فصل 07

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فصل 07

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Chapter seven

Into Scaramanga’s World

It was early evening now and Bond was driving his car, in the dark, along a country road he did not know. He had been told to follow Scaramanga’s car to get to the half-built Thunderbird Hotel. He knew more or less the direction they were travelling in and could tell that the sea had always been close to him on his left while he had been driving, but he felt uncomfortable. The first law for a secret agent is to be sure of exactly where he is, to know his route of escape and to have a means of communication with the outside world. For the last hour, James Bond had been driving into the unknown, and his nearest contact was a girl he hardly knew in a bar thirty kilometres away. The situation was worrying.

Just as Bond was considering his position, some glowing lights appeared up ahead and what had to be the hotel began to sweep into view. The two cars came to a stop in front of the building. With the darkness of the night hiding the evidence of any building work, the brilliantly lit entrance to the hotel looked impressive and convincing enough. James Bond got out of his car and followed Scaramanga inside, where a hotel clerk, dressed in a smart uniform, came to greet them. Bond wrote ‘Mark Hazard’ and the London address of Transworld Consortium in the hotel register.

After speaking for several moments to the hotel manager, Scaramanga turned to Bond and said, ‘You’re in room number 24, in the west wing. I’m close by in number 20. Order whatever you want from Room Service. See you at about ten o’clock in the morning. The guys will be coming in from Kingston at around midday. OK?’ The expressionless face and cold eyes did not care if it was OK or not. Bond said it was.

Once inside the pleasant, modem, double bedroom, Bond turned off the air conditioning - he had never liked the idea of it - and opened the window. Then he inspected the room in detail. He checked behind the paintings on the walls and under the bed, and then he slowly unscrewed the bottom plate of the telephone. As he suspected, he discovered a small microphone, which had been connected to the main cable inside. He smiled to himself, left the microphone untouched and then carefully replaced the bottom plate and put the phone back on the bedside table. He knew this kind of device well. It would be powerful enough to pick up and transmit a conversation from anywhere in the room.

James Bond unpacked his few belongings and then called Room Service and ordered some food. While he was waiting for his food to arrive, he poured himself a glass of whisky and sat down near the open window. He could hear the waves breaking softly on the nearby beach and could smell the sea air. As he sat holding the glass of whisky in one hand, he thought about what would happen the next day. It would certainly be interesting to see these fat, frightened shareholders! Bond had a strong suspicion that they would be gangsters - the type of men who owned the Havana hotels and discos, or who were in control in Las Vegas and Miami. And who was Scaramanga working for - whose money was he representing? It could be anyone in the Caribbean, yet Bond was sure that the money would have come from criminal sources. He was probably still working for the Cuban Secret Police. And what about the man himself? The incident with the birds certainly proved that Scaramanga knew what he was doing with a gun. How on earth was Bond going to kill him?

Later, after eating dinner in his room, Bond pushed his empty suitcase up against the bedroom door and balanced three empty glasses on top of it. Although only a simple booby trap, it would give him all the warning he needed if anyone tried to come into his room. Then he undressed, got into bed and slept.

After a night full of disturbing dreams, James Bond woke up at half-past seven. He got dressed, had a quick breakfast in his room and then decided to go for a walk to find out more about the property. It did not take long to get a good picture of the place. The darkness of the night before had covered up a half-project. Bond now clearly saw that the east wing of the hotel had only just been started, while in the main section of the building there were workmen everywhere. They were hurriedly fitting carpets, hanging curtains and even painting walls. But no one was employed on the essentials - the big cement mixers and diggers lay untouched outside. Beyond the newly laid gardens, the wild mangrove swamps spread out far and wide, full of crocodiles and giving off a strong, unpleasant smell.

Bond guessed that the place needed at least another year and another five million dollars before it would be properly finished. Some of the shareholders were not going to be happy when they saw this; they might want to sell their shares in it. But other businessmen might want to buy into it, as long as they could do so cheaply, and use it as a tax-loss to set against more profitable business elsewhere. Businessmen often preferred to have money in property here because Jamaica gave big tax concessions - that was better than having to pay high taxes to the government in the United States, Cuba or anywhere else. So, Scaramanga planned to blind his guests with pleasure and send them back happy to their syndicates, so that they would recommend buying into the project. Would it work? Bond seriously doubted it.

Bond glanced at his watch. It was nearly ten o’clock, so he walked back to the main reception desk of the hotel. Scaramanga, dressed in another smart suit, was at the desk talking to the manager. He nodded to Bond. ‘Let’s go and have a look at the conference room,’ he said.

Bond followed him through the hotel bar to a big, simply furnished room. It had a large, round table with a telephone on it and seven white leather chairs around it. Bond began to look carefully around the room. He said, ‘The wall lights could be bugged. And, of course, the telephone. Do you want me to have a close look at it?’

Scaramanga turned to Bond and answered, ‘There’s no need to. It’s definitely bugged. By me. I’ve got to have a record of exactly what is said.’

‘All right, then. Where do you want me to be?’ Bond asked.

‘Sit outside the door,’ Scaramanga told him. ‘Read a magazine or something. There’ll be a general meeting this afternoon at around four. Tomorrow there’ll be one or two smaller meetings. I want all these meetings to be private. I don’t want anyone to disturb us.’

‘No problem,’ replied Bond confidently. ‘Now, isn’t it time you told me the names of these men, who they represent and which ones, if any, you’re expecting trouble from?’

Scaramanga picked up a pad of paper and a pencil from the table and handed them to Bond. ‘Sit down, then. First, there’s Mr Hendriks. He’s a Dutchman and he represents the European money - mostly Swiss. He’s not the arguing type so he should be OK. Then there’s Sam Binion from Detroit. He and his friends are worth about twenty million dollars. Next there’s Leroy Gengerella. Miami. He’s big in the entertainment world and owns Gengerella Enterprises. He’s the kind of person who wants quick profits - he might be rough. And Ruby Rotkopf, the hotel man from Las Vegas. He’ll ask the most difficult questions because he’ll already know most of the answers from experience. Hal Garfinkel from Chicago. He’s in labour relations, like me, and represents a lot of Teamster Union funds. He shouldn’t be any trouble. That makes five so far. The last one is Louie Paradise from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s involved in casinos and owns Paradise Slots - the biggest company in the one-armed bandit business. I’m not sure what he’s going to say.’

‘And who do you represent, Mr Scaramanga?’ asked Bond casually.

‘Caribbean money,’ came the vague reply.

‘Cuban?’ said Bond, pushing him further.

‘I said Caribbean. Cuba’s in the Caribbean, isn’t it?’

‘Castro or Batista?’ insisted Bond.

A heavy frown fell on Scaramanga’s face and his right hand formed into a fist. ‘Stay out of my business, mister,’ he warned, ‘or you’ll get hurt. And I mean that.’ Then he turned and walked quickly out of the room.

James Bond smiled. He looked down at the list of names in front of him. It certainly looked like a suspicious group of men. But the name he was most interested in was Mr Hendriks, who represented ‘European money’. Bond felt sure that this man was probably not what he seemed.

Bond picked up the pad of paper and walked back to the hotel reception area. A large man was approaching the desk from the entrance. He looked hot and uncomfortable in his formal suit. He looked like a typical European businessman - a German dentist or a Swiss banker. He put down his heavy suitcase next to the reception desk and said in a heavy European accent and with poor English grammar, ‘It is Mr Hendriks. I think it is that you are having a room for me, isn’t it?’

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