To Live and Die - Chapter 2 / The Macabre Club (1 of 2)
The blood red curtains had been drawn at the entrance, concealing its contents from the rest of the city. The elite of the rich and glamorous, the deceivers and cheaters festered in the most sordid club in Cairo, The Macabre Club, including 007’s target that evening.
It glimmered from the front faintly, standing upright amongst a halal butchery and a cobblers in a shabby Egyptian back-street, vast, empty of stalls and vendors in the dusk. To the naked eye it seemed almost ordinary, a place of opulence and sophistication with its sign, plush décor and opium white lotus flowers at its entrance.
Two waiters lurked behind its thick wooden doors, serving damp towels and complementary glasses of faux Dom Perignon ’56. One would find that the servants’ cotton uniforms were almost ignited by the glistening of an overhead chandelier, pre-dating the Ottoman empire, the focus of the embroidered tent ceiling. For in the centre, surrounded by stools, tables and a tiled fish pool, lay the performer, her leg wrapped around the neck of a python as it ran its tongue over her calf. The girl performs every other night, alternating evenings with a sword artist and circus performer. The waitresses are all belly dancers, there to earn a little extra, and should they be persuaded to stray into one of the members’ rooms on the floor above towards the rear of the building, then that is not regarded as the club’s concern. The members included Shahs of the Sahara, wealthy landowners with monopolies in oil and water as well as the usual Sheikhs. All of which were educated at Oxbridge and babble on about the matter in the corner booth. Incense of sweet cherries linger atop the murmur of seedy conversation and the fog of pipes full of shisha.
And sitting at the marble topped bar on a swivel stool sat British Secret Service Agent James Bond.
‘A dry martini.’ He said cheerily as he reached into his hip pocket and revealed his black cigarette case. Bond plugged a Morland between his lips. He lit it up and ingested upon the Balkan-Turkish admixture, exhuming the sweet smoke through his nostrils.
The barman placed the cocktail on a mat. ‘Was that shaken or stirred?’ he asked. Bond took a healthy mouthful, shrugged with a dangerous smile that had charmed many a young woman in the past. He swallowed the concoction, returning his eyes to the target, and took another drag from his cigarette. An eerie eye rested on the assassin through the smoky mirrors.
One of the waitresses had seated him at a table for two closest to the stage and took his drink order. Bond took him for a spirit drinker. When the waitress tore a sheet from her notebook he seized a glance and congratulated himself. The agent had ordered a double Ţuică straight up, a tough drink for a tough man of such caliber as he. Then another attractive girl, her face concealed by a shoal, removed the shot and served him the lethal spirit at his table. She set down a mat and his drink on top of it and disappeared. Bond followed her with his gaze as she slid through a backdoor behind the bar and out into the street, he heard the rumble of an engine and then nothing. The agent had made contact. Bond realised it was time to intercept the message and felt for his Walther.
Morzeny emptied the shot into his mouth, gathered his pastel grey overcoat, leaving the empty glass on the mat. Once Morzeny was out of view, Bond crossed the room deftly and stared into the shot glass and read the short message consisting of two short words: M, London. He examined the card closely, turning it between his thumb and forefinger, and noticed a small scribble on the other side.
It was the print of an octopus.
Bond dropped the card and un-holstered the Walther PPK, following Morzeny out of the light and into the Egyptian dusk.