Digitally transcribed for the Gardner Francis Fox Adventure Library
A fair exchange can be robbery—sometimes.
Count Guido della Faziola wanted my body. I wanted the pictures that were hidden in the wall safe of the stateroom which the Count occupied aboard his luxury yacht, the Lorelei. I would give him the flesh feast he wanted but the Count was not likely to hand over the negatives even in exchange for little old me, so I was going to have to steal them.
At the moment all this was running through my head, the Count was pressing me into the wall of the lounge room, and himself into me. He was a big hairy he-male and I shivered as I felt the extent of his desire against my thigh. His lips were at my soft throat and his right hand was edging up across the black satin evening gown that covered me in most of the necessary areas.
Over his shoulder I could see his friends—Teddy diLorma and Ron Masciani—as they busied themselves with the other two call girls who were their guests. Teddy was dancing with the redhead named Lucy. Ron was sitting on the couch with his hand up under Mari’s skirt, watching us.
The Count discovered that my evening gown afforded his hand an entrance into the low-cut bodice. His fingers were soft, tender, gentle with the heavy white mound he found waiting for him. He toyed with the rigid nipple.
“Let’s see them, honey,” he whispered hoarsely. “In your cabin, your grace.”
“Here,” he chuckled. “Come on, we’re among friends, I want my guests to eat their hearts out.”
He was tugging down my shoulder straps as he spoke. Beyond him I saw movement under the white linen gown Mari was wearing as Ron reached his destination. Mari made a round red O with her lips and scrunched down lower in the lounge cushions, She stared right at me, and her tongue ran out around her lips.
Oh, well. After all, I was in the service of my country. I just had to get the pictures in his wall-safe. It was a patriotic, gesture, in a sense.
The straps were down. I moved my shoulders, making my breasts bounce. The Count barked laughter, stepping back.
“That is the way, my dear. Yes.”
I slipped my bare arms out and let my shoulders dance. There was no brassier beneath the gown bodice, only me. The gown slipped lower. The Count clapped, shouting encouragement.
“Andare avanti! Keep going, keep going!”
Now both my breasts were out there, in the open, leaping and shaking. And they were all looking, Ron with his hand working at Mari, Teddy diLorma pressed up against Lucy’s soft buttocks, his hands hidden under her evening gown.
I moved forward, arms stretched out, ready and willing to perform. I just wondered if the Count would pay the price I was going to name. Right before his face I waved my twin titillators. His eyes grew very wide. I hit him with both barrels. He forgot to duck and his face went red.
The Count grabbed me, yanked me close for a kiss. For a little while I forgot why I was on his yacht. He was one Latin lover who was mighty fond of his busing. He used his lips, teeth and tongue until my knees started to give-way. Then he put his hands on the backs of my knees where the nylons were taut and smooth, and ran them up the backs of my soft, thighs. His fingers sank in. He lifted me. He made me widen my legs and came between them.
The stereo set was giving out with a mambo. The Count was an expert mambo dancer. So was I, but the way he was holding me, my feet never touched the floor. He moved about in perfect rhythm, and while he danced on the floor, I danced on him. It went on and on.
It was enjoyment above and beyond the call-of-duty.
“Honey, I can’t take much more,” I panted.
“Is good, hey?” he grinned, lapsing into a different brand of English. “Is my own idea. I am good man for ideas.”
“Why don’t you let me show you some of my ideas—in your stateroom?” I whispered into his ear, circling it with my tongue. The wall safe was in his stateroom. I wanted in to both places.
He lowered me against him, kissing my breasts like an infant, lips drawing. I gasped and stated over his head at Lucy and Teddy diLorma. They were dancing too, but her back was to him and his arms were banded about her middle. Her red taffeta evening dress was going to get all rumpled, it was so high up where he was pressed into her. Í thought absently that Lucy had nice legs in those black nylons. Her thigh-flesh was very white.
The Count was playing handsies with my legsies.
“The stateroom, your grace,” I reminded him.
“Un momento, cara mia,” he breathed. “A woman is a violin my dear. A Stradivarius, a Guanarius. She must be properly tuned before she will play, eh? Gently, con amore.”
He was tuning me but good. I was reaching high C on my tiptoes and thinking that it was the smartest move I ever made to go into government service. All this and a paycheck too.
Me, girl spy.
My hips quivered spastically. The pictures, the pictures, I kept telling myself. Eve Drum—the sexiest spy in the service—must get those films and negatives within the next two hours. The safety of the free world might depend on it.
“You are everything to me,” the Count breathed.
Everything to him and NATO, OAS, and L.U.S.T. My chief had told me at my briefing that the fate of every man, woman and child in the United States and western Europe, as well as those of our South American allies in the freeze squeeze we call the cold war, might depend on me. I just had to get those pictures, “You mean a lot to me, too,” I moaned. “But you’d mean even more if we were somewhere more private.”
“I can’t imagine anything more private than this,” he chuckled, wriggling his fingers.
I laughed gaily as he expedited me to I put my hand down and said, “Or this, you naughty Latin lover.”
It was his turn to groan.
“Cara mia,” he muttered, wriggling. “You are too much.”
“Oh, I hope not,” I cried, opening my fingers.
He breathed deeply, nodding. He moved back and caught me by the elbow. “Very well, my dear. In private it shall be, although the sight of others enjoying themselves is always most stimulating to me.”
His hand gestured at Mari and Ron sprawled on the couch. Mari was spread out, her stockingless legs looking extremely tempting as they waved this way and that while Ron crouched between them. Her eyes were shut and her teeth glinted in the lamplight where they bit into her lower-lip as her head rolled back and forth.
The Count guided me across the wall-to-wall carpeting of the lounge. I stepped over Lucy who was on her side, one leg high as Teddy diLorma was engaging in what the Shiek Nefzawi calls the djenabi. Lucy was moving back and forth wildly, her pallid buttocks shaking like jelly.
Count Guido whispered, “Interesting, it it not?”
“Oh my, yes! But not nearly as interesting as what I intend doing with you, you sweetheart.”
His voice grew unsteady as he asked, “Che cose? What is it you have in mind?”
“Something new and different.”
“Tell me! I beg you.”
“You know Giulio Romano?
His eyes widened. “The artist of the Renaissance in my country? The man who made the naughty pictures that inspired Aretino to compose his verses on them?”
I nodded. “The ten tributes to Venus.” He whistled softly, eyeing me sideways. “You know them, eh?”
“By heart. Do you?” He shook his head slowly. “One or two, yes. Not all ten.”
“You shall, before the night is over.”
He laughed uneasily. “No man is capable of such a feat.”
“You are, your grace.” He thought about it as we moved from the lounge into the companionway. The Lorelei is a big yacht, almost nine hundred tons of teak-wood deck and steel structure. It was a hundred and thirty feet long and needed a crew of twenty men to run it. It was able to cruise at slightly more than twenty miles an hour. It cost a million dollars.
The master stateroom was a masterpiece of modernity. Saarinen himself had designed it. A sweeping vanity table like a sea wave was matched by an equally elegant glass and metal bench. The huge circular bed looked large enough for ten, and what took place on the bed could be seen above it in the great round baldachin mirror suspended on chains from the ceiling. Underfoot, was a black and white Persian carpet that touched all the walls, which in turn were done in leopard skin and mirrors in alternate panels.
It was kookie, but effective. It was geared to rouse the animal in a girl. It worked with me, I know.
I thrust my evening gown past my hips, revealing the black lace garter belt that hugged my middle and the black lace straps gripping my black nylons. The Count stared from where he stood frozen beside the bed. I was reflected in half a dozen looking glasses that showed my white buttocks and the shapely nyloned lengths of my legs, the quivering ripeness of my breasts and their erectile nipples.
Modesty in a woman is the result of repression of the sexual urges, and of the neuroses such repression causes. A child is neither modest nor immodest, it is completely unaware that such a thing exists. On the other hand the mere wearing of clothing does not mean a person is modest. Sexual Superstitions play a big part in this matter of modesty, too. Your Turkish woman will cover her face while she exposes anything else or everything else. Europeans think nothing of baring the face, yet believe that to show other parts of the female body may be the height of impudicity. The Chinese woman hides the foot, the Japanese woman wears the obi to disguise the shape of her hips and buttocks. Custom is as custom does.
Everything changes. Fifty years ago in time, no decent woman would be seen dead in such a tiny thing as a bikini bathing suit. Today, there are few beaches where a girl in a scrap of bra and matching loincloth is not accepted. In Roman and in medieval times, men and women bathed together naked, quite publicly, as they do today in Japan. The woman was not, thought less of because she indulged in this common practice.
I walked up and down the room, letting the Count admire my body. Most women who have handsome legs, manage to wear clothes to show them off. If their breasts are especially attractive, their gowns are usually cut low or very tight so as to show the shapes beneath. A woman is a vain thing, and her clothes, or lack of them, are designed to show her fine points. I am proud of all my body.
I seated myself in a chair, still wearing my stockings and high-heeled shoes. The Count, staring at me, began slowly to undress. I laughed softly and wriggled my fingers at him.
“Come here, your grace. Let me do that for you.” He came to stand before me, letting my nimble fingers strip him naked. There was a method in my servitude. I wanted him at full strength for our coming love feast. During that feast, he must exhaust himself physically and emotionally, because he had to be sound asleep before I robbed his safe.
When he was naked I slithered to my feet. I felt like a female leopard about to devour her mate. I kissed his body, I caressed it with my hands. He was breathing gustily, eyes half closed, trembling to each tactile caress.
I moved against his front, rubbing his hairy chest with my nipples. I slid down his body and across it, my breasts mashing against him. I went around behind him and let his spine know the imprint of my globes. I reached in front of him and giggled as my fingers fumbled lazily.
He was pleading in Italian, “Bella mia, have mercy. I am not the man of stone.”
“All in good time, Guido,” I whispered. I drew him toward the bed. I had never attempted the ten treats of Venus before. It had always seemed to me they were beyond the capacity of a single male. Tonight I was determined to make the experiment. The Count must be in total collapse before I dared to make my try for the safe.
Actually, of course, there are sixteen of these tributes. Only ten are known today, so I had to be content with what I knew. Besides, nobody but nobody could go through all sixteen.
Giulio Romano was the greatest pupil of the famous Raphael. Commissioned to draw the sixteen postures for intercourse, he gave to the project the full extent of his genius. I Modi, the Ways was a masterpiece of the erotic art. Its fame spanned oceans and continents, and its sheer mastery of form and detail inspired Pietro Aretino, called the greatest erotic writer in Christendom, to do his own prose masterpiece, I Sonetti Lussuriosi, in which he describes these pictures in the sonnet form. The Sonnets first appeared in print, with the Romano illustrations engraved in copper by Marcantonio Raimondi, in 1527.
Certain of these ‘ways’ to make love have been given such titles as the ‘whirling basket,’ ‘the donkey ride,’ the ‘Christmas candle.’ They are realistic, they are lifelike, they are honest. Unfortunately, they created quite a scandal in their time, resulting in the imprisonment of Marcantonio Raimondi. Giulio Romano fled to the protection of his patron, the Duke of Mantua, while Aretino ran off to Arezzo.
I forgot Giulio Romano for a little while as the Count went through postures one, two and three with me. After all, I am human too.
At the moment, I could see His Grace reflected in the baldachin mirror over the bed, his hairy shoulders, his hairy legs. He was like a bull, frantic in his enjoyment of the embrace. He began to bellow with his head thrown back.
I gave him no rest. I writhed out from under his heavy body, slapping his flank with the flat of a hand. “Number four coming up, your grace. Rise and shine!”
“Cara mia—no! The rest, I need the rest. I am exhausted.”
“We’ve only just begun, lover! Come on!”
“You’re a little devil,” he laughed.
“You really don’t expect any more from me so soon, do you?”
My hand is very smooth, very soft, very knowing. The Count stared at himself in surprise.
“Maybe you are the devil, after all,” he muttered. “Is Satan a woman, my dear?” Well, if you can get me to perform the remainder of these Venerian tributes, you’re a woman among women, devil or not.”
The Count rose from the coverlets to get into position. In time, the copies of I Sonnetti Lussuriosi were lost or destroyed, passing into, the realm of legend and folk tale. There were imitations, by Lorenzo Veniero and Niccolo Franco, but the original itself simply disappeared. It had existed, everybody knew that, but it existed no longer. Then a book-dealer unearthed an original of the 1527 book in Milan, less than forty years ago. The world could now see for itself, the genius of the artist, of the engraver, of the prose words of Aretino.
I had read the book, I had seen the engravings.
I was now demonstrating them.
The Count was almost out, on the bed. His body, was limp, his eyes were closed, he wanted only to slumber. We had just completed the seventh posture.
I would not let him rest. I tugged him upward, standing him on his feet, ignoring his furious Italian oaths. His black eyes were glazed, unseeing.
“I am like the overcooked spaghetti, cara mia,” he protested.
“Poof! You insult your manhood.” I knelt down. I caressed him. I was right. He had insulted his manhood. He grinned at me shamefacedly and made a gesture with his hands to indicate he did not know his own strength.
I pushed him into a chair, settled upon him. “This will be the last, signorina,” he sobbed. I just laughed at him. “Only two to go,” I cried gleefully when we were done. The Count groaned, head lolling against the chair-back. His face was ashen.
“Be brave, your grace,” I urged, running bed-wards. “Brave, si. Crazy-no!”
Beyond the bed I could see the mirror behind which the wall safe was hidden, according to David Anderjanian. I would never be able to open it with the Count around and about. He must be on the point of absolute collapse when we were done with our tributes to Venus.
On the edge of the bed, I wriggled my toes at him. “No more,” he groaned, staring. “I can stand no more.”
“Darling,” I crooned. “You can, you must, you shall. Never have I met such a lover. You wouldn’t stop now, would you?”
“I would, I would!” he declared eagerly. “Just two more. Only two!”
“Santa Maria benedetta! Is it my death you wish?”
“I shall boast of you in the finest hotels in Miami Beach and New York. Your name will be synonymous with that of Hercules, who undertook the thirteenth labor of servicing fifty women without a stop.”
“It is impossible. I die. See? I am white with fatigue. So be a good girl and go away for a little while.”
I got off the bed. I ran to my handbag. I had come prepared for just such an emergency. Never say a secret agent will not go to any lengths to save N.A.T.O., O.A.S. and LU.S.T. There was a vial of a special liquid-derived from the el tsabane of Arab physicians—which all L.U.S.T. agents carry on certain, assignments, in my black suede Coblentz bag.
I emptied the liquid in -the vial onto my palm.
I ran back to the bed and reached between the hairy thighs of the Count. A few moments after I had applied the liquid, he was sitting up, staring at himself.
“Are you a witch, a strega?” he gasped.
He did look tired, but I gave him no respite. I cried gaily, “Nine, my love—for the honor and glory of Italy!”
“I am as patriotic as the next man, but—“
He groaned, caught up in the coils of concupiscence. He took small pleasure in the act, I am afraid. He was sweating and his eyes were rolling. He moved his hips almost by reflex, and began crying out that he was ending his life as he had lived it, gritting his teeth and sobbing.
“This must be—the last,” he gasped, heaving.
He was ready to collapse. But I must make sure. “One more only, sweet lover,” I cooed, stroking him. “Then blessed sleep.”
“Sleep—yes. I shall sleep.”
“Number ten remains.”
“Have pity,” be pleaded.
The liquid had done its work. In morbid fascination the Count saw himself rise for the attack. He groaned, he beat his fists together. But I was coiling about him, instructing and guiding him in this final sacrifice to Venus. It was a somewhat complicated posture we sought, but when it was attained, as it was with much gasping and groaning, from the Count, telling me he was not as young as he used to be, it lasted for close to fifteen minutes.
Their the Count shuddered three times and fell into the bed-covers. I drew up the blankets and the sheets, shrouding his nakedness. He was asleep before I tucked him in. I waited patiently. I even sang a lullaby to him. When he snored, I knew it was time to act.
The wall safe was behind the mirror. The mirror also reflected the twin white moons of my behind as I knelt on the bed where the Count was sleeping. They jiggled slightly as I stretched out a leg to put a foot on the thick carpet.
The Count snorted, bubbling air.
I froze. I had come too far to lose out now. The photographs I had been sent to steal were in the wall safe. If I could get them, I might get other assignments from my chief.
I leaned closer to the Count. He was a rich man, a man who could and did indulge his whimsies with girls he hired here and there, as he had hired me. He was as hairy as a mattress across his chest and upper back and middle. It had scratched while he made love to me and in some vicarious way that wiry tangle had added to my own pleasure.
The Count was bushed in more ways than one; right now. I let my feet settle more firmly on the carpeting, easing my weight off my right knee and onto my left leg very gradually. The Count went on sleeping. I slid backward until I was standing naked on the carpet, all five feet three inches of me.
I let the air ooze from my lungs. The tough part came now. I turned and looked at the mirror. I stared back at myself from the glass, my black hair hanging partway down my back, ebony gloss against the white and tan smoothness of my back, my gray eyes looking faintly worried.
I shrugged. My breasts did a little dance. “Duty calls, Eve,” I told myself. My reflection in the mirror grew larger. Then my hand came up and blotted the rest of me out as I swung the mirror to one side. The safe was a good one, but my father had been a locksmith and I knew all the factory charts of standard combinations almost by heart.
The safe companies always advise a change of combination when their safes are delivered, since the movers often must open and close the safe doors for easier transportation. A very few follow this advice so that most safes, even such a wall safe as I was working on, still possessed its standard combo.
With anywhere from twenty-five to thirty dial instructions locked in my head, it should not take too long to open. Since modern safes contain almost silent tumblers, I had to carry a stethoscope in my handbag too.
I put on the stethoscope and let my fingers drift over the dial, getting its feel. The stethoscope I pressed to the safe wall, listening for the telltale click of the tumblers. My fingers went back and forth, slowly.
I breathed again. The first tumbler. I made a mental note of the number, began twirling the dial all over-again. It took a long-time. The Count had installed, a good safe. But eventually, my task was done. The last tumbler clicked into place and the metal door opened.
There was a plain brown envelope inside the safe. I reached for it, used a long fingernail to slit open the paper. I peeked. Ah, yes. These were photographs, but were they the right ones? I drew them out.
I swallowed. Oh, my! The man I knew, his name was Martin Sloan and he was a something special nuclear physicist working for the Defense Command. According to the glossy print I was holding, he was also quite a man. He stood by the side of a bed, leaning forward, half-gripping the knees of a brunette whose face was turned away from the camera. Her hands were clenched into fists on the bed-covers.
The next picture showed them joined. Her hands were buried in her hair, clutching it in her excess of pleasure. His mouth was open his eyes were closed. In the mirror on the other side of the bed, I could almost see him shuddering in ecstasy.
One picture showed him kneeling above the woman as she fondled him. Another showed him kneeling between wide spread thighs, worshiping her femininity. She knelt on hands and knees while, he enjoyed her as the stallion might the mare. The final photo showed the man on his back impaled by the woman. Her face was turned away in this shot as it was in all the others.
I sighed and slipped the pictures into the envelope beside their negatives. I went to my handbag and lifted out a plastic bag. I inserted the envelope, sealed it. The bag was watertight. When I swam away from the yacht neither the pictures nor the negatives would be harmed. I taped the bag to my middle.
The count stirred, groaning. He flopped over on his back and lay breathing steadily. I paused on bare feet, then tip toed closer. If he opened his eyes, I would strike—hard. My hand tensed for the chop.
The count never moved. I went past him, leaving my evening gown and garter belt and nylons, together with my shoes and handbag, on the chair where they were draped. I stepped naked into the companionway and closed the door gently behind me.
I ran down the carpeted corridor. Ahead of me was a short flight of steps. I went up them until I could look around the deck.
A deckhand in white ducks and a striped jersey was leaning against the port rail, smoking a cigarette. I could never reach the rail without his seeing me and giving the alarm.
He lifted his head and stared at me. I rose onto another step so that he could see my breasts in the moonlight. His eyes bulged. He licked his lips, he threw away the cigarette. I suppose he had shared a woman or two with the Count in the past, from time to time when his grace slept off his fatigue.
He came for me with a big grin. I did not want him to see the plastic bag taped over my belly so I shimmied my shoulders to keep his stare fastened on my jumping nipples.
“Hi there, honey,” he whispered. “You okay?”
“I never felt healthier. His grace only got me revved up. You feel up to fun and games?”
He leaned my way for a kiss. I made a cone of my fingers and gave him their tips in the throat, where the under-jaw muscles are. He gagged and pitched over onto the companionway shed. He made a soft thump as he dropped down onto the desk.
I ran to the starboard rail, put a foot up onto it, poised a moment and dove. I went through the warm Caribbean air and into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
I dove deep through cool water that was as black as pitch. I swam fast, I swam as far as I could beneath the surface. When I came up for air I looked back at the Lorelei. Stateroom and salon lights were blazing. Evidently Ron Masciani was still busy with Mari and Teddy diLorma with Lucy. Maybe they had switched girls. Or maybe they were sleeping like the Count.
Apparently my friend the deckhand was also unable to give the alarm, for the ship rode quietly at anchor. I turned and began to swim.
I swam steadily. Overhead the stars were bright blue dots in the dark vault of sky. The waters that slid past my skin were cool in this early summer of the year. I told myself that I only had a mile or maybe slightly more to swim. My rendezvous point was a hunk of rock about a hundred miles from Miami. I just hoped the submarine would be where it was supposed to be.
Far behind me I could make out the riding lights of the Lorelei. They faded slowly, growing smaller. They never completely disappeared. I used them as a guidepost to keep me on course.
The moon made a silver streak on the water. I tried not to think of the sharks that sometimes swim these waters, or the fact that a lot of ocean lay between me and the bottom. I kept thinking about the submarine that was waiting for me off Cat Cay, and of the scotch on the rocks I would down five minutes after I stepped into it.
My foot touched something solid. My hands went down, closed on a jagged length of rock. I hoisted myself upward, felt a section of rock scrape my knee.
I fumbled around for something reasonably smooth on which to plunk my bottom. Ah, here. I settled down and began to get my breath back. Far off to the east and north I could see the lights of the yacht, tiny with distance,
Time means nothing under the immensity of the stars. You feel very small and lonely at a time like this. I was cold, too. I began to shiver.
The water gurgled. The humped back of a sea beast broke the surface a hundred yards away. I had been expecting a submarine but its appearance caught me by surprise. I rose to my feet.
I dove into the waters and began swimming. The conning tower rose upward, shedding water. My hands slipped on the slick metal sides of the underseas boat before my fingers tightened and held. I ran across the deck to the conning tower. I crouched over the hatch, tapping twice, then once, then three times.
The hatch lifted. So that we would show light only for the briefest of moments as the conning tower’s hatch rose up, I was sliding a bare foot toward the opening before it lifted six inches.
I suppose it was something of a sight for the boys in the control room to see a naked female descend the ladder toward them. My skin was all goose bumps and I was shaking with cold by now, but the pictures were still taped to my belly, and I felt a lot more glamorous than I am sure I looked.
David Anderjanian was waiting for me with open arms that held a quilted pink robe. As I descended the metal rungs I caught glimpses of the startled faces staring up at me. There was one boy—a child of eighteen—whose mouth was open a full three inches. Just beyond him I caught sight of the captain, smart in his duty uniform. As my long legs came down the ladder followed by my pink behind, the captain blinked and cleared his throat.
There was nothing in the manual about naked females boarding a submarine in the middle of the Bahama night, but the men reacted like gentlemen. Nobody whistled. Nobody said a word. They only looked.
I put my arms behind me, reaching for the robe. I was facing, the youngster with the open mouth. He was devouring my breasts and rigid nipples, chilled by the sea water, with eyes that ached in hunger. I winked at him, shaking my shoulders to make my heavy globes jiggle before I gathered the robe around me.
“The pictures?” David Anderjanian asked. I fumbled at my middle, wincing as I pulled loose the tape. I lifted the plastic bag and handed it to him.
“There must be easier ways to get dirty pictures, chief.” David merely sniffed. He unfastened the bag, opened the envelope, drew out the corner of a picture, and peeked. He flushed and nodded.
“Good work, honey. This is it.” He gestured me to follow him. We paraded silently past submariners at their posts who tried not to notice us. The captain’s stateroom had been made ready for me.
“Hit the sack,” David said. “You must be tired. I’ll be in later.”
“Oh, come on in now. I’m not sleepy. I want to talk about it. You didn’t clue me too thoroughly, if you remember.”
David Anderjanian grinned. He was a big man, four inches over six feet, with sandy hair and a spill of freckles across his nose. His father was Armenian, but his mother had been a Swede, and he took after her. He opened the stateroom and stood aside for me to enter.
“I didn’t, did I? Well, that was for security reasons. If they’d caught you, all you could tell them was your name and the fact that you were after these pictures.”
I seated myself on the edge of the captain’s bunk. I asked, “Who is the Count? Why is he so interested in snapshots of Martin Sloan bedding down a woman?”
“Because Sloan is working on a highly hush-hush project involving an improved form of laser beam which can be used to bring down intercontinental missiles. As I understand it, they’ve developed the laser beam—you know what that is, don’t you?”
“We-ell,” I said hesitantly.
David pulled a chair forward. “Laser stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” It is red light caused when a flash tube hits atoms in a ruby—that’s right, the jewel—which results in a concentrated beam of coherent red light that possesses some mighty odd properties.
“For instance, laser might carry radio and television programs, be used to operate on people, make faster computers, vaporize diamonds—and kill people.
“It can also, Martin Sloan is trying to prove, be used like a searchlight to sweep the skies for any atom bombs that may come our way. Since the laser beam travels at the speed of light and in intercontinental missile only gets up to fifteen thousand miles an hour, the laser beam would win hands down in any contest-providing it can be made to operate the way we want it to. That is Martin Sloan’s job.”
“Oh,” I nodded.
“Make you feel more important?”
“I—I guess it does. Yes.”
David said, “H.A.T.E. wants the beam, too, you see.”
H.A.T.E. was the Humanitarian Alliance for Total Espionage. In a sense, it corresponded with our own LU.S.T. We were natural enemies. When we met in the field, it was always a battle to the death.
“The Count is one of them,” David went on. “We aren’t sure just where he fits in. Oh, we know his general background. Villa on the Italian Riviera, a big stockholder in one of the industries, going great guns in Milan. Outwardly a playboy without a brain in his head. Actually, a clever H.A.T.E. agent. But, whether he’s a boss for a hireling, we don’t know.”
“He owns the yacht. That ought to make him a boss-man.”
David grinned.”H.A.T.E. pays for the frills, just the way L.U.S.T. does. The wardrobe you have hanging in the apartment we got you, that snappy silver Mercedes-Benz 300 SL you look so well in as you drive around, are all written off by L.U.S.T. So H.A.T.E. writes off the yacht that your Count owns.”
“Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. Now what about Martin Sloan? Why’s his private life so important?”
David got that patient look I had grown to know So well while I had been in training for L.U.S.T. “Angel, don’t you have any imagination? Our boy is happily married. He has three kids. He was the victim of a H.A.T.E. plot.”
“Uh-huh.” I am a cynic by nature. David Smiled. “If you want, I’ll get him to tell you himself. They fed him certain-ah-drugs, which made him extremely amorous. He was half looped on scotch to begin with. And the girl with the black hair is attractive.”
“Okay, he’s a boy scout who lost his merit badge, I gather that we saved his marriage for him. Not because we have a thing against unhappy, people or divorce—but because he’d have gone to pieces and would have done anything to get back those pictures.”
David adopted an attitude of intense surprise. “Eve, you’re positively brilliant. So it’s corny, so it’s something out of a movie, But these things do happen.”
“Yea, I guess. What now?”
David stood up. He put a hand to my shoulder and pushed me back on the bed.
“Not you too?” I asked. He chuckled. “Not me, no. Get some sleep.”
I was tired. I nodded. I drew my feet up under me, watching David stare as my thighs came into view. Then I was sliding under, the blankets and putting my head on the pillow. I pursed my lips and blew him a kiss.
“Nighty night, darling,” I said. “Turn off the lights as you go. And close the door quietly.”
I was asleep before the lock clicked. When I woke, I saw that slacks and a sweater and some underthings had been laid out for me. I stretched and wriggled deeper under the covers. It had been a busy night. Lying here like this made me want to turn over on my front and go back to sleep again.
I turned over and cradled my head in my arms. I was just falling into a pleasant dream about David Anderjanian and me when the door opened. I lifted an eyelid.
David was standing there grinning, a piece of paper in his hand. I got a cold chill when I saw that fiendish smile.
“Go away,” I said, burying my head in the pillow. “L.U.S.T. sends congratulations, Eve. You’ve done such a great job, they want you to continue on the case.”
“The case is over. You have the pictures.”
“Ah, but the pictures are only the start.” I lifted my head and propped myself on my elbows, careless of the fact that my case officer could see my breasts hanging down. With my left hand I pushed back my loosened hair.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said slowly. David Anderjanian shook his head and chuckled. The chuckle was real nasty.