A hand gingerly clasped Bond's wrist, feeling for his pulse. Bond thought it was time to re-enter the world. He must quickly get himself a doctor, a real one, not one of these grated-carrot merchants. A sudden wave of anger poured through him. This was all M's fault. M was mad. He would have it out with him when he got back to Headquarters. If necessary he would go higher---to the Chiefs of Staff, the Cabinet, the Prime Minister. M was a dangerous lunatic---a danger to the country. It was up to Bond to save England. The weak, hysterical thoughts whirled through his brain, mixed themselves up with the hairy hand of Count Lippe, the mouth of Patricia Fearing, the taste of hot vegetable soup, and, as consciousness slipped away from him again the diminishing voice of Mr. Wain: "No structural damage. Only considerable surface abrasion of the nerve ends. And of course shock. You will take personal charge of the case, Miss Fearing. Rest, warmth, and effleurage. Is that under . . . ?''

Rest, warmth, and effleurage. When Bond came round again, he was lying face downward on his bed and his whole body was bathed in exquisite sensation. Beneath him was the soft warmth of an electric blanket, his back glowed with the heat from two large sun lamps, and two hands, clad in what felt to be some particularly velvety fur, were rhythmically passing, one after the other, up and down the whole length of his body from his neck to the backs of his knees. It was a most gentle and almost piercingly luxurious experience, and Bond lay and bathed himself in it.

Presently he said sleepily, "Is that what they call effleurage?''

The girl's voice said softly, "I thought you'd come round. The whole tone of your skin suddenly changed. How are you feeling?''

"Wonderful. I'd be still better for a double whisky on the rocks.''

The girl laughed. "Mr. Wain did say dandelion tea would be best for you. But I thought a little stimulant might be good, I mean just this once. So I brought the brandy with me. And there's plenty of ice as I'm going to give you an ice-pack presently. Would you really like some? Wait, I'll put your dressing gown over you and then you can see if you can turn over. I'll look the other way.''

Bond heard the lamps being pulled away. Gingerly, he turned on his side. The dull ache returned, but it was already wearing off. He cautiously slipped his legs over the side of the bed and sat up.

Patricia Fearing stood in front of him, clean, white, comforting, desirable. In one hand was a pair of heavy mink gloves, but with the fur covering the palm instead of the back. In the other was a glass. She held out the glass. As Bond drank and heard the reassuring, real-life tinkle of the ice, he thought: This is a most splendid girl. I will settle down with her. She will give me effleurage all day long and from time to time a good tough drink like this. It will be a life of great beauty. He smiled at her and held out the empty glass and said, "More.''

She laughed, mostly with relief that he was completely alive again. She took the glass and said, “Well, just one more, then. But don't forget it's on an empty stomach. It may make you dreadfully tight.'' She paused with the brandy bottle in her hand. Suddenly her gaze was cool, clinical. ”And now you must try and tell me what happened. Did you accidentally touch the lever or something? You gave us all a dreadful fright. Nothing like that has ever happened before. The traction table's really perfectly safe, you know.''

Bond looked candidly into her eyes. He said reassuringly, "Of course. I was just trying to get more comfortable. I heaved about and I do remember that my hand hit something rather hard. I suppose it must have been the lever. Then I don't remember any more. I must have been awfully lucky you came along so quickly.''

She handed him the fresh drink. “Well, it's all over now. And thank heavens nothing's badly strained. Another two days of treatment and you'll be right as rain.'' She paused. She looked rather embarrassed, ”Oh, and Mr. Wain asks if you could possibly keep all this, all this trouble, to yourself. He doesn't want the other patients to get worried.''

I should think not, thought Bond. He could see the headlines, "PATIENT TORN NEARLY LIMB FROM LIMB AT NATURE CLINIC. RACK MACHINE GOES BERSERK. MINISTRY OF HEALTH STEPS IN.''

He said, “Of course I won't say anything. It was my fault, anyway.'' He finished his drink, handed back the glass, and cautiously lay back on the bed. He said, ”That was marvelous. Now how about some more of the mini treatment. And by the way. Will you marry me? You're the only girl I've ever met who knows how to treat a man properly.''

She laughed. "Don't be silly. And turn over on your face. It's your back that needs treatment.''

"How do you know?''

Two days later, Bond was once more back in the half-world of the nature cure. The routine of the early morning glass of hot water, the orange, carefully sliced into symmetrical pigs by some ingenious machine wielded, no doubt, by the wardress in charge of diets, then the treatments, the hot soup, the siesta, and the blank, aimless walk or bus ride to the nearest tea shop for the priceless strength-giving cups of tea laced with brown sugar. Bond loathed and despised tea, that flat, soft, time-wasting opium of the masses, but on his empty stomach, and in his febrile state, the sugary brew acted almost as an intoxicant. Three cups, he reckoned, had the effect, not of hard liquor. but of just about half a bottle of champagne in the outside world, in real life. He got to know them all, these dainty opium dens---Rose Cottage, which he avoided after the woman charged him extra for emptying the sugar bowl; The Thatched Barn, which amused him because it was a real den of iniquity---large plates of sugar cakes put on one's table, the piercing temptation of the smell of hot scones; The Transport Cafe, where the Indian tea was black and strong and the lorry drivers brought in a smell of sweat and petrol and the great world (Bond found that all his senses, particularly his palate and nose, had miraculously become sharpened), and a dozen other cottagey, raftery nooks where elderly couples with Ford Populars and Morris Minors talked in muted tones about children called Len and Ron and Pearl and Ethel, and ate in small mouthfuls with the points of their teeth and made not a sound with the tea things. It was all a world whose ghastly daintiness and propriety would normally have sickened him. NOW, empty, weak, drained of all the things that belonged to his tough, fast, basically dirty life, through banting, he had somehow regained some of the innocence and purity of childhood. In this frame of mind the naïveté and total lack of savor, surprise, excitement, of the dimity world of the Nice-Cup-of-Tea, of the Home-Made Cakes, and the One-Lump-or-Two, were perfectly acceptable.

And the extraordinary thing was that he could not remember when he had felt so well---not strong, but without any aches and pains, clear of eye and skin, sleeping ten hours a day and, above all, without that nagging sense of morning guilt that one is slowly wrecking one's body. It was really quite disturbing. Was his personality changing? Was he losing his edge, his point, his identity? Was he losing the vices that were so much part of his ruthless, cruel, fundamentally tough character? Who was he in process of becoming? A soft, dreaming, kindly idealist who would naturally leave the Service and become instead a prison visitor, interest himself in youth clubs, march with the H-bomb marchers, eat nut cutlets, try and change the world for the better? James Bond would have been more worried, as day by day the H-cure drew his teeth, if it had not been for three obsessions which belonged to his former life and which would not leave him---a passionate longing for a large dish of Spaghetti Bolognese containing plenty of chopped garlic and accompanied by a whole bottle of the cheapest, rawest Chianti (bulk for his empty stomach and sharp tastes for his starved palate), an overwhelming desire for the strong, smooth body of Patricia Fearing, and a deadly concentration on ways and means to wring the guts of Count Lippe.

The first two would have to wait, though tantalizing schemes for consuming both dishes on the day of his release from Shrublands occupied much of his mind. So far as Count Lippe was concerned, work had started on the project from the moment Bond took up again the routine of the cure.

With the cold intensity he would have employed against an enemy agent, say in a hotel in Stockholm or Lisbon during the war, James Bond set about spying on the other man. He became garrulous and inquisitive, chatting with Patricia Fearing about the various routines at Shrublands. “But when do the staff find time to have lunch?'' ”That man Lippe looks very fit. Oh, he's worried about his waist-line! Aren't the electric blanket-baths good for that? No, I haven't seen the Turkish Bath Cabinet. Must have a look at it sometime.'' And to his masseur: "Haven't seen that big chap about lately, Count something---Ripper? Hipper? Oh yes, Lippe. Oh, noon every day? I think I must try and get that time as well. Nice being clear for the rest of the day. And I'd like to have a spell in the Turkish Bath thing when you've finished the massage. Need a good sweat.'' Innocently, fragment by fragment, James Bond built up a plan of operations---a plan that would leave him and Lippe alone among the machinery of the soundproof treatment rooms.

For there would be no other opportunity. Count Lippe kept to his room in the main building until his treatment time at noon. In the afternoons he swished away in the violet Bentley---to Bournemouth, it seemed, where he had "business.'' The night porter let him in around eleven each night. One afternoon---in the siesta hour---Bond slipped the Yale lock on Count Lippe's room with a straight piece of plastic cut off a child's airplane he had bought for the purpose in Washington. He went over the room meticulously and drew a blank. All he learned---from the clothes---was that the Count was a much-traveled man---shirts from Charvet, ties from Tripler, Dior, and Hardy Amies, shoes from Peel, and raw-silk pajamas from Hong Kong. The dark red morocco suitcase from Mark Cross might have contained secrets, and Bond eyed the silk linings and toyed with the Count's Wilkinson razor. But no! Better that revenge, if it could be contrived, should come out of a clear sky.

That same afternoon, drinking his treacly tea, Bond scraped together the meager scraps of his knowledge of Count Lippe. He was about thirty, attractive to women, and physically, to judge from the naked body Bond had seen, very strong. His blood would be Portuguese with a dash of Chinaman and he gave the appearance of wealth. What did he do? What was his profession? At first glance Bond would have put him down as a tough maquereau from the Ritz bar in Paris, the Palace at St. Moritz, the Carlton at Cannes---good at backgammon, polo, water-skiing, but with the yellow streak of the man who lives on women. But Lippe had heard Bond making inquiries about him and that had been enough for an act of violence---an inspired act that he had carried out swiftly and coolly when he finished his treatment with the Fearing girl and knew, from her remark, that Bond would be alone on the traction table. The act of violence might only have been designed to warn, but equally, since Lippe could only guess at the effect of a 200-pound pull on the spine, it might have been designed to kill. Why? Who was this man who had so much to hide? And what were his secrets? Bond poured the last of his tea on to a mound of brown sugar. One thing was certain---the secrets were big ones.

Bond never seriously considered telling Headquarters about Lippe and what he had done to Bond. The whole thing, against the background of Shrublands, was so unlikely and so utterly ridiculous. And somehow Bond, the man of action and resource, came out of it all as something of a ninny. Weakened by a diet of hot water and vegetable soup, the ace of the Secret Service had been tied to some kind of a rack and then a man had come along and just pulled a lever up a few notches and reduced the hero of a hundred combats to a quivering jelly! No! There was only one solution---a private solution, man to man. Later perhaps, to satisfy his curiosity, it might be amusing to put through a good Trace on Count Lippe---with S.I.S. Records, with the C.I.D., with the Hong Kong Station. But for the time being Bond would stay quiet, keep out of Count Lippe's way, and plan meticulously for just the right kind of pay-off.




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