“Compound fracture of the tibia,” said the matron. “No complications.” She smiled. “Except that he's a bit fresh with the nurses. He should be walking with a stick in ten days. He's already seen the police. I suppose it's all to do with that story in the Gleaner about those American tourists being killed when the Orange River Bridge collapsed. But the Commissioner's handling it all personally. The story in the Gleaner's very vague.”

The doctor smiled. “Nobody tells me anything. Just as well. I haven't got the tune to listen to them. Well, thank you, matron. I must get along. Multiple crash at Halfway Tree. The ambulances'll be here any minute.” He hurried away. The matron went about her business. The nurse, excited by all this high-level talk, went softly back into the green-shaded room, tidied the sheet over the naked right shoulder of her patient where the doctor had pulled it down, and went back to her chair at the end of the bed and her copy of Ebony.

Ten days later, the little room was crowded. James Bond, propped up among extra pillows, was amused by the galaxy of officialdom that had been assembled. On his left was the Commissioner of Police, resplendent in his black uniform with silver insignia. On his right was a justice of the Supreme Court in full regalia, accompanied by a deferential clerk. A massive figure, to whom Felix Leiter, on crutches, was fairly respectful, had been introduced as “Colonel Bannister” from Washington . Head of Station C, a quiet civil servant called Alec Hill, who had been flown out from London , stood near the door and kept his appraising eyes unwaveringly on Bond. Mary Goodnight, who was to take notes of the proceedings but also, on the matron's strict instructions, watch for any sign of fatigue in James Bond and have absolute authority to close the meeting if he showed strain, sat demurely beside the bed with a shorthand pad on her knees. But James Bond felt no strain. He was delighted to see all these people and know that at last he was back in the great world again. The only matters that worried him were that he had not been allowed to see Felix Leiter before the meeting to agree their stories and that he had been rather curtly advised by the High Commissioner's Office that legal representation would not be necessary.

The Police Commissioner cleared his throat. He said, “Commander Bond, our meeting here today is largely a formality, but it is held on the Prime Minister's instructions and with your doctor's approval. There are many rumours running around the island and abroad, and Sir Alexander Bustamante is most anxious to have them dispelled for the sake of justice and of the island's good name. So this meeting is in the nature of a judicial inquiry having Prime Ministerial status. We very much hope that, if the conclusions of the meeting are satisfactory, there need be no more legal proceedings whatever. You understand?”

“Yes,” said Bond--who didn't.

“Now,” the Commissioner spoke weightily. 'The facts as ascertained are as follows. Recently there took place at the Thunderbird Hotel in the Parish of Westmoreland a meeting of what can only be described as foreign gangsters of outstanding notoriety, including representatives of the Soviet secret service, the Mafia, and the Cuban secret police. The objects of this meeting were, inter alia, sabotage of Jamaican installations in the cane industry, stimulation of illicit ganja-growing in the island and purchase of the crop for export, the bribery of a high Jamaican official with the object of installing gangster-run gambling in the island, and sundry other malfeasances deleterious to law and order in Jamaica and to her international standing. Am I correct, Commander?"

“Yes,” said Bond, this tune with a clear conscience.

“Now.” The Commissioner spoke with even greater emphasis. “The intentions of this subversive group became known to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Jamaican police and the facts of the proposed assembly were placed before the Prime Minister in person by myself. Naturally the greatest secrecy was observed. A decision then had to be reached as to how this meeting was to be kept under surveillance and penetrated so that its intentions might be learned. Since friendly nations, including Britain and the United States , were involved, secret conversations took place with the representatives of the Ministry of Defence in Britain and of the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States . As a result, expert personnel in the shape of yourself, Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Leiter were generously made available, at no cost to the Jamaican government, to assist in unveiling these secret machinations against Jamaica held on Jamaican soil.” The Commissioner paused and looked round the room to see if he had stated the position correctly. Bond noticed that Felix Leiter nodded his head vigorously with the others, but, in his case, in Bond's direction.

Bond smiled. He had at last got the message. He also nodded his agreement.

“Accordingly,” continued the Commissioner, “and working throughout under the closest liaison and direction of the Jamaican C.I.D., Messrs. Bond, Nicholson, and Leiter carried out their duties in exemplary fashion. The true intentions of the gangsters were unveiled, but alas, in the process, the identity of at least one of the Jamaica-controlled agents was discovered and a battle royal took place. During the course of this, thanks to the superior gunfire of Commander Bond the following enemy agents-- here there will be a list--were killed. Immediately after, thanks to Mr. Letter's ingenious use of explosive on the Orange River Bridge , the following--another list--lost their lives. Unfortunately, two of the Jamaica-controlled agents received severe wounds from which they are now recovering in the Memorial Hospital . It remains to mention the names of Constable Percival Sampson of the Negril Constabulary, who was first on the scene of the final battlefield, and Dr. Lister Smith of Savannah La Mar, who rendered vital first aid to Commander Bond and Mr. Leiter. On the instructions of the Prune Minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante, a judicial inquiry was held this day at the bedside of Commander Bond and in the presence of Mr. Felix Leiter to confirm the above facts. These, in the presence of Justice Morris Cargill of the Supreme Court, are now and hereby confirmed.”

The Commissioner was obviously delighted with his rendering of all this rigmarole. He beamed at Bond. “It only remains” he handed Bond a sealed packet, a similar one to Felix Leiter, and one to Colonel Bannister--“to confer on Commander Bond of Great Britain, Mr. Felix Leiter of the United States, and, in absentia, Mr. Nicholas Nicholson of the United States, the immediate award of the Jamaican Police Medal for gallant and meritorious services to the Independent State of Jamaica.”

There was muted applause. Mary Goodnight went on clapping after the others had stopped. She suddenly realized the fact, blushed furiously, and stopped.

James Bond and Felix Leiter made stammered acknowledgments. Justice Cargill rose to his feet and, in solemn tones, asked Bond and Leiter in turn, “Is this a true and correct account of what occurred between the given dates?”

“Yes, indeed,” said Bond.

“I'll say it is, Your Honour,” said Felix Leiter fervently.

The Judge bowed. All except Bond rose and bowed. Bond just bowed. “In that case, I declare this inquiry closed.” The bewigged figure turned to Miss Goodnight. “If you will be land enough to obtain all the signatures, duly witnessed, and send them round to my chambers? Thank you so much.” He paused and smiled. “And the carbon, if you don't mind?”

“Certainly, my lord.” Mary Goodnight glanced at Bond. “And now, if you will forgive me, I think the patient needs a rest. Matron was most insistent. . . .”

Goodbyes were said. Bond called Leiter back. Mary Goodnight smelled private secrets. She admonished, “Now, only a minute!” and went out and closed the door.

Leiter leant over the end of the bed. He wore his most quizzical smile. He said, “Well, I'll be goddamned, James. That was the neatest wrapup job I've ever lied my head off at. Everything clean as a whistle, and we've even collected a piece of lettuce.”

Talking starts with the stomach muscles. Bond's wounds were beginning to ache. He smiled, not showing the pain. Leiter was due to leave that afternoon. Bond didn't want

to say goodbye to him.. Bond treasured his men friends and Felix Leiter was a great slice of his past. He said, “Scaramanga was quite a guy. He should have been taken alive. Maybe Tiffy really did put the hex on him with Mother Edna. They don't come like that often.”

Leiter was unsympathetic. “That's the way you limeys talk about Rommel and Donitz and Guderian. Let alone Napoleon. Once you've beaten them, you make heroes out of them. Don't make sense to me. In my book, an enemy's an enemy. Care to have Scaramanga back? Now, in this room, with his famous golden gun on you--the long one or the short one? Standing where I am? One bets you a thousand you wouldn't. Don't be a jerk, James. You did a good job. Pest control. It's got to be done by someone. Going back to it when you're off the orange juice?”

Felix Leiter jeered at him. “Of course you are, lamebrain. It's what you were put into the world for. Pest control, like I said. All you got to figure is how to control it better. The pests'll always be there. God made dogs. He also made their fleas. Don't let it worry your tiny mind. Right?” Leiter had seen the sweat on James Bond's forehead. He limped towards the door and opened it. He raised a hand briefly. The two men had never shaken hands in their lives. Leiter looked into the corridor. He said, “Okay, Miss Goodnight. Tell matron to take him off the danger list. And tell him to keep away from me for a week or two. Every time I see him a piece of me gets broken off. I don't fancy myself as The Vanishing Man.” Again he raised his only hand in Bond's direction and limped out.

Bond shouted, “Wait, you bastard!” But, by the time Leiter had limped back into the room, Bond, no effort left in him to fire off the volley of four-letter words that were to be his only answer to his friend, had lapsed into unconsciousness.

Mary Goodnight shooed the remorseful Leiter out of the room and ran off down the corridor to the floor sister.

17 Endit

A week later, James Bond was sitting up in a chair, a towel round his waist, reading Allen Dulles' The Craft of Intelligence and cursing his fate. The hospital had worked miracles on him, the nurses were sweet, particularly the one he called The Mermaid, but he wanted to be off and away. He glanced at his watch. Four o'clock. Visiting tune. Mary Goodnight would soon be here, and he would be able to let off his pent-up steam on her. Unjust perhaps, but he had already tongue-lashed everyone in range in the hospital, and if she got into the field of fire, that was just too bad! Mary Goodnight came through the door. Despite the Jamaican heat, she was looking fresh as a rose. Damn her! She was carrying what looked like a typewriter. Bond recognized it as the Triple-X decyphering machine. Now what?

Bond grunted surly answers to her inquiries after his health. He said, “What in hell's that for?”

“It's an Eyes Only. Personal from M.,” she said excitedly. “About thirty groups.”

“Thirty groups! Doesn't the old bastard know I've only got one arm that's working? Come on, Mary. You get cracking. If it sounds really hot, I'll take over.”

Mary Goodnight looked shocked. Eyes Only was a top-sacred prefix. But Bond's jaw was jutting out dangerously. Today was not a day for argument. She sat on the edge of the bed, opened the machine, and took a cable form out of her bag. She laid her shorthand book beside the machine, scratched the back of her head with her pencil to help work out the setting for the day--a complicated sum involving the date and the hour of dispatch of the cable--adjusted the setting on the central cylinder and began crank-hag the handle. After each completed word had appeared in the little oblong window at the base of the machine, she recorded it in her book.