Settings

Page 15


When Bond got to his room, it was midnight. His windows had been closed and the air-conditioning turned on. He switched it off and opened the windows halfway and then, with heartfelt relief, took a shower and went to bed. He worried for a while about having shown off with the gun, but it was an act of folly which he couldn't undo, and he soon went to sleep to dream of three black-cloaked men dragging a shapeless bundle through dappled moonlight towards dark waters that were dotted with glinting red eyes. The gnashing white teeth and the crackling bones resolved themselves into a persistent scrabbling noise that brought him suddenly awake. He looked at the luminous dial of his watch. It said 3:30. The scrabbling became a quiet tapping from behind the curtains. James Bond slid quietly out of bed, took his gun from under his pillow, and crept softly along the wall to the edge of the curtains. He pulled them aside with one swift motion. The golden hair shone almost silver in the moonlight. Mary Goodnight whispered urgently, “Quick, James! Help me in!”

Bond cursed softly to himself. What the hell? He laid his gun down on the carpet and reached for her outstretched hands and half-dragged, half-pulled her over the sill. At the last moment, her heel caught in the frame and the window banged shut with a noise like a pistol shot. Bond cursed again, softly and fluently, under his breath. Mary Goodnight whispered penitently, “I'm terribly sorry, James.”

Bond shushed her. He picked up his gun and put it back under his pillow and led her across the room and into the bathroom. He turned on the light and as a precaution, the shower, and, simultaneously with her gasp, remembered he was naked. He said, “Sorry, Goodnight,” and reached for a towel and wound it round his waist and sat down on the edge of the bath. He gestured to the girl to sit down on the lavatory seat and said, with icy control, “What in hell are you doing here, Mary?”

Her voice was desperate. “I had to come. I had to find you somehow. I got on to you through the girl at that, er, dreadful place. I left the car in the trees down the drive and just sniffed about. There were lights on in some of the rooms and I listened and, er”--she blushed crimson--“I gathered you couldn't be in any of them and then I saw the open window, and I just somehow knew you would be the only one to sleep with his window open. So I just had to take the chance.”

“Well, we've got to get you out of here as quick as we can. Anyway, what's the trouble?”

“A Most Immediate in Triple-X came over this evening. I mean yesterday evening. It was to be passed to you at all costs. H.Q. thinks you're in Havana. It said that one of the K.G.B. top men who goes under the name of Hendriks is in the area and that he's known to be visiting this hotel. You're to keep away from him. They know from A Delicate But Sure Source”--Bond smiled at the old euphemism for cypher-breaking--“that among his other jobs is to find you and, er, well, kill you. So I put two and two together, and, what with you being in this corner of the island and the questions you asked me, I guessed that you might be already on his track but that you might be walking into an ambush, sort of. Not knowing, I mean, that while you were after him, he was after you.”

She put out a tentative hand, as if for reassurance that she had done the right thing. Bond took it and patted it absent-mindedly while his mind chewed on this new complication. He said, “The man's here all right. So's a gunman called Scaramanga. You might as well know, Mary, that Scaramanga killed Ross. In Trinidad.” She put her hand up to her mouth. “You can report it as a fact, from me. If I can get you out of here, that is. As for Hendriks, he's here all right, but he doesn't seem to have identified me for certain. Did H.Q. say whether he was given a description of me?”

“You were simply described as 'the notorious secret agent, James Bond.' But this doesn't seem to have meant much to Hendriks because he asked for particulars. That was two days ago. He may get them cabled or telephoned here at any minute. You do see why I had to come, James?”

“Yes, of course. And thanks, Mary. Now, I've got to get you out of that window, and then you must just make your own way. Don't worry about me. I think I can handle the situation all right. Besides, I've got help.” He told her about Felix Leiter and Nicholson. “You just tell H.Q. you've delivered the message and that I'm here and about the two C.I.A. men. H.Q. can get the C.I.A. angles from Washington direct. Okay?” He got to his feet.

She stood up beside him and looked up at him. “But you will take care?”

“Sure, sure.” He patted her shoulder. He turned off the shower and opened the bathroom door. “Now, come on. We must pray for a stroke of luck.”

A silken voice from the darkness at the end of the bed said, “Well, the Holy Man just ain't running for you today, mister, Step forward both of you. Hands clasped behind the neck.”

11 - Ballcock, and Other, Trouble

Scaramanga walked to the door and turned the lights on He was naked save for his shorts and the holster below his left arm. The golden gun remained trained on Bond as he moved.

Bond looked at him incredulously, then to the carpet inside the door. The wedges were still there, undisturbed. He could not possibly have got through the window unaided. Then he saw that his clothes cupboard stood open and that light showed through into the next room. It was the simplest of secret doors--just the whole of the back of the cupboard, impossible to detect from Bond's side of the wall and, on the other, probably, in appearance, a locked communicating door.

Scaramanga came back into the centre of the room and stood looking at them both. His mouth and eyes sneered. He said, “I didn't see this piece of tail in the lineup. Where you been keeping it, buster? And why d'you have to hide it away in the bathroom? Like doing it under the shower?”

Bond said, “We're engaged to be married. She works in the British High Commissioner's Office in Kingston. Cypher clerk. She found out where I was staying from that place you and I met. She came out to tell me that my mother's in the hospital in London. Had a bad fall. Her name's Mary Goodnight. What's wrong with that? And what do you mean coming busting into my room in the middle of the night waving a gun about? And kindly keep your foul tongue to yourself.”

Bond was pleased with his bluster and decided to take the next step towards Mary Goodnight's freedom. He dropped his hands to his sides and turned to the girl. “Put your hands down, Mary. Mr. Scaramanga must have thought there were burglars about when he heard that window bang. Now, I'll get some clothes on and take you out to your car. You've got a long drive back to Kingston. Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay here for the rest of the night? I'm sure Mr. Scaramanga could find us a spare room.” He turned back to Mr. Scaramanga. “It's all right, Mr. Scaramanga, I'll pay for it.”

Mary Goodnight chipped in. She had dropped her hands. She picked up her small bag from the bed where she had thrown it, opened it and began busying herself with her hair in a fussy, feminine way. She chattered, falling in well with Bond's bland piece of very British “Now-look-here-my-man-manship.”

“No, honestly, darling, I really think I'd better go. I'd be in terrible trouble if I was late at the office, and the Prime Minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante, you know will have his eightieth birthday, well he's coming to lunch, and you know His Excellency always likes me to do the flowers and arrange the place cards and as a matter of fact”--she turned charmingly towards Mr. Scaramanga--“it's quite a day for me. The party was going to make up thirteen, so His Excellency has asked me to be the fourteenth. Isn't that marvellous? But heaven knows what I'm going to look like after tonight. The roads really are terrible in parts, aren't they, Mr.--er--Scramble. But there it is. And I do apologize for causing all this disturbance and keeping you from your beauty sleep.”

She went towards him like the Queen Mother opening a bazaar, her hand outstretched. “Now you run along off back to bed again, and my fiance” (Thank God she hadn't said James! The girl was inspired!) “will see me safely off the premises. Goodbye, Mr., er. . . .”

James Bond was proud of her. It was almost pure Joyce Grenfell. But Scaramanga wasn't going to be taken in by any doubletalk, limey or otherwise. She almost had Bond covered from Scaramanga. He moved swiftly aside. He said, “Hold it, lady. And you, mister, stand where you are.” Mary Goodnight let her hand drop to her side. She looked inquiringly at Scaramanga as if he had just rejected the cucumber sandwiches. Really! These Americans! The Golden Gun didn't go for polite conversation. It held dead steady between the two of them. Scaramanga said to Bond, “Okay, I'll buy it. Put her through the window again. Then I've got something to say to you.” He waved his gun at the girl. “Okay, bimbo. Get going. And don't come trespassing on other people's lands again. Right? And you can tell His friggin' Excellency where to shove his place cards. His writ don't run over the Thunderbird. Mine does. Got the picture? Okay. Don't bust your stays getting through the window.”

Mary Goodnight said icily, “Very good, Mr. . . . er ... I will deliver your message. I'm sure the High Commissioner will take more careful note than he has done of your presence on the island. And the Jamaican government also.”

Bond reached out and took her arm. She was on the edge of overplaying her role. He said, “Come on, Mary. And please tell Mother that I'll be through here in a day or two, and I'll be telephoning her from Kingston.” He led her to the window and helped, or rather bundled her, out. She gave a brief wave and ran off across the lawn. Bond came away from the window with considerable relief. He hadn't expected the ghastly mess to sort itself out so painlessly.

He went and sat down on his bed. He sat on the pillow. He was reassured to feel the hard shape of his gun against his thighs. He looked across at Scaramanga. The man had put his gun back in his shoulder holster. He leant up against the clothes cupboard and ran his finger reflectively along the black line of his moustache. He said, “High Commissioner's Office. That also houses the local representative of your famous Secret Service. I suppose, Mister Hazard, that your real name wouldn't be James Bond? You showed quite a turn of speed with the gun tonight. I seem to have read somewhere that this man Bond fancies himself with the hardware. I also have information to the effect that he's somewhere in the Caribbean and that he's looking for me. Funny coincidence department, eh?”

Bond laughed easily. “I thought the Secret Service packed up at the end of the war. Anyway, I'm afraid I can't change my identity to suit your book All you've got to do in the morning is ring up Frome and ask for Mr. Tony Hugill, the boss up there, and check on my story. And can you explain how this Bond chap could possible have tracked you down to a brothel in Sav' La Mar? And what does he want from you anyway?”

Scaramanga contemplated him silently for a while. Then he said, “Guess he may be lookin' for a shootin' lesson. Be glad to oblige him. But you've got something about Number Three and one-half. That's what I figgered when I hired you. But coincidence doesn't come in that size. Mebbe I should have thought again. I said from the first I smelled cops. That girl may be your fiancee or she may not--but that play with the shower bath. That's an old hood's trick. Probably a Secret Service one too. Unless, that is, you were screwin' her.” He raised one eyebrow.

Copyright 2016 - 2020