Settings

Page 11


He walked farther back on the property. He wanted to locate his car. He found it on a deserted lot behind the west wing. The sun would get at it where it was, so he drove it forward and into the shade of a giant ficus tree. He checked the petrol and pocketed the ignition key. There were not too many small precautions he could take.

On the parking lot the smell of the swamps was very strong. While it was still comparatively cool, he decided to walk farther. He soon came to the end of the young shrubs and guinea grass the landscaper had laid on. Behind these was desolation--a great area of sluggish streams and swampland from which the hotel land had been recovered. Egrets, shrikes, and Louisiana herons rose and settled lazily, and there were strange insect noises and the call of frogs and gekkos. On what would probably be the border of the property, a biggish stream meandered towards the sea, its muddy banks pitted with the holes of land crabs and water rats. As Bond approacned, there was a heavy splash and a man-sized alligator left the bank and showed its snout before submerging. Bond smiled to himself. No doubt, if the hotel got off the ground, all this area would be turned into an asset. There would be native boatmen, suitably attired as Arawak Indians, a landing stage, and comfortable boats with fringed shades from which the guests could view the “tropical jungle” for an extra ten dollars on the bill.

Bond glanced at his watch. He strolled back. To the left, not yet screened by the young oleanders and crotons that had been planted for this eventual purpose, were the kitchens and laundry and staff quarters, the usual back quarters of a luxury hotel; and music, the heartbeat thump of Jamaican calypso, came from their direction--presumably the Kingston combo rehearsing. Bond walked round and under the portico into the main lobby. Scaramanga was at the desk talking to the manager. When he heard Bond's footsteps on the marble, he turned and looked, and gave Bond a curt nod. He was dressed as on the previous day, and the high white cravat suited the elegance of the hall. He said “Okay, then” to the manager and, to Bond, “Let's go take a look at the conference room.”

Bond followed him through the restaurant door and then through another door to the right that opened into a lobby, one of whose walls was taken up with the glasses and plates of a buffet. Beyond this was another door. Scaramanga led the way through into what would one day perhaps be a card room or writing room. Now there was nothing but a round table in the centre of a wine-red carpet and seven white leatherette armchairs with scratchpads and pencils in front of them. The chair facing the door, presumably Scaramanga's , had a white telephone in front of it.

Bond went round the room and examined the windows and the curtains and glanced at the wall brackets of the lighting. He said, “The brackets could be bugged. And of course there's the telephone. Like me to go over it?”

Scaramanga looked at Bond stonily. He said, “No need to. It's bugged all right. By me. Got to have a record of what's said.”

Bond said, “All right, then. Where do you want me to be?”

“Outside the door. Sitting reading a magazine or something. There'll be the general meeting this afternoon around four. Tomorrow there'll maybe be one or two smaller meetings, maybe just me and one of the guys. I don't want any of these meetings to be disturbed. Got it?” “Seems simple enough. Now, isn't it about time you told me the names of these men and more or less who they represent and which ones, if any, you're expecting trouble from?”

Scaramanga said, “Take a chair and a paper and pencil.” He strolled up and down the room. “First there's Mr. Hendriks. Dutchman. Represents the European money, mostly Swiss. You needn't bother with him. He's not the arguing type. Then there's Sam Binion from Detroit.” “The Purple Gang?”

Scaramanga stopped in his stride and looked hard at Bond. “These are all respectable guys, mister whoosis.” “Hazard is the name.”

“All right. Hazard, then. But respectable, you understand. Don't go getting the notion that this is another Ap-palachia. These are all solid businessmen. Get me? This Sam Binion, for instance. He's in real estate. He and his friends are worth maybe twenty million bucks. See what I mean? Then there's Leroy Gengerella. Miami. Owns Gengerella Enterprises. Big shots in the entertainment world. He may cut up rough. Guys in that line of business like quick profits and a quick turnover. And Ruby Rotkopf, the hotel man from Vegas. He'll ask the difficult questions because he'll already know most of the answers from experience. Hal Garfinkel from Chicago. He's in labour relations, like me. Represents a lot of Teamster Union funds. He shouldn't be any trouble. Those unions have got so much money they don't know where to put it. That makes five. Last comes Louis Paradise from Phoenix, Arizona. Owns Paradise Slots, the biggest people in the one-armed bandit business. Got casino interests too. I can't figure which way he'll bet. That's the lot.”

“And who do you represent, Mr. Scaramanga?”

“Caribbean money.”

“Cuban?”

“I said Caribbean. Cuba's in the Caribbean, isn't it?”

“Castro or Batista?”

The frown was back. Scaramanga's right hand balled into a fist. “I told you not to rile me, mister. So don't go prying into my affairs or you'll get hurt. And that's for sure.” As if he could hardly control himself longer, the big man turned on his heel and strode brusquely out of the room.

James Bond smiled. He turned back to the list in front of him. A strong reek of high gangsterdom rose from the paper. But the name he was most interested in was Mr. Hendriks who represented “European money.” If that was his real name, and he was a Dutchman, so, James Bond reflected, was he.

He tore off three sheets of paper to efface the impression of his pencil and walked out and along into the lobby. A bulky man was approaching the desk from the entrance. He was sweating mightily in his unseasonable wooden-looking suit. He might have been anybody--an Antwerp diamond merchant, a German dentist, a Swiss bank manager. The pale, square-jowled face was totally anonymous. He put a heavy briefcase on the desk and said in a thick Central European accent, “I am Mr. Hendriks. I think it is that you have a room for me, isn't it?”

8 - Pass the Canapes!

The cars began rolling up. Scaramanga was in evidence. He switched a careful smile of welcome on and off. No hands were shaken. The host was greeted either as “Pistol” or “Mr. S.” except by Mr. Hendriks, who called him nothing.

Bond stood within earshot of the desk and fitted the names to the men. In general appearance they were all much of a muchness. Dark-faced, clean-shaven, around five feet six, hard-eyed above thinly smiling mouths, curt of speech to the manager. They all held firmly on to their briefcases when the bellboys tried to add them to the luggage on the rubber-tired barrows. They dispersed to their rooms along the west wing. Bond took out his list and added hatcheck notations to each one except Hendriks, who was clearly etched in Bond's memory. Gengerella became “Italian origin, mean, pursed mouth”; Rotkopf, “Thick neck, totally bald, Jew”; Binion, “bat ears, scar down left cheek, limp”; Garfinkel, “the toughest, bad teeth, gun under right armpit”; and finally, Paradise, “Showman type, cocky, false smile, diamond ring.”

Scaramanga came up. “What's that you're writing?”

“Just notes to remember them by.”

“Let's see it.” Scaramanga held out a demanding hand.

Bond gave him the list.

Scaramanga ran his eyes down it. He handed it back. “Fair enough. But you needn't have mentioned the only gun you noticed. They'll all be protected. Except Hendriks I guess. These kinda guys are nervous when they move abroad.”

“What of?”

Scaramanga shrugged. “Maybe the natives.”

“The last people who worried about the natives were the redcoats, perhaps a hundred and fifty years ago.”

“Who cares? See you in the bar around twelve. I'll be introducing you as my personal assistant.”

“That'll be fine.”

Scaramanga's brows came together. Bond strolled off in the direction of his bedroom. He proposed to needle this man, and go on needling until it came to a fight. For the time being, the other man would probably take it because it seemed he needed Bond. But there would come a moment, probably on an occasion when there were witnesses, when his vanity would be so sharply pricked that he would draw. Then Bond would have a small edge, for it would be he who had thrown down the glove. The tactic was a crude one, but Bond could think of no other.

Bond verified that his room had been searched at some time during the morning--and by an expert. He always used a Hoffritz safety razor patterned on the old-fashioned heavy-toothed Gillette type. His American friend Felix Leiter had once bought him one in New York to prove that they were the best, and Bond had stayed with them. The handle of a safety razor is a reasonably sophisticated hideout for the minor tools of espionage--codes, microdot developers, cyanide, and other pills. That morning Bond had set a minute nick on the screw base of the handle in line with the “Z” of the maker's name engraved on the shaft. The nick was now a millimetre to the right of the “Z.” None of his other little traps--handkerchiefs with indelible dots in particular places arranged in a certain order, the angle of his suitcase with the wall of the wardrobe, the semi-extracted lining of the breast pocket of his spare suit, the particular symmetry of certain dents in his tube of Macleans toothpaste--had been bungled or disturbed. They all might have been by a meticulous servant, a trained valet. But Jamaican servants, for all their charm and willingness, are not of this calibre. No. Between nine and ten, when Bond was doing his rounds and was well away from the hotel, his room had received a thorough going-over by someone who knew his business.

Bond was pleased. It was good to know that the fight was well and truly joined. If he found a chance of making a foray into Number 20, he hoped that he would do better. He took a shower. Afterwards, as he brushed his hair, he looked at himself in the mirror with inquiry. He was feeling a hundred percent fit, but he remembered the dull, lacklustre eyes that had looked back at him when he shaved after first entering The Park--the tense, preoccupied expression on his face. Now the grey-blue eyes looked back at him from the tanned face with the brilliant glint of suppressed excitement and accurate focus of the old days. He smiled ironically back at the introspective scrutiny that so many people make of themselves before a race, a contest of wits, a trial of some sort. He had no excuses. He was ready to go.

The bar was through a brass-studded leather door opposite the lobby to the conference room. It was--in the fashion--a mock-English public-house saloon bar with luxury accessories. The scrubbed wooden chairs and benches had foam-rubber squabs in red leather. Behind the bar, the tankards were of silver, or simulated silver, instead of pewter. The hunting prints, copper and brass hunting horns, muskets and powder horns, on the walls could have come from the Parker Galleries in London . Instead of tankards of beer, bottles of champagne in antique coolers stood on the tables and, instead of yokels, the hoods stood around in what looked like Brooks Brothers “tropical” attire and carefully sipped their drinks while “Mine Host” leant against the polished mahogany bar and twirled his golden gun round and round on the first finger of his right hand like the snide poker cheat out of an old Western.

Copyright 2016 - 2020