Bond examined the Swiss watches in his shop window and then turned and sauntered on. After a few yards he stopped again. Still nothing. He went on and turned right into the Avenue of the Americas, stopping in the first doorway, the entrance to a women’s underwear store where a man in a tan suit with his back to him was examining the black lace pants on a particularly realistic dummy. Bond turned and leant against a pillar and gazed lazily but watchfully out into the street.

And then something gripped his pistol arm and a voice snarled: “All right, Limey. Take it easy unless you want lead for lunch,” and he felt something press into his back just above the kidneys.

What was there familiar about that voice? The Law? The Gang? Bond glanced down to see what was holding his right arm. It was a steel hook. Well, if the man had only one arm! Like lightning he swivelled, bending sideways and bringing his left fist round in a flailing blow, low down.

There was a smack as his fist was caught in the other man’s left hand, and, at the same time as the contact telegraphed to Bond’s mind that there could have been no gun, there came the well-remembered laugh and the lazy voice saying: “No good, James. The angels have got you.”

Bond straightened himself slowly and for a moment he could only gaze into the grinning hawk-like face of Felix Leiter with blank disbelief, his built-up tension slowly relaxing.

“So you were doing a front tail, you lousy bastard,” he finally said. He looked with delight at the friend he had last seen as a cocoon of dirty bandages on a bloodstained bed in a Florida hotel, the American secret agent with whom he had shared so many adventures. “What the hell are you doing here? And what the hell do you mean playing the bloody fool in this heat?” Bond took out a handkerchief and wiped it over his face. “For a moment you almost made me nervous.”

“Nervous!” Felix Leiter laughed scornfully. “You were saying your prayers. And your conscience is so bad you didn’t even know if you were going to get it from the cops or the gang. Right?”

Bond laughed and dodged the question. “Come on, you crooked spy,” he said. “You can buy me a drink and tell me all about it. I just don’t believe in odds as long as this. In fact, you can buy me lunch. You Texans are lousy with money.”

“Sure,” said Leiter. He slipped his steel hook into the right-hand pocket of his coat and took Bond’s arm with his left hand. They moved out on to the street and Bond noticed that Leiter walked with a heavy limp. “In Texas even the fleas are so rich they can hire themselves dogs. Let’s go. Sardi’s is just over the way.”

Leiter avoided the fashionable room at the famous actors’ and writers’ eating house and led Bond upstairs. His limp was more noticeable and he held on to the banisters. Bond made no comment, but when he left his friend at a corner table in the blessedly air-conditioned restaurant and went off to the wash-room to clean himself up, he added up his impressions. The right arm had gone, and the left leg, and there were imperceptible scars below the hairline above the right eye that suggested a good deal of grafting, but otherwise Leiter looked in good shape. The grey eyes were undefeated, the shock of straw-coloured hair had no hint of grey in it, and there was none of the bitterness of a cripple in Leiter’s face. But in their short walk there had been a hint of reticence in Leiter’s manner and Bond felt this had something to do with him, Bond, and perhaps with Leiter’s present activities. Certainly not, he thought as he walked across the room to join his friend, with Leiter’s injuries.

There was a medium dry Martini with a piece of lemon peel waiting for him. Bond smiled at Leiter’s memory and tasted it. It was excellent, but he didn’t recognize the Vermouth.

“Made with Cresta Blanca,” explained Leitef. “New domestic brand from California. Like it?”

“Best Vermouth I ever tasted.”

“And I’ve taken a chance and ordered you smoked salmon and Brizzola,” said Leiter. “They’ve got some of the finest meat in America here, and Brizzola’s the best cut of that. Beef, straight-cut across the bone. Roast and then broiled. Suit you?”

“Anything you say,” said Bond. “We’ve eaten enough meals together to know each other’s tastes.”

“I’ve told them not to hurry,” said Leiter. He rapped on the table with his hook. “We’ll have another Martini first and while you drink it you’d better come clean.” There was warmth in his smile, but his eyes were watching Bond. “Just tell me one thing. What business have you got with my old friend Shady Tree?” He gave his order to the waiter and sat forward in his chair and waited.

Bond finished his first Martini and lit a cigarette. He swivelled casually in his chair. The tables near them were empty. He turned back and faced the American.

“You tell me something first, Felix,” he said softly. “Who are you working for these days? Still the CIA?”

“Nix,” said Leiter. “With my gun hand gone they could only offer me desk work. Very nice about it and paid me off handsomely when I said I wanted an open-air life. So Pinkerton’s made me a good offer. You know, ‘The Eye that Never Sleeps’ people. So now I’m just a’door-basher’-private detective. Tut on some clothes and open up’ routine. But it’s good fun. They’re a nice crowd to work with, and one day I’ll be able to retire with a pension and a presentation gold watch that goes green in summer. As a matter of fact I’m in charge of their Race Gang squad-doping, crooked running, night-guards at the stables, all that sort of thing. Good job, and it takes you all over the country.”

“Sounds all right,” said Bond. “But I didn’t know you knew anything about horses.”

“Usen’t to be able to recognize a horse unless there was a milk-wagon tied on behind,” admitted Leiter. “But you soon pick it up, and it’s mostly the people you have to know about, not the horses. What about you?” He lowered his voice. “Still with the Old Firm?”

“That’s right,” said Bond.

“On a job for them now?”




Leiter sighed. He sipped his Martini reflectively. “Well,” he said finally. “You’re a dam fool to be operating alone if it’s anything to do with the Spangled boys. In fact, you’re such a bad risk I’m crazy even to be having lunch with you. But I’ll tell you why I was gumshoeing around Shady’s neck of the woods this morning and maybe we can help each other. Without involving our outfits, of course. Okay?”

“You know I’d like to work with you, Felix,” said Bond seriously. “But I’m still working for the Government while you’re probably in competition with yours. But if it turns out our target’s the same, there’s no sense in getting wires crossed. If we’re chasing the same hare, I’ll be happy to run with you. Now,” Bond looked quizzically at the Texan. “Am I right in thinking you’re interested in someone with a blaze face and four white stockings? Called Shy Smile?”

“That’s right,” said Leiter, not particularly surprised. “Running at Saratoga on Tuesday. And what might the running of this horse have to do with the security of the British Empire?”

“I’ve been told to back him,” said Bond. “One thousand dollars to win. Pay-off for another job.” Bond lifted up his cigarette and his hand covered his mouth. “I brought £100,000 worth of uncut diamonds in by plane this morning for Mr Spang and his friends.”

Leiter’s eyes narrowed. He gave a low whistle of surprise.

“Boy!” he said respectfully. “You’re certainly in a bigger league than me. I’m only interested because Shy Smile is a ringer. The horse that’s due to win on Tuesday won’t be Shy Smile at all. Shy Smile wasn’t even placed the last three times he ran. And anyway they’ve shot him. It’ll be a very fast job called Picka-pepper. Just by chance he’s got a blaze face and four white stockings, too. Big chestnut, and they’ve done a good job with his hooves and various other small points of difference. They’ve been getting this job ready for over a year. Out in the desert in Nevada, where the Spangs have some sort of a ranch. And are they going to clean up! It’s a big race, with $25,000 added. And you can bet they’ll plaster the country with their money just before the off. Can’t fail to be better than Fives. More like Ten or Fifteen to One. They’ll make a packet.”

“But I thought all horses in America had to have their lips tattooed,” said Bond. “How have they got round that?”

“Grafted new skin on to Pickapepper’s mouth. Copied Shy Smile’s marks on it. This tattoo gimmick is getting old fashioned. The word in Pinkerton’s is that the Jockey Club are going to change to photos of the night eyes.”

“What are night eyes?”

“They’re those calluses on the inside of a horse’s knees. The English call them ‘chestnuts’. Seems they’re different on every horse. Like a man’s fingerprints. But it’ll be the same old story. They’ll photo the night eyes on every racehorse in America and then find the gangs have dreamed up a way of altering them with acid. The cops never catch up with the robbers.”

“How do you know all this about Shy Smile?”

“Blackmail,” said Leiter cheerfully. “I had a drugging rap all lined up on one of the Spang stable boys. I let him buy his way out of it with the details of this little caper.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Remains to be seen. Going up to Saratoga on Sunday.” Leiter’s face lit up. “Hell, why don’t you come along with me? Driving up, and I’ll get you in at my dump. The Sagamore. Swanky motel. You’ve got to sleep somewhere. Better not be seen out together much, but we’ll be able to meet up in the evenings. What do you say?”

“Wonderful,” said Bond. “Couldn’t be better. And now it’s dam near two o’clock. Let’s have some lunch and I’ll tell you my end of the story.”

The smoked salmon was from Nova Scotia and a poor substitute for the product of Scotland, but the Brizzola was all that Leiter had said, so tender that Bond could cut it with a fork. He finished his lunch with half an avocado with French dressing and then dawdled over his Espresso.

“And that’s the long and short of it.” Bond concluded the story he had been telling between mouthfuls. “And my guess is that the Spangs are doing the smuggling and the House of Diamonds, which they own, is doing the merchandising. Any views?”

Leiter tapped a Lucky Strike out on to the table with his left hand and lit it at the flame of Bond’s Ronson.

“Sounds possible,” he agreed after a pause. “But I don’t know much about this brother of Seraffimo, Jack Spang. And if Jack Spang is ‘Saye’ it’s the first I’ve heard of him for a long while. We’ve got records on all the rest of the mob, and I’ve come across Tiffany Case. Nice kid, but she’s been on the fringe of the gangs for years. Didn’t have much chance from the cradle up. Her mother ran the snazziest cat-house in San Francisco. Doing fine until she made one hell of a mistake. Decided one day not to pay the local outfit’s protection money. She was paying the police so much I guess she reckoned they’d look after her. Crazy. One night the mob turned up in force and wrecked the joint. Left the girls alone, but had themselves a gang-bang with Tiffany. She was only sixteen at the time. Not surprising she won’t have anything to do with men since then. Next day she got hold of her mother’s cash box, busted it open, and took to the hills. Then the usual round-hat-check girl, taxi-dancer, studio extra, waitress-until she was about twenty. Then maybe life didn’t seem so good and she took to liquor. Settled in a rooming house down on one of the Florida Keys and started drinking herself to death. Got so she was known as The Boiled Sweet down there. Then a kid fell in the sea and she jumped in and saved him. Got her name in the papers and some rich woman took a fancy to her and practically kidnapped her. Made her join Alcoholics Anonymous and then took her around the world as her companion. But Copyright 2016 - 2024