||A cloud hung over James Bond as he negotiated the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo through the streets of Ostend at the start of a well-earned spell of leave. Rome was his destination, but first there was that worrying call from the Klinik Mozart, in the mountains south of Salzburg, to disturb his rest.
For more years than he cared to remember, his Scottish housekeeper had remained the one constant in his otherwise turbulent life. The two bronchial attacks May had suffered the previous winter had badly damaged her left lung, and had thrown 007 into a paroxysm of almost filial concern. First the Harley Street specialist and now convalescence in one of Europe's most expensive clinics had eased Bond's mind but had done nothing to still May's caustic tongue. If she refused to co-operate, she might not see her next birthday, Bond had been advised.
The incident on the cross-Channel ferry, when the vessel stopped while a search was made for a couple of sky-larking youngsters who, it was thought, had gone overboard, made him unaccountably jumpy. As, unobserved, he operated the secret panel in the dashboard to check his 9mm ASP automatic and the spare ammunition clips, and to withdraw the small Concealable Operations Baton in its soft leather case, he reflected on M's parting advice to be 'especially careful'. The sharp, steely look in his chief's eyes had given Bond the odd feeling that M had been deliberately hiding something from him.
It was just a few hours, rather than days, after disembarking at the Belgian port that the first grisly move was made in a bewildering game of cat-and-mouse, with Bond as the prey. What could be the purpose behind the personal vendetta unleashed by an assailant whom Bond, at first, failed miserably to identify?