Goldfinger Page 31

Pussy Galore said sternly, 'If you set fire to that thing I swear I'll kayo you with my gold brick.' She took a threatening hold of the bar.

'Take it easy, kid,' said Mr Strap out of the corner of his mouth.

Mr Jed Midnight commented decisively, 'Mister, if you can heist that joint, you got yourself a summum cum laude. Go ahead and tell. This is either a bust or the Crime de la Crime.'

Goldfinger said indifferently, 'Very well, gentlemen. You shall hear the plan.' He paused and looked carefully round the table and into each pair of eyes in turn. 'But I hope you understand that total security must now prevail. What I have said so far, if repeated, would be taken for the maunderings of a lunatic. What I am about to say will involve all of us in the greatest peace-time conspiracy in the history of the United States. May I take it that we are all bound by an oath of absolute secrecy?'

Almost instinctively, Bond watched the eyes of Mr Helmut Springer from Detroit. While affirmatives in various tones of voice came from the others, Mr Springer veiled his eyes. His portentous 'You have my solemn word' rang hollow. To Bond, the candour was as false as a second-hand motor salesman's. Casually he drew a short straight minus line beside Mr Springer's name on the agenda.

'Very well then.' Goldfinger returned to his seat at the table. He sat down, picked up his pencil and began talking to it in a thoughtful, conversational voice. 'First, and in some ways most difficult, is the question of disposal. One billion dollars of gold bullion weighs approximately one thousand tons. To transport this amount would require one hundred ten-ton trucks or some twenty six-wheel heavy industry road transporters. I recommend the latter vehicles. I have a list of the charter companies who hire out this type of vehicle and I recommend that, if we are to be partners, you should proceed immediately after this meeting to contracting with the relevant companies in your territories. For obvious reasons you will all wish to engage your own drivers and this I must leave in your hands. No doubt' - Mr Goldfinger allowed himself the ghost of a smile -'the Teamsters' Union will prove a fruitful source for reliable men and you will perhaps consider recruiting ex-drivers from the Negro Red Ball Express that served the American armies during the war. However, these are details requiring exact planning and co-ordination. There will also be a traffic control problem and no doubt you will make arrangements among yourselves for sharing out the available roads. Transport aircraft will be a subsidiary source of mobility and arrangements will be made to keep open the north-south runway on the Godman Airfield. Your subsequent disposal of the bullion will, of course, be your own affair. For my part' - Goldfinger looked coolly round the table - 'I shall initially be using the railroad and, since I have a bulkier transport problem, I trust you will allow me to reserve this means of egress for my own.' Goldfinger did not wait for comment. He continued in an even tone: 'Compared with this problem of transport, the other arrangements will be relatively simple. To begin with, on D-1,1 propose to put the entire population, military and civilian, of Fort Knox temporarily out of action. Exact arrangements have been made and only await my signal. Briefly, the town is supplied with all drinking and other water-supplies by two wells and two filter plants yielding just under seven million gallons per day. These are under the control of the Post Engineer. This gentleman has been pleased to accept a visit from the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent of the Tokyo Municipal Waterworks who wish to study the workings of a plant of this size for installation in a new suburb planned for the environs of Tokyo. The Post Engineer has been much flattered by this request and the Japanese gentlemen will be accorded all facilities. These two gentlemen, who are, of course, members of my staff, will be carrying on their persons relatively small quantities of a highly concentrated' opiate devised by the German chemical warfare experts for just this purpose during the last war. This substance disseminates rapidly through a volume of water of this magnitude, and, in its consequent highly diluted form, has the effect of instant but temporary narcosis of any person drink ing half a tumbler of the infected water. The symptoms are a deep and instant sleep from which the victim awakens much refreshed in approximately three days. Gentlemen' - Gold-finger held out one hand palm upwards - 'in the month of June in Kentucky I consider it out of the question that a single resident is able to go through twenty-four hours without consuming half a glass of water. There may perhaps be a handful of confirmed alcoholics on their feet on D-Day, but I anticipate that we shall enter a town in which virtually the entire population has fallen into a deep sleep where they stand.'

'What was that fairytale?' Miss Galore's eyes were shining with the vision.

'Puss in Boots,' said Mr Jack Strap in a surly voice. 'Go ahead, mister. This is good. How do we get into the town?'

'We come in,' said Goldfinger, 'on a special train that will have left New York City on the night of D-l. There will be approximately one hundred of us and we shall be attired as Red Cross workers. Miss Galore will, I hope, provide the necessary contingent of nurses. It is to fill this minor but important role that she has been invited to this meeting.'

Miss Galore said enthusiastically, 'Wilco, Roger, over and out! My girls'll look sweet in starch. Whaddya say, Jacko?' She leant sideways and nudged Mr Strap in the ribs.

'I say they'd look better in cement overcoats,' said Mr Strap impatiently. 'Whaddya have to keep on butting in for? Keep going, mister.'

'At Louisville, thirty-five miles from Fort Knox, I myself and an assistant will ask to be allowed to ride in the leading diesel. We shall have delicate instruments. We shall say that it will be necessary for us to sample the air as we approach Fort Knox for, by this time, news of the mysterious affliction that has struck down the inhabitants will have reached the outer world and there is likely to be some panic in the surrounding area, and indeed in the country as a whole. Rescue planes may be expected to approach shortly after our arrival at dawn and an early task will be to man the control tower at Godman Airfield, declare the base closed and re-route all planes to Louisville. But, to go back for a moment, shortly after leaving Louisville, my assistant and I will dispose of the driver and fireman by as humane methods as are possible' (I bet, thought Bond) 'and I shall personally bring the train - I may say that I have the requisite knowledge of these locomotives - through Fort Knox to the bullion sidings alongside the depository.' Goldfinger paused. He looked wijh slow, grave eyes round the circle. Satisfied with what he saw, he continued in the same even tone. 'By this time, gentlemen and madam, your transport convoys should be arriving. The traffic controller will dispose them in the neighbourhood of the depository according to a pre-arranged plan, the airport staff will proceed by truck to Godman Airfield and take over, and we shall enter the depository, paying no heed to the sleeping bodies with which the landscape will be - er - decorated. Right?'

Mr Solo's dark eyes burned across the table. He said softly, 'Sure, is right so far. Now mebbe you' - he blew out his cheeks and gave a quick hard puff towards Goldfinger -'like this and the twenty-ton door he fall down. Yes?'

'Yes,' said Goldfinger equably. 'Almost exactly like that.' He rose and went to the table under the blackboard, lifted up the big ungainly carton and carried it carefully back and placed it on the table in front of him. It seemed to be very heavy.

He sat down and continued, 'While ten of my trained assistants are making preparations for the vault to be opened, stretcher teams will enter the depository and remove to safety as many of the inmates as can be located.' Bond thought he noticed a treacherous purr underlying Goldfinger's next words. 'I am sure you will all agree, gentlemen and madam, that all unnecessary loss of life should be avoided. Thus far, I hope you notice that there have been no casualties with the exception of two employees of the Illinois Central Railroad who have received sore heads.' Goldfinger didn't wait for comment but went on. 'Now,' he reached out and placed his hand on the carton, 'when you, gentlemen, and your associates have needed weapons, other than the conventional small arms, where have you found them? At military establishments, gentlemen. You have purchased submachine guns and other heavy equipment from quartermaster storekeepers at nearby military bases. You have achieved this by the use of pressure, blackmail or money. I have done the same. Only one weapon would be powerful enough to blast open the Bullion Vault at Fort Knox and I obtained one, after much seeking, from a certain allied military base in Germany. It cost me exactly one million dollars. This, gentlemen, is an atomic warhead designed for use with the Corporal Intermediate Range Guided Missile.'

'Cheesus Kerist.' Jed Midnight's hands reached for the edge of the table beside Bond and gripped it.

All the faces round the table were pale. Bond could feel the skin taut over his own tensed jaw. To break his tension he reached inside his coat pocket for the Chesterfields and lit one. He slowly blew out the flame and put the lighter back in his pocket. God Almighty! What had he got himself into? Bond looked back down the vista of his knowledge of Gold-finger. The first meeting with the naked brown body on the roof of the Floridiana Cabana Club. The casual way he had rapped Goldfinger's knuckles. The interview with M. The meeting at the bank at which it.had been a question of tracking down a gold smuggler - admittedly a big one and one who worked for the Russians - but still only a man-sized criminal, someone Bond had taken trouble to beat at golf and then had pursued coolly, efficiently, but still as only one more quarry like so many others. And now! Now it was not a rabbit in the rabbit hole, not even a fox, it was a king cobra -the biggest, most deadly inhabitant of the world! Bond sighed wearily. Once more into the breach, dear friends! This time it really was St George and the dragon. And St George had better get a move on and do something before the dragon hatched the little dragon's egg he was now nesting so confidently. Bond smiled tautly. Do what? What in God's name was there he could do?

Goldfinger held up his hand. 'Gentlemen and madam, believe me, this object is an entirely harmless lump of machinery. It is not armed. If I hit it with a hammer it would not explode. Nothing can make it explode until it is armed and that will not happen until The Day.'

Mr Billy Ring's pale face was shiny with sweat. The words trembled slightly as they hissed out through the false grin. 'Mister, what... what about this thing they call - er -fall-out?'

'Fall-out will be minimal, Mr Ring, and extremely localized. This is the latest model - the so-called “clean” atomic bomb. But protection suits will be issued to the squad that first enters the ruins of the building. They will form the first in the human chain that will remove the gold and pass it to the waiting trucks.'

'Flying debris, Mister? Chunks of concrete and steel and so forth?' Mr Midnight's voice came from somewhere in his stomach.

'We shall take shelter behind the outer steel stockade of the depository, Mr Midnight. All personnel will wear earplugs. There may be minor damage to some of the trucks, but that hazard must be accepted.'

'Da sleeping guys?' Mr Solo's eyes were greedy. 'Mebbe dey jess sleeps a liddle longer?' Mr Solo obviously didn't worry too much about the sleeping guys.

'We shall move as many as possible to safety. We must, I am afraid, accept minor damage to the town. I estimate that casualties among the population will approximately equal three days' toll on the roads of Fort Knox. Our operation will merely serve to keep road accident statistics at a steady level.'

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