“Sure. Come and try. But brother, you’d better be tops.”
The eyes themselves had the rare quality of chatoyance. When jewels have chatoyance the colour in the lustre changes with movement in the light, and the colour of this girl’s eyes seemed to vary between a light grey and a deep grey-blue.
Her skin was lightly tanned and without make-up except for a deep red on the lips, which were full and soft and rather moody so as to give the effect of what is called ‘a sinful mouth’. But not, thought Bond, one that often sinned-if one was to judge by the level eyes and the hint of authority and tension behind them.
The eyes now looked impersonally into his.
“So you’re Peter Franks,” she said and the voice was low and attractive, but with a touch of condescension.
“Yes,” he said. “And I’ve been wondering what T stands for.”
She thought for a moment. “I guess you can find out at the desk,” she said. “It stands for Tiffany.” She walked over to the gramophone and stopped the record in the middle of ]e n’en connais pas la fin. She turned round. “But it’s not in the public domain,” she added coldly.
Bond shrugged his shoulders and moved over to the window-sill and leant easily against it with his ankles crossed.
His nonchalance seemed to irritate her. She sat down in front of the writing-desk. “Now then,” she said, and her voice had an edge to it, “Let’s get down to business. In the first place, why did you take on this job?”
“Oh.” She looked at him sharply. “They told me your line was stealing.” She paused. “Hot blood or cold blood?”
“Hot blood. A fight.”
“So you want to get out?”
“That’s about it. And the money.”
She changed the subject. “Got a wooden leg? False teeth?”
“No. Everything’s real.”
She frowned. “I’m always telling them to find me a man with a wooden leg. Well, have you got any hobbies or anything? Any ideas about where you’re going to carry the stones?”
“No,” said Bond. “I play cards and golf. But I thought the handles of trunks and suitcases were good places for this sort of stuff.”
“So do the customs men,” she said dryly. She sat silent for a moment, reflecting. Then she pulled a piece of paper and a pencil towards her. “What sort of golf balls do you use?” she asked unsmilingly.
“They’re called Dunlop 65′$.” He was equally serious. “Maybe you’ve got something there.”
She made no comment, but wrote the name down. She looked up. “Got a passport?”
“Well, I have,” admitted Bond. “But it’s in my real name.”
“Oh.” She was suspicious again. “And what might that be?”
She snorted. “Why not choose Joe Doe?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Who cares anyway? Can you get an American visa in two days? And a vaccination certificate?”
“Don’t see why not,” said Bond. (Q Branch would fix all that.) “There’s nothing against me in America. Or at Criminal Records here, for the matter of that. Under Bond, that is.”
“Okay,” she said. “Now listen. Immigration will need this. You’re going over to the States to stay with a man called Tree. Michael Tree. You’ll be staying at the Astor in New York. He’s an American friend of yours. You met him in the war.” She unbent minutely. “Just for the record, this man really exists. He’ll back up your story. But he’s not generally known as Michael. He’s known as ‘Shady’ Tree to his friends. If any,” she added sourly.
“He’s not as funny as he sounds,” said the girl shortly. She opened a drawer in the desk and took out a packet of five-pound notes with a rubber band round it. She riffled them through and detached about half their number and put these back in the drawer. She rolled up the rest, snapped the rubber band round them and tossed the packet across the room to Bond. Bond leant forward and caught it near the floor.
“There’s about £500 in there,” she said. “Book yourself in at the Ritz and give that address to Immigration. Get a good used suitcase and put in it what you would take on a golfing holiday. Get your golf clubs. Keep out of sight. BOAC Monarch to New York. Thursday evening. Get a single ticket first thing tomorrow morning. The Embassy won’t give you a visa without seeing your ticket. Car will pick you up at the Ritz at 6.30 Thursday evening. Driver will give you the golf balls. Put ‘em in your bag. And,” she looked him straight in the eye, “don’t think you can go into business for yourself with this stuff. The driver will stay alongside you until your luggage has gone out to the plane. And I’ll be at London Airport. So no funny business. Okay?”
Bond shrugged his shoulders. “What would I do with this kind of merchandise?” he said carelessly. “Too big for me. And what happens the other end?”
“Another driver will be waiting outside the customs. He’ll tell you what to do next. Now,” her voice was urgent, “If anything happens at the customs, either end, you know nothing, see? You just don’t know how the balls got into your bag. Whatever they ask you, just go on saying, ‘By me’. Act dumb. I shall be watching. And maybe others too. That I wouldn’t know. If they lock you up in America, ask for the British Consul and go on asking. You won’t get any help from us. But that’s what you’re being paid for. Okay?”
“Fair enough,” said Bond. “The only person I could get into trouble would be you.” He looked appraisingly at her. “And I wouldn’t like that to happen.”
“Shucks,” she said scornfully. “You’ve got nothing on me. Don’t worry about me, my friend. I can look after myself.” She got up and came and stood in front of him. “And don’t ‘little girl’ me,” she said sharply. “We’re on a job. And I can take care of myself. You’d be surprised.”
Bond stood up and away from the window-sill. He smiled down and into the flashing grey eyes that were now dark with impatience. ” ‘I can do anything better than you can.’ Don’t worry. I’ll be a credit to you. But just relax and stop being so business-like for a minute. I’d like to see you again. Could we meet in New York if everything goes all right?” Bond felt treacherous as he said the words. He liked this girl. He wanted to make friends with her. But it would be a question of using ‘ friendship to get further up the pipeline.
She looked thoughtfully at him for a moment and her eyes gradually lost their darkness. Her sharply compressed lips relaxed and parted a little. There was a hint of a stammer in her voice as she answered him.
“I, I… that is,” she brusquely turned away from him. “Hell,” she said, but the word sounded artificial. “I’ve got nothing on Friday night. Guess we might have dinner. ‘21′ Club on 52nd. All the cab drivers know it. Eight o’clock. If the job goes off okay. Suit you?” She turned back towards him and looked at his mouth and not his eyes.
“Fine,” said Bond. He thought it was time to get out before he made a mistake. “Now,” he said efficiently. “Is there anything else?”
“No,” she said, and then sharply, as if she had just remembered something. “What’s the time?”
Bond looked at his watch. “Ten to six.”
“I’ve got to get busy,” she said. With a movement of dismissal she walked towards the door. Bond followed her. With her hand on the key she turned. She looked at him, and there was confidence and almost warmth in her eyes. “You’ll be all right,” she said. “Just keep away from me in the plane. Don’t panic if anything goes wrong. If you work out okay,” the patronizing note came back to her voice, “I’ll try and get you some more of the same sort of jobs.”
“Thanks,” said Bond. “I’d appreciate that. I’d enjoy working with you.”
With a slight shrug of the shoulders, she opened the door and Bond walked out into the corridor.
He turned. “See you at this ‘21′ place of yours,” he said. He wanted to say more, to find an excuse to stay with her, with this lonely girl who played the gramophone and gazed at herself in the mirror.
But now her expression was remote. He might have been a complete stranger. “Sure,” she said indifferently. She looked at him once more and then she closed the door slowly but firmly in his face.
As Bond walked away down the long corridor to the lift, the girl stood just inside the door and listened until his footsteps had vanished. Then, with brooding eyes, she walked slowly over to the gramophone and switched it on. She picked up the Feyer record and searched for the groove she wanted. She put the record on the machine and found the place with the needle. The tune was ]e n’en connais fas la fin. She stood listening to it and wondering about the man who had suddenly, out of the blue, found his way into her life. God, she thought to herself with sudden angry despair, another dam crook. Couldn’t she ever get away from them? But when the record stopped her face was happy, and she hummed the tune as she powdered her nose and got ready to go out.
Out on the street she paused and looked at her watch. Ten minutes past six. Five minutes to go. She walked across Trafalgar Square to Charing Cross Station, arranging in her mind what she was going to say. Then she went into the station and into one of the call-boxes she always used.
It was just 6.15 when she dialled the Welbeck number. After the usual two rings she heard the click of the automatic recorder taking the call. For twenty seconds she heard nothing but the sharp hiss of a needle on wax. Then the neutral voice that was her unknown master said the one word ‘Speak’. And then there was silence again except for the hiss of the recorder.
She had long got over being flustered by the abrupt, disembodied command. She spoke rapidly but distinctly into the black mouthpiece. “Case to ABC. I repeat. Case to ABC.” She paused. “Carrier is satisfactory. Says real name is James Bond and will use that name on passport. Plays golf and will carry golf clubs. Suggest golf balls. Uses Dunlop 60’s. All other arrangements stand. Will call for confirmation at 1915 and 2015. That’s all.”
She listened for a moment to the hiss of the recorder; then she put down the receiver and walked back to her hotel. She called Room Service for a large dry Martini and when it came she sat and smoked and played the gramophone and waited for 7.15.
Then, or perhaps not until she called back again at 8.15, the neutral, muffled voice would come back at her over the telephone wire: “ABC to Case. I repeat. ABC to Case…” And then would follow her instructions.
And somewhere, in some rented room in London, the hiss of the recorder would stop as she put back the receiver. And then, perhaps, an unknown door would close and footsteps would softly sound on some stairs and out into an unknown street and away.