We last left poor James in the brutally capable hands of Le Chiffre, where apparently he was apparently about to find himself castrated. Bond has been reminded that there is no one to rescue him, no way for him to escape from his present predicament.
With Bond on the edge of consciousness, there suddenly is a dramatic change in circumstances. He hears a third voice in the room. The voice uses a modicum of words. “Shtop” it says quietly. Then “Dhrop it”. The knife falls from Le Chiffre’s grip, and he knows exactly who is speaking to him.
The word came almost with a sigh. It came with a downward cadence as if nothing else had to be said. It was the final explanation. The last word of all.
Yes, Le Chiffre’s employers have caught up with him at last. Bond struggles to remain conscious, he cannot see the third voice, only the bulging, sweating face of his torturer. After an abrupt trial — “Do you plead guilty” — “Yes”, there is a “sharp phut” and Le Chiffre is dead.
The hooded assassin steps behind Bond and speaks:
‘You are fortunate,’ said the voice. ‘I have no orders to kill you. Your life has been saved twice in one day. But you can tell your organization that SMERSH is only merciful by chance or by mistake. In your case you were saved first by chance and now by mistake, for I should have had orders to kill any foreign spies who were hanging round this traitor like flies round a dog’s mess.
Instead of killing Bond, the killer instead brands the back of Bond’s hand with an inverted ‘M’ – to mark him as a spy should he happen to be at a card table with a member of SMERSH in the future. The pain pushes Bond into unconsciousness, and he is out…presumably for the rest of the day. The chapter ends with Fleming’s description of the silent room for the remainder of the day. It’s a chilling scene, and one that might require a couple reads to fully grasp what Fleming is describing.
In the silence, the cheerful small sounds of the summer’s day crept through the closed window. High on the left-hand wall hung two small patches of pink light. They were reflections cast upwards from the floor by the zebra stripes of June sunshine, cast upwards from two separate pools of blood a few feet apart.
As the day progressed the pink patches marched slowly along the wall. And slowly they grew larger.
Re-read that. How does Fleming come up with that description? You have terms like “cheerful”, “reflections”, “June sunshine”, and “pink”…terms that most people would associate in a warm, positive tone, yet the scene is decidedly anything but. It’s chilling. I haven’t read any author that has the descriptive skills of Ian Fleming. It’s an experience, even if you already read the book a dozen times.