I stirred impatiently, wanting this stupid lecture to finish, wanting to be gone.
“Now I'm coming to the end very quickly, Miss Michel, and I know you think I'm being very impertinent, but ever since I got past middle age on the force, I've been interested in what I call postnatal care after a case like this. Particularly when the survivor is young and might be damaged by what the young person has been through. So I want to leave one thought with you if I may, and then wish you the best of luck and a happy journey on that crazy little scooter-thing of yours. It's just this, Miss Michel.”
Captain Stonor's eyes continued to look into mine, but they had lost focus. I knew I was going to hear something from the heart. This is a rare thing between generations— between grown-ups and children. I stopped thinking of getting away and paid attention.
“This underground war I was talking about, this crime battle that's always going on—whether it's being fought between cops and robbers or between spies and counterspies. This is a private battle between two trained armies, one fighting on the side of law and of what his own country thinks is right, and one belonging to the enemies of these things.” Captain Stonor was now talking to himself. I imagined that he was reciting something—something he felt very strongly about, perhaps had said in speeches or in an article in some police magazine. “But in the higher ranks of these forces, among the toughest of the professionals, there's a deadly quality in the persons involved which is common to both—to both friends and enemies.” The captain's closed fist came softly down on the wooden table-top for emphasis, and his inward-looking eyes burned with a dedicated, private anger. “The top gangsters, the top F.B.I, operatives, the top spies and the top counterspies are coldhearted, coldblooded, ruthless, tough killers, Miss Michel. Yes, even the 'friends' as opposed to the 'enemies.' They have to be. They wouldn't survive if they weren't. Do you get me?” Captain Stonor's eyes came back into focus. Now they held mine with a friendly urgency that touched my feelings—but not, I'm ashamed to say, my heart. “So the message I want to leave with you, my dear—and I've talked with Washington and I've learned something about Commander Bond's outstanding record in his particular line of business—is this. Keep away from all these men. They are not for you, whether they're called James Bond or Sluggsy Morant. Both these men, and others like them, belong to a private jungle into which you've strayed for a few hours and from which you've escaped. So don't go and get sweet dreams about the one or nightmares from the other. They're just different people from the likes of you—a different species.” Captain Stonor smiled. “Like hawks and doves, if you'll pardon the comparison. Get me?” My expression cannot have been receptive. The voice became abrupt. “Okay, let's go, then.”
Captain Stonor got to his feet and I followed. I didn't know what to say. I remembered my immediate reaction when James Bond had shown himself at the door of the motel— Oh, God, it's another of them. But I also remembered his smile and his kisses and his arms round me. I walked meekly beside this large, comfortable man who had come out with these kindly-meant thoughts, and all I could think was that 1 wanted a big lunch and then a long sleep at least a hundred miles from The Dreamy Pines Motor Court.
* * *
It was twelve noon by the time I got away. Captain Stonor said I was going to have a lot of trouble from the press, but that he would stave them off for as long as possible. I could say all I wished about James Bond except what his profession was and where he could be found. He was just a man who had turned up at the right time and then gone on his way.
I had packed my saddlebags and the young state trooper, Lieutenant Morrow, strapped them on for me and wheeled the Vespa out onto the road. On the way over the lawn he said, “Watch out for the potholes between here and Glens Falls, miss. Some of them are so deep you better sound your horn before you get to them. There might be other folks with little machines like this at the bottom of them.” I laughed. He was clean and gay and young, but tough and adventurous as well, by the looks of him and from his job. Perhaps this was more the type of man I should build dreams about!
I said good-by to Captain Stonor and thanked him. Then, rather frightened of making a fool of myself, I put on my crash helmet and pulled down my saucy fur-lined goggles, got on the machine, and stamped on the starter pedal. Thank heavens the little engine fired right away! Now I would show them! By design, the rear wheel was still on its stand. I let in the clutch fairly fast and gave a quick push. The spinning rear wheel made contact with the loose surface of the road, and dust and pebbles flew. And I was gone like a rocket and, in ten seconds through the gears, I was doing forty. The surface looked all right ahead so I took a chance and glanced back and raised a cheeky hand in farewell, and there was a wave from the little group of police in front of the smoking lobby block. And then I was off down the long straight road between the two sentinel rows of pine trees, and I thought the trees looked sorry to be letting me get away unharmed.
Unharmed? What was it the captain of detectives had said about “scars”? I just didn't believe him. The scars of my terror had been healed, wiped away, by this stranger who slept with a gun under his pillow, this secret agent who was only known by a number.
A secret agent? I didn't care what he did. A number? I had already forgotten it. I knew exactly who he was and what he was. And everything, every smallest detail, would be written on my heart forever.