GOLDFINGER
(A James Bond - Agent 007 - Story)
by Ian Fleming

 

16 ....... THE LAST AND THE BIGGEST

 

THE WINGS of a dove, the heavenly choir, Hark the Herald Angels Sing – what else ought he to remember about Paradise? It was all so exactly like what he had been told in the nursery – this sensation of flying, the darkness, the drone of a million harps. He really must try and remember the dope about the place. Let’s see now, one got to the Pearly Gates ...

 

A deep fatherly voice said, almost in his ear, ‘This is your captain speaking.’ (Well, well. Who was this. Saint Peter?) ‘We are coming in to land now. Will you please fasten your seat belts and extinguish your cigarettes. Thank you.’

 

There must be a whole lot of them, going up together. Would Tilly be on the same trip? Bond squirmed with embarrassment. How would he introduce her to the others, to Vesper for instance? And when it came to the point, which would he like the best? But perhaps it would be a big place with countries and towns. There was probably no more reason why he should run into one of his former girl friends here than there had been on earth. But still there were a lot of people he’d better avoid until he got settled in and found out the form. Perhaps, with so much love about, these things wouldn’t matter. Perhaps one just loved all the girls one met. Hm. Tricky business!

 

With these unworthy thoughts in his mind, Bond relapsed into unconsciousness.

 

The next thing he knew was a gentle sensation of swaying. He opened his eyes. The sun blinded them. He closed them again. A voice above and behind his head said, ‘Watch it, bud. That ramp’s steeper than it looks.’ Almost immediately there was a heavy jolt. A surly voice in front said, ‘Cheesus, you’re telling me. Why in hell can’t they put down rubber.’

 

Bond thought angrily, that’s a fine way to talk up here. Just because I’m new and they think no one’s listening.

 

There was the bang of a swing door. Something hit Bond sharply on a protruding elbow. He shouted ‘Hey!’ and tried to reach his elbow and rub it, but his hands wouldn’t move.

 

‘Whaddya know. Hey, Sam, better call the doc. This one’s come round.’

 

‘Sure! Here, put him alongside the other.’ Bond felt himself being lowered. It was cooler now. He opened his eyes. A big round Brooklyn face was bent over his. The eyes met his and smiled. The metal supports of the stretcher touched the ground. The man said, ‘How ya feelin’, mister?’

 

‘Where am I?’ Now there was panic in Bond’s voice. He tried to rise but couldn’t. He felt the sweat break out on his body. God! Was this still part of the old life? At the thought of it, a wave of grief poured through his body. Tears burned his eyes and trickled down his cheeks.

 

‘Hey, hey! Take it easy, mister. You’re okay. This is Idlewild, New York. You’re in America now. No more troubles, see.’ The man straightened up. He thought Bond was a refugee from somewhere. ‘Sam, get movin’. This guy’s in shock.’

 

‘Okay, okay.’ The two voices receded, mumbling anxiously.

 

Bond found he could move his head. He looked round. He was in a white-painted ward – presumably something to do with the health department of the airport. There was a row of tidy beds. Sun poured down from high windows, but it was cool, air-conditioned. He was on a stretcher on the floor. There was another one next to it. He strained his head sideways. It was Tilly. She was unconscious. Her pale face, framed in the black hair, pointed at the ceiling.

 

The door at the end of the ward sighed open. A doctor in a white coat stood and held it. Goldfinger, looking brisk, cheerful, walked swiftly down between the beds. He was followed by Oddjob. Bond wearily closed his eyes. Christ! So that was the score.

 

Feet gathered round his stretcher. Goldfinger said breezily, ‘Well, they certainly look in good shape, eh, Doctor? That’s one of the blessings of having enough money. When one’s friends or one’s staff are ill one can get them the very best medical attention. Nervous breakdowns, both of them. And in the same week! Would you believe it? But I blame myself for working them both too hard. Now it’s my duty to get them back on their feet again. Dr Foch – he’s the best man in Geneva, by the way – was quite definite. He said, “They need rest, Mr Goldfinger. Rest, rest and again rest.” He gave them sedatives and now they’re on their way to the Harkness Pavilion at the Presbyterian.’ Goldfinger chuckled fatly. ‘Sow and you shall reap, eh, Doctor? When I gave the Harkness a million dollars’ worth of X-ray equipment, I certainly never expected anything back. But now? I only had to put through a call and they’ve got two fine rooms waiting for them. Now then –’ there was a rustle of notes – ‘thank you for all your help with Immigration. Fortunately they both had valid visas and I think Immigration was satisfied that Mr Auric Goldfinger was a sufficient guarantee that neither of them wants to overthrow the United States Government by force, what?’

 

‘Yes indeed, and thank you Mr Goldfinger. Anything I can do ... I understand you have a private ambulance waiting outside.’

 

Bond opened his eyes and looked at where the doctor’s voice came from. He saw a pleasant, serious young man with rimless glasses and a crew-cut. Bond said quietly and with desperate sincerity, ‘Doctor, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me or this girl. We have been drugged and brought here against our will. Neither of us works or has ever worked for Goldfinger. I am warning you that we have been kidnapped. I demand to see the Chief of Immigration. I have friends in Washington and New York. They will vouch for me. I beg of you to believe me.’ Bond held the man’s eyes in his, willing him to believe.

 

The doctor looked worried. He turned to Goldfinger. Goldfinger shook his head – discreetly so that Bond would not be insulted. A surreptitious hand went up and tapped the side of his head away from Bond. Goldfinger raised helpless eyebrows. ‘You see what I mean, Doctor? It’s been like this for days. Total nervous prostration combined with persecution mania. Dr Foch said they often go together. It may need weeks at the Harkness. But I’m going to pull him round if it’s the last thing I do. It’s the shock of these unfamiliar surroundings. Perhaps a shot of intraval sodium ...’

 

The doctor bent to his black bag. ‘I guess you’re right, Mr Goldfinger. So long as Harkness is looking after the case.’ There came the tinkle of instruments.

 

Goldfinger said, ‘It’s terribly sad to see a man break down so utterly, a man who has been one of my best assistants.’ He bent a sweet, fatherly smile on Bond. There was a catch in his voice. ‘You’ll be all right, James. Just relax and have a nice sleep. I was afraid the flight might be too much for you. Just relax and leave everything to me.’

 

Bond felt the swab on his arm. He heaved. Against his will, a shower of curses poured from his lips. Then he felt the needle and opened his mouth and screamed and screamed while the doctor knelt beside him and delicately, patiently, wiped away the sweat from his forehead.

 

Now it was a grey painted box of a room. There were no windows. Light came from a single bowl lamp inset in the centre of the ceiling. Round the lamp were concentric slits in the plaster and there was the neutral smell and faint hum of air-conditioning. Bond found he could sit up. He did so. He felt drowsy but well. He suddenly realized that he was ravenously hungry and thirsty. When had he last had a meal? Two, three days ago? He put his feet down on the floor. He was naked. He examined his body. Oddjob had been careful. There was no sign of damage save for the group of needle-marks on his right forearm. He got up, conquering dizziness, and took a few steps in the room. He had been lying on a ship’s type bunk with drawers under it. The only other furniture in the room was a plain deal table and an upright wooden chair. Everything was clean, functional, Spartan. Bond knelt to the drawers under the bunk and opened them. They contained all the contents of his suitcase except his watch and the gun. Even the rather heavy shoes he had been wearing on his expedition to Entreprises Auric were there. He twisted one of the heels and pulled. The broad double-sided knife slid smoothly out of its scabbard in the sole. With the fingers wrapped round the locked heel it made a workmanlike stabbing dagger. Bond verified that the other shoe held its knife and clicked the heels back into position. He pulled out some clothes and put them on. He found his cigarette case and lighter and lit a cigarette. There were two doors of which one had a handle. He opened this one. It led into a small, well-appointed bathroom and lavatory. His washing and shaving things were neatly laid out. There were a girl’s things beside them. Bond softly opened the other door into the bathroom. It was a similar room to his own. Tilly Masterton’s black hair showed on the pillow of the bunk. Bond tiptoed over and looked down. She was sleeping peacefully, a half-smile on the beautiful mouth. Bond went back into the bathroom, softly closed the door and went to the mirror over the basin and looked at himself. The black stubble looked more like three days than two. He set to work to clean himself up.

 

Half an hour later, Bond was sitting on the edge of his bunk thinking, when the door without a handle opened abruptly. Oddjob stood in the entrance. He looked incuriously at Bond. His eyes flickered carefully round the room. Bond said sharply, ‘Oddjob, I want a lot of food, quickly. And a bottle of bourbon, soda and ice. Also a carton of Chesterfields, king-size, and either my own watch or another one as good as mine. Quick march! Chop-chop! And tell Goldfinger I want to see him, but not until I’ve had something to eat. Come on! Jump to it! Don’t stand there looking inscrutable. I’m hungry.’

 

Oddjob looked redly at Bond as if wondering which piece to break. He opened his mouth, uttered a noise between an angry bark and a belch, spat drily on the floor at his feet and stepped back, whirling the door shut. When the slam should have come, the door decelerated abruptly and closed with a soft, decisive, double click.

 

The encounter put Bond in good humour. For some reason Goldfinger had decided against killing them. He wanted them alive. Soon Bond would know why he wanted them alive but, so long as he did, Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Oddjob and any other Korean firmly in his place, which, in Bond’s estimation, was rather lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.

 

By the time an excellent meal together with everything else, including his watch, Bond had asked for, had been brought by one of the Korean servants, Bond had learned nothing more about his circumstances except that his room was close to water and not far from a railway bridge. Assuming his room was in New York, it was either on the Hudson or the East River. The railway was electric and sounded like a subway, but Bond’s New York geography was not good enough to place it. His watch had stopped. When he asked the time he got no answer.

 

Bond had eaten all the food on the tray and was smoking and sipping a solid bourbon and soda when the door opened. Goldfinger came in alone. He was wearing a regulation businessman’s clothes and looked relaxed and cheerful. He closed the door behind him and stood with his back to it. He looked searchingly at Bond. Bond smoked and looked politely back.

 

Goldfinger said, ‘Good morning, Mr Bond. I see you are yourself again. I hope you prefer being here to being dead. So as to save you the trouble of asking a lot of conventional questions, I will tell you where you are and what has happened to you. I will then put to you a proposition to which I require an unequivocal reply. You are a more reasonable man than most, so I need only give you one brief warning. Do not attempt any dramatics. Do not attack me with a knife or a fork or that bottle. If you do, I shall shoot you with this.’ A small-calibre pistol grew like a black thumb out of Goldfinger’s right fist. He put the hand with the gun back in his pocket. ‘I very seldom use these things. When I have had to, I have never needed more than one .25-calibre bullet to kill. I shoot at the right eye, Mr Bond. And I never miss.’

 

Bond said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not as accurate as that with a bourbon bottle.’ He hitched up the knee of his trousers and put one leg across the other. He sat relaxed. ‘Go ahead.’

 

‘Mr Bond.’ Goldfinger’s voice was amiable. ‘I am an expert in many other materials beside metals and I have a keen appreciation of everything that is one thousand fine, as we say of the purest gold. In comparison with that degree of purity, of value, human material is of a very low grade indeed. But occasionally one comes across a piece of this stuff that can at least be put to the lower forms of use. Oddjob is an example of what I mean – simple, unrefined clay, capable of limited exploitation. At the last moment my hand hesitated to destroy a utensil with the durability I observed in yourself. I may have made a mistake in staying my hand. In any case I shall take the fullest steps to protect myself from the consequences of my impulse. It was something you said that saved your life. You suggested that you and Miss Masterton would work for me. Normally I would have no use for either of you, but it just happens that I am on the brink of a certain enterprise in which the services of both of you could be of a certain minimal assistance. So I took the gamble. I gave you both the necessary sedatives. Your bills were paid and your things fetched from the Bergues where Miss Masterton turned out to be registered under her real name. I sent a cable in your name to Universal Export. You had been offered employment in Canada. You were flying over to explore the prospects. You were taking Miss Masterton as your secretary. You would write further details. A clumsy cable, but it will serve for the short period I require your services. (It won’t, thought Bond, unless you included in the text one of the innocent phrases that would tell M. that the cable was authentic. By now, the Service would know he was working under enemy control. Wheels would be turning very fast indeed.) And in case you think, Mr Bond, that my precautions were inadequate, that you will be traced, let me tell you that I am no longer in the least interested about your true identity nor the strength and resources of your employers. You and Miss Masterton have utterly disappeared, Mr Bond. So have I, so have all my staff. The airport will refer inquiries to the Harkness Pavilion at the Presbyterian Hospital. The hospital will never have heard of Mr Goldfinger nor of his patients. The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. have no record of me, for I have no criminal history. No doubt the immigration authorities will have details of my comings and goings over the years, but these will not be helpful. As for my present whereabouts, and yours, Mr Bond, we are now in the warehouse of the Hi-speed Trucking Corporation, a formerly respectable concern which I own through nominees and which has been equipped, most thoroughly, as the secret headquarters for the enterprise of which I spoke. You and Miss Masterton will be confined to these quarters. Here you will live and work and possibly, though personally I have doubts about Miss Masterton’s inclinations in that respect, make love.’

 

‘And what will our work consist of?’

 

‘Mr Bond –’ For the first time since Bond had known Goldfinger, the big, bland face, always empty of expression, showed a trace of life. A look almost of rapture illuminated the eyes. The finely chiselled lips pursed into a thin, beatic curve. ‘Mr Bond, all my life I have been in love. I have been in love with gold. I love its colour, its brilliance, its divine heaviness. I love the texture of gold, that soft sliminess that I have learnt to gauge so accurately by touch that I can estimate the fineness of a bar to within one carat. And I love the warm tang it exudes when I melt it down into a true golden syrup. But, above all, Mr Bond, I love the power that gold alone gives to its owner – the magic of controlling energy, exacting labour, fulfilling one’s every wish and whim and, when need be, purchasing bodies, minds, even souls. Yes, Mr Bond, I have worked all my life for gold and, in return, gold has worked for me and for those enterprises that I have espoused. I ask you,’ Goldfinger gazed earnestly at Bond, ‘is there any other substance on earth that so rewards its owner?’

 

‘Many people have become rich and powerful without possessing an ounce of the stuff. But I see your point. How much have you managed to collect and what do you do with it?’

 

‘I own about twenty million pounds’ worth, about as much as a small country. It is now all in New York. I keep it where I need it. My treasure of gold is like a compost heap. I move it here and there over the face of the earth and, wherever I choose to spread it, that corner blossoms and blooms. I reap the harvest and move on. At this moment I am proposing to encourage, to force, a certain American enterprise with my golden compost. Therefore the gold bars are in New York.’

 

‘How do you choose these enterprises? What attracts you to them?’

 

‘I espouse any enterprise that will increase my stock of gold. I invest, I smuggle, I steal.’ Goldfinger made a small gesture of the hands, opening the palms persuasively. ‘If you will follow the simile, regard history as a train speeding along through time. Birds and animals are disturbed by the noise and tumult of the train’s passage, they fly away from it or run fearfully or cower, thinking they hide. I am like the hawk that follows the train – you have no doubt seen them doing this, in Greece for instance – ready to pounce on anything that may be flushed by the train’s passage, by the passage of history. To give you a simple example: the progress of history produces a man who invents penicillin. At the same time, history creates a world war. Many people are dying or afraid of dying. Penicillin will save them. Through bribery at certain military establishments on the Continent, I obtain stocks of penicillin. I water these down with some harmless powder or liquid and sell them at immense profit to those who crave the stuff. You see what I mean, Mr Bond? You have to wait for the prey, watch it carefully and then pounce. But, as I say, I do not search out such enterprises. I allow the train of history to flush them towards me.’

 

‘What’s the latest one? What have Miss Masterton and I got to do with it?’

 

‘The latest one, Mr Bond, is the last one. It is also the biggest.’ Goldfinger’s eyes were now blank, focused inwards. His voice became low, almost reverential at what he saw. ‘Man has climbed Everest and he has scraped the depths of the ocean. He has fired rockets into outer space and split the atom. He has invented, devised, created in every realm of human endeavour, and everywhere he has triumphed, broken records, achieved miracles. I said in every realm, but there is one that has been neglected, Mr Bond. That one is the human activity loosely known as crime. The so-called criminal exploits committed by individual humans – I do not of course refer to their idiotic wars, their clumsy destruction of each other – are of miserable dimensions: little bank robberies, tiny swindles, picayune forgeries. And yet, ready to hand, a few hundred miles from here, opportunity for the greatest crime in history stands waiting. The stage is set, the gigantic prize is offered. Only the actors are missing. But the producer is at last here, Mr Bond’ – Goldfinger raised a finger and tapped his chest – ‘and he has chosen his cast. This very afternoon the script will be read to the leading actors. Then rehearsals will begin and, in one week, the curtain will go up for the single, the unique performance. And then will come the applause, the applause for the greatest extra-legal coup of all time. And, Mr Bond, the world will rock with that applause for centuries.’

 

Now a dull fire burned in Goldfinger’s big pale eyes and there was a touch of extra colour in his red-brown cheeks. But he was still calm, relaxed, profoundly convinced. There’s no trace here, reflected Bond, of the madman, the visionary. Goldfinger had some fantastic exploit in mind, but he had gauged the odds and knew they were right. Bond said, ‘Well, come on. What is it, and what do we have to do about it?’

 

‘It is a robbery, Mr Bond. A robbery against no opposition, but one that will need detailed execution. There will be much paper-work, many administrative details to supervise. I was going to do this myself until you offered your services. Now you will do it, with Miss Masterton as your secretary. You have already been partly remunerated for this work with your life. When the operation is successfully completed you will receive one million pounds in gold. Miss Masterton will receive half a million.’

 

Bond said enthusiastically, ‘Now you’re talking. What are we going to do? Rob the end of the rainbow?’

 

‘Yes,’ Goldfinger nodded. ‘That is exactly what we are going to do. We are going to burgle fifteen billion dollars’ worth of gold bullion, approximately half the supply of mined gold in the world. We are going, Mr Bond, to take Fort Knox.’


 

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