Diamonds Are Forever Page 19

Bond grunted noncommittally.

“All right. All right,” agreed Leiter. “Sure these people collapse. Hysteria, heart attacks, apoplexy. The cherries and plums and bells climb through their eyes into their brains. But all the casinos have house physicians on twenty-four-hour call and the little old women just get carried out screaming ‘Jackpot! Jackpot! Jackpot!’ as if it was the name of a dead lover. And take a look at the Bingo parlours, and the Wheels of Fortune, and the banks of slots downtown in the Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe. But don’t you go and get the fever and forget your job and your girl and even your kidneys. I happen to know the basic odds at all the games and I know how you like to gamble, so do me a favour and get them into your thick head. Now you take them down.”

Bond was interested. He took out a pencil and tore a strip off the menu card.

Leiter looked at the ceiling. “1-4 per cent in favour of the House of Craps, 5 per cent at Blackjack”-he looked down at

Bond. “Except at your game, you crook!-5 1/2 per cent at Roulette. Up to 17 per cent at Bingo and the Wheel of Fortune, and 15-20 per cent at the slots. Not bad for the House, hn? Every year eleven million customers play Mr Spang and his friends at those odds. Take two hundred dollars as an average sucker’s capital, and you can work out for yourself how much stays in Vegas over a year’s play.”

Bond put the pencil and the piece of paper away in his pocket. “Thanks for the documentation, Felix. But you seem to forget that I am not going to this place for a holiday.”

“Okay, damn you,” said Leiter resignedly, “but don’t you go fooling around in Vegas. It’s a big operation they’ve got there and they won’t stand for any monkey tricks.” Leiter leant across the table. “Let me tell you. The other day there was one of these dealers. Blackjack, I think it was. Decided to go into business for himself. Slipped a few bills into his pocket one evening during the play. Well, they spotted him. Next day some innocent guy is driving into town from Boulder City, and he spots something pink sticking up out of the desert. Couldn’t be a cactus or anything, so he stops and has himself a look.” Leiter prodded Bond’s chest with a finger. “My friend, that pink thing sticking up was an arm. And the hand at the top of the arm was holding a full deck of cards, fanned out. The cops came with spades and dug around and there was the rest of the guy under the ground at the other end of the arm. That was the dealer. They’d blown the back of his head off and buried him. The fancy work with the arm and the cards was just to warn the others. Now how d’ya like that?”

“Not bad,” said Bond.

The dinner came and they started to eat.

“Mark you,” said Leiter between mouthfuls of broiled lobster. “The dealer should have known better than get caught with his duke in the tambourine. They’ve got a good trick in these Vegas casinos. Take a look at the ceiling lights. Very modern. Just holes in the ceiling with the light beamed through on to the tables. They throw a very strong light with no sideways glare to upset the customers. Take another look and you’ll see there’s no light coming from the alternate holes. They just seem to be there to make a pattern.” Leiter slowly shook his head from side to side. “Not so, my friend. Up on the floor above, there’s a television camera on a dolly that moves around the floor taking an occasional peek through those empty holes. Kind of a spot-check on the play. If they’re wondering about one of the dealers, or about one of the players, they’ll take a picture of the whole of one session at that particular table and every damn card or throw will be watched by the guys sitting quietly upstairs. Smart, hn? These dumps are wired for everything except smell. But the dealers know it, and this guy just hoped the camera was looking somewhere else. Fatal error. Too bad.”

Bond smiled at Leiter. “I’ll watch out,” he promised. “But don’t forget I’ve somehow got to get another step down the pipeline. To the tap at the end of it. In fact, I’ve got to get right up close to your friend Mr Seraffimo Spang. I can’t do that by just sending up my card. And I’ll tell you something else, Felix.” Bond’s voice was deliberate. “I’ve suddenly taken against the brothers Spang. I didn’t like those two men in hoods. The way the man hit that fat Negro. The boiling mud. I wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d just beaten the jockey up-ordinary cops-and-robbers stuff. But that mud showed a nasty mind. And I took against Pissaro and Budd. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve just taken against all of them.” Bond’s voice was apologetic. “Thought I ought to warn you.”

“Okay,” Leiter pushed away his empty plate. “I’ll be around and try and pick up the bits. And I’ll tell Ernie to keep an eye on you. But don’t think you can ask for a lawyer or the British Consul if you get in bad with the Mob. Only law firm out there’s called Smith and Wesson.” He banged on the table with his hook. “Better have one last Bourbon and branch-water. It’s desert where you’re going. Dry as a bone and hotter’n hell at this time of year. No rivers, so no branches to get the water out of. You’ll be drinking it with soda and then mopping it off your forehead. It’ll be one-twenty in the shade out there. Only there isn’t any shade.”

The whisky came. “I shall miss you out there, Felix,” said Bond, glad to get away from his thoughts. “No one to teach me the American way of life. And by the way, I thought you did the hell of a fine job over Shy Smile. Wish you could come along and tackle Spang senior with me. Together, I believe we could take him.”

Leiter looked affectionately at his friend. “That sort of rough stuff’s no good if you’re working for Pinkertons,” he said. “I’m after the guy too, but I’ve got to get him legitimate. If I can find out where the remains of the horse are buried, that hoodlum’s going to have an ugly time. It’s all right for you coming over here and tangling with him and getting away quick back to England. The gang has no idea who you are. From what you tell me they can never find out. But I’ve got to live here. If I had a shooting match or anything of that sort with Spang, his pals would get after me and after my family and after my friends. And they wouldn’t rest until they’d hurt me more than I ever hurt their pal. Even if I killed him. It’s not so funny to come home and find your sister’s house burned down with her inside it. And I’m afraid that could still happen in this country today. The gangs didn’t go out with Capone. Look at Murder Inc. Look at the Kefauver Report. Now the hoodlums don’t run liquor. They run governments. State governments like Nevada. Articles get written about it. And books and speeches. Sermons. But what the hell.” Leiter laughed abruptly. “Maybe you can strike a blow for Freedom, Home and Beauty with that old rusty equalizer of yours. Is it still the Beretta?”

“Yes,” said Bond, “still the Beretta.”

“You still got that double O number that means you’re allowed to kill?”

“Yes,” said Bond dryly. “I have.”

“Well then,” said Leiter, getting up. “Let’s go home to bed and give your shooting eye a rest. My guess is you’re going to need it.”



THE plane made a big curve out over the sparkling blue Pacific and then swept round across Hollywood and gained height so as to make the Cajon Pass through the great golden cliff of the High Sierras.

Bond caught a glimpse of endless miles of palm-lined avenues, of sprinklers whirling over emerald lawns in front of gracious homes, of sprawling aircraft factories, of the outside lots of film studios with their jumble of gimcrack sets-city streets, Western ranches, what looked like a miniature motor-racing track, a full-size four-masted schooner planted in the ground-and then they were in the mountains and through them and over the interminable red desert that is the backstage of Los Angeles.

They flew over Barstow, the junction from which the single track of the Santa Fe strides off into the desert on its long run across the Colorado Plateau, skirting on their right the Calico Mountains, once the borax centre of the world, and leaving far away to the left the bone-strewn wastes of Death Valley. Then came more mountains, streaked with red like gums bleeding over rotten teeth, and then a glimpse of green in the midst of the blasted, Martian landscape, and then a slow- descent and ‘please fasten your seat belts and extinguish your cigarettes’.

The heat hit Bond’s face like a fist, and he had begun to sweat in the fifty yards between his cool plane and the blessed relief of the air-conditioned terminal building. The glass doors, operated by seeing-eye photo-electric cells, hissed open as he approached and slowly closed behind him, and already the slot-machines, four banks of them, were right in his path. It was natural to bring out the small change and jerk the handles and watch the lemons and the oranges and the cherries and the bell-fruits whirl round to their final click-pause-ting, followed by a soft mechanical sigh. Five cents, ten cents, a quarter. Bond gave them all a try, and only once two cherries and a bell fruit coughed back three coins for the one he had played.

As he moved away, waiting for the baggage of the half-dozen passengers to appear on the ramp near the exit, his eyes caught a notice over a big machine that might have been for iced water. It said: OXYGEN BAR. He strolled over to it and read the rest: BREATHE PURE OXYGEN, it Said. HEALTHFUL AND HARMLESS. FOR A QUICK LIFT. EASES DISTRESS OF OVER-INDULGENCE, DROWSINESS, FATIGUE, NERVOUSNESS AND MANY OTHER SYMPTOMS.

Bond obediently put a quarter into the slot and bent over so that his nose and mouth were enclosed in a wide black rubber mouthpiece. He pressed a button and, as instructed, breathed in and out slowly for a full minute. It was just like breathing very cold air-no taste, no smell. At the end of the minute there was a click from the machine and Bond straightened himself. He felt nothing but a slight dizziness, but later he recognized that there had been carelessness in the ironical grin he gave to a man with a leather shaving kit under his arm who had been standing watching him.

The man smiled briefly back and turned away.

The loudspeaker asked passengers to collect their luggage and Bond picked up his case and pushed through the swing doors of the exit into the red-hot arms of noon.

“You for the Tiara?” said a voice. A chunky man with large, very direct brown eyes under a chauffeur’s peaked cap shot the question at him from a wide mouth from which a wooden toothpick jutted.


“Okay. Let’s go.” The man didn’t offer to carry Bond’s suitcase for him. Bond followed him over to a smart-looking Chevrolet with a lucky raccoon tail tied to its chrome naked-lady mascot. He threw his suitcase into the back and climbed in after it.

The car moved off and out of the airport on to the parkway. It crossed into the far lane and turned left. Other cars hissed by. Bond’s driver kept to the inside lane, driving slowly. Bond felt himself being examined in the driving mirror. He looked up at the driver’s identification tag. It said, ‘ERNEST CUREO. No2584′.

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