Chapter One: Holidays Are Hell
The barracuda surprised them by opening its jaws to an angle of ninety
degrees, revealing the sharp rows of teeth that were capable of tearing out
chunks of flesh in an instant. It closed its snarling mouth just as quickly,
leaving a half-inch gap.
Had it yawned?
It was easily a twenty-pound fish. One of the most dangerous predators in the sea, the barracuda is an eating machine that rivals the ferocity of a shark. This one swam lazily along beside them, watching. It was curious about the two strange larger fish that had invaded its habitat.
James Bond had never cared for barracudas. He'd rather be in a pit full of snakes than in proximity to one of them. It wasn't that he was afraid of them but merely that he found them mean, vicious, and unpredictable creatures. There was no such thing as a barracuda in a good mood. He had to be on his guard without showing fear, for the fish could sense apprehension and often acted on it.
Bond looked over at his companion. She was handling it well, watching the long, slender fish with fascination rather than trepidation.
He motioned for her to swim on, and she nodded. They decided to ignore the barracuda, which proved to be the best tactic. It lost interest after a few minutes and swam away into the misty blue.
Bond had always likened the undersea world to an alien landscape. It was silent and surreal, yet it was full of life. Some sea flowers shot down holes in the seabed as the two humans moved over them. A small octopus, or "pus-feller" (as Ramsey, his Jamaican housekeeper, called it), was propelling itself along the orange-and-brown-colored reef. Patches of sea grass hid the domains of the night-crawling lobsters and crabs.
They swam toward the beach, eventually reaching a spot where they could stand. Bond pulled off the face mask and snorkel. Helena Marksbury emerged from the water and stood beside him. She removed her own mask and snorkel and laughed.
"I do believe that fish wanted to take part of us home as a souvenir," she said.
"It wasn't interested in me," Bond said. "It was staring at you. Do you usually have that kind of effect on barracuda?"
"I attract all the meat eaters, James," she said with an inviting smile.
March in the Bahamas was quite pleasant at eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The hot summer was just around the corner, and Bond had decided to take a week's leave before then. It was the perfect time of year to be in the Caribbean. He had originally planned to spend the holiday at Shamelady, his private home on the north shore of Jamaica, but changed his mind when Helena Marksbury said that she had never been to Nassau. Bond offered to show her the islands.
"Where did everyone go?" she asked, looking around at the empty beach. Earlier, there had been a few other snorkelers and sunbathers in the area. Now it was deserted.
It was just after noon. Helena looked around for some shade and sat in the sand next to a large rock that provided some shelter from the fiercely bright sun. She knew she had to be careful not to get too much of it, as she had a light complexion and burned easily. Nevertheless, she had worn the skimpiest bikini she could find. She was most likely the only person who might notice a flaw-that her left breast drooped slightly lower than her right-but Helena knew that she had a good body, and didn't mind showing it off. It just proved that nobody was perfect.
They were on the southwest side of New Providence Island, the most populous of all the Bahamas. Luckily, Bond had found a villa at Coral Harbour, somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Nassau, which is the center of commerce, government, and transportation, on the northern side of the island. Here they were surrounded by beautiful beaches and reefs, country clubs and exclusive restaurants.
This excerpt reprinted from HIGH TIME TO KILL by Raymond Benson by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 1999 by Ian Fleming (Glidrose) Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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