Authors: Ian Fleming
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage
‘You like woman? Make jigajig?’
‘Coloured girl? Fine jungle tail?’
The gesture of the hand slipping into the coat was so well known to Bond, so full of old dangers, that, when the hand flashed out and the long silver finger went for his throat, Bond was on balance and ready for it.
Almost automatically, Bond went into the ‘Parry Defence against Underhand Thrust’ out of the book. His right arm cut across, his body swivelling with it. The two forearms met mid-way between the two bodies, banging the Mexican’s knife arm off target and opening his guard for a crashing short-arm chin jab with Bond’s left. Bond’s stiff, locked wrist had not travelled far, perhaps two feet, but the heel of his palm, with fingers spread for rigidity, had come up and under the man’s chin with terrific force. The blow almost lifted the man off the sidewalk. Perhaps it had been that blow that had killed the Mexican, broken his neck, but as he staggered back on his way to the ground, Bond had drawn back his right hand and slashed sideways at the taut, offered throat. It was the deadly hand-edge blow to the Adam’s apple, delivered with the fingers locked into a blade, that had been the stand-by of the Commandos. If the Mexican was still alive, he was certainly dead before he hit the ground.
Bond stood for a moment, his chest heaving, and looked at the crumpled pile of cheap clothes flung down in the dust. He glanced up and down the street. There was no one. Some cars passed. Others had perhaps passed during the fight, but it had been in the shadows. Bond knelt down beside the body. There was no pulse. Already the eyes that had been so bright with marihuana were glazing. The house in which the Mexican had lived was empty. The tenant had left.
Bond picked up the body and laid it against a wall in deeper shadow. He brushed his hands down his clothes, felt to see if his tie was straight and went on to his hotel.
At dawn Bond had got up and shaved and driven to the airport where he took the first plane out of Mexico. It happened to be going to Caracas. Bond flew to Caracas and hung about in the transit lounge until there was a plane for Miami, a Transamerica Constellation that would take him on that same evening to New York.
Again the Tannoy buzzed and echoed. ‘Transamerica regrets to announce a delay on their flight TR 618 to New York due to a mechanical defect. The new departure time will be at eight a.m. Will all passengers please report to the Transamerica ticket counter where arrangements for their overnight accommodation will be made. Thank you.’
So! That too! Should he transfer to another flight or spend the night in Miami? Bond had forgotten his drink. He picked it up and, tilting his head back, swallowed the bourbon to the last drop. The ice tinkled cheerfully against his teeth. That was it. That was an idea. He would spend the night in Miami and get drunk, stinking drunk so that he would have to be carried to bed by whatever tart he had picked up. He hadn’t been drunk for years. It was high time. This extra night, thrown at him out of the blue, was a spare night, a gone night. He would put it to good purpose. It was time he let himself go. He was too tense, too introspective. What the hell was he doing, glooming about this Mexican, this capungo who had been sent to kill him? It had been kill or get killed. Anyway, people were killing other people all the time, all over the world. People were using their motor cars to kill with. They were carrying infectious diseases around, blowing microbes in other people’s faces, leaving gas-jets turned on in kitchens, pumping out carbon monoxide in closed garages. How many people, for instance, were involved in manufacturing H-bombs, from the miners who mined the uranium to the shareholders who owned the mining shares? Was there any person in the world who wasn’t somehow, perhaps only statistically, involved in killing his neighbour?
The last light of the day had gone. Below the indigo sky the flare paths twinkled green and yellow and threw tiny reflections off the oily skin of the tarmac. With a shattering roar a DC 7 hurtled down the main green lane. The windows in the transit lounge rattled softly. People got up to watch. Bond tried to read their expressions. Did they hope the plane would crash – give them something to watch, something to talk about, something to fill their empty lives? Or did they wish it well? Which way were they willing the sixty passengers? To live or to die?
Bond’s lips turned down. Cut it out. Stop being so damned morbid. All this is just reaction from a dirty assignment. You’re stale, tired of having to be tough. You want a change. You’ve seen too much death. You want a slice of life – easy, soft, high.
Bond was conscious of steps approaching. They stopped at his side. Bond looked up. It was a clean, rich-looking, middle-aged man. His expression was embarrassed, deprecating.
‘Pardon me, but surely it’s Mr Bond ... Mr – er – James Bond?’
anonymity. His ‘Yes, it is’ was discouraging.
‘Well, that’s a mighty rare coincidence.’ The man held out his hand. Bond rose slowly, took the hand and released it. The hand was pulpy and unarticulated – like a hand-shaped mud pack, or an inflated rubber glove. ‘My name is Du Pont. Junius Du Pont. I guess you won’t remember me, but we’ve met before. Mind if I sit down?’
The face, the name? Yes, there
something familiar. Long ago. Not in America. Bond searched the files while he summed the man up. Mr Du Pont was about fifty – pink, clean-shaven and dressed in the conventional disguise with which Brooks Brothers cover the shame of American millionaires. He wore a single-breasted dark tan tropical suit and a white silk shirt with a shallow collar. The rolled ends of the collar were joined by a gold safety pin beneath the knot of a narrow dark red and blue striped tie that fractionally wasn’t the Brigade of Guards’. The cuffs of the shirt protruded half an inch below the cuffs of the coat and showed cabochon crystal links containing miniature trout flies. The socks were charcoal-grey silk and the shoes were old and polished mahogany and hinted Peal. The man carried a dark, narrow-brimmed straw Homburg with a wide claret ribbon.
Mr Du Pont sat down opposite Bond and produced cigarettes and a plain gold Zippo lighter. Bond noticed that he was sweating slightly. He decided that Mr Du Pont was what he appeared to be, a very rich American, mildly embarrassed. He knew he had seen him before, but he had no idea where or when.
‘Thank you.’ It was a Parliament. Bond affected not to notice the offered lighter. He disliked held-out lighters. He picked up his own and lit the cigarette.
‘France, ’51, Royale les Eaux.’ Mr Du Pont looked eagerly at Bond. ‘That Casino. Ethel, that’s Mrs Du Pont, and me were next to you at the table the night you had the big game with the Frenchman.’
Bond’s memory raced back. Yes, of course. The Du Ponts had been Nos. 4 and 5 at the baccarat table. Bond had been 6. They had seemed harmless people. He had been glad to have such a solid bulwark on his left on that fantastic night when he had broken Le Chiffre. Now Bond saw it all again – the bright pool of light on the green baize, the pink crab hands across the table scuttling out for the cards. He smelled the smoke and the harsh tang of his own sweat. That had been a night! Bond looked across at Mr Du Pont and smiled at the memory. ‘Yes, of course I remember. Sorry I was slow. But that was quite a night. I wasn’t thinking of much except my cards.’
Mr Du Pont grinned back, happy and relieved. ‘Why, gosh, Mr Bond. Of course I understand. And I do hope you’ll pardon me for butting in. You see ...’ He snapped his fingers for a waitress. ‘But we must have a drink to celebrate. What’ll you have?’
‘Thanks. Bourbon on the rocks.’
‘And dimple Haig and water.’ The waitress went away.
Mr Du Pont leant forward, beaming. A whiff of soap or after-shave lotion came across the table. Lentheric? ‘I knew it was you. As soon as I saw you sitting there. But I thought to myself, Junius, you don’t often make an error over a face, but let’s just go make sure. Well, I was flying Transamerican tonight and, when they announced the delay, I watched your expression and, if you’ll pardon me, Mr Bond, it was pretty clear from the look on your face that you had been flying Transamerican too.’ He waited for Bond to nod. He hurried on. ‘So I ran down to the ticket counter and had me a look at the passenger list. Sure enough, there it was, “J. Bond”.’
Mr Du Pont sat back, pleased with his cleverness. The drinks came. He raised his glass. ‘Your very good health, sir. This sure is my lucky day.’
Bond smiled non-committally and drank.
Mr Du Pont leant forward again. He looked round. There was nobody at the nearby tables. Nevertheless he lowered his voice. ‘I guess you’ll be saying to yourself, well, it’s nice to see Junius Du Pont again, but what’s the score? Why’s he so particularly happy at seeing me on just this night?’ Mr Du Pont raised his eyebrows as if acting Bond’s part for him. Bond put on a face of polite inquiry. Mr Du Pont leant still farther across the table. ‘Now, I hope you’ll forgive me, Mr Bond. It’s not like me to pry into other people’s secre ... er – affairs. But, after that game at Royale, I did hear that you were not only a grand card player, but also that you were – er – how shall I put it? – that you were a sort of – er – investigator. You know, kind of intelligence operative.’ Mr Du Pont’s indiscretion had made him go very red in the face. He sat back and took out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. He looked anxiously at Bond.
Bond shrugged his shoulders. The grey-blue eyes that looked into Mr Du Pont’s eyes, which had turned hard and watchful despite his embarrassment, held a mixture of candour, irony and self-deprecation. ‘I used to dabble in that kind of thing. Hangover from the war. One still thought it was fun playing Red Indians. But there’s no future in it in peacetime.’
‘Quite, quite.’ Mr Du Pont made a throwaway gesture with the hand that held the cigarette. His eyes evaded Bond’s as he put the next question, waited for the next lie. (Bond thought, there’s a wolf in this Brooks Brothers clothing. This is a shrewd man.) ‘And now you’ve settled down?’ Mr Du Pont smiled paternally. ‘What did you choose, if you’ll pardon the question?’
‘Import and Export. I’m with Universal. Perhaps you’ve come across them.’
Mr Du Pont continued to play the game. ‘Hm. Universal. Let me see. Why, yes, sure I’ve heard of them. Can’t say I’ve ever done business with them, but I guess it’s never too late.’ He chuckled fatly. ‘I’ve got quite a heap of interests all over the place. Only stuff I can honestly say I’m not interested in is chemicals. Maybe it’s my misfortune, Mr Bond, but I’m not one of the chemical Du Ponts.’
Bond decided that the man was quite satisfied with the particular brand of Du Pont he happened to be. He made no comment. He glanced at his watch to hurry Mr Du Pont’s play of the hand. He made a note to handle his own cards carefully. Mr Du Pont had a nice pink kindly baby-face with a puckered, rather feminine turn-down mouth. He looked as harmless as any of the middle-aged Americans with cameras who stand outside Buckingham Palace. But Bond sensed many tough, sharp qualities behind the fuddyduddy façade.
Mr Du Pont’s sensitive eye caught Bond’s glance at his watch. He consulted his own. ‘My, oh my! Seven o’clock and here I’ve been talking away without coming to the point. Now, see here, Mr Bond. I’ve got me a problem on which I’d greatly appreciate your guidance. If you can spare me the time and if you were counting on stopping over in Miami tonight I’d reckon it a real favour if you’d allow me to be your host.’ Mr Du Pont held up his hand. ‘Now, I think I can promise to make you comfortable. So happens I own a piece of the Floridiana. Maybe you heard we opened around Christmas time? Doing a great business I’m happy to say. Really pushing that little old Fountain Blue,’ Mr Du Pont laughed indulgently. ‘That’s what we call the Fontainebleau down here. Now, what do you say, Mr Bond? You shall have the best suite – even if it means putting some good paying customers out on the sidewalk. And you’d be doing me a real favour.’ Mr Du Pont looked imploring.
Bond had already decided to accept – blind. Whatever Mr Du Pont’s problem – blackmail, gangsters, women – it would be some typical form of rich man’s worry. Here was a slice of the easy life he had been asking for. Take it. Bond started to say something politely deprecating. Mr Du Pont interrupted. ‘Please, please, Mr Bond. And believe me, I’m grateful, very grateful indeed.’ He snapped his fingers for the waitress. When she came, he turned away from Bond and settled the bill out of Bond’s sight. Like many very rich men he considered that showing his money, letting someone see how much he tipped, amounted to indecent exposure. He thrust his roll back into his trousers pocket (the hip pocket is not the place among the rich) and took Bond by the arm. He sensed Bond’s resistance to the contact and removed his hand. They went down the stairs to the main hall.
‘Now, let’s just straighten out your reservation.’ Mr Du Pont headed for the Transamerica ticket counter. In a few curt phrases Mr Du Pont showed his power and efficiency in his own, his American, realm.
‘Yes, Mr Du Pont. Surely, Mr Du Pont. I’ll take care of that, Mr Du Pont.’
Outside, a gleaming Chrysler Imperial sighed up to the kerb. A tough-looking chauffeur in a biscuit-coloured uniform hurried to open the door. Bond stepped in and settled down in the soft upholstery. The interior of the car was deliciously cool, almost cold. The Transamerican representative bustled out with Bond’s suitcase, handed it to the chauffeur and, with a half-bow, went back into the Terminal. ‘Bill’s on the Beach,’ said Mr Du Pont to the chauffeur and the big car slid away through the crowded parking lots and out on to the parkway.
Mr Du Pont settled back. ‘Hope you like stone crabs, Mr Bond. Ever tried them?’
Bond said he had, that he liked them very much.
Mr Du Pont talked about Bill’s on the Beach and about the relative merits of stone and Alaska crab meat while the Chrysler Imperial sped through downtown Miami, along Biscayne Boulevard and across Biscayne Bay by the Douglas MacArthur Causeway. Bond made appropriate comments, letting himself be carried along on the gracious stream of speed and comfort and rich small-talk.