. The outdoor guards were in back, probably. It was unoccupied. The guard was still inside - probably Scalise was instructing them to find out how Bond had ascertained that he and Klaus Dober-

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man were somehow connected.

Bond sprinted along the grassy fringe between the house and the driveway, found his satchel in the bushes around the corner. He tossed the shotgun aside, opened the satchel and fitted three main parts of his 9mm submachine gun together. He screwed a silencer on the Beretta and stuck the pistol in his waistband, slung the larger weapon over his shoulder, and took up a long, sharp commando knife. He went hunting for the guards out back. He saw them standing together by a bone-dry swimming pool, passing a marijuana cigarette back and forth; they stood with their backs to him, talking in low voices. Bond crept noislessly toward them. It might be difficult to kill them both quietly, he thought. One would have a chance to shout, maybe get off a shot, warn Scalise, when he saw the other one falling...

But there was always a way.

Bond held the Beretta in his left hand, the commando knife in his right. In order to carry it off, he'd have to hit both men at once, and both accurately. He moved in a crouch through the hedges, onto the concrete around the pool, came within reach...

The taller of the two chose that moment to turn around, chuckling over some joke his companion had made. Bond was forced to strike. His right hand whipped out with the blade, making a silver arc in the air, his left hand was a half-second behind, whistling down overhand with the barrel of the silenced Beretta; the heavy black pistol caught the shorter man between the eyes, poleaxing him; his eyes crossed and he crumpled; at the same moment, his friend was gurgling, trying to shout through the welter of blood gushing from his severed artery as Bond slashed through

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the windpipe, stopping the blade only at the spine. The guns dropped with a clatter to the concrete; the man with the red-spurting throat spasmed, flopped, went glassy-eyed - and was still. Bond retrieved his weapons and then skirted the house to the right, checked by the balcony - still empty - and began to climb the ornamental metal buttress.

Scalise was indeed discussing Bond's interest in he and Doberman's business dealings. When one of his men suggested the simplest thing to do would have been to ask Bond about it - after a suitable period of softening up - Scalise replied he'd heard a lot of stories about Bond, and by all accounts he had an almost inhuman resistance to torture. Bond had been tortured by Goldfinger with a buzz-saw, his genitals mangled with a carpet beater by Le Chiffre, his little finger of the left hand broken, inflicted by a sabotaged traction machine, immersed in freezing water, and tortured by sound waves and probing devices in the orifices of his head - and had never revealed nothing. The guy was...

Scalise broke off, staring at one of his guards. The guard had said that Bond had behaved as if he were scared and beaten.

That just didn't fit. It wasn't like the James Bond who had laughed in Bonasera's face. It wasn't like the James Bond who had survived all the tricks of torture.

So Bond had been pretending to be weak. Why?

And... where was Raphael?

Scalise froze, hearing a noise on the balcony behind him. He snatched up his .45 and spun in his seat.

The doors to the balcony were wide open. Beyond the trees, the sun was setting, turning the sky blood-red. And

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James Bond stood on the balcony, the Beretta in one hand and the submachine gun in the other - he stood silhouetted against the red sky.

That was the last sight three of the four men in the room ever saw.

The fire in Bond's eyes transferred to his hands. The small submachine gun and the pistol flamed; the 9mm chattered and the now de-silenced Beretta roared. Bond cut down the two on his right before they had turned all the way to face him, taking them out with two bursts from the submachine gun in his right hand; his arm bucked with the firing, wrenching the muscles of his forearm - the gun was meant to be fired with both hands. With two shots, the Beretta in Bond's left hand brought down the third guard and blew a messy hole in Scalise's right wrist - his gun fell from limp fingers. Scalise howled and clutched the wounded hand to his overripe belly. At the same moment, the third guard's shotgun roared as the man fell, triggered by a death spasm in his hand. Bond swaggered and grunted - he'd caught some of the buckshot across the outside of his left hip. It riveted his pants, but he wasn't badly hit - most of the blast had been absorbed by the desk.

Thrusting the pistol in his hip pocket, Bond yanked Scalise to his feet with his left hand by the simple expedient of taking him by the throat.

"You were making a speech about my defects a few minutes ago, Scalise," Bond said.

"Tough guy," Scalise hissed. His face was purple; spittle trailed from the corner of his mouth. He glared defiance at Bond. "You think you're the only tough guy around? Go on, do your worst."

"My worst," Bond laughed, "would turn you inside out

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and make you a squealing baby again."

Scalise went pale.

"But I'm not going to do my worst to you, Scalise. I want you coherent enough to give me the information I need. Like: where's the plan for Doberman's house?"

Scalise screwed up his courage and spat, "Go to hell!"

Bond lifted him off his feet by his throat. and held him there, suspended, feet kicking, choking to death.

"You know Scalise, I risked my neck coming here after you and your pet ass-holes. One of you might have got off a lucky shot. And I risked my neck like that..." All the time he spoke, Scalise's face swelled purple, his limbs thrashed more desperately. "...for no reason Her Majesty the Queen has not ordered me to go after you; I could have gotten the plans to Doberman's house another way - maybe bribed the people who rebuilt the place for you. But I've been hearing stories about you, and... well, frankly, Scalise, I was revolted. The way I'm revolted when I see a cockroach in my kitchen. I see it, I squash it." Scalise had almost lost consciousness, so Bond threw him to the floor, Scalise sprawled, gagging across one of his dead henchmen.

Bond let the anger shine through as he grinned down at Scalise. "Maybe I will do my worst to you."

"Okay," gasped Scalise. "It's in the safe." He was crying now, his teardrops fell on his shattered, blood-caked wrist. Some tough guy, Bond thought. Crying like a baby. Maybe making a play for pity. How many people had begged Scalise for mercy - just before he had them killed? Like 003? M. had told him that 003, one of the most experienced senior agents, had been dragged from a blazing car outside Acapulco. And Bond had figured it all out. It all

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made sense now. Scalise was in the drug cartel with Doberman.

"Open the safe, then, big shot."

"I can't. My hand..."

Bond picked up the commando knife and used its point to tap the bone splinters protruding from Scalise's wound.

Scalise's scream was ear-splitting.

Sobbing, he got to his knees and hobbled to the safe. A strongbox filled with American money - hundred dollar bills. Various rolled papers, real estate deeds, a dossier and color photograph of 003, and an itinerary of his comings and goings while on assignment in Acapulco - and a blueprint. Bond held the blueprint up to the light and nodded to himself. That was it. He folded it, zipped it into a jacket pocket, then took the money to the balcony.

Scalise, wide-eyed, finding strength in the sight of his cash, got to his feet and, one arm hanging limp, staggered onto the balcony. "Bond... what are you doing?"

It was almost dark on the balcony; a few stars were beginning to glimmer above the palm trees. The only light came from the lamp at the gate. A light breeze rustled the curtains at the open doors behind him.

Scalise swayed, his eyes fixed on the money.

Bond smiled.

Scalise looked delirious.

Bond snapped the small lock on the cashbox with his knife, opened it, and began to toss handfuls of crisp green bills into the air. "Blood money," Bond mused aloud. "So much of it. I guess you were planning on a trip to the States." The bills were caught on the breeze, lifted a little, and then fluttered like emerald butterflies to the ground three stories below. Bond took up a great wad of money

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and suspended it in the air beyond the railing. "Tell you what - you can have this much, Scalise, if you come and get it." Scalise lurched forward, clutching at the money; he failed blindly at it, leaning half over the balcony railing, trying to reach it. Bond let the money go, so it drifted in a green cloud to the ground, and then, with a single swift kick, he sent Scalise after it.

Scalise turned end over end, falling - and struck head-first. His body gave one last great throe, as if he had touched a live terminal, then went totally limp, forever still; his blood ran to mix with the handfuls of hundred-dollar bills.

"That's for 003," Bond hissed through his gritted teeth.

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-9-

Love Is Never Enough

EARLY AFTERNOON ON THE FOLLOWING DAY, BOND AND Leiter inspected the new high-performance Chris-Craft 312 SL speedboat, which had arrived at Puerto Vallarta's harbour via a British freighter before dawn. In drydock for two years and originally built by the Q Branch before it was disbanded, the thirty-one-foot lightweight craft was designed for speed and perfection; twin four-hundred mercruisers to insure rapid departure and stabilized V-Hull for unmatched control in rough seas. Modified by Major Boothroyd before he transferred to the C.I.A., the boat carried electronic sensing devices and was protected by a light silico-aluminum armor.

Leiter lifted two large boxes onto the boat and climbed on after them, scarcely rocking the craft at all as he came aboard. Bond cast off the mooring line and steered the boat into the sea lane between rows of sailboats, fishing boats, cabin cruisers, and small yachts in the harbour.

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Around them rose a thicket of naked masts like a forest after a forest fire.

They cruised slowly out of the marina, then went into higher gears on the open sea. It was a fine day. The azure sky was flecked with small clouds, and the waves hardly lifted at all. The pacific might have been asleep. It was a bad day for sailboats, but a good day for motorboats.

They cut a white wake across Banderas Bay, rounded the headlands, and swung to parallel the coastline, heading roughly north.

They sat in the bucket seats on the top deck behind the equally bulletproof windshield, Bond steering. Leiter consulted a map, then scanned the coast for landmarks. He spotted a diamond shaped inlet which was marked on the map, and knew they were close to Klaus Doberman's estate.

The coast grew rockier, less crowded with beachhouses and private docks, until there was no sign of humanity at all - only shallow inlets sandwiched between rugged cliffs. Above the inlets were steep cacti-covered hills. Here and there the cacti were broken up by the stands of palm trees.

They ran alongside the coastline another quarter-mile, rounded a grey-bouldered outthrust of land, and came into sight of Doberman's cliffside fortress.

From this angle the ranch house looked almost like a medieval castle; it had a turret at either side - towers of weathered, moss-patched grey stone - and a number of the old-fashioned slit windows. But between the two towers was a tar roof over the house's main body, topped with an aluminum chimney. Bond saw no skylights - too bad, a skylight could be useful in an assault. One of the towers showed a telltale shortwave radio antenna.

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The grim grey face of the house was built on a clifftop of the Sierra Madres two hundred yards above the churning blue-green Pacific. A staircase cut into the stone zigzagged down the cliff from the high barbed-wire-bristling stone wall at the north side of the house. The staircase met a jetty of asphalt overlaid on boulders. The Buenaventura was anchored at the jetty, its hatches battened down with canvas. Floating idly beside it like a cork on a fishing line was a light twelve-foot, one-man Scorpion Hydrocopter. A single guard sat in a deck chair on the yacht, rifle across his lap, sleepily listening to a Sony Walkman.

Just beneath the tar roof was a balcony which looked as if it had been recently added on, its stone and concrete were a different shade from the rest. Three men and a woman sat on the balcony around a white metal table. They were too far away from Bond to be sure, but he thought one of the men was Chen, judging from the black yukata he was wearing.

"Don't you think they'll notice us out here after a while?" Leiter mused aloud as he cut the engine and let the boat drift.

"Oh, I want them to notice us! The boat, anyway. That's part of the strategy, Felix." Bond grinned, enjoying Leiter's discomfort. Leiter had realized that someone at the clifftop house could check them out through binoculars, and, identifying Bond, might start shooting at them. "Don't worry, Felix. A lot of boats like this one go up and down the coast. They won't start shooting till they're fairly sure it's me. They don't want to attract attention to the house."

Bond went below, and returned with the compact binoculars. He adjusted the filter for glare, then focused

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the shirt-pocket size glasses on the balcony. "That's Chen, all right. Yellow skinned bastard... And that's Doberman with the white hair and the black patch over his eye. Who's the big Mexican dressed in the police uniform?" Bond passed the binoculars to Leiter.

"That's First Commandante Jose Maldonado of the Federales. He's known simply as `Trigger' to friends and enemies," Leiter answered grimly. "My sources tell me that he is the one who actually beat Bill till he was unconscious and then kidnapped him from the consulate."

Bond frowned and arched one eyebrow. "Are you telling me that earlier intelligence reports of Bill's abduction detailing the use of men dressed as police officers were wrong?"

"I'm afraid so, James. Maldonado is bought and paid for by our Mr. Doberman." Leiter said, returning the binoculars to Bond. "After Bill's disappearance, Maldonado deposited $250,000 in an El Paso bank."

Doberman and Chen's gestures were angry, impatient. Maldonado knew enough not to argue. The woman, whose back was to Bond, nodded repeatedly.

"James!" Leiter interrupted hastily. "Put this bullshit plan you are hatching from your mind, please, old buddy - you are thinking about taking out a sniper's rifle and killing Doberman from here? But if you do, the others will return fire."

"The boat's bulletproof," Bond answered, smiling.

"But I'm not, James. Besides, the boat is rocking, so you'd probably miss."

"I wouldn't miss. But you're right, I've got to do it the hard way." Bond put aside the binoculars. "Break out the directional mike, Felix, will you."

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Bond started the boat, moved in slowly, as close as he dared. He cut the engine, dropped anchor, and went to help Leiter put the surveillance mike together.

It was a long grey instrument, looking almost like a loaded antitank gun. "You know how to use this damn thing, Felix?"

"Does a shark shit in the sea?" The mike attached by a wire to a black box. Two sets of microphones, capable of picking up a man speaking in a whisper across the length of a football field, if the mike was pointed directly at that man. Leiter pointed it at the balcony, twiddled some knobs, listened on the earphones, and then nodded. "I've got it, James."

Bond put another set of earphones on. The conditions for long-distance electronic eavesdropping were perfect: sound comes easily over water, and the wind was low, the ocean quiet. They lost some of the conversation in the occasional scream of a gull or the rumble of a passing overboat, but most of it came through with such spooky clarity that Bond felt he was standing at that white metal table at Chen's elbow.

Chen's voice: "Sir, you've asked me for my recommendation. When I gave it to you, you ignored it. I realize it would be an inconvenience to leave the area, but it would be smarter. The meeting could be postponed and rescheduled some other place, right? I'm sure the Major could-"

"Inconvenience. you call it?" Doberman snapped. "It's not an inconvenience!" The voice rose in pitch. "It's an insult! I've been pushed out enough! Enough! It was a great shame to run from the Bahamas, a great shame to run from Colombia! This is all for running! Klaus Doberman will

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take a stand!"

Chen sighed. "Yes, of course. And you spent a great deal on this place. But you don't know James Bond like I do. All your fortification isn't going to scare him away."

There was rustling, muffled words from the woman as she nodded in agreement, then clatter as a servant set a tray of drinks on the table.

"Sir" - Chen's voice again - "a few weeks delay won't-"

"We stay!"

"Okay. Okay... Then Major we need more men."

Bond peered through the small field glasses once again. The "Major" was the woman. Her hair was dark-brown and she wore it shoulder-length. Her bare arms and hands had a quality of repose, and the general impression of restraint in her appearance and movements was carried even to her fingernails, which were unpainted and cut short. Her dark-green skirt and matching blouse was an immaculate uniform. She lit a cigarette and smoked it without affection, drawing the smoke deeply into her lungs with a little sigh and then exhaling it casually through her lips and nostrils.

Bond was excited and intrigued by her composure. Yet, at the same time he felt a vague disquiet.

"More men?" Doberman said testily. "But you said Bond works alone! He is only one! We already have six men assigned to us by the Major!"

"Works alone - my ass!" Felix Leiter groaned.

"How many more men?" Doberman demanded.

"At least ten."

"Ten! That will make sixteen!"

"You just don't take chances with James Bond, Comrade Doberman," the woman responded, sounding tough

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but tender.

Bond immediately recognized the voice as Russian. The voice also sounded familiar.

Doberman shook his head. "Four is all that is needed, Major. And no more."

Bond grinned. That's right, Doberman. Be sensible. Keep the odds down for me.

"Two days," the woman said, "until General Gogol arrives from Moscow for our meeting. I strongly recommend you have Mr. Bond neutralized before he jeopardizes our joint operations, Comrade Doberman."

Bond suddenly placed the soft voice - Major Anya Amasova, his opposite number in Department Viktor, formerly SMERSH, the Soviet Secret Service's dark core at the heart of the KGB.

"Doberman has amassed quite a fortune for himself, Felix," Bond pondered aloud. "Now why does he need the KGB?"

"I don't know why the Russians and Doberman are sleeping in the same bed," Leiter answered. "But it's quite obvious the Major wants you dead. Hell, when you care enough, you send the very best."

Bond chuckled and shot him an obscene gesture with the middle finger of his right hand.

"Do not trouble yourself with this man Bond, Major Amasova," Doberman continued. "I have had his photograph circulated throughout all the hotels in the area and I have located where he is staying. I understand he has a girlfriend there. If we take her..."

Bond swore, and tore the earphones off his head.

He ran to the anchor, cranked it up, then started the engine.

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The sudden roar of the engine made the group on the balcony look toward the boat.

"They've spotted us!" Leiter shouted, tossing his set of earphones aside.

Bond swung the boat in a tight arc and headed back to the harbour. The bastards might already have gotten Lotta, his heart pounded.

He pressed the accelerator to the floor. The boat leaped up and sprayed brine as it shot away from the fortress.

Bullets ricocheted off the right half of the windshield.

Leiter, shouting, "James, I really dislike being forced to exert myself this way!" returned fire with a rifle he'd taken from the cabin. Bullets dug into the deck, spitting splinters, but whined off the armor-covered body.

Then they were out of range.

"Did you get any of them, Felix?" Bond shouted.

"No - I'm not the marksman you are, James. Fortunately, it was someone besides your Chinese and Russian friends shooting at us - they seemed to be too busy arguing with Doberman. What now?"

"Find Lotta. Fast."

[* * * * * *]

After leaving Leiter at the harbour with the boat, and driving the Porsche recklessly fast, it was almost five before Bond drove up to Posada La Brissa. The parking lot was sparsely populated so it didn't take him long to determine that Lotta's little white convertible Spyder wasn't there. Maybe... maybe she was okay, was away somewhere, swimming or sailing. Maybe they hadn't gotten her. Or maybe they'd gotten into her car with her and made her drive it away from the hotel so they'd be less noticeable

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when they took her. Maybe she was dead now. Like Tracy.

"Damn," Bond muttered, hastily parking the Porsche. He ran into the hotel, thinking: I should have used another place as home base - maybe rented a casita somewhere. Shouldn't have spent so much time with her. Should have told her I couldn't see her until my assignment was over. Should have realized she might be in danger. Should have...

He pushed the regrets from his mind and asked the little old Mexican man at the front desk, "Have you seen Lotta - the owner's daughter?"

"Si, senor. She went into downtown Vallarta about an hour ago. Said she wanted to pick up something." He smiled knowingly.

But Bond had turned and bolted out the door. He leaped into his car, gunned the tired engine to life, and burned rubber.

He roared down the narrow and curved country road, thinking: Puerto Vallarta, she's gone into town. Try the wine seller first. Find her and take her somewhere safe. So it won't happen again. Not again - not like Tracy. Bond refused to consider that...

The Beretta was a friendly weight against his ribs under his left arm, and of course, the Porsche itself was a ready and formidable armory.

The palm trees whipped past, the curves screaming warnings at his burning wheels as he took them without slowing. He swerved in and out of the occasional knots of traffic - and then, on a long deserted stretch of road, he saw Lotta's white Spyder. It was coming toward him. He could see her at the wheel, the top down so that the wind picked up her blonde hair and streamed it behind her. For

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a moment he felt deeply relieved - till he saw the big blue sedan.

The sedan was behind her, quickly catching up.

She was only a few hundred yards from Bond's Porsche and the distance was closing. But in the intervening seconds the blue sedan came abreast of Lotta's convertible, jerking the steering wheel hard, plowing its left-front fender into the Spyder driver-side door. The impact almost threw her into the windshield. She grunted, taking a slam in her breasts from the steering wheel as the small car swerved into the ditch. It stopped, half-nosed into the drainage channel, right-rear wheel off the ground spinning. The engine gave off blue smoke.

As Bond slammed his foot onto the gas pedal, he caught a glimpse of a Mexican man on the passengers side of the sedan angling a Heckler and Koch 53 submachine gun at Lotta's wrecked car.

Seeing the flash of a gun from the corner of her eye, she threw herself to the right and down, below the level of the dashboard. The submachine gun belched fire and lead. Glass from the bullet-shattered windshield rained on her.

Bond had to jerk the Porsche wrenchingly to keep from slamming headfirst into the blue sedan. There were two men in it - that's all he could make out as he screeched past them. He brought the Porsche to a whiplash-making stop, then swung it an abrupt U-turn, spinning around to face the enemy vehicle - like a bull turning to charge a matador.

For a sickening moment he saw Lotta climbing from the convertible and then he saw the Mexican aim the submachine gun once more at what appeared to be an easy target.

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"Get down!" Bond shouted to no one but himself. "Get..." He saw the second burst from the submachine gun blow out the remaining glass of the windshield and rip through the seats. The man fired three more times - but Lotta dove into the ditch. The Mexican in the blue sedan was taken by Lotta's instantaneous reflexes.

For Bond, there was no more time to lose. He quickly braked the Porsche to a complete stop - face to face with the blue sedan. The man with the submachine gun was distracted by the strange behavior of the Porsche, which, in turn, gave Bond the few seconds he needed.

His thumb was on the dashboard's cigarette lighter.

The blocky, potbellied Mexican stepped out of the blue sedan, his thick tatooed arms raising and aiming the submachine gun at the Porsche.

Seven, Bond counted.

The Mexican inched forward.

Six.

The driver yelled for him to fire.

Five.

The submachine gun's ammunition whined off the electric tinted bulletproof glass.

Four. Bond smiled.

The man frowned and shrugged to the driver.

Three.

The submachine gun chattered once again with equal results.

Two.

The man wiped the sweat from his burning eyes.

One. "You sons-of-bitches," Bond muttered, bracing himself as he pressed the cigarette lighter, which in reality was the firing button for the twin heat seeking missiles.

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Streaking forward from the launching systems behind the park lights, the missiles surged toward the fat Mexican and the blue sedan.

Bond was concentrating so hard that he bit down on his bottom lip. And he felt his stomach press against his spine as he saw the stupefied surprise on the fat Mexican's face as the small rockets raced forward.

The last emotion the man would ever feel.

A column of orange fire erupted into a fireball, the shock wave punching the Porsche.

Shrapnel shattered the small Spyder. Jagged pieces of glass and metal fell from the sky's smoke and flames.

Two cars had come down the road in the course of the gun battle and eventual explosion - both of them had stopped at the curve and began to back away.

Bond got out of the Porsche shaking his head and ran to Lotta. She was bruised, and she had a small cut on her right cheek, but except for being shaken up, she had gotten off easily. She rushed into Bond's arms, and he said, "Please forgive me, Lotta. This is all my fault."

She shook her head. Her tears fell hot and wet on his arm. "Just get me out of here." And then she pulled her face against his and kissed him once hard and long on the lips, with a fierce passion that screamed for sex. But, as Bond's arms went around her and he started to return her kiss, she suddenly stiffened. "Listen, damn you," she said ardently, "I'm involved now and you're going to explain everything to me. And I mean everything!"

[* * * * * *]

A mile away, one of Klaus Doberman's olive green Bell AB47G helicopters moved further along the wind-

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ing country road, slimming the treetops.

Inside the rotary aircraft, Major Amasova sat in the backseat, shielding her eyes from the glaring sun with her hand. Fuji Chen sat in the front passenger's seat. A pair of high-powered binoculars hung around his neck. He drummed his fingers on the dash of the chopper as he scanned the relatively isolated stretch of highway beneath him, cocking his head to the left and then to the right, listening. Suddenly he thought he saw something ahead and signaled the pilot to rise higher and hover.

Chen did not need his binoculars to witness the blue sedan explode with fury and intensity, accompanied by a firey mushroom cloud. He slammed his fist into the palm of his right hand, refusing to admit to a single moment of defeat.

"Mr. Bond is proving himself a worthy adversary," Major Amasova's thin cruel lips parted in a malicious smile. "It is quite obvious that your third-rate boy scouts cannot take care of him. Now it is time for real professionals to eliminate 007. Time is of the essence and no more embarrassments can and will be tolerated."

Chen ground his jaw. He hated this Russian bitch and hoped he would have to deal with her as little as possible in the future. He would let the Russians take Bond on and keep him busy until Chen could get what he came for. The Russians would keep 007 distracted long enough for the girl to be left alone. Those were Chen's orders: get the girl for sure. If he got Bond too, that was even better. But if he couldn't, well... once he had the girl, Bond was neutralized. At least that was what Doberman thought.

Chen focused the binoculars on the fleeing black Porsche and instructed the pilot to follow it slowly at a safe

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distance.

Major Amasova's imperturbable face belied the bloodthirsty fervor in her eyes, which she masked with aviator sunglasses. Though Bond and the girl had been clever in escaping Chen's men, she was more convinced than ever that 007's death was inevitable, since she'd anticipated his every move. Bond was no match for her, but she had to compliment him for giving "the hunt" an unexpected thrill.

[* * * * * *]

"You sure no one but your cousin knows you hid my toys in this place?" Bond asked as they entered the casita.

"Toys!" Lotta exclaimed. "Don't talk about them like that. They're for killing and..." She winced. She hadn't quite adjusted to the violence she'd witnessed on the highway. There was awe and a little fear in her eyes when she looked at Bond now. He regretted that.

"You're right," he said. "They're far from being toys. But after you've been in this profession as long as I have you talk about things... uh... lightheartedly. You make a joke of it. Maybe so you can live with it... I'm not ashamed of what I do. I know, somehow - in my gut, intuitively, whatever - I know I never killed a man who didn't deserve it." He shrugged. "You didn't answer my question about..." He kicked the crates in the middle of the dusty wooden floor - a mouse scampered into a hole in the wall, frightened by the noise.

"No one knows about them. Except my cousin." She smiled weakly. "He thinks it's my own store of champagne because my dad won't let them give me much. I wrecked a car and broke my leg once when I was drunk, and ever since

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then..." She sighed. But she brightened a moment later, saying "Oh, I've got some champagne!" She patted the canvas over her shoulder. "I went into Vallarta before..." Her face crumpled, tears swelled in her eyes, she began to sob. "I'm sorry. I've been trying not to think about it, but..."

Bond took her in his arms. "I know it was scary. But believe me, those guys were going to kill you. Maybe they'd take you prisoner first, but eventually Doberman would have gotten his hands on you. You've heard about him. You know what he's like. Maybe you don't believe me, but..."

She took a long rattling breath and said, "I believe you. My cousin mentioned a rumor about a man living on the edge of the mountains - no one sees him except when they go by on boats. They think he must be crazy."

Bond scowled. "That's Doberman: intelligent and deranged at the same time, like all psychopaths. Cunning enough to elude drug enforcement officers dozens of times, stupid enough to refuse to budge from his mountaintop estate." He took Lotta's shoulders in his hands and held her a little distance from him so he could look in her eyes. "I'm not going to let the bastard get to you. You're safe with me, Lotta. You have to believe me."

"I believe you, James." She smiled, and looked as if she truly did.

He wished he were as sure of it as she was.

Bond looked around appraisingly. It was a two-room casita - a main room with a kitchen, and bathroom. It was empty except for the crates, thick with dust and cobwebs, but apart from a few mouse holes it was intact. There was a fireplace opposite the doorway. Probably no running

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water, but they'd be comfortable for the night. They had stopped at the hotel to get sleeping bags and a few other things. They couldn't stay at Posada La Brissa - Doberman would send a follow-up crew there, and soon. They would hide out there for the night, until Bond could think of someplace that would be both comfortable and safe. The best thing would be to send Lotta away - but then Doberman might trace her, and Bond wouldn't be able to protect her. Maybe Felix could arrange something. Tomorrow.

Bond went to the window. The late afternoon sunlight came through the glass a sort of sickly yellow-green - they were down in a hollow, surrounded by cacti, with an encircling pose of palm trees on the slopes above: Not a very defensible position, Bond thought. The sunlight grew redder as he watched, tinged with green because it was filtered through the sea of cacti that almost engulfed the casita. The prickly plants were higher than the casita at some places, with tenacious and sharp-pointed thorns as thick as a boy's wrist. The only access to the casita, unless you came through the cacti, was by the narrow dirt footpath winding up the middle of the hollow to the front porch. But Chen could lob grenades on the place from above, or riddle it with high-powered rifle fire from the ridge crest - Chen would have the best equipment.

Still, Chen would have to find them first.

Bond turned, was a little startled to see Lotta staring at his left leg. "You told me the bandages on your leg were there because you scraped yourself on some rocks, swimming," she said.

"Sorry I lied to you about that. I was trying to protect you."

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"Is... is it bad?"

"No. A little buckshot from one of Scalise's men. I was lucky - missed out on most of the shot. Stings a little, is all." She continued to stare at his leg. He thought she would cry again. "Hey, Lotta, are you going to break down on me? You gave me the big lecture about how women are tough, too, and I shouldn't assume they're a burden, right? Then-"

"I'm okay." She said it a touch defensively. She went to the only closet, found a broom, and began to sweep the carpet of dust away from the floor in front of the fireplace. Clearing a place for them to sleep.

"I'll get some wood. It still gets chilly after dark." There was a stack of logs on the front porch. Bond brought an armful inside and started a fire. They'd brought cheese and crackers from Posada La Brissa. They sat cross-legged on their sleeping bags in front of the fire, eating and staring into the flames.

Lotta's mood softened. Bond wished he could feel as romantic about it as he ought to - alone with a beautiful young woman in a casita in front of a roaring fire - but his thoughts kept drifting to Chen. Would Chen come after him, or wait for Bond to attack?

After a while - after they'd drunk half the Pommery directly from the bottle - Lotta bent over and kissed his hand. She ran her tongue over his scarred knuckles, then took two of his fingers between her lips, began to suck on them softly and suggestively in a way that made him forget about fighting strategies for a while.

She nuzzled up his arm, down his chest, all the time her hand working to unzip his pants. She ducked her head over his hips and he felt her lips slide tightly over his iron-hard

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masculinity. He withdrew and pressed her onto the sleeping bags. He slid his hand under her dress. His fingers closed over the precious silk and he twisted it, wrenching his hand back. The silk tore like tissue paper under Bond's fingers. With his other hand he tore her halter top away so her spendid and faultless breasts bobbed with sudden release. The firelight fell in flickering fingers over those buoyant golden swells; it was like tiger stripes on her brown skin. Her nipples wrinkled, then stiffened to stand up as he ran the tip of his tongue over them, like berries becoming ripe and sweet in seconds. He sank his teeth into them - not hard enough to draw blood - and she moaned, writhing in the ecstatic mix of small pains and large pleasures. She spread her legs in invitation...

A strange mixture of pleasure and pain - flashed through his mind as he impaled her womanhood on his manhood: pictures of Tracy lying forward with her face buried in the ruins of the steering wheel. Her pink handkerchief had come off and the bell of golden hair hung down and hid her face. He put his arm around her shoulders, across which the dark patches of blood had begun to flower. His head sank down against hers and he whispered into her hair - "you see, we've got all the time in the world." Then Bond pictured Tracy before Blofeld shot her to death on the Autobahn... waiting in the big double bed, a single sheet pulled up to her chin. The fair hair was spread out like golden wings, her blue eyes blazing with a fervor... He pictured his dive for Blofeld's neck, getting both hands to it. For a moment, the two men's sweating faces were almost up against each other. Bond pressed with his thumbs and felt Blofeld's fingers and nails tearing at his face, trying to reach his eyes. "Die, Blofeld, Die!"

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And suddenly the tongue was out and the eyes rolled upwards and the body slipped down to the ground. But Bond followed it and knelt, his hands cramped around the powerful neck, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, in the terrible grip of blood lust... Bond opened his eyes to see Lotta undulating beneath him, murmuring "Harder, James... harder..."

Afterward, as they lay steeped in relaxation, listening to the diminishing crackle of the fire, she said, "James, you have a funny way to make love."

"Funny?" he pretended, humorously, to be offended. "What's so funny about it?"

She laughed. "I mean... different. Because it's very aggressive, but... but very tender at the same time. Very kind. You never really hurt me - only just enough. Most men are either too rough or too tender."

"Thanks, my dear. But it takes two to tango." Then he stroked her hair gently. "Lotta, I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to see me again. It might be safer. Safer for you. I mean, my kind of life..." He shrugged.

"I don't care what you do. You have a good soul. I can feel that. You are in this world for a reason, James Bond. I know that - I have always had a strong second sense. And..." She nestled against him.

"And what?"

"And... I love you."

When he didn't respond, she said, "And you - how do you feel about me?"

For an answer, he kissed her. It was a kiss that said slot. He hoped it was enough. But for women, there was never enough.

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-10-

The Last Good Kiss

BOND OPENED THE DOOR SOFTLY AND STEPPED INTO the casita. He stood in the darkness for a moment, listening. The only sounds were the scurry of mice, the faint pop from dying embers in the fireplace, and Lotta's regular breathing. Good, she was still asleep. Quietly as he could, he set his tools down on the floor, then began assembling one of the weapons from a crate he had opened earlier. He did it quietly in the dark, by touch. He knew the weapon.

It was an American Smith & Wesson M76 submachine gun, 9X19mm caliber. It weighed about nine pounds. Seventeen-inch barrel, the whole weapon was just thirty inches with stock extended Muzzle velocity 1300fps. Air-cooled and blowback-operated. Bond's was a silenced version, customized by Major Boothroyd, with black space age nylon pistol grip and ventilated forend which covered fifty-percent of the barrel and allowed continuous shoot-

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ing even with a hot barrel. The submachine gun could be fired from any position without worrying that hot brass casings would hit the firer when ejected. Bond's penchant for hanging upside down from a helicopter notwithstanding, the weapon did not divert his attention during an assignment in Morocco with the worry of being scalded by spent ammunition.

Bond had no definite reason to expect trouble. He only listened to his senses. Past experience had taught him that danger seldom approached without exciting a nerve ending somewhere. That's why Bond had set alarms and traps along the path to the casita. That's why he had assembled the Smith & Wesson M76 and brought out his infrared field glasses. That's why he intended to stay awake, tired though he was, all night long, to guard Lotta. Foolish, loyal, golden-bodied Lotta.

Bond bent over Lotta and looked at her, her face was only partly visible, even more golden than usual in the glimmer from dying embers; her lips were slightly parted; one breast showed at the opening of the sleeping bag, she slept on her side; head on her arm.

Bond smiled.

He went to the canvas bag of odds and ends, rummaged for the rugged MagCharger flashlight and the thermos of coffee. It could be a long night.

He stepped softly to the open window, sat on the floor below it, legs crossed Indian style, the lower sill just below eye level. There was a faint wash of moonlight, just enough to see the snail-track of the winding footpath between the high banks of cacti. As they rose to either side of the path, they looked in the dimness, like ocean waves held in suspension, forever about to crash down.

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Bond sipped black coffee, listening to the insects and the rustle of small animals in the brush. And listening for noises that didn't belong. About forty-five minutes after midnight, he heard one of those noises.

A man cursing.

The faint ripping as someone's coat sleeve caught on a cactus' thorn. Another curse. A voice telling the first one to shut up - in Russian.

Bond scowled. After his successful diversionary tactics against Doberman's men on the highway, he had expected Major Amasova to mobilize her KGB agents for what she hoped would be the final confrontation with the British spy.

He shrugged, and raised the infrared glasses to his eyes, pressed the night vision switch. The scene was transformed into a negative image of reds and yellows and blues. He saw the silhouettes of three men and a woman, like bloody ghosts, glowing red, about fifty yards away, at the bend in the trail. They carried archetypical Soviet AK-47 and AKM automatic rifles, a PPSh41g submachine gun and a Marakov 9mm pistol - swinging them around at every alight noise as they crouched. Bond suspected there might be two or three more agents on the ridge above the casita.

Bond sighed and padded to the fireplace and bent down on one knee beside Lotta. "Hey, babe." He shook her shoulder.

"Mm?"

"Better wake up quick. Here, take some coffee."

"What?" She sat up, accepted the plastic coffee cup. "What's going on?"

"We've got company. And I don't think it's the Avon

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lady."

He handed her the Beretta.

"You know how to use it?" Bond asked.

"Yes. My cousin showed me how to use pistols. I'm not very good with a gun, but I can make it shoot."

"I hope you won't have to. Get dressed and go into the bathroom. If the door can be barricaded, do it. There's a little window onto the back from the bathroom. If the place catches fire or they get me and come in after you, go out the window."

"But it's all thorny cacti out there!"

"I know, Lotta. That's why they won't be coming from that way. But in an emergency, do it. Take along the sleeping bag and this stick - use them to keep most of the thorns away. It won't be fun, but you might slip past that way. If you crawl on the ground, sometimes there are tunnels, like archways made out of limbs of the cacti." He pulled her close, crushing her breasts against his chest and kissed her breathlessly.

[* * * * * *]

Major Amasova's eyes were white-hot with anger when she shone the flashlight on the young man's chest. There was a single stainless steel crossbow arrow protruding from the KGB agent's sternum. He was lying on his back, gasping, eyes wide staring up through the thorns. After a minute or two he stopped gasping as his eyes glazed over. Major Amasova reached out and closed the lids-

There was a movement in the cacti.

Major Amasova wearily sighed and switched off the flashlight, listening. She heard nothing more, but there had been the telltale rustle of something moving through

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the cacti.

Through the cacti? Not possible. Bond would be snagged, cut to pieces!

Major Amasova turned around and signaled to her small band of KGB agents, and then calmly lit a cigarette, unperturbed, yet anxious for Bond's blood.

Bond lay on his stomach under an arch of cacti, a dozen yards west of the footpath. He'd left the field glasses behind, because they were too clumsy to crawl through the cacti with, but he could see the two men and the woman on the path, crouching shapes in the moonlight, the faint gleam of gunmetal in their hands.

The woman - Bond could distinguish her gender by her all too familiar profile - the submachine gun in her hands, would be Major Amasova.

Bond considered firing a burst into them immediately, since they were knotted together. But at this range he couldn't be certain of getting them all; they might see his muzzle flash and return fire; and one of them could get away and bring the backup agents down on him. Bond preferred to take the backups out in his own good time, his way.

As he watched, one of the men, running in a crouch, began moving up the path toward the casita.

Bond grinned and tugged sharply on the nylon line he held in his left hand, causing the cactus to which the line was attached to quiver, a safe distance to his left, between him and the casita.

The rustling was answered by the AKM automatic rile, fired by the lead Russian on the trail.

Bond laughed to himself and then tugged the line again. Again the Russians fired at it, wasting ammunition and

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deluding themselves as to Bond's whereabouts.

Bond's Smith & Wesson submachine gun was slung over his shoulder. In his right hand was a razor-sharp commando knife with a six-inch blade. He wore a pair of goggles to protect his eyes from thorns. On his back was a small pack containing the MagCharger flashlight and one other piece of equipment.

Bond had had experience working in the thorny terrain of Central America on an assignment once before, and he had set up ambushes twice using thorn foliage for cover. There were methods for getting through cacti, besides cutting them, with the least amount of snagging. You went with the "grain" of the plants where possible; you wormed on your stomach through the natural tunnels formed by the curves of the cactus' limbs; you stayed close to the main stem of each plant, where the thorns were fewer. And disentangling yourself once you were caught was a fine art learned by painful experience. Bond smiled, thinking that the Russians would get that experience.

Major Amasova and two of her men turned almost simultaneously to stare at the cacti. The prickly plants had rustled about five yards down the path and a few hundred yards into the morass of greenery.

She raised her submachine gun and fired four long bursts into the cacti at the place where the rustling had been. Bullets zipped through the fleshy stems, shredding their beautiful red flowers which opened only at night.

There was no return fire.

One of the men edged into the cacti, cursing under his breath in Russian, when he was snagged. And he was snagged again and again. The limbs of the cacti seemed almost to seek him like the arms of jailed men between iron

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bars, digging thorns into him like fangs. "Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!"

After about ten minutes, he'd penetrated only a few yards into the cacti, and he realized he was going about it wrong. He dropped to his belly, began worming underneath the main stems and around the trunks, dragging his gun, and soon found the going easier. Still, his skin felt like it was on fire where the thorns raked him. He squinted to see through the blue-grey darkness; here and there, pale shifts of light outlined sheaves of thorny main stems. The ground was soft, giving a rich scent of rot and humus. The surface gradually sloped upward. He saw nothing like a man. But...

A light. A moving light, there to his left. It was up the slope from him, deeper in the cacti.

He began to inch toward it, the Marakov 9mm pistol in hand, cocked and ready.

Bond used his elbows to pull himself along, slowly circling Major Amasova's position, to come from behind.

In his right hand was a second nylon line - this one was attached to the MagCharger flashlight about twenty yards behind him. He had dug a shallow hole in the humus, dropped in the flashlight, switched it on and quickly covered it. Then he'd crawled on. The line had grown taut and pulled the light from its concealment. It dragged along behind him, giving another false indication of his position. He heard two shots fired from the Marakov, glimpsed a muzzle flash out of the corner of his eye, some distance down the slope from him. He smiled. Someone was shooting at the flashlight. He crawled on, pulling the shining decoy through the cacti, tugging it loose now and then when it was snagged on thorns. He paused, took a dish-shaped land mine from the pack on his back, buried it

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under a thin layer of humus just behind him. He set it to detonate on a slight pressure, and then crawled on, dragging the nylon line close by the land mine. He would have to be careful the flashlight didn't move over the land mine and set it off too soon. It would be a shame to waste it, Bond laughed.

Major Amasova spun on her boot heels when she heard the explosion, followed by a man's scream. Then she could see a flickering red light in the cacti - the explosion had started a small fire. She instructed the other agent to go back up the trail and enlist the backup agents' assistance.

Methodically, Major Amasova paced around as she planned her strategy. She took out another cigarette and lit it, glaring momentarily into the cacti.

The dark-haired mustached young KGB agent tightened his sweaty grip on his AK 47 rifle, moving up the trail. There were two other agents ahead, in the trees, keeping an eye on the casita and the trail. They would-

"Drop it, Comrade," said a voice close to his ear. He felt a gun into the small of his back and dropped the rifle.

"Call your friends on the ridge," the steely voice ordered. "Get them down here or I'll blow you in pieces all the way back home to Moscow."

"Tup... Tupolev!" he called. "Kaganovich!"

His voice echoed up the hollow. Then, faintly, their replies came floating down.

"Come on... uh... come on down here! We... we got him - he's dead!" the agent relayed back in Russian.

"I'm going to move a little bit away from you, Comrade," came Bond's voice. "But not far. I've got a submachine gun pointed at your back. Make it believable."

"Sure, sure." Maybe Major Amasova would come back.

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Bond crouched in the cacti, watching the agent. Then he heard bootsteps, two men talking softly in Russian as they came down the trail. The agent stood between Bond and the backups.

"Okay, Comrade," Bond whispered. "When they're within arm's reach, you throw yourself on the ground." Then he heard the other two rounding the curve in the trail.

"Comrades," the agent began in Russian. "Major Amasova wants to see you. Come on over here..." But instead of throwing himself flat, the agent turned and dove for his automatic rifle.

Bond leaped onto the trail, the silencer-fitted submachine gun bucked in his hand, making a hissing sound, silenced, flame licking like the tongue of a cobra.

The Russian felt it - before he heard it - excruciating pain in his chest as his heart took its last beat in agony before it was blown out through the gaping hole in his back.

The two other Russians raised their automatic rifles - and that's all they had time to do. The steel-jacketed slugs caught them at three yards distance, lifting them off their feet, playing havoc with the arrangement of their anatomies, rearranging their inner organs.

The Russians' screams splintered the cool night air. At the moment Major Amasova knew she'd been temporarily defeated. Bond had won the battle but not the war. She reached into her pocket, withdrew another cigarette and lit it. There was a glint in her eye as vengence boiled in her blood. Satisfied that tomorrow would be another day, she walked quickly back to her awaiting jeep and was soon gone from sight.

Bond turned toward the casita - and froze.

Gunshots, coming from the direction of the casita.

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He ran, submachine gun at the ready, teeth clenched. When he was in sight of the casita, he kept to the shadows, darting back and forth across the trail, moving up as quickly as he dared.

He moved silently onto the porch, looked through a window.

The bathroom door was open. Bond - recklessly - ran into the casita.

The bathroom was empty. And the window was open. He looked through it. There was a wide swath cut through the cacti behind the casita. Someone had used a machete to get through.

Chen?

Yeah, Chen.

There was a blood-soaked white shirt on the floor in a corner of the bathroom. Written on the wall, in blood, was a message: "I GOT HER."

[* * * * * *]

Bond and Leiter were alone on the speedboat, which was moored in a sort of wooden garage over water at the harbour in Puerto Vallarta.

"You look like you are a thousand miles away, James, old buddy," Leiter said, sitting across from Bond on an ice chest full of domestic beer.

Jerked back to reality, Bond looked up and smiled wearily. "Guess I was... was wondering why I do what I do, do the things I do - hell, it isn't for the money." He shrugged. "Ironic, I guess. Try to wipe out a human blight like Klaus Doberman and end up hurting an innocent young woman like Lotta."

Leiter popped open a red and gold Tecate can and

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handed it to Bond, who happily accepted even though he never drank beer, at least in England. English beer, like cider, belonged to pubs. But one of the heartfelt ties between the Englishman and the American was the way they enjoyed being what Leiter called "barroom rivals."

Leiter squeezed a twist of lime on the top of the open can, sprinkled a dash of salt, then took a long draught. "She insisted on getting involved, James. And, besides, Doberman will keep her alive, to keep you at a safe distance."

Bond repeated the obviously local custom of drinking Tecate beer. "But what does Doberman do with her in the meantime? He's a torture freak. No, I can't take the chance he'll keep his hands off her. I've got to find a way to go after him, to get her out without endangering her."

"But he might kill her out of anger if you attack him, James."

"I know Doberman's reputation - he'll kill her anyway, sooner or later. Still, there might be a way to hit him hard without giving him any certain idea what's happening to him. If I simply peel his men away, one by one, wear down his force by attrition, he might think they're deserting if he doesn't find their bodies around. There must be a way..."

Leiter finished his beer and lit a Camel. "But Doberman is not the only one you have to contend with."

There was a warmth in Bond's smile but his eyes were watchful. "The Russians? I don't know why the KGB's Department Viktor is conducting a new personal vendetta against me. I suspect, though, that Klaus Doberman is playing both ends against the middle, as he pits the Russians against me. I don't know the reasons as to why, yet. But I'll find out in due time, Felix. All in due time."

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When Bond left the harbour a few hours later, he did not see the tall Russian across the street - not right away, anyway. He had a broad slab of a combat mustache, his hair cut short like a scrub brush. His features were as thick and broadly emphasized as Communist sculpture, suggesting a Nordic-Mongolian-Circassian heritage. When he started after Bond and followed him while he checked into a new hotel, it was virtually impossible for a man of Bond's experience not to spot the massive tail.

After registering into the Camino Real as James Traylor and receiving his room key, Bond exited the hotel via the restaurant, conscious that he was still being shadowed.

The Russian was obviously not a professional; in fact, he seemed to be making no effort to go unnoticed. What purpose did an obvious tail serve? None that Bond could readily see. Why would the big man be so careless about following someone unless it was just something he was unaccustomed to doing? And if this was an unusual assignment, why was he doing it novel?

There was only one way to find out, and that was to ask him. Bond decided the best thing would be to find a secluded spot, lead his tail there, and question him.

Bond turned to see if the Russian was still there. When he was sure he was, he started off for a small cul-de-sac at the end of an alley where they could have a nice little chat... undisturbed.

As Bond approached the mouth of the alley, he considered briefly the possibility that his tail would know about the alley and not enter, but he decided to give it a try.

He walked into the alley and could see ahead of him the cul-de-sac, which had a dry fountain in it. He walked on until he came to the fountain, then turned and waited for

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the Russian to enter, hoping that he would.

He waited for five minutes, then ten, and still the big man did not appear. Perhaps the Russian was smarter than he looked, but now the problems Bond faced was whether or not the man was waiting at the other end of the alley for him to come out.

Bond went back into the alley and quickly removed the faithful Beretta from its chamois-leather shoulder holster. He had given it to Lotta at the casita to protect herself, but he found it, instead, in a corner of the bathroom.

When Bond was five feet from the mouth of the alley he slowed down and pressed himself against the wall. He continued on at a slower pace and then, holding the pistol by his side where it would be hidden but ready, he stepped out of the alley and examined the street in both directions.

The Russian was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, when Bond went into the alley, not only hadn't the man followed, he had given up the tail.

Feeling foolish, Bond put away the Beretta and started off down the street. He couldn't have been wrong about the tail. The man had definitely been following him but for some unknown reason had abandoned his mission rather abruptly.

Bond decided to go back to the Camino Real. Perhaps the Russian would pick him up there and start all over again. If that were the case, Bond would have to find some other way of confronting him.

When Bond got to the beachfront hotel, he did not see the big man anywhere, and the same went for the lobby. He took the lift to the fourth floor.

As he approached the door to his room, he took out the Beretta just as a precaution. He felt foolish about the tail,

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but didn't want to take any chances here. He inserted his key, then opened the door and cautiously entered the room with the gun ahead of him.

As soon as he entered his room, a massive arm snaked around from behind and pressed against his throat, cutting off his air, and Bond instantly knew he had found his tail.

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-11-

Things That Go Bump in the Night

BOND REACHED UP AND TRIED TO GRAB THE RUSSIAN's arm with both hands, but he was unable to get his hands fully around the arm. The man was tremendous and built like an ox. Bond couldn't force his fingers between the arm and his own throat. He tried to drive his elbows back into the man's stomach, but the blows seemed to have no effect. It was like hitting a tree trunk.

As a pounding built in his ears and spots began to appear before his eyes, Bond knew that he would not be able to muscle his way out of the Russian's hold, so he did the only thing he could do. He jammed the barrel of the Beretta against one of the man's massive thighs, and pulled the trigger.

The hold on his neck was removed immediately as the Russian howled in pain. Released, Bond fell to the floor, but before he could fully catch his breath, one of the man's hands closed around the wrist of the hand that was holding

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the Beretta and squeezed. Bond did not want to drop the pistol, but as he felt the bones in his wrist beginning to grind together, he had no choice but to open his hand. The gun was plucked from his fingers and thrown aside, then Bond's wrist was released and the huge assailant knocked him down with a kick of his good leg.

Quickly getting to his feet, Bond turned to face his attacker. The massive Russian began to advance on him despite a bullet wound leaking blood from his right thigh.

Bond backed away as the giant, who was at least six and a half feet tall, closed in on him. He was sweating hard which could have been a result of his leg wound.

"Look, Comrade," Bond said, "we don't have to do this, you know, just because I shook your tail."

The Russian didn't answer, he just kept coming. Bond moved around so that the couch was between them, and he tried talking to him again, but the man gave no indication that he was even able to understand what was being said.

After a few seconds, Bond realized that the time for talking was over. He didn't know where his Beretta was, but he had a spring-loaded, mirror polished stainless steel knife, and that was - literally - an edge he would save until he could make the best use of it.

The only weak spot his adversary had, that Bond could see, was that thigh wound, so he came out from behind the couch, and as the Russian came within striking distance he launched a kick at that wound. For a large man, his attacker moved very quickly, and he was able to turn his body so that the kick glanced off the side of his wounded leg and did not hit the wound itself. Still, it must have hurt like hell, but there was no noticeable reaction from him.

Bond started to look around for something to hit the

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Russian with, then decided on the wooden coffee table in front of the couch. He lifted it up and swung it at the man, who lifted his arm and allowed the wood to splinter harmlessly against his massive forearm.

Bond swallowed hard, backpedalling a bit. He decided to wait now for the Russian to rush him, at which point he would produce the sleeve knife and try to plant it where it would do the most good - or damage.

"Okay, Comrade," Bond teased him, "come and get it."

As the Russian started his charge, Bond flicked his wrist and the knife slid into his hand. He sidestepped, and as the big man bounced off the wall, Bond drove the knife into his side. As he pulled the knife out, however, his assailant swung a backhand that caught him high on the cheek and knocked him halfway across the room. Miraculously, Bond was able to hold onto his knife, for all the good it had done him. Bleeding from his thigh and his side, the wounded man continued to advance on him.

Bond realized that, without a gun, there was only one way for him to come out of the confrontation alive. As his opponent charged at him again, Bond also moved forward, surprising him. Puzzled, the Russian slowed momentarily, but it was just long enough for Bond to get around him and jump on his back. As the Russian tried to shake him off, Bond grabbed hold of his scrub brush hair. His weight caused the man's head to fall back, exposing his throat, and Bond laid the razor-sharp edge of the knife against the Russian's skin and whipped it across.

As the blood cascaded over his chest, the big man staggered, but Bond did not relinquish his hold on the man's hair. He remained on his back until the Russian fell to his hands and knees. The man made hideous, strangling

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noises as his blood formed a pool on the floor, and then he fell facedown into it and lay still. Bond rolled off the man's back and away from him, then leaned over to examine the body. At that moment the Russian lifted an arm and Bond jumped back, readying his knife for another thrust, but the massive body merely jerked, its eyes staring sightlessly at the carpet.

When he was sure the Russian was finally dead, Bond put away the knife, retrieved the Beretta, and then searched through the intruder's pockets. The Russian had a wallet, but there was nothing in it but Mexican currency. There was nothing on the body that could identify it, and now all that was left was to dispose of the corpse.

Discreetly.

[* * * * * *]

"Wheel it in here," Felix Leiter instructed two Mexican men after Bond had opened the door, and they pushed a laundry cart inside and shut the door behind them.

"Over there, gentlemen," Bond said, pointing, "and don't worry about the starch. I've taken it all out of him."

The two men were agents of the Mexican government's elite anti-drug unit called the "Leopard's," the counterpart to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. They nodded to Bond and pushed the cart toward the dead Russian, removed a couple of sheets, and proceeded to wrap the man in them. That done, they each grabbed one end of the bundle, and, straining, they managed to lift the massive bulk and dump the body into the cart.

"What about the blood?" Bond asked.

One of the men smiled and reached into the cart and came out with sponges, a brush, and a container of rug

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cleaner. Then he and his partner, using water, the cleaner, and a lot of muscle, managed to get out most of the blood. When they were done there was a pinkish stain on the hotel rug, and Bond decided to move the armchair to cover it, hoping the maid wouldn't feel it her duty to move the chair back to where the hotel had originally positioned it.

The two men wheeled the cart toward the door, using considerably more effort than used to wheel it in. Leiter stepped to the door, opened it, and after they stepped out into the hallway, he spoke to one of them briefly in a low voice and then closed the door.

"They'll drive it away from here in their van and dispose of it somewhere," Leiter informed Bond.

"Good. He was playing havoc with my social life."

[* * * * * *]

One floor above, Major Amasova had heard what she thought was a gunshot. True, the barrel of Bond's gun had been jammed against the attacker's thigh, but to an experienced ear - like Major Amasova's - the sound of a shot was still recognizable, even when muffled.

She had waited, listening patiently for a follow-up shot, but when none came she decided that the single shot was worth investigating.

Outside in the hall she found the stairway and descended to the next floor. Looking out the door into the hallway, she had a clear view of the door to "James Traylor's" room, and she had settled down to wait. If something had happened inside, there would soon be some activity to indicate to her just what had happened.

Major Amasova had the patience to wait and see.

It was an hour before Leiter and the two "Leopards"

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stepped off the elevator. Major Amasova had perked up in the stairwell when she had seen the laundry cart wheeled to Bond's room.

When Major Amasova saw the two men come out guiding a considerably heavier laundry cart than they guided in, she hurried down the stairs and arrived in the lobby before they did. They made a detour to go out the freight entrance, and she followed. She watched them load the cart into the back of a van with VALLARTA CLEANERS written on the side. As they loaded it in, the edge of a sheet flapped over the side of the cart, and Major Amasova could see that the fabric was soaked in bright red - and she knew blood when she saw it. She'd spilled enough of it in the past several years.

[* * * * * *]

Fuji Chen stood looking down at the young woman. She lay on a big double bed, an ornate wooden-framed bed with a blue lace canopy. She was still out cold, lying between silk sheets pulled up to her neck, her blonde hair fanning over the white-silk pillowcase.

Chen bent and shook her by the shoulders, saying, "Hey... uh... lady, you better wake up." She moaned but didn't open her eyes.

He went to the window, threw open the shutters onto the night. The hiss and rumble of the sea came in, the breeze humming a little as it passed between the black iron bars over the window. That black iron was ivy-patterned and decorative - but it was still bars. And even if Lotta could saw through it somehow, she'd find herself on a window ledge alone in the middle of a stone wall, nothing handy to climb to freedom with - and below, only sea and jagged

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rock. Way, way below.

Chen walked across the Persian rug to the bed, hoping the sea breeze coming through the window would wake her. She began to stir and her eyes fluttered.

She wore only a halter top and shorts. She'd had a skirt on over the shorts when they had found her, but that had gotten tom off in the struggle to subdue her. She'd shot Jose Maldonado in the arm, and he had bled all over her skirt - they had used Maldonado's blood to leave the message on the wall.

Thinking about it now, Chen wondered why he had left such an ambiguous message - it had almost hinted that the young woman was dead. And if Bond thought she was dead, nothing would stop him from coming at them. It was almost as if Chen wanted Bond to...

Groaning, Lotta sat up, holding her head, looking around with a wince. "Where am I?" she murmured.

Chen was about to answer, but turned instead to the thick metal-banded wooden door, listening. He heard Klaus Doberman coming.

The knob turned, and Lotta's eyes widened. As the door opened, Chen snapped to attention. Two Mexican men in fatigues came into the room and took up positions facing each other on either side of the door, standing rigidly at attention. And then Doberman came in.

The German stood a little over six-feet, with a slim and fit physique attired in a single-breasted dinner jacket, heavy silk shirt, thin double-ended black satin tie. Although a black patch covered his right eye, he glanced up and down at Lotta with his left, which was an utterly cold blue. His long, white mane of hair was tied behind in a ponytail fashion. His face was gaunt, sombre. So far as

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Chen knew, Doberman had only three distinct expressions. A lopsided, demented grin; a look of fierce, intense concentration; and an animal expression of rage.

Doberman turned to the Chinaman, grinning. "Thank you, Chen. You can go now," he said. "But leave one guard, please."

Chen bowed and gestured briskly at one of the guards. Fifteen seconds later, they were gone.

Doberman paced back and forth, cracking his knuckles. His gaze fixed on Lotta and never left her, no matter which direction he turned. She shrank under that gaze.

He spoke, as he paced, in a disarmingly polite, even soothing tone. "Good evening. You have been asleep a long time, young lady. Your name is Lotta, I think. Yes? I should introduce myself. I am Klaus Doberman." He paused in his strutting to bow.

She just stared at him.

Doberman grunted, and the grin faded from his face, replaced by his look of deep concentration. His round forehead wrinkled; his eye looked decisive and taciturn. He resumed pacing, continuing to speak congenially. "I am concerned for your health, young lady. I hope the accommodations are acceptable. Are you hungry?"

"Yes I am," she admitted reluctantly. "But I have such a headache."

"We shall fetch you aspirin and some dinner." He nodded toward the remaining guard. "Go see to it." And the man was gone.

"I suppose it would do me no good to demand that you let me go?" Lotta asked.

Doberman stopped in the center of the rug. "Your intuition has informed you correctly, my dear." All the

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warmth drained out of his voice.

"I... my family is an influential one, Senor Doberman. And James Bond knows you have kidnapped me. He will come after me."

Doberman laughed. "He knows I'd kill you if he did. As far as your family - they don't even know where you are. And there is nothing they could do in any event... Ah, here is the tray with your dinner, a little cold, as it has been waiting for you to wake. Where is the aspirin?" he roared at the guard.

"It is coming, Senor Doberman!" The guard, hands shaking, set the tray down.

"Quickly!"

"Si, senor!" The guard dashed like a frightened rabbit into the hall.

Doberman's good humor returned. "Well, now, enjoy your dinner, my dear. Filet of salmon, I think. Nothing poisoned, I assure you. Eventually I will decide how to use you to bait Mr. Bond into our hands. Or if we can find a way to get a message to him, I will ask you to write a short letter for me. Mr. Bond has made very angry. Very angry."

"Never!" Lotta yelled at him.

Doberman smiled broadly and maniacally. "Well, now. What a poor beginning for an intimate relationship. I assure you, by tomorrow... or the next day... you will tell me things you would not even tell a lover."

"Never!" she screamed again.

"But surely you know how senseless it is to resist. In the long run, pain is a poor substitute for intelligence. But as a moral man, I feel compelled to ask. What you must understand is that I have to interrogate you. I have no other choice. I will get your utmost cooperation."

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"Go to hell!" Lotta spat in his face.

Doberman scowled and wiped his face with a handkerchief. His smile and shining eye revealed his deranged mind. "Forgive me for boring you. Sometimes I get too eager. I get ashamed of myself. You wish to test your strength against pain. Very good. I sense that Chen has become impatient. I do not wish to frustrate him." Doberman rapped his knuckles on the door.

The Chinaman opened it and stepped forward. Perhaps he smiled. It was hard to tell. What Lotta noticed most was the large hypodermic syringe he was holding.

[* * * * * *]

Midnight. Bond could feel himself sweating inside the wet suit. The shark, apparently unable to make up its mind about this odd, shiny fish, was circling while Bond continued his forward motion, swimming toward the beach beneath Klaus Doberman's clifftop estate. He guessed the shark could follow him the whole way without approaching him, but he wasn't counting on it. He had tied up the speedboat, just behind, at the little cove a short distance south of Doberman's fortress.

Bond had a speargun and was fairly proficient with it, but he was not about to risk a shot at the shark while it was not posing an immediate threat to him. If he missed and angered the beast, or wounded it, it would be all over. He couldn't hope to outswim or outmaneuver it on its own turf. So he continued swimming, holding the gun at the ready, just in case.

The pack strapped to Bond's back seemed to gradually increase in weight, and he began to wonder if the shore he was swimming toward wasn't somehow moving away from

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him. He'd planned on a leisurely swim, pacing himself so his powerful crawl would cover the most distance with a minimum of fatigue. And it would have been a pleasant, if long, swim if it hadn't been for the fifteen-foot shark that didn't seem to be sure if he wanted a traveling companion for lunch.

Every so often the shark seemed to blend into the azure depths of the water, and Bond was unable to locate his escort. He simply had to hope that during one of those periods the shark wouldn't take it into his tiny little mind to charge him.

Moments later the shark suddenly came into view again through the murky water, and it was swimming much more quickly than before. Bond barely had time to move as the shark charged him and went by, striking him with its dorsal fin. The blow on his arm caused him to drop the speargun, and now Bond was sweating even more.

His left arm was numb from the blow, and he reached for the saw-toothed diving knife on his belt with his right, keeping his eyes open for the shark Holding the knife tightly, Bond began to kick his legs faster. He forced himself to use his left arm, and gradually the feeling came back into it. He felt he was moving at a good pace when the shark raced by him from behind at top speed, making Bond feel as if he were standing still. He watched as the creature pulled ahead, then turned and seemed to study him. Suddenly it rocketed toward him, and Bond held out his knife. He wasn't at all sure where he could drive the knife to do the most damage, but he imagined that the shark's belly would be a good spot. As it approached, Bond abruptly stopped moving his arms and legs, which caused him to sink like a stone. When the shark passed directly

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above him, he drove the knife up and into the soft underbelly, and held onto it tightly, the blade moved forward. As he hoped, the shark's own momentum cause the knife's saw teeth to tear open its belly, almost yanking the blade from his grasp.

Without waiting to examine the damage he had done, he once again began to swim toward shore, his adrenaline adding new vigor to his strokes.

Finally, when he stood in waist-deep water, he went to replace the knife in his belt and noticed that the blade had broken off, probably still in the belly of the shark. He discarded the hilt, and then he waded ashore and shed the wet suit, burying it high enough on the beach so it wouldn't be uncovered at high tide.

From the pack he took a black commando outfit, complete with boots and black knit cap and facepaint, and his weapons, all of which had been sealed in waterproof plastic bags. Feeling fully dressed at last, he vacated the beach in favor of a steep, rocky ridge, fledged with scrub and small palm trees, between Bond and Doberman's estate. He carried a small pack of equipment on his back, everything in it secured so as not to clack when he moved.

He began to work his way up the ridge, doing his best to keep from dislodging stones. The hiss of the sea covered much of the noise, but if there were guards on the ridgetop, he didn't want to arouse their suspicions by making even a small noise.

Bond soon hit on a well-worn trail, and climbed along it silently, grateful that there was a cloud cover tonight to blot out the moonlight.

He had just reached the spiny ridgeback when he heard low voices: someone coming down the trail to the east,

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hidden by a bend. He climbed hastily onto a boulder, concealing himself on the far side from the trail. Peering through a crevice in the rock, Bond watched as four men, coming two at a time, strolled down the trail. Two of them were speaking Spanish, the others whispered together in Russian. The men wore fatigues and bulky shirts under which the outlines of bulletproof vests were clearly visible. Bond's trained eyes picked out details in the darkness that untrained men would have missed.

The two Mexicans carried Heckler and Koch G11 sniper rifles, with Colt Python pistols strapped to their sides.

The two Russians were armed with AKM automatic rifles, the regulation assault rifle of Soviet forces. Holstered on their sides were high-powered 7.62mm Tula-Tokarev pistols.

Bond waited till the guards went in their respective patrol directions - split up to cover four parts of the ridge - and then moved into position on an adjacent boulder. The boulder was shaped like a half-moon, hooking one of its horns over the trail. He lay in the deep shadow atop the rock on his left side, quietly taking a few "working tools" out of his pack.

Bond held in his hands the most powerful crossbow pistol ever made, which could send one of its stainless-steel arrows at speeds up to forty-five miles per hour. It was accurate up to sixty feet and penetration at close range was awesome. Tested at twenty-five feet, its arrows went through the New York City phonebook to page four-hundred. Its frame was made of heavy gauge die-cast aluminum and the laminated fiberglass bow was strung with forty-five pounds of tension. It weighed a light twenty-

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four ounces and was eighteen inches long, with a sixteen inch bow span. Attached to the top of the quiet and lethal weapon was an aiming scope with a sophisticated infrared light system.

As Bond had anticipated, one of the guards passed down the trail beneath his boulder. The clouds broke, pouring moonlight onto the man's face. Bond recognized him as one of the Russians.

The Soviet guard looked down the slope, away from the boulder on which Bond lay. Then he turned toward Bond's direction, cocking his head, listening, as if he heard something.

Bond looked through the scope and a laser beam created a red dot which illuminated the spot where the arrow would hit. Then he gently squeezed the crossbow's trigger...

The Russian's gun clattered down the slope, lost among the bushes. His body was impaled against a palm tree; an arrow projected grotesquely from his forehead; his face bloated and red, tongue protruding swollen and black, blood dripping from the corners of his mouth.

Bond moved back into position on the big half-moon boulder, and waited, now and then flexing his muscles to keep them from going to sleep. He might have to move quickly if someone spotted him.

One of the Mexicans strolled along the trail. He was humming, and seemed strangely unconcerned. And then Bond smelled the reason: the man was smoking a marijuana reefer. Good - that would confuse him and slow his reaction time.

Just before the guard walked beneath the overhanging boulder, Bond replaced the crossbow with a Chakram, a

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razor sharp metal disk, which was once that traditions weapon of the Sikhs of India. He had gained respect for the weapon while on assignment in Pakistan.

A foot in diameter, weighing just a third of a pound, the Chakram was delivered by Bond whirling the weapon on the index finger and then releasing it in a manner similar to the release of a frisbee flying disk. It sliced through the air with the finality of a guillotine, catching the Mexican just above the collar, neatly severing his head from his body before lodging itself deeply in the trunk of another palm tree.

Thirty minutes later, the other Russian passed beneath Bond's boulder, emerging on the other side. Bond pulled on the time setting stem of his Rolex until it clicked, releasing two finger grips which detached from the watch casing. Holding the watch by the expanding metal bracelet, Bond pulled on the finger grips to expose a length of strong, thin wire.

Bond quickly dropped from the overhang, directly behind the Russian and laid the wire against the man's throat. He did just as Bond had anticipated - he tried to break free, lurching forward so all Bond had to do was hold the wire steadily. Blood, thick and warm, spurted onto Bond's hands and ran down his arms. The Russian sank to his knees, gurgling, jerking as he bled to death. Then he slumped over and lay still.

A few minutes later, Bond was moving low to the ground along the edge of the cliff. He was a dizzying distance over the toothy rocks and frothing breakers below. To his left a screen of brush hid him from the trail. There was at least one other Mexican guard on this ridge, and Bond guessed he would be on the promontory ahead of him.

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Bond was wrong. The guard was behind him.

He knew it when a bullet smacked into the stone beside his cheek, stinging the left side of his face with tiny bits of rock. Cursing, Bond whirled and ducked at the same time; a burst of bullets sang just over his head.

He turned and fired the Beretta without having time to aim it. The Mexican fell back against the cliff edge, groaning. Bond's own weapon was silenced, so it made only a sharp hissing sound as it spat bullets. But the other man's gun had spoken loud - Bond hoped the sound of the breakers would drown out the gun noise. He preferred that Doberman think his guards had simply deserted him.

Worrying about this, his mind a little distracted, Bond went to make sure the Mexican who had tried to ambush him was dead. But the guard was playing possum. As soon as Bond bent over him, the man brought his G-11 up and squeezed the trigger.

Reflex action saved Bond. He straightened and kicked at the gun, catching it at the breech with the toe of his boot. The kick struck the barrel back so that the gun roared over Bond's shoulder, but so close his cheek was burned by its muzzle flash and his ears rang.

Bond jumped a step back, kicked again, this time balancing and miming in a karate move, to get the maximum impact. The kick connected and the gun went spinning over the edge, onto the rock. The guard rolled aside, leaving a glistening patch of red on the rock where he had lain - Bond had wounded him with a shot from his Beretta.

Then Bond swung the faithful pistol around to finish the job.

But even a wounded man can move quickly when he

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knows he is about to be executed. The clouds broke again, and moonlight poured down on them. The Mexican was an experienced fighter, Bond deducted - he was a brawny, dark-eyed man with an old bullet scar creasing his right cheek, his hair clipped in a military crewcut. He grinned at Bond to show he wasn't afraid, and was up in a crouch, within the reach of Bond's gun barrel. He shouldered the Beretta aside and slammed Bond in the pit of the stomach with a ham-sized fist.

Bond felt like the world had just turned inside out. He gasped, and staggered backward, trying to bring the gun muzzle between him and his assailant.

The Mexican continued to pull Bond back till he had him pinned against the rock. Bond, still gasping for air found himself cheek to grizzled cheek with the man. The guard favored his left shoulder - that would be where Bond had hit him, then Bond snapped his forehead down hard, like the head of a hammer, onto the bullet wound in the man's shoulder.

The big Mexican howled and his grip loosened for a moment. Bond brought his knee up sharply into the man's groin. He staggered back - but caught hold of Bond's gun barrel with his right hand, forcing it up and away from him.

Bond flicked his wrist and the sleeve knife slid into his hand just as the iron-muscled Mexican rammed him again with his right shoulder, striking Bond squarely in the sternum. Bond shivered with pain. Points of light flickered before his eyes. But he wrenched free and slashed at the other with the sleeve knife in his left hand. The man let go of his gun barrel to block the knife thrust. Bond swung the gun between them and squeezed the trigger, but once more the Mexican, though wounded and battered, leaped

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aside with almost supernatural speed, a split second before the Beretta fired its .25 caliber slugs.

He stepped in, knocked the gun aside with his left fist, and caught the wrist of Bond's knife hand with his right. The man kicked with his right foot - and caught the Beretta squarely in the barrel, knocking it from Bond's grip. But that kick exposed his ribs - and Bond aimed a vicious kick at them, heard them crack as he connected. The Mexican wrenched loose, and fell, grunting, rolling to Bond's right, dangerously near the cliff edge - and near the Beretta. It had fallen close beside the rim of the precipice.

Shouting with triumph, the Mexican snatched up the Beretta, leaped to his feet, braced himself to fire...

Bond had a split second to make a decision. He stood with his back against a wall of rock, just two yards from a man who had his own Beretta pointed at him. If he jumped to the right or to the left, the man - an experienced gunman - would compensate and swing to fire. If he threw his knife, it would never reach its mark in time. But if he leaped forward and down, at the big man's ankles - the man had the gun tilted upward, so that might give him the moment he needed. All this Bond considered in that fraction of a heartbeat as the Mexican was drawing a bead of sweat on him.

Bond leaped forward - and as he went, he realized that his momentum would carry them both over the cliff.

The Beretta hissed, sizzling the air near Bond's right ear with a bullet. Then Bond connected with the Mexican's knees, taking him off his feet in a football tackle.

They went sailing over the cliff edge into space.

Bond felt unreal, turning end over end, still gripping the

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man's knees, and it was as if time had slowed - they seemed to fall through syrup, though this was an illusion created by his frantically racing brain. He saw the Beretta whirl past him, a spinning blur of metal. The other man had let go of it, and Bond had lost his sleeve knife. He moved instinctively - though his mind told him: That's it, you were overconfident and now you're dead - to force the bigger man beneath him as they turned, holding him now by the biceps...

They struck. The Mexican struck the rock first, and Bond fell atop him, his fall cushioned a little by the man's broken body. Even so - and though they had struck the rock only glancingly - Bond felt like he had been crumpled up and thrown away. Forces mightier than him had taken over - the immense gravitational suck of the earth, the murderously hard sheer mass of those jagged rocks, the thundering waves crashing down on him. The sea closing over his head.

All the wind had been knocked from Bond, and his chest ached where he had taken the brunt of the blow when they hit the rock - it hurt like an explosion that would not stop exploding. The water - surprisingly cold, dark as the depths of a tar pit - surged around him, oblivious of the pain its wrenching cost him. It lifted him, seemed to raise him the way a baseball batter poises a bat, then slammed him against the rocks again and again, while his brain screamed for oxygen and his limbs turned to lead. Death closed in on him, and he seemed to see the laughing, bestial face of Klaus Doberman mocking him, telling him: You were overconfident and now you're dead, you were overconfident and now you're dead, you were overconfident...

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No!

Bond found the inner tap for the strength that came to him when he was sufficiently enraged. He turned on the tap, and strength flowed through him.

Once more a wave threw him against the rock, but this time he clung, though the flinty edges cut his fingers and his limbs felt as if they were ripping, the suction of the waves' receding trying to tear him loose.

But he held on, and at last the wave fell away from him. He sputtered, spat salt water, and drank in the open air.

Every movement hurt, but he forced himself to climb higher on the rock, out of reach of the sea. His throat burned salt water, his ears rang, his head pounded with ache, but he felt a singing sense of triumph. He had lived through it.

The Mexican's limp, shattered body - the cushion that had saved Bond's life - floated like so much flotsam in the water, facedown, spinning as the eddies caught it, then dragged out to sea...

James Bond coughed, and dragging limbs that seemed weighed down by invisible anchor chains, he made his way by the dim moonlight to the tumble of boulders at the base of the cliff. From there he could sidle around to a beach - with luck. He sighed. He would have to go up and get those bodies and bury them. Doberman would have to be convinced that his guards deserted him. It would be a long night.

[* * * * * *]

A few hours later, the Soviet submarine broke the surface of the Pacific Ocean for the first time, forty-seven miles southwest of Puerto Vallarta's coastline. The hull

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popped and creaked from the release of pressure of the now receding water. General Gogol went pale but stood rigidly upright in his cabin.

A few minutes later, the bridge speaker's metallic voice broke the silence in the General's cabin. "Grid square 54-90 area clear. No enemy vessels in vicinity."

"Acknowledged," General Gogol replied. "Prepare for expected rendezvous with Comrade Major Amasova." The speaker clicked off. The General smiled thoughtfully, thinking how anxious he was to soon be on a paradise of warm beaches, palm trees, white sand beaches and dusky girls. The frozen tundra of the Motherland seemed light-years away.

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-12-

Double-Crosses and Cross-Out

"LOOKS LIKE A PAINTING OF A SUNSET," BOND MUTtered, gazing at himself in the mirror. He was naked from the waist up. On his chest was a bruise bigger than a soccer ball, over the right pectoral and spreading down onto the ribs. It was bright red in the center, spreading out from there into rays of violet and purple. "A bad painting," Bond added.

He shrugged - and regretted it, since even that much movement of his shoulders hurt - and turned away from the mirror to the speedboat's washbasin. He had to stand a little bent over in the cramped cabin. He dabbed antiseptic on the laceration along his gut, then taped a pressure bandage on to hold his four cracked ribs in place.

Bond had just finished his wound-dressing and pulled on his white Sea Island cotton shirt when he heard door to the boat garage open. He checked the Walther PPK, found it in order, loaded and ready to kill, and

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moved to peer from the edge of the little porthole.

All he could see was a pair of white trousers moving past on the dock beside the boat, a little above the porthole.

He moved to the door, prepared to shoot through it. He heard the creak as someone dropped onto the boat, then footsteps as the person moved to the door. He cocked the pistol.

"Bond! James, are you...?"

Bond relaxed, shaking his head, and opened the door. Leiter came in. "Dammit, Felix, why don't you give the signal, man? I almost blew you away."

Leiter slapped his forehead, said apologetically, "I am not myself today. I am being forgetful from worry, James." He sat down on the bunk. "I'm afraid I have taken a sort of paternal interest in this little girlfriend of yours. And the bad news this morning... I'm simply not-"

"What bad news?" Bond asked, taking a pot of coffee off the mini-stove. He poured out two cups, and glanced at his Rolex. It was nearly eleven A.M. Hell, he had needed the rest. He wouldn't get much more until the mission was over.

"Colombian police. They know about Doberman. They know he's here. And they've got his fortress under surveillance."

Bond sipped his coffee, and sighed. Bad news and bad coffee. Great combination. "The Colombian President vowed he would have Doberman hunted down and avenge his Justice Minister's assassination. `Swift and effective retribution,' I think he termed it. Yeah, that's..." He shook his head. "Doberman will kill Lotta if they move in on him. He'll think I put them onto him."

"Perhaps. But I have a friend in the Mexican govern-

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ment who told me about this. He told me that they are not ready to move on Doberman. There's some debate about his legal status. And they are a little worried about the Russian connection. So they are taking their time, planning - which is lucky for us. It might give us time."

"Us?" Bond looked at Leiter. "Felix, you astonish me. Are you actually proposing to take up a gun and storm the enemy's position with me?"

"Stupid of me. But, yes."

Bond grinned. "I'll find a use for you."

"So, James..." Leiter chuckled. "I have heard something: that Doberman is trying to hire more men. It seems two of his men and two Russians `deserted'."

"You don't say?" Bond replied, sarcastically. "You think he'll replace them?"

"No. He was lucky to get the ones he has - it is not easy to find men one can trust, men with no shred of scruples, in Mexico."

"It's tough anywhere to find men you can trust who have no scruples!" Bond laughed. "Doberman's got a problem all right. He'll try to get bona-fide mercenaries, but that takes time. You have to find them, interview them, screen them, brief them - the finding alone could take weeks."

Leiter nodded. "Still, there is the problem of the Colombians..."

Bond lit a cigarette, blew smoke at the porthole, and said thoughtfully, "Maybe a little courtesy money."

"Not a little bribe, James. A lot."

Bond whistled.

"Yes, a lot of money for them to turn their backs on a specific night. But these men will be risking their careers."

"Okay. Radio M. and have-"

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"I already have. May I have a cigarette?"

"I would've thought you already took one." He tossed him the pack.

Leiter laughed. Then his expression became grave. "You move stiffly, James - are you hurt?"

"Just a little bruised. Well, a lot bruised. I was lucky, considering. I'll be okay once I get moving."

"When do we strike, James?"

"Soon. When the time's right. When my instinct tells me. But I think it would be best to peel away a few more `deserters'."

"Then you will have an opportunity today - Doberman has set sail in his yacht."

Bond stiffened. "What?"

Leiter held up his mechanical hand in a gesture that said: keep calm. "He's not going for long. My friends among the Leopards say he took along your friend and a few guards, and took the yacht out to sea - they think he's got a rendezvous with someone afraid to come to Mexico. Or afraid to be seen with Doberman. I strongly suspect it is the clandestine meeting with General Gogol that Major Amasova mentioned."

"But how do you know Doberman's coming back?"

"Most of his guards stayed at the estate. He took no supplies. There are signs."

"I hope you're right Felix, if we could find that yacht..."

"Forget it, James. I found out about it hours after the yacht left this morning. It's too late to follow him. I expect he will come back tonight."

"Then it's time for you and me to take a boat ride."

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* * * * * *

The Buenaventura sat at anchor several miles out into Bahia Banderas.

Fuji Chen stood at the rail of the immense white yacht, watching the horizon sink and rise and sickeningly sink again as the vessel rocked in the waves. He leaned back against the rail, blinking in the sunlight. The noonday sun washed over the decks and chased all the shadows under the deck chairs. He drew his arms into his sides for a moment, feeling the sudden erratic stirrings in the shoulder bag he carried. Then they ceased.

The sound of a helicopter caused Chen to crane his neck, scanning the skies above the yacht. He shouted an order to one of the guards to fire a flare and the man quickly pulled the trigger.

The light of the flares suddenly illuminated the ocean around them and pinpointed their position to the helicopter, for at that moment it turned slightly to the northeast and headed in the proper direction.

Doberman, the picture of confidence, advanced from inside the yacht and patted Chen's shoulder as if they were the best of friends. "Have you made the proper arrangements?" he asked, impassively.

A vicious smile crossed Chen's face as he gestured to the shoulder bag. "Everything is in order."

The helicopter blades tossed deck chairs and tables into the air, causing Doberman and his men to shield their faces with their hands and arms. The roar of the engine and propeller were deafening as the aircraft settled on the circle-shaped landing pad. The rotors whined slowly to a halt and the side door of the French-made Aerospatiale SA 315B slid open.

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White jacket and black tie in place, Doberman greeted the immaculately-uniformed Major Amasova with the customary kiss on the cheek. General Gogol, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a well-tailored dark-grey suit, resembled the stereotype of a bank president. He, too, was kissed by Doberman on each cheek, then General Gogol pumped his host's hand with a firmness that spoke of an underlying and unresolved problem.

As Doberman and his Russian guests proceeded to the interior of the yacht, Chen sauntered past and seemed to be examining with exactly average interest the rotary aircraft. He glanced down to the athletic bag. Its contents were quiet, but that would be a short-lived state of being. Although he had not looked at his watch, and did not do so now, he knew the correct time to within a minute. The meeting between his employer and General Gogol would not take long. It was time to act.

[* * * * * *]

Doberman and the two Russians sat sipping Stolichnaya vodka on the rocks at one end of the polished oak table in the spacious stateroom.

General Gogol enjoyed his ventures around the world and was usually pleased to deal with Klaus Doberman. Today, however, he looked distressed. "You disregarded procedure," the older man announced. "You did not request approval before eliminating Bill Tanner. Reprisals from the British Secret Service are jeopardizing ongoing operations. Now 007 is complicating matters and he must be neutralized before he thwarts our initiatives in Central and South America."

"The issue is irrelevant," Doberman replied calmly, his

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cold eye focused on General Gogol. "I have made new associations. I no longer need the financial backing of Soviet Union."

General Gogol's forehead wrinkled and his eyebrows lowered in displeasure. "We had a deal, Comrade Doberman. The Soviet Union would finance you as you manufactured and produced large quantities of cocaine and you, in turn, would expand the drug's use and abuse by means of a cartel throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America, thus undermining and destabilizing their democratic but fragile governments."

Doberman slowly stood. "I don't need you. I don't need anyone. No, instead, you need me." He walked away from the table, turning his back physically and financially on the Russians.

General Gogol leaped to his feet, his angry frown becoming a snarl. "You are making a fatal mistake Comrade Doberman. No one simply walks away from the Soviet Union."

Ignoring General Gogol's threats, Doberman walked out of the room, smiling gleefully to himself.

[* * * * * *]

Chen unzipped the bag and removed a quivering burlap sack. Without further hesitation, he opened the helicopter's door on the pilot's side and planted the bag along with its frenzied contents under the seat. Then with the meticulous and steady hands of a surgeon, he loosened the shoestring knot that caged the sack's inhabitants.

Chen froze for a fleeting moment - he could hear the Russians' distant voices. Slowly he continued with the tiny underplayed pantomime, then walked off to the rail,

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a safe distance from the helicopter. His slanted eyes had the controlled interest of a sniper's as he reached for a rifle.

General Gogol and Major Amasova approached the chopper seconds after Chen took a seat in one of the canvas deck chairs. Their gestures were angry, impatient.

Chen chuckled to himself as he watched Major Amasova buckle herself into the passenger's seat and General Gogol grabbed the chopper's controls. The rotors began to turn and the engine whined increasingly, then the aircraft lifted off the pad gracefully, veering hard to the left, heading for the awaiting submarine. The whine of the machinery caused the inhabitants of the bag to strike against their burlap cage in wild excitement.

General Gogol maneuvered the helicopter on towards his rendezvous, his fingers drumming on the dash of the aircraft as he scanned the endless ocean.

The vibrations were strong in the bag now as the chopper continued to veer sharply to the left. The sweeps of the decapitated tails quickened on the half dozen or so Mexican Rattlesnakes. Abruptly they slithered their large drug-stimulated bodies out of the loosely tied bag and into the floorboard of the helicopter. The snakes' fangs became a part of their exterior, and their mutilated tails, thrashing back and forth, cut the air with hisses. Series of tremors shook their bodies as they recognized prey. Upon spotting General Gogol's legs in front of them, the snakes waved their tails like segmented spikes just above their heads. The mouths opened wide and with quick thrusts, they were upon him.

At first, General Gogol's brain registered something but didn't know what. There was no initial pain, only two or

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three violent tugs on his left leg. He reached down and felt an enormous elongated body biting repeatedly at his tendons. Pain and panic struck together.

The ocean reeled, the horizon tilting, as General Gogol nosed the helicopter down, increasing speed. Major Amasova threw her head back and screamed a guttural cry of terror. She understood all too horribly what held the General in this poisonous grip.

Another snake hurtled itself against General Gogol's limbs, jaws agape. Frantically guiding the chopper, he stared down at the waves that rushed by, seemingly inches away, at a hundred and twenty miles [per/an] hour. Major Amasova slammed against the Plexiglas, the helicopter plummeting, swerving.

Shivers ran along the General's spine to his shocked brain. The chopper continued to accelerate to greater and greater speeds as his legs crippled to the loss of motion and sensation.

Major Amasova's heart pounded as the snakes turned to attack her. She let out a bloodcurdling scream, an ejaculation of hopelessness and despair.

Avoiding two agonies that she could not imagine, she quickly unbuckled herself from the seat with trembling hands, backing toward the now open door.

As the helicopter raced toward the ocean, she dove, plunging into the water, feeling heat on her back, even saw her shadow ahead of herself, though the sun blazed overhead. The chopper had exploded with fury and intensity, accompanied by a firey mushroom cloud.

Major Amasova swam, desperate, her lungs swelling, aching, her legs kicking for maximum distance. The water cooled her stinging back. As the waves twisted her, she saw

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the surface, the flames sweeping over the water, a firestorm raged.

She slanted lower into the water, inhaling frantically, kicking and thrusting with her arms, desperately swimming towards the shore with little but revenge on her mind.

[* * * * * *]

Chen sat in the deck chair, witnessing the helicopter's destruction into a cloud of flames. A solid rising of them. And its roar sent a visible shock wave rippling through the waters. One second, the ocean looked so boring, so peaceful, the sun blazing on it, that Chen had yawned. The next second after that, the ocean had exploded.

A smile of personal satisfaction and professional pride creased Chen's yellow face. Then he scanned the horizon, hoping he would see James Bond's boat.

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-13-

The Long Hard Scream

BOND'S BOAT, HOWEVER, WAS A LONG WAY AWAY. IT was speeding north along the coast, cutting waves with a deep white wake as he rounded the headlands. He didn't slow until he came in sight of Klaus Doberman's cliffside fortress.

His every movement hurt, because of the enormous bruise on his chest and the cracked ribs, but he piloted the speedboat toward the fortress, the pain swept away in an almost narcotic flow of fury.

There was another speedboat tied up next to the hydrocopter at the jetty below the house. Bond cut the engines and let the boat drift. He examined the jetty through the compact binoculars. The other speedboat was lightweight high performance Glastron Scimitar. It was smaller than Bond's Chris-Craft, and possibly faster. There was a good chance it was at least partly armored.

A muscular Mexican, dressed in faded blue jeans and

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a short-sleeve khaki shirt, sat in the Scimitar with an M16 across his knees. He was gazing out to sea. After a moment he noticed Bond's boat. There was a flare of light reflected from the glass as he raised binoculars to check out the intruder. He must have recognized Bond, for he went immediately to his boat's radiophone and made a call - probably to the house; the yacht would be too far away to raise on light radio equipment.

Bond guessed right: three men came bounding down the stone stairs from the fortress. In three minutes they had joined their associate on the Scimitar.

"Here comes the Welcome Wagon," Felix Leiter observed.

Bond nodded. He watched as the men in the boat cast off and turned the craft seaward, its engines rising in pitch as it picked up speed. It was a dull silver, the colour of a polished knife, and it slashed toward Bond and Leiter as if it wanted to cut them in half with its prow.

Bond smiled. "That's it, boys," he said. "Come and get it." He pressed the ignition switch. The engine turned over, roaring into life. He glanced at the knife-coloured boat speeding toward them. Bond could see two men on either side of the windshield, leveling M16's to fire. He threw the speedboat into gear and twisted the steering wheel, turning a tight circle, throwing up a circular skirt of spray. Bullets zipped into the water behind them and ricocheted off the boat's armored body. They ground into high gear, and as if startled by the bullets rebounding from its die, Bond's heavier boat reared back in the water with a sudden burst of speed.

Bond piloted the boat in evasive action, zigzagging, doubling back when the enemy gained on him, and

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swerving to put the occasional outcroppings of rock between him and his pursuers. Once they were out of sight of the cliffside fortress, Leiter knelt beside the engine casing and opened fire on the other boat. The shooting was difficult for both sides as the boats leaped and fishtailed in the water, coming down with a whump that sent the crews clutching for support. Both boats made looping ribbons of wake on the sea. Under such conditions the best Leiter could do was force the enemy to keep their heads down, taking potshots when the boat was momentarily steady.

They had begun to encounter other craft, and it wouldn't be long before reports of gunfire at sea would bring the Mexican equivalent of the Coast Guard down on them.

The setup would have to be soon, Bond decided. He scanned the coastline for the proper location... So many swimmers, sailboats, motorboats now, it would be difficult to find a spot secluded enough.

"Felix!" he shouted over the roar of the engine and the hiss of the sea. "Take the wheel!"

Leiter dropped the M16 and took over. Bond went below to consult a map. There - a stretch of coast fairly deserted because there were so many shoals and out-croppings, dangerous for boats. Dangerous for his, too, but he'd have to risk that.

Too bad he hadn't had time to find the ideal spot for the setup earlier. That would have been better tactics, but he'd had to act quickly, before the return of Doberman's yacht.

He went topside and took the wheel, piloting now in a beeline for the little lagoon he wanted, and trying to outdistance the enemy craft.

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Sailboat sailors cursed at him as he rocketed so close to them they nearly overturned in his backwash. Consulting the chart with quick glances, he worked his way toward the rocky cliffs, moving in as close as he dared. He was only a few yards from the churning breakers on their right. He was forced to slow, five minutes later, when they came to a maze of jagged outcropppings. Seabirds rose shrieking from the rocks as they wove between them. Now and then the hull scraped bottom, and Bond knew they'd lose their screws if they it a particularly hard jut of rock.

Then enemy craft had slowed to a crawl, was working its way cautiously between the rocks. Leiter and Doberman's men exchanged shots when the intervening rocks parted to allow it, resulting only in scratches on bulletproof windshields and dents in the deck. Still, a wellplaced shot could put the engine out of commission - or take Leiter between the eyes. Bond decided that the risk wasn't necessary at this point in the campaign. "Felix!" he shouted over his shoulder. "Take cover - go below and get the equipment ready!"

"Aye, aye sir!"

Bond grinned, and gunned the engine to greater speed, seeing the maze of rocks open up for the lagoon he was looking for. He needed to put a little "operating time" between him and his pursuers.

It was a small lagoon, comma-shaped, the tail of the comma pointing out to sea. He swung the boat into the wider area of the lagoon and sharply to the left, so it was hidden from his pursuers by a tumble of boulders on the shore. He left it in first gear, then engaged the automatic pilot to make the cruiser nose in to the shore. He snatched up his Belgian FN-FAL, the automatic rifle he'd come to

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prefer for short-range sniping, and leaped from the boat into the knee-deep water. He sloshed to shore and took up a concealed firing position between two wedge-shaped red boulders. He lay on his belly, legs in a V behind, adjusting the rifle's sights for estimated range.

At the same time, Leiter, as prearranged, carrying only a pistol and a small black box, leaped ashore and ran into the scrub ringing the beach. The box he carried was bare except for one face, which contained two dials, an antenna, and a miniature stick shift and steering wheel. He concealed himself behind a fallen log overgrown with creeping vines. Chuckling, he threw a switch on the black box - which was no bigger than a family-size cereal box - and threw the gear knob into reverse. The boat responder backing away from shore just as the enemy speedboat hove into the lagoon.

The silvery craft made a throat-clearing sound as it shifted down, slackening speed to cautiously assess the situation. The men in the boat were still some thirty yards away, but Bond could see that their eyes were fixed on his own boat. So far, they hadn't detected the setup. The door to the pilot's cabin in Bond's boat was shut, and Leiter kept the boat moving so that the enemy got no clear look through the windshield - with luck, they wouldn't see that no one was standing at the wheel.

Leiter kept the boat circling in the lagoon, always at the far side from the enemy. The two boats circled like wary knife fighters going round and round a central point, looking for an opening.

Bond sighted in on the back of the enemy boat. Three men were crouched there, taking a bead on his decoy; a fourth stood pilot.

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He regretted he hadn't been able to be certain of the range ahead of time - he might have reset the sights properly. Still, it was a good three-power scope, and the enemy, when Leiter brought them into position, should be well within effective range. The automatic rifle used 7.62 X 51mm NATO ammunition. It was gas-operated, with a thirty-round capacity in its detachable box magazine. Bond had two such ammo magazine at his elbow; the third was already in the rifle. The twenty-one-inch (533mm) barrel rested on an extended tripod; the butt fit nearly against his right shoulder. The Israelis had made good use of this rifle, and an Israeli infantry captain, as a personal favor, had shown Bond how to use it on the range. But this was his first opportunity to try it out on live, moving targets. For Bond, every field operation was also an educational exercise. Soldiers who kept learning kept living.

Bond squinted through the sights, centering his cross hairs on the man who held the M16 with that ease of familiarity that showed long experience - the man who'd be most dangerous.

But the boat was at that instant on the far side of the lagoon. The tripod, while increasing muzzle stability and therefore accuracy, restricted his ability to move the sight to follow a moving target. So he let the boat slide out of his sights, waiting till it came around again, beneath him.

There was a moment or two of deceptive quiet. The birds, frightened into silence by the arrival of the boats, began to call again. The lagoon was almost mirror flat, reflecting the palm trees overhanging the narrow pebble beach. The boats puttered around in low gear, quiet and sedate as swans.

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And then the enemy opened up on Bond's decoy. The lagoon echoed with the thuds and cracks of rifle fire, the stuttering of automatic weapons. Blue-grey gunsmoke rose in a veil from the silver boat - frightened birds rose, too, from the trees behind.

Bond smiled and held his fire.

The enemy boat had picked up speed, was pulling up alongside the decoy. The gunmen paused, jabbering at one another, apparently puzzled at the lack of response.

"Come on, Felix," Bond muttered. "Get it moving." As if Leiter had heard him - though he was well out of earshot - the bigger speedboat suddenly spun in a tight circle and drove directly at the silver boat. The enemy corrected course just in time, swerving to avoid the collision. Spray from the decoy boat spattered the men in the other. They took up the chase, their boat nosing around to follow the decoy.

Leiter led them on a wild-goose chase around the lagoon, inducing them to use up their ammunition, piloting evasively so that few of their shots connected. But it couldn't be long before some random shot knocked out the remote-control reception antenna or put the engine out of order. That would ruin the setup. It was time to bring the sitting ducks into the shooting gallery.

Leiter realized this at almost the same moment Bond did. He reduced the decoy boat's speed so it was just ahead of the enemy's prow, and moved into the port or starboard to block the way whenever the smaller boat tried to overtake it. In this way he led them directly beneath Bond's sniping position, as close to the shore as possible. Bond could hear the hulls scraping on the rocks. His own boat passed beneath his firing position, and a second later

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the enemy boat hove into his sights, just ten yards away from him.

He had already lowered the tripod to compensate for his higher elevation - the rifle barrel pointed downward from his position, since the surface on which he lay was sloped toward the lagoon, his feet slightly higher than his head.

The boat slid into his sights - and nearly stopped dead. For Leiter had abruptly changed gears, throwing the decoy boat into reverse - it backed into the prow of the boat behind. The enemy craft's pilot angled to port to avoid a direct head-to-tail collision, and the boats cracked together glancingly, rocking from the impact and rebounding. Two of the men in the rear of the enemy craft were thrown from firing position, falling back on their asses. The boat was effectively contained, for a few precious seconds, directly beneath Bond's firing position.

He centered the fine red cross hairs on the big man with the M16 and squeezed the trigger three times.

An automatic weapon fires more effectively, and is less likely to jam, if fired in short bursts of at least three rounds but not more than fifteen - or so some claim. Bond belonged to this school of thought, squeezed off three five-round bursts into the rear of the enemy boat. His first target shouted and threw back his head, as if in exaltation - and fell back twitching, the M16 still clutched across his chest, his throat torn to a few rags with the first burst. The second burst stitched the Mexican in the faded blue jeans across the chest so that he tossed his semi-automatic into the air like a parade baton as he staggered backward, doing a strange jerky dance as he went. He tumbled over the low rail, and splashed into the water, floating facedown behind the boat, a red stain spreading from his midsection to

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surround him like an aura.

The third burst was too high, and completely missed Bond's third target; Bond decided that the FN-FAL automatic rifle jerked its muzzle up a bit more than he'd expected, maybe because after several bursts the heat in the chamber increased the expansion of its escaping detonation gases. He shifted his position slightly to compensate.

The man he had missed, a short, squat Mexican in fatigues, was on his knees now, trying to take cover behind the railing, and spraying the rocks at random with his submachine gun. One burst rattled off the rock just over Bond's head, stinging the back of his neck with minute rock chips. The enemy gunman spotted Bond and shouted something at the pilot as he tried to bring his submachine gun to bear on Bond's position, at that time backing toward the cabin door and better cover. But the submachine gun is less effective at that range, and difficult to direct into a narrow sniper's roost with any accuracy. Bullets screamed off the rock around Bond, but none of them found their mark.

Bond was at a more advantageous angle, and had the more appropriate weapon - Major Boothroyd had always told him that selecting the proper weapon for an anticipated encounter situation was half the battle - and he exploited that advantage. He fired two quick bursts into the man, carving a connect-the-dots X of half-dollar-size craters in his torso. The gunman fell back against the cabin door and slid lifeless to the deck, [his] submachine gun falling between his knees.

The pilot desperately tried to take the boat out of firing range, but Leiter at the remote-control box, kept the decoy

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always in the way, blocking the escape route and pushing the smaller, less powerful boat back into the lagoon and into Bond's firing line.

Bond removed the tripod from the rifle, pocketed the extra ammo, and cradling the weapon in his arms, got to his feet. He braced himself and clambered over the rocks to the water's edge, all the time pounding at the bulletproof rear windows over the pilot's cabin with a steady hail of steel-jacketed slugs, firing from the hip. The rifle bucked hard in his hands - it was too heavy to be fired from the hip, for most men - making his wrists ache.

But it felt good. It felt like an extension of him, as if it had grown out of him, a part of his arms, and all the machinery in it - the firing pin detonating bullets, the expanding gas from the discharged cartridge providing the force to push the automatic machinery into recocking and setting up another bullet - might have been a part of him, like his heart and his muscle. He felt good the way a man does when he's swimming hard, enjoying the exercise, feeling each part of his body work smoothly with all the others. Bond was part of that killing machine, hammering away at the boat, and he was expressing himself through it, expressing his fury - because the man in the boat was one of those who had signed up to help Klaus Doberman, who had ruthlessly abducted his best friend - Bill Tanner and, more than likely, had murdered him in cold blood. Doberman, who kidnapped Lotta and was probably subjecting her to some kind of agonizing torture. Bond was cutting loose with his fury at Doberman, and all the men like Doberman.

"James! Stop! Stop firing!"

Bond shuddered, and realized it was Leiter shouting in

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his ear. He took his finger from the trigger and looked down at the hot, smoking rifle. He was startled when he realized that, without thinking, he'd ejected the first clip and inserted the second and third, using up nearly a hundred rounds on the boat.

"I surrender!" came a voice from inside the boat. "I give up!"

"I thought we might be able to use him," Leiter said. "I heard his shout to give up, so..."

"You did the right thing to stop me. He'll be useful," Bond muttered. He shouted at the boat, drifting just a few yards away, at idle, "Come on out with your hands behind your head!"

A man with a face so snarled it might have been made out of wood knots came out through the shattered door, hands clasped behind his neck. Leiter splashed through the water and climbed onto the boat. He stepped over the dead men and frisked the captured gunman. "If he's got a gun, he's keeping it under his tongue!" Leiter called.

Bond grinned. "Keep an eye on him, I'm coming aboard!"

Leiter covered the prisoner with a pistol while Bond waded to the boat. The prisoner was a stocky, red-faced German. "You're Josef Roschmann," Bond said, recognizing the face that definitely marked the man.

"And what if I am?"

Bond nodded. It was him. A former terrorist for Blofeld's international criminal organization SPECTRE - the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, who had been kicked out for brutalizing his subordinates. Bond shook his head in amazement: here was a man too brutal even for SPEC-

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TRE! "Roschmann," Bond said, "pick up those bodies. I'll do you a favor and only make you carry one at a time. Now carry them ashore for burial detail. Now!"

Roschmann spat on the deck and, muttering a hundred German curses, dragged the bodies to the rail and heaved them over. Bond and Leiter, guns in hand, supervised as he towed them onto the shore, and grunting, dragged them into the bush. Bond stood over him as he dug a shallow grave with a shovel cadged from the bigger speedboat, then rolled the bodies into the pit and covered them. There was one left drifting in the lagoon. Leiter took Bond's boat out to it, and weighted the body with pieces of scrap iron. It sank from sight.

They hosed the blood from the deck of the smaller boat, removed the glass fragments from the window frame, and did their best to conceal any other evidences of the carnage.

"Okay, Roschmann," Bond ordered, "take the wheel. I'm standing right behind you with a Walther PPK Hair trigger, this pistol."

"No need for the drama. I follow you."

"Felix!" Bond called to the other boat, "take her back to the garage. I'll see you later." Then he sat in the copilot's seat and said, "Take her out, Roschmann. Back to Doberman's."

[* * * * * *]

Lotta found herself in a large eerily lit tunnel through which blew a strange and forlorn wind howling like a dirge from the earth's own core.

The light came from up ahead, around a curve in the tunnel. Reddish light; brooding, spectral. Lotta walked

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slowly to the mouth of the tunnel; then stopped at the sensation underfoot.

All over: bugs.

Skittering beetle with black carapaces, long-legged arthropods, scorpions, squirming wormy things, hopping locusts... They made nests in her hair, burrowing in, spinning webs, clicking their pincers.

Lotta screamed and ran, tearing the bugs from her hair, shivering at the feel of their little feet all over her skin...

[* * * * * *]

Fuji Chen glanced at his watch. Six P.M. The sun off the port was already bloating in the bank of haze near the horizon. The sea was becoming coppery in the reddening light. Soon it would be dark.

Doberman's yacht was returning to his cliffside fortress. They were still at least an hour away, unless Doberman ordered the coxswain to pile on the horsepower. But they were puttering along, engine in low gear. Doberman wanted a slow, smooth ride - probably because he was stoned, and prone to seasickness at such times, though he wouldn't admit as much.

But Chen would have preferred they pour on the speed. He was nervous about having left too few men to guard his employer's estate. If Bond knew the yacht was gone, he might take advantage of its absence to attack the place. He might be there waiting when they returned.

Chen doubted that holding Lotta hostage would keep Bond at bay for long. He had pretended to accept the report about the four sentries deserting, but privately he suspected that it hadn't been desertion at all.

Chen half-dreaded Bond - and half-hoped he would be

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there at the house, gun in hand, ready to fight, Chen was looking forward to that confrontation.

Suddenly he heard a woman's wailing. The scream was followed by a roar from Doberman, and then electrical currents surging, all of the sounds filtering up from the hatchway.

Chen turned and, acting instinctively, sprinted across the deck and plunged down the narrow stairs into the corridor leading between the cabins.

Chen turned the corner, came to the cabin assigned to Lotta. One of Doberman's other bodyguards stood in front of it, submachine gun in hand. At the sight of Chen, he snapped to attention.

The Chinaman nodded and opened the door to enter into a small room. A single bare bulb gleamed weakly from a dangling wire in the ceiling. Lotta, naked and standing upright, her wrists tied to metal bedsprings tilted against the wall, shuddered uncontrollably. Her reaction was reflexive, spasmodic, like a frog attached to electrodes - as she had been attached to electrical wires that led back to a generator. But her screams were the unfortunate products of both the pain of enduring the electrical torture and the hallucinations caused by the scopolamine/morphine drug mixture.

Bound to the upright springs, with a black metal plate the size of a paperback taped to her stomach, wires leading from it to the generator, Lotta stopped screaming as the current tapered off. Dripping water that Doberman had thrown on her, she stared with the eyes of a frantic animal as Chen stepped toward the generator. She bit her lip, determined that the next time she wouldn't scream.

"Be my guest," Doberman gestured to Chen, then

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turned angrily toward Lotta, and threw another pan of water over her. "Now, Chen!" he yelled.

The current surged abruptly through her body, searing the contact point beneath the black metal box on her stomach, filling the room with the stench of scorched flesh, convulsing her nerves and muscles at every extremity of her body.

The jolt of powerful current made the overhead light bulb flicker. Shameful urine dribbled down her leg. She couldn't control her response. Exhausted, Lotta hung from the bedsprings, heaving, shivering, gasping.

Doberman sighed. "You may scream again if you wish. There is nothing embarrassing about it. In this room, there is no shame." Then he snapped his forgers. Chen turned the knob to the generator, and as Lotta felt the excruciating surge of current through her ravaged twitching nervous system, she did indeed scream.

Long and hard.

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-14-

Some Guns Listen, Other Guns Speak

BOND WAS TIRED. HE WAS HUNGRY. HE HAD A HEADache, and the massive bruise on his chest hurt like the devil. But the fury burned in him still, the fuel for the engine of vengeance.

He sat in the passenger's seat with his back to the starboard bulkhead, the automatic rifle across his lap, the Walther PPK in his hand, its muzzle pointed unwaveringly at Josef Roschmann, the hijacked Scimitar's coxswain.

Bond glanced through the windshield at the sky. It was deepening its blue to the east, to the west tingeing red. Sunset. The yacht would probably be coming back soon. But how soon? There might be time... This might be an opportunity...

Suppose he were to penetrate Doberman's fortress while the yacht was still at sea? He might attack it, secure

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it, and wait there, hidden inside, till the yacht returned. But it was unlikely he could break into the estate without alerting the men inside. He might get in, and past them for a while - but there would be someone doing radio watch. Eventually the radio-watch detail would realize the estate was under attack, because Bond couldn't kill every man in the fortress in silence, and sooner or later there would be an alarm. The radio watch would put in a call to Doberman. Doberman would kill Lotta immediately and set off for another hideout. He might escape Bond indefinitely. Maybe for years.

No, Bond would have to wait until Doberman was back at the estate. He couldn't risk frightening him out of reach.

Bond was going to have to do it the hard way. Still there was a way to whittle the odds down a little more...

[* * * * * *]

Hector Gonzalez popped another "black beauty" and nervously changed the channel on Doberman's big-screen colour television. He was a tall, bony, dark-eyed Colombian whose eyebrows grew together and who always needed a shave. He smoked incessantly, his nervous fingers shaking as he lit the cigarettes.

Disgusted, Gonzalez switched off the TV and got up, began to pace, propelled from one corner of the room to the other by the speed he had been taking all day.

Gonzalez wished Chen would come back. He had a bad feeling...

There was a loud crackling sound from the next room. Gonzalez went in and sat at the wooden table which housed a stainless-steel shortwave, just small enough to be

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carried in a backpack if necessary. "Gonzalez, here," he said into the mike. "Who is calling, please?" He blew cigarette smoke toward one of the deep, narrow stone windows. The window had gone red with the sunset, It looked out on the sea. Gonzalez waited with pen poised over a yellow legal pad to write down the radio message.

The speaker crackled, and a tiny voice said, "Roschmann here. I'm just off the ridge. The other men are in town. They sent me to ask you if you want to come with us? We've got us a new job, pays twice as much as this one, with half the risks. Can't tell you all by radio. Doberman might be listening. Come on down to the dock and we'll talk. Out."

Another job? Bigger money, less risk, Gonzalez wondered. Strange, though, a cold-blooded guy like Roschmann coming back just to do be a favor. A favor? The hell it is! Whoever the new boss is, he's probably offering a bonus if Roschmann brings in new men. Maybe a new job's a good idea, maybe that's what I need. I get sick of being shut up in this goddamn dump. Wonder what the new job is? Maybe it's in Tahiti. I had a job in Tahiti once. Babes everywhere, soak up the sun, soak up the liquor, soak up the dope. Easy street. I bet that's it, I bet it's Tahiti. I got a feeling for these things. Time for a change.

Gonzalez shook his head and stood. He went to the window, took a pair of binoculars from the table, and scanned the sea. It was hard to see against the glare of the sunset. He could make out the Scimitar speedboat, and a figure at the wheel that could be Roschmann. Nothing more. No sign of the Buenaventura, so far.

He went to a red telephone and put in a call to the ground floor. He spoke Spanish, telling another guard to

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come and take over radio watch.

Instinctively, Gonzalez picked up his M16 and strapped on his .38 on the way to the armored outer door. He waited while another guard unlocked the iron door - there were three locks and a bar - and opened it wide. Then Gonzalez started down the stone steps to the dock. The sentry stopped him at the fence.

Gonzalez, who was in charge while Chen was absent, explained in Spanish that he wanted to talk to Roschmann on the dock, and pushed gruffly least.

Walking down the zigging stone steps, Gonzalez began to have second thoughts about the new job offer. He began to yearn for the safety of the fortress.

Maybe I should go back... No, speed made you paranoid, that's all. He had heard Roschmann's voice on the radio. No mistaking that voice.

Gonzalez looked at the speedboat rumbling slowly in toward the dock to meet him. It was just a silhouette against the sunset-bloody sea. But that looked like Doberman's extra boat, all right.

Nevertheless, there was something eerie about it, coming at him quietly, against that field of blood-red. It was just a blade-shaped blackness, coming closer.

His heart raced, and he put his hand on the butt of the .38 in its hip holster. He stepped onto the asphalt dock and walked out toward the end, where the square end of the dock broke off suddenly onto the sea. The sun sank a little more, and the sea turned a darker red and then began to shake grey-black, as if the blood on the sea were congealing. The shadows thickened, and Gonzalez watched his feet carefully, afraid of tripping and falling off the dock into the sea. Gonzalez couldn't swim.

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The Scimitar nosed in, then swung around so it was pointing out to sea before it edged up to the dock. Its engine slowed, idling, as the boat nudged the dock. Gonzalez clambered onto the rear deck.

He suddenly realized that the boat was running without lights, even though it was genuinely dark out. What the hell? And where was Roschmann? Then he froze. The back window on the pilot's cabin had, been shot away. He began to back away.

"Drop the weapon!" The voice had come out of the darkness of the boat.

Gonzalez edged his fingers toward his .38.

"Drop it, I said!" came the voice again.

This time Gonzalez saw the snout of an automatic rifle slowly nosing from the darkness of the Scimitar into the light of Doberman's house and pointing directly at him. It was just two yards away, and Gonzalez had his gun pointed at the deck. He had no choice but to drop it.

The speedboat began to move away from the dock.

Bond couldn't drive the boat out to sea and keep the gun leveled at him too, Gonzalez thought. Must be someone else piloting. Roschmann, maybe? Must be that Bond's got one gun pointed at him and the other at Roschmann. But then he would have to keep his eyes mostly on me. So maybe he's a little behind Roschmann, and he's got the gun shoved in his back. Only he's not looking at Roschmann. Maybe this man Bond underestimates Roschmann.

"Kick that M16 overboard," came the voice from the darkness.

Gonzalez hesitated.

"Do it or I'll blow you away right now."

Gonzalez kicked the gun under the railing. The waves

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washed it over into the ocean.

The boat had picked up speed. They were nearly out of sight of the cliffside fortress.

"Now drop the .38 and come here."

Gonzalez reluctantly unbuckled his belt, let it slide to the deck. He went toward the cabin, walking slowly and carefully.

"Go to the radio. Call the estate. Tell them you're deserting," Bond ordered. "Do it now or you're a dead man." He waited in the darkness of the pilot's cabin, rifle in hand. Gonzalez was a shadow in the doorway. "Careful," Bond whispered.

Moving slowly, Gonzalez went to the boat's radio. He picked up the hand mike and pressed the send button. "Camelot, read me," he said.

The radio crackled and a voice inquired, "Is that you, Lancelot?"

"Escuchar cuidadosamente-" Gonzalez began.

"In English," Bond hissed.

"This is Gonzalez. Me and Roschmann are taking the new job. Tell Doberman to kiss our asses."

The crackle cut short as Gonzalez switched off the radio.

"Good enough. Now, go back-"

A shadow came alive: Roschmann was on him, knocking the Walther PPK to the floor, punching at his gut, trying to twist the rifle away. Bond jabbed out with the butt of his rifle, cracking Roschmann in the sternum. Roschmann wheezed and staggered back just as Gonzalez came in swinging. It was hard to see, but Bond managed to duck his jab, then moving aside, allowing Gonzalez's momentum to carry him off balance. Roschmann was up, coming at him

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again - but this time Bond had room to fire. He cut loose with the rifle; it chattered, lighting up the cabin for a moment with its blaze, and Roschmann grunted and fell back, his chest punched through in three places.

Bond spun to face Gonzalez, but he had disappeared. He glanced through the window. The Colombian had retrieved his .38 and was crouched, pistol in hand, moving toward the cabin.

Bond aimed the rifle and squeezed the trigger - nothing. The weapon was jammed. He paused to find the Walther PPK, then tossed the rifle out the window onto the deck.

Gonzalez backed toward the stern, smiling, thinking Bond's death would be a sure thing now.

Bond reached back and cut the engine. The boat drifted in near-silence. There were only a faint whisper of wind and the murmur of waves.

He stepped through the door and onto the deck, facing the surprized Gonzalez.

Bond had relaxed, turning the action over to his reflexes and watched with near-detachment as his hand, moving almost with a will of its own, fired three shots from the Walther PPK.

Something punched Gonzalez hard in the chest, and it didn't feel the way he'd imagined the bullet should feel - he felt as if that blow had opened up his chest like a keg, letting his soul pour out into the open, so for the first time he could see it, and in impossibly fast instant replay he could see everything he had ever done in his life. It wasn't pleasant viewing.

The next thing he saw was the sky - the moon was falling! No, it wasn't falling, he realized, it just looked that

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way because he was falling, falling over backward, pitching over the rail into the darkness, into the cool embrace of the sea, while the pain surged up in his chest at the same moment that the roar of Bond's gun - delayed beyond the flash and the bullet - echoed over the water.

Gonzalez thought. He hit me in the right lung. But not through the heart. I might live through it. I might live...

And then, when he tried to take a breath, and foul brine burned in his throat, he remembered that he had fallen into the sea.

And he remembered that he couldn't swim.

Bond checked Roschmann's body remaining on the deck. It was slumped in one corner with moist blood pasted squarely between the eyes. But Gonzalez had moved quickly, spasmodically - like a man on amphetamines - so Bond hadn't hit him as precisely as he had wanted to. He might still be alive.

He found Gonzalez a few minutes later, bobbing faceup, fish already nibbling on him. He was dead, probably drowned before he could bleed to death. Bond hauled the body aboard and started the engine, to take the boat back to the lagoon where he had hidden the other bodies. He'd have to dig this grave himself.

He turned on the running lights and began to pilot carefully through the maze of outcroppings.

[* * * * * *]

Bond had reached the lagoon and anchored, was just dumping the last shovel load of dirt on the shallow grave, when he felt the cold steel of a gun barrel against the back of his neck.

"If you make one wrong move," came a soft, accented

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voice, "you'll be playing in the dirt with your friends."

Bond immediately recognized the accent as Russian.

"Turn around and walk straight back to the boat," came the order from behind him.

It was only a few yards to the Scimitar, but by then Bond had placed the soft voice.

"How are you, Anya?" Bond asked as he boldly turned toward the face - and gun - of the scantily-clad Major Amasova. Her uniform, saturated and ripped to shreds, had been discarded, in favor of her contouring brassiere and panties.

She smiled and said, "Just fine, James. I've missed you."

Bond resisted an urge to comment on her dress - or lack of. "I didn't think a hardened KGB agent could miss anyone."

"With a gun, no," she said, lifting the barrel menacingly to point it between his eyes. "But with the heart, yes - when the man is James Bond."

"We had fun in Rome, didn't we?" Bond said remembering his impossible romance with the Soviet agent.

"Yes, and in London, Vienna, and Rio," she added.

"Why are you here, Anya?" he asked.

"Same reason you are - Klaus Doberman."

"What does the KGB and Department Viktor have to do with Doberman?"

"Nothing anymore," she replied. "That's the problem. And that is why you and I are on the same side for once."

Bond looked at her dubiously. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Doberman was working for the Soviet Union. We financed his cocaine manufacture and production facil-

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ities, and he, in turn, would dilate the drug's proliferation throughout Central and South American, which would-"

"Undermine and destabilize their shaky democracies, making way for Russian troops to march in at their convenience," Bond finished.

"But he betrayed the Soviet Union and made new alliances," she continued. "Doberman is crazy." Hatred blazed across her face. "He is a dangerous threat not only to us, but to you as well. He murdered your friend Bill Tanner. He murdered General Gogol and tried to murder me. Now I'm going to murder him. We can work together on this one," she added invitingly. "Like Rome, London, Vienna, and Rio, we can have Puerto Vallarta together," she said, looking at Bond with her deep, dark eyes - and with her pistol still pointed at his head.

"If I'm going to work with you, Anya," Bond said forthrightly, "there are two things you'll need to do. The first is that you'll have to stop waving that gun in my face. And the second is that you'll have to give me every scrap of information you have on Doberman and his plans."

Major Amasova lowered the pistol and smiled at Bond. "You see, I have shown my good faith by not killing you. But I cannot give you the evidence I have on Doberman. If I did, you would no longer need to work with the KGB - with me - anymore."

"You're as clever as you are beautiful, Anya. I'm impressed. You've figured all the angles."

She looked up at Bond, clearly enjoying the compliments. "I'm going to like working with you again," she whispered.

Bond put an arm around her waist and drew her close. Bending his head down to her lips, he said softly, "For old

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time's sake," and gave her a long, passionate kiss.

While kissing her, though, his free hand touched the straps of her bra, then lowered them and her panties until they were bunched around her ankles and her hardened nipples were scraping his bare chest.

Lifting her in his arms, he carried her into the cabin and gently put her down on the bed. She watched with admiration as he removed the clothes from his muscular body, and then he lowered himself onto the bed with her.

Bond kissed her again and allowed his right hand to stray between her legs. She was already moist, and when he began expertly touching her, she gasped into his mouth and lifted her hips off the bed.

He ran his lips over her neck and then down to her breasts, where he teased her nipples with his tongue, then bit them tenderly.

"Oh, James, please," she said, pressing herself against his hand, "please, now. I can't wait any longer."

Bond slid his hand free and lifted one leg over her, positioning himself above her. Major Amasova slid her hands down his body and then guided him into her. With his first thrust she gasped aloud and wrapped her legs around his waist. They took a few seconds to find the proper tempo, and then time and place melted away into something wonderful.

[* * * * * *]

Chen scowled as the Buenaventura came to dock under Doberman's estate, seeing the Scimitar was gone. Why the hell had they taken the speedboat out? Had Bond come after all?

He went to the radio and called the house's radio watch.

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"Chen here. Status?"

"We're okay here. But Gonzalez took off with Roschmann in a boat about forty-five minutes ago. Said they had a new job - called me on the radio."

"Any sign of Bond? Any attack?"

"No... not attack. There was a strange boat here earlier today. Roschmann and three other guys went to check it out... and they didn't come back. Except Roschmann came back to pick up-"

"Deserters, my ass! It's that son-of-a-bitch Bond! We're docking. Over and out."

[* * * * * *]

It was dark when Bond brought the boat into the harbour at Puerto Vallarta. He was tired and wished he could lay down beside the now sleeping Major Amasova. But Bond was ready. Ready to move against Doberman. He would rest - and go after him about three A.M. if Leiter could rearrange the Colombian's surveillance to turn their back tonight.

There was a good chance, Bond knew, that as soon as Doberman realized he was being attacked, he would take Lotta out onto the balcony where Bond would see her and cut her throat. Or do something worse to her.

But suppose he put a knife to her throat and demanded that Bond surrender or withdraw? What would he do then? Thinking about it, Bond tightened his fingers on the wheel.

If he retreated, Doberman would kill her anyway - eventually. If Doberman might be too busy with assault, with giving orders and maybe taking up a weapon himself, to bring the girl into it. If Bond could keep Doberman

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distracted enough, he might be able to break into the fortress and complete the mission before they hurt her.

And then, there was another possibility. She might already be dead.

Bond put it out of his mind. With a discipline learned in years of developing a survivor's reflexes, he focused his mind on the objective.

He had twice done reconnaissance of the terrain around the estate. He had charged Leiter with obtaining aerial photos. Tonight he would double-check the photos against his tactical plans.

Bond brought the Scimitar slowly around, into the land of seawater between the fingers of docks extending from the main jetty. To either side small yachts and sailboats bulked in the darkness, rocking gently in his wash, like sleeping sea beasts. The lights of Puerto Vallarta, to his right, twinkled between the naked masts and threw bright smears on the inky water between the boats.

He found a docking space, backed into it, cut the engine to let momentum carry the boat the rest of the way. The boat bumped gently against the dock.

As he was cinching the rope, he suddenly realized four uniformed men had closed in around him.

Bond's hand leaped inside his jacket to the butt of his Walther PPK, under his left arm. And one of the men held a wallet-badge under his nose. First Commandante. Federal Police.

"You had better come with us, Senor Bond," Jose Maldonado said with a big white-toothy grin. Like a goddamned Chesire cat that just ate the canary.

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-15-

The Long Harm of the Law

IT WAS THE DAMNED SCIMITAR, BOND DECIDED. SOMEone at sea had seen the gunfight, or part of it, and had noted down the numbers and descriptions of the two boats. Leiter had taken the Chris-Craft to the more secluded boat garage, but Bond had brought the enemy boat indiscreetly into the harbour, assuming that the cloak of darkness would be more than satisfactory. He had underestimated the Mexican policia. They had seen the boat entering Banderas Bay, and alerted the Federales who were in the area.

Should have ditched the boat up the coast. Should have, should have. Should have isn't good enough. Too many mistakes - too long out of action before taking on a new assignment.

Bond whirled and flinched at the sight of a long barreled .357 Magnum. "Jose Maldonado, I presume. Or do I call you `Trigger'?"

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The tall, gargantuan Mexican frowned. "My name is not important. You are Senor Bond, James Bond?"

"Yeah. So what?" Bond looked from Maldonado to the .357 with unrelenting eyes. "I don't like looking down one of those."

Maldonado nodded to one of the other uniformed officers. He grabbed Bond's arms behind him, firmly planted the cold steel of a .44's barrel in the small of Bond's back.

Maldonado extended his left arm, which was sore from when Lotta creased him with a bullet, motioning for Bond to talk toward the awaiting blue VW patrol car. The other officer ushered him into the back seat and locked the doors. Then he walked around the vehicle to the driver's side and slid in behind the wheel.

Bond turned sideways to stare out the rear window. Maldonado was talking to the other two uniformed officers. Their voices were hushed, mere whispered fragments, and they moved without sound, grey figures in a dream. Abruptly Bond's heart skipped a beat. He squinted against the darkness. Maldonado handed one of the officers a gob of plastic material wrapped in wires. It was a plastic explosive. The officer nodded to his departing superior and then hurried onto the deck of the Scimitar.

Maldonado swung the passenger's door open and slid onto the seat, half-turned to point the .357 at Bond. He was taking no chances with his prized prisoner.

They drove a few blocks in silence, Bond thinking hard. He had to get away. The Mexican police were different from the British. In Mexico you were assumed guilty until proved innocent. You could stay in jail for years before being prosecuted. And Bond would be a sitting duck in

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jail. It would be easy for Maldonado to arrange his death "while trying to escape."

They were in the country now, driving through a high-cliffed canyon of bone-white stone. The bosses of rock rose sheer to either side of the winding road, flecked with cacti; the cliff faces looked like photo negatives, their shadows deeply etched in the bright moonlight.

To the left, beyond the oncoming-traffic lane of the two lane highway, a low stone wall snaked along the road's edge, marking a drop-off into a boulder-strewn dry wash. At certain times of the year, that wash roared with rushing water. Now it was empty but for a few brackish, mesquito-hazed puddles. On the far side of the wash the bank rose steeply to become a palm and cacti-covered slope which broke abruptly into upthrusting cliffs. Here and there, the crevices between the bone-white bosses of the rock widened into cave mouths.

To the right, the cliff rose just a yard off the roadside. Signs warned of falling rocks.

The driver had to take the curves slowly in places where the road doubled back like the ripples of a sidewinder. The headlights swept over the brown-green cacti as they swung around the corner.

The road began to climb, and they slowed, delayed by a chuffing semitruck muscling up the curving grade. The police driver swore. Trying to find a long, straight stretch where he could pass the truck, he swerved out into the other lane, ducking back in again behind the truck as oncoming cars rushed at them. They were so close behind the truck that its exhaust fumes came thickly through the driver's open window, making them cough.

Bond had forgotten his weariness. It was as if some

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inner driver had stepped on his accelerator pedal, priming his engine with adrenaline. He was revved and ready to jump. He only needed the opportunity.

That opportunity was tailing them in a black Gemballa Porsche.

Bond watched the headlights thinking: Am I clutching at straws - or is that him?

As he watched, the Porsche cut into the oncoming-traffic lane and with a burst of speed shot up parallel to the police car. Bond risked a look. Leiter looked casually back at him from behind the wheel of the Porsche. He gave no signal - the officers were looking at him, too - but showing himself was signal enough.

Leiter urged the Porsche ahead, passing the truck just in time to avoid collision with an oncoming Datsun. The Datsun passed, and the police car took the opportunity to whip by the semi.

Bond peered along the road ahead, but now there was no sign of Leiter. Felix, what are you up to?

There was another hairpin curve just ahead.

Suddenly, as they came to the curve, Bond understood.

Without seeming to, he braced himself. Abruptly the police car swerved, cutting hard to the right, tires screaming, to avoid the Porsche now stopped in the middle of the road. Leiter had the hood up, was frowning down at the motor - faking a stalled car. Bond caught only a fleeting glimpse of this before the world began to smear around him, as it does around a fast carnival ride - the police car was skating sideways, then spinning, the driver shouting as he tried to regain control. They'd gone off the road onto a wide, gravelly shoulder - Leiter had picked the spot well - where the cliff momentarily bowed inward. The car

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lurched to a halt, pointing backward from the way it had been going, and the inertia jerked Maldonado and the driver forward and then back. The driver was slammed up against the dashboard, knocking him unconscious. Maldonado drew his face back fiercely, preparing to fire the .357 at his prisoner.

But Bond, prepared, grabbed a handful of Maldonado's hair and banged his head full force into the radio. Maldonado drooped over and fell to the floorboard, dropping the gun in the seat. Before the police officers could recover, Bond snatched up the .357 and shattered the window with four quick gunshots. Then he jammed his arm through the broken glass, reached out to open the door from the outside. There was no other way - the back doors lacked inside handles, to discourage attempted escapes. He jammed the.357 into his waistband, shoved the door open and rolled out, turning a somersault, coming up on his feet.

Maldonado was dazed, was trying to right himself, blinking. He shot up off the seat, snatching his driver's .44 and jumped free of the police car, whirling, plunking three shots at his escaping prisoner.

Bond was sprinting across the road toward a steep hillside into the dry wash, past the Porsche - where Leiter now sat in the driver's seat fidgeting with the instrument panel, praying the vehicle's defensive hardware would respond.

Maldonado's shots whined off a palm tree inches away from Bond's head. The police officer's swollen face was streamed with blood. He looked like he was doing all he could to keep from passing out.

Leiter aimed the twin heat-seeking missiles by gently

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turning the steering wheel.

Bond paused, his right arm lacerated and throbbing from forcing it through the broken window. He turned to look back at Maldonado, who had raised the .44 and was steadying it, leveling at Bond's chest. He was uncomfortably aware that his dark clothing was showing up well against the white cliff face.

Without further hesitation, Leiter pressed the cigarette lighter to activate the heat-seeking missiles.

Maldonado turned his attention slightly to the left just as the twin rockets cut the air with the directness of a javelin, smashing through his chest, impaling him against the police car and instantly exploding the vehicle into a million fiery fragments.

Bond was still staring at the flames when he staggered to the comfort of the Porsche, his silhouette a small moving blur.

Leiter sat in the Porsche, listening to the radio and drinking from a metal flask. He nodded to the music of the Mariachi.

Bond hurriedly got in on the passenger's side. Leiter glanced up, nodded, and passed the flask. Bond leaned against the seat, exhausted, the tequila burning in his stomach. "Don't ask any damn questions, Felix," he said breathlessly. "Just get us back to the harbour. There's a bomb on the Scimitar and Anya Amasova is on board!"

Leiter was not surprised. He had known Bond to win a many femme fatales to his side with his amorous assets.

Leiter shrugged his shoulders and quickly careened the Porsche down the highway, hell-bent for Puerto Vallarta.

* * * * * *

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Two miles down the road, Leiter noticed in the rearview mirror, a police motorcycle following them.

"We've got company," Leiter informed Bond.

"Get off the highway," he replied.

Leaving the exit ramp, Leiter turned the car sharply onto a secondary road, driving fast. For the first mile or two the motorcycle held a steady distance, but then when traffic suddenly died in the oncoming lane it veered to the left and began closing in.

At the moment Bond was able to get a good look at his pursuer's face. It was one of the two police officers left behind to tend Major Amasova and the boat.

The motorcycle continued to pick up speed and closed to within a car's length of the Porsche. The policeman drew his gun, leveled it, and fired.

The shot ricocheted off the electric tinted bulletproof rear window.

Up ahead a short distance, Leiter saw a drawbridge, and the lights of a freighter approaching in the channel.

In trying for a second shot, the police officer lost his balance and the motorcycle hit the shoulder in a screaming, dust-churning slide. He recovered quickly, set the machine back on the road and continued to pursue the Porsche.

Certain that the drawbridge would rise at any moment to accommodate the freighter, Leiter stood hard on the brakes, burning rubber from the heavy-duty Pirelli P-7 tires. But it was too late. With lights flashing on both sides, the bridge began to lift against the sky.

Since he was already at the bridge - still doing at least sixty miles per hour - Leiter was left with no choice but to give up on the brakes. He kicked his foot into the

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accelerator and the Porsche roared up, sailing through the air like a strange flying machine before plunging down on the other side of the bridge. The bottom of the car scraped violently against the steel-webbed siding of the bridge, and as the car slid back down the road, Leiter and Bond were slammed against the roof.

Leiter's hands snapped from the wheel. The Porsche pitched forward, smashing into a lightpole. He quickly recovered and regained control of the wheel. The car screeched as he backed it up from the lightpole at the same moment that the policeman powered the motorcycle up the bridge, sailing over the water in a stupendous arc.

The motorcycle came down on its rear wheel, bouncing several times. As the motorcycle rolled down the bridge, Leiter squealed the Porsche around and slammed down on the gas pedal. He smashed head-on into the motorcycle, causing it to flip over the car's roof and detonate into a fireball as it crashed to the pavement. The policeman was thrown several hundred feet into a cacti-covered field, effectively breaking his neck.

In the distance, Leiter and Bond heard the roar of another motorcycle approaching, and then they saw its headlight cornering rapidly from an intersecting road.

Leiter wheeled the Porsche around again, inadvertently demolishing a roadside sign that read: PUERTO VALLARTA HARBOUR. He continued up the road a few hundred feet and turned through a gate into the docking inlet of sea.

The motorcycle followed, gaining on them.

Leiter brought the Porsche up to a grey purgatory of obsolete freighters - the mothball fleet - moored in neat rows, their huge silhouettes looming in the moonlight.

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He screeched the car to a halt near a wooden gangway, and Bond lurched out of the car, scrambling up the steep incline toward a freighter. He turned to watch as the motorcycle whipped through the gate, throwing up dust on all sides.

He turned back and sprinted onto the awesome deck of the freighter. The motorcycle policeman, approaching fast, got off several shots, his bullets cracking through the air and whining off the steel deck.

Severly out of breath, Bond somehow managed to gather one more incredible spurt of energy, tapping it to lunge across the deck toward the ship's command superstructure.

The police officer roared his motorcycle onto the rickety ramp, tearing boards loose as he came sailing through the air, landing on the very edge of the freighter's deck.

Bond darted through a hatchway to the superstructure.

The policeman skidded to a stop and dismounted. Vaulting off the machine, he whipped out a .44 Magnum and raced to a hatch.

As he came up to the hatch, the policeman kept low and flat against the wall, pumping a full clip inside. Flame came spitting from the barrel of his gun and the whizzing bullets reverberated off various steel objects in a series of pings. When he finished shooting, there was a brief hiatus of absolute silence.

Bond crouched against the bulkhead, trying to catch his breath, the .357 drawn from his waistband. Spotting him, the policeman opened fire. Bond sought and quickly found cover behind an open door in the narrow corridor, but he was still endangered by the bullets ricocheting off the steel

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walls. One missed his nose by less than an inch. He rolled from the gunfire, groping for a nearby stairway. He painfully climbed the steps.

The policeman suddenly appeared at the foot of the stairway, unloading a second clip in a barrage that left the steel steps vibrating. The bullets whistled around Bond's legs. He pitched, hit the landing and rolled onto an overhead catwalk. The police officer emptied the clip, opened the cylinder and jammed in a speedloader. But it was only for a split instant that he held Bond's figure in his eyes. By the time he pulled the trigger, Bond was again out of sight.

The policeman couldn't see him, and had to rely on the sound of Bond's footsteps to unload his next clip. His ears proved almost deadly accurate. Several shots clanged around Bond and barely missed him. He clambered onto another section of the catwalk as the policeman stalked up the steps after him.

The shooting stopped for a few moments while the chase ensued. Then, suddenly, in a flash, the policeman caught a glimpse of Bond coming out of the shadows. He aimed and squeezed the trigger.

Bond abruptly dropped from sight. The policeman heard a heavy thud hit the floor, followed by another moment of absolute stillness. He froze for a cataleptic second, waiting. Suddenly the metal catwalk began resounding with the high-pitched ring of scrambling footsteps. The policeman raised his .44 and fired a sustained burst at the sound. The shots echoed three and four times over, creating the audio illusion of an entire artillery squad popping off at once.

In another instant the policeman caught a glimpse of

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Bond running across the catwalk.

Again, there was a brief intermission of echoing stillness.

The policeman whipped a fresh clip into the .44.

Bond stopped where he was for a moment, trying valiantly to keep his breath from croaking too loudly. It was a losing battle. The policeman could hear the sound of his heavy breathing, and he edged along the catwalk, closing in. He saw Bond through a shaft of light and whipped up his gun to shoot. The bullet pinged the steel and ricocheted. He squeezed off another shot, then snapped open the empty cylinder, throwing the Magnum down in disgust.

Bond heard the gun clatter on the steel floor.

Across the harbour there was a blinding flash and a tremendous, ear-shattering explosion. Major Amasova became, for an instant, a red blur in a terrible burst of wood, fiberglass and water.

The policeman cocked his head, hearing the Scimitar's timed explosion in the distance. After a moment's hesitation, he vaulted his cover and scrambled toward the hatch. He ran furiously and recklessly, slamming into the wall and several posts.

Bond, too, heard the boat's violent detonation. He started for the exit closest to him. Plunging through the hatchway, he saw the policeman's moonlit figure dashing across the deck, scrambling for the motorcycle. To his left, Bond stared at the smoke and flames as they illuminated the night sky like a fireworks display. His stomach sank toward his bowels as he thought of how Major Amasova had tragically died because of his dilatoriness.

The policeman mounted the motorcycle, kicking once,

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twice, three times before it roared up. He wheeled out, tearing across the deck and down the wooden gangway to the harbour's asphalt landing below.

Leiter slammed his foot against the gas pedal of the Porsche, flying and half skidding, peeling rubber.

Rearing up on one wheel, the policeman powered the motorcycle on, smoking rubber and closing dangerously with the far end of dockside.

Leiter pushed the Porsche to near seventy.

The policeman's motorcycle screeched and slid across the dock, scraping a steel railing. The steel bike against steel railing created a tremendous burst of sparks. The policeman suddenly disappeared in a blaze of shuddering light.

At the last possible instant Leiter screeched the brakes to an abrupt halt and the Porsche's front steel-reinforced bumper rammed the blazing motorcycle. It hit with an enormous concussive force. The policeman back-flipped into mid-air, soaring over the bay, the motorcycle flying after him, plunging down and hitting the bay with an impact violent enough to send water splashing all the way back to the dock.

For a moment Leiter sat in the Porsche, catching his breath. Then he stepped out onto the edge of the dock squinting through the darkness as he looked down at the policeman's floating body and the submerging motorcycle. A fierce wind blowing across the harbour almost toppled Leiter before he managed to steady his balance.

Bond staggered over neat to him, and stared at the policeman's body until it dwindled to just a blue speck in the blackness. Bond turned around, measured his breathing and tore a piece of his shirt off and made it into a rude

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bandage.

"How's the arm?"

"Not a deep slash," Bond answered Leiter, staring toward the Scimitar's burning wreckage. "I'll live."

"I've arranged a `blindness' in the Colombians' surveillance of Doberman's estate for twenty-four hours." Letier paused, swallowed hard, then continued. "Where, supposing that things turn out badly... Where... ah...?"

"Where what?"

"Where would you like your body sent, James?"

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-16-

Out of the Frying Pan...

EITHER LEITER HAD MISCOUNTED THE NUMBER OF men working for Doberman or he had managed to hire a few more, Bond decided. It was a sunny late afternoon of the next day, and Bond was squatting in a treehouselike observation post built into one of the higher, more thickly foliaged of the palm trees on the ridge overlooking the estate.

Bond had watched through two sentry shifts, and he had counted at least eight different sentries. Add to those eight men Doberman, Chen, and Doberman's personal bodyguards, and that made an opposition of at least twelve.

Bond's "nest" was almost thirty yards above the boulder-knotty ridgetop, about a quarter-mile to the east and north of where he had killed the sentries in his nighttime commando raid. He was outside the zone that - so far as he could tell - Doberman had assigned for patrolling. There

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was only countryside - the ridge, a more gentle hilltop, and then grounds of the estate. Behind, farther east about three hundred yards, was a small airstrip for shipping and receiving cocaine, deserted that Sunday afternoon.

The treehouse nest was about a yard and a half square, and camouflaged with netting skillfully interwoven with huge palm leaves. He'd made a sort of igloo of greenery around him, with four observation slits hooded by camouflage at the four points of the compass. The floor was made of wrist-thick branches, which he'd brought from some distance away and lashed together with rope. It wouldn't be smart to let Chen hear the sounds of someone sawing and hammering nearby, when he probably knew - undoubtedly having done more than one recon - that there was no one around. He'd know the airstrip would be deserted today.

Bond watched through his field glasses as the two eastside sentries rendezvoused at the patio. He swept the glasses over the terrain, reassessing.

Bond was facing the house's east side; the main entrance was actually on the estate's south side; the "back" of the house faced the sea. The side and front, the eastern and southern faces, were more modern than the seaward face of the house. Here wooden gables had been installed over broad - but ornately barred - windows. Bright blue shutters and flowerbeds looked deceptively homey, cheerful. At the south side two weathered stone lions flanked the spacious porch of wood and stone. Flowerpots stood on the balustrades around the porch. The flowers in them had withered. Beyond the porch, he could see the deep blue of the Pacific, just a triangular section of it between the house and the bent trees lining the cliff. There

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were whitecaps on the sea, and now and then Bond's tree swayed, buffeted in a rising wind. The wind was a phenomenon that came about the same time every summer to the Mexican Riviera. It was called the mistral, and despite the summer sun and the blue sky, it blew hard, especially at night. Bond was hoping it might provide him with some cover that night. It wailed loudly on the cliff - its wailing might be loud enough to blanket some of the sounds of his attack.

Off the house's east-side patio were weed-grown flowerbeds and a lawn beginning to look shaggy, a few marble benches, almost randomly placed; a bone-dry fish pond of cracked stone; a half-acre more of overgrown lawn - and the stone wall. The wall was about twelve feet high, two feet thick, and constructed of irregular local stones and mortar. Strands of barbed wire ran along its top, newly emplaced, judging by the silvery gleam of the metal. Still, that stone wall wasn't much of a problem. The real problem was the electric fence recently erected just outside it. A powerful current ran through the ten-foot-high chain-link fence. It was crested with spiraled barbed wire, and there was a dead dog leaning half against the links where the fence turned a corner to encircle the property. The dog was some harmless domestic who'd wandered up and poked his snout against the fence to look through - and been instantly electrocuted.

The stone and electric barriers ran together all the way around the property, stopping only at the cliff edges and breaking for a gate thirty yards from the south entrance. There was a sentry on the gate twenty-four hours, in a stone gatehouse. The gate section of the chain-link fence could be electronically rolled away. Bond had seen only

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one car go in, a bodyguard returning from the village with supplies. There were two rented Jeeps parked in the driveway.

There was a balcony on the house's south side, and another on the east side, facing the lawn. A sentry stood in each, scanning the grounds now and then with binoculars, armed with AK-47's.

There was a lot of open ground to move over. There were searchlights mounted on the roof, remote-controlled, and four "anticrime" lights, the day-light-bright blue-white sort, atop high chromium poles at the eastern and southern corners. According to the estate's blueprints, it was equipped with emergency power batteries and a generator. So it would give Bond only a few seconds of darkness if he cut the house's power source. He might be able to shoot out the lamps - though that would tip his hand fairly early. But he recognized the manufacturing style of the searchlights - they were bulletproofed, and at this range the bulletproofing would work.

"All that open ground..." he muttered.

Not much cover there. He'd have to hope the decoy plan would continue to work. Knocking out those was would take time, though. That would give the enemy time to sight in on him, but a wise use of his mortars might give him the time he needed.

Briefly he considered attacking from above. Leiter was a reliable pilot and he could parachute onto the roof. If they spotted him from those balconies, though, he would be an easy target as he came down. And there was the mistral to consider. A wind like that would make parachuting unreliable.

Reluctantly he shelved the air-attack contingency.

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He'd have to go infantry. He lowered the field glasses and thoughtfully lit a cigarette. All around him the air was rich with the scent of palm sap. The swelling breeze sang through the slits in his camouflaged nest and whipped the cigarette smoke into oblivion. The tree creaked in the wind and rustled where its large leaves touched the branches of other trees.

He got to his knees, cigarette in his lips, and checked the ground-drop wire running from the east side of the nest to the base of a smaller tree far below, slanting down in a straight line, taut, at a forty-five degree angle. A little steep, maybe. The thumb-thick cable whined in the gusts of the mistral. It seemed secure - he'd worried a little that the wind might be loosening it. That cable was Bond's emergency exit. It was securely looped around the tree trunk, just above the thick branch that supported his observation nest. On the rough floor beside the opening over the wire was a palm-sized metal wheel with a grooved rim - a groove that fit snugly onto the cable - rather like a pulley wheel. An axle ran through the center of the wheel's flat face, with handles on either side, for a quick ride down.

Leiter had sneered at the wheel and cable. "A child's toy," he said. "You'll break your neck, my friend. Or it will stick halfway. And you will be moving too fast when you get to the bottom, no? I mean if you get to the bottom."

"It can be braked a little by squeezing the handles inward," Bond explained. "Certain commandos have used them successfully-"

"And others," Leiter had interrupted, "have probably broken their bones on it."

Bond looked dubiously down the length of the cable. He

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had never used one in a fight situation. And it did look like an unusually long way down. He discarded the idea of testing it now. Too big a chance, Leiter was right, and he needed his limbs intact tonight.

While Bond was distracted, pondering his escape cable, the mistral had picked up, blowing harder, making the tree sway yet more. And its persistent gusts were working at Bond's camouflage, plucking bits of the palm leaves away. His carefully constructed hooding over the observation slits had blocked off the sun, preventing reflection off his field glasses - a flash of those glasses could expose his position. But the mistral stripped part of the hooding away.

Bond scrupulously ground out his cigarette on his boot heel, making sure it was completely out, then lifted the field glasses to peer through the observation slit.

[* * * * * *]

Chen, carrying an M16 in his right hand, stalked moodily across the lawn to the two sentries squatting under a palm tree near the fence, playing a game of blackjack. He came quietly up behind them, and when he was nearly at arm's reach, barked, "You son-of-a-bitches had enough card playing yet?"

The two men jumped and whirled, reflexively jerking their guns toward him. They relaxed - but not completely - when they saw it was Chen. "Santa Maria!" said Esteban Fernandez, a beefcake Nicaraguan with a bald head and a thick black beard. "You shouldn't startle me like that. I might have-"

"You wouldn't be startled if you had been doing your goddamned job!"

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Chen broke off his dressing-down, his attention drawn to the trees on the ridgetop overlooking the estate. He'd seen a flash of light atop one of those trees - hadn't he? He watched, but it didn't repeat itself. He leaned his gun against the tree, reached for the binoculars hanging around his neck, and then changed his mind. He let his hands drop to his side. If he looked directly at that tree with his binoculars, Bond would notice it and would probably retreat. It would be better if he didn't let Bond know he'd been spotted. Then he could encircle through the woods, come around behind that tree nest - if that's what it was. It might just be a piece of a kid's aluminum kite caught in the tree, or a half-dozen other things. But he had to check it out.

Chen welcomed the challenge to action. He was getting stir-crazy in the house. "Fernandez," he said softly, picking up his rifle, "you come with me. Garcia, you stay here. Keep close watch."

Less than two minutes later, they had gone into the house by the open patio doors. Chen led Fernandez to the side door that led onto the cliff-side stairway. They passed out through that door and into a small copse of trees. The house, Chen assumed, was blocking them from Bond's view.

There was a padlock door that opened through the stone wall, and another heavily locked door in the electric fence. They unlocked the door in the wall, passed through, locked it behind them. Then Chen paused to call the gatehouse with his walkie-talkie. "Turn off the juice," he ordered. There was a click, and then the fence stopped its faint humming. He spat at a link where it touched the ground - there was no answering spark. He unlocked the

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gate, and they passed through. He double-locked the gate behind them, then called for the electricity to be restored. The fence resumed its ominous humming. Chen led the way into the woods.

They moved through cacti, palm trees, a scattering of acacias, the terrain gradually rising. Climbing a stair-cut slope, like an Aztec pyramid, they moved up the ridge on which Chen thought he had seen the tree with the telltale flash in it.

That tree was the highest, with a bunch of huge leaves at the top - it would be ideal, he thought. Maybe he's up there - or that crippled CIA buddy of his.

If Leiter was in the post, then Bond might be on the ground nearby, scouting on foot. He might be anywhere.

Chen felt a chill, and peered more sharply at the undergrowth, his finger hovering near the trigger of his M16. He checked to see that the gun was ready. The magazine was full. Thirty rounds. He had another clipped to his belt.

"What are we looking for?" Fernandez asked. He was breathing hard and sweating, blinking stupidly at the trees around him.

Chen pointed up the hill. "You see that thicket of trees? The tallest one there. Bond's got a technique for building a sort of treehouse observation post - works real good, when you put it together right."

"You think he's up there?" Fernandez's tone was doubtful.

Chen shrugged. He raised the binoculars and focused on the treetop. He couldn't see anyone, but the foliage, after thinning a bit on the way to the top, suddenly got thicker about three-fourths the way to the top. There was a

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ball of greenery there.

He lowered the binoculars and nodded. "Yeah, it's just possible." The target tree was about a hundred and fifty yards away, and farther up the ridge. There was a great untidy spill of boulders swelling from the brush between them. That and the trees between would make good cover.

"You got your walkie-talkie?" Chen asked softly.

Fernandez patted the instrument on his lift hip.

"Good. Then... you see that dead tree there? You work your way up to that tree. Take a position just underneath it. Try to move so you won't be seen from the treetop. Keep low, and stay close to the bigger boulders. Move quietly. When you get to your position, take a bead on the target tree, but don't fire till I tell you to - unless you see he's firing at me. I'll call you on the walkie and tell you when to open up on that nest. You got it?"

Fernandez nodded and lumbered off into the brush.

Chen started up the ridge, circling around behind the target tree. They would catch that treetop in a crossfire, and if Bond was in it, maybe, just maybe, they had a chance to take him out now, the easy way.

[* * * * * *]

Bond lowered his field glasses, frowning. Why had Chen gone into the house that way, so suddenly, after looking in his direction? Coincidence? But he's taken that sentry with him, and the man hadn't come back to his post. What was up?

He shivered, and reached out a hand to steady himself on the tree trunk beside him - the tree was swaying again in the wind. He blinked, and realized that the wind had torn away a piece of his camouflaged "roof" - the sunlight

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was slanting through, hitting him in the face.

He was struck by a sudden worry. Maybe the rest of the camouflage had been damaged. Maybe he was exposed.

He moved on hands and knees through the cramped spaces around the tree trunk, inspecting the netting. About a fourth of the large leaves had been torn away. He decided to abandon the nest rather than try to repair. He was getting cramps in his legs, anyway.

He slung his Ingram submachine gun over his shoulder and moved toward the hole in the floor - through which he could lower himself. He had chosen the submachine gun because it was easier to carry in the cramped spaces of the nest and the tree leaves and because he'd planned no sniping. He had it along in case he ran into a patrol on the ground. It was good for that kind of skirmish.

But it wasn't much use to him when Fernandez opened up on the nest.

The tree trunk close behind him spat splinters, two bullet holes appearing, the yellow wood beneath the bark showing like flesh in the wound of some exotic animal.

"Goddamn!" Bond blurted, flattening. He heard, then, the twin cracks and rolling booms of gunshots.

The air around him whistled with a hail of slugs. Wood splinters leaped like firework sparks. A bullet smashed into his canteen and stopped on a metal plate in his belt. Water spurted from the canteen, like a premonition of his blood.

[* * * * * *]

Chen jerked the walkie-talkie from his belt when he heard the shots. "Fernandez? Fernandez! You read me? Dammit, Fernandez, do you-"

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"Yeah, I hear ya."

"What the hell are you doing? I told you not to fire until I-"

"Yeah, but I saw him through the leaves. The wind blew some of the grande leaves at the top of the palm tree and I saw a rifle barrel, so I-"

"You're too far to be sure of hitting him alone! I wanted you to fire only to drive him out to me when I was in position, dammit! If there's only one of us shooting, he can duck behind the trunk, you... Oh, forget it. Try to keep him pinned down and I'll try to get in firing position."

Swerving, Chen clambered onto a boulder, hoping to get a bead on the treetop from there. He had planned to move much closer, now there was too much in the way. Trees, and more trees.

He leaped to another boulder, climbed higher, and found a shooting angle. He raised his rifle to his shoulder and aimed.

[* * * * * *]

The fusillade let up just long enough for Bond to scramble to the other side of the trunk. He started breathing again.

He hadn't been hit himself, but he'd heard the ominous snapping sound when a bullet had struck the Ingram on his back. He unslung the submachine gun and swore. Its breech was cracked. It would blow up in his face if he tried to fire it now. He tossed it aside. At least he still had Maldonado's .357 Magnum in his belt. He couldn't go down the trunk - they would have a clear shot at him that way. The ground-drop cable was the only way out. He fitted the wheel onto the cable, then kicked the netting

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and leaves aside, making a wider opening. He took the handles on either side of the wheel in his hands... and hesitated.

This is crazy, he thought. I'm too high up for this.

But just then the tree began spitting splinters again, bullets whining past his head.

He took a deep breath and lowered himself from the nest so he was hanging beneath the cable. For one instant he was a perfect target. And then he released the brake on the wheel - and the world rushed up at him.

At first he thought he'd fallen from the cable, was free-falling to the ground. But that was an illusion of his speed along the steeply down-slanting line. The wind whistled around him, leaves stung his face, trees seemed to throw their tops at him as if flinging spears. His wrists ached, and then the mistral tugged at him, trying to pull the wheel from the cable. A bullet grazed his chest, but he scarcely noticed it. He was consumed with the whipping speed of that mad plunge downward, hearing only the movement of the wheel on the cable. And then a wall of greenery smashed into him, knocking the breath out of him. He fell, cartwheeling through a green whirlpool. And then blackness.

"You see that?" Fernandez blurted as Chen ran up to him. "He flew out of that tree like he had wings!"

Chen groaned. "That was a ground-drop cable. Come on, I think maybe I winged him when he came down - or maybe the wind knocked him off." They ran like two hunters eager to see their downed buck, weaving in and out of the boulders and trees. "I think he's down in that thicket somewhere."

The cable had passed over the lip of a short drop-off

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and was fixed to the base of a tree on a shelf of rock below. They found the wheel lying on the edge of the drop-off. No sign of Bond. Chen had assumed Bond was badly hurt, at least. Now he began to wonder. Maybe he'd come down on his feet and had already retreated. Or maybe he was sighting in on them from cover at that very moment...

There was a thicket of cacti and stunted palm trees just below the tree the cable was cinched to. Probably he was down there.

Palms sweating, the gun sticky in his hands, Chen led Fernandez to a trail that cut across the hillside and doubled back down, below the bottom end of the cable. When they'd crept down the trail, and came to the dense thicket, Chen whispered, "You circle around, we'll get him between us."

Fernandez nodded and disappeared into the thick growth.

[* * * * * *]

When Bond woke, some instinct told him: Don't move. Lie quiet and listen first.

He opened his eyes, and he listened.

He heard a bird squawking somewhere above him. He heard the wind sighing. He heard...

Cacti crackling under a man's boots.

He blinked, and his eyes came into focus. He was lying between two rocks on a bed of cacti and fallen palm tree leaves. The rocks nearly came together just in front of him, leaving an opening between them just big enough for a mam to slip through sideways. He was lying in shadow under a tree he couldn't see without moving. His head throbbed. He wondered if he'd broken any bones.

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He heard the cacti crackling again. Slowly he inched his arm around behind him, feeling for the .357.

It was gone.

It must have fallen off when he hit the trees. The wind had jerked him off the cable, and he'd fallen into trees before reaching the cable's end. He moved his hand like a spider searching for prey, making no quick motions, to his belt. The knife was still there, at least. He drew the long double-bladed weapon from its sheath.

The light came mostly through the opening between the rocks. Something blotted that light for a moment - a man standing in the thicket on the other side of the rock gate. A big man wearing a khaki T-shirt and fatigues and biceps comparable to a side of ham. The man stood with his back half-turned to Bond.

Bond gripped the knife, tried to gather his energy together in case he had to spring. The man was carrying an assault rifle - maybe an AK-47. He'd probably plug Bond before the knife could be brought into useful action.

So Bond pretended he was a sleeping snake. A sleeping snake is as still as a rock. But if you wake it...

The big man moved on, without looking in Bond's direction. But probably Chen would be nearby. And if Chen came past, he'd find Bond for sure.

Moving as noiselessly as possible, Bond got to his hands and knees. He had to stifle a groan. Maybe nothing was broken, but he was bruised and lacerated in half a dozen places, and there were scratches from cacti thorns beginning to welt on the left side of his face and neck. His head throbbed; there was a knot over his left temple.

Still, he was intact. He could fight.

He took deep breaths and stretched a little, trying to get

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oxygen into his bruised limbs.

He moved in a crouch out through the rock opening, and paused, looking around. He saw nothing but the stunted palm trees and another group of cacti to the left. He moved toward the cacti, since it was the best cover.

Bond wriggled with a faint crackling into the prickly plants, keeping his head below their upper stems. Then he went stone-still. He had heard Chen speaking. From maybe thirty feet away.

Despite the aches, Bond grinned. He sidled out of the cacti, moved to put a boulder between himself and the position downslope from which Chen's voice had come. Chen assumed he was still in the thicket. But he was on the outer edge of it, and moving into the trees.

Bond hunched down behind a tangle of fallen trees when he heard foot steps walking past.

Bond didn't dare jump the man now. The Nicaraguan might let out a yell and alert Chen. So Bond followed him down the hill toward the house. Apparently, he was going for reinforcements. He'd tell the others they'd seen Bond, and that would endanger Lotta. No, that wouldn't do at all.

Fernandez stopped just outside the chain-link electric fence, now within walkie-talkie range. He unhooked the walkie-talkie from his belt...

Bond lunged at him from behind, jabbing downward with the knife.

But Fernandez's reflexes were quicker than his mind. He'd heard the sound as Bond burst from the brush, and he turned to meet him. He dropped the walkie-talkie and brought the rifle up like a quarterstaff to block Bond's knife, catching Bond's forearm on the barrel.

Bond grabbed the rifle stock with his left hand and

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twisted it at an angle he'd learned in disarming training. He was using the force of his arm to turn Fernandez's fingers backward. Fernandez let go with his right hand, but with his left jerked the rifle free and leaped back. He swung the rifle so close some of his hair caught on the breech and was yanked out by the roots. Fernandez was thrown off balance for an instant by the momentum of his swing.

Bond ran hard at Fernandez and slammed the big man in his heavy gut with his right shoulder, like a football player in a hard block.

Fernandez said "Uff" and staggered backward, flailing for balance. He fell against the chain-link fence, dropping the rifle.

The powerful current running through the fence seized the Nicaraguan and snapped him to rigid attention. He stood at a cruel parody of military attention, arms straight down at his sides, chest outthrust, chin lifted, as he was electrocuted. His eyes, as he smoked, his flesh sizzling, his fingers vibrating like tuning forks, seemed to be focusing on the ultimate superior officer. Death.

Bond picked up the walkie-talkie and experimentally thumbed its transmitter; in his best imitation of Chen's oriental voice he said; "Chen here. Shut off the power in the fence, I'm coming through."

The humming went out of the fence. Fernandez's body slumped, and he tumbled to the earth. His face was drawn back in a grinning rictus. There was a cross-hatch pattern where the chain link had burned into his back.

Bond looked toward the house. He was on a side that had two windows and a door but no balcony. He could see two sentries with their backs to him on the far side of the

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acreage. No one had seen him.

He moved forward, took Fernandez by the ankles, and dragged him into the brush. He concealed the AK-47 under some leaves. The walkie-talkie he clipped to his belt.

He dragged Fernandez's body a short distance to the edge of the cliff. Sea churned into breakers far below. He stuffed a number of fist-sized stones in Fernandez's shirt and down his trousers, then kicked him over the edge. The body flapped its arms in the wind as it fell. It struck headfirst on a large fang-shaped outcropping, making a vivid splash of red on the black stone. Then the waves rushed in again and washed the blood away, tumbling the body into the sea's secret depths.

Bond retrieved the AK-17, checked it out, then slipped into the woods. He circled widely, moving back up the hill, hoping to ambush Chen from above.

But Chen had already realized that Bond was no longer in the thicket. He suspected Bond had followed Fernandez. He guessed the outcome. If he went that way too, Bond would probably ambush him. He grunted and began to jog to the southeast, circling to come out on the private road that led to the house's front entrance.

He hurried up the road to the front gate. The man in the gatehouse looked out at him in surprise. He was a stubby man with big eyes and, it was said, some technical expertise with electronic gear. "What the hell are you doing here, Chen?" the man asked, his mouth drooping, as he came out of the gatehouse.

"Never mind. Just turn off the power on the fence and let me through."

"I already turned it off. You didn't tell me to turn it

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back on."

"When?"

"Oh... ten, twenty minutes ago. Maybe a little more."

"Ah... damn. Yeah... oh, yeah, I forgot... uh... you seen Fernandez?"

"Nope."

"Then open the goddamn gate, I'm tired of standing here."

"Sure, sure..." The gate whirred aside. He passed through the stone wall's gate through which Fernandez was supposed to have come. No sign of him. He ordered the man in the gatehouse to let him through, then went to search the ground outside the fence. There - signs of a scuffle. A spot of blood. So that was it for Fernandez. They probably wouldn't even find his body.

He went back into the estate's grounds, and thought: Better order all walkie-talkie messages to be ignored from here on out. He's got to see me in front of him before he shuts off that fence.

Doberman was waiting on the back patio.

"You should not be out in the open, sir," Chen said. He debated telling Doberman about Bond. "Sir, a sniper might..."

Grudgingly Doberman stepped back into the shelter of the house. Chen followed him inside.

"Well? Report!" Doberman barked.

"Thought I saw an observation nest. We checked it out, fired a few shots at it. Just a kid's treehouse. No one there."

"Where is Fernandez?"

Chen hesitated. "Uh... didn't he come back here? I guess he did what he was talking about - said he wanted to go into town for a little R and R. I told him to forget it, but

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when my back was turned, he slipped out. Probably be gone for hours, or all night, if I know that guy."

"He will have a good time, I hope," Doberman said, turning away. "Because he will pay for that good time when he returns."

"Sir..." Chen winced. "Did you think about those extra men?"

"Yes. I have made arrangements. We may have two more tomorrow. But when so many know I'm here, it's a great danger. I have decided to leave the estate. We will leave Mexico tomorrow night. As soon as the new men arrive."

Chen knew he ought to urge Doberman to leave today.

But that would mean no confrontation with Bond. No finishing the fight.

Chen said nothing, but thought: Tomorrow will be too late...

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-17-

...And Into the Fire

"WE HAVE GOT TO TIME IT AS PERFECTLY AS HUMANLY possible," Bond said, tightening a nut on the stand that held the machine gun to the prow of the Chris-Craft. He and Leiter were working over the speedboat in a "garage" on a private jetty south of Puerto Vallarta. "We should hit them both at the same time - only the decoy ought to start firing about thirty seconds earlier. Make it a minute. That'll give them time to move their firepower from the front of the house to the seaward side."

"I understand, James," Leiter said solemnly.

Bond tossed the wrench aside. "What do you look so damn sad about, Felix?"

"Sad?" Leiter grinned. "Not at all!" But his eyes belied his grin.

"You figure I'm going to get blown away on this mission. Look, even if I had fifty men on my side, fifty good men, it could still happen. One bad-luck ricochet, and... well, if

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the bullet's got your name on it..." He shrugged. "Hell, I could get it almost as easily crossing the street, the way the damn taxis drive over here!"

"But the odds, James!"

"There are ways a good tactician can tilt the odds a little."

Bond finished attaching the machine gun and stepped back to admire his work. The gun was raked up at the steepest possible angle, as it would have to hit the house's upper windows from far below. "You sure the remote control-mechanism for this thing is going to work?" Bond asked dubiously. Leiter had jury-rigged it.

"I think so. I've rigged it so that when I shift the remote-control box into high gear, the signal will not only cause the boat's gears to shift, it will also signal the compression spring-"

"I know, but..." He shrugged. "The way I understand it, you've attached a battery-operated spring compressor that - after it releases - forces this little metal flange to press the trigger. Right?"

"Yes, essentially."

"It seems to me that the spray from the prow would interface with the electrical connections - I mean, the compression box is right here on the damn hood of the boat-"

"Yes, yes," Leiter replied somewhat abstractly, "I've insulated it against that. I've tested it without rounds in the weapon. It compresses the trigger. It may not work for long, James. All that shaking... But it will work long enough to focus attention on the boat."

"What is it, Felix? You look like you're not all here."

"I am thinking that perhaps the better way would be for

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me to assault the house directly. Personally. I could hit them from another side, draw their fire..."

Bond laughed. "Sorry for laughing, but you don't really want to do that. I've got to respect you for offering, though. Few men would. But, look, firelight and assault just aren't your specialty. You're an intelligence specialist, that's where your skills are. I don't want to lose you to some stray bullet. Anyway, there'll be plenty to do. You'll be close enough to keep in radio contact with me till I go over the fence. After that I'll leave the radio behind."

"You will try to use their walkie-talkie to deceive them?"

"No. I know Chen, he'll have figured against that. No, I've got to take that fence out the hard way." Bond glanced at his watch. "It's going to be sunset soon, old buddy. Time to get to it... You got that backup boat in place?"

"It is there, as of about an hour ago, James. It's just an outboard skiff, I'm afraid."

"That'll serve the purpose just fine, Felix."

"In the immortal words of Willie Nelson," Leiter chuckled in his Texas drawl. "Turn out the lights. The party's over!"

[* * * * * *]

Some called him Castillo and some called him Whitey. He didn't much care what they called him. He was a man who kept to himself, who had always felt apart. Maybe he felt different because he was a Mexican albino. Maybe because he didn't seem to feel a lot of emotions most people felt. He'd never felt love for someone - not since he was a little boy and his dad locked him in that rat-infested shed all night. That night something had snapped in his soul.

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There was just one thing that could melt Castillo the Whitey a little inside. Sex. Not romance - but sex. He could go at it for hours. And he could think about it for hours when there wasn't someone to go at it with.

So it was ironic that Klaus Doberman had chosen Whitey to guard Lotta. Doberman had the impression that Whitey was a sort of eunuch. Maybe because Castillo seemed, most of the time, to be chipped out of ice. Never showed expression. But everyone's got some kind of feeling. Castillo's was lust, and he was having a tough time controlling it.

Castillo stood outside the door to Lotta's room, face blank as an erased blackboard; the direction of his thinking was hinted only by the tightness of his fingers on the breech of his M16.

She'd tell Doberman, he was thinking. Doberman would kill me ugly.

He was thinking about the kind of death Doberman would arrange for him if he had his way with Lotta, when the banging came on the door behind him.

"Shit!" he burst out, startled. He turned halfway around. "Yeah, lady, what do you want?"

"I want to talk with you, please!" Lotta shouted through the door.

Castillo hesitated.

"About what? What do you need? You've got a bathroom in there, you had your dinner-"

"Please, I've got to have a word with you. I've been wondering what you look like - I want to see."

That was too much for Castillo. "Okay, but keep your mouth shut about this..." He looked up and down the hall, then leaned his rifle against the doorjamb. He

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fumbled in his pocket with clammy, nervous fingers, found the old-fashioned key, and unlocked the door. He pocketed the key, opened the door, picked up the rifle, and stepped through with it. Staring at Lotta, he closed the door behind him.

He licked his lips.

She was wearing a man's bathrobe, tied at the waist. It showed her long golden legs below the thighs, and the tanned swell of her cleavage at the lapels. She'd brushed her hair, and washed. Even the bruises on her cheek looked good. It might be nice to give her a few more while he-

"Hey!" Castillo snapped as she tried to press past him to the unlocked door.

"I want to talk to Doberman," she said, smiling at him, running her fingers softly along his jawline. She tried to sidle past, and he felt the warmth of her breasts against his right shoulder. He dropped the rifle to the rug and clapped his fingers to her upper arms.

"What do you mean, Doberman? I thought you said you wanted to talk to me? It's me or nothing. Because I ain't going to let you talk to Doberman till he asks to see you. He wouldn't like that."

She squirmed away from him, and he let her, because he liked watching her move. He stared at her heavy, dessert-sweet lips, and wanted to taste them. He wanted to taste every part of her, bad. So bad it hurt.

"You're hurting me," Castillo said breathlessly. "You hurt me just with the way you look. So it's my turn to hurt you now. But I think you're going to like it."

She was backing away from him, but he didn't mind that either. He liked watching her legs move, the jounce of her

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breasts as she half-turned to reach behind her.

"You know what I'd like, senor?" she said huskily.

"Now - you tell me what it is you'd like, babe. I just might give it to you."

"I'd like you to press your face into my breasts. I'd like you to... to kiss them."

She opened the bathrobe. She had a slip on under the bathrobe, and that was all. Her big round breasts were bare and begging him for attention. They seemed to grow, to fill up the whole room for him, just then. He moved toward her, bent over her, reaching for them...

And then he thought. What is she reaching behind her for?

Too late. Fireworks burst in his head, and an explosive pain. He had time to think. The bitch hit me with the goddamn lamp. Then he blacked out.

[* * * * * *]

After Bond had installed and primed the plastic explosives in the prow of the boat, Leiter went to swing the doors of the boat garage wide, opening the way to the pewter-coloured waters of the little estuary.

Bond went forward to the machine gun, still brooding about the explosives. He wondered if he could install additional armor atop them - but that might interfere with the collision-triggered detonation. Still, it could throw things off if gunfire from the estate triggered the explosives prematurely. Probably he had arranged the armoring to protect it from that, though. Yeah, they'd be shooting downward.

Bond covered the machine gun with a tarp and lashed the tarp down tightly so the wind wouldn't pry it up and

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"drop their pants" in front of all the weekend boaters. It was a crude Soviet-made weapon, a piece of "surplus" confiscated from terrorists two years before: a 7.62mm caliber USSR RPD, gas-operated, with a hundred round metallic link belt in a metal drum. They'd removed the stock and bolted the ammo drum to the deck, plus added an unusually high muzzle stand for the raked shooting angle. It was a nearly obsolete weapon, mostly useful as a decoy-prop. And maybe it would confuse Doberman about who was attacking him, it would be a good thing if he thought, looking at the Soviet weapon, that the KGB was the attacker.

Leiter returned to the boat, stepping over the water from the wooden walkway around the edges of the garage, and a minute later they were cutting across the wave to follow the coastline north.

Bond's head ached, his scratches stung, and the bullet graze across his left pectoral, where Chen's bullet had licked him on the way down the cable drop, burned like a branding iron.

But there was a grim smile on Bond's lips. He'd let them put him off long enough. Now rage gave him a singing inner strength that made all his aches into a ghostly, dimly felt echo. He shifted into a battle consciousness. He was no longer a personality, no longer an ordinary human being with the usual misgivings and uncontrolled mental associations. Now he was a killing machine. He was a tactical computer. He was an automatic weapon. And the only human feeling in him - aside from loyalty to Queen and Country - was the rage of vengeance-taker. That rage was the fuel for the killing machine's engine.

Bond's armored Chris-Craft speedboat shot toward

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Doberman's fortress like a throbbing erection.

[* * * * * *]

The sun was shimmering at the horizon. Bond hurried to help Leiter unload the boat so they could get it back out to sea, to use that sunset's glare to their advantage. They'd treated the windows so they were opaque - no one would be able to see that the boat had no pilot. But it would be better if the glare hid the boat's details and made it just that much harder to hit.

Bond had moved his attack time up - from three A.M. to eight P.M. - partly to take advantage of the momentum of his inner rage. The attack at the observation nest had infuriated him. Years before, he'd learned that rage can be two things. It can be the raw energy that pulls him through, or it can be his death if he allows it to overwhelm his tactical judgement. Rage was something Bond had learned how to use. Like a weapon.

He moved the battlefield shortwave, the eagle-eye missles, and a couple of backup rifles to Leiter's remote-control post ashore, atop the ridge overlooking the estate. "You don't think they will send sentries outside the fence, James?" Leiter asked when they'd gotten the gear stored safely behind the blind of camouflaging and twigs.

"No, I cut their forces back too much. They'll need survivors to stay in close to the house... Okay, I'm heading out."

Solemnly they shook hands.

"Good luck and may the wind be at your back," Leiter murmured as Bond moved off down the hill.

Bond would need that luck.

* * * * * *

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Chen had thought better of his decision to keep quiet about the coming battle. To do the job right, he'd decided, he had to give his commander the facts. It tasted bad in his mouth, but he said it. "Sir, I think we ought to move out tonight. As soon as possible." He couldn't tell Doberman at this point, about the treehouse encounter with Bond. But he could tell him what it foreshadowed: "I think someone's going to hit us tonight."

"What makes you certain of that, Mr. Chen?" Doberman asked.

Doberman was sitting at dinner on the balcony overlooking the sea, dressed in a formal white jacket. He chewed lustily at a steak so rare it nearly screamed, blood running from the corners of his mouth, all the time watching Chen.

That made Chen nervous.

"Uh... hard to explain. Just call it the trained instinct of long experience, sir. I just know."

"Indeed?" Doberman spat a bone over the railing. It tumbled trailing blood droplets, to the sea far, far below. "I wonder if you are keeping something from me, Mr. Chen?"

Chen stiffened. He knew what that meant. When Doberman started to wonder about you, you were probably as good as dead. With Doberman even a suspicion of treachery was enough to condemn you.

"I think that tonight," Chen went on doggedly, "it's going to come down on us. I can't explain."

Doberman barked for wine, then turned back to Chen. "Very well. We will leave in one hour, if we can get the yacht loaded quickly."

"I'd advise now, sir - and I advise once again against

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appearing on this balcony. You are a target here."

"A target? No one could get close enough to-"

The wine bottle the steward had just set on the table exploded. The steward exploded, too. Bullet holes ripped him open at the middle, splashing his white jacket with red.

Chen stared down at the man's twitching body in momentary shock. Shock - but not regret.

Chen's shock melted away a second later and he dived to the flagstone floor of the balcony as another spray from below raked across the balcony.

Doberman was down on his hands and knees. He was completely unhurt - physically. But his pride had been dealt a nasty blow. Chen noted that with some satisfaction. It was good to see Doberman on his hands and knees, waddling through the open doors into the cover of the living room.

Doberman stood, dusting his knees.

Chen joined him. "It seems you were right, Mr. Chen," Doberman said. His voice like a wire pulled taut till it was about to snap. His hands trembled with a fury barely in check. "It's Bond, isn't it?"

Chen moved to a window and peered from a lower corner. He saw the speedboat below, coming back around to strafe the balcony again. There was a machine gun mounted on the hood - but no one operating it. Must have it rigged so he can press the trigger from the pilot's cabin. Some kind of remote. Funny, Bond attacking that way - from the sea. So vulnerable down there. And that had been a lucky hit, that strafe. He couldn't hope to shoot at all accurately - not on those waves, and with no way to aim the muzzle of the machine gun precisely. Funny. Must have

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seen Doberman out there, and it was too much of a temptation. Nearly got him, too. But why was Bond sticking around? What could he hope to accomplish from down there now, except knock out a few windows? Sooner or later some boat would pass and see the action and radio the police. Crazy way to work. But maybe that was it - the unexpected. But how could Bond hope to-

Doberman's shuddering roar interrupted his pondering. "I asked you, is that Bond?"

Chen nodded. "I think so. That's the boat that-"

"Then get the girl. Quickly! Bring her here!"

Gunmen were running into the room, babbling questions, unslinging rifles.

Chen watched them dubiously. But then again, maybe it wasn't Bond down there. Maybe-

"Chen," Doberman bellowed. "Get the girl! I'll oversee our defense!"

"If you say so, sir. But I don't think..."

His words were drowned out by gunfire. Three sentries and the two bodyguards had taken up firing positions in the window and were laying a heavy fire pattern on the boat below. They'd cut it to pieces in minutes, Chen figured.

Doberman gestured spasmodically, a pistol in each hand.

"Go!"

Chen shrugged. "Yes, sir."

He moved down the hall, took the stairs three at a time, zigzagging three flights below to the second floor.

Strange - the guard was gone from her door. And it was open.

He found Castillo out cold on the floor of her room.

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Chen slapped the man's cheek, waking him.

"Whuh? Where the hell...?" He sat up and looked at Chen. He blinked, and then his eyes focused.

"Chen?"

"Yeah, brilliant observation, asshole, it's Chen!" He grabbed the man by the shirt collar and dragged him to his feet. Then he saw the gash on the side of Castillo's head, matting his hair with blood. "What happened?"

"The bitch. The bitch! Started to come outside, said she had to talk to Doberman. I told her to forget it. She came at me with..." He pointed.

Chen looked. There was a broken table lamp behind the door. He looked back at Castillo, and despite the gunshots rocketing from above, grinned. "She busted your head open? Hell, man, she must have stood on her tiptoes! And it wasn't even from behind!" He nodded to himself. The woman had courage. Admirable.

"Yeah, but shit, she..." He winced. "She pulled open her bathrobe. Them big boobies-"

Chen laughed. "She hypnotized you, Castillo! You dumb ass."

"Look, don't tell Doberman what happened, okay? I'll find her-"

"No, uh... forget it. I'll find her. You go outside and report to Garcia. Got to beef up that back sentry watch."

"That gunfire I hear?"

"No, that's the little drummer boy playing a march. Get going, and watch your dumb ass - we're under attack. Keep your eyes open. I've got a feeling he'll hit us from the back, no matter what it looks like now."

Castillo got to his feet. "Where's my gun?"

"Naturally, dumb ass, she took it. Get another from the

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basement, and move!"

Castillo moved, groaning, holding his lumped head.

Chen went up the hall to the stairway and paused beside the door of one of the unused bedrooms. He heard a noise from in there. Sure, Lotta was probably holed up in there - she'd been in the hall, heard him coming, was waiting for him to go.

He hesitated, then shrugged. It wouldn't help their defense to bring her out. Bond wouldn't let a hostage stop him now.

The hell with her. Let her go.

Smiling just a little, he went upstairs. "She's not there," he began, stepping into the living room. "Castillo..." He broke off, looking around. "What's going on? Garcia! What're you doing here?"

Garcia and the other sentries, all but the gatehouse keeper, were at the windows, firing at the boat outside. Doberman was at the telephone. He threw the phone onto the floor and kicked it against a wall. "Someone cut the lines!" he bellowed.

"Naturally," Chen said dryly. "Sir..." That time he really had to force it out. "Why are the sentries up here? We need to guard our rear!"

"What? They came because they heard shooting, you fool!"

"But that's..." A light dawned on him. "That's what Bond wants!"

"What?" Doberman stalked toward him, waving pistols. "What are you talking about?"

"Hold your fire!" Chen shouted at the sentries. He had to repeat it three times. The men stepped away from the windows, blinking through a haze of blue gunsmoke.

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Chen pushed Garcia aside with a curse, snatched a pair of binoculars off a table, and looked through the window.

Incredibly, the boat was still there. It looked barely scratched and it was still running. The machine gun had been knocked off, but the boat kept zipping back and forth across the little inlet, working its way in toward the dock...

"Armored!" Chen burst out. "I can see camouflaged armoring! And look - there's no one driving that thing! It's remote controlled, a goddamn decoy! You idiots! What's it doing now? It's heading toward the yacht!"

The speedboat hit the Buenaventura broadside, and the big load of plastic explosives in its prow exploded thunderously, consuming the smaller boat in a ball of black-shot red flame; they could see the shock wave make a sort of inverted bubble in the water around the exploding boat. And then the smoke hid the wreckage and part of the sinking yacht. "He's blown up the yacht!" Garcia shouted. "He-"

A voice crackled from Garcia's walkie-talkie. "Anyone there? This is Castillo - somebody just blew up the gatehouse! Looked like a mortar shell! He... The electric fence is knocked down, somebody's coming through... Shit!"

And then silence.

[* * * * * *]

Felix Leiter lowered the binoculars, grinning. That was one yacht Doberman would not be using for an escape. Already its deck was completely awash, and it was heeling over to port. By now James should have penetrated the

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fence. Time to back him up.

He quickly checked the eagle-eye missle launcher one last time. He activated the TV cameras. The little TV screen on the control unit showed only dark sky, a black-and-white image - mostly black. Luckily there were powerful outside lights at the estate. Lights designed for the estate's defence - which would help him destroy it.

He stood well back from the launching tubes and activated number one with the thumb switch. The missile's tail whooshed out white smoke and flame, and then it was gone, rocketing almost straight up. Leiter bent over the screen, twiddling knobs to signal the missile's computerized navigator - the image on the screen changed. There was a confused blur of coastline, the lights of the house, the horizon, then dark grey face of rock rushing at him. He jerked the joystick back - too late. The missile plowed into the cliff below the house, exploding brilliantly but uselessly.

Leiter cursed himself, wishing he'd done more research on operating these missiles. He fired number two - and lost that one as well, ran it into a treetop.

But now he was beginning to get the feel of it. His third missile shot straight for the house. The image whirled, and the little screen showed the roof and the spotlights slicing across the back lawns. He veered downward, then forced the missile into a wide circle over the treetops till he could get his bearings. It was not unlike a video game. Once you got the feel for it...

But the image on the screen moved so quickly! What if he brought the missile down too close to Bond? He'd never have time to be sure who was in the target area...

He took a deep breath, twiddled the knobs, and pressed

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the joystick forward. The rear lights of the house leaped toward the camera in the snout of the missile. The target grew.

[* * * * * *]

Bond heard the explosions of the first two missiles and grimaced. The eagle-eyes, it seemed, were harder to operate than they'd supposed. He was crouched in the rubble of the stone wall, inside the electric-fence perimeter. He'd blown the wall - but then the albino sentry had pinned him down here before he could get through the still-smoking gap.

There was about twenty yards of lawn between Bond and the corner of the house where Castillo crouched, sheltered by a stone buttress, firing M16 bursts at Bond's position. The rear and side grounds were lighted in swaths of light from the swiveling searchlights on the roof, and from the one remaining anticrime lamp. Bond had shot three lamps out, to give partial cover to his assault area. He'd left the remaining lamps intact to guide Leiter - but now it seemed that Leiter wasn't going to be much help.

Bond carried a semiautomatic assault rifle, a new Beretta, a knife, and six grenades. He yanked two grenades free, holding their pressure clamps tightly, one in each hand. He waited till Castillo's latest gun burst ended, then jumped up and lobbed both grenades over the wall, one shortly after the other. He was too far and tossing at a difficult angle - he probably couldn't blow the sentry away with those grenades. But the son-of-a-bitch would keep his head down, maybe just long enough...

The grenades exploded close together near the corner of the house; the buttress protected Castillo from the

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flak, but Bond was up and running, clearing the crust of the wall, zigzagging across the lawn under cover of the smoke from the grenade blasts. Pieces of sod were still pattering to the ground around him as he ran. He peered through thr blue-grey smoke, glimpsed the sentry getting up, raising his M16 muzzle...

Bond threw himself down and to the right, rolling. Bullets screamed into the turf where he'd been a second before, ripping it brutally. He kept rolling, coming into a wide patch of shadow. Then he sprang to his feet, and keeping low, rifle spitting flame in his hands, sprinted for the shelter of the stone porch railings. Castillo ducked back to avoid Bond's burst. Bond made the porch, then jumped over the railing into the flowerbed, working smoothly with the motion to shoulder-roll, somersault, and snap up into firing position - as the door to the porch was flung open from inside and three men rushed out. At the same moment, Castillo rushed Bond from the side of the house, shouting, "He's there, to your left, the bastard's on the other side of the porch!"

The three men - Garcia, and two other bodyguards - turned as one to begin firing at him. He was already opening up on them, but he knew it was too late.

The dirt kicked up powder around Bond as they fired at him, at first inaccurately in the darkness.

Bond knew he had only two or three seconds to live.

The air split with a violent shriek - and the porch erupted in flame and smoke, pieces of hot debris flying outward to trail vapor. Leiter scored a bull's eye.

The shock wave from the eagle-eye missile's blast kicked Bond in the gut and tumbled him backward. He found himself lying on his back, staring up at the stars,

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his head ringing, gasping for air. He forced himself to take a breath, and swearing, got to his knees, fumbling for his rifle. He scooped it up from the dirt in front of him, checked to see that the barrel was clear, put in a fresh clip, and got shakily to his feet. He started forward, moving through a spreading cloud of smoke and dust. Small tongues of flame - finding no foothold on the stone walls - licked futilely at the ragged gap four yards high and three wide where the front door and the porch had been. He counted three dead - or pieces of men that amounted to three dead - in the rubble. He'd killed two others that day, so that left six or seven fighting men against him. Unless the albino sentry...

A ghoulish figure, a thing out of nightmares, loomed in the smoke cloud to Bond's left - the albino guard, the right half of his face torn away by flying debris, his teeth and the bone of his jaw showing within the wound, muscles exposed and hanging, one eye socket a puddle of red. Yammering maniacally, he charged Bond with an M16. Bond dodged, and fired from the hip, zippering the disfigured sentry with six slugs at close range. The man was lifted off his feet by the impact of the bullets and thrown back over the snaggletooth remains of the railing. Bond turned away, flattened himself against the wall beside the missile-impact hole, and lobbed a grenade into the house. The wall at his back shivered with the explosion, and fragments of stone fell from the edge of the break overhead.

Bond ducked down and spun on his heel to spray the anteroom - just a scorched and rubbled cave now - with a double burst from his semiautomatic.

There was no return fire.

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He unsnapped a flashlight from his belt and shone it into the smoke-filled room. Not even a corpse. But there would be at least half a dozen more men to deal with somewhere in the house.

The air shuddered, a long booom shivering through the walls of the house. Leiter had used the fourth missile, mostly as a diversion - probably on the balcony.

Bond stepped through the broken-down door into the ground-floor living room. To the right, a cracked picture window showed only darkness - the view off the cliff s edge. A few stairs. Ahead, a wide staircase, twisting upward. Bond ran across the open space to the stairs, ducked back against the wall of the stairwell, half a flight up, looking for the enemy. No one yet. The overhead lights glowed as if nothing had happened, though they were slightly muted by smoke from the detonations; smoke that stung his eyes, made him cough.

He began to move up the stairs, and with his left hand started to return the flashlight to his belt - when the lights went out. Probably a complication of that last missile strike - it must have caused a fire or broke a water pipe, shorted out the system. If it was a short, even the backup would be useless.

Bond smiled coldly. He was used to working in darkness.

He kept the flashlight in his left hand, but turned it off. In his right he carried the Beretta. The rifle was slung over his shoulder. The pistol would serve him better at this close range. Too bad he hadn't time enough to get another submachine gun.

Knees bent, almost squatting, Bond moved up the stairs. He was above the thickest smoke now, and could

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breathe almost freely.

The darkness was deep on the stairwell, but broken by patches of grey above at the landing where light - moonlight, starlight, and a flicker that suggested fire, possibly from flames on the tar roof - came in through at the end of the corridor.

Bond kept to the pits of darkness, moving cat-soft, breathing deeply but so slowly it would be hard to hear.

But the men coming down the hall toward the stairway weren't so careful to move quietly. In fact, they were arguing.

The taller, angular one was saying, "I think we ought to stick with Chen. He knows what he's doing, man, and-"

"No, no," said the shorter, stockier man in a heavy Spanish accent. "That Chen is crazy to go to the back stairs."

Bond, when he'd first heard their voices, had swung over the stair railing. He was perched atop the switchback of the railing below the landing, balancing on the balls of his feet, hidden behind the balustrade, holding on to it with his left hand, the automatic pistol at the ready in his right. He was counting on the two men looking first down the stairway itself, and not beyond the railing.

He had guessed right. The men paused at the landing, just at the top of the stairs, the short one, nearer the outside rail, flashing his light down the stairs. He carried an AK-47; the other carried a shotgun.

Bond was poised on the railing of the flight beneath them. If they'd looked down at their boots, they'd probably have noticed him looking through the rail posts. He could almost have bitten their ankles.

He shot the first one through the crotch, because he

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couldn't hit the heart or head - the railing was in the way. The man shrieked and dropped his rifle. It banged down the stairs. He clutched at the close-range wound where his groin had been, and doubled over - that made it easy to finish him. Bond put a bullet through the side of the man's head; it split open like the proverbial ripe melon, jerking on his neck as he fell away.

The taller man, confused - the floor seemed to be shooting at them - swung around and let loose with the shotgun. The double-barreled combat shotgun roared, but it was too high, taking a chunk of the railing well over Bond's head. Bond fired twice between the railing posts. This man was farther from him and he could sight in on him clearly. Two bullets crunched through the tall man's skull and he fell over backward with a single short yelp. The flashlight looped from his nerveless fingers, and flaring light wildly, bumped down the stairs to the next landing. It came to a stop leaning against the bottom step, pointed upward, shining its light over the stairs and up onto the sprawled head-downward corpse of his partner.

Bond swung himself over the railing, alighting neatly on the steps. He picked up the shotgun and with his own flashlight briefly looked it over. Double-barreled twelve-gauge with a bandolier containing four more shells fixed to the stock with duck tape. Looked to be in good shape. He holstered his Beretta, reloaded the shotgun, and cocked it.

Carrying the shotgun, he crept up the landing. A large grandfather clock faced him across the corridor, ticking sullenly. He heard footsteps approaching from his right. Someone coming down the stairs.

Bond crossed the corridor with a single stride and turned to flatten against the wall beside the clock. The

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big clock stood between him and whoever was coming down the stairs. Bond held the shotgun upright, feeling its cold metal barrel against his cheek. He held his breath.

A middle-sized Colombian man with long stringy black hair walked past without seeing him. The man's attention was fixed on the stairs - the flashlight propped up at the bottom shone up toward him, end he assumed, probably, that someone was lying there holding it. The glare from the big flashlight made it hard to be sure no one was behind it. He shouted, "Who's there?" as he pointed his M16 at the light. Bond, behind him, dropped the shotgun down into firing position. The motion made a slight noise and the man whirled to face him, M16 spurting flame and slugs.

He'd fired spasmodically, without aiming, and the bullets crashed into the glass face of the clock, sending shards flying, bits of springs and wood jumping out.

But with the shotgun at a range of two yards, Bond couldn't miss. The shotgun bucked violently in his hands, disgorging hellfire - he fired from the hip, the stock against the meat of his thigh. The big gun's kick jabbed him painfully. But that was nothing compared to what the shotgun did to his enemy.

The double barrels tore the man in half, so that blood splashed on the ceiling and the walls. The man's insides shredded, sprang out from a hole big as a basketball as his body was rag-dolled backward over the stair railing, heels-over-head, tumbling to hit the stairs a flight below.

Bond nodded to himself with a professional's satisfaction. Effective weapon - but only at very close range. He reloaded it - just two rounds left - and moved off down the hall to the stairs at the end.

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But he hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. What had that Spanish-speaking guard said? Something about Chen on the back stairs. Where were these back stairs? And what was Chen doing there?

Probably he'd gone downstairs, and would be working back up, behind Bond. Hit him from behind while he was distracted by the cannon fodder.

Bond went to the vertical grey rectangle behind the stairs - the window of the corridor. He looked out, but he could see no one moving on the lawns.

He decided against going further upstairs this way. He moved off down the hall to the other end, opening doors, firing a burst through, fishing for a reaction. Nothing. He had laid his hand on a doorknob - when the door behind him opened. He spun. Another guard, armed with submachine gun, stood silhouetted against the grey light filtering up from a narrow stairway. The back stairway?

Both Bond and the guard were startled - neither had expected the other. But, unlike the bodyguard, Bond didn't allow his surprise to slow his reactions. He snapped the shotgun up and fired a split second before the other man would have squeezed his own trigger.

The range was even closer here. The double blast caught the man full force in the teeth. His head split into two halves, separated at the two jaws, the upper half exploding backward, the lower clacking a few times before, almost headless, the corpse sagged and tumbled down the stairs.

Bond tossed the exhausted shotgun aside and caught up with the guard's weapon. There was a fresh clip in tb submachine gun. He looked down the stairs.

Where was that dim light coming from?

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He moved down the stairs, submachine gun hard and cold in his hands. They were stone stairs, and very old. This was the oldest part of the house, judging by the cracked stone walls and the narrowness of the stairwell. He stepped over the shattered body of the dead bodyguard and continued down, taking the steps slowly and carefully, flattened against the back wall of the dank, twisting stairwell.

He came around another bend - and saw a man standing against the light of a doorway five steps below. The doorway looked out onto an anteroom, this one bare of furniture, with only a single electric lightbulb overhead. Bond felt a breeze on his cheek, faintly damp and salty. So the anteroom opened onto the outdoors, probably at the stairway that led down the cliffside.

The man in the doorway had his back turned to Bond. He was a tall, wiry Mexican man in fatigues and a headband. The man was looking out past the anteroom.

Voices floated up the stairs. Someone talking outside. Bond guessed whoever it was had to be at least eight yards distant. Maybe more. So if he shot the bodyguard now, they'd hear him, and they'd pin him down there - he'd have to retreat up the stairs.

He heard Chen's voice then. "...says he heard gunshots up the stairs... Your other man hasn't come back..."

"Then we move quickly..." Doberman's voice.

"You get in the Scorpion and fly the hell away from here, and I'll take care of-"

"No! Bond is a worm and I'll step on him myself!"

"Take the helicopter, you can-"

"No! I have run enough!"

"Sir, he's..."

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Bond moved quietly down the stairs. He slung the submachine gun over one shoulder, took a garrotte out of one of the pouches on his belt, and wound its ends around his two hands, then stretched it taught between them. He moved up behind the bodyguard and with a swift, fluid, circular motion looped the wire around the man's neck and jerked it tight, at the same time dragging him backward into the shadows, so his struggles wouldn't attract the attention of the men outside. Pulling the man off balance served to tighten the garrotte, the victim's body weight itself strangling him. The guard had time only for a startled squeak before the wire shut off his windpipe just above the larnyx. He struggled like a trapped panther in Bond's grasp - twice Bond nearly lost control of the man, the thrashings almost throwing him off balance. But he stood braced against the wall, pectorals, biceps, and forearms working together like the three parts of a gallows.

Four muscle-aching minutes later, the man stopped thrashing. He went limp in Bond's arm, eyes bulging, staring at the ceiling, tongue half-sawed-through between clenched teeth.

Bond lowered him noiselessly to the floor, abandoned the garrote, and unslung his appropriated machine gun.

He moved forward toward the doorway to the anteroom - and froze.

It was too quiet outside now.

Chen was there. Bond was sure of it. He could feel it. The son-of-a-bitch had probably convinced Doberman that it was time to retreat. The murderer would be down those steps carved into the cliffside, escaping to the hydrocopter.

And Chen would be under cover outside the door, waiting. Chen realized that the bodyguards had disappeared - and

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that meant I had found the back stairs. Chen knew where I was.

Bond thought: If I retreat up the stairs and try to circle around behind Chen, Doberman will get away. I've got to get past Chen now, or the assignment's blown.

He squatted down, moved through the shadows to the open doorway, peered around the doorframe.

The anteroom was dark. No one around. Chen would be just outside that half-open door. Bond could see a watered-down milky light throwing a pale shaft through the other doorway onto the stone floor. He slipped through the door from the stairway, moved toward the outside door. He flattened against the wall beside the outside door, jerked a grenade from his belt, and tossed it through

A flash of light. Shrapnel whining off the stone of the outer wall.

Bond launched himself through the door, the submachine gun chattering in his hands, slicing into the woods, shadows, any place a man could hide. Then he flung himself down to the right, rolling behind a boulder that marked the stairway leading down the cliffside.

Breathing hard, gun hot in his hands, muzzle smoking, Bond scanned the woods. No return fire. Chen must be there - but playing it cagey. or... Bond looked down the stairway. Down there? Covering Doberman's retreat? That must be it. He turned to head down the stairs.

A boot crunched behind him. He turned just in time to see Chen, grinning, stepping from the doorway of the house, an M16 in his hands spitting flame.

Something smashed into Bond's left shoulder, its brother dug hungrily into his left thigh, spinning him around. He fell, cursing with the pain in his wounds as he

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struck the stone stairway. He rolled down five steps, came to rest at a wide place where the stairs switched back - where a zig became a zag.

He would have liked to lie there staring up at the stairs, the blue-white moon, resting, falling into the pit of darkness opening up in his mind...

But he cursed himself and forced his right arm to prop him up, his right leg to work. Summoning the rage that would ride roughshod over the pain, he got to his feet. His left thigh was bullet-slashed and bloody - but the slug had missed the bone.

He thought: Chen must've run around to the hole I blasted on the far side, gone into the house and come out of it behind me.

Bond fired a burst up the steep cliffside. Bullets sprang off stone - he glimpsed Chen running to hide behind a boulder.

Bond knew he was a sitting duck.

He looked for cover. Chen fired, strafing the stone at Bond's feet; in a moment he would draw a bead on him and cut him down.

But Chen's firing ceased, cut off by another burst. A burst from the house, behind.

Bond forced himself to move up the steps, peering through the darkness. Leiter? No... He saw her then at a window on the second floor, a rifle in her hands. Lotta. She'd fired through the window glass, forcing Chen to cover himself.

Which gave Bond time to move up two flights, circle the boulder Chen was behind - Bond moving crabwise across the outcropping of rock just below the boulder, the cliff dropping away sheer beneath him. But Chen had disap-

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peared. Vanished into thin air. Bond cursed to himself and put a fresh clip in the submachine gun.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eyes, Bond spied Doberman at the controls of the one-man Scorpion hydrocopter as the rotary aircraft slowly started to rise from the water. Doberman turned and looked back at Bond, then smiled triumphantly.

Despite his blood loss, Bond ran down the cliffside.

The hydrocopter was rising swiftly now.

Bond reached the jetty, teeth grating with fury. And then he saw the aircraft's mooring line was dragging along the jetty, almost at the edge. The end was slipping past him. Bond had to act fast.

He dived at the rope, grasped it... and then held on for dear life as the hydrocopter dragged Bond along the water for at least twenty yards. And then, as the small aircraft gained altitude, Bond was airborne.

The hydrocopter tilted, Doberman fighting to keep his balance.

Bond hung onto the mooring line as the wind whipped his face. His hands ached. Water filled his eyes, but he could see that the aircraft had changed direction. It was still rising, but now was heading across the water, straight toward the Sierra Madres.

Hand over hand, Bond slowly, painfully, pulled himself up the long mooring line. The hydrocopter was twenty-five feet above him... then twenty... fifteen...

The aircraft tilted again, but Doberman kept it steady toward the looming mountains.

Bond's hands became raw and blistered from the coarse, heavy rope. But he kept on pulling himself higher and higher.

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Ten feet... five... four.

He was almost there. Any second now he would be able to scramble up into the cockpit with Doberman.

Three feet... two...

Bond hung on to one of the hollow, flotation cylinders. Because its weight wasn't balanced, the hydrocopter pitched again. This gave him just enough time to pull himself up, scrambling to his feet.

Doberman drew his pistol and pointed it at Bond's head.

But Bond lunged across the small cockpit, grabbing his wrist, preventing him from firing. Bond dug his fingers into Doberman's face, trying to jab out the one remaining eye. Blocking a blow to his larnyx, Bond dodged and struck Doberman's gun arm, his wrist, the blow so powerful that Doberman's fingers opened reflexively, the pistol a blur as it fell out of sight toward the water.

The Scorpion tilted again. The next thing Bond knew, as his heart pounded wildly, he'd stumbled backward. He grabbed one of the pontoons, suspended horribly, hanging above a rushing blur of water. Bond felt a lurch as the aircraft descended closer to the Sierra Madres, pitching, dipping, Doberman obviously trying to impact him against one of the mountains. Wind tugged at him. With both hands on the pontoon now, Bond pulled himself higher. Straining, sweating, he grabbed the side of the door, however. Doberman pounded on his hands, smashing his fingers.

Bond released one hand and slugged Doberman's neck back. For a protracted instant their eyes made contact. They seemed to be giving no thought to the rapidly approaching mountains. Their only concern was to destroy

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each other.

Bond didn't waste any more time struggling with his enemy. He heaved himself up onto the flotation cylinder, dodging Doberman's swinging fists.

Desperately, Bond grabbed a handful of Doberman's mane of hair as it left a white tail that the wind blew horizontal behind him. Then, with one powerful effort, Bond swung Doberman out of the cockpit... and let go of his firm grasp; Doberman pitched over, soaring down toward the water like a runaway kite, screaming all the way to his death.

The hydrocopter was out of control, veering back and forth. Bond heaved himself into the small cockpit, squirming into the seat as he grabbed the controls. The waters reeled, the looming mountains ever closer and tilting, as Bond eased back on the throttle, slowing the Scorpion. He looked down. Doberman was clinging desperately to the frayed rope, which oscillated in the wind like a broken propeller.

Bond nosed the hydrocopter down a bit, increasing speed. Ahead, the Sierra Madres awakened like a sleeping giant.

Then Doberman began to climb. He grabbed a dry-rotted rung, which splintered in two. He skittered down ten feet, coming to rest at the final knot of the fragile rope, swinging precariously in space.

Frantically guiding the Scorpion, Bond stared down at the lower mountains that rushed by, a larger one seemingly inches away.

Doberman rolled his eye to the left just as his body slammed into the side of the mountain, exploding into bloody pulp.

[244]

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The hydrocopter barely cleared the mountaintop in time, and Bond veered hard to the left. The chopper rolled on its side as Bond guided it back toward the jetty, where Leiter and Lotta waited with the outboard skiff.

[245]

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-18-

Sudden Death

A WEEK LATER, JAMES BOND STOOD ON THE BALCONY of his hillside casita at the La Brisas Hotel in Acapulco, almost hypnotized by the picturesque view of the perpetual paradise's bay. Waterskiers scimmed over the waves past multi-coloured sailboats and parasailers flew high above the Pacific Ocean and the rugged mountains behind racing speedboats.

Somewhere near at hand below Bond, a Mariachi group sang of love found, lost, and found again. He thought amorously of Lotta, who lay sound asleep in the satin sheets of their bedroom, renewing her strength from a round of night-time activities at Magic - Acapulco's most famous discoteque.

Bond reached into his pocket, withdrew a cigarette and lit it. He inhaled deeply, savoring the smoke in his lungs, as he remembered the call from M. a few minutes earlier. His superior had sounded exceptionally cheerful and told

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him to take a couple of week's leave. "No, 007, make that a month. You really have deserved it this time. Very good show indeed."

Fuji Chen decided to use his nunchaku. It was an honorable weapon, ancient as air: two hard wooden sticks connected by wire.

Chen liked wire.

He was a master with the nunchaku, and to the Caucasian world the strangeness of the weapon lent it an aura of fear. Noonchuck, the whites called it.

Chen quietly picked the casita's door lock and entered. He held his nunchaku loosely, a stick in each hand, letting the rough wire curve as it wanted.

Chen began closing in on the figure on the balcony. He wanted to quicken his pace, but when you were silent, speed was your enemy. You had to be steady, you had to be slow. Otherwise there was the risk of fabric brushing fabric.

Chen was six feet behind James Bond.

Five.

Four.

Three feet behind Bond now.

As Chen moved the wire around Bond's throat he was already aware that the spy had gotten his hand up. His right hand was keeping the wire from the throat. Bastard, Chen thought, but then he banished everything from his mind but business. He pulled his wire through the flesh, and Bond's hand bones broke easily.

Chen put his body into perfect balance and began the kill...

So, for an instant, as the wire cut deeper into his throat, Bond was feeble and clouded and ripe for dying.

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But Bond's brain began to clear. Do something, now! He flicked his wrist, and the sleeve knife leaped free from its spring into the grip of his wounded and bloody hand.

Now, with all the power in his body, Bond hunched forward, pulling the Chinaman unwillingly with him, and when he was in balance off the floor, Bond put all his strength into a shoulder throw, sailing Chen helplessly over him and down hard on the balcony floor.

Chen, of course, saw the blade, saw something, at any rate, and his muscular arms went quickly to protect his stomach.

But too late. Too late. The knife was home. It entered below his navel with such speed and force that Chen could only grunt and drop his arms in weak surprise.

Then the blade began its journey upward, severing flesh and gristle until Chen became acquainted with death.

Bond pulled his blade free. Then he clutched his arms across his body and stumbled toward the bedroom. Numbness was creeping up his body. He felt very cold.

"Lotta," Bond could only whisper her name through a throat full of blood. Breathing became difficult. He sighed to the depths of his lungs.

"LOTTA!!!" Bond cried as he stood in the doorway of the bedroom, gasping for breath. His hands moved up towards his cold face. He felt his knees begin to buckle.

Lotta literally jumped out of the bed and ran toward him.

Bond reached his arms for her as he went into his fall.

Lotta caught him before he hit the floor, cradled him, hugged him with everything she had till they were both bathed in wine-red blood.

[248]

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-19-

A Far, Far Better Rest

COMMANDER JAMES BOND LOVED THE NAVY AND THE fourteen months he spent as a young, seagoing sailor were among the happiest of his life. Therefore, it came as a surprise to no one that his last will and testament stated that he was to be buried at sea.

Two days after Bond's murder in Mexico, former Navy admiral M. had decreed, 007's wishes would be respected and his body would be consigned to the Atlantic, a few kilometers off the coast of his beloved England.

The H.M. submarine Reliant's company assembled, in full dress at 0800 hours. The torpedo officer took his place at the projectile's guidance console and programmed in the course M. had selected.

The people who had known James Bond best, stood together in a small group: Major Boothroyd, Miss Moneypenny, Felix Leiter and Lotta Head. They all watched M., who looked tired and drawn. He stood before the crew of

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the Reliant, staring at the deck, not speaking. Bond's sealed coffin stood in the middle of the chamber.

M. took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and faced them.

"We have assembled here," he said, "in accordance with Royal Navy traditions, to pay final respects to one of our own. To honor our dead..." He paused a long time. "...and to grieve for a beloved comrade who gave his life in defence of Queen and Country.

"He did not think his sacrifice a vain or empty one, and I can pronounce unequivocally that Commander Bond's last mission was performed with outstanding bravery end distinction."

Beside M., Miss Moneypenny and Lotta Head tried to keep from breaking down, but failed. They stared straight ahead, with tears spilling down their cheeks.

"Of my friend," M. said, "I can only say that of all the men I have commanded he was-" he looked from face to face around the company of old friends, new ones, strangers; he saw Miss Moneypenny crying "-the most like a son."

M.'s voice faltered. He paused a moment, then continued softly. "One of Commander Bond's favorite authors once wrote `It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.'" M. could not quite imagine Bond's adventurous spirit finally at rest. "With love, we commit his body to the depths of the sea, looking for the resurrection of the body when the sea shall give up her dead."

M. moved from the line. "Honors: hut."

The ship's company saluted. The bo'sun began to play the bagpipes. It filled the chamber with a plaintive wail,

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a dirge that was too appropriate.

The torpedo officer armed the guidance control with the course M. had so carefully worked out.

The pallbearers lifted Bond's black coffin into the launching chamber. It hummed closed, and the arming lock snapped into place.

M. nodded an order to the torpedo officer. He fired the missile.

With a great roar of igniting propellant, the chamber reverberated. The bagpipes stopped. Silence, eerie and complete, settled over the room.

M. waited; then said, "Return: hut."

The company returned to attention.

The dark torpedo carrying the body of Commander James Bond streaked away against the blackness of the Atlantic, until the coffin shrank and vanished.

[251]



Also in Universal Exports' Literature Section
Ian Fleming John Gardner Raymond Benson

Charlie Higson Samantha Weinberg
Other Literature



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