Mr Demetre, or at least what used to be Mr Demetre but was now a little puffed-up toad with a very red face, could not believe what he saw.
“Come out here, Braun.”
“Up yer arse, bumface.”
“What’s the matter, Wacka. Scared, are you?”
Wrong! In that moment, what was left of Mr Demetre was suddenly just another bodgie from a rival gang, and no one knew better than Wacka Braun what ought to be done about that. He stood up, grinning wickedly, and sauntered down the aisle to the front, his hands tucked into his back pockets, in one of which it was well known he kept his switchblade. No one else in the room was breathing. He stood before Mr Demetre and extended his hand, and turned it palm up. Mr Demetre seemed to have no choice but to meet the challenge, and went for his trusty barber’s strop.
`What d’ya shoot, Mr. Bond?’
Bond had a moment of blackout.
`They’re golf clubs.’
`Sure,’ said the man patiently. `But what d’ya shoot? What d’ya go round in?’
Bond could have kicked himself for forgetting the Americanism. `Oh, in the middle eighties, I guess.’
`Never broken a hundred in my life,’ said the customs officer. He gummed a blessed stamp on the side of the bag a few inches away from the richest haul of contraband that had ever been missed at Idlewild.
By the third book—Diamonds Are Forever—James Bond was becoming surer of himself but he was still prone to an attack of the jitters when things did not go well. Ian Fleming’s detailing of a smuggling pipeline was full of action and, since I encountered it serialised in the evening newspaper, it came with terrific illustrations. Amusingly, it was book-ended with the tale of a hapless scorpion, living in just that very inhospitable spot in Africa where the pipeline opens and then is finally closed, and the book ends with a strange piece of self-awareness.
For Bond it was just the end of another adventure. Another adventure for which a wry phrase of Tiffany Case might be an epitaph. He could see the passionate, ironical mouth saying the words:
“It reads better than it lives.”
As does all life.