The traffic was thinning through the outskirts of Gilling-ham. Bond started motoring again, but easily now, not hurrying, following his thoughts as the hands and feet went through their automatic responses.

So, in'thirty-seven, SMERSH must have sent Goldfinger out With the belt of gold round his young waist. He had shown his special aptitudes, his acquisitive bent, during his training in the spy school in Leningrad. He would have been told there would be a war, that he must dig himself in and start quietly accumulating. Goldfinger must never dirty his hands, never meet an agent, never receive or pass a message. Some routine would have been arranged. 'Second-hand '39 Vauxhall. First offer of £1000 secures', 'Immaculate Rover, £2000', 'Bentley, £5000'. Always an advertisement that would not attract attention or correspondence. The prices would be just too high, the description inadequate. In the Agony column of The Times, perhaps. And, obediently, Goldfinger would leave the two thousand pounds or the five thousand pounds gold bar at one of a long, a very long series of post-boxes that had been arranged in Moscow before he left. A particular bridge, a hollow tree, under a rock in a stream somewhere, anywhere in England. And he would never, on any account, visit that postbox again. It was up to Moscow to see that the agent got to the hidden treasure. Later, after the war, when Goldfinger was blossoming out, when he had become a big man, the postboxes would no longer be bridges and trees. Now he would be given dates and safety deposit box numbers, left-luggage lockers at stations. But still there would be the rule that Goldfinger must never revisit the scene, never endanger himself. Perhaps he would only get his instructions once a year, at a casual meeting in some park, in a letter slipped into his pocket on a train journey. But always it would be bars of gold, anonymous, untraceable if captured - except for the tiny Z that his vanity had scratched on his handiwork and that a dull dog at the Bank of England called Colonel Smithers had happened upon in the course of his duties.

Now Bond was running through the endless orchards of the Faversham growers. The sun had come out from behind, the smog of London. There was the distant gleam of the Thames on his left. There was traffic on the river - long, glistening tankers, stubby merchantmen, antediluvian Dutch Schuyts. Bond left the Canterbury road and switched on to the incongruously rich highway that runs through the cheap bungaloid world of the holiday lands - Whitstable, Herne Bay, Birchington, Margate. He still idled along at fifty, holding the racing wheel on a light rein, listening to the relaxed purr of the exhausts, fitting the bits of his thoughts info the jigsaw as he had done two nights before with Goldfinger's face on the Identicast.

And, Bond reflected, while Goldfinger was pumping a million, two million pounds a year into the bloody maw of SMERSH, he was pyramiding his reserves, working on them, making them work for him whenever the odds were right, piling up the surplus for the day when the trumpets would sound in the Kremlin and every golden sinew would be mobilized. And no one outside Moscow had been watching the process, no one suspected that Goldfinger - the jeweller, the metallurgist, the resident of Reculver and Nassau, the respected member of Blades, of the Royal St Marks at Sandwich - was one of the greatest conspirators of all time, that he had financed the murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands of victims of SMERSH all over the world. SMERSH, Smiert Spionam, Death to Spies - the murder Apparat of the High Praesidium! And only M suspected it, only Bond knew it. And here was Bond, launched against this man by a series of flukes, a train of coincidence that had been started by a plane breaking down on the other side of the world. Bond smiled grimly to himself. How often in his profession had it been the same - the tiny acorn of coincidence that soared into the mighty oak whose branches darkened the sky. And now, once again, he was setting out to bring the dreadful growth down. With what? A bag of golf clubs?

A repainted sky-blue Ford Popular with large yellow ears was scurrying along the crown of the road ahead. Mechanically Bond gave the horn ring a couple of short, polite jabs. There was no reaction. The Ford Popular was doing its forty. Why should anyone want to go more than that respectable speed? The Ford obstinately hunched its shoulders and kept on its course. Bond gave it a sharp blast, expecting it to swerve. He had to touch his brakes when it didn't. Damn the man! Of course! The usual tense figure, hands held too high up on the wheel, and the inevitable hat, this time a particularly hideous black bowler, square on a large bullet head. Oh well, thought Bond, they weren't his stomach ulcers. He changed down and contemptuously slammed the DB III past on the inside. Silly bastard!

Another five miles and Bond was through the dainty tele-world of Herne Bay. The howl of Mansion sounded away on his right. A flight of three Super Sabres came in to land. They skimmed below his right-Hand horizon as if they were diving into the earth. With half his mind, Bond heard the roar of their jets catch up with them as they landed and taxied in to the hangars. He came up with a crossroads. To the left the signpost said RECULVER. Underneath was the ancient monument sign for Reculver church. Bond slowed, but didn't stop. No hanging about. He motored slowly on, keeping his eyes open. The shoreline was too exposed for a trawler to do anything but beach or anchor. Probably Gold-finger had used Ramsgate. Quiet little port. Customs and police who were probably only on the look-out for brandy coming over from France. There was a thick clump of trees between the road and the shore, a glimpse of roofs and of a medium-sized factory chimney with a thin plume of light smoke or steam. That would be it. Soon there was the gate of a long drive. A discreetly authoritative sign said THANET ALLOYS, and underneath: NO ADMITTANCE EXCEPT ON BUSINESS. All very respectable. Bond drove slowly on. There was nothing more to be seen. He took the next right-hand turn across the Manston plateau to Ramsgate.

It was twelve o'clock. Bond inspected his room, a double with bathroom, on the top floor of the Channel Packet, unpacked his few belongings and went down to the snack bar where he had one vodka and tonic and two rounds of excellent ham sandwiches with plenty of mustard. Then he got back into his car and drove slowly over to the Royal St Marks at Sandwich.

Bond carried his clubs to the professional's shop and through to the workroom. Alfred Blacking was winding a new grip on to a driver.

'Hullo, Alfred.'

The professional looked up sharply. His sunburned, leathery face broke into a wide smile. 'Why, if it isn't Mr James!' They shook hands. 'Must be fifteen, twenty years. What brings you down here, sir? Someone was telling me only the other day that you're in the diplomatic or something. Always abroad. Well, I never! Still the same flat swing, sir?' Alfred Blacking joined his hands and gave a low, flat sweep.

'Afraid so, Alfred. Never had time to get myself out of it. How's Mrs Blacking and Cecil?'

'Can't complain, sir. Cecil was runner-up in the Kent Championship last year. Should win it this year if he can only get out of the shop and on to the course a bit more.'

Bond propped his clubs up against the wall. It was good to be back. Everything was just the same. There had been a time in his teens when he had played two rounds a day every day of the week at St Marks. Blacking had always wanted to take him in hand. 'A bit of practice, Mr James, and you'd be scratch. No fooling. You really would. What do you want to hang around at six for? It's all there except for that flat swing and wanting to hit the ball out of sight when there's no point in it. And you've got the temperament. A couple of years, perhaps only one, and I'd have you in the Amateur.' But something had told Bond that there wasn't going to be a great deal of golf in his life and if he liked the game he'd better forget about lessons and just play as much of it as he could. Yes, it would be about twenty years since he had played his last round on St Marks. He'd never been back -even when there had been that bloody affair of the Moon-raker at Kingsdown, ten miles down the coast. Perhaps it had been sentimentality. Since St Marks, Bond had got in a good deal of weekend golf when he was at headquarters. But always on the courses round London - Huntercombe, Swinley, Sunningdale, the Berkshire. Bond's handicap had gone up to nine. But he was a real nine - had to be with the games he chose to play, the ten-pound Nassaus with the tough cheery men who were always so anxious to stand you a couple of double kümmels after lunch.

'Any chance of a game, Alfred?'

The professional glanced through his back window at the parking space round the tall flag-pole. He shook his head. 'Doesn't look too good, sir. Don't get many players in the middle of the week at this time of year.'

'What about you?'

'Sorry, sir. I'm booked. Playing with a member. It's a regular thing. Every day at two o'clock. And the trouble is that Cecil's gone over to Princes to get in some practice for the championship. What a dashed nuisance!' (Alfred never used a stronger oath.) 'It would happen like that. How long are you staying, sir?'

'Not long. Never mind. I'll knock a ball round with a caddie. Who's this chap you're playing with?'

'A Mr Goldfinger, sir.' Alfred looked discouraging.

'Oh, Goldfinger. I know the chap. Met him the other day in America.'

'You did, sir?' Alfred obviously found it difficult to believe that anyone knew Mr Goldfinger. He watched Bond's face carefully for any further reaction.

'Any good?'

'So-so, sir. Pretty useful off nine.'

'Must take his game damned seriously if he plays with you every day.'

'Well, yes, sir.' The professional's face had the expression Bond remembered so well. It meant that Blacking had an unfavourable view of a particular member but that he was too good a servant of the club to pass it on.

Bond smiled. He said, 'You haven't changed, Alfred. What you mean is that no one else will play widi him. Remember Farquharson? Slowest player in England. I remember you going round and round with him twenty years ago. Come on. What's the matter with Goldfinger?'

The professional laughed. He said, 'It's you that hasn't changed, Mr James. You always were dashed inquisitive.' He came a step closer and lowered his voice. 'The truth is, sir, some members think Mr Goldfinger is just a little bit hot. You know, sir. Improves his lie and so forth.' The professional took the driver he was holding, took up a stance, gazed towards an imaginary hole and banged the head of the club up and down on the floor as if addressing an imaginary ball. 'Let me see now, is this a brassie lie? What d'you think caddie?' Alfred Blacking chuckled. "Well, of course, by the time he's finished hammering the ground behind the ball, the ball's been raised an inch and it is a brassie lie.' Alfred Blacking's face closed up again. He said non-committally, 'But that's only gossip, sir. I've never seen anything. Quiet-spoken gentleman. He's got a place at Reculver. Used to come here a lot. But for the last few years he's only been coming to England for a few weeks at a time. Rings up and asks if anyone's wanting a game and when there isn't anyone he books Cecil or me. Rang up this morning and asked if there was anyone about. There's sometimes a stranger drops in.' Alfred Blacking looked quizzically at Bond. 'I suppose you wouldn't care to take him on this afternoon? It'll look odd you being here and short of a game. And you knowing him and all. He might think I'd been trying to keep him to myself or something. That wouldn't do.'

'Nonsense, Alfred. And you've got your living to make. Why don't we play a three-ball?'

'He won't play them, sir. Says they're too slow. And I agree with him. And don't you worry about my fee. There's a lot of work to do in the shop and 1'U be glad of an afternoon to get down to it.' Alfred Blacking glanced at his watch. 'He'll be along any minute now. I've got a caddie for you. Remember Hawker?' Alfred Blacking laughed indulgently. 'Still the same old Hawker. He'll be another that'll be glad to see you down here again.' Copyright 2016 - 2023