James Bond was where I had left him, and, to keep him there, Sluggsy now kept up a steady stream of single shots that flicked every few seconds at the angle of the wall toward which the thin man was worming his way. Perhaps James Bond guessed the significance of this steady fire. He may have known that it was meant to pin him down, because now he began moving along to the left, toward the burning half of the building. And now he was running, bent low, out across the browned grass and through the billowing smoke and sparks toward the charred, flickering ruins of the left-hand line of cabins. I caught a brief glimpse of him diving through one of the carports at around Number 15, and then he was gone, presumably into the trees at the back to work his way up and take Sluggsy in the rear.
I watched the thin man. He was nearly at the corner of the building. Now he was there. The single shots ceased. Without taking aim, and firing with his left hand, the thin man edged his gun round the corner and sprayed a whole magazine, blind, down the front wall where James and I had been standing.
When no answering fire came, he jerked his head round the corner and back again, like a snake, and then got to his feet and made a sweeping motion with his hand to show that we had gone.
And now there came two quick shots from the direction of cabin Number 1, followed by a bloodcurdling scream that stopped my heart, and Sluggsy came backing out onto the lawn, firing from the hip with his right while his left hand dangled down at his side. He continued to run backward, screaming with pain, but still firing his machine gun in short bursts, and then I saw a flicker of movement in one of the carports and there came the deep answering boom of the heavy automatic. But Sluggsy switched his aim, and James Bond's guns went silent. Then they began again from another place, and one of the shots must have hit the machine gun because Sluggsy suddenly dropped it and began to run toward the black sedan, where the thin man was crouching, giving long-range covering fire with two guns. James Bond's hit on the sub-machine gun must have jammed the mechanism, for it went on firing, jerking round like a flaming Catherine wheel in the grass and spraying bullets all over the place. And then the thin man was in the driving seat, and I heard the engine catch, and a spurt of smoke came from the exhaust, and he flung open the side door and Sluggsy got to it and the door was slammed on him by the forward leap of the car.
I didn't wait for James. I ran out into the road and began blazing away at the back of the car and heard some of my bullets wham into the metal. Then the hammer clicked on nothing, and I stood and swore at the thought of them getting away. But then came the steady crash of James's gun from the far side of the lawn, while fire spat back from the front window of the car. Until all of a sudden the black sedan seemed to go crazy. It made a wide swerve and looked to be heading across the lawn straight for James. For a moment he was caught in its great lights as he stood there, the sweat gleaming on his naked chest, and fired, in the classic stance of the dueler, as if at a charging animal. I thought he was going to be mown down and I began to run across the grass toward him, but then the car veered away and, its engine roaring in bottom gear, made straight for the lake.
I stood and watched, fascinated. Thereabouts the lawn was cut to the edge of a low cliff, about twenty feet high, below which is a fishing pool, and there were some rough-hewn benches and tables for people to sit and picnic. The car tore on, and now, whether or not it hit a bench, its speed would certainly get it to the lake. But it missed all the benches and, as I put my hand up to my mouth in horrified excitement, it took off over the edge and landed flat on the water with a giant splash and crash of metal and glass. Then, quite slowly, it sank, nose down, in a welter of exhaust gas and bubbles, until there was nothing left but the trunk and a section of the roof and rear window slanting up toward the sky.
James Bond was still standing, gazing at the lake, when I ran up to him and threw my arms round him. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”
He turned dazedly toward me and put his arm round my waist and held me tight. He said vaguely, “No. I'm all right.” He looked back toward the lake. “I must have bit the driver, the thin man. Killed him, and his body jammed the accelerator.” He seemed to come to himself. He smiled tautly. “Well, that's certainly tidied up the situation. No ragged edged to clean up. Dead and buried all in one go. Can't say I'm sorry. They were a couple of real thugs.” He let go of me and thrust his gun up into its holster. He smelled of cordite and sweat. It was delicious. I reached up and kissed him.
We turned away and walked slowly across the grass. The fire was only burning fitfully now, and the battlefield was almost dark. My watch said it was three-thirty. I suddenly felt utterly, absolutely finished.
As if echoing my thoughts, James said, “That's worked the Benzedrine off. How about getting a little sleep? There are still four or five cabins in good shape. How about 2 and 3? Are they desirable suites?”
I felt myself blushing. I said obstinately, “I don't mind what you think, James, but I'm not going to leave you tonight. You can choose either 2 or 3. I'll sleep on the floor.”
He laughed and reached out and hugged me to him. “If you sleep on the floor, I'll sleep on the floor too. But it seems rather a waste of a fine double bed. Let's say Number 3.” He stopped and looked at me, pretending to be polite. “Or would you rather have Number 2?”
“No. Number 3 would be heavenly.”
CABIN Number 3 was airless and stuffy. While James Bond collected our “luggage” from among the trees, I opened the glass slats of the windows and turned down the sheets on the double bed. I should have felt embarrassed, but I didn't. I just enjoyed housekeeping for him by moonlight. Then I tried the shower and found miraculously that there was still full pressure, though farther down the line many stretches of the pipes must have melted. The top cabins were nearer to the main. I stripped off all my clothes and made them into a neat pile and went into the shower and opened a new cake of Camay (“Pamper your Guests with Pink Camay—With a scent like costly French Perfume... blended with Fine Cold Cream” I remembered, because it sounded so succulent, it said on the packet) and began to lather myself all over, gently, because of the bruises.
Through the noise of the shower, I didn't hear him come into the bathroom. But suddenly there were two more hands washing me and a naked body was up against mine and I smelled the sweat and the gunpowder and I turned and laughed up into his grimy face and then I was in his arms and our mouths met in a kiss that seemed as if it would never end while the water poured down and made us shut our eyes.
When my breath was almost exhausted, he pulled me out from under the shower and we kissed again, more slowly, while his hands wandered over my body and desire came in waves of dizziness. I simply couldn't stand it. I said, “Please, James! Please don't! Or I shall fall down. And be gentle. You're hurting me.”
In the moonlit dusk of the bathroom, his eyes were only fierce slits. Now they relaxed into tenderness and laughter. “I'm sorry, Viv. It's not my fault. It's my hands. They won't stay away from you. And they ought to be washing me. I'm filthy. You'll have to do it. They won't obey me.”
I laughed up at him and pulled him under the shower. “All right, then. But I shan't be gentle. The last time I washed anyone it was a pony when I was about twelve! Anyway, I can hardly see which bit of you's which!” I got hold of the soap. “Put your face down. I'll try not to put too much in your eyes.”
“If you put any in, I'll—” My hands stopped the rest of the sentence and I set about scrubbing his face and hair and then moved on down his arms and chest, while he stood bowed and holding with both hands to the water pipe.
I stopped. “You'll have to do the rest.”
“Certainly not. And do it properly. You never know. There might be a world war and you'd have to be a nurse. You might as well learn how to wash a man. And anyway, what the hell's this soap? I smell like Cleopatra.”
“It's very good. It's got costly French perfume in it. It says so on the package. And you smell delicious. Much better than your gunpowder smell.”
He laughed. “Well, get on. But hurry.”
So I bent down and began and of course in a minute we were in each other's arms again under the shower and our bodies were slithery with water and soap and he turned the shower off and lifted me out of the shower cabinet and began to dry me lingeringly with the bath towel while I leaned back within his free arm and just let it happen. Then I took the towel and dried him, and then it was silly to wait any longer and he picked me up in his arms and carried me through into the bedroom and laid me down on the bed and I watched through half-closed lashes his pale shape as he went around drawing the curtains and locking up.
And then he was lying beside me.
His hands and his mouth were slow and electric, and his body in my arms was tenderly fierce.
Afterward he told me that when the moment came I screamed. I didn't know I had. I only know that a chasm of piercing sweetness suddenly opened and drowned me and that I dug my nails into his hips to make sure of taking him with me. Then he sleepily said some sweet things and kissed me once and his body slithered away and lay still and I stayed on my back and gazed up into the red darkness and listened to his breathing.
* * *
I had never before made love, full love, with my heart as well as my body. It had been sweet with Derek, cold and satisfying with Kurt. But this was something different. At last I realized what this thing could be in one's life.
I think I know why I gave myself so completely to this man, how I was capable of it with someone I had met only six hours before. Apart from the excitement of his looks, his authority, his maleness, he had come from nowhere, like the prince in the fairy tales, and he had saved me from the dragon. But for him, I would now be dead, after suffering God knows what before. He could have changed the wheel on his car and gone off, or, when danger came, he could have saved his own skin. But he had fought for my life as if it had been his own. And then, when the dragon was dead, he had taken me as his reward. In a few hours, I knew, he would be gone—without protestations of love, without apologies or excuses. And that would be the end of that—gone, finished.
All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful. That and the coinciding of nerves completely relaxed after the removal of tension and danger, the warmth of gratitude, and a woman's natural feeling for her hero. I had no regrets and no shame. There might be many consequences for me— not the least that I might now be dissatisfied with other men. But whatever my troubles were, he would never hear of them. I would not pursue him and try to repeat what there had been between us. I would stay away from him and leave him to go his own road, where there would be other women, countless other women, who would probably give him as much physical pleasure as he had had with me. I wouldn't care, or at least I told myself that I wouldn't care, because none of them would ever own him—own any larger piece of him than I now did. And for all my life I would be grateful to him, for everything. And I would remember him forever as my image of a man.