They shook hands. “Come along and sit down. The Commissioner's very sorry not to be here to welcome you himself. He has a bad cold - you know, one of those diplomatic ones.” Colonel 'Johns' looked amused. “Thought it might be best to take the day off. I'm just one of the help. I've been on one or two hunting trips myself and the Commissioner fixed on me to handle this little holiday of yours,” the Colonel paused, “on me only. Right?”

Bond smiled. The Commissioner was glad to help but he was going to handle this with kid gloves. There would be no come-back on his office. Bond thought he must be a careful and very sensible man. He said: “I quite understand. My friends in London didn't want the Commissioner to bother himself personally with any of this. And I haven't seen the Commissioner or been anywhere near his headquarters. That being so, can we talk English for ten minutes or so - just between the two of us?”

Colonel Johns laughed. “Sure. I was told to make that little speech and then get down to business. You understand, Commander, that you and I are about to connive at various felonies, starting with obtaining a Canadian hunting licence under false pretences and being an accessory to a breach of the frontier laws, and going on down from there to more serious things. It wouldn't do anyone one bit of good to have any ricochets from this little lot. Get me?”

“That's how my friends feel too. When I go out of here, we'll forget each other, and if I end up in Sing-Sing that's my worry. Well, now?”

Colonel Johns opened a drawer in the desk and took out a bulging file and opened it. The top document was a list. He put his pencil on the first item and looked across at Bond. He ran his eye over Bond's old black and white hound's-tooth tweed suit and white shirt and thin black tie. He said: “Clothes.” He unclipped a plain sheet of paper from the file and slid it across the desk. “This is a list of what I reckon you'll need and the address of a big second-hand clothing store here in the city. Nothing fancy, nothing conspicuous - khaki shirt, dark brown jeans, good climbing boots or shoes. See they're comfortable. And there's the address of a chemist for walnut stain. Buy a gallon and give yourself a bath in the stuff. There are plenty of browns in the hills at this time and you won't want to be wearing parachute cloth or anything that smells of camouflage. Right? If you're picked up, you're an Englishman on a hunting trip in Canada who's lost his way and got across the border by mistake. Rifle. Went down myself and put it in the boot of your Plymouth while you were waiting. One of the new Savage 99Fs, Weatherby 6 x 62 'scope, five-shot repeater with twenty rounds of high-velocity .250-3.000. Lightest big game lever action on the market. Only six and a half pounds. Belongs to a friend. Glad to have it back one day, but he won't miss it if it doesn't turn up. It's been tested and it's okay up to five hundred. Gun licence,” Colonel Johns slid it over, “issued here in the city in your real name as that fits with your passport. Hunting licence ditto, but small game only, vermin, as it isn't quite the deer season yet, also driving licence to replace the provisional one I had waiting for you with the Hertz people. Haversack, compass - used ones, in the boot of your car. Oh, by the way,” Colonel Johns looked up from his list, “you carrying a personal gun?”

“Yes. Walther PPK in a Burns Martin holster.”

“Right, give me the number. I've got a blank licence here. If that gets back to me it's quite okay. I've got a story for it.”

Bond took out his gun and read off the number. Colonel Johns filled in the form and pushed it over.

“Now then, maps. Here's a local Esso map that's all you need to get you to the area.” Colonel Johns got up and walked round with the map to Bond and spread it out. “You take this route 17 back to Montreal, get on to 37 over the bridge at St Anne's and then over the river again on to 7. Follow 7 on down to Pike River. Get on 52 at Stanbridge. Turn right in Stanbridge for Frelighsburg and leave the car in a garage there. Good roads all the way. Whole trip shouldn't take you more than five hours including stops. Okay? Now this is where you've got to get things right. Make it that you get to Frelighsburg around three a.m. Garage-hand'll be half asleep and you'll be able to get the gear out of the boot and move off without him noticing even if you were a double-headed Chinaman.” Colonel Johns went back to his chair and took two more pieces of paper off the file. The first was a scrap of pencilled map, the other a section of aerial photograph. He said, looking seriously at Bond: “Now, here are the only inflammable things you'll be carrying and I've got to rely on you getting rid of them just as soon as they've been used, or at once if there's a chance of you getting into trouble. This,” he pushed the paper over, “is a rough sketch of an old smuggling route from Prohibition days. It's not used now or I wouldn't recommend it.” Colonel Johns smiled sourly. “You might find some rough customers coming over in the opposite direction, and they're apt to shoot and not even ask questions afterwards - crooks, druggers, white-slavers - but nowadays they mostly travel up by Viscount. This route was used for runners between Franklin, just over the Derby Line, and Frelighsburg. You follow this path through the foothills, and you detour Franklin and get into the start of the Green Mountains. There it's all Vermont spruce and pine with a bit of maple, and you can stay inside that stuff for months and not see a soul. You get across country here, over a couple of highways, and you leave Enosburg Falls to the west. Then you're over a steep range and down into the top of the valley you want. The cross is Echo Lake and, judging from the photographs, I'd be inclined to come down on top of it from the east. Got it?”

“What's the distance? About ten miles?”

“Ten and a half. Take you about three hours from Frelighsburg if you don't lose your way, so you'll be in sight of the place around six and have about an hour's light to help you over the last stretch.” Colonel Johns pushed over the square of aerial photograph. It was a central cut from the one Bond had seen in London. It showed a long low range of well-kept buildings made of cut stone. The roofs were of slate, and there was a glimpse of graceful bow windows and a covered patio. A dust road ran past the front door and on this side were garages and what appeared to be kennels. On the garden side was a stone flagged terrace with a flowered border, and beyond this two or three acres of trim lawn stretched down to the edge of the small lake. The lake appeared to have been artificially created with a deep stone dam. There was a group of wrought-iron garden furniture where the dam wall left the bank and, halfway along the wall, a diving-board and a ladder to climb out of the lake. Beyond the lake the forest rose steeply up. It was from this side that Colonel Johns suggested an approach. There were no people in the photograph, but on the stone flags in front of the patio was a quantity of expensive-looking aluminium garden furniture and a central glass table with drinks. Bond remembered that the larger photograph had shown a tennis court in the garden and on the other side of the road the trim white fences and grazing horses of a stud farm. Echo Lake looked what it was - the luxurious retreat, in deep country, well away from atom bomb targets, of a millionaire who liked privacy and could probably offset a lot of his running expenses against the stud farm and an occasional good let. It would be an admirable refuge for a man who had had ten steamy years of Caribbean politics and who needed a rest to recharge his batteries. The lake was also convenient for washing blood off hands.

Colonel Johns closed his now empty file and tore the typewritten list into small fragments and dropped them in the wastepaper basket. The two men got to their feet. Colonel Johns took Bond to the door and held out his hand. He said: “Well, I guess that's all. I'd give a lot to come with you. Talking about all this has reminded me of one or two sniping jobs at the end of the War. I was in the Army then. We were under Monty in Eighth Corps. On the left of the line in the Ardennes. It was much the same sort of country as you'll be using, only different trees. But you know how it is in these police jobs. Plenty of paper work and keep your nose clean for the pension. Well, so long and the best of luck. No doubt I'll read all about it in the papers,” he smiled, “whichever way it goes.”

Bond thanked him and shook him by the hand. A last question occurred to him. He said: “By the way, is the Savage single pull or double? I won't have a chance of finding out and there may not be much time for experimenting when the target shows.”

“Single pull and it's a hair-trigger. Keep your finger off until you're sure you've got him. And keep outside three hundred if you can. I guess these men are pretty good themselves. Don't get too close.” He reached for the door handle. His other hand went to Bond's shoulder. “Our Commissioner's got a motto: 'Never send a man where you can send a bullet.' You might remember that. So long, Commander.”

Bond spent the night and most of the next day at the KO-ZEE Motor Court outside Montreal. He paid in advance for three nights. He passed the day looking to his equipment and wearing in the soft ripple rubber climbing boots he had bought in Ottawa. He bought glucose tablets and some smoked ham and bread from which he made himself sandwiches. He also bought a large aluminium flask and filled this with three-quarters Bourbon and a quarter coffee. When darkness came he had dinner and a short sleep and then diluted the walnut stain and washed himself all over with the stuff even to the roots of his hair. He came out looking like a Red Indian with blue-grey eyes. Just before midnight he quietly opened the side door into the automobile bay, got into the Plymouth and drove off on the last lap south to Frelighsburg.

The man at the all-night garage was not as sleepy as Colonel Johns had said he would be.

“Goin' huntin', mister?”

You can get far in North America with laconic grunts. Huh, hun and hi! in their various modulations, together with sure, guess so, that so? and nuts! will meet almost any contingency.

Bond, slinging the strap of his rifle over his shoulder, said “Hun.”

“Man got a fine beaver over by Highgate Springs Saturday.”

Bond said indifferently “That so?”, paid for two nights and walked out of the garage. He had stopped on the far side of the town, and now he only had to follow the highway for a hundred yards before he found the dirt track running off into the woods on his right. After half an hour the track petered out at a broken-down farmhouse. A chained dog set up a frenzied barking, but no light showed in the farmhouse and Bond skirted it and at once found the path by the stream. He was to follow this for three miles. He lengthened his stride to get away from the dog. When the barking stopped there was silence, the deep velvet silence of woods on a still night. It was a warm night with a full yellow moon that threw enough light down through the thick spruce for Bond to follow the path without difficulty. The springy, cushioned soles of the climbing boots were wonderful to walk on, and Bond got his second wind and knew he was making good time. At around four o'clock the trees began to thin and he was soon walking through open fields with the scattered lights of Franklin on his right. He crossed a secondary, tarred road, and now there was a wider track through the woods and on his right the pale glitter of a lake. By five o'clock he had crossed the black rivers of US highways 108 and 120. On the latter was a sign saying ENOSBURG FALLS 1 MI. Now he was on the last lap - a small hunting trail that climbed steeply. Well away from the highway, he stopped and shifted his rifle and knapsack round, had a cigarette and burned the sketch-map. Already there was a faint paling in the sky and small noises in the forest - the harsh, melancholy cry of a bird he did not know and the rustlings of small animals. Bond visualised the house deep down in the little valley on the other side of the mountain ahead of him. He saw the blank curtained windows, the crumpled sleeping faces of the four men, the dew on the lawn and the widening rings of the early rise on the gunmetal surface of the lake. And here, on the other side of the mountain, was the executioner coming up through the trees. Bond closed his mind to the picture, trod the remains of his cigarette into the ground and got going.