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James Bond - Seafire Part 22

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"Yes."

"Too much curry again?"

"I've already done that joke." He stopped as the remaining three SAS men crowded around. "Actually a little too much plastique. I sort of overindulged."

Dodd motioned for silence. "Easy mistake to make, sir. Let's show you what we've got," he said brightly.

They moved in close to the wall. There, hardly visible, were the five Powerchutes, the actual parachutes made of matte-black material. "You have flown one of these, boss?"

"Yes. At the same place you learned, Jim."

"Only wanted to make certain, because we've added a couple of little refinements." He shone a flashlight, which gave out diffused light, onto the framework. "Landing light, for starters. Usual halogen job, mounted up front under the forward strut." He lifted the tubing to show a wide, light aircraft landing light. "Operated from this little panel over on the right, just behind the throttle; there's a compa.s.s up there as well, and a panel on the left for goodies. Flash-bangs here, three of them. Abreast of the flash-bangs we have smoke - you're familiar, yes?"

"Very familiar." He leaned down and touched the little smoke bombs.

Dodd hardly paused. "Then in the forward section we have flares." He lifted out one of the seven-inch-long silver cylinders. "Nice flares, because they double as incendiary rounds, if you follow. Just point and pull the little ring. Like opening a can of beer."

"I'm glad to say I've never opened a can of beer, but I follow very well, old boy. How many of those do we carry?"

"Only four, I fear. Particularly if you need somewhere to mount the old Heckler and Koch."

"I'll sit that one out, if you don't mind. Stick to the pistol. Done me quite well over the years, though they aren't making this model anymore."

"A man's favorite weapon is the one he'll do most damage with. Ginger here's got a twelve-gauge shotgun." He indicated one of the SAS Troopers. "Wonderful with it. Bring down a budgerigar at twenty paces and a man at twenty yards, on the wing - I mean Ginger would be on the wing.

"Now, communications. Headset with a throat mike. The whole thing's self-contained: radio in the right side of the headphones. Just talk and listen. Okay?"

They went quickly through a series of signals and the general order of battle. "Best if we start at the top and work down, I think?" Dodd queried.

"There's a d.a.m.ned great wide smooth ramp that goes from the top to the second level, then you can just hop over the walls to the Atlantic side, or out on the headland. Even down into that parade ground - patio they call it. You've been around the place, I presume?"

"Lord, yes. We went round on the same day you did - with the nice young lady and the fellow with the game leg."

"Really? You should have introduced yourselves."

"Didn't like to intrude, boss. Bad form, you know. Incidentally, what's happened to the nice young lady and the American gentleman with the limp?"

"I was going to tell you about them after we deal with friend Tarn, but since you ask . . ." He proceeded to give a quick rundown of the situation regarding Flicka and Felix, ending with, "How far can your modified Powerchutes go?"

"How far away is the Tarn house?"

"Thirty-five miles as the crow flies."

"No problem. Let's get this over first. Swoop down on them like the Ride of the Valkyrie."

Together, they examined the map under the flashlight and worked out a course that would take them on a straight line for Tarn's villa.

"Let's go, then." Dodd clapped Bond on the shoulder. "Let's get the b.a.s.t.a.r.ds, eh?"

They started engines and took off, each with a small light blinking in order to line up, with Bond leading and the others fanning out behind him. First they circled away from El Morro, then turned, gaining height, then beginning their descent toward the upper gun platforms, sweeping in, watching for movement, which Dodd spotted first, on the wide ramp that led down from the San Juan side of the topmost emplacements. Someone to Bond's right fired off a burst from an automatic weapon, which brought some wild shooting from the three people they could see scurrying for cover.

Their shots went wide, and Bond considered that they must have thought the attack was coming via a horde of bees. The snarl of five little engines had to be a psychological advantage.

As he pulled up, he glimpsed two of the figures running out into the middle of the parade ground, their hands held high and waving handkerchiefs. He recognized Cathy and Anna. Cathy and Anna coming to the end of the road.

He turned sharply to get a closer look and saw Dodd on his right, following him down. As he began the run across the parade ground, fire suddenly erupted from one of the arches - he thought the one leading to the chapel. One of the girls spun around, clutching at the air, while the other was lifted off her feet and flung to one side, like an old toy that Tarn had finished with.

"That's how you repay loyalty, is it, Max?" he yelled, knowing that Tarn would not hear a word he was shouting. He piled on the power, making a very steep climbing turn that would eventually bring him back over the area where the two girls lay. As he straightened out, he saw one of the SAS Powerchutes approaching the girls from the opposite direction when a long ratchet of automatic fire came hurtling out from the archway in which he thought Tarn was hiding. He saw the soldier fall back from the framework and the engine disintegrate under the hail of fire. The whole machine just fell apart to crash burning near the great water cistern.

"Right, you b.a.s.t.a.r.d," Bond muttered. "This is for the SAS." His hand felt for one of the small flares. He took the Powerchute down as far as he dared and aimed directly into the archway.

The flare exploded in a bright white flash, and he could see Tarn, struggling with a weapon, hugging the side of the wall. Then he broke cover and began to run helter-skelter back up the ramp. Bond would have put money on Max Tarn having left another weapon up on the top emplacement.

Glancing to left and right, he saw the other three 'chutes were close on his heels, so he spoke clearly, "Lights, Valkyries. Lights!" All four landing lights came on at once as they dropped behind the running man who had just reached the top of the ramp and was beginning to stumble toward the center of the large platform.

As he closed up behind Tarn, Bond saw that two of his companions had put on speed and were overtaking him. They hovered in front of Tarn, who had got to his feet and was moving to left and right, trying to dodge the snarling Powerchutes. Then he wheeled right around and Bond realized what was going on.

The other three SAS men had begun to circle Tarn, but they had left Bond inside the circle, turning and lighting the way, enclosing Tarn, who was like a trapped animal. He put his machine into a tighter turn, holding it and leaning far to his left to keep turning. As he did so, he reached down for another flare. There was no particular feeling of guilt or elation. This man had killed thousands by ferrying and smuggling weapons, placing them into the hands of unprincipled people. His future plans were untenable, so he deserved to die the worst possible of deaths.

He waited, letting his quarry dodge this way and that, trying to escape the relentless lights on the other Power-chutes. Only when he was ready, calm, and cool did Bond take aim and pull the ring.

The flare arced from his hand, catching Tarn in the chest, spraying out a blossom of phosphorus as it did so. He wheeled around again, taking aim with another flare. By now Tarn was rolling on the hard ground trying to put out the flames, which would not go out. The second flare caught him just below the neck, spreading its chemical down the already burned front of his clothes. As he pulled away, Bond thought he could hear the screaming, which sounded like a plea for someone to put him out of his misery. He seemed to be blundering around - a walking, moving ball of fire heading for the edge of the gun platform with its sheer drop below.

One of the SAS men finished it. The shotgun blast tore away the back of Max Tarn's head. For a moment he seemed to keep moving in a red mist that was eaten by the flame. Then he fell across the battlements and, headless, disappeared over the edge.

As they turned and took up formation on Dodd, heading out across the island, setting course for the house near Ponce, Bond heard the sound of singing in his ears. His companions had their heads back and were giving a somewhat tuneless rendering of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie."

26 - Tears on His Cheeks

They flew at around fifteen hundred feet, straining their eyes to make sure they could see one another. It was not the easiest of flights, as the gentle trade winds that cool the island seemed far from gentle from their position in the open on what was a very basic c.o.c.kpit.

About halfway across, the moon came up and gave them more visibility. Bond would have found the flight exhilarating if it had not been for his concern for Flicka. He had done all he had sworn to do. Tarn was dead, along with some of his closest henchmen and -women. There would be no return to Tarnenwerder; no chants of "Heil Tarn" from a hypnotized mob bent on setting the clock back to the days of insanity.

He accepted this as part of his vocation. Danger had lurked beside him for as long as he could remember, and he wondered how he could possibly carry on if anything had happened to Flicka.

"The hill's coming up," he told the other three through the throat mike the moment he saw the area where he had stood among the trees with Flicka and Felix only a short time before.

Dodd had already seen the treeline, and responded, "Roger. Cut engines."

Suddenly they were floating, silent but for the air and breeze around them as they crested the rise and saw Tarn's villa lit up below them.

Maneuvering the parachutes, they formed a line astern: Dodd in front, with Bond and the others close behind. The shots came just as the fourth man was putting down to the left of the swimming pool, well inside the rectangle of the villa.

It was an automatic weapon being used from the far right-hand corner. One sudden and noisy burst that went wide, some of the bullets slapping into the swimming pool, only feet away from the last man who had landed.

A rip of fire from Dodd silenced the shooter, who died without even shouting. Bond followed the SAS officer to the right-hand cloister, while the other two troopers took the left side. He had worked in pairs with the SAS before, during training exercises, so knew what was expected.

There were four sets of double windows, each pair with a door between them on the ground floor. As they moved along the cloister they hurled stun grenades through the windows. On the farside, the grenades brought out only two men, who died as they came into view at the end of the cloister.

n.o.body was flushed out from Dodd and Bond's side. "Let's do a pincer on the next floor up," Dodd said, as though this were a simple Sunday-afternoon stroll. He turned back and jogged to the stairwell, while Bond went ahead, taking the stairs in front of him two at a time. He reached the top to see a similar cloistered area with four more doors and pairs of windows, but this time, just as he reached the first door, a figure stepped from one of the doorways ahead yelling: "You broke my jaw, you b.a.s.t.a.r.d." It was Heidi, though he had to interpret the words, as they were squashed and came from the back of her throat. For a split second he was back in the offices of Saal, Saal u. Rollen, where he had last seen her sprawled on the floor.

Then her arms came up and he caught the glint of the weapon in her hand. He dodged to the right, in through the door, as the pistol rapped out twice and he heard the bullets whip past him. Two more shots followed from farther away. There was a sound like a sack of potatoes being dropped on the stone under the cloister. Dodd had taken out Heidi.

For less than a minute, there was the sound of a brisk firefight from the opposite side of the villa. Bond was about to move out from the doorway when an arm slid, like a snake, around his throat. He felt a hand on the back of his head and the pressure on his windpipe. Whoever had him was using a well-tried method - the right forearm across the throat, the hand grasping the left biceps while the left hand held the back of the victim's head. It usually took only seconds to either strangle or render a victim unconscious. There was only one possible response, and he knew this must be taken very quickly, before the gray-out as the blood supply to the brain was slowed by the pressure.

He gave a violent kick with his feet, leaning and putting all his weight into falling backward, at the same time attempting to stamp on his a.s.sailant's shins and feet.

The two of them went toppling over. He felt the softness of the body under him, the gasp and oath, then the crack as Beth's head hit hard against the stone floor. The arms immediately relaxed and Bond rolled away, back onto his feet, reaching for the pistol on his belt.

"So you want your pretty lady back, huh?" Beth gasped. "You want . . ."

He did not even have to pull the trigger. The heavy fall had cracked her skull. Her eyes turned up as though in horror, and a stream of blood flooded from her nose and ears as she flopped, like some terrible beached animal, her body unnaturally spread out on the floor.

Then he heard Dodd calling to him.

Two doors along, Dodd had found Felix Leiter attempting to crawl across a room to get at his prosthetic arm and leg. He looked dog tired and frantic, but he smiled as Bond entered, then pointed to the far corner of the room, where Flicka lay, covered with a sheet, her face broken and bleeding.

"It's me, Flick," he whispered softly. "Me. You'll be okay now."

She tried to smile through the pain, then with great effort: "Will you still love me tomorrow, James?"

"Tomorrow and for all time, my darling girl," he said.

Later, in the SAS Officers' Mess at Stirling Lines in Herefordshire, when Captain Dodd related his version of the business in Puerto Rico, he used to say, "You know, I could have sworn that chap Bond was crying. . . . Couldn't have been. Not that kind of officer. But I could have sworn. . . . Even thought I saw tears on his cheeks. Couldn't have been though, could it?"

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James Bond - Seafire Part 22 summary

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