The rhythm of his steady progress soon became automatic, and while Bond, keeping the moon at his right shoulder, held to his course, his mind reached back to Domino. So she was the sister of the man who probably highjacked the plane! Probably even Largo, if Largo was in fact involved in the plot, didn't know this. So what did the relationship amount to? Coincidence. It could he nothing else. Her whole manner was so entirely innocent. And yet it was one more thin straw to add to the meager pile that seemed in some indeterminate way to be adding up to Largo's involvement. And Largo's reaction at the word "spectre.'' That could he put down to Italian superstition---or it could not. Bond had a deadly feeling that all these tiny scraps amounted to the tip of an iceberg---a few feet of ice pinnacle, with, below, a thousand tons of the stuff. Should he report? Or shouldn't he? Bond's mind boiled with indecision. How to put it? How to grade the intelligence so that it would reflect his doubts? How much to say and how much to leave out?
The extrasensory antennae of the human body, the senses left over from the jungle life of millions of years ago, sharpen unconsciously when man knows that he is on the edge of danger. Bond's mind was concentrating on something far away from his present risks, but beneath his conscious thoughts his senses were questing for enemies. Now suddenly the alarm was sounded by a hidden nerve---Danger! Danger! Danger!
Bond's body tensed. His hand went to his knife and his head swiveled sharply to the right---not to the left or behind him. His senses told him to look to the right.
A big barracuda, if it is twenty pounds or over, is the most fearsome fish in the sea. Clean and straight and malevolent, it is all hostile weapon, from the long snarling mouth in the cruel jaw that can open like a rattlesnake's to an angle of ninety degrees, along the blue and silver steel of the body to the lazy power of the tail fin that helps to make this fish one of the five fastest sprinters in the sea. This one, moving parallel with Bond, ten yards away just inside the wall of gray mist that was the edge of visibility, was showing its danger signals. The broad lateral stripes showed vividly---the angry hunting sign---the gold and black tiger's eye was on him, watchful, incurious, and the long mouth was open half an inch so that the moonlight glittered on the sharpest row of teeth in the ocean---teeth that don't bite at the flesh, teeth that tear out a chunk and swallow and then hit and scythe again.
Bond's stomach crawled with the ants of fear and his skin tightened at his groin. Cautiously he glanced at his watch. About three more minutes to go before he was due to come up with the Disco .
He made a sudden turn and attacked fast toward the great fish, flashing his knife in fast offensive lunges. The giant barracuda gave a couple of lazy wags of its tail and when Bond turned back on his course it also turned and resumed its indolent, sneering cruise, weighing him up, choosing which bit---the shoulder, the buttock, the foot---to take first.
Bond tried to recall what he knew about big predator fish, what he had experienced with them before. The first rule was not to panic, to be unafraid. Fear communicates itself to fish as it does to dogs and horses. Establish a quiet pattern of behavior and stick to it. Don't show confusion or act chaotically. In the sea, untidiness, ragged behavior, mean that the possible victim is out of control, vulnerable. So keep to a rhythm. A thrashing fish is everyone's prey. A crab or a shell thrown upside down by a wave is offering its underside to a hundred enemies. A fish on its side is a dead fish. Bond trudged rhythmically on, exuding immunity.
Now the pale moonscape changed. A meadow of soft seagrass showed up ahead. In the deep, slow currents it waved languidly, like deep fur. The hypnotic motion made Bond feel slightly seasick. Dotted sparsely in the grass were the big black footballs of dead sponges growing out of the sand like giant puffballs---Nassau's only export until a fungus had got at them and had killed the sponge crop as surely as myxomatosis has killed rabbits. Bond's black shadow flickered across the breathering lawn like a clumsy bat. To the right of his shadow, the thin black lance cast by the barracuda moved with quiet precision.
A dense mass of silvery small fry showed up ahead, suspended in midstream as if they had been bottled in aspic. When the two parallel bodies approached, the mass divided sharply, leaving wide channels for the two enemies, and then closing behind them into the phalanx they adopted for an illusory protection. Through the cloud of fish Bond watched the barracuda. It moved majestically on, ignoring the food around it as a fox creeping up on the chicken run will ignore the rabbits in the warren. Bond sealed himself in the armor of his rhythm, transmitting to the barracuda that he was a bigger, a more dangerous fish, that the barracuda must not be misled by the whiteness of the flesh.
Amongst the waving grass, the black barb of the anchor looked like another enemy. The trailing chain rose from the bottom and disappeared into the upper mists. Bond followed it up, forgetting the barracuda in his relief at hitting the target and in the excitement of what he might find.
Now he swam very slowly, watching the white explosion of the moon on the surface contract and define itself. Once he looked down. There was no sign of the barracuda. Perhaps the anchor and chain had seemed inimical. The long hull of the ship grew out of the upper mists and took shape, a great Zeppelin in the water. The folded mechanism of the hydrofoil looked ungainly, as if it did not belong. Bond clung for a moment to its starboard flange to get his bearings. Far down to his left, the big twin screws, bright in the moonlight, hung suspended, motionless but somehow charged with thrashing speed. Bond moved slowly along the hull toward them, staring upward for what he sought. He drew in his breath. Yes, it was there, the ridge of a wide hatch below the water line. Bond groped over it, measuring. About twelve feet square, divided down the center. Bond paused for a moment, wondering what was inside the closed doors. He pressed the switch of the Geiger counter and held the machine against the steel plates. He watched the dial of the meter on his left wrist. It trembled to show the machine was alive, but it registered only the fraction Leiter had told him to expect from the hull. Bond switched the thing off. So much for that. Now for home.
The clang beside his ear and the sharp impact against his left shoulder were simultaneous. Automatically, Bond sprang back from the hull. Below him the bright needle of the spear wavered slowly down into the depths. Bond whirled. The man, his black rubber suit glinting like armor in the moonlight, was pedaling furiously in the water while he thrust another spear down the barrel of the CO2 gun. Bond hurled himself toward him, flailing at the water with his fins. The man pulled back the loading lever and leveled the gun. Bond knew he couldn't make it. He was six strokes away. He stopped suddenly, ducked his head, and jackknifed down. He felt the small shock wave of the silent explosion of gas and something hit his foot. Now! He soared up below the man and scythed upward with his knife. The blade went in. He felt the black rubber against his hand. Then the butt of the gun hit him behind the ear and a white hand came down and scrabbled at his airpipe. Bond slashed wildly with the knife, his hand moving with terrifying slowness through the water. The point ripped something. The hand let go of the mask, but now Bond couldn't see. Again the butt of the gun crashed down on his head. Now the water was full of black smoke, heavy, stringy stuff that clung to the glass of his mask. Bond backed painfully, slowly away, clawing at the glass. At last it cleared. The black smoke was coming out of the man, out of his stomach. But the gun was coming up again slowly, agonizingly, as if it weighed a ton, and the bright sting of the spear showed at its mouth. Now the webbed feet were hardly stirring, but the man was sinking slowly down to Bond's level. Suspended straight in the water, he looked like one of those little celluloid figures in a Ptolemy jar that rise and fall gracefully with pressure on the rubber top to the jar. Bond couldn't get his limbs to obey. They felt like lead. He shook his head to clear it, but still his hands and flippers moved only half consciously, all speed gone. Now he could see the bared teeth round the other man's rubber mouthpiece. The gun was at his head, at his throat, at his heart. Bond's hands crept up his chest to protect him while his flippers moved sluggishly, like broken wings, below him.
And then, suddenly, the man was hurled toward Bond as if he had been kicked in the back. His arms spread in a curious gesture of embrace for Bond and the gun tumbled slowly away between them and disappeared. A puff of black blood spread out into the sea from behind the man's back and his hands wavered out and up in vague surrender while his head twisted on his shoulders to see what had done this to him.
And now, a few yards behind the man, shreds of black rubber hanging from its jaws, Bond saw the barracuda. It was lying broadside on, seven or eight feet of silver and blue torpedo, and round its jaws there was a thin mist of blood, the taste in the water that had triggered its attack.
Now the great tiger's eye looked coldly at Bond and then downward at the slowly sinking man. It gave a horrible yawning gulp to rid itself of the shreds of rubber, turned lazily three-quarters on, quivered in all its length, and dived like a bolt of white light. It hit the man on the right shoulder with wide-open jaws, shook him once, furiously, like a dog with a rat, and then backed away. Bond felt the vomit rising in his gorge like molten lava. He swallowed it down and slowly, as if in a dream, began swimming with languid, sleepy strokes away from the scene.
Bond had not gone many yards when something hit the surface to his left and the moonlight glinted on a silvery kind of egg that turned lazily over and over as it went down. It meant nothing to Bond, but two strokes later, he received a violent blow in the stomach that knocked him sideways. It also knocked sense into him, and he began to move fast through the water, at the same time planing downward toward the bottom. More buffets hit him in quick succession, but the grenades were bracketing the blood patch near the ship's hull and the shock waves of the explosions became less.
The bottom showed up---the friendly waving fur, the great black toadstools of the dead sponges and the darting shoals of small fish fleeing with Bond from the explosions. Now Bond swam with all his strength. At any moment a boat would be got over the side and another diver would go down. With any luck he would find no traces of Bond's visit and conclude that the underwater sentry had been killed by shark or barracuda. It would be interesting to see what Largo would report to the harbor police. Difficult to explain the necessity for an armed underwater sentry for a pleasure yacht in a peaceful harbor!
Bond trudged on across the shifting seagrass. His head ached furiously. Gingerly he put up a hand and felt the two great bruises. The skin felt intact. But for the cushion of water, the two blows with the butt of the gun would have knocked him out. As it was, he still felt half stunned and when he came to the end of the seagrass and to the soft white moon landscape with its occasional little volcano puffs from the sea worms he felt as if he was on the edge of delirium. Wild commotion at the edge of his field of vision shocked him out of the semi-trance. A giant fish, the barracuda, was passing him. It seemed to have gone mad. It was snaking wildly along, biting at its tail, its long body curling and snapping back in a jackknife motion, its mouth opening wide and shutting again in spasms. Bond watched it hurtle away into the gray mist. He felt somehow sorry to see the wonderful king of the sea reduced to this hideous jiggling automaton. There was something obscene about it, like the blind weaving of a punchy boxer before he finally crashes to the canvas. One of the explosions must have crushed a nerve center, wrecked some delicate balance mechanism in the fish's brain. It wouldn't last long. A greater predator than itself, a shark, would note the signs, the loss of symmetry that is suicide in the sea. He would follow for a while until the spasms slackened. Then the shark would make a short jabbing run. The barracuda would react sluggishly and that would be the end---in three great grunting bites, the head first and then the still jerking body. And the shark would cruise quietly on, its sickle mouth trailing morsels for the black and yellow pilot fish below his jaws and perhaps for the remora or two, the parasites that travel with the great host, that pick the shark's teeth when it is sleeping and the jaws are relaxed.