The room was very quiet except for the hypnotic tick of a large sunburst wall-clock and the soft murmur of voices from behind a door opposite the entrance. There was a click and the door opened a few inches and a voice with a thick foreign intonation expostulated volubly: “Bud Mister Grunspan, why being so hard? Vee must all make a lifting, yes? I am telling you this vonderful stone gost me ten tousant pounts. Ten tousant! You ton’t pelieff me? Bud I svear it. On my vort of honour.” There was a negative pause and the voice made its final bid. “Bedder still! I bet you fife pounts!”
There was the sound of laughter. “Willy, you’re a real card,” said an American voice. “But it’s no dice. Be glad to help you, but that stone isn’t worth more than nine thousand, and I’ll give you a hundred on top of that for yourself. Now you go along and think about it. You won’t get a better offer in The Street.”
The door opened and a stage American business man with pince-nez and a tightly buttoned mouth ushered out a small harassed-looking Jew with a large red rose in his button-hole. They looked startled at finding the waiting-room occupied and, with a muttered “Pardon me” to no one in particular, the American almost ran his companion across the room and out into the hall. The door closed behind them.
Dankwaerts looked up at Bond and winked. “That’s the whole of the diamond business in a nutshell,” he said. “That was Willy Behrens, one of the best-known freelance brokers in The Street. I suppose the other man was Saye’s buyer.” He turned again to his paper, and Bond, resisting the impulse to light a cigarette, went back to his examination of the flower ‘pictures’.
Suddenly the rich, carpeted, ticking silence of the room struck like a cuckoo clock. Simultaneously, a log fell in the grate, the sunburst clock on the wall chimed the half hour, the door was thrust open and a big, dark man took two quick steps in the room and stood looking sharply from one to the other.
“My name is Saye,” he said harshly. “What goes on around here? What do you want?”
The door was open behind him. Sergeant Dankwaerts rose to his feet and walked politely but firmly round the man and closed it. Then he returned to the middle of the room.
“I am Sergeant Dankwaerts of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard,” he said in a quiet, peaceful voice. “And this,” he made a gesture towards Bond, “is Sergeant James. I am making a routine inquiry about some stolen diamonds. It occurred to the Assistant Commissioner,” the voice was of velvet, “that you might be able to help us.”
“Yes?” said Mr Saye. He looked contemptuously from one to the other of these two underpaid flatfeet who had the effrontery to be taking up his time. “Go ahead.”
While Sergeant Dankwaerts, in tones which to a law-breaker would have sounded menacingly level, and consulting from time to time a small black note-book, recited a story studded with ‘on the i6th instant’s’ and ‘it came to our knowledge’s’, Bond made an unconcealed examination of Mr Saye which appeared to perturb Mr Saye no more than the undertones of Sergeant Dankwaerts’s recitation.
Mr Saye was a large, compact man with the hardness of a chunk of quartz. He had a very square face whose sharp angles were accentuated by short, wiry black hair, cut en brosse and without side-whiskers. His eyebrows were black and straight, and tucked in below them there were two extremely sharp and steady black eyes. He was clean-shaven and his lips were a thin and rather wide straight line. The square chin was deeply cleft and the muscles bulged at the points of the jaw. He was dressed in a roomy, black, single-breasted suit, a white shirt and an almost bootlace-thin black tie, held in place by a gold tie-clip representing a spear. His long arms hung relaxed at his sides and terminated in two very large hands, now slightly curled inwards, whose backs showed black hair. His big feet, in expensive black shoes, looked to be about size 12.
Bond summed him up as a tough and capable man who had triumphed in a variety of hard schools and who looked as if he was still serving in one of them.
“… and these are the stones we are particularly interested in,” concluded Sergeant Dankwaerts. He referred to his black book. “One 20 carat Wesselton. Two Fine Blue-whites of about 10 carats each. One 30 carat Yellow Premier. One 15 carat Top Cape and two 15 carat Cape Unions.” He paused. Then he looked up from his book and very sharply into Mr Saye’s hard black eyes. “Have any of those passed through your hands, Mr Saye, or through your firm in New York?” he inquired softly.
“No,” said Mr Saye flatly. “They have not.” He turned to the door behind him and opened it, “And now, good afternoon, gentlemen.”
Without bothering any further with them he walked decisively out of the room and they heard his footsteps go rapidly up a few stairs. A door opened and banged shut and there was silence.
Undismayed, Sergeant Dankwaerts slipped his note-book into his waistcoat pocket, picked up his hat and walked out into the hall and then out into the street. Bond followed him.
They climbed into the patrol car and Bond gave the address of his flat off the King’s Road. When the car was moving, Sergeant Dankwaerts relaxed his official face. He turned to Bond. He looked amused. “I quite enjoyed that,” he said cheerfully. “Don’t often meet a nut as tough as that one. Did you get what you wanted, Sir?”
Bond shrugged his shoulders. “Tell the truth, Sergeant, I didn’t know exactly what I did want. But I was glad to get a good look at Mr Rufus B. Saye. Quite a chap. Doesn’t look much like my idea of a diamond merchant.”
Sergeant Dankwaerts chuckled. “He’s not a diamond merchant, Sir,” he said, “or I’ll eat my hat.”
“How do you know?”
“When I read out that list of missing stones,” Sergeant Dankwaerts smiled happily, “I mentioned a Yellow Premier and two Cape Unions.”
“It just happens that there aren’t such things, Sir.”