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Page 14

Bond smiled a thin smile. He could imagine the golden gun being produced and twirled round the finger and stuck back in the waistband. He got up and moved his chair away from the door and poured champagne into the useful glass and leant against the buffet and studied the latest handout from the Jamaica Tourist Board.

The click of Scaramanga's passkey sounded in the lock. Scaramanga looked at Bond from the doorway. He ran a finger along the small moustache. “Okay, fellow. I guess that's enough of the house champagne. Cut along to the manager and tell him Mr. Ruby Rotkopf'll be checking out tonight. I'll fix the details. And say a major fuse blew during the meeting and I'm going to seal off this room and find out why we're having so much bad workmanship around the place. Okay? Then drinks and dinner and bring on the dancing girls. Got the picture?”

James Bond said that he had. He weaved slightly as he went to the lobby door and unlocked it. E.& O.E. (errors and omissions excepted) as the financial prospectuses say, he thought that he had indeed now “got the picture.” And it was an exceptionally clear print in black and white without fuzz.

10 - Belly-Lick, etc.

In the back office, James Bond went quickly over the highlights of the meeting. Nick Nicholson and Felix Leiter agreed they had enough on the tape, supported by Bond, to send Scaramanga to the chair. That night, one of them would do some snooping while the body of Rotkopf was being disposed of and try and get enough evidence to have Garfinkel and, better still, Hendriks indicted as accessories. But they didn't at all like the outlook for James Bond. Felix commanded him, “Now don't you move an inch without that old equalizer of yours. We don't want to have to read that obituary of yours in The Times all over again. All that crap about what a great guy you are nearly made me throw up when I saw it picked up in our papers. I damn nearly fired off a piece to the Trib putting the record straight.”

Bond laughed. He said, "You're a fine friend, Felix.

When I think of all the trouble I've been to to set you a good example all these years." He went off to his room, swallowed two heavy slugs of bourbon, had a cold shower, and lay on his bed and looked at the ceiling until it was 8:30 and time for dinner. The meal was less stuffy than luncheon. Everyone seemed satisfied with the way the business of the day had gone, and all except Scaramanga and Mr. Hendriks had obviously had plenty to drink. Bond found himself excluded from the happy talk. Eyes avoided his and replies to his attempts at conversation were monosyllabic. He was bad news. He had been dealt the death card by the boss. He was certainly not a man to be pally with.

Dinner--the conventional “expensive” dinner of a cruise ship--was as predictable as such things usually are. The waiters brought on the desiccated smoked salmon with a thimbleful of small-grained black caviar, fillets of some unnamed native fish (possibly silk fish) in a cream sauce, a “poulet supreme” (a badly roasted broiler with a thick gravy), and the bombe surprise. And while the meal moved sluggishly on, the dining-room was being turned into a “tropical jungle” with the help of potted plants, piles of oranges and coconuts, and an occasional stem of bananas --this was a backdrop for the calypso band, which, in wine-red and gold-frilled shirts assembled in due course and began playing “Linstead Market” too loud. The tune closed. An acceptable but heavily clad girl appeared and began singing “Belly-Lick” with the printable words. She wore a false pineapple as a headdress. Bond saw a “cruise ship” evening stretching ahead. He decided that he was either too old or too young for the worst torture of all, boredom, and got up and went to the head of the table. He said to Scaramanga, “I've got a headache. I'm going to bed.”

Scaramanga looked up at him under lizard eyelids. “No. If you figure the evening's not going so good, make it go better. That's what you're being paid for. You act as if you know Jamaica. Okay. Get those people off the pad.”

It was many years since James Bond had accepted a dare. He felt the eyes of The Group on him. What he had drunk had made him careless--perhaps wanting to show off, like the man at the party who insists on playing the drums. Stupidly, he wanted to assert his personality over this bunch of tough guys who rated him insignificant. He didn't stop to think that it was bad tactics, that he would be better off being the ineffectual limey. He said, “All right, Mr. Scaramanga. Give me a hundred dollar bill and your gun.”

Scaramanga didn't move. He looked up at Bond with surprise and controlled uncertainty. Louie Paradise shouted thickly, “C'mon, Pistol! Let's see some action! Maybe the guy can produce.”

Scaramanga reached for his hip pocket, took out his billfold, and thumbed out a bill. Next he slowly reached to his waistband and took out his gun. The subdued light from the spot on the girl glowed on its gold. He laid the two objects on the table side by side. James Bond, his back to the cabaret, picked up the gun and hefted it. He thumbed back the hammer and twirled the cylinder with a flash of his hands to verify that it was loaded. Then he suddenly whirled, dropped on his knee so that his aim would be above the shadowy musicians in the background, and, his arm at full length, let fly. The explosion was deafening in the confined space. The music died. There was a tense silence. The remains of the false pineapple hit something in the dark background with a soft thud. The girl stood under the spot and put her hands up to her face and slowly folded to the dance floor like something graceful out of Swan Lake. The maitre d'hotel came running from among the shadows.

As chatter broke out among The Group, James Bond picked up the hundred dollar bill and walked out into the spotlight. He bent down and lifted the girl up bv her arm. He pushed the bill down into her cleavage. He said, “That was a fine act we did together, sweetheart. Don't worry. You were in no danger. I aimed for the top half of the pineanple. Now run off and get ready for your next turn.” He turned her round and gave her a sharp pat in the behind. She gave him a horrified glance and scurried off into the shadows.

Bond strolled on and came up with the band. “Who's in charge here? Who's in command of. the show?”

The guitarist, a tall, gaunt Negro, got slowly to his feet. The whites of his eyes showed, He squinted at the golden gun in Bond's hand. He said uncertainly, as if signing his own death warrant, “Me, sah.”

“What's your name?”

“Kong Tiger, sah.”

“All right then, King. Now listen to me. This isn't a Salvation Army fork supper. Mr. Scaramanga's friends want some action. And they want it hot. I'll be sending plenty of rum over to loosen things up. Smoke weed if you like. We're private here. No one's going to tell on you. And get that pretty girl back, but with only half the clothes on, and tell her to come up close and sing. ”Belly-Lick“ very clearly with the blue words. And, by the end of the show, she and the other girls have got to end up stripped. Understand? Now get cracking, or the evening'll fold and there'll be no tips at the end. Okay? Then let's go.”

There was nervous laughter and whispered exhortation to King Tiger from the six-piece combo. King Tiger grinned broadly. “Okay, captain, sah. We was just holding off until the party got warmed up a little. He turned to his men. ”Give 'em Iron Bar, but hot. And I'll go get some steam up with Daisy and her friends." He strode to the service exit and the band crashed into its stride.

Bond walked back and laid the pistol down in front of Scaramanga, who gave Bond a long, inquisitive look and slid it back into his waistband. He said flatly, “We must have a shooting match one of these days, mister. How about it? Twenty paces and no wounding?”

“Thanks,” said Bond, “but my mother wouldn't approve. Would you have some rum sent over to the band? These people can't play dry.” He went back to his seat. He was hardly noticed. The five men, or rather four of them, because Hendriks sat impassively through the whole evening, were straining their ears to catch the lewd words of the Fanny Hill version of “Iron Bar” that were coming across clearly from the soloist. Four girls, plump, busty little animals wearing nothing but white sequined G-strings, ran out on to the floor, and advancing towards the audience, did an enthusiastic belly dance that brought sweat to the temples of Louie Paradise and Hal Garfinkel. The number ended amidst applause, the girls ran off, and the lights were dowsed, leaving only the circular spot in the middle of the floor.

The drummer, on his calypso box, began a hasty beat like a quickened pulse. The service door opened and shut, and a curious object was wheeled into the circle of light. It was a huge hand, perhaps six feet tall at its highest point, upholstered in black leather. It stood, half open on its broad base, with the thumb and fingers outstretched as if ready to catch something. The drummer hastened his beat. The service door sighed. A glistening figure slipped through, and after pausing in the darkness, moved into the pool of light round the hand with a strutting jerk of belly and limbs. There was Chinese blood in her, and her body, totally naked and shining with palm oil, was almost white against the black hand. As she jerked round the hand she caressed its outstretched fingers with her hands and arms and then, with well-acted swooning motions, climbed into the palm of the hand and proceeded to perform languorous, but explicit and ingenious, acts of passion with each of the fingers in turn. The scene, the black hand, now shining with her oil and seeming to clutch at the squirming white body, was of an incredible lewdness, and Bond, himself aroused, noticed that even Scaramanga was watching with rapt attention, his eyes narrow slits. The drummer had now worked up to his crescendo. The girl, in well-simulated ecstasy, mounted the thumb, slowly expired upon it, and then, with a last grind of her rump, slid down it and vanished through the exit. The act was over. The lights came on and everyone, including the band, applauded loudly. The men came out of their separate animal trances. Scaramanga clapped his hand for the bandleader, took a note out of his case, and said something to him under his breath. The chieftain, Bond suspected, had chosen his bride for the night!

After this inspired piece of sexual dumb crambo, the rest of the carbaret was an anticlimax. One of the girls, only after her G-string had been slashed off with a cutlass by the bandleader, was able to squirm under a bamboo pole balanced just eighteen inches off the floor on the top of two beer bottles. The first girl, the one who had acted as an unwitting pineapple tree to Bond's William Tell act, came on and combined an acceptable strip-tease with a rendering of “Belly-Lick” that got the audience straining its ears again, and then the whole team, less the Chinese beauty, came up to the audience and invited them to dance. Scaramanga and Hendriks refused with adequate politeness and Bond stood the two left-out girls glasses of champagne and learned that their names were Mabel and Pearl while he watched the four others being almost bent in half by the bearlike embraces of the four sweating hoods as they clumsily cha-cha'd round the room to the now riotous music of the half-drunk band. The climax to what could certainly class as an orgy was clearly in sight. Bond told his two girls that he must go to the men's room and slipped away when Scaramanga was looking elsewhere, but, as he went, he noted that Hendriks' gaze, as cool as if he had been watching an indifferent film, was firmly on him as he made his escape.

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