M. said fiercely, “It certainly is. I suppose among other things you've forgotten is reading reports of our P.O.W.s in the Korean war who were brainwashed by the Chinese. If the Russians are so keen on peace, what do they need the K.G.B. for? At the last estimate, that was about one hundred thousand men and women 'making war'--as you call it--against us and other countries. This is the organization that was so charming to you in Leningrad . Did they happen to mention the murder of Horcher and Stutz in Munich last month?”

“Oh yes, sir.” Bond's voice was patient, equable. “They have to defend themselves against the secret services of the West. If you would demobilize all this,”--Bond waved a hand--“they would be only too delighted to scrap the K.G.B. They were quite open about it all.”

“And the same thing applies to their two hundred divisions and their U-boat fleet and their I.C.B.M.s, I suppose?” M's voice rasped. “Of course, sir.”

“Well, if you found these people so reasonable and charming, why didn't you stay there? Others have. Burgess is dead, but you could have chummed up with Maclean.” “We thought it more important that I should come back and fight for peace here, sir. You and your agents have taught me certain skills for use in the underground war. It was explained to me how these skills could be used in the cause of peace.”

James Bond's hand moved nonchalantly to his right-hand coat pocket. M., with equal casualness, shifted his chair back from his desk. His left hand felt for the button under the arm of the chair.

“For instance?” said M. quietly, knowing that death had walked into the room and was standing beside him, and that this was an invitation for death to take his place in the chair.

James Bond had become tense. There was a whiteness round his lips. The blue-grey eyes still stared blankly, almost unseeingly at M. The words rang out harshly, as if forced out of him by some inner compulsion. “It would be a start if the warmongers could be eliminated, sir. This is for Number One on the list.”

The hand, snub-nosed with black metal, flashed out of the pocket, but, even as the poison hissed down the barrel of the bulb-butted pistol, the great sheet of armor-plate glass hurtled down from the baffled slit in the ceiling and, with a last sigh of hydraulics, braked to the floor. The jet of viscous brown fluid splashed harmlessly into its centre and trickled slowly down, distorting the reflection of M.'s face and the arm he had automatically thrown up for additional protection.

The Chief of Staff had burst into the room, followed by the Head of Security. They threw themselves on James Bond. Even as they seized his arms, his head fell forward on his chest and he would have slid from his chair to the ground if they hadn't supported him. They hauled him to his feet. He was in a dead faint. The Head of Security sniffed. “Cyanide,” he said curtly. “We must all get out of here. And bloody quick!” (The emergency had snuffed out Headquarters manners.) The pistol lay on the carpet where it had fallen. He kicked it away. He said to M., who had walked out from behind his glass shield, “Would you mind leaving the room, sir? Quickly. I'll have this cleaned up during the lunch hour.” It was an order. M. went to the open door. Miss Moneypenny stood with her clenched hand up to her mouth. She watched with horror as James Bond's supine body was hauled out and, the heels of its shoes leaving tracks on the carpet, taken into the Chief of Staff's room.

M. said sharply, "Close that door, Miss Moneypenny.

Get the duty M.O. up right away. Come along, girl! Don't just stand there gawking! And not a word of this to anyone. Understood?"

Miss Moneypenny pulled herself back from the edge of hysterics. She said an automatic “Yes, sir,” pulled the door shut, and reached for the interoffice telephone.

M. walked across and into the Chief of Staff's office and closed the door. Head of Security was on his knees beside Bond. He had loosened his tie and collar button and was feeling his pulse. Bond's face was white and bathed in sweat. His breathing was a desperate rattle, as if he had just run a race. M. looked briefly down at him and then, his face hidden from the others, at the wall beyond the body. He turned to the Chief of Staff. He said briskly, “Well, that's that. My predecessor died in that chair. Then it was a simple bullet, but from much the same sort of a crazed officer. One can't legislate against the lunatic. But the Office of Works certainly did a good job with that gadget. Now then, Chief of Staff. This is of course to go no further. Get Sir James Molony as soon as you can and have 007 taken down to The Park. Ambulance, surreptitious guard. I'll explain things to Sir James this afternoon. Briefly, as you heard, the K.G.B. got hold of him. Brainwashed him. He was already a sick man. Amnesia of some kind. I'll tell you all I know later. Have his things collected from the Ritz and his bill paid. And put something out to the Press Association. Something on these lines: 'The Ministry of Defense is pleased--'no, say 'delighted to announce that Commander James Bond etc., who was posted as missing, believed killed while on a mission to Japan last November, has returned to this country after a hazardous journey across the Soviet Union which is expected to yield much valuable information. Commander Bond's health has inevitably suffered from his experiences and he is convalescing under medical supervision.'” M. smiled frostily. “That bit about information'll give no joy to Comrade Semichastny and his troops. And add a D notice-to-editors: 'It is particularly requested, for security reasons, that the minimum of speculation or comment be added to the above communique and that no attempts be made to trace Commander Bond's whereabouts.' All right?”

Bill Tanner had been writing furiously to keep up with M. He looked up from his scratchpad, bewildered. “But aren't you going to make any charges, sir? After all, treason and attempted murder ... I mean, not even a court martial?”

“Certainly not.” M.'s voice was gruff. “007 was a sick man. Not responsible for his actions. If one can brainwash a man, presumably one can un-brainwash him. If anyone can, Sir James can. Put him back on half pay for the time being, in his old Section. And see he gets full back pay and allowances for the past year. If the K.G.B. has the nerve to throw one of my best men at me, I have the nerve to throw him back at them. 007 was a good agent once. There's no reason why he shouldn't be a good agent again. Within limits, that is. After lunch, give me the file on Scaramanga. If we can get him fit again, that's the right-sized target for 007.”

The Chief of Staff protested, “But that's suicide, sir! Even 007 could never take him.”

M. said coldly, “What would 007 get for this morning's bit of work? Twenty years? As a minimum, I'd say. Better for him to fall on the battlefield. If he brings it off, hell have won his spurs back again and we can all forget the past. Anyway, that's my decision.”

There was a knock on the door and the duty Medical Officer came into the room. M. bade him good afternoon and turned stiffly on his heel and walked out through the open door.

The Chief of Staff looked at the retreating back. He said, under his breath, “You coldhearted bastard!” Then, with his usual minute thoroughness and sense of duty, he set about the tasks he had been given. His not to reason why!

3 - “Pistols” Scaramanga

At Blades, M. ate his usual meagre luncheon--a grilled Dover sole followed by the ripest spoonful he could gouge from the club Stilton. And as usual he sat by himself in one of the window seats and barricaded himself behind The Times, occasionally turning a page to demonstrate that he was reading it, which, in fact, he wasn't. But Porterfield commented to the head waitress, Lily, a handsome, much-loved ornament of the club, that “there's something wrong with the old man today. Or maybe not exactly wrong, but there's something up with him.” Porterfield prided himself on being something of an amateur psychologist. As head-waiter, and father confessor to many of the members, he knew a lot about all of them and liked to think he knew everything, so that, in the tradition of incomparable servants, he could anticipate their wishes and their moods. Now, standing with Lily in a quiet moment behind the finest cold buffet on display at that date anywhere in the world, he explained himself. “You know that terrible stuff Sir Miles always drinks? That Algerian red wine that the wine committee won't even allow on the wine list. They only have it in the club to please Sir Miles. Well, he explained to me once that in the navy they used to call it the Infuriator because if you drank too much of it, it seems that it used to put you into a rage. Well now, in the ten years that I've had the pleasure of looking after Sir Miles, he's never ordered more than half a carafe of the stuff.”

Porterfield's benign, almost priestly countenance assumed an expression of theatrical solemnity as if he had read something really terrible in the tea leaves. “Then what happens today?” Lily clasped her hands tensely and bent her head fractionally closer to get the full impact of the news. “The old man says, 'Porterfield. A bottle of Infuriator. You understand? A full bottle!' So of course I didn't say anything but went off and brought it to him. But you mark my words, Lily”--he noticed a lifted hand down the long room and moved off--“there's something hit Sir Miles hard this morning and no mistake.”

M. sent for his bill. As usual he paid, whatever the amount of the bill, with a five-pound note for the pleasure of receiving in change crisp new pound notes, new silver and gleaming copper pennies, for it is the custom at Blades to give its members only freshly minted money. Porterfield pulled back his table and M. walked quickly to the door, acknowledging the occasional greeting with a preoccupied nod and a brief lifting of the hand. It was two o'clock. The old black Phantom Rolls took him quietly and quickly northwards through Berkeley Square, across Oxford Street and via Wigmore Street, into Regent's Park. M. didn't look out at the passing scene. He sat stiffly in the back, his bowler hat squarely set on the middle of his head, and gazed unseeing at the back of the chauffeur's head with hooded, brooding eyes.

For the hundredth time, since he had left his office that morning, he assured himself that his decision was right. If James Bond could be straightened out--and M. was certain that that supreme neurologist, Sir James Molony, could bring it off--it would be ridiculous to re-assign him to normal staff duties in the Double-O Section. The past could be forgiven, but not forgotten--except with the passage of time. It would be most irksome for those in the know to have Bond moving about Headquarters as if nothing had happened. It would be doubly embarrassing for M. to have to face Bond across that desk. And James Bond, if aimed straight at a known target--M. put it in the language of battleships--was a supremely effective firing-piece. Well, the target was there and it desperately demanded destruction. Bond had accused M. of using him as a tool. Naturally. Every officer in, the Service was a tool for one secret purpose or another. The problem on hand could only be solved by a killing. James Bond would not possess the Double-O prefix if he had not high talents, frequently proved, as a gunman. So be it! In exchange for the happenings of that morning, in expiation of them, Bond must prove himself at his old skills. If he succeeded, he would have regained his prevous status. If he failed, well, it would be a death for which he would be honoured. Win or lose, the plan would solve a vast array of problems. M. closed his mind once and for all on his decision. He got out of the car and went up in the lift to the eighth floor and along the corridor, smelling the smell of some unknown disinfectant more and more powerfully as he approached his office.