And now Bond was back in the clearing, above it, and he still did not know if his hunch had been right. It had been M’s dictum that had put him on the scent – if it was a scent – and the mention of the gipsies. “It was the gipsies the dogs smelled . . . Most of the winter . . . they went last month. No complaints . . . One morning they just weren’t there any more.” The invisible factor. The invisible man. The people who are so much part of the background that you don’t know if they’re there or not. Six men and two girls and they hardly spoke a word of French. Good cover, gipsies. You could be a foreigner and yet not a foreigner, because you were only a gipsy. Some of them had gone off in the caravan. Had some of them stayed, built themselves a hide-out during the winter, a secret place from which the hijacking of the top secret dispatches had been the first sortie? Bond had thought he was building fantasies until he found the scratches, the carefully camouflaged scratches, on the two trees. They were just at the height where, if one was carrying any kind of a cycle, the pedals might catch against the bark. It could all be a pipedream, but it was good enough for Bond. The only question in his mind was whether these people had made a one-time-only coup or whether they were so confident of their security that they would try again. He confided only in Station F. Mary Ann Russell told him to be careful. Head of F, more constructively, ordered his unit at St Germain to co-operate. Bond said goodbye to Colonel Schreiber and moved to a camp bed in the unit’s HQ – an anonymous house in an anonymous village back street. The unit had provided the camouflage outfit and the four Secret Service men who ran the unit had happily put themselves under Bond’s orders. They realised as well as Bond did that if Bond managed to wipe the eye of the whole security machine of SHAPE, the Secret Service would have won a priceless feather in its cap vis-à-vis the SHAPE High Command, and M’s worries over the independence of his unit would be gone for ever.
Bond, lying along the oak branch, smiled to himself. Private armies, private wars. How much energy they siphoned off from the common cause, how much fire they directed away from the common enemy!
Six-thirty. Time for breakfast. Cautiously Bond’s right hand fumbled in his clothing and came up to the slit of his mouth. Bond made the glucose tablet last as long as possible and then sucked another. His eyes never left the glade. The red squirrel that had appeared at first light and had been steadily eating away at young beech shoots ever since, ran a few feet nearer to the rose-bushes on the mound, picked up something and began turning it in his paws and nibbling at it. Two wood pigeons that had been noisily courting among the thick grass started to make clumsy, fluttering love. A pair of hedge sparrows went busily on collecting bits and pieces for a nest they were tardily building in a thorn-bush. The fat thrush finally located its worm and began pulling at it, its legs braced. Bees clustered thick among the roses on the mound, and from where he was, perhaps twenty yards away from and above the mound, Bond
could just hear their summery sound. It was a scene from a fairytale – the roses the lilies of the valley, the birds and the great shafts of sunlight lancing down through the tall trees into the pool of glistening green. Bond had climbed to his hide-out at four in the morning and he had never examined so closely or for so long the transition from night to a glorious day. He suddenly felt rather foolish. Any moment now and some damned bird would come and sit on his head!
It was the pigeons that gave the first alarm. With a loud clatter they took off and dashed into the trees. All the birds followed, and the squirrel. Now the glade was quiet except for the soft hum of the bees. What had sounded the alarm? Bond’s heart began to thump. His eyes hunted, quartering the glade for a clue. Something was moving among the roses. It was a tiny movement, but an extraordinary one. Slowly,
inch by inch, a single thorny stem, an unnaturally straight and rather thick one, was rising through the upper branches. It went on rising until it was a clear foot above the bush. Then it stopped. There was a solitary pink rose at the tip of the stem. Separated from the bush, it looked unnatural, but only if one happened to have watched the whole process. At a casual glance it was a stray stem and nothing else. Now, silently, the petals of the rose seemed to swivel and expand, the yellow pistils drew aside and sun glinted on a glass lens the size of a shilling. The lens seemed to be looking straight at Bond, but then very, very slowly, the rose-eye began to turn on its stem and continued to turn until the lens was again looking at Bond and the whole glade had been minutely surveyed. As if satisfied, the petals softly swivelled to cover the eye and very slowly the single rose
descended to join the others.
Bond’s breath came out with a rush. He momentarily closed his eyes to rest them. Gipsies! If that piece of machinery was any evidence, inside the mound, deep down in the earth, was certainly the most professional left-behind spy unit that had ever been devised – far more brilliant than anything England had prepared to operate in the wake of a successful German invasion, far better than what the Germans themselves had left behind in the Ardennes. A shiver of excitement and anticipation – almost of fear – ran down Bond’s spine. So he had been right! But what was to be the next act?
Now, from the direction of the mound, came a thin high-pitched whine – the sound of an electric motor at very high revs. The rose bush trembled slightly. The bees took off, hovered, and settled again. Slowly, a jagged fissure formed down the centre of the big bush and smoothly widened. Now the two halves of the bush were opening like double doors. The dark aperture broadened until Bond could see the roots of the bush running into the earth on both sides of the opening doorway. The whine of machinery was louder and there was a glint of metal from the edges of the curved doors. It was like the opening of a hinged Easter egg. In a moment the two segments stood apart and the two halves of the rose bush, still alive with bees, were splayed widely open. Now the inside of the metal caisson that supported the earth and the roots of the bush were naked to the sun. There was a glint of pale electric light from the dark aperture between the curved doors. The whine of the motor had stopped. A head and shoulders appeared, and then the rest of the man. He climbed softly out and crouched, looking sharply round the glade. There was a gun – a Luger – in his hand. Satisfied, he turned and gestured into the shaft. The head and shoulders of a second man appeared. He handed up three pairs of what looked like snowshoes and ducked out of sight. The first man selected a pair and knelt and strapped them over his boots. Now he moved about more freely, leaving no footprints, for the glass flattened only momentarily under the wide mesh and then rose slowly again. Bond smiled to himself. Clever bastards!
The second man emerged. He was followed by a third. Between them they manhandled a motor-cycle out of the shaft and stood holding it slung between them by harness webbing while the first man, who was clearly the leader, knelt and strapped the snowshoes under their boots. Then, in single file, they moved off through the trees towards the road. There was something extraordinarily sinister about the way they softly high-stepped along through the shadows, lifting and carefully placing each big webbed foot in turn.
Bond let out a long sigh of released tension and laid his head softly down on the branch to relax the strain in his neck muscles. So that was the score! Even the last small detail could now be added to the file. While the two underlings were dressed in grey overalls, the leader was wearing the uniform of the Royal Corps of Signals and his motor-cycle was an olive green BSA M20 with a British Army registration number on its petrol tank. No wonder the SHAPE dispatch-rider had let him get within range. And what did the unit do with its top secret booty? Probably radioed the cream of it out at night. Instead of the periscope, a rose-stalk aerial would rise up from the bush, the pedal generator would get going deep down under the earth and off would go the high-speed cipher groups. Ciphers? There would be many good enemy secrets down that shaft if Bond could round up the unit when it was outside the hide-out. And what a chance to feed back phoney intelligence to GRU, the Soviet Military Intelligence Apparat which was presumably the control! Bond’s thoughts raced.
The two underlings were coming back. They went into the shaft and the rose bush closed over it. The leader with his machine would be among the bushes on the verge of the road. Bond glanced at his watch. Six-fifty-five. Of course! He would be waiting to see if a dispatch-rider came along. Either he did not know the man he had killed was doing a weekly run, which was unlikely, or he was assuming that SHAPE would now change the routine for additional security. These were careful people. Probably their orders were to clean up as much as possible before the summer came and there were too many holidaymakers about in the forest. Then the unit might be pulled out and put back again in the winter. Who could say what the long-term plans were? Sufficient that the leader was preparing for another kill.
The minutes ticked by. At seven-ten the leader reappeared. He stood in the shadow of a big tree at the edge of the clearing and 佛山桑拿微信 whistled once on a brief, high, birdlike note. Immediately the rose bush began to open and the two underlings came out and followed the leader back into the trees. In two minutes they were back with the motor-cycle slung between them. The leader, after a careful look round to see that they had left no traces, followed them down into the shaft and the two halves of the rose bush closed swiftly behind him.
Half an hour later life had started up in the glade again. An hour later still, when the high sun had darkened the shadows, James Bond silently edged backwards along his branch, dropped softly on to a patch of moss behind some brambles and melted carefully back into the forest.
That evening Bond’s routine call with Mary Ann Russell was a stormy one. She said: “You’re crazy. I’m not going to let you do it. I’m going to get 南海佛山桑拿体验 Head of F to ring up Colonel Schreiber and tell him the whole story. This is SHAPE’s job. Not yours.”
Bond said sharply: “You’ll do nothing of the sort. Colonel Schreiber says he’s perfectly happy to let me make a dummy run tomorrow morning instead of the duty dispatch-rider. That’s all he needs to know at this stage. Reconstruction of the crime sort of thing. He couldn’t care less. He’s practically closed the file on this business. Now, be a good girl and do as you’re told. Just put my report on the printer to M. He’ll see the point of me cleaning this thing up. He won’t object.”
“Damn M! Damn you! Damn the whole silly Service!” There were angry tears in the voice. “You’re just a lot of children playing at Red Indians. Taking these people on by yourself! It’s – it’s showing off. That’s all it is. Showing off.”
Bond was beginning to get annoyed. He said: “That’s enough, Mary 佛山桑拿按摩论坛交流区 Ann. Put that report on the printer. I’m sorry, but it’s an order.”
There was resignation in the voice. “Oh, all right. You don’t have to pull your rank on me. But don’t get hurt. At least you’ll have the boys from the local Station to pick up the bits. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Mary Ann. And will you have dinner with me tomorrow night? Some place like Armenonville. Pink champagne and gipsy violins. Paris in the spring routine.”
“Yes,” she said seriously. “I’d like that. But then take care all the more, would you? Please?”
“Of course I will. Don’t worry. Goodnight.”
Bond spent the rest of the evening putting a last high polish on his plans and giving a final briefing to the four men from the Station.
It was another beautiful day; Bond, sitting comfortably astride the throbbing BSA waiting for the off, could hardly believe in the ambush that would now be waiting for him just 佛山桑拿价格2012 beyond the Carrefour Royal. The corporal from the Signal Corps who had handed him his empty dispatch-case and was about to give him the signal to go said: “You look as if you’d been in the Royal Corps all your life, sir. Time for a haircut soon, I’d say, but the uniform’s bang on. How d’you like the bike, sir?”
“Goes like a dream. I’d forgotten what fun these damned things are.”
“Give me a nice little Austin A40 any day, sir.” The corporal looked at his watch. “Seven o’clock just coming up.” He held up his thumb. “Okay.”
Bond pulled the goggles down over his eyes, lifted a hand to the corporal, kicked the machine into gear and wheeled off across the gravel and through the main gates.
Off 184 and on to 307, through Bailly and Noisy-le-Roi and there was the straggle of St Nom. Here he would be turning sharp right on to D98 – the ‘route de la mort’, as the handler had called it. Bond pulled into the grass verge and once more looked 佛山桑拿红场名店 to the long-barrel .45 Colt. He put the warm gun back against his stomach and left the jacket button undone. On your marks! Get set . . . !
Bond took the sharp corner and accelerated up to fifty. The viaduct carrying the Paris autoroute loomed up ahead. The dark mouth of the tunnel beneath it opened and swallowed him. The noise of his exhaust was gigantic, and for an instant there was a tunnel smell of cold and damp. Then he was out in the sunshine again and immediately across the Carrefour Royal. Ahead the oily tarmac glittered dead straight for two miles through the enchanted forest and there was a sweet smell of leaves and dew. Bond cut his speed to forty. The driving-mirror by his left hand shivered slightly with his speed. It showed nothing but an empty unfurling vista of road between lines of trees that curled away behind him like a green wake. No sign of the killer. Had he taken fright? Had there been some hitch? But then there was a tiny black speck in the centre of the convex glass – a midge that became a fly and then 佛山桑拿会所上门 a bee and then a beetle. Now it was a crash helmet bent low over handlebars between two big black paws. God, he was coming fast! Bond’s eyes flickered from the mirror to the road ahead and back to the mirror. When the killer’s right hand went for his gun . . . !
Bond slowed – thirty-five, thirty, twenty. Ahead the tarmac was smooth as metal. A last quick look in the mirror. The right hand had left the handlebars. 佛山桑拿莞式服务 The sun on the man’s goggles made huge fiery eyes below the rim of the crash helmet. Now! Bond braked fiercely and skidded the BSA through forty-five degrees, killing the engine. He was not quite quick enough on the draw. The killer’s gun flared twice and a bullet tore into the saddle-springs beside Bond’s thigh. But then the Colt spoke its single word, and the killer and his BSA, as if lassoed from within the forest, veered crazily off the road, leapt the ditch and crashed head-on into the trunk of a beech. For a moment the tangle of man and machinery clung to the broad trunk and then, with a metallic death-rattle, toppled backwards into the grass.
Bond got off his machine and walked over to the ugly twist of khaki and smoking steel. There was no need to feel for a pulse. Wherever the bullet had struck, the crash helmet had 佛山桑拿按摩技师 smashed like an eggshell. Bond turned away and thrust his gun back into the front of his tunic. He had been lucky. It would not do to press his luck. He got on the BSA and accelerated back down the road.
He leant the BSA up against one of the scarred trees just inside the forest and walked softly through to the edge of the clearing. He took up his stand in the shadow of the big beech. He moistened his lips and gave, as near as he could, the killer’s bird-whistle. He waited. Had he got the whistle wrong? But then the bush trembled and the high thin whine began. Bond hooked his right thumb through his belt within inches of his gun-butt. He hoped he would not have to do any more killing. The two underlings had not seemed to be armed. With any luck they would come quietly.
Now the curved doors were open. From where he was, Bond could not see down the shaft, but within seconds the first man was out and putting on his snowshoes and the second followed. Snowshoes! Bond’s heart missed a beat. He had forgotten them! They must be hidden back there in the bushes. Blasted fool! Would they notice?
The two men came slowly towards him, delicately placing their feet. When he was about twenty feet away, the leading man said something softly in what sounded like Russian. When Bond did not reply, the two men stopped in their tracks. They stared at him in astonishment, waiting perhaps for the answer to a password. Bond sensed trouble. He whipped out his gun and moved towards them, crouching. “Hands up.” He gestured with the muzzle of the Colt. The leading man shouted an order and threw himself forward. At the same time the second man made a dash back towards the hideout. A rifle boomed from among the trees and the man’s right leg buckled under him. The men from the Station broke cover and came running. Bond fell to one knee and clubbed upwards with his gun-barrel at the hurtling body. It made contact, but then the man was on him. Bond saw fingernails flashing towards his eyes, ducked and ran into an upper-cut. Now a hand was at his right wrist and his gun was being slowly turned on him. Not wanting to kill, he had kept the safety catch up. He tried to get his thumb to it. A boot hit him in the side of the head and he let the gun go and fell back. Through a red mist he saw the muzzle of the gun pointing at his face. The thought flashed through his mind that he was going to die – die for showing mercy . . . !
Suddenly the gun muzzle had gone and the weight of the man was off him. Bond got to his knees and then to his feet. The body, spreadeagled in the grass beside him, gave a last kick. There were bloody rents in the back of the dungarees. Bond looked round. The four men from the Station were in a group. Bond undid the strap of his crash helmet and rubbed the side of his head. He said: “Well, thanks. Who did it?”
Nobody answered. The men looked embarrassed.
Bond walked towards them, puzzled. “What’s up?”
Suddenly Bond caught a trace of movement behind the men. An extra leg showed – a woman’s leg. Bond laughed out loud. The men grinned sheepishly and looked behind them. Mary Ann Russell, in a brown shirt and black jeans, came out from behind them with her hands up. One of the hands held what looked like a .22 target pistol. She brought her hands down and tucked the pistol into the top of her jeans. She came up to Bond. She said anxiously: “You won’t blame anybody, will you? I just wouldn’t let them leave this morning without me.” Her eyes pleaded. “Rather lucky I did come, really. I mean, I just happened to get to you first. No one wanted to shoot for fear of hitting you.”
Bond smiled into her eyes. He said: “If you hadn’t come, I’d have had to break that dinner date.” He turned back to the men, his voice businesslike. “All right. One of you take the motor-bike and report the gist of this to Colonel Schreiber. Say we’re waiting for his team before we take a look at the hide-out. And would he include a couple of anti-sabotage men. That shaft may be booby-trapped. All right?”
Bond took the girl by the arm. He said: “Come over here. I want to show you a bird’s nest.”
“Is that an order?”
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird. The cock bird is about nine inches long, but seven inches of it are tail – two long black feathers that curve and cross each other and whose inner edges are in a form of scalloped design. The head and crest are black, the wings dark green, the long bill is scarlet, and the eyes, bright and confiding, are black. The body is emerald green, so dazzling that when the sun is on the breast you see the brightest green thing in nature. In Jamaica, birds that are loved are given nicknames. Trochilus polytmus is called ‘doctor bird’ because his two black streamers remind people of the black tail-coat of the old-time physician. Mrs Havelock was particularly devoted to two families of these birds because she had been watching them sipping honey, fighting, nesting and making love since she married and came to Content. She was now over fifty, so many generations of these two families had come and gone since the original two pairs had been nicknamed Pyramus and Thisbe and Daphnis and Chloe by her mother-in-law. But successive couples had kept the names, and Mrs Havelock now sat at her elegant tea service on the broad cool veranda and watched Pyramus, with a fierce ‘tee-tee-tee’ dive-bomb Daphnis who had finished up the honey on his own huge bush of Japanese Hat and had sneaked in among the neighbouring Monkeyfiddle that was Pyramus’s preserve. The two tiny black and green comets swirled away across the fine acres of lawn, dotted with brilliant clumps of hibiscus and bougainvillaea, until they were lost to sight in the citrus groves. They would soon be back. The running battle between the two families was a game. In this big finely planted garden there was enough honey for all.
Mrs Havelock put down her teacup and took a Patum Peperium sandwich. She said: “They really are the most dreadful show-offs.”
Colonel Havelock looked over the top of his Daily Gleaner. “Who?”
“Pyramus and Daphnis.”
“Oh, yes.” Colonel Havelock thought the names idiotic. He said: “It looks to me as if Batista will be on the run soon. Castro’s keeping up the pressure pretty well. Chap at Barclay’s told me this morning that there’s a lot of funk money coming over here already. Said that Belair’s been sold to nominees. One hundred and fifty thousand pounds for a thousand acres of cattle-tick and a house the red ants’ll have down by Christmas! Somebody’s suddenly gone and bought that ghastly Blue Harbour hotel, and there’s even talk that Jimmy Farquharson has found a buyer for his place – leaf-spot and Panama disease thrown in for good measure, I suppose.”
“That’ll be nice for Ursula. The poor dear can’t stand it out here. But I can’t say I like the idea of the whole island being bought up by these Cubans. But Tim, where do they get all the money from, anyway?”
“Rackets, union funds, Government money – God knows. The place is riddled with crooks and gangsters. They must want to get their money out of Cuba and into something else quick. Jamaica’s as good as anywhere else now we’ve got this convertibility with the dollar. Apparently the man who bought Belair just shovelled the money on to the floor of Aschenheim’s office out of a suitcase. I suppose he’ll keep the place for a year or two, and when the trouble’s blown over or when Castro’s got in and finished cleaning up he’ll put it on the market again, take a reasonable loss and move off somewhere else. Pity, in a way. Belair used to be a fine property. It could have been brought back if anyone in the family had cared.”
“It was ten thousand acres in Bill’s grandfather’s day. It used to take the busher three days to ride the boundary.”
“Fat lot Bill cares. I bet he’s booked his passage to London already. That’s one more of the old families gone. Soon won’t be anyone left of that lot but us. Thank God Judy likes the place.”
Mrs Havelock said “Yes, dear” calmingly and pinged the bell for the tea things to be cleared away. Agatha, a huge blue-black Negress wearing the old-fashioned white headcloth that has gone out in Jamaica except in the hinterland, came out through the white and rose drawing-room followed by Fayprince, a pretty young quadroon from Port Maria whom she was training as second housemaid. Mrs Havelock said: “It’s time we started bottling, Agatha. The guavas are early this year.”
Agatha’s face was impassive. She said: “Yes’m. But we done need more bottles.”
“Why? It was only last year I got you two dozen of the best I could find at Henriques.”
“Yes’m. Someone done mash five, six of dose.”
“Oh dear. How did that happen?”
“Couldn’t say’m.” Agatha picked up the big silver tray and waited, watching Mrs Havelock’s face.
Mrs Havelock had not lived most of her life in Jamaica without learning that a mash is a mash and that one would not get anywhere hunting for a culprit. So she just said cheerfully: “Oh, all right, Agatha. I’ll get some more when I go into Kingston.”
“Yes’m.” Agatha, followed by the young girl, went back into the house.
Mrs Havelock picked up a piece of petit-point and began stitching, her fingers moving automatically. Her eyes went back to the big bushes of Japanese Hat and Monkeyfiddle. Yes, the two male birds were back. With gracefully cocked tails they moved among the flowers. The sun was low on the horizon and every now and then there was a flash of almost piercingly beautiful green. A mocking-bird, on the topmost branch of a frangipani, started on its evening repertoire. The tinkle of an early tree-frog announced the beginning of the short violet dusk.
Content, twenty thousand acres in the foothills of Candlefly Peak, one of the most easterly of the Blue Mountains in the county of Portland, had been given to an early Havelock by Oliver Cromwell as a reward for having been one of the signatories to King Charles’s death warrant. Unlike so many other settlers of those and later times the Havelocks had maintained the plantation through three centuries, through earthquakes and hurricanes and through the boom and bust of cocoa, sugar, citrus and copra. Now it was in bananas and cattle, and it was one of the richest and best run of all the private estates in the island. The house, patched up or rebuilt after earthquake or hurricane, was a hybrid – a mahogany-pillared, two-storeyed central block on the old stone foundations flanked by two single-storeyed wings with widely overhung, flat-pitched Jamaican roofs of silver cedar shingles. The Havelocks were now sitting on the deep veranda of the central block facing the gently sloping garden beyond which a vast tumbling jungle vista stretched away twenty miles to the sea.
Colonel Havelock put down his Gleaner. “I thought I heard a car.”
Mrs Havelock said firmly: “If it’s those ghastly Feddens from Port Antonio, you’ve simply got to get rid of them. I can’t stand any more of their moans about England. And last time they were both quite drunk when they left and dinner was cold.” She got up quickly. “I’m going to tell Agatha to say I’ve got a migraine.”
Agatha came out through the drawing-room door. She looked fussed. She was followed closely by three men. She said hurriedly: “Gemmun from Kingston’m. To see de Colonel.”
The leading man slid past the housekeeper. He was still wearing his hat, a panama with a short very up-curled brim. He took this off with his left hand and held it against his stomach. The rays of the sun glittered on hair-grease and on a mouthful of smiling white teeth. He went up to Colonel Havelock, his outstretched hand held straight in front of him. “Major Gonzales. From Havana. Pleased to meet you, Colonel.”
The accent was the sham American of a Jamaican taxi-driver. Colonel Havelock had got to his feet. He touched the outstretched hand briefly. He looked over the Major’s shoulder at the other two men who had stationed themselves on either side of the door. They were both carrying that new holdall of the tropics – a Pan American overnight bag. The bags looked heavy. Now the two men bent down together and placed them beside their yellowish shoes. They straightened themselves. They wore flat white caps with transparent green visors that cast green shadows down to their cheekbones. Through the green shadows their intelligent animal eyes fixed themselves on the Major, reading his behaviour.
“They are my secretaries.”
Colonel Havelock took a pipe out of his pocket and began to fill it. His direct blue eyes took in the sharp clothes, the natty shoes, the glistening fingernails of the Major and the blue jeans and calypso shirts of the other two. He wondered how he could get these men into his study and near the revolver in the top drawer of his desk. He said: “What can I do for you?” As he lit his pipe he watched the Major’s eyes and mouth through the smoke.
Major Gonzales spread his hands. The width of his smile remained constant. The liquid, almost golden eyes were amused, friendly. “It is a matter of business, Colonel. I represent a certain gentleman in Havana” – he made a throw-away gesture with his right hand. “A powerful gentleman. A very fine guy.” Major Gonzales assumed an expression of sincerity. “You would like him, Colonel. He asked me to present his compliments and to inquire the price of your property.”
Mrs Havelock, who had been watching the scene with a polite half-smile on her lips, moved to stand beside her husband. She said kindly, so as not to embarrass the poor man: “What a shame, Major. All this way on these dusty roads! Your friend really should have written first, or asked anyone in Kingston or at Government House. You see, my husband’s family have lived here for nearly three hundred years.” She looked at him sweetly, apologetically. “I’m afraid there just isn’t any question of selling Content. There never has been. I wonder where your important friend can possibly have got the idea from.”
Major Gonzales bowed briefly. His smiling face turned back to Colonel Havelock. He said, as if Mrs Havelock had not opened her mouth: “My gentleman is told this is one of the finest estancias in Jamaica. He is a most generous man. You may mention any sum that is reasonable.”
Colonel Havelock said firmly: “You heard what Mrs Havelock said. The property is not for sale.”
Major Gonzales laughed. It sounded quite genuine laughter. He shook his head as if he was explaining something to a rather dense child. “You misunderstand me, Colonel. My gentleman desires this property and no other property in Jamaica. He has some funds, some extra funds, to invest. These funds are seeking a home in Jamaica. My gentleman wishes this to be their home.”
Colonel Havelock said patiently: “I quite understand, Major. And I am so sorry you have wasted your time. Content will never be for sale in my lifetime. And now, if you’ll forgive me. My wife and I always dine early, and you have a long way to go.” He made a gesture to the left, along the veranda. “I think you’ll find this is the quickest way to your car. Let me show you.”
Colonel Havelock moved invitingly, but when Major Gonzales stayed where he was, he stopped. The blue eyes began to freeze.
There was perhaps one less tooth in Major Gonzales’s smile and his eyes had become watchful. But his manner was still jolly. He said cheerfully, “Just one moment, Colonel.” He issued a curt order over his shoulder. Both the Havelocks noticed the jolly mask slip with the few sharp words through the teeth. For the first time Mrs Havelock looked slightly uncertain. She moved still closer to her husband. The two men picked up their blue Pan American bags and stepped forward. Major Gonzales reached for the zipper on each of them in turn and pulled. The taut mouths sprang open. The bags were full to the brim with neat solid wads of American money. Major Gonzales spread his arms. “All hundred dollar bills. All genuine. Half a million dollars. That is, in your money, let us say, one hundred and eighty thousand pounds. A small fortune. There are many other good places to live in the world, Colonel. And perhaps my gentleman would add a further twenty thousand pounds to make the round sum. You would know in a week. All I need is half a sheet of paper with your signature. The lawyers can do the rest. Now, Colonel,” the smile was winning, “shall we say yes and shake hands on it? Then the bags stay here and we leave you to your dinner.”
The Havelocks now looked at the Major with the same expression – a mixture of anger and disgust. One could imagine Mrs Havelock telling the story next day. “Such a common, greasy little man. And those filthy plastic bags full of money! Timmy was wonderful. He just told him to get out and take the dirty stuff away with him.”
Colonel Havelock’s mouth turned down with distaste. He said: “I thought I had made myself clear. Major. The property is not for sale at any price. And I do not share the popular thirst for American dollars. I must now ask you to leave.” Colonel Havelock laid his cold pipe on the table as if he was preparing to roll up his sleeves.
For the first time Major Gonzales’s smile lost its warmth. The mouth continued to grin but it was now shaped in an angry grimace. The liquid golden eyes were suddenly brassy and hard. He said softly: “Colonel. It is I who have not made myself clear. Not you. My gentleman has instructed me to say that if you will not accept his most generous terms we must proceed to other measures.”
Mrs Havelock was suddenly afraid. She put her hand on Colonel Havelock’s arm and pressed it hard. He put his hand over hers in reassurance. He said through tight lips: “Please leave us alone and go, Major. Otherwise I shall communicate with the police.”
The pink tip of Major Gonzales’s tongue came out and slowly licked along his lips. All the light had gone out of his face and it had become taut and hard. He said harshly. “So the property is not for sale in your lifetime, Colonel. Is that your last word?” His right hand went behind his back and he clicked his fingers softly, once. Behind him the gun-hands of the two men slid through the opening of their gay shirts above the waistbands. The sharp animal eyes watched the Major’s fingers behind his back.