CHAPTER 1 - THE SECRET AGENT
The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soulerosion produced by high gambling — a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension — becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.
James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on the knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.
He shifted himself unobtrusively away from the roulette he had been playing and went to stand for a moment at the brass rail which surrounded breasthigh the top table in the salleprivée.
Le Chiffre was still playing and still, apparently, winning. There was an untidy pile of flecked hundredmille plaques in front of him. In the shadow of his thick left arm there nestled a discreet stack of the big yellow ones worth half a million francs each.
Bond watched the curious, impressive profile for a time, and then he shrugged his shoulders to lighten his thoughts and moved away.
The barrier surrounding the caisse comes as high as your chin and the caissier, who is generally nothing more than a minor bank clerk, sits on a stool and dips into his piles of notes and plaques. These are ranged on shelves. They are on a level, behind the protecting barrier, with your groin. The caissier has a cosh and a gun to protect him, and to heave over the barrier and steal some notes and then vault back and get out of the casino through the passages and doors would be impossible. And the caissiers generally work in pairs.
Bond reflected on the problem as he collected the sheaf of hundred thousand and then the sheaves of ten thousand franc notes. With another part of his mind, he had a vision of tomorrow's regular morning meeting of the casino committee.
'Monsieur Le Chiffre made two million. He played his usual game. Miss Fairchild made a million in an hour and then left. She executed three "bancos" of Monsieur Le Chiffre within an hour and then left. She played with coolness. Monsieur le Vicomte de Villorin made one million two at roulette. He was playing the maximum on the first and last dozens. He was lucky. Then the Englishman, Mister Bond, increased his winnings to exactly three million over the two days. He was playing a progressive system on red at table five. Duclos, the chef de partie, has the details. It seems that he is persevering and plays in maximums. He has luck. His nerves seem good. On the soirée, the chemindefer won x, the baccarat won y and the roulette won z. The boule, which was again badly frequented, still makes its expenses.'
'Merci, Monsieur Xavier.'
'Merci, Monsieur le President.'
Or something like that, thought Bond as he pushed his way through the swing doors of the salleprivée and nodded to the bored man in evening clothes whose job it is to bar your entry and your exit with the electric footswitch which can lock the doors at any hint of trouble.
And the casino committee would balance its books and break up to its homes or cafés for lunch.
As for robbing the caisse, in which Bond himself was not personally concerned, but only interested, he reflected that it would take ten good men, that they would certainly have to kill one or two employees, and that anyway you probably couldn't find ten nonsqueal killers in France, or in any other country for the matter of that.
As he gave a thousand francs to the vestiaire and walked down the steps of the casino, Bond made up his mind that Le Chiffre would in no circumstances try to rob the caisse and he put the contingency out of his mind. Instead he explored his present physical sensations. He felt the dry, uncomfortable gravel under his evening shoes, the bad, harsh taste in his mouth and the slight sweat under his arms. He could feel his eyes filling their sockets. The front of his face, his nose and antrum, were congested. He breathed the sweet night air deeply and focused his senses and his wits. He wanted to know if anyone had searched his room since he had left it before dinner.
He walked across the broad boulevard and through the gardens to the Hôtel Splendide. He smiled at the concierge who gave him his key — No 45 on the first floor — and took the cable.
It was from Jamaica and read:
KINGSTONJA XXXX XXXXXX XXXX XXX
BOND SPLENDIDE ROYALELESEAUX SEINE INFERIEURE
HAVANA CIGAR PRODUCTION ALL CUBAN FACTORIES 1915
TEN MILLION REPEAT TEN MILLION STOP HOPE THIS FIGURE
YOU REQUIRE REGARDS.DASILVA
This meant that ten million francs was on the way to him. It was the reply to a request Bond had sent that afternoon through Paris to his headquarters in London asking for more funds. Paris had spoken to London where Clements, the head of Bond's department, had spoken to M, who had smiled wryly and told 'The Broker' to fix it with the Treasury.
Bond had once worked in Jamaica and his cover on the Royale assignment was that of a very rich client of Messrs Caffery, the principal import and export firm of Jamaica. So he was being controlled through Jamaica, through a taciturn man who was head of the picture desk on the Daily Gleaner, the famous newspaper of the Caribbean.
This man on the Gleaner, whose name was Fawcett, had been bookkeeper for one of the leading turtlefisheries on the Cayman Islands. One of the men from the Caymans who had volunteered on the outbreak of war, he had ended up as a Paymaster's clerk in a small Naval Intelligence organization in Malta. At the end of the war, when, with a heavy heart, he was due to return to the Caymans, he was spotted by the section of the Secret Service concerned with the Caribbean. He was strenuously trained in photography and in some other arts and, with the quiet connivance of an influential man in Jamaica, found his way to the picture desk of the Gleaner.
In the intervals between sifting photographs submitted by the great agencies — Keystone, WideWorld, Universal, INP, and ReuterPhoto — he would get peremptory instructions by telephone from a man he had never met to carry out certain simple operations requiring nothing but absolute discretion, speed, and accuracy. For these occasional services he received twenty pounds a month paid into his account with the Royal Bank of Canada by a fictitious relative in England.
Fawcett's present assignment was to relay immediately to Bond, full rates, the text of messages which he received at home by telephone from his anonymous contact. He had been told by this contact that nothing he would be asked to send would arouse the suspicion of the Jamaican post office. So he was not surprised to find himself suddenly appointed string correspondent for the 'Maritime Press and Photo Agency', with presscollect facilities to France and England, on a further monthly retainer of ten pounds.
He felt secure and encouraged, had visions of a BEM and made the first payment on a Morris Minor. He also bought a green eyeshade which he had long coveted and which helped him to impose his personality on the picture desk.
Some of this background to his cable passed through Bond's mind. He was used to oblique control and rather liked it. He felt it featherbedded him a little, allowed him to give or take an hour or two in his communications with M. He knew that this was probably a fallacy, that probably there was another member of the Service at RoyalelesEaux who was reporting independently, but it did give the illusion that he wasn't only 150 miles across the Channel from that deadly office building near Regent's Park, being watched and judged by those few cold brains that made the whole show work. Just as Fawcett, the Cayman Islander in Kingston, knew that if he bought that Morris Minor outright instead of signing the hirepurchase agreement, someone in London would probably know and want to know where the money had come from.
Bond read the cable twice. He tore a telegram form off the pad on the desk (why give them carbon copies?) and wrote his reply in capital letters:
THANKS INFORMATION SHOULD SUFFICE — BOND
He handed this to the concierge and put the cable signed 'Dasilva' in his pocket. The employers (if any) of the concierge could bribe a copy out of the local post office, if the concierge hadn't already steamed the envelope open or read the cable upside down in Bond's hands.
He took his key and said good night and turned to the stairs, shaking his head at the liftman. Bond knew what an obliging dangersignal a lift could be. He didn't expect anyone to be moving on the first floor, but he preferred to be prudent.
Walking quietly up on the balls of his feet, he regretted the hubris of his reply to M via Jamaica. As a gambler he knew it was a mistake to rely on too small a capital. Anyway, M probably wouldn't let him have any more. He shrugged his shoulders and turned off the stairs into the corridor and walked softly to the door of his room.
Bond knew exactly where the switch was and it was with one flow of motion that he stood on the threshold with the door full open, the light on and a gun in his hand. The safe, empty room sneered at him. He ignored the halfopen door of the bathroom and, locking himself in, he turned up the bedlight and the mirrorlight and threw his gun on the settee beside the window. Then he bent down and inspected one of his own black hairs which still lay undisturbed where he had left it before dinner, wedged into the drawer of the writingdesk.
Next he examined a faint trace of talcum powder on the inner rim of the porcelain handle of the clothes cupboard. It appeared immaculate. He went into the bathroom, lifted the cover of the lavatory cistern and verified the level of the water against a small scratch on the copper ballcock.
Doing all this, inspecting these minute burglaralarms, did not make him feel foolish or selfconscious. He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession. Routine precautions were to him no more unreasonable than they would be to a deepsea diver or a test pilot, or to any man earning dangermoney.
Satisfied that his room had not been searched while he was at the casino, Bond undressed and took a cold shower. Then he lit his seventieth cigarette of the day and sat down at the writingtable with the thick wad of his stake money and winnings beside him and entered some figures in a small notebook. Over the two days' play, he was up exactly three million francs. In London he had been issued with ten million, and he had asked London for a further ten. With this on its way to the local branch of Crédit Lyonnais, his working capital amounted to twentythree million francs, or some twentythree thousand pounds.
For a few moments Bond sat motionless, gazing out of the window across the dark sea, then he shoved the bundle of banknotes under the pillow of the ornate single bed, cleaned his teeth, turned out the lights and climbed with relief between the harsh French sheets. For ten minutes he lay on his left side reflecting on the events of the day. Then he turned over and focused his mind towards the tunnel of sleep.
His last action was to slip his right hand under the pillow until it rested under the butt of the .38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel. Then he slept, and with the warmth and humour of his eyes extinguished, his features relapsed into a taciturn mask, ironical, brutal, and cold.
CHAPTER 2 - DOSSIER FOR M
Two weeks before, this memorandum had gone from Station S of the Secret Service to M, who was then and is today head of this adjunct to the British Defence Ministries:
From: Head of S.
Subject: A project for the destruction of Monsieur Le Chiffre (alias 'The Number', 'Herr Nummer', 'Herr Ziffer', etc.), one of the Opposition's chief agents in France and undercover Paymaster of the 'Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace', the Communistcontrolled trade union in the heavy and transport industries of Alsace, and as we know, an important fifth column in the event of war with Redland.
Documentation: Head of Archives' biography of Le Chiffre is attached at Appendix A. Also, Appendix B, a note on SMERSH.
We have been feeling for some time that Le Chiffre is getting into deep water. In nearly all respects he is an admirable agent of the USSR, but his gross physical habits and predilections are an Achilles heel of which we have been able to take advantage from time to time and one of his mistresses is a Eurasian (No 1860) controlled by Station F, who has recently been able to obtain insight into his private affairs.
Briefly, it seems that Le Chiffre is on the brink of a financial crisis. Certain straws in the wind were noticed by 1860 — some discreet sales of jewellery, the disposal of a villa at Antibes, and a general tendency to check the loose spending which has always been a feature of his way of life. Further inquiries were made with the help of our friends of the Deuxième Bureau (with whom we have been working jointly on this case) and a curious story has come to light.
In January 1946, Le Chiffre bought control of a chain of brothels, known as the Cordon Jaune, operating in Normandy and Brittany. He was foolish enough to employ for this purpose some fifty million francs of the moneys entrusted to him by Leningrad Section III for the financing of SODA, the trade union mentioned above.
Normally the Cordon Jaune would have proved a most excellent investment and it is possible that Le Chiffre was motivated more by a desire to increase his union funds than by the hope of lining his own pocket by speculating with his employers' money. However that may be, it is clear that he could have found many investments more savoury than prostitution, if he had not been tempted by the byproduct of unlimited women for his personal use.
Fate rebuked him with terrifying swiftness.
Barely three months later, on 13 April, there was passed in France Law No. 46685 entitled LoiTendantà la Fermeture des Maisons de Tolérance et au Renforcement de la Luttecontre le Proxénitisme.
(When M came to this sentence he grunted and pressed a switch on the intercom.
'Head of S.?'
'What the hell does this word mean?' He spelt it out.
'This is not the Berlitz School of Languages, Head of S. If you want to show off your knowledge of foreign jawbreakers, be good enough to provide a crib. Better still, write in English.'
M released the switch and turned back to the memorandum.)
This law [he read] known popularly as 'La Loi Marthe Richard', closing all houses of illfame and forbidding the sale of pornographic books and films knocked the bottom out of his investment almost overnight and suddenly Le Chiffre was faced with a serious deficit in his union funds. In desperation he turned his open houses into maisons de passe, where clandestine rendezvous could be arranged on the borderline of the law, and he continued to operate one or two cinémas bleus underground, but these shifts in no way served to cover his overheads, and all attempts to sell his investment, even at a heavy loss, failed dismally. Meanwhile the Police des Mœurs were on his trail and in a short while twenty or more of his establishments were closed down.