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Bond said severely, “Now, listen, Honey. You look wonderful, but that isn't the way to wear a kimono. Pull it up right across your body and tie it tight and stop trying to look like a call girl. It just isn't good manners at breakfast.”

“Oh, you are a stuffy old beast.” She pulled her kimono an inch or two closer. “Why don't you like playing? I want to play at being married.”

“Not at breakfast time,” said Bond firmly. “Come on -and eat up. It's delicious. And anyway, I'm filthy. I'm going to shave and have a bath.” He got up and walked round the table and kissed the top of her head. “And as for playing, as you call it, I'd rather play with you than anyone in the world. But not now.” Without waiting for her answer he walked into the bathroom and shut the door.

Bond shaved and had a bath and a shower. He felt desperately sleepy. Sleep came to him in waves so that from time to time he had to stop what he was doing and bend his head down between his knees. When he came to brush his teeth he could hardly do it. Now he recognized the signs. He had been drugged. In the coffee or in the pineapple juice? It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. All he wanted to do was lie down on the tiled floor and shut his eyes. Bond weaved drunkenly to the door. He forgot that he was naked. That didn't matter either. Anyway the girl had finished her breakfast. She was in bed. He staggered over to her, holding on to the furniture. The kimono was lying in a pile on the floor. She was fast asleep, naked under a single sheet.

Bond gazed dreamily at the empty pillow beside her head. No! He found the switches and turned out the lights. Now he had to crawl across the floor and into his room. He got to his bed and pulled himself on to it. He reached out an arm of lead and jabbed at the switch on the bed-light. He missed it. The lamp crashed to the floor and the bulb burst. With a last effort Bond turned on his side and let the waves sweep over his head.

The luminous figures on the electric clock in the double room said nine-thirty.

At ten o'clock the door of the double room opened softly. A very tall thin figure was silhouetted against the lighted corridor. It was a man. He must have been six feet six tall. He stood on the threshold with his arms folded, listening. Satisfied, he moved slowly into the room and up to the bed. He knew the way exactly. He bent down and listened to the quiet breathing of the girl. After a moment he reached up to his chest and pressed a switch. A flashlight with a very broad diffused beam came on. The flashlight was attached to him by a belt that held it above the breast bone. He bent forward so that the soft light shone on the girl's face.

The intruder examined the girl's face for several minutes. One of his hands came up and took the sheet at her chin and softly drew the 'sheet down to the end of the bed. The hand that drew down the sheet was not a hand. It was a pair of articulated steel pincers at the end of a metal stalk that disappeared into a black silk sleeve. It was a mechanical hand.

The man gazed for a long time at the naked body, moving his chest to and fro so that every corner of the body came under the light. Then the claw came out again and delicately lifted a corner of the sheet from the bottom of the bed and drew it back over the girl. The man stood for another moment gazing down at the sleeping face, then he switched off the torch on his chest and moved quietly away across the room to the open door through which Bond was sleeping.

The man spent longer beside Bond's bed. He scrutinized every line, every shadow on the dark, rather cruel face that lay drowned, almost extinct, on the pillow. He watched the pulse in the neck and counted it and, when he had pulled down the sheet, he did the same with the area round the heart. He gauged the curve of the muscles on Bond's arms and thighs and looked thoughtfully at the hidden strength in the flat stomach. He even bent down close over the outflung open right hand and examined its life and fate lines.

Finally, with infinite care, the steel claw drew the sheet back up to Bond's neck. For another minute the tall figure stood over the sleeping man, then it swished softly away and out into the corridor and the door closed with a click.

XIV

COME INTO MY PARLOUR

The electric clock in the cool dark room in the heart of the mountain showed four-thirty.

Outside the mountain, Crab Key had sweltered and stunk its way through another day. At the eastern end of the island, the mass of birds, Louisiana herons, pelicans, avocets, sandpipers, egrets, flamingoes and the few roseate spoonbills, went on with building, their nests or fished in the shallow waters of the lake. Most of the birds had been disturbed so often that year that they had given up any idea of building. In the past few months they had been raided at regular intervals by the monster that came at night and burned down their roosting places and the beginnings of their nests. This year many would not breed. There would be vague movements to migrate and many would die of the nervous hysteria that seizes bird colonies when they no longer have peace and privacy.

At the other end of the island, on the guanera that gave the mountain its snow-covered look, the vast swarm of cormorants had passed their usual day of gorging themselves with fish and paying back the ounce of precious manure to their owner and protector. Nothing had interfered with their nesting season. Now they were noisily fiddling with the untidy piles of sticks that would be their nests-each pile at exactly sixty centimetres from the next, for the guanay is a quarrelsome bird and this sixty-centimetre ring represents their sparring space. Soon the females would be laying the three eggs from which their master's flock would be increased by an average of two young cormorants.

Below the peak, where the diggings began, the hundred or so Negro men and women who were the labour force were coming to the end of the day's shift. Another fifty cubic yards of guano had been dug out of the mountainside and another twenty yards of terrace had been added to the working level. Below, the mountainside looked like terraced vineyards in Upper Italy, except that here there were no vines, only deep barren shelves cut in the mountainside. And here, instead of the stink of marsh gas on the rest of the island, there was a strong ammoniac smell, and the ugly hot wind that kept the diggings dry blew the freshly turned whitish-brown dust into the eyes and ears and noses of the diggers. But the workers were used to the smell and the dust, and it was easy, healthy work. They had no complaints.

The last iron truck of the day started off on the Decauville Track that snaked down the mountainside to the crusher and separator. A whistle blew and the workers shouldered their clumsy picks and moved lazily down towards the high-wired group of Quonset huts that was their compound. Tomorrow, on the other side of the mountain, the monthly ship would be coming in to the deep-water quay they had helped to build ten years before, but which, since then, they had never seen. That would mean fresh stores and fresh goods and cheap jewellery at the canteen. It would be a holiday. There would be rum and dancing and a few fights. Life was good.

Life was good, too, for the senior outside staff-all Chinese Negroes like the men who had hunted Bond and Quarrel and the girl. They also stopped work in the garage and the machine shops and at the guard posts and filtered off to the 'officers'' quarters. Apart from watch and loading duties, tomorrow would also be a holiday for most of them. They too would have their drinking and dancing, and there would be-a new monthly batch of girls from 'inside'. Some 'marriages' from the last lot would continue for further months or weeks according to the taste of the 'husband', but for the others there would be a fresh choice. There would be some of the older girls who had had their babies in the creche and were coming back for a fresh spell of duty 'outside', and there would be a sprinkling of young ones who had come of age and would be 'coming out' for the first time. There would be fights over these and blood would be shed, but in the end the officers' quarters would settle down for another month of communal life, each officer with his woman to look after his needs.

Deep down in the cool heart of the mountain, far below this well-disciplined surface life, Bond awoke in his comfortable bed. Apart from a slight nembutal headache he felt fit and rested. Lights were on in the girl's room and he could hear her moving about. He swung his feet to the ground and, avoiding the fragments of glass from the broken lamp, walked softly over to the clothes cupboard and put on the first kimono that came to his hand. He went to the door. The girl had a pile of kimonos out on the bed and was trying them on in front of the wall mirror. She had on a very smart one in sky-blue silk. It looked wonderful against the gold of her skin. Bond said, “That's the one.”

She whirled round, her hand at her mouth. She took it down. “Oh, it's you!” She smiled at him. “I thought you'd never wake up. I've been to look at you several times. I'd made up my mind to wake you at five. It's half-past four and I'm hungry. Can you get us something to eat?”

“Why not,” Bond walked across to her bed. As he passed her he put his arm round her waist and took her with him. He examined the bells. He pressed the one marked 'Room Service'. He said, “What about the others? Let's have the full treatment”

She giggled. “But what's a manicurist?”

“Someone who does your nails. We must look our best for Doctor No.” At the back of Bond's mind was the urgent necessity to get his hands on some kind of weapon-a pair of scissors would be better than nothing. Anything would do.

He pressed two more bells. He let her go and looked round the room. Someone had come while they were asleep and taken away the breakfast things. There was a drink tray on a sideboard against the wall. Bond went over and examined it. It had everything. Propped among the bottles were two menus, huge double-folio pages covered with print. They might have been from the Savoy Grill, or the '21', or the Tour d'Argent. Bond ran his eye down one of them. It began with Caviar double de Beluga and ended with Sorbet d la Champagne. In between was every dish whose constituents would not be ruined by a deep freeze. Bond tossed it down. One certainly couldn't grumble about the quality of the cheese in the trap!

There was a knock on the door and the exquisite May came in. She was followed by two other twittering Chinese girls. Bond brushed aside their amiabilities, ordered tea and buttered toast for Honeychile and told them to look after her hair and nails,. Then he went into the bathroom and had a couple of Aspirins and a cold shower. He put on his kimono again, reflected that he looked idiotic in it, and went back into the room. A beaming May asked if he would be good enough to select what he and Mrs. Bryce could care to have for dinner. Without enthusiasm, Bond ordered caviar, grilled lamb cutlets and salad, and angels on horseback for himself. When Honeychile refused to make any suggestions, he chose melon, roast chicken a PAnglaise and vanilla icecream with hot chocolate sauce for her.

May dimpled her enthusiasm and approval. “The Doctor asks if seven forty-five for eight would be convenient.”

Bond said curtly that it would.

“Thank you so much, Mr Bryce. I will call for you at seven forty-four.”

Bond walked over to where Honeychile was being ministered to at the dressing table. He watched the busy delicate fingers at work on her hair'and her nails. She smiled at him excitedly in the mirror. He said gruffly, “Don't let them make too much of a monkey out of you,” and went to the drink tray. He poured himself out a stiff Bourbon and soda and took it into his own room. So much for his idea of getting hold of a weapon. The scissors and 'files and probes were attached to the mani-curist's waist by a chain. So were the scissors of the hairdresser. Bond sat down on his rumpled bed and lost himself in drink and gloomy reflections.

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