The Sentence

Live and Let Die Chapter 21

James Bond is led up towards the entrance of the cave, pausing a couple times, apparently so that Mr Big can control his breathing and heart. Closer to the top, they pause in front of what is evidently a cell. They go inside and Bond notices the shackles on the stone walls. This was an ancient place to imprisonment and torture. Mr Big speaks her name and Solitaire comes running from in the darkness. She is hysterical at seeing Bond.

Mr Big orders the pair tied up, as he has some things to say to them. Bond’s arms are tied behind his back and his legs tied together as well. He is then propped on the ground with his arms hoisted up and secured behind him. Mr Big dismisses the guard and as Bond reflects that the gangster is still just a mortal man with a diseased heart, Mr Big begins to speak.

‘You are the best of those that have been sent against me,’ said Mr. Big. His quiet flat voice was thoughtful, measured. ‘And you have achieved the death of four of my assistants. My followers find this incredible. It was fully time that accounts should be squared. What happened to the American was not sufficient. The treachery of this girl,’ he still looked at Bond, ‘whom I found in the gutter and whom I was prepared to put on my right hand, has also brought my infallibility in question. I was wondering how she should die, when providence, or Baron Samedi as my followers will believe, brought you also to the altar with your head bowed ready for the axe.’

He informs Bond that he and Solitaire will die right around six o’clock in the morning. Mr Big continues speaking, bragging about being the first great negro “criminal” though he says he only uses that word because Bond is a “policeman”. He says he owes his success to his “infinite capacity for taking pains” in everything that he does.

What he has in mind for Bond and Solitaire is a modern day take on “keel-hauling”.

‘We have a paravane on board the yacht,’ continued Mr. Big as if he was a surgeon describing a delicate operation to a body of students, ‘which we use for trawling for shark and other big fish. This paravane, as you know, is a large buoyant torpedo-shaped device, which rides on the end of a cable, away from the side of a ship, and which can be used for sustaining the end of a net, and drawing it through the water when the ship is in motion, or if fitted with a cutting device, for severing the cables of moored mines in time of war.

‘I intend,’ said Mr. Big, in a matter-of-fact discursive tone of voice,’ to bind you together to a line streamed from this paravane and to tow you through the sea until you are eaten by sharks.’

Bond’s mind races, as he tries to calculate the time that he set the fuse to go off that is going to blow up the Secatur. It’s going to be close. Solitaire suddenly cries out, saying that she sees much death, Bond is worried that Mr Big will take her outburst to indicate more than their own deaths and investigate any threats to the ship.

The chapter ends with Mr Big explaining that everything he does has a purpose. The deaths of Bond and Solitaire, in addition to exacting the revenge necessary and leaving no trace, will also benefit the world of science as he is curious to see how the sharks react to their bodies after they have been dragged over the reef and are bleeding in the water. He bids them : “A short, but very good night to you both.”

Bloody Morgan’s Cave

Live and Let Die Chapter 20

As the fish above him continue their frenzy, James Bond desperately searches for a way out. Even while he is doing this, Barracuda slams into his shoulder, taking out a chunk of flesh with it. Water begins to enter his suit, and just as he is about to go to the surface, he spots a boulder where he might get some shelter.

Once behind it, he manages to shoot the fish with his harpoon. Then he notices that the boulder is hiding the entrance to a cave. This portion of the cave is underwater, and as Bond observes, was clearly made by man.

‘At least another twenty yards to go, men,’ Bloody Morgan must have said to the slave overseers. And then the picks would have burst suddenly through to the sea and a welter of arms and legs and screaming mouths, gagged for ever with water, would have hurtled back into the rock to join the bodies of other witnesses.

The great boulder at the entrance would have been put in position to seal the seaward exit. The Shark Bay fisherman who suddenly disappeared six months before must have one day found it rolled away by a storm or by the tidal wave following a hurricane. Then he had found the treasure and had known he would need help to dispose of it. A white man would cheat him. Better go to the great negro gangster in Harlem and make the best terms he could. The gold belonged to the black men who had died to hide it. It should go back to the black men.

Standing there, swaying in the slight current in the tunnel, Bond guessed that one more barrel of cement had splashed into the mud of the Harlem River.

While still under the water, Bond can hear the drums, which have boomed up, signaling that Bond has been spotted and to terrify any people on the shore. Bond presses on, until up ahead he spots a faint glimmer. He turns off his own torch and moves towards the light. He moves on until he is just below the surface of the water. Too late he realizes he’s gone too far.

Two men roughly haul him out of the water and into the cave. He is stripped and brought forward. The boom and stutter of the drums is deafening.

In the foreground, at a green baize card-table, littered with papers, in a folding chair, sat Mr. Big, a pen in his hand, looking incuriously at him. A Mr. Big in a well-cut fawn tropical suit, with a white shirt and black knitted silk tie. His broad chin rested on his left hand and he looked up at Bond as if he had been disturbed in his office by a member of the staff asking for a raise in salary. He looked polite but faintly bored.

‘Good morning, Mister James Bond,’ he said at last, throwing his flat voice against the dying crescendo of the drums. ‘The fly has indeed been a long time coming to the spider, or perhaps I should say “the minnow to the whale”.

He is in the makeshift headquarters of Mr Big’s operation. As he looks around he see broken timber, disintegrating canvas and a massive amount of gold coins, which are being arranged into trays. Others are working at melting gold and there are plenty of other jewels around as well.

Mr Big orders the drums stopped…they were being played on a phonograph. He then orders the men back to work, and finishes the figures he was working on. He then gets up, and orders Bond brought with him. The others continue to work, knowing that even though Mr Big has left, Baron Samedi is still watching them.

Valley of Shadows

Live and Let Die Chapter 19

James Bond is in the water, with the heavy limpet mine strapped to his chest, heading out towards the Secatur. As he makes the journey, Fleming provides vivid word pictures of the undersea life that he encounters on his swim.

Once the great streamers of a portuguese man-of-war floated slowly by. They almost reached his head from the surface, fifteen feet away, and he remembered the whiplash of a sting from the contact of one of their tendrils that had burned for three of his days at Manatee Bay. If they caught a man across the heart they could kill him. He saw several green and speckled moray eels, the latter moving like big yellow and black snakes along patches of sand, the green ones baring their teeth from some hole in the rock, and several West Indian blowfish, like brown owls with huge soft green eyes. He poked at one with the end of his gun and it swelled out to the size of a football and became a mass of dangerous white spines.

Once he gets past the reef, there is a hundred yards of open water in front of him. He takes a moment to rest and to reflect on the dangers ahead when suddenly he is grabbed around the ankles by an octopus. The beast pulls Bond down, and because of the weight on his chest, he is unable to reach out with his dagger to wound the attacker.

After a struggle of a few moments, he manages to get his harpoon gun and point it at the octopus. He pulls the trigger and is freed, albeit amidst a cloud of “viscous, stringy ink”. A stream of bubbles also rises to the surface, where they could possibly be observed by the people on the boat. He continues on, passing by a giant stingray. He also spots a shark and a number of large barracuda. He then spots the keel of the Secatur, and checks the time.

He looked at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was three minutes past eleven o’clock. He selected the seven-hour fuse from the handful he extracted from a zipped side-pocket and inserted it in the fuse pocket of the mine and pushed it home. The rest of the fuses he buried in the sand so that if he was captured the mine would not be betrayed.

After he attaches the mine, he notices the pack of barracuda and sharks in a frenzy. “Extreme mob behaviour conditions” as the Navy Department had phrased it. Bond pushes through and gets to the giant screws of the ship and takes shelter there.

At the same time he noticed that it was getting darker. He looked up and saw with dawning comprehension that the quicksilver surface of the sea had turned red, a horrible glinting crimson.

Threads of the stuff drifted within his reach. He hooked some towards him with the end of his gun. Held the end close up against his glass mask.

There was no doubt about it.

Up above, someone was spraying the surface of the sea with blood and offal.

Its Go Time

Live and Let Die Chapter 18

Bond spends his last night at the training camp reading more books and pamphlets on shark and barracuda. He also reads reports on the Shark Repellent which is on its way to him. Quarrel is “scornful” about whether the stuff will work, but is “impressed against his will” when Bond reads how the repellent was tested and how the sharks reacted to it.

They leave in the morning and return to Beau Desert, where their operations base is.

The property was a beautiful old plantation of about a thousand acres with the ruins of a fine Great House commanding the bay. It was given over to pimento and citrus inside a fringe of hardwoods and palms and had a history dating back to the time of Cromwell. The romantic name was in the fashion of the eighteenth century, when Jamaican properties were called Bellair, Bellevue, Boscobel, Harmony, Nymphenburg or had names like Prospect, Content or Repose.

This property will figure large in a future Bond adventure. After sitting down and examining every inch of the reef in front of him, Bond has lunch and then goes through the equipment sent to him from London. Strangways arrives and has some news, the Secatur has arrived. The ship is coming into the reef and the three men look at the boat through glasses.

She was a handsome craft, black with a grey superstructure, seventy foot long and built for speed – at least twenty knots, Bond guessed. He knew her history, built for a millionaire in 1947 and powered with twin General Motors Diesels, steel hull and all the latest wireless gadgets, including ship-to-shore telephone and Decca navigator.

I was curious about what a Decca navigator was, as I had not heard the term before. This article from Wikipedia tells you almost everything you would want to know about the system, which was high-tech for the time of this novel and was widely used until GPS technology came into use.

As they are watching, a figure on a stretcher is brought on deck, and Bond recognizes that it is Solitaire. He feels a “tightening of the heart at her nearness” and “prays” that the stretcher is only a device to keep her from being seen from shore. Strangways notes that only about six cases of fish tanks came on the ship, they usually had 50. It looks like this stay will be a short one, probably only one night.

So it is decided. Bond is to swim out to the ship tonight and attach the limpet mine to it. Without the shark repellent which is due in tomorrow. He pours himself half a glass of whiskey and downs a benzedrine tablet with it.

Exactly at ten o’clock, with nothing but anticipation and excitement in him, the shimmering black bat-like figure slipped off the rocks into ten feet of water and vanished under the sea.