Chapter twelve is entitled “The deadly tube”. An interesting title for a chapter, and the reader is left wondering what it could possibly refer to. Bond has just lost all of his funds on two bets. He mentally starts preparing to face first Felix and Vesper, and later on, M. Suddenly, Bond is handed an envelope, the contents? 32 Million francs…enough for the next bet. It’s from Leiter, courtesy of his government, the USA. Bond is suddenly revitalized. He doesn’t know how much more, if any Le Chiffre needs to make. But at last, Le Chiffre nods, and the game resumes. We’re told (again, Bond doesn’t know this) that the Russian needs another eight million francs. The bank for this round is the 32 million francs, but Le Chiffre is certainly confident that no one is going to be able to match that entire amount. He hopes to get 10 or 15 million at most, make what he needs and get out of there. As the attendant announces the amount of the next bank, Bond says quietly “Suivi” and accepts the bet.
The officials around the table need to ensure that Bond has the money to cover the bet. After they do so, Bond notices Le Chiffre make eye contact with a man behind Bond. Then he feels something press into the base of his spine, and a voice says:
This is a gun, monsieur. It is absolutely silent. It can blow the base of your spine off without a sound. You will appear to have fainted. I shall be gone. Withdraw your bet before I count ten. If you call for help, I shall fire.
It is a walking stick that Bond noticed a man using in the casino earlier in the evening. Bond noted at the time that the man must’ve obtained a special permit to carry it into the casino.
As the man begins counting to ten, Bond looks around. No one is paying attention to him, least of all Leiter, Vesper, nor the men belonging to Mathis. Bond is furious. He has to figure this out himself.
As the count continues, Bond suddenly grips the edge of the table and throws himself back, knocking over the chair, and landing on top of the walking stick. The man is gone. Bond pretends that he has involuntarily fainted from the excitement of the moment, is giving attention, and arranges for the stick…or tube…to be given to Leiter.
A new chair was brought, and he sat down. He looked across at Le Chiffre. Through his relief at being alive, he felt a moment of triumph at what he saw – some fear in the fat, pale face.
Play continues in the next chapter, with Bond feeling a rush at having escaped his situation and his heart soars at the prospect of the the next round. It is now two o’clock in the morning. The hand is dealt. Bond’s initial two cards are terrible…they total zero…as bad as can be. Le Chiffre’s aren’t much better. He gets a three. The object is to get to nine. Bond gets another card…a nine! But he holds his emotions in check, keeping his “poker face” intact. (Or would it be a baccarat face?) Le Chiffre gets a total of eight, and he and the rest of the table believe he is the winner. Fleming lets them all sweat it out until Bond tips his nine…stunning all.
In the buzz, “a half a bottle of clicquot and a glass had materialized” next to Bond, who drinks down a glass quickly . Clicquot is very fine French Champagne, something I had always wondered about. There is one last hand to be played…for the last of Le Chiffre’s fund, and it is an anticlimactic moment, as Bond wins easily. 70 Million francs in all. He returns 32 million of it to Leiter, and is congratulated by the staff and by Leiter. The two of them talk for a few moments and Bond secretly hopes he can be alone with Vesper. He makes arrangements to meet her in a few moments, and goes with Leiter back to his room. It’s safe. Leiter then leaves. Bond turns his mind elsewhere.
He gazed for a moment into the mirror and wondered about Vesper’s morals. He wanted her cold and arrogant body. He wanted to see tears and desire in her remote blue eyes and to take the ropes of her black hair in his hands and bend her long body back under his. Bond’s eyes narrowed and his face in the mirror looked back at him with hunger.
A pretty cold customer this James Bond character created by Fleming is, isn’t he? Not exactly Roger Moore, is it?
We’re told that Bond uses a screwdriver to put the folded up cheque of his winnings safely away somewhere. We’re not told exactly where. That will be important later.