Tiffany skipped when they got to ‘Frisco and went and lived with her old Ma who had retired from the girl game by then. But she never would settle down and I guess she found life a bit quiet so she went on the lam again and ended up in Reno. Worked at Harold’s Club for a bit. Came across our friend Seraffimo, and he got all excited because she wouldn’t sleep with him. Offered her some sort of a job at the Tiara at Las Vegas and she’s been there for the last year or two. Doing these trips to Europe in between, I suppose. But she’s a good kid. Just never had a chance after what the gang did to her.”

Bond saw again the eyes gazing sullenly at him out of the mirror, and he heard the record playing Fettilles Mortes in the lonely room. “I like her,” he said briefly. He felt Felix Leiter’s eyes watching him speculatively. He looked at his watch. “Well, Felix,” he said. “It looks as if we’ve got hold of the same tiger. But by different tails. It’s going to be fun pulling at them both at the same time. Now I’m going to go and get some sleep. Got a room at the Astor. Where shall we meet on Sunday?”

“Better keep away from this part of town,” said Leiter. “Meet you outside the Plaza. Early, so we can avoid the traffic on the Parkway. Let’s say nine o’clock. By the cab-stand. You know, where the horse-cabs are. Then if I’m late you can get to recognize a horse. Useful up at Saratoga.”

He paid the check and they walked down and out on to the grilling street. Bond hailed a cab. Leiter refused a lift. Instead he took Bond affectionately by the arm.

“Just one thing, James,” he said, and his voice was serious. “You may not think the hell of a lot of American gangsters. Compared with SMERSH for instance, and some of the other folk you’ve been up against. But I can tell you these Spangled boys are the tops. They’ve got a good machine, even if they do care to have funny names. And they’ve got protection. That’s how it is in America these days. But don’t misunderstand me. They really stink. And this job of yours stinks too.” Leiter let go of Bond’s arm and watched him climb into the taxi. Then he leant in through the window.

“And do you know what your job stinks of, you dumb bastard?” he asked cheerfully. “Formaldehyde and lilies.”



“I’M not going to sleep with you,” said Tiffany Case in a matter-of-fact voice, “so don’t waste your money getting me tight. But I’ll have another and probably another one after that. I just don’t want to drink your Vodka Martinis under false pretences.”

Bond laughed. He gave the order and turned back to her. “We haven’t ordered dinner yet,” he said. “I was going to suggest shellfish and hock. That might have changed your mind. The combination’s supposed to have quite an effect.”

“Listen, Bond,” said Tiffany Case, “it’d take more than Crab-meat Ravigotte to get me into bed with a man. In any event, since it’s your check, I’m going to have caviar, and what you English call ‘cutlets’, and some pink champagne. I don’t often date a good-looking Englishman and the dinner’s going to live up to the occasion.” Suddenly she leant towards him and reached out a hand and put it over his. “Sorry,” she said abruptly. “I didn’t mean that about the check. The dinner’s on me. But I did mean it about the occasion.”

Bond smiled into her eyes, “Don’t be a goose, Tiffany,” he said, using her name for the first time. “I’ve been longing for this evening. And I’m going to have just the same as you. And I’ve got plenty of money for the check. Mr Tree tossed me double or quits for five hundred dollars this morning, and I won.”

At the mention of Shady Tree, the girl’s manner changed. “That ought to cover it,” she said toughly. “Just. You know what they say about this joint? ‘All you can eat for only three hundred bucks.’”

The waiter brought the Martinis, shaken and not stirred, as Bond had stipulated, and some slivers of lemon peel in a wine glass. Bond twisted two of them and let them sink to the bottom of his drink. He picked up his glass and looked at the girl over the rim. “We haven’t drunk to the success of a mission,” he said.

The girl’s mouth turned down sarcastically at the corners. She drank half the Martini at a gulp and put the glass down firmly on the table. “Or to the heart-clutch I only just survived,” she said dryly. “You and your dam golf. I thought you were going to tell that man all about the chip shot you holed in oughty-ought. A little encouragement and you’d have taken out a club and one of those balls and shown him your swing.”

“You made me nervous. Clicking away at that dam lighter trying to get your cigarette to work. I bet you put the wrong end of that Parliament in your mouth and lit the filter.”

She gave a short laugh. “You must have got eyes in your ears,” she admitted. “Dam nearly did just that. Okay. We’ll call it quits.” She finished her Martini. “Come on. You’re not much of a spender. I want another of these. I’m beginning to enjoy myself. And how about ordering dinner? Or d’you hope I’ll pass out before you get around to it?”

Bond beckoned to the maitre d’hotel. He gave the order, and the wine waiter, who came from Brooklyn but wore a striped jacket and a green apron and had a silver chain with a tasting-cup round his neck, went off for the Clicquot Rose.

“If I have a son,” said Bond, “I’ll give him just one piece of advice when he comes of age. I’ll say ‘Spend your money how you like, but don’t buy yourself anything that eats’.”

“Hell’n” Marier,” said the girl. “I must say this really is life with a small 1. Can’t you tell me something nice about my dress or something instead of grumbling the whole time about how expensive I am? You know what they say. ‘If you don’t like my peaches, why do you shake my tree?’”

“I haven’t started to shake it yet. You won’t let me get my arms round the trunk.”

She laughed and looked with approval at Bond. “Why Heavens to Betsy, Mistah Bond,” she said. “Yo all sure do say the purtiest things to a gal.”

“And as for the frock,” Bond continued, “it’s a dream, and you know it is. I love black velvet, especially against a sunburnt skin, and I’m glad you don’t wear too much jewellery, and I’m glad you don’t paint your fingernails. Altogether, I bet you’re the prettiest smuggler in New York tonight. Who are you smuggling with tomorrow?”

She picked up her third Martini and looked at it. Then very slowly, in three swallows, she drank it down. She put down the glass and took a Parliament out of the box beside her plate and bent towards the flame of Bond’s lighter. The valley between her breasts opened for him. She looked up at him through the smoke of her cigarette, and suddenly her eyes widened and then slowly narrowed again. “I like you,” they said. “All is possible between us. But don’t be impatient. And be kind. I don’t want to be hurt any more.”

And then the waiter came with the caviar, and suddenly the noise of the restaurant burst into the warm, silent room-within-a-room which they had built for themselves, and the spell was broken.

“What am I doing tomorrow?” repeated Tiffany Case in the voice one puts on in front of waiters. “Why, I’m going to sashay off to Las Vegas. Taking the 20th Century to Chicago and then the Superchief to Los Angeles. It’s a long way round, but I’ve had enough flying for a few days. What about you?”

The waiter had gone. For a while they ate their caviar in silence. There was no need to answer the question immediately. Bond suddenly felt they had all the time in the world. They both knew the answer to the big question. For the answers to small ones there was no hurry.

Bond sat back. The wine waiter brought the champagne and Bond tasted it. It was ice cold and seemed to have a faint taste of strawberries. It was delicious.

“I’m going up to Saratoga,” he said. “I’m to back a horse that’s to make me some money.”

“I suppose it’s a fix,” said Tiffany Case sourly. She drank

.some of the champagne. Her mood had changed again. She shrugged her shoulders. “You seem to have made quite a hit with Shady this morning,” she said indifferently. “He wants to put you to work for the mob.”

Bond looked down into the pink pool of champagne. He could feel the fog of treachery creeping up between him and this girl he liked. He closed his mind to it. He must get on with tricking her.

“That’s fine,” he said easily. “I’d like that. But who is ‘The Mob’?” He busied himself with lighting a cigarette, conjuring up the professional to keep the human quiet.

He could feel her looking sharply at him. It put him on his mettle. The secret agent took over and his mind began to work coldly, watching for clues, for lies, for hesitations.

He looked up and his eyes were candid.

She seemed satisfied. “It’s called the Spangled Mob. Two brothers called Spang. I work for one of them in Las Vegas. Nobody seems to know where the other one is. Some say he’s in Europe. And then there’s somebody called ABC. When I’m on this diamond racket, all the orders come from him. The other one, Seraffimo, he’s the brother I work for. He’s more interested in gambling and horses. Runs a wire service and the Tiara at Vegas.”

“What do you do there?”

“I just work there,” she said, closing the subject.

“Do you like it?”

She ignored the question as being too stupid to answer.

“And then there’s Shady,” she went on. “He’s not a bad guy really, except he’s so crooked, you shake hands with him you better count your fingers afterwards. He looks after the cat-houses and the dope and the rest of the stuff. There are plenty of other fellers-hoodlums of one sort and another. Tough operators.” She looked at him and her eyes hardened. “You’ll get to know them,” she sneered. “You’ll like them. Just your type-“

“Hell,” said Bond indignantly. “It’s just another job. I’ve got to earn some money.”

“There are plenty of other ways.”

“Well, these are the people you’ve chosen to work for.”

“You’ve got something there.” She laughed wryly, and the ice was broken again. “But, believe me, you’re getting into the big league when you sign up with the Spangles. If I were you, I’d think the hell of a long time before you join our cosy little circle. And don’t go and get in wrong with the mob. If you’re planning anything of that sort, you’d better start taking lessons with a harp.”

They were interrupted by the arrival of the cutlets, accompanied by asparagus with mousseline sauce, and by one of the famous Kriendler brothers who have owned ‘21′ ever since it was the best speak-easy in New York.

“Hullo, Miss Tiffany,” he said. “Long time no see. How’are things out at Vegas?” Copyright 2016 - 2024