Bond was surprised. “As a matter of fact I have. But I've been fit for weeks. What made you say that?”
Quarrel was embarrassed. “Sorry, cap'n,” he said, thinking he might have offended Bond. “Dere some pain lines in yo face since de las' time.”
“Oh well,” said Bond. “It was nothing much. But I could do with a spell of your training. I'm not as fit as I ought to be.”
They were moving towards the exit when there came the sharp crack and flash of a Press camera. A pretty Chinese girl in Jamaican dress was lowering her Speed Graphic. She came up to them. She said with synthetic charm, “Thank you, gentlemen. I am from the Daily Gleaner.” She glanced down at a list in her hand. “Mister Bond, isn't it? And how long will you be with us, Mister Bond?”
Bond was offhand. This was a bad start. “In transit,” he said shortly. “I think you'll find there were more interesting people on the plane.”
“Oh no, I'm sure not, Mister Bond. You look very important. And what hotel will you be staying at?”
Damn, thought Bond. He said “Myrtle Bank” and moved on.
“Thank you, Mister Bond,” said the tinkling voice. “I hope you'll enjoy...”
They were outside. As they walked towards the parking place Bond said, “Ever seen that girl at the airport before?”
Quarrel reflected. “Reck'n not, cap'n. But de Gleaner have plenty camera gals.”
Bond was vaguely worried. There was no earthly reason why his picture should be wanted by the Press. It was five years since his last adventures on the island, and anyway his name had been kept out of the papers.
They got to the car. It was a black Sunbeam Alpine. Bond looked sharply at it and then at the number plate. Strangways's car. What the hell? “Where did you get this, Quarrel?”
“ADC tell me fe to take him, cap'n. Him say hit de only spare car dey have. Why, cap'n? Him no good?”
“Oh, it's all right, Quarrel,” said Bond resignedly. “Come on, let's get going.”
Bond got into the passenger seat. It was entirely his fault. He might have guessed at the chance of getting this car. But it would certainly put the finger on him and on what he was doing in Jamaica if anyone happened to be interested.
They moved off down the long cactus-fringed road towards the distant lights of Kingston. Normally, Bond would have sat and enjoyed the beauty of it all-the steady zing of the crickets, the rush of warm, scented air, the ceiling of stars, the necklace of yellow lights shimmering across the harbour-but now he was cursing his carelessness and knowing what he shouldn't have done.
What he had done was to send one signal through the Colonial Office to the Governor. In it he had first asked that the ADC should get Quarrel over from the Cayman Islands for an indefinite period on a salary of ten pounds a week. Quarrel had been with Bond on his last adventure in Jamaica. He was an invaluable handyman with all the fine seaman's qualities of the Cayman Islander, and he was a passport into the lower strata of coloured life which would otherwise be closed to Bond. Everybody loved him and he was a splendid companion. Bond knew that Quarrel was vital if he was to get anywhere on the Strangways case-whether it was a case or just a scandal. Then Bond had asked for a single room and shower at the Blue Hills Hotel, for the loan of a car and for Quarrel to meet him with the car at the airport. Most of this had been wrong. In particular Bond should have taken a taxi to his hotel and made contact with Quarrel later. Then he would have seen the car and had a chance to change it.
As it was, reflected Bond, he might just as well have advertised his visit and its purpose in the Gleaner. He sighed. It was the mistakes one made at the beginning of a case that were the worst. They were the irretrievable ones, the ones that got you off on the wrong foot, that gave the enemy the first-game. But was there an enemy? Wasn't he being over-cautious? On an impulse Bond turned in his seat. A hundred yards behind were two dim sidelights. Most Jamaicans drive with their headlights full on. Bond turned back. He said, “Quarrel. At the end of the Palisadoes, where the left fork goes to Kingston and right to Morant, I want you to turn quickly down the ' Morant road and stop at once and turn your lights off. Right? And now go like hell.”
“Okay, cap'n.” Quarrel's voice sounded pleased. He put his foot down to the floorboards. The little car gave a deep growl and tore off down the white road.
Now they were at the end of the straight. The car skidded round the curve where the corner of the harbour bit into the land. Another five hundred yards and they would be at the intersection. Bond looked back. There was no sign of the other car. Here was the signpost. Quarrel did a racing change and hurled the car round on a tight lock. He pulled in to the side and dowsed his lights. Bond turned and waited. At once he heard the roar of a big car at speed. Lights blazed on, looking for them. Then the car was past and tearing on towards Kingston. Bond had time to notice that it was a big American type taxicab and that there was no one in it but the driver. Then it was gone.
The dust settled slowly. They sat for ten minutes saying nothing. Then Bond told Quarrel to turn the car and take the Kingston road. He said, “I think that car was interested in us, Quarrel. You don't drive an empty taxi back from the airport. It's an expensive run. Keep a watch out. He may find we've fooled him and be waiting for us.”
“Sho ting, cap'n,” said Quarrel happily. This was just the sort of life he had hoped for when he got Bond's message.
They came into the stream of Kingston traffic-buses, cars, horse-drawn carts, pannier-laden donkeys down from the hills, and the hand-drawn barrows selling violent coloured drinks. In the crush it was impossible to say if they were being followed. They turned off to the right and up towards the hills. There were many cars behind them. Any one of them could have been the American taxi. They drove for a quarter of an hour up to Halfway Tree and then on to the Junction Road, the main road across the island. Soon there was a neon sign of a green palm tree and underneath 'Blue Hills. THE hotel'. They drove in and up the drive lined with neatly rounded bushes of bougainvillaea.
A hundred yards higher up the road the black taxi waved the following drivers on and pulled in to the left. It made a U-turn in a break in the traffic and swept back down the hill towards Kingston.
The Blue Hills was a comfortable old-fashioned hotel with modern trimmings. Bond was welcomed with deference because his reservation had been made by King's House. He was shown to a fine corner room with a balcony looking out over the distant sweep of Kingston harbour. Thankfully he" took off his London clothes, now moist with perspiration, and went into the glass-fronted shower and turned the cold water full on and stood under it for five minutes during which he washed his hair to remove the last dirt of big-city life. Then he pulled on a pair of Sea Island cotton shorts and, with sensual pleasure at the warm soft air on his nakedness, unpacked his things and rang for the waiter.
Bond ordered a double gin and tonic and one whole green lime. When the drink came he cut the lime in half, dropped the two squeezed halves into the long glass, almost filled the glass with ice cubes and then poured in the tonic. He took the drink out on to the balcony, and sat and looked out across the spectacular view. He thought how wonderful it was to be away from headquarters, and from London, and from hospitals, and to be here, at this moment, doing what he was doing and knowing, as all his senses told him, that he was on a good tough case again.
He sat for a while, luxuriously, letting the gin relax him. He ordered another and drank it down. It was seven-fifteen. He had arranged for Quarrel to pick him up at seven-thirty. They were going to have dinner together. Bond had asked Quarrel to suggest a place. After a moment of embarrassment, Quarrel had said that whenever he wanted to enjoy himself in Kingston he went to a waterfront nightspot called the Joy Boat. “Hit no great shakes, cap'n,” he had said apologetically, “but da food an' drinks an” music is good and I got a good fren' dere. Him owns de joint. Dey calls him 'Pus-Feller' seein' how him once fought wit' a big hoctopus."
Bond smiled to himself at the way Quarrel, like most West Indians, added an 'h' where it wasn't needed and took it off when it was. He went into his room and dressed in his old dark blue tropical worsted suit, a sleeveless white cotton shirt and a black knitted tie, looked in the glass to see that the Walther didn't show under his armpit and went down and out to where the car was waiting.
They swooped down quietly through the soft singing dusk into Kingston and turned to the left along the harbour side. They passed one or two smart restaurants and night clubs from which came the throb and twang of calypso music. There was a stretch of private houses that dwindled into a poor-class shopping centre and then into shacks. Then, where the road curved away from the sea, there was a blaze of golden neon in the shape of a Spanish galleon above green lettering that said 'The Joy Boat'. They pulled into a parking place and Bond followed Quarrel through the gate into a small garden of palm trees growing out of lawn. At the end was the beach and the sea. Tables were dotted about under the palms, and in the centre was a small deserted cement dance floor to one side of which a calypso trio in sequined scarlet shirts was softly improvising on 'Take her to Jamaica where the rum comes from'.
Only half the tables were filled, mostly by coloured people. There was a sprinkling of British and American sailors with their girls. An immensely fat Negro in a smart white dinner jacket left one of the tables and came to meet them.
“Hi, Mister Q. Long time no see. Nice table for two?”
“That's right, Pus-Feller. Closer to da kitchen dan da music.”
The big man chuckled. He led them down towards the sea and placed them at a quiet table under a palm tree that grew out of the base of the restaurant building. “Drinks gemmun?”
Bond ordered his gin and tonic with a lime, and Quarrel a Red Stripe beer. They scanned the menu and both decided on broiled lobster followed by a rare steak with native vegetables.
The drinks came. The glasses were dripping with con- * densation. The small fact reminded Bond of other times in hot climates. A few yards away the sea lisped on the flat sand. The three-piece began playing 'Kitch'. Above them the palm fronds clashed softly in the night breeze. A gecko chuckled somewhere in the garden. Bond thought of the London he had left the day before. He said, “I like this place, Quarrel.”
Quarrel was pleased. “Him a good fren of mine, da Pus-Feller. Him knows mostly what goes hon hin Kingston case you got hany questions, cap'n. Him come from da Caymans. Him an' me once share a boat. Then him go hoff one day catching boobies' heggs hat Crab Key. Went swimmin' to a rock for more heggs an' dis big hoctopus get him. Dey mos'ly small fellers roun' here but dey come bigger at da Crab seein' how its alongside de Cuba Deep, da deepest waters roun' dese parts. Pus-Feller have himself a bad time wit dis hanimal. Bust one lung cuttin” hisself free. Dat scare him an' him sell me his half of da boat an' come to Kingston. Dat were 'fore da war. . Now him rich mail whiles I go hon fishin'." Quarrel chuckled at the quirk of fate.
“Crab Key,” said Bond. “What sort of a place is that?”
Quarrel looked at him sharply. “Dat a bad luck place now, cap'n,” he said shortly. “Chinee gemmun buy hit durin' da war and bring in men and dig bird-dirt. Don' let nobody land dere and don' let no one get hoff. We gives it a wide bert'.”
P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com