The Lineola was gone, taking the Red Queen with it. “They cast off immediately after they returned,” Q said. He had secretly placed a camera in the marina and had watched from the safety and comfort of the MI6 safe house near the Guggenheim. Kacie was there too, now, pacing back and forth while arguing with someone in London; and two armed security officers stood at opposite ends of the house, presumably a third on watch outside.
Q’s laptop showed Venice and the northern Adriatic with a radar satellite overlay. The position of the Lineola was marked clearly, its heading due west. “This satellite’s almost out of range,” Q said, and they watched together as the yacht drifted off the top of the screen. “It will be twenty minutes before another comes round.”
James checked her phone again. Still nothing. “No luck tracking down Felicity?” she asked him.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be found.”
Maybe, but Diana’s veiled reference to a ‘maybe’ dead American spy troubled James.
Kacie handed the headset over. “M. For you.”
James had already updated M on the Red Queen. What she wanted now was the order that would set her free. “We can’t provide air support, James,” M said. “The risk is too great. I’m sorry.”
“The risk in doing nothing is greater, sir,” James said, practically growling down the line. “We may never get another chance at her.”
There was silence for a minute, then, “Be careful, James. SMERSH are not to be underestimated.”
“No, sir. Thank you, sir.” She handed the headset back to Kacie, who immediately launched into another argument with M or whoever. James was very tempted to catch her from behind and see how well she argued with James’s lips pressed against her neck.
With a sigh, she pushed away the sweet memory of Kacie’s surrender. “Q, my love, I need explosives, and pockets to put them in. I love this dress, but it wasn’t designed for combat.”
Q grinned. “I came prepared.”
The dark figure fell from a dark sky. Had anyone been listening, they might have heard the faint crack of the parachute opening. Had they looked up, they might have seen the stars eclipsed by a shadow. But as far as James could see, there was no one to listen or to look up. She released the chute, landed hard on the deck and rolled to absorb the abrupt speed change.
The Lineola was cruising due west at a steady speed of fifteen knots. Enough to make landing difficult, but nothing James hadn’t done before. Within a second, she was back on her feet, gun in hand.
Still there was no one. No one on deck, no one on the bridge, no one rushing to investigate. “Can you spell ‘trap’?” she muttered. She placed a charge outside the bridge door on a five-minute timer, then proceeded downstairs into the interior.
No one and no one. She was on a ghost ship. Going nowhere. Fast. No sign of life, just… voices. Faint. From the lowest level of the yacht.
Against every instinct, James crept down the narrow staircase. The air was cool, oppressive. She could almost feel the sea pressing against the walls. The voices – a radio – came from a cabin on the left. The door was open.
She checked the corners as she stepped through the door, but no one was there.
No one except the woman tied up on the bed. “I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu,” James said. Taking out her knife, she started cutting through the rope. “Though I must say, Felicity, having you bound like this is a fantasy of mine.” She kissed the silver tape that covered the helpless lips.
Felicity glared at her and mumbled furiously.
“Oh, please,” James scolded. “You would let a Russian psychopath tie you up, but deny your rescuer a simple kiss?” Chuckling to herself, she worked on the rope again until Felicity’s wrist was free, then placed the knife in her hand. “You do the rest.”
A heavy metallic clang reverberated through the yacht, and James leapt out into the hallway, gun at the ready. The hatch at the top of the stairs had closed, and she could find no way to open it.
With a sharp whine, the chattering radio switched channel and laughter issued from the speaker. “James Bond,” a familiar Slavic voice said. “You made this too easy. Don’t try to escape. Or do. It makes no difference. In sixty seconds you’ll get to choose between burning and drowning…”
James smashed the radio against the wall, ending the malevolent laughter. “Now what?” Felicity asked.
“Fifty seconds,” James said, feeling in her pockets. “If anyone’s blowing up this ship, it’s me.” She slammed the door shut and locked it, ran to the far wall of the cabin, which was also the ship’s hull, and quickly fixed the explosive charges. “Five seconds. Ready?”
Felicity had improvised a shield out of the mattress, and James dived under it with her. “How about that kiss?”
Explosions shattered the air and rocked the boat. Deafening. Terrifying. Even shielded by the mattress, the shock wave threw James and Felicity against and tumbling over each other. Sea water rushed in through the jagged breach, flooding the cabin, the level rising swiftly.
“Get under the water!” James shouted, and dived down – and not a second too soon. Fresh explosions rocked the ship, and a ceiling of fire flashed brightly above the water’s surface, disappearing after a few seconds to leave them in absolute darkness.
Or not quite absolute. The sea through the jagged breach had a faint golden illumination, lit by the fire burning on the upper decks of the yacht. James grabbed Felicity’s arm and tugged her after as she fought the current, carefully out through the breach, and up.
They surfaced, gasping for air. The yacht was burning fiercely, and listing slightly. An explosion by the remains of the bridge made James laugh. “Forgot about that one,” she said.
Felicity was struggling to stay afloat. “Get us to dry land, James, and you can have that kiss!”