فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

A Mysterious Parcel

The morning after his arrival in New York, Bond woke up in his bedroom at the St Regis.

Dexter had given him plenty of information about Mr Big. He was 45 years old, had been born in Haiti and was half black and half French. The gangster had got his name because of his large size and because of the initials of his full name: Buonaparte Ignace Gallia - B-I-G. After moving to America, he had various different jobs. Then he was forced to join the American armed forces during the Second World War. Because of his excellent French, he worked for the American Secret Service in France, where he worked closely with a Russian spy who was doing a similar job. After the war he disappeared for five years, probably to Moscow. He returned to Harlem in 1950 and bought several nightclubs. The FBI suspected that he was working as a Russian spy, but they could never be totally sure.

He soon became a man to fear. People who went against him were murdered or mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again. Those who did not listen to his instructions had their homes burnt down or their families threatened. Naturally, all this helped to make Mr Big a very powerful man. Very soon he had large criminal organizations working for him, with his own spies everywhere. They were all ready at a moment’s notice to report back to him what they had seen.

Bond had questioned Dexter and Leiter very closely about Mr Big’s connections to SMERSH. He was now almost certain that Mr Big was a member. But the porters, the truck drivers and all the other men who passed on information to him had no idea that they were giving it to a Russian spy. Fear of death and cruelty was enough to stop them asking questions.

Bond picked up the telephone and asked for breakfast to be sent to his room. Then he collected the newspapers and parcels that had been put quietly on his hall table earlier that morning.

Yesterday afternoon, a man had come and measured him for two dark blue suits. Another man had brought some uncomfortable white shirts with long points to the collars. He had also had to accept six unusually bright and patterned ties, some dark socks with large patterns on them, a plain grey hat, and two pairs of hand-made, black casual shoes. To hold all of these things, there was a light-weight American suitcase.

He was allowed to keep his own Beretta.25 gun and shoulder holster. His other things were going to be collected at midday. They would be sent on to Jamaica to wait for him.

It was all part of the Americanization of Bond, ordered by the FBI. His dark hair was now shorter and he had been told that he was from Boston, New England, and was visiting New York during his holidays. He had been reminded to ask for the ‘check’ rather than the ‘bill’ in restaurants and to say ‘cab’ instead of ‘taxi’.

Bond had a shower and dressed. Later, in a white shirt and blue trousers, he opened the door for the waiter. The man brought in Bond’s breakfast, together with a brown parcel about a foot square. Bond told the waiter to put the parcel on the sideboard. Something else from Leiter, he guessed. It was only after he had finished eating that he heard the very soft ticking noise. It was coming from the sideboard. Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-tock…

Bond immediately dived to the floor behind an armchair. He waited nervously.

Crack! The parcel exploded and fell to the floor.

Bond looked over the back of the armchair. The glasses and bottles on the sideboard were broken, and there was a black mark from smoke on the wall behind them. He got up slowly and went straight to the window and opened it. Then he picked up the phone and called Dexter. Soon after, there was a knock on the door.

‘Who is it?’ Bond called.

‘Dexter.’

Dexter came in, followed by a young man with a black box under his arm. The young man at once went down on his knees beside what was left of the parcel. He opened his box and put on some special gloves to protect his hands. Then he began to collect small bits of metal and glass from the carpet. Also lying on the carpet was a small metal tube. From it, the young man took out a piece of paper. Bond and Dexter read it: The heart of the clock has stopped ticking. The beats of your heart are numbered. I know that number and I have started to count.

The message was signed: 1234567 *?

‘Mr Big,’ said Bond.

‘But how did he know you were here?’ asked Dexter.

Bond told him about the black Chevrolet car outside the hotel.

‘But the point is,’ said Bond, ‘how did he know what I was here for? It shows he’s got spies everywhere, including in Washington and in the CIA.’

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