فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

Death of a Bird

Solitaire stood up. ‘I’ll take my things to the bedroom,’ she said. ‘I expect you two have a lot to talk about.’

‘You can have James’s room,’ said Leiter. ‘He can share my room.’

He took her to the bedroom, then went into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of whisky and two glasses. When the two men were holding their drinks, Leiter began to talk about the train.

‘It left Jacksonville about five o’clock,’ he said. ‘It got to Waldo at about six, and the bomb exploded soon after it left. Here’s what I think happened… Just after the train leaves Waldo, Mr Big’s man gets into the compartment next to yours. He puts some sort of sign in the window - a message to show that your compartment is to the right of it. Maybe a towel or something like that. About twenty minutes after leaving Waldo, the train driver gets an emergency signal to stop the train.

‘There’s a grey Buick car waiting on the road that runs next to the train track. The train driver sees three black men get out. Two are carrying guns and the other man has something in his hand. They walk along the train and stop outside Car 245. The two men with guns shoot out the glass in your compartment window. The other man throws in the bomb, then all three run back to the Buick. They drive away - fast. The bomb goes boom! End of James Bond. Except that it’s not.’

‘Well, that’s the third time I’ve escaped dying since I arrived in New York,’ said Bond.

‘Mr Big won’t like that at all. He doesn’t usually make mistakes,’ said Leiter.

‘Tell me, what more do you know about the gold coins?’ asked Bond.

‘They definitely get into the USA through St Petersburg,’ said Leiter. ‘The Secatur comes straight from Jamaica and always stops at that factory. What’s it called?’

‘Ourobouros,’ said Bond.

‘Let’s go and see the place,’ said Leiter. ‘The Secatur is in Cuba now. It left St Petersburg a week ago. They searched the yacht when it came in and when it left, but didn’t find anything, of course. No gold coins. But let’s go and see if we can have a look at Mr Big’s Robber. Go and tell Solitaire to stay here until we get back, then we’ll take her out to dinner.’

But Solitaire did not want to be left alone. ‘I want to get away from here,’ she told him with fear in her eyes. Bond kissed her. ‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘We’ll be back in an hour. Nothing can happen to you here. Then I won’t leave you until you’re on the plane.’

Leiter had a car waiting outside. Minutes later, Bond was driving the car across the causeway from Treasure Island to the city of St Petersburg.

When they came to the city’s waterfront , Leiter said, ‘We’d better get out and walk. The Robber’s place is near here.’

They left the car and walked to a narrow street which ended at a small wooden jetty that reached out twenty feet into the sea. Next to the open gate of the jetty was a long, low warehouse. Painted on the wide door were the words: OUROBOUROS WORM AND BAIT SHIPPERS CORAL, SHELLS, TROPICAL FISH Inside the big door, there was a smaller door with a lock on it. The sign on this smaller door said: PRIVATE. KEEP OUT.

The Robber was sitting in a chair outside the small door. He was cleaning a gun - a Remington.30 rifle, Bond thought. He was about forty years old, with a thin, dark face. He looked cruel and cold, like the bad man in a crime film.

Bond and Leiter walked past him and onto the jetty. He did not look up, but Bond could feel the man’s eyes following them. They watched a large grey bird - a pelican - flying above the water. Suddenly, it flew down into the water and came back up holding a fish. Moments later, it flew slowly back, landed on the jetty and swallowed the fish.

Bond and Leiter turned around and walked back to The Robber. He was still cleaning the rifle.

‘Good afternoon,’ said Leiter. ‘Are you the manager here?’

‘Yeah,’ said the man, without looking up.

‘Could we leave our boat here?’ asked Leiter. ‘It’s too crowded everywhere else.’

‘No,’ said the man.

Leiter took a twenty dollar bill from his pocket and held it out to The Robber. ‘Would this help to change your mind?’

‘No,’ said The Robber. Then, after a moment, he asked, ‘What’s the name of your boat?’

‘The Sybil,’ said Leiter.

The Robber stared at them. Then he moved the rifle across the front of both Bond and Leiter. They did not move. The Robber pointed the rifle down the jetty, narrowed his eyes and pulled the trigger. The pelican made a small noise, and they heard its heavy body fall into the water.

‘Why did you do that?’ asked Bond angrily.

‘Practice,’ said The Robber, putting another bullet into the rifle. He stared at them. ‘You’ve got guns, I can smell them.’ He moved the rifle so that it pointed at Leiter’s stomach, then he got up and opened the door behind him. ‘Come around here again and I’ll shoot you, just like the bird. I’ve had enough of cops like you looking around and asking questions.’

He went into the warehouse and closed the door with a crash behind him.

Bond and Leiter looked at each other.

‘So we won’t be going in the front door,’ said Bond, smiling. ‘But every warehouse has more than one door.’

‘We’ll check that on our next visit,’ said Leiter. ‘We’d better get back to Solitaire.’

They drove back to The Everglades, where they found Mrs Stuyvesant waiting outside. She saw them get out of the car and hurried towards them.

‘There was a large wooden box delivered to your cottage, Mr Leiter,’ she said. ‘Very large. The two men who brought it had trouble getting it through the door. I hope-‘

Her mouth fell open in surprise as Bond and Leiter turned and ran towards the cottage.

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