The telephone rang. It was Leiter again. 'Now listen,' he said. 'Everybody's calming down somewhat. Seems the men you got were a pretty nasty trio — Tee-Hee Johnson, Sam Miami and a man called McThing. All wanted on various counts. The F B I's covering up for you. Reluctantly of course, and the Police are stalling like mad. The FBI big brass had already asked my Chief for you to be sent home — got him out of bed, if you please - mostly jealousy, I guess — but we've killed all that. Same time, we've both got to quit town at once. That's all fixed too. We can't go together, so you're taking the train and I'll fly. Jot this down.'
Bond cradled the telephone against his shoulder and reached for a pencil and paper. 'Go ahead,' he said.
'Pennsylvania Station. Track 14. Ten-thirty this morning. “The Silver Phantom”. Through train to St. Petersburg via Washington , Jacksonville and Tampa . I've got you a compartment. Very luxurious. Car 245, Compartment H. Ticket'll be on the train. Conductor will have it. In the name of Bryce. Just go to Gate 14 and down to the train. Then straight to your compartment and lock yourself in till the train starts. I'm flying down in an hour by Eastern, so you'll be alone from now on. If you get stuck call Dexter, but don't be surprised if he bites your head off. Train gets in around midday tomorrow. Take a cab and go to the Everglades Cabanas, Gulf Boulevard West, on Sunset Beach. That's on a place called Treasure Island where all the beach hotels are. Connected with St. Petersburg by a causeway. Cabby'll know it.
Til be waiting for you. Got all that? And for God's sake watch out. And I mean it. The Big Man'll get you if he possibly can and a police escort to the train would only put the finger on you. Take a cab and keep out of sight. I'm sending you up another hat and a fawn raincoat. The check's taken care of at the St. Regis. That's the lot. Any questions?'
'Sounds fine,' said Bond. 'I've talked to M and he'll square Washington if there's any trouble. Look after yourself too,' he added. 'You'll be next on the list after me. See you tomorrow. So long.'
Til watch out,' said Leiter. “Bye.'
It was half-past six and Bond pulled back the curtains in the sitting-room and watched the dawn come up over the city. It was still dark down in the caverns below but the tips of the great concrete stalagmites were pink and the sun lit up the windows floor by floor as if an army of descending janitors was at work in the buildings.
The police surgeon came, stayed for a painful quarter of an hour and left.
'Clean fracture,' he had said. 'Take a few days to heal. How did you come by it?'
'Caught it in a door,' said Bond.
'You ought to keep away from doors,' commented the surgeon. 'They're dangerous things. Ought to be forbidden by law. Lucky you didn't catch your neck in this one.'
When he had gone, Bond finished packing. He was wondering how soon he could order breakfast when the telephone rang.
Bond was expecting a harsh voice from the Police or the FBI. Instead, a girl's voice, low and urgent, asked for Mr. Bond.
'Who's calling?' asked Bond, gaining time. He knew the answer.
'I know it's you,' said the voice, and Bond could feel that it was right up against the mouthpiece. 'This is Solitaire.' The name was scarcely breathed into the telephone.
Bond waited, all his senses pricked to what might be the scene at the other end of the line. Was she alone? Was she speaking foolishly on a house-phone with extensions to which other listeners were now coldly, intently glued? Or was she in a room with only Mr. Big's eyes bent carefully on her, a pencil and pad beside him so that he could prompt the next question?
'Listen,' said the voice. I've got to be quick. You must trust me. I'm in a drugstore, but I must get back at once to my room. Please believe me.'
Bond had his handkerchief out. He spoke into it. 'If I can reach Mr. Bond what shall I tell him?'
'Oh damn you,' said the girl with what sounded like a genuine touch of hysteria. 'I swear by my mother, by my unborn children. I've got to get away. And so have you. You've got to take me. I'll help you. I know a lot of his secrets. But be quick. I'm risking my life here talking to you.' She gave a sob of exasperation and panic. 'For God's sake trust me. You must. You must!'
Bond still paused, his mind working furiously.
'Listen,' she spoke again, but this time dully, almost hopelessly. 'If you don't take me, I shall kill myself. Now will you? Do you want to murder me?'
If it was acting, it was too good acting. It was still an unpardonable gamble, but Bond decided. Fie spoke directly into the telephone, his voice low.
'If this is a double-cross, Solitaire, I'll get at you and kill you if it's the last thing I do. Have you got a pencil and paper?'
'Wait,' said the girl, excitedly. 'Yes, yes.'
If it had been a plant, reflected Bond, all that would have been ready.
'Be at Pennsylvania Station at ten-twenty exactly. The Silver Phantom to…' he hesitated. '… to Washington . Car 245, Compartment H. Say you're Mrs. Bryce. Conductor has the ticket in case I'm not there already. Go straight to the compartment and wait for me. Got that?'
'Yes,' said the girl, 'and thank you, thank you.'
'Don't be seen,' said Bond. 'Wear a veil or something.'
'Of course,' said the girl. 'I promise. I really promise. I must go.' She rang off.
Bond looked at the dead receiver, then put it down on the cradle. 'Well,' he said aloud. 'That's torn it.'
He got up and stretched. He walked to the window and looked out, seeing nothing. His thoughts raced. Then he shrugged and turned back to the telephone. He looked at his watch. It was seven-thirty.
'Room Service, good morning,' said the golden voice.
'Breakfast, please,' said Bond. 'Pineapple juice, double. Cornflakes and cream. Shirred eggs with bacon. Double portion of Cafe Espresso. Toast and marmalade.'
'Yes, Sir,' said the girl. She repeated the order. 'Right away.'
Bond grinned to himself.
'The condemned man made a hearty breakfast,' he reflected. He sat down by the window and gazed up at the clear sky, into the future.
Up in Harlem , at the big switchboard, The Whisper was talking to the town again, passing Bond's description again to all Eyes : 'All de railroads, all de airports.
Fifth Avenue an' 55th Street doors of da San Regis. Mr. Big sez we gotta chance da highways. Pass it down da line. All de railroads, all de airports…'
THE SILVER PHANTOM
BOND, the collar of his new raincoat up round his ears, was missed as he came out of the entrance of the St. Regis Drugstore on 55th Street, which has a connecting door into the hotel.
He waited in the entrance and leaped at a cruising cab, hooking the door open with the thumb of his injured hand and throwing his light suitcase in ahead of him. The cab hardly checked. The negro with the collecting-box for the Coloured Veterans of Korea and his colleague fumbling under the bonnet of his stalled car stayed on the job until, much later, they were called off by a man who drove past and sounded two shorts and a long on his horn.
But Bond was immediately spotted as he left his cab at the drive-in to the Pennsylvania Station. A lounging negro with a wicker basket walked quickly into a call-box. It was ten-fifteen.
Only fifteen minutes to go and yet, just before the train started, one of the waiters in the diner reported sick and was hurriedly replaced by a man who had received a full and careful briefing on the telephone. The chef swore there was something fishy, but the new man said a word or two to him and the chef showed the whites of his eyes and went silent, surreptitiously touching the lucky bean that hung round his neck on a string.
Bond had walked quickly through the great glass-covered concourse and through Gate 14 down to his train.
It lay, a quarter of a mile of silver carriages, quietly in the dusk of the underground station. Up front, the auxiliary generators of the 4000 horsepower twin Diesel electric units ticked busily. Under the bare electric bulbs the horizontal purple and gold bands, the colours of the Seaboard Railroad, glowed regally on the streamlined locomotives. The engineman and fireman who would take the great train on the first two hundred mile lap into the south lolled in the spotless aluminium cabin, twelve feet above the track, watching the ammeter and the air-pressure dial, ready to go-It was quiet in the great concrete cavern below the city and every noise threw an echo.
There were not many passengers. More would be taken on at Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington . Bond walked a hundred yards, his feet ringing on the empty platform, before he found Car 245 towards the rear of the train. A Pullman porter stood at the door. He wore spectacles. His black face was bored but friendly. Below the windows of the carriage, in broad letters of brown and gold, was written ' Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac', and below that 'Bellesylvania', the name of the Pullman car. A thin wisp of steam rose from the couplings of the central heating near the door.
'Compartment H,' said Bond.
'Mr. Bryce, Suh? Yassuh. Mrs. Bryce just come aboard. Straight down da cyar.'
Bond stepped on to the train and turned down the drab olive green corridor. The carpet was thick. There was the usual American train-smell of old cigar-smoke. A notice said 'Need a second pillow? For any extra comfort ring for your Pullman Attendant. His name is,' then a printed card, slipped in : 'Samuel D. Baldwin.'
H was more than half-way down the car. There was a respectable-looking American couple in E, otherwise the rooms were empty. The door of H was closed. He tried it and it was locked.
'Who's that?' asked a girl's voice, anxiously.
'It's me,' said Bond.
The door opened. Bond walked through, put down his bag and locked the door behind him.
She was in a black tailor-made. A wide-mesh veil came down from the rim of a small black straw hat. One gloved hand was up to her throat and through the veil Bond could see that her face was pale and her eyes were wide with fear. She looked rather French and very beautiful.
'Thank God,' she said.
Bond gave a quick glance round the room. He opened the lavatory door and looked in. It was empty.
A voice on the platform outside called 'Board!' There was a clang as the attendant pulled up the folding iron step and shut the door and then the train was rolling quietly down the track. A bell clanged monotonously as they passed the automatic signals. There was a slight clatter from the wheels as they crossed some points and then the train began to accelerate. For better or for worse, they were on their way.
'Which seat would you like?' asked Bond.
'I don't mind,' she said anxiously. 'You choose.'
Bond shrugged and sat down with his back to the engine. He preferred to face forwards.
She sat down nervously facing him. They were still in the long tunnel that takes the Philadelphia lines out of the city.
She took off her hat and unpinned the broad-mesh veil and put them on the seat beside her. She took some hairpins out of the back of her hair and shook her head so that the heavy black hair fell forward. There were blue shadows under her eyes and Bond reflected that she too must have gone without sleep that night.
There was a table between them. Suddenly she reached forward and pulled his right hand towards her on the table. She held it in both her hands and bent forward and kissed it. Bond frowned and tried to pull his hand away, but for a moment she held it tight in both of hers.
She looked up and her wide blue eyes looked candidly into his.
'Thank you,' she said. 'Thank you for trusting me. It was difficult for you.' She released his hand and sat back.