A few feet away stood a black sedan, its engine running. It faced the open double doors of the garage. Bright arc-lights lit up the shining bodywork of several other cars. There was a big negro at the wheel of the sedan and another stood near him, leaning against the rear door. No one else was in view.
At sight of Bond the negroes' mouths fell open in astonishment. A cigarette dropped from the mouth of the man at the wheel. Then they both dived for their guns.
Instinctively, Bond shot first at the man standing, knowing he would be quickest on the draw.
The heavy gun roared hollowly in the garage.
The negro clutched his stomach with both hands, staggered two steps towards Bond, and collapsed on his face, his gun clattering on to the concrete.
The man at the wheel screamed as Bond's gun swung on to him. Hampered by the wheel the negro's shooting hand was still inside his coat.
Bond shot straight into the screaming mouth and the man's head crashed against the side window.
Bond ran round the car and opened the door. The negro sprawled horribly out. Bond threw his revolver on to the driving-seat and yanked the body out on to the ground. He tried to avoid the blood. He got into the seat and blessed the running engine and the steering-wheel gear-lever. He slammed the door, rested his injured hand on the left of the wheel and crashed the lever forward.
The hand-brake was still on. He had to lean under the wheel to release it with his right hand.
It was a dangerous pause. As the heavy car surged forward out of the wide doors there was the boom of a gun and a bullet hammered into the bodywork. He tore the wheel round right-handed and there was another shot that missed high. Across the street a window splintered.
The flash came from low down near the floor and Bond guessed that the first negro had somehow managed to reach his gun.
There were no other shots and no sound came from the blank faces of the buildings behind him. As he went through the gears he could see nothing in the driving-mirror except the broad bar of light from the garage shining out across the dark empty street.
Bond had no idea where he was or where he was heading. It was a wide featureless street and he kept going. He found himself driving on the left-hand side and quickly swerved over to the right. His hand hurt terribly but the thumb and forefinger helped to steady the wheel. He tried to remember to keep his left side away from the blood on the door and window. The endless street was populated only by the little ghosts of steam that wavered up out of the gratings in the asphalt that gave access to the piped heat system of the city. The ugly bonnet of the car mowed them down one by one, but in the driving-mirror Bond could see them rising again behind him in a diminishing vista of mildly gesticulating white wraiths.
He kept the big car at fifty. He came to some red traffic lights and jumped them. Several more dark blocks and then there was a lighted avenue. There was traffic and he paused until the lights went green. He turned left and was rewarded by a succession of green lights, each one sweeping him on and further away from the enemy. He checked at an intersection and read the signs. He was on Park Avenue and 116th Street. He slowed again at the next street. It was 115th. He was heading downtown, away from Harlem , back into the City. He kept going. He turned off at Goth Street. It was deserted. He switched off the engine and left the car opposite a fire hydrant. He took the gun off the seat, shoved it down the waistband of his trousers and walked back to Park Avenue. A few minutes later he flagged a prowling cab and then suddenly he was walking up the steps of the St. Regis.
'Message for you, Mr. Bond,' said the night porter. Bond kept his left side away from him. He opened the message with his right hand. It was from Felix Leiter, timed at four a.m.
'Call me at once,' it said.
Bond walked to the elevator and was carried up to his floor. He let himself into
and went through into the sitting-room.
So both of them were alive. Bond fell into a chair beside the telephone.
'God Almighty,' said Bond with deep gratitude. 'What a break.'
TRUE OR FALSE?
BOND looked at the telephone, then he got up and walked over to the sideboard. He put a handful of wilted icecubes into a tall glass, poured in three inches of Haig and Haig and swilled the mixture round in the glass to cool and dilute it. Then he drank down half the glass in one long swallow. He put the glass down and eased himself out of his coat. His left hand was so swollen that he could only just get it through the sleeve. His little finger was still crooked back and the pain was vicious as it scraped against the cloth. The ringer was nearly black. He pulled down his tie and undid the top of his shirt. Then he picked up his glass, took another deep swallow, and walked back to the telephone.
Leiter answered at once.
'Thank God,' said Leiter with real feeling. 'What's the damage?”
'Broken finger,' said Bond. 'How about you?'
'Blackjack. Knocked out. Nothing serious. They started off by considering all sorts of ingenious things. Wanted to couple me to the compressed-air pump in the garage. Start on the ears and then proceed elsewhere. When no instructions came from The Big Man they got bored and I got to arguing the finer points of Jazz with Blabbermouth, the man with the fancy six-shooter. We got on to Duke Ellington and agreed that we liked our band-leaders to be percussion men, not wind. We agreed the piano or the drums held the band together better than any other solo instrument — Jelly-roll Morton, for instance. Apropos the Duke, I told him the crack about the clarinet - “an ill woodwind that nobody blows good”. That made him laugh fit to bust. Suddenly we were friends. The other man - The Flannel, he was called - got sour and Blabbermouth told him he could go off duty, he'd look after me. Then The Big Man rang down.'
'I was there,' said Bond. 'It didn't sound so hot.'
'Blabbermouth was worried as hell. He wandered round the room talking to himself. Suddenly he used the blackjack, hard, and I went out. Next thing I knew we were outside Bellevue Hospital. About half after three. Blabbermouth was very apologetic, said it was the least he could have done. I believe him. He begged me not to give him away. Said he was going to report that he'd left me half dead. Of course I promised to leak back some very lurid details. We parted on the best of terms. I got some treatment at the Emergency ward and came home. I was worried to Hell an' gone about you, but after a while the telephone started ringing. Police and FBI. Seems The Big Man has complained that some fool Limey went berserk at The Boneyard early this morning, shot three of his men - two chauffeurs and a waiter, if you please - stole one of his cars and got away, leaving his overcoat and hat in the cloakroom. The Big Man's yelling for action. Of course I warned off the dicks and the FBI, but they're madder'n hell and we've got to get out of town at once. It'll miss the mornings but it'll be splashed all over the afternoon blatts and Radio and TV'll have it. Apart from all that, Mr. Big will be after you like a nest of hornets. Anyway, I've got some plans fixed. Now you tell, and God, am I glad to hear your voice!'
Bond gave a detailed account of all that had happened. He forgot nothing. When he had finished, Leiter gave a low whistle.
'Boy,' he said with admiration. 'You certainly made a dent in The Big Man's machine. But were you lucky. That Solitaire dame certainly seems to have saved your bacon. D'you think we can use her?'
'Could if we could get near her,' said Bond. 'I should think he keeps her pretty close.'
'We'll have to think about that another day,' said Leiter. 'Now we'd better get moving. I'll hang up and call you back in a few minutes. First I'll get the police surgeon round to you right away. Be along in a quarter of an hour or so. Then I'll talk to the Commissioner myself and sort out some of the police angles. They can stall a bit by discovering the car. The F B I'll have to tip off the radio and newspaper boys so that at least we can keep your name out of it and all this Limey talk. Otherwise we shall have the British Ambassador being hauled out of bed and parades by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and God knows what all. Leiter chuckled down the telephone. 'Better have a word with your chief in London . It's about half after ten their time. You'll need a bit of protection. I can look after the CIA, but the FBI have got a bad attack of “see-here-young-man” this morning. You'll need some more clothes. I'll see to that. Keep awake. We'll get plenty of sleep in the grave. Be calling you.'
He hung up. Bond smiled to himself. Hearing Leiter's cheerful voice and knowing everything was being taken care of had wiped away his exhaustion and his black memories.
He picked up the telephone and talked to the Overseas operator. 'Ten minutes' delay, she said.
Bond walked into his bedroom and somehow got out of his clothes. He gave himself a very hot shower and then an ice-cold one. He shaved and managed to pull on a clean shirt and trousers. He put a fresh clip in his Beretta and wrapped the Colt in his discarded shirt and put it in his suitcase. He was half way through his packing when the telephone rang.
He listened to the zing and echo on the line, the chatter of distant operators, the patches of Morse from aircraft and ships at sea, quickly suppressed. He could see the big, grey building near Regents Park and imagine the busy switchboard and the cups of tea and a girl saying, 'Yes, this is Universal Export,' the address Bond had asked for, one of the covers used by agents for emergency calk on open lines from abroad. She would tell the Supervisor, who would take the call over.
'You're connected, caller,' said the Overseas operator. 'Go ahead, please. New York calling London .'
Bond heard the calm English voice. 'Universal Export. Who's speaking, please?'
'Can I speak to the Managing Director,' said Bond. 'This is his nephew James speaking from New York .'
'Just a moment, please.' Bond could follow the call to Miss Moneypenny and see her press the switch on the intercom. 'It's New York , Sir,' she would say. 'I think it's 007.'
'Put him through,' M would say.
'Yes?' said the cold voice that Bond loved and obeyed.
'It's James, Sir,' said Bond. 'I may need a bit of help over a difficult consignment.'
'Go ahead,' said the voice.
'I went uptown to see our chief customer last night,' said Bond. 'Three of his best men went sick while I was there.'
'How sick?' asked the voice.
'As sick as can be, Sir,' said Bond. 'There's a lot of 'flu about.'
'Hope you didn't catch any.'
'I've got a slight chill, Sir,' said Bond, 'but absolutely nothing to worry about. I'll write to you about it. The trouble is that with all this 'flu about Federated think I will do better out of town.' (Bond chuckled to himself at the thought of M's grin.) 'So I'm off right away with Felicia.'
'Who?' asked M.
'Felicia,' Bond spelled it out. 'My new secretary from Washington .'
'Thought I'd try that factory you advised at San Pedro.'
'But Federated may have other ideas and I hoped you'd give me your support.'
'I quite understand,' said M. 'How's business?'
'Rather promising, Sir. But tough going. Felicia will be typing my full report today.'
'Good,' said M. 'Anything else?'
'No, that's all, Sir. Thanks for your support.'
That's all right. Keep fit. Goodbye.'
Bond put down the telephone. He grinned. He could imagine M calling in the Chief of Staff, '007's already tangled up with the FBI. Dam' fool went up to Harlem last night and bumped off three of Mr. Big's men. Got hurt himself, apparently, but not much. Got to get out of town with Leiter, the CIA man. Going down to St. Petersburg. Better warn A and C. Expect we'll have Washington round our ears before the day's over. Tell A to say I fully sympathize, but that 007 has my full confidence and I'm sure he acted in self-defence. Won't happen again, and so forth. Got that?' Bond grinned again as he thought of Damon's exasperation at having to dish out a lot of soft soap to Washington when he probably had plenty of other Anglo-American snarls to disentangle.