Bond looked grimly at the pile of parcels which contained his new identity, stripped off his pyjamas for the last time ('We mostly sleep in the raw in America , Mr. Bond') and gave himself a sizzling cold shower. As he shaved he examined his face in the glass. The thick comma of black hair above his right eyebrow had lost some of its tail and his hair was trimmed close across the temples. Nothing could be done about the thin vertical scar down his right cheek, although the FBI had experimented with 'Cover-Mark', or about the coldness and hint of anger in his grey-blue eyes, but there was the mixed blood of America in the black hair and high cheekbones and Bond thought he might get by — except, perhaps, with women.
Naked, Bond walked out into the lobby and tore open some of the packages. Later, in white shirt and dark blue trousers, he went into the sitting-room, pulled a chair up to the writing-desk near the window and opened The Travellers Tree, by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
This extraordinary book had been recommended to him by M.
'It's by a chap who knows what he's talking about,' he said, 'and don't forget that he was writing about what was happening in Haiti in 1950. This isn't medieval black-magic stuff. It's being practised every day.'
Bond was half way through the section on Haiti.
The next step [he read] is the invocation of evil denizens of the Voodoo pantheon — such as Don Pedro, Kitta, Mondongue, Bakalou and Zandor - for harmful purposes, for the reputed practice (which is of Congolese origin) of turning people into zombies in order to use them as slaves, the casting of maleficent spells, and the destruction of enemies. The effects of the spell, of which the outward form may be an image of the intended victim, a miniature coffin or a toad, are frequently stiffened by the separate use of poison. Father Gosme enlarged on the superstitions that maintain that men with certain powers change themselves into snakes; on the 'Loups-Garoups' that fly at night in the form of vampire bats and suck the blood of children; on men who reduce themselves to infinitesimal size and roll about the countryside in calabashes. What sounded far more sinister were a number of mystico-criminal secret societies of wizards, with nightmarish titles — 'les Mackanda', named after the poison campaign of the Haitian hero; 'les Zobop', who were also robbers; the 'Mazanxa', the 'Caporelata' and the 'Vlin-bindingue'. These, he said, were the mysterious groups whose gods demand — instead of a cock, a pigeon, a goat, a dog, or a pig, as in the normal rites of Voodoo - the sacrifice of a 'cabrit sans cornes'. This hornless goat, of course, means a human being…
Bond turned over the pages, occasional passages combining to form an extraordinary picture in his mind of a dark religion and its terrible rites.
… Slowly, out of the turmoil and the smoke and the shattering noise of the drums, which, for a time, drove everything except their impact from the mind, the details began to detach themselves… Backwards and forwards, very slowly, the dancers shuffled, and at each step their chins shot out and their buttocks jerked upwards, while their shoulders shook in double time. Their eyes were half closed and from their mouths came again and again the same incomprehensible words, the same short line of chanted song, repeated after each iteration, half an octave lower. At a change in the beat of the drums, they straightened their bodies, and flinging their arms in the air while their eyes rolled upwards, spun round and round… At the edge of the crowd we came upon a little hut, scarcely larger than a dog kennel: 'Le caye Zombi'. The beam of a torch revealed a black cross inside and some rags and chains and shackles and whips: adjuncts used at the Ghede ceremonies, which Haitian ethnologists connect with the rejuvenation rites of Osiris recorded in the Book of the Dead. A fire was burning, in which two sabres and a large pair of pincers were standing, their lower parts red with the heat: 'le Feu Marixiette', dedicated to a goddess who is the evil obverse of the bland and amorous Maitresse Erzulie Freda Dahomin, the Goddess of Love.
Beyond, with its base held fast in a socket of stone, stood a large black wooden cross. A white death's head was painted near the base, and over the crossbar were pulled the sleeves of a very old morning coat. Here also rested the brim of a battered bowler hat, through the torn crown of which the top of the cross projected. This totem, with which every peristyle must be equipped, is not a lampoon of the central event of the
Christian faith, but represents the God of the Cemeteries and the Chief of the Legion of the Dead, Baron Samedi. The Baron is paramount in all matters immediately beyond the tomb. He is Cerberus and Charon as well as Aeacus, Rhadamanthus and Pluto.
… The drums changed and the Houngenikon came dancing on to the floor, holding a vessel filled with some burning liquid from which sprang blue and yellow flames. As he circled the pillar and spilt three flaming libations, his steps began to falter. Then, lurching backwards with the same symptoms of delirium that had manifested themselves in his forerunner, he flung down the whole blazing mass. The houncis caught him as he reeled, and removed his sandals and rolled his trousers up, while the kerchief fell from his head and laid bare his young woolly skull. The other houncis knelt to put their hands in the flaming mud, and rub it over their hands and elbows and faces. The Houngan's bell and 'agon' rattled officiously and the young priest was left by himself, reeling and colliding against the pillar, helplessly catapulting across the floor, and falling among the drums. His eyes were shut, his forehead screwed up and his chin hung loose. Then, as though an invisible fist had dealt him a heavy blow, he fell to the ground and lay there, with his head stretching backwards in a rictus of anguish until the tendons of his neck and shoulders projected like roots. One hand clutched at the other elbow behind his hollowed back as though he were striving to break his own arm, and his whole body, from which the sweat was streaming, trembled and shuddered like a dog in a dream. Only the whites of his eyes were visible as, although his eye-sockets were now wide open, the pupils had vanished under the lids. Foam collected on his lips…
… Now the Houngan, dancing a slow step and brandishing a cutlass, advanced from the fireside, flinging the weapon again and again into the air, and catching it by the hilt. In a few minutes he was holding it by the blunted end of the blade. Dancing slowly towards him, the Houngenikon reached out and grasped the hilt. The priest retired, and the young man, twirling and leaping, spun from side to side of the 'tonnelle'. The ring of spectators rocked backwards as he bore down upon them whirling the blade over his head, with the gaps in his bared teeth lending to his mandril face a still more feral aspect. The 'tonnelle' was filled for a few seconds with genuine and unmitigated terror. The singing had turned to a universal howl and the drummers, rolling and lolling with the furious and invisible motion of their hands, were lost in a transport of noise.
Flinging back his head, the novice drove the blunt end of the cutlass into his stomach. His knees sagged, and his head fell forward…
There came a knock on the door and a waiter came in with breakfast. Bond was glad to put the dreadful tale aside and re-enter the world of normality. But it took him minutes to forget the atmosphere, heavy with terror and the occult, that had surrounded him as he read.
With breakfast came another parcel, about a foot square, expensive-looking, which Bond told the waiter to put on the sideboard. Some afterthought of Leiter's, he supposed. He ate his breakfast with enjoyment. Between mouthfuls he looked out of the wide window and reflected on what he had just read.
It was only when he had swallowed his last mouthful of coffee and had lit his first cigarette of the day that he suddenly became aware of the tiny noise in the room behind him.
It was a soft, muffled ticking, unhurried, metallic. And it came from the direction of the sideboard.
'Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-tock.'
Without a moment's hesitation, without caring that he looked a fool, he dived to the floor behind his armchair and crouched, all his senses focused on the noise from the square parcel. 'Steady,' he said to himself. 'Don't be an idiot. It's just a clock.' But why a clock? Why should he be given a clock? Who by?
'Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-tock.'
It had become a huge noise against the silence of the room. It seemed to be keeping time with the thumping of Bond's heart. 'Don't be ridiculous. That Voodoo stuff of Leigh Fermor's has put your nerves on edge. Those drums…'
'Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-'
And then, suddenly, the alarm went off with a deep, melodious, urgent summons.
Bond's muscles relaxed. His cigarette was burning a hole in the carpet. He picked it up and put it in his mouth. Bombs in alarm clocks go off when the hammer first comes down on the alarm. The hammer hits a pin in a detonator, the detonator fires the explosive and WHAM…
Bond raised his head above the back of the chair and watched the parcel.
The muffled gonging went on for half a minute, then it started to slow down.
'tong . . tong… tong… tong…tong…
It was not louder than a 12-bore cartridge, but in the confined space it was an impressive explosion.
The parcel, in tatters, had fallen to the ground. The glasses and bottles on the sideboard were smashed and there was a black smudge of smoke on the grey wall behind them. Some pieces of glass tinkled on to the floor. There was a strong smell of gunpowder in the room.
Bond got slowly to his feet. He went to the window and opened it. Then he dialled Dexter's number. He spoke levelly.
'Pineapple… No, a small one… only some glasses… okay, thanks… of course not… 'bye.'
He skirted the debris, walked through the small lobby to the door leading into the passage, opened it, hung the DON'T DISTURB sign outside, locked it, and went through into his bedroom.
By the time he had finished dressing there was a knock on the door.
'Who is it?” he called.
Dexter hustled in, followed by a sallow young man with a black box under his arm.
'Trippe, from Sabotage,' announced Dexter.
They shook hands and the young man at once went on his knees beside the charred remnants of the parcel.
He opened his box and took out some rubber gloves and a handful of dentist's forceps. With his tools he painstakingly extracted small bits of metal and glass from the charred parcel and laid them out on a broad sheet of blotting paper from the writing-desk.
While he worked, he asked Bond what had happened.
'About a half-minute alarm? I see. Hullo, what's this?' He delicately extracted a small aluminium container such as is used for exposed film. He put it aside.
After a few minutes he sat up on his haunches.
'Half-minute acid capsule,' he announced. 'Broken by the first hammer-stroke of the alarm. Acid eats through thin copper wire. Thirty seconds later wire breaks, releases plunger on to cap of this.' He held up the base of a cartridge. '4-bore elephant gun. Black powder. Blank. No shot. Lucky it wasn't a grenade. Plenty of room in the parcel. You'd have been damaged. Now let's have a look at this.' He picked up the aluminium cylinder, unscrewed it, extracted a small roll of paper, and unravelled it with his forceps.
He carefully flattened it out on the carpet, holding its corners down with four tools from his black box. It contained three typewritten sentences. Bond and Dexter bent forward.