From that moment the island was ju-ju, or obeah, as it is called hi Jamaica, and even in daylight canoes kept at a safe distance.
By this time Strangways was interested and he made a full report to London . Since 1950 Jamaica had become an important strategic target, thanks to the development by Reynolds Metal and the Kaiser Corporation of huge bauxite deposits found on the island. So far as Strangways was concerned, the activities on Surprise might easily be the erection of a base for one-man submarines in the event of war, particularly since Shark Bay was within range of the route followed by the Reynolds ships to the new bauxite harbour at Ocho Rios, a few miles down the coast.
London followed the report up with Washington and it came to light that the New York syndicate that had purchased the island was wholly owned by Mr. Big.
This was three months ago. Strangways was ordered to penetrate the island at all costs and find out what was going on. He mounted quite an operation. He rented a property on the western arm of Shark Bay called Beau Desert. It contained the ruins of one of the famous Jamaican Great Houses of the early nineteenth century and also a modern beach-house directly across from the Secatur's anchorage up against Surprise.
He brought down two very fine swimmers from the naval base at Bermuda and set up a permanent watch on the island through day- and night-glasses. Nothing of a suspicious nature was seen and on a dark calm night he sent out the two swimmers with instructions to make an underwater survey of the foundations of the island.
Strangways described his horror when, an hour after they had left to swim across the three hundred yards of water, the terrible drumming had started up somewhere inside the cliffs of the island.
That night the two men did not return.
On the next day they were both washed up at different parts of the bay. Or rather, the remains left by the shark and barracuda.
At this point in Strangeways's narrative, Bond interrupted him.
'Just a minute,' he said. 'What's all this about shark and barracuda? They're not generally savage in these waters. There aren't very many of them round Jamaica and they don't often feed at night. Anyway, I don't believe either of them attack humans unless there's blood in the water. Occasionally they might snap at a white foot out of curiosity. Have they ever behaved like this round Jamaica before?'
'Never been a case since a girl got a foot bitten off in Kingston harbour in 1942,' said Strangways. 'She was being towed by a speedboat, flipping her feet up and down. The white feet must have looked particularly appetising. Travelling at just the right speed too. Everyone agrees with your theory. And my men had harpoons and knives. I thought I'd done everything to protect them. Dreadful business. You can imagine how I felt about it. Since then we've done nothing except try to get legitimate access to the island via the Colonial Office and Washington. You see, it belongs to an American now. Damn slow business, particularly as there's nothing against these people. They seem to have pretty good protection in Washington and some smart international lawyers. We're absolutely stuck.
London told me to hang on until you came.' Strangways took a pull at his whisky and looked expectantly at Bond.
'What are the Secatur's movements ?' asked Bond.
'Still in Cuba. Sailing in about a week, according to the CIA.'
'How many trips has she done?'
Bond multiplied one hundred and fifty thousand dollars by twenty. If his guess was right, Mr. Big had already taken a million pounds in gold out of the island.
'I've made some provisional arrangements for you,' said Strangways. 'There's the house at Beau Desert. I've got you a car, Sunbeam Talbot coupe. New tyres. Fast. Right car for these roads. I've got a good man to act as your factotum. A Cayman Islander called Quarrel. Best swimmer and fisherman in the Caribbean. Terribly keen. Nice chap. And I've borrowed the West Indian Citrus Company's rest-house at Manatee Bay. It's the other end of the island. You could rest up there for a week and get in a bit of training until the Secatur comes in. You'll need to be fit if you're going to try to get over to Surprise, and I honestly believe that's the only answer. Anything else I can do? I'll be about, of course, but I'll have to stay around
Kingston to keep up communications with London and Washington. They'll want to know everything we do. Anything else you'd like me to fix up?' Bond had been making up his mind.
'Yes,' he said. 'You might ask London to get the Admiralty to lend us one of their frogmen suits complete with compressed-air bottles. Plenty of spares. And a couple of good underwater harpoon guns. The French ones called ”Champion” are the best. Good underwater torch. A commando dagger. All the dope they can get from the Natural History Museum on barracuda and shark. And some of that shark-repellent stuff the Americans used in the Pacific. Ask B o A c to fly it all out on their direct service.'
Bond paused. 'Oh yes,' he said. 'And one of those things our saboteurs used against ships in the war. Limpet mine, with assorted fuses.'
THE UNDERTAKER'S WIND
PAW-PAW with a slice of green lime, a dish piled with red bananas, purple star-apples and tangerines, scrambled eggs and bacon,
Blue Mountain coffee - the most delicious in the world — Jamaican marmalade, almost black, and guava jelly.
As Bond, wearing shorts and sandals, had his breakfast on the veranda and gazed down on the sunlit panorama of Kingston and Port Royal, he thought how lucky he was and what wonderful moments of consolation there were for the darkness and danger of his profession.
Bond knew Jamaica well. He had been there on a long assignment just after the war when the Communist headquarters in Cuba was trying to infiltrate the Jamaican labour unions. It had been an untidy and inconclusive job but he had grown to love the great green island and its staunch, humorous people. Now he was glad to be back and to have a whole week of respite before the grim work began again.
After breakfast, Strangways appeared on the veranda with a tall brown-skinned man in a faded blue shirt and old brown twill trousers.
This was Quarrel, the Cayman Islander, and Bond liked him immediately. There was the blood of Cromwellian soldiers and buccaneers in him and his face was strong and angular and his mouth was almost severe. His eyes were grey. It was only the spatulate nose and the pale palms of his hands that were negroid.
Bond shook him by the hand.
'Good morning, Captain,' said Quarrel. Coming from the most famous race of seamen in the world, this was the highest title he knew. But there was no desire to please, or humility, in his voice. He was speaking as mate of the ship and his manner was straightforward and candid.
That moment defined their relationship. It remained that of a Scots laird with his head stalker; authority was unspoken and there was no room for servility.
After discussing their plans, Bond took the wheel of the little car Quarrel had brought up from Kingston and they started on up the Junction Road, leaving Strangways to busy himself with Bond's requirements.
They had got off before nine and it was still cool as they crossed the mountains that run along Jamaica's back like the central ridges of a crocodile's armour. The road wound down towards the northern plains through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, the tropical vegetation changing with the altitude. The green flanks of the uplands, all feathered with bamboo interspersed with the dark, glinting green of breadfruit and the sudden Bengal fire of Flame of the Forest, gave way to the lower forests of ebony, mahogany, mahoe and logwood. And when they reached the plains of Agualta Vale the green sea of sugar-cane and bananas stretched away to where the distant fringe of glittering shrapnel bursts marked the palm-groves along the north coast.
Quarrel was a good companion on the drive and a wonderful guide. He talked about the trap-door spiders as they passed through the famous palm-gardens of Castle-ton, he told abovit a fight he had witnessed between a giant centipede and a scorpion and he explained the difference between the male and female paw-paw. He described the poisons of the forest and the healing properties of tropical herbs, the pressure the palm kernel develops to break open its coconut, the length of a humming-bird's tongue, and how crocodiles carry their young in their mouths laid lengthways like sardines in a tin.
He spoke exactly but without expertise, using Jamaican language in which plants'strive' or 'quail', moths are 'bats', and 'love' is used instead of 'like'. As he talked he would raise his hand in greeting to the people on the road and they would wave back and shout his name.
'You seem to know a lot of people,' said Bond as the driver of a bulging bus with ROMANCE in large letters over the windshield gave him a couple of welcoming blasts on his wind-horn.
'I bin watching Surprise for tree muns, Cap'n,' answered Quarrel, ' 'n I been travelling this road twice a week. Everyone soon know you in Jamaica. They got good eyes.'
By half-past ten they had passed through Port Maria and branched off along the little parochial road that runs down to Shark Bay. Round a turning they suddenly came on it below them and Bond stopped the car and they got out.
The bay was crescent shaped, perhaps three-quarters of a mile wide at its arms. Its blue surface was ruffled by a light breeze blowing from the north-east, the edge of the Trade Winds that are born five hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico and then go on their long journey round the world.
A mile from where they stood, a long line of breakers showed the reef just outside the bay and the narrow untroubled waters of the passage which was the only entrance to the anchorage. In the centre of the crescent, the Isle of Surprise rose a hundred feet sheer out of the water, small waves creaming against its easterly base, calm waters in its lee.
It was nearly round, and it looked like a tall grey cake topped with green icing on a blue china plate.
They had stopped about a hundred feet above the little cluster of fishermen's huts behind the palm-fringed beach of the bay and they were level with the flat green top of the island, half a mile away. Quarrel pointed out the thatched roofs of the wattle-and-daub shanties among the trees in the centre of the island. Bond examined them through Quarrel's binoculars. There was no sign of life except a thin wisp of smoke blowing away with the breeze.
Below them, the water of the bay was pale green on the white sand. Then it deepened to dark blue just before the broken brown of a submerged fringe of inner reef that made a wide semicircle a hundred yards from the island. Then it was dark blue again with patches of lighter blue and aquamarine. Quarrel said that the depth of the Secatur's anchorage was about thirty feet.
To their left, in the middle of the western arms of the bay, deep among the trees behind a tiny white sand beach, was their base of operations, Beau Desert. Quarrel described its layout and Bond stood for ten minutes examining the three-hundred-yard stretch of sea between it and the Secatur's anchorage up against the island.
In all, Bond spent an hour reconnoitring the place, then, without going near their house or the village, they turned the car and got back on the main coast road.
They drove on through the beautiful little banana port of Oracabessa and Ocho Rios with its huge new bauxite plant, along the north shore to
Montego Bay, two hours away. It was now February and the season was in full swing. The little village and the straggle of large hotels were bathed in the four months gold-rush that sees them through the whole year. They stopped at a rest-house on the other side of the wide bay and had lunch and then drove on through the heat of the afternoon to the western tip of the island, two hours further on.