M swivelled his chair round square with the desk and flung the box of matches down so that it skidded across the red leather top towards Bond. Bond fielded it and skidded it politely back to the middle of the desk. M smiled briefly. He seemed to make up his mind. He said mildly: “James, has it ever occurred to you that every man in the fleet knows what to do except the commanding admiral?”
Bond frowned. He said: “It hadn't occurred to me, sir. But I see what you mean. The rest only have to carry out orders. The admiral has to decide on the orders. I suppose it's the same as saying that Supreme Command is the loneliest post there is.”
M jerked his pipe sideways. “Same sort of idea. Someone's got to be tough. Someone's got to decide in the end. If you send a havering signal to the Admiralty you deserve to be put on the beach. Some people are religious - pass the decision on to God.” M's eyes were defensive. “I used to try that sometimes in the Service, but He always passed the buck back again - told me to get on and make up my own mind. Good for one, I suppose, but tough. Trouble is, very few people keep tough after about forty. They've been knocked about by life - had troubles, tragedies, illnesses. These things soften you up.” M looked sharply at Bond. “How's your coefficient of toughness, James? You haven't got to the dangerous age yet.”
Bond didn't like personal questions. He didn't know what to answer, nor what the truth was. He had not got a wife or children - had never suffered the tragedy of a personal loss. He had not had to stand up to blindness or a mortal disease. He had absolutely no idea how he would face these things that needed so much more toughness than he had ever had to show. He said hesitantly: “I suppose I can stand most things if I have to and if I think it's right, sir. I mean” - he did not like using such words - “if the cause is - er - sort of just, sir.” He went on, feeling ashamed at himself for throwing the ball back at M: “Of course it's not easy to know what is just and what isn't. I suppose I assume that when I'm given an unpleasant job in the Service the cause is a just one.”
“Dammit,” M's eyes glittered impatiently. “That's just what I mean! You rely on me. You won't take any damned responsibility yourself.” He thrust the stem of his pipe towards his chest. “I'm the one who has to do that. I'm the one who has to decide if a thing is right or not.” The anger died out of the eyes. The grim mouth bent sourly. He said gloomily: “Oh well, I suppose it's what I'm paid for. Somebody's got to drive the bloody train.” M put his pipe back in his mouth and drew on it deeply to relieve his feelings.
Now Bond felt sorry for M. He had never before heard M use as strong a word as 'bloody'. Nor had M ever given a member of his staff any hint that he felt the weight of the burden he was carrying and had carried ever since he had thrown up the certain prospect of becoming Fifth Sea Lord in order to take over the Secret Service. M. had got himself a problem. Bond wondered what it was. It would not be concerned with danger. If M could get the odds more or less right he would risk anything, anywhere in the world. It would not be political. M did not give a damn for the susceptibilities of any Ministry and thought nothing of going behind their backs to get a personal ruling from the Prime Minister. It might be moral. It might be personal. Bond said: “Is there anything I can help over, sir?”
M looked briefly, thoughtfully at Bond, and then swivelled his chair so that he could look out of the window at the high summery clouds. He said abruptly: “Do you remember the Havelock case?”
“Only what I read in the papers, sir. Elderly couple in Jamaica. The daughter came home one night and found them full of bullets. There was some talk of gangsters from Havana. The housekeeper said three men had called in a car. She thought they might have been Cubans. It turned out the car had been stolen. A yacht had sailed from the local harbour that night. But as far as I remember the police didn't get anywhere. That's all, sir. I haven't seen any signals passing on the case.”
M said gruffly: “You wouldn't have. They've been personal to me. We weren't asked to handle the case. Just happens,” M cleared his throat: this private use of the Service was on his conscience, “I knew the Havelocks. Matter of fact I was best man at their wedding. Malta. Nineteen-twenty-five.”
“I see, sir. That's bad.”
M said shortly: “Nice people. Anyway, I told Station C to look into it. They didn't get anywhere with the Batista people, but we've got a good man with the other side - with this chap Castro. And Castro's Intelligence people seem to have the Government pretty well penetrated. I got the whole story a couple of weeks ago. It boils down to the fact that a man called Hammerstein, or von Hammerstein, had the couple killed. There are a lot of Germans well dug in in these banana republics. They're Nazis who got out of the net at the end of the War. This one's ex-Gestapo. He got a job as head of Batista's Counter Intelligence. Made a packet of money out of extortion and blackmail and protection. He was set up for life until Castro's lot began to make headway. He was one of the first to start easing himself out. He cut one of his officers in on his loot, a man called Gonzales, and this man travelled around the Caribbean with a couple of gunmen to protect him and began salting away Hammerstein's money outside Cuba - put it in real estate and suchlike under nominees. Only bought the best, but at top prices. Hammerstein could afford them. When money didn't work he'd use force - kidnap a child, burn down a few acres, anything to make the owner see reason. Well, this man Hammerstein heard of the Havelocks' property, one of the best in Jamaica, and he told Gonzales to go and get it. I suppose his orders were to kill the Havelocks if they wouldn't sell and then put pressure on the daughter. There's a daughter, by the way. Should be about twenty-five by now. Never seen her myself. Anyway, that's what happened. They killed the Havelocks. Then two weeks ago Batista sacked Hammerstein. May have got to hear about one of these jobs. I don't know. But, anyway, Hammerstein cleared out and took his little team of three with him. Timed things pretty well, I should say. It looks as if Castro may get in this winter if he keeps the pressure up.”
Bond said softly: “Where have they gone to?”
“America. Right up in the North of Vermont. Up against the Canadian border. Those sort of men like being close to frontiers. Place called Echo Lake. It's some kind of a millionaire's ranch he's rented. Looks pretty from the photographs. Tucked away in the mountains with this little lake in the grounds. He's certainly chosen himself somewhere where he won't be troubled with visitors.”
“How did you get on to this, sir?”
“I sent a report of the whole case to Edgar Hoover. He knew of the man. I guessed he would. He's had a lot of trouble with this gun-running from Miami to Castro. And he's been interested in Havana ever since the big American gangster money started following the casinos there. He said that Hammerstein and his party had come into the States on six months visitors' visas. He was very helpful. Wanted to know if I'd got enough to build up a case on. Did I want these men extradited for trial in Jamaica? I talked it over here with the Attorney General and he said there wasn't a hope unless we could get the witnesses from Havana. There's no chance of that. It was only through Castro's Intelligence that we even know as much as we do. Officially the Cubans won't raise a finger. Next, Hoover offered to have their visas revoked and get them on the move again. I thanked him and said no, and we left it at that.”
M sat for a moment in silence. His pipe had died and he relit it. He went on: “I decided to have a talk with our friends the Mounties. I got on to the Commissioner on the scrambler. He's never let me down yet. He strayed one of his frontier patrol planes over the border and took a full aerial survey of this Echo Lake place. Said that if I wanted any other co-operation he'd provide it. And now,” M slowly swivelled his chair back square with the desk, “I've got to decide what to do next.”
Now Bond realised why M was troubled, why he wanted someone else to make the decision. Because these had been friends of M. Because a personal element was involved, M had worked on the case by himself. And now it had come to the point when justice ought to be done and these people brought to book. But M was thinking: is this justice, or is it revenge? No judge would take a murder case in which he had personally known the murdered person. M wanted someone else, Bond, to deliver judgement. There were no doubts in Bond's mind. He didn't know the Havelocks or care who they were. Hammerstein had operated the law of the jungle on two defenceless old people. Since no other law was available, the law of the jungle should be visited upon Hammerstein. In no other way could justice be done. If it was revenge, it was the revenge of the community.
Bond said: “I wouldn't hesitate for a minute, sir. If foreign gangsters find they can get away with this kind of thing they'll decide the English 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 encouragement, made no comment.
Bond said: “These people can't be hung, sir. But they ought to be killed.”
M's eyes ceased to focus on Bond. For a moment they were blank, looking inward. Then he slowly reached for the top drawer of his desk on the left-hand side, pulled it open and extracted a thin file without the usual title across it and without the top-secret red star. He placed the file squarely in front of him and his hand rummaged again in the open drawer. The hand brought out a rubber stamp and a red-ink pad. M opened the pad, tamped the rubber stamp on it and then carefully, so that it was properly aligned with the top right-hand corner of the docket, pressed it down on the grey cover.
M replaced the stamp and the ink pad in the drawer and closed the drawer. He turned the docket round and pushed it gently across the desk to Bond.
The red sansserif letters, still damp, said: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.
Bond said nothing. He nodded and picked up the docket and walked out of the room.
Two days later, Bond took the Friday Comet to Montreal. He did not care for it. It flew too high and too fast and there were too many passengers. He regretted the days of the old Stratocruiser - that fine lumbering old plane that took ten hours to cross the Atlantic. Then one had been able to have dinner in peace, sleep for seven hours in a comfortable bunk, and get up in time to wander down to the lower deck and have that ridiculous BOAC 'country house' breakfast while the dawn came up and flooded the cabin with the first bright gold of the Western hemisphere. Now it was all too quick. The stewards had to serve everything almost at the double, and then one had a bare two hours snooze before the hundred-mile-long descent from forty thousand feet. Only eight hours after leaving London, Bond was driving a Hertz U-drive Plymouth saloon along the broad Route 17 from Montreal to Ottawa and trying to remember to keep on the right of the road.
The Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are in the Department of Justice alongside Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Like most Canadian public buildings, the Department of Justice is a massive block of grey masonry built to look stodgily important and to withstand the long and hard winters. Bond had been told to ask at the front desk for the Commissioner and to give his name as 'Mr James'. He did so, and a young fresh-faced RCMP corporal, who looked as if he did not like being kept indoors on a warm sunny day, took him up in the lift to the third floor and handed him over to a sergeant in a large tidy office which contained two girl secretaries and a lot of heavy furniture. The sergeant spoke on an intercom and there was a ten minutes' delay during which Bond smoked and read a recruiting pamphlet which made the Mounties sound like a mixture between a dude ranch, Dick Tracy and Rose Marie. When he was shown in through the connecting door a tall youngish man in a dark blue suit, white shirt and black tie turned away from the window and came towards him. “Mr James?” the man smiled thinly. “I'm Colonel, let's say - er - Johns.”