فصل 13

مجموعه: جیمز باند / کتاب: مردی با اسلحه طلائی / فصل 13

فصل 13

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Chapter thirteen

The Train Trip

At twelve o’clock the men all met in the hotel lobby and Scaramanga, now wearing a large, white Stetson cowboy hat and a white suit, announced the plans for the day. ‘OK, guys. We’re going to have a great time. First we have to drive a couple of kilometres down the road to the station. We’ll get aboard this amazing steam train. Then we’re going to steam along this old train track through the sugar cane fields for about 30 kilometres until we get to Green Island Harbour. There are plenty of birds, rats and crocodiles in the rivers. We might do a bit of hunting, have some fun with our guns. You’ve all got your guns with you? Fine, fine. Then we’ll have lunch with some champagne at Green Island Harbour, and the music and girls will be there to keep us happy. After lunch we can get aboard the Thunder Girl - a big, beautiful motorboat - and we’ll go for a cruise and catch ourselves some big fish. Then back here for some drinks. All right? Everyone satisfied? Then let’s go.’

As they travelled in the cars to the station, Bond wondered what the plan was for his removal. It would happen during the ‘hunting’ he presumed and smiled darkly to himself. Strangely, he was feeling happy. He would not have been able to explain the emotion, but it was a feeling of being tightly wound up, like a spring ready to uncoil. After six weeks of following this man, today was the day he was going to win or lose. Scaramanga was just amusing himself and entertaining his friends, whereas Bond was fighting for his life. Surely that would give him the edge when the moment came. Thinking about all of this was beginning to make Bond feel tense. He took a deep breath, told himself to relax and looked out of the window at the passing scenery.

The steam train, called ‘The Belle’, was an impressive replica black and yellow engine. It stood in the station, shining brightly in the hot midday sun, with a thin line of black smoke curling up from its funnel. Behind the engine was a coal-tender and then there was one carriage, which was open-topped and had several rows of bench seats. The brake van came last and was also painted in black and yellow. It had just one large, golden-armed chair where the guard would normally sit to control the brake wheel of the train.

‘All aboard!’ cried Scaramanga enthusiastically and then he turned immediately to Bond. ‘Now then, you climb up in the front with the driver.’

Bond smiled happily. ‘Thanks. I’ve always wanted to do that since I was a child. What fun!’

Scaramanga ignored the comment and turned to speak to the other men. ‘You can all sit in the carriage. Mr Hendriks, you sit in the first row of seats behind the coal-tender, please. The rest of you sit behind him. I’ll be at the back in the brake van - it’s a good place to hunt from. OK?’

Everybody took their seats. Moments later the engine gave a triumphant TOOT! and the train pulled out of the station. It started to pick up speed as it moved along the track, which disappeared, as straight as an arrow, into the distance.

Bond had studied in detail the map that Mary had given him and he knew exactly the route that the train line took. First there would be 10 kilometres of cane fields, then came Middle River, followed by huge areas of swampland. Then would come Orange River leading into Orange Bay and then more sugar cane and mixed forest and small farms until they came to Green Island Harbour. Now he looked around him and paid careful attention to his immediate surroundings. Next to him stood the driver, who looked dirty and violent. He was shovelling coal into the engine and seemed to have no interest in Bond whatsoever. Bond said, ‘My name’s Mark Hazard. What’s yours?’

The man simply stared at Bond in a way which made it very clear that he did not want to talk. Bond looked back over the low coal-tender to the carriage behind. He gave a cheery wave to the men and shouted, ‘Great fun!’ They all stared back at him, but not one of them responded to his comment. So, thought Bond, they had been told that he was a spy among them and that he would be killed today! It was an uncomfortable feeling having those ten enemy eyes watching him like ten gun barrels. He rested his hand against his gun, then on the three spare magazines of ammunition he carried in his pocket, and felt reassured.

About 100 metres ahead, a large bird rose up from beside the track and, after a few heavy flaps, caught the wind and moved up and away. There came the BOOM of Scaramanga’s gun. A single feather came floating down from the wing of the bird. A second shot was fired. The bird gave a sudden jerk and then began to fall untidily out of the sky before crashing into the sugar cane. There were shouts of joy from the carriage. Bond leant out of the carriage and shouted, ‘That’ll cost you five pounds. That’s the fine for killing a John Crow.’

A shot whistled past Bond’s head. Scaramanga laughed. ‘Sorry. I thought I saw a rat!’ Then another shot rang out as Bond jumped down out of sight and the other men began to laugh. ‘Watch what you’re saying, man,’ Scaramanga shouted to Bond, ‘or I really will shut you up.’

Beside Bond the driver swore and then sounded the train’s whistle. Bond looked down the line. Far ahead, there was something lying across the rails of the track. With the train still whistling, the driver pulled back hard on the accelerator lever. The train began to slow down, but then Scaramanga fired two shots into the air and yelled, ‘Keep going fast, you idiot!’

The driver quickly pushed up the lever and, alarmingly, the train began to regain its speed. He glanced at Bond and commented flatly, ‘There’s a girl on the line. I guess it must be some friend of the boss.’

Bond leant out and looked more carefully. Yes! It was a woman. A woman with golden blonde hair!

Bond heard Scaramanga’s voice shouting from the brake van, ‘Hey, guys. It’s a surprise for you all. Something from the good old Western films. There’s a girl tied across the line. And you know what? It’s the girlfriend of a certain man we’ve been hearing of called James Bond. Would you believe it? And her name’s Goodnight, Mary Goodnight. If only that man Bond were on the train now, I imagine we’d be hearing him cry out to save her.’

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