A shot whistled past Bond's head. Scarmanga laughed. “Sorry. Thought I saw a rat.” And then, “Come on, Mr. Hazard. Let's see some gun play from you. There's some cattle grazing by the line up there. See if you can hit a cow at ten paces.”

The hoods guffawed. Bond put his head out again. Scar-amanga's gun was on his lap. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Mr. Hendriks, perhaps ten feet behind him, had his right hand in his coat pocket. Bond called, “I never shoot game that I don't eat. If you'll eat the whole cow, I'll shoot it for you.”

The gun flashed and boomed as Bond jerked his head under cover of the coal-tender. Scaramanga laughed harshly. “Watch your lip, limey, or you'll end up without it.” The hoods hawhawed.

Beside Bond, the Rasta gave a curse. He pulled hard on the whistle lanyard. Bond looked down the line. Far ahead, across the rails, something pink showed. Without releasing the whistler, the driver pulled on a lever. Steam belched from the train's exhaust, and the engine began to slow. Two shots rang out, and the bullets clanged against the iron roof over his head. Scaramanga shouted angrily, “Keep steam up, damn you to hell!”

The Rasta quickly pushed up the lever and the speed of the train gathered back to twenty miles an hour. He shrugged. He glanced at Bond. He licked his lips wetly. “Dere's white trash across de line. Guess mebbe it's some frien' of de boss.”

Bond strained his eyes. Yes! It was a naked pink body with golden blonde hair! A girl's body!

Scaramanga's voice boomed against the wind. “Folks. Just a little surprise for you all. Something from the good old Western movies. There's a girl on the line ahead. Tied across it. Take a look. And you know what? It's the girl friend of a certain man we've been hearing of called James Bond. Would you believe it? And her name's Goodnight, Mary Goodnight. It sure is good night for her. If only that fellow Bond was aboard now, I guess we'd be hearing him holler for mercy.”

14 The Great Morass

James Bond leaped for the accelerator lever and tore it downwards. The engine lost a head of steam, but there was only a hundred yards to go. Now the only thing that could save the girl were the brakes under Scaramanga's control in the brake van. The Rasta already had his cutlass in his hand. The flames from the furnace glinted on the blade. He stood back like a cornered animal, his eyes red with ganja and fear of the gun in Bond's hand. Nothing could save the girl now! Bond, knowing that Scaramanga would expect him from the right side of the tender, leaped to the left. Hendriks had his gun out. Before it could swivel, Bond put a bullet between the man's cold eyes. The head jerked back. For an instant, steel-capped back teeth showed in the gaping mouth. Then the grey Homburg fell off and the dead head slumped. The golden gun boomed twice. A bullet whanged round the cabin. The Rasta screamed and fell

to the ground, clutching at his throat. His hand was still clenched round the whistle lanyard, and the little train kept up its mournful howl of warning. Fifty yards to go! The golden hair hung forlornly forward, obscuring the face. The ropes on the wrists and ankles showed clearly. The breasts offered themselves to the screaming engine. Bond ground his teeth and shut his mind to the dreadful impact that would come any minute now. He leaped to the left again and got off three shots. He thought two of them had hit, but then something slammed a great blow into the muscle of his left shoulder and he spun across the cab and crashed to the iron floor, his face over the edge of the footplate. And it was from there, only inches away, that he saw the front wheels scrunch through the body on the line, saw the blonde head severed from the body, saw the china-blue eyes give him a last blank stare, saw the fragments of the showroom dummy disintegrate with a sharp crackling of plastic and the pink splinters shower down the embankment.

James Bond choked back the sickness that rose from his stomach into the back of his throat. He staggered to his feet, keeping low. He reached up for the accelerator lever and pushed it upwards. A pitched battle with the train at a standstill would put the odds even more against him. He hardly felt the pain in his shoulder. He edged round the right-band side of the tender. Four guns boomed. He flung his head back under cover. Now the hoods were shooting, but wildly because of the interference of the surrey top. But Bond had had time to see one glorious sight. In the brake van, Scaramanga had slid from his throne and was down on his knees, his head moving to and fro like a wounded animal. Where in hell had Bond hit him? And now what? How was he going to deal with the four hoods, just as badly obscured from him as he was from them?

Then a voice from the back of the train--it could only be from the brake van--Felix Leiter's voice--called out above the shriek of the engine's whistle, “Okay, you four guys. Toss your guns over the side. Now! Quick!” There came the crack of a shot. “I said quick. There's Mr. Gengerella gone to meet his maker. Okay, then. And now hands behind your heads. That's better. Right. Okay, James. The battle's over. Are you okay? If so, show yourself. There's still the final curtain, and we've got to move quick.”

Bond rose carefully. He could hardly believe it! Leiter must have been riding on the buffers behind the brake van. He wouldn't have been able to show himself earlier for fear of Bond's gunfire. Yes! There he was! His fair hair tousled by the wind, a long-barrelled pistol using his upraised steel hook as a rest, standing astride the now supine body of Scaramanga beside the brake wheel. Bond's shoulder had begun to hurt like hell. He shouted, with the anger of tremendous relief, “Goddamn you, Leiter. Why in hell didn't you show up before? I might have got hurt.”

Leiter laughed. “That'll be the day! Now listen, shamus. Get ready to jump. The longer you wait, the farther you've got to walk home. I'm going to stay with these guys for a while and hand them over to the law in Green Island .” He shook his head to show this was a lie. “Now get goin'. It's The Morass. The landing'll be soft. Stinks a bit, but we'll give you an eau-de-cologne spray when you get home. Right?”

The train ran over a small culvert, and the song of the wheels changed to a deep boom. Bond looked ahead. In the distance was the spidery ironwork of the Orange River bridge. The still shrieking tram was losing steam. The gauge said nineteen miles per hour. Bond looked down at the dead Rasta. In death, his face was as horrible as it had been in Me. The bad teeth, sharpened from eating sugar cane from childhood, were bared in a frozen snarl. Bond took a quick glance under the surrey roof. Hendriks' slumped body lolled with the movement of the tram. The sweat of the day still shone on the doughy cheeks. Even as a corpse he didn't ask for sympathy. In the seat behind him, Leiter's bullet had torn through the back of Gengerel-la's head and removed most of his face. The three gangsters now gazed up at James Bond with whipped eyes. They hadn't expected all this. This was to have been a holiday. The calypso shirts said so. Scaramanga, the undefeated, the undefeatable, had said so. Until minutes before, his golden gun had backed up his word. Now, suddenly, everything was different. As the Arabs say when a great sheikh has gone, has removed his protection, “Now there is no more shade!” They were covered with guns from the front and the rear. The train stretched out its iron stride towards nowhere they had ever heard of before. The whistle moaned. The sun beat down. The dreadful stink of The Great Morass assailed their nostrils. This was abroad. This was bad news, really bad. The Tour Director had left them to fend for themselves. Two of them had been killed. Even their guns were gone. The tough faces, as white moons, gazed in supplication up at Bond. Louie Paradise's voice was cracked and dry with terror. “A million bucks, mister, if you get us out of this. Swear on my mother. A million.”

The faces of Sam Binion and Hal Garfinkel lit up. Here was hope!

“And a million.”

“And another! On my baby son's head!”

The voice of Felix Leiter bellowed angrily. There was a note of panic in it. “Jump. Damn you, James! Jump!”

James Bond stood up in the cabin, not listening to the voices supplicating from under the yellow surrey roof. These men had wanted to watch him being murdered. They had been prepared to murder him themselves. How many dead men had each one of them got on his tally sheet? Bond got down on the step of the cabin, chose his moment, and threw himself clear of the clinker track and into the soft embraces of a stinking mangrove pool.

His explosion into the mud released the stench of hell. Great bubbles of marsh gas wobbled up to the surface and burst glutinously. A bird screeched and clattered off through the foliage. James Bond waded out onto the edge of the embankment. Now his shoulder was really hurting. He knelt down and was as sick as a cat.

When he raised his head, it was to see Leiter hurl himself off the brake van, now a good two hundred yards away. He seemed to land clumsily. He didn't get up. And now, within yards of the long iron bridge over the sluggish river, another figure leaped from the train into a clump o: mangrove. It was a tall, chocolate-clad figure. There was no doubt about it! It was Scaramanga! Bond cursed feebly Why in hell hadn't Leiter put a finishing bullet through the man's head? Now there was unfinished business. The cards had only been reshuffled. The end game had still to be played!

The screaming progress of the driverless train changed to a roar as the track took to the trestles of the long bridge. Bond watched it vaguely, wondering when it would run out of steam. What would tie three gangsters do now? Take to the hills? Get the train under control and go on to Green Harbour and try and take the Thunder Bird across to Cuba ? Immediately the answer came! Halfway across the bridge, the engine suddenly reared up like a bucking stallion. At the same time there came a crash of thunder and a vast sheet of flame, and the bridge buckled downwards in the centre like a bent leg. Chunks of torn iron sprayed upwards and sideways, and there was a splintering crash as the main stanchions gave and slowly bowed down towards the water. Through the jagged gap, the beautiful Belle, a smashed toy, folded upon itself and, with a giant splintering of iron and woodwork and a volcano of spray and steam, thundered into the river.

A deafening silence fell. Somewhere behind Bond, a wakened tree frog tinkled uncertainly. Four white egrets flew down and over the wreck, their necks outstretched inquisitively. In the distance, black dots materialized high up in the sky and circled lazily closer. The sixth sense of the turkey buzzards had told them that the distant explosion was disaster--something that might yield a meal. The sun hammered down on the silver rails, and a few yards away from where Bond lay, a group of yellow butterflies danced in the shimmer. Bond got slowly to his feet, and parting the butterflies, began walking slowly but purposefully up the line towards the bridge. First Felix Leiter, and then after the big one that had got away.

Leiter lay in the stinking mud. His left leg was at a hideous angle. Bond went down to him, his finger to his lips. He knelt beside him and said softly, “Nothing much I can do for now, pal. I'll give you a bullet to bite on and get you into some shade. There'll be people coming before long. Got to get on after that bastard. He's somewhere up there by the bridge. What made you think he was dead?”

Leiter, groaned, more in anger with himself than from the pain. “There was blood all over the place.” The voice was a halting whisper between clenched teeth. “His shirt was soaked in it. Eyes closed. Thought if he wasn't cold he'd go with the others on the bridge.” He smiled faintly. “How did you dig the River Kwai stunt? Go off all right?”