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CHAPTER FOUR

The Whisper

Bond spent the morning on 5th Avenue and on Broadway, looking in shop windows and watching the passing crowds. He had lunch at a restaurant on Lexington Avenue, then took a taxi to the police headquarters in the centre of New York. He had arranged to meet Leiter and Dexter there at two thirty.

A Lieutenant Binswanger of Homicide showed them Mr Big’s police record and the reports about the Secatur yacht. The boat had often sailed into St Petersburg over the last six months. It always stopped at the jetty of the ‘Ourobouros Worm and Bait Shippers’ - a company whose main business was to sell live bait to fishing clubs in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. It also sold seashells, coral and aquarium fish.

According to the manager of Ourobouros, the Secatur did big business with his company and brought in shells and tropical fish from Jamaica. These were bought and then stored in the Ourobouros warehouse. Later, the shells and fish were sold to shops up and down the coast.

As they were leaving his office, Lieutenant Binswanger said, ‘More gold has been coming in recently. About a hundred coins a week in Harlem and New York alone. Do you want us to do anything about it?’

‘The boss says not yet,’ Dexter told him.

When Bond, Dexter and Leiter were out on the pavement, Dexter said, ‘I had some instructions from Washington this morning. I’ve got to look after the Harlem side of the case, and you two have been asked to go down to St Petersburg tomorrow. Leiter’s got to find out what he can there, then move on to Jamaica with you, Mr Bond. Is there anything else I can do for you?’

‘If you don’t mind, Leiter and I would like to go to Harlem this evening and have a look round,’ said Bond.

Dexter thought for a moment. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘But don’t get hurt. There’s no one to help you up there. And don’t make trouble for us with Mr Big. Until we’re ready to get him, we say “live and let live”.’

Bond smiled. ‘In my job, when I meet a man like Mr Big, I have another saying. It’s “live and let die”.’

‘Maybe,’ said Dexter. ‘But you take my orders while you’re here, Mr Bond.’ He waved his hand to stop a passing taxi. The yellow car stopped, Dexter got in and then Bond and Leiter watched the car drive away.

‘Well, what about going to Harlem tonight, Felix?’ asked Bond.

‘Sure,’ said Leiter. ‘I’ll meet you in the King Cole Bar of the St Regis at six thirty.’

Up in Harlem, at the big telephone switchboard , ‘The Whisper ‘ was half asleep. All his telephone lines were quiet. Suddenly, a light shone on the board - an important light. ‘Yes, Boss,’ he said softly into his headset. ‘Tell all spies to watch for three men,’ said a slow, deep voice. A description of Leiter, Bond and Dexter followed. ‘They may be coming in this evening or tomorrow. Tell them to watch carefully on 1st to 8th, and the other avenues. The nightclubs, too. Call me when you know where they are.’

‘Yes, Boss,’ said The Whisper, breathing fast. Soon after, he was whispering quickly and softly late into the evening.

At six o’clock, Bond had a cold shower and dressed carefully. He wore a white shirt and put his leather shoulder holster on top of it. Next he put his Beretta into the holster. He looked at the casual shoes the FBI had given him. Then he reached under the bed and pulled out a pair of his own shoes and put them on. Under the leather, the toecaps were made of steel.

At twenty-five past six, he went down to the King Cole Bar. A few minutes later, Felix Leiter came in and sat down. His head of yellow hair was now coloured black and he wore a bright blue suit with a white shirt and a black-and-white spotted tie.

‘Mr Big’s people may have my description,’ Leiter said, and gave Bond a big smile. ‘We’ll catch a bus on 5th Avenue. You won’t find many cabs that want to go to Harlem after it’s dark.’

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