“Phase III completed. Phase III completed. Successful. One a.m. here. Closing down.'' ”I am satisfied.''

Largo stripped off the earphones. He thought to himself, "So am I! We are more than three-quarters home. Now only the devil can stop us.''

He went into the stateroom and carefully made himself a tall of his favorite drink---crème de menthe frappé with a maraschino cherry on top.

He sipped it delicately to the end and ate the cherry. Then he took one more cherry out of the bottle, slipped it into his mouth, and went up on the bridge.

11.

Domino

The girl in the sapphire blue MG two-seater shot down the slope of Parliament Street and at the junction with Bay Street executed an admirable racing change through third into second. She gave a quick glance to the right, correctly estimated the trot of the straw-hatted horse in the shafts of the rickety cab with the gay fringe, and swerved out of the side street left-handed. The horse jerked back his head indignantly and the coachman stamped his foot up and down on the big Bermuda bell. The disadvantage of the beautiful deep ting-tong, ting-tong of the Bermuda carriage bell is that it cannot possibly sound angry, however angrily you may sound it. The girl gave a cheerful wave of a sunburned hand, raced up the street in second, and stopped in front of the Pipe of Peace, the Dunhills of Nassau.

Not bothering to open the low door of the MG, the girl swung one brown leg and then the other over the side of the car, showing her thighs under the pleated cream cotton skirt almost to her waist, and slipped to the pavement. By now the cab was alongside. The cabby reined in. He was mollified by the gaiety and beauty of the girl. He said, "Missy, you done almost shaved de whiskers off of Old Dreamy here. You wanna be more careful.''

The girl put her hands on her hips. She didn't like being told anything by anyone. She said sharply, "Old Dreamy yourself. Some people have got work to do. Both of you ought to be put out to grass instead of cluttering up the streets getting in everyone's way.''

The ancient Negro opened his mouth, thought better of it, said a pacifying “Hokay, Missy. Hokay,'' flicked at his horse, and moved on, muttering to himself. He turned on his seat to get another look at the she-devil, but she had already disappeared into the shop. ”Dat's a fine piece of gal,'' he said inconsequentially, and put his horse into an ambling trot.

Twenty yards away, James Bond had witnessed the whole scene. He felt the same way about the girl as the cabby did. He also knew who she was. He quickened his step and pushed through the striped sun blinds into the blessed cool of the tobacconist's.

The girl was standing at a counter arguing with one of the assistants. “But I tell you I don't want Senior Service. I tell you I want a cigarette that's so disgusting that I shan't want to smoke it. Haven't you got a cigarette that stops people smoking? Look at all that.'' She waved a hand toward the stacked shelves. ”Don't tell me some of those don't taste horrible.''

The man was used to crazy tourists, and anyway the Nassavian doesn't get excited. He said, "Well, Ma'am . . .'' and turned and languidly looked along the shelves.

Bond said sternly to the girl, "You can choose between two kinds of cigarette if you want to smoke less.''

She looked sharply up at him. “And who might you be?'' ”My name's Bond, James Bond. I'm the world's authority on giving up smoking. I do it constantly. You're lucky I happen to be handy.''

The girl looked him up and down. He was a man she hadn't seen before in Nassau. He was about six feet tall and somewhere in his middle thirties. He had dark, rather cruel good looks and very clear blue-gray eyes that were now observing her inspection sardonically. A scar down his right cheek showed pale against a tan so mild that he must have only recently come to the island. He was wearing a very dark blue lightweight single-breasted suit over a cream silk shirt and a black knitted silk tie. Despite the heat, he looked cool and clean, and his only concession to the tropics appeared to be the black saddle-stitched sandals on his bare feet. It was an obvious attempt at a pick-up. He had an exciting face, and authority. She decided to go along. But she wasn't going to make it easy. She said coldly, "All right. Tell me.''

“The only way to stop smoking is to stop it and not start again. If you want to pretend to stop for a week or two, it's no good trying to ration yourself. You'll become a bore and think about nothing else. And you'll snatch at a cigarette every time the hour strikes or whatever the intervals may be. You'll behave greedily. That's unattractive. The other way is to have cigarettes that are either too mild or too strong. The mild ones are probably the best for you.'' Bond said to the attendant, ”A carton of Dukes, king-size with filter.'' Bond handed them to the girl. "Here, try these. With the compliments of Faust.''

"Oh, but I can't. I mean . . .''

But Bond had already paid for the carton and for a packet of Chesterfields for himself. He took the change and followed her out of the shop. They stood together under the striped awning. The heat was terrific. The white light on the dusty street, the glare reflected back off the shop fronts opposite and off the dazzling limestone of the houses made them both screw up their eyes. Bond said, "I'm afraid smoking goes with drinking. Are you going to give them both up or one by one?''

She looked at him quizzically. “This is very sudden, Mr.---er---Bond. Well, all right. But somewhere out of the town. It's too hot here. Do you know the Wharf out beyond the Fort Montague?'' Bond noticed that she looked quickly up and down the street. ”It's not bad. Come on. I'll take you there. Mind the metal. It'll raise blisters on you.''

Even the white leather of the upholstery burned through to Bond's thighs. But he wouldn't have minded if his suit had caught fire. This was his first sniff at the town and already he had got hold of the girl. And she was a fine girl at that. Bond caught hold of the leather-bound safety grip on the dashboard as the girl did a sharp turn up Frederick Street and another one onto Shirley.

Bond settled himself sideways so that he could look at her. She wore a gondolier's broadrimmed straw hat, tilted impudently down over her nose. The pale blue tails of its ribbon streamed out behind. On the front of the ribbon was printed in gold “ M/Y DISCO VOLANTE .'' Her short-sleeved silk shirt was in half-inch vertical stripes of pale blue and white and, with the pleated cream skirt, the whole get-up reminded Bond vaguely of a sunny day at Henley Regatta. She wore no rings and no jewelery except for a rather masculine square gold wristwatch with a black face. Her flat-heeled sandals were of white doeskin. They matched her broad white doeskin belt and the sensible handbag that lay, with a black and white striped silk scarf, on the seat between them. Bond knew a good deal about her from the immigration form, one among a hundred, which he had been studying that morning. Her name was Dominetta Vitali. She had been born in Bolzano in the Italian Tyrol and therefore probably had as much Austrian as Italian blood in her. She was twenty-nine and gave her profession as ”actress.'' She had arrived six months before in the Disco and it was entirely understood that she was mistress to the owner of the yacht, an Italian called Emilio Largo. “Whore,'' ”tart,'' “prostitute'' were not words Bond used about women unless they were professional streetwalkers or the inmates of a brothel, and when Harling, the Commissioner of Police, and Pitman, Chief of Immigration and Customs, had described her as an ”Italian tart'' Bond had reserved judgment. Now he knew he had been right. This was an independent, a girl of authority and character. She might like the rich, gay life but, so far as Bond was concerned, that was the right kind of girl. She might sleep with men, obviously did, but it would be on her terms and not on theirs.

Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was ready for the unpredictable. Four women in a car he regarded as the highest danger potential, and two women as nearly as lethal. Women together cannot keep silent in a car, and when women talk they have to look into each other's faces. An exchange of words is not enough. They have to see the other person's expression, perhaps in order to read behind the other's words or to analyze the reaction to their own. So two women in the front seat of a car constantly distract each other's attention from the road ahead and four women are more than doubly dangerous, for the driver has to hear, and see, not only what her companion is saying but also, for women are like that, what the two behind are talking about.

But this girl drove like a man. She was entirely focused on the road ahead and on what was going on in her driving mirror, an accessory rarely used by women except for making up their faces. And, equally rare in a woman, she took a man's pleasure in the feel of her machine, in the timing of her gear changes, and the use of her brakes.

She didn't talk to Bond or seem to be aware of him, and this allowed him to continue his inspection without inhibition. She had a gay, to-hell-with-you face that, Bond thought, would become animal in passion. In bed she would fight and bite and then suddenly melt into hot surrender. He could almost see the proud, sensual mouth bare away from the even white teeth in a snarl of desire and then, afterward, soften into a half-pout of loving slavery. In profile the eyes were soft charcoal slits such as you see on some birds.but in the shop Bond had seen them full face. Then they had been fierce and direct with a golden flicker in the dark brown that held much the same message as the mouth. The profile, the straight, small uptilted nose, the determined set of the chin, and the clean-cut sweep of the jaw line were as decisive as a royal command, and the way the head was set on the neck had the same authority---the poise one associates with imaginary princesses. Two features modified the clean-cut purity of line---a soft, muddled Brigitte Bardot haircut that escaped from under the straw hat in an endearing disarray, and two deeply cut but soft dimples which could only have been etched by a sweet if rather ironic smile that Bond had not yet seen. The sunburn was not overdone and her skin had none of that dried, exhausted sheen that can turn the texture of even the youngest skin into something more like parchment. Beneath the gold, there was an earthy warmth in the cheeks that suggested a good healthy peasant strain from the Italian Alps, and her breasts, high riding and deeply V-ed, were from the same stock. The general impression, Bond decided, was of a willful, high-tempered, sensual girl---a beautiful Arab mare who would only allow herself to be ridden by a horseman with steel thighs and velvet hands, and then only with curb and saw bit---and then only when he had broken her to bridle and saddle. Bond thought that he would like to try his strength against hers. But that must be for some other time. For the moment another man was in the saddle. He would first have to be unhorsed. And anyway, what the hell was he doing fooling with these things? There was a job to be done. The devil of a job.

The MG swept out of Shirley Street on to Eastern Road and followed the coast. Across the wide harbor entrance were the emerald and turquoise shoals of Athol Island. A deep-sea fishing boat was passing over them, the. two tall antennae of her twelve-foot rods streaming their lines astern. A fast motorboat came hammering by dose inshore, the water-skier on the line behind her executing tight slaloms across the waves of her wake. It was a sparkling, beautiful day and Bond's heart lifted momentarily from the trough of indecision and despondency created by an assignment that, particularly since his arrival at dawn that day, seemed increasingly time-wasting and futile.




Line : 26

Most Popular

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2021