“I was. Anything wrong with that? What have you been doing with the Chinese girl? Playing mah-jongg?” Bond got to his feet. He stitched impatience and outrage on his face in equal quantities. “Now look here, Mr. Scaramanga. I've had just about enough of this. Just stop leaning on me. You go around waving that damned gun of yours and acting like God Almighty and insinuating a lot of tommyrot about the Secret Service, and you expect me to kneel down and lick your boots. Well, my friend, you've come to the wrong address. If you're dissatisfied with the job I'm doing, just hand over the thousand dollars and I'll be on my way.”

Scaramanga smiled his thin, cruel smile. “You may be getting wise to that sooner than you think, shamus.” He shrugged. “Okay, okay. But just you remember this, mister. If it turns out you're not who you say you are, I'll blow you to bits. Get me? And I'll start with the little bits and go onto the bigger ones. Just so it lasts a heck of a long tune. Right? Now you'd better get some shuteye. I've got a meeting with Mr. Hendriks at ten in the conference room. And I don't want to be disturbed. After that the whole party goes on an excursion on the railroad I was tellin' you about. It'll be your job to see that that gets properly organized. Talk to the manager first thing. Right? Okay, then. Be seeing ya.” Scaramanga walked into the clothes cupboard, brushed Bond's suit aside, and disappeared. There came a decisive click from the next room. Bond got to his feet. He said “phew!” at the top of his voice and walked off into the bathroom to wash the last two hours away in the shower.

He awoke at 6:30, by arrangement with that curious extrasensory alarm clock that some people keep in their heads that always seems to know the exact time. He put on his bathing trunks and went out to the beach and did his long swim again. When at 7:15 he saw Scaramanga come out of the west whig , followed by the boy carrying his towel, he made for the shore. He listened for the twanging thump of the trampoline and then, keeping well out of sight of it, entered the hotel by the main entrance, and moved quickly down the corridor to his room. He listened at his window to make sure the man was still exercising, then he took the master key Nick Nicholson had given him and slipped across the corridor to Number 20 and was quickly inside. He left the door on the latch. Yes, there was his target, lying on the dressing table. He strode across the room, picked up the gun, and slipped out the round in the cylinder that would next come up for firing. He put the gun down exactly as he had found it, got back to the door, listened, and then was out and across the corridor and into his own room. He went back to the window and listened. Yes. Scaramanga was still at it. It was an amateurish ploy that Bond had executed, but it might gain him just that fraction of a second that--he felt it in his bones--was going to be life or death for him in the next twenty-four hours. In his mind, he smelled that slight whiff of smoke that indicated that his cover was smouldering at the edges. At any moment Mark Hazard of the Transworld Consortium might go up in flames, like some clumsy effigy on Guy Fawkes Night, and James Bond would stand there, revealed, with nothing between him and a possible force of six other gunmen but his own quick hand and the Walther PPK. So every shade of odds that he could shift to his side of the board would be worthwhile. Undismayed by the prospect, in fact rather excited by it, he ordered a large breakfast, consumed it with relish, and after pulling the connecting pin out of the ballcock in his lavatory, went along to the manager's office.

Felix Leiter was on duty. He gave a thin managerial smile and said, “Good morning, Mr. Hazard. Can I help you?” Leiter's eyes were looking beyond Bond, over his right shoulder. Mr. Hendriks materialized at the desk before Bond could answer.

Bond said, “Good morning.”

Mr. Hendriks replied with his little Germanic bow. He said to Leiter, “The telephone operator is saying that there is a long-distance call from my office in Havana. Where is the most private place to take it, pliss?”

“Not in your bedroom, sir?”

“Is not sufficiently private.”

Bond guessed that he too had bowled out the microphone.

Leiter looked helpful. He came out from behind his desk. “Just over here, sir. The lobby telephone. The box is soundproof.”

Mr. Hendriks looked stonily at him. “And the machine. That also is soundproof?”

Leiter looked politely puzzled. “I'm afraid I don't understand, sir. It is connected directly with the operator.”

“Is no matter. Show me, pliss.” Mr. Hendriks followed Leiter to the far corner of the lobby and was shown into the booth. He carefully closed the leather-padded door and picked up the receiver and talked into it. Then he stood waiting, watching Leiter come back across the marble floor and speak deferentially to Bond. “You were saying, sir?”

“It's my lavatory. Something wrong with the ballcock. Is there anywhere else?”

“I'm so sorry, sir. I'll have the house engineer look at it at once. Yes, certainly. There's the lobby toilet. The decoration isn't completed and it's not officially in use, but it's in perfectly good working order.” He lowered his voice. “And there's a connecting door with my office. Leave it for ten minutes while I run back the tape of what this bastard's saying. I heard the call was coming through. Don't like the sound of it. May be your worry.” He gave a little bow and waved Bond towards the central table with magazines on it. “If you'll just take a seat for a few moments, sir, and then I'll take care of you.”

Bond nodded his thanks and turned away. In the booth, Hendriks was talking. His eyes were fixed on Bond with a terrible intensity. Bond felt the skin crawl at the base of his stomach. This was it all right! He sat down and picked up an old Wall Street Journal. Surreptitiously he tore a small piece out of the centre of page one. It could have been a tear at the crossfold. He held the paper up at page two and watched Hendriks through the little hole.

Hendriks watched the back of the paper and talked and listened. He suddenly put down the receiver and came out of the booth. His face gleamed with sweat. He took out a clean white handkerchief and ran it over his face and neck and walked rapidly off down the corridor.

Nick Nicholson, as neat as a pin, came across the lobby and, with a courtly smile and a bow for Bond, took up his place behind the desk. It was 8:30. Five minutes later, Felix Leiter came out from the inner office. He said something to Nicholson and came over to Bond. There was a pale, pinched look round his mouth. He said, “And now, if you'll follow me, sir.” He led the way across the lobby, unlocked the men's room door, followed Bond in, and locked the door behind him. They stood among the carpentry work by the washbasins. Leiter said tensely, “I guess you've had it, James. They were talking Russian, but your name and number kept on cropping up. Guess you'd better get out of here just as quickly as that old jalopy of yours'll carry you.”

Bond smiled thinly. “Forewarned is forearmed, Felix. I knew it already. Hendriks has been told to rub me. Our old friend at K.G.B. headquarters, Semichastny, has got it in for me, I'll tell you why one of these days.” He told Leiter of the Mary Goodnight episode of the early hours. Leiter listened gloomily. Bond concluded, “So there's no object in getting out now. We shall hear all the dope and probably their plans for me at this meeting at ten. Then they've got this excursion business afterwards. Personally, I guess the shooting match'll take place somewhere out in the country, where there are no witnesses. Now, if you and Nick could work out something that'd upset the Away Engagement, I'll make myself responsible for the home pitch.”

Leiter looked thoughtful. Some of the cloud lifted from his face. He said, “I know the plans for this afternoon. Off on this miniature train through the cane fields, picnic, then the boat out of Green Island Harbour, deep-sea fishing, and all that. I've reconnoitred the route for it all.” He raised the thumb of his left hand and pinged the end of his steel hook thoughtfully. “Ye-e-e-s. It's going to mean some quick action and a heap of luck, and I'll have to get the hell up to Frome for some supplies from your friend Hu-gill. Will he hand over some gear on your say-so? Okay, then. Come into my office and write him a note. It's only a half-hour's drive and Nick can hold the front desk for that time. Come on.” He opened a side door and went through into his office. He beckoned Bond to follow and shut the door behind him. At Leiter's dictation, Bond took down the note to the manager of the WISCO sugar estates and then went out and along to his room. He took a strong nip of straight bourbon and sat on the edge of his bed and looked unseeingly out of the window and across the lawn to the sea's horizon. Like a dozing hound chasing a rabbit in its dreams, or like the audience at an athletics meeting that lifts a leg to help the high-jumper over the bar, every now and then, his right hand twitched involuntarily. In his mind's eye, in a variety of imagined circumstances, it was leaping for his gun.

Time passed and James Bond still sat there, occasionally smoking halfway through a Royal Blend and then absent-mindedly stubbing it out in the bed-table ashtray. No observer could have guessed what Bond was thinking about--or how intently he was concentrating. There were some signs of tension--the pulse in his left temple was beating a little fast, the lips were slightly pursed--but the brooding, blue-grey eyes that saw nothing were relaxed, almost sleepy. It would have been impossible to guess that James Bond was contemplating the possibility of his own death later that day, feelmg the soft-nosed bullets tearing into him, seeing his body jerking on the ground, his mouth perhaps screaming. Those were certainly part of his thoughts, but the twitching right hand was evidence that, in much of the whirring film of his thoughts, the enemy's fire was not going unanswered--perhaps had even been anticipated.

James Bond gave a deep relaxed sigh. His eyes came back into focus. He looked at his watch. It said 9:50. He got up, ran both hands down his lean face with a scrubbing motion, and went out and along the corridor to the conference room.

12 - In a Glass, Very Darkly

The setup was the same. Bond's travel literature was on the buffet table, where he had left it. He went through into the conference room. It had only been cursorily tidied. Scaramanga had probably said it was not to be entered by the staff. The chairs were roughly in position, but the ashtrays had not been emptied. There were no stains on the carpet and no signs of the carpet having been washed. It had probably been a single shot through the heart. With Scaramanga's soft-nosed bullets, the internal damage would be devastating, but the fragments of the bullet would stay in the body and there would be no bleeding. Bond went round the table, ostentatiously positioning the chairs more accurately. He identified the one Ruby Rotkopf must have sat in across the table from Scaramanga-- because it had a cracked leg. He dutifully examined the windows and looked behind the curtains, doing his job.

Scaramanga came into the room followed by Mr. Hendriks. He said roughly, “Okay, Mr. Hazard. Lock both doors like yesterday. No one to come in. Right?”

“Yes.” As Bond passed Mr. Hendriks he said cheerfully, “Good morning, Mr. Hendriks. Enjoy the party last night?”

Mr. Hendriks gave his usual curt bow. He said nothing. His eyes were granite marbles.

Bond went out and locked the doors and took up his position with the brochures and the champagne glass. Immediately, Hendriks began talking, quickly and urgently, fumbling for the English words. “Mister S. I have bad troubles to report. My Zentrale in Havana spoke with me this morning. They have heard direct from Moscow. This man”--he must have made a gesture towards the door-- “this man is the British secret agent, the man Bond. There is no doubt. I am given the exact descriptions. When he goes swimming this morning, I am examining his body through glasses. The wounds on his body are clearly to be seen. The scar down the right side of the face leaves no doubt. And his shooting last night! The ploddy fool is proud of his shooting. I would like to see a member of my organization behave in zees stupid fashions! I would have him shot immediately.”