فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

The Swamplands

James Bond threw himself towards the accelerator lever and pushed it down with all his strength. The engine lost some of its power, but there were only 100 metres between the train and the girl. The only thing that could save the girl was if Scaramanga used the brakes in the last van. She was going to die! Bond, knowing that Scaramanga would expect him to come out from the right side of the engine, jumped to the left. Hendriks had his gun out, but before he could turn, Bond shot a bullet straight between the man’s cold eyes. The head was knocked back and his body fell to one side. Scaramanga’s golden gun fired two shots. A bullet crashed into the cabin of the engine. The second struck the driver, who fell to the ground, screaming.

There were only 50 metres of track left! The golden hair was blowing over the face and Bond could clearly see the rope tied around the ankles and wrists. Bond shut his mind to the dreadful crash that would come any moment now. He leant out of the left side of the cabin again and fired three more shots. He thought two of them had found their targets, but then he felt a great blow to his shoulder, which knocked him to the floor of the cabin, his head hanging out of the train. And it was from there, only a couple of metres away, that he saw the front wheels of the engine crash through the body on the line. He saw the blonde head cut from the body, saw the blue glass eyes give him a last empty stare, saw the pieces of the shop window dummy break into bits with a sharp cracking of plastic and fall into the grass beside the track.

James Bond, relieved that it had not been Mary on the track, but feeling sick and shocked, struggled to get to his feet. He reached for the accelerator lever and pushed it upwards as far as it would go. He thought that a gun battle against five men on a stationary train would be difficult for him, but he would have a better chance of survival on a fast, moving train. He hardly felt the pain in his shoulder. He looked out of the right-hand side of the engine. Four guns boomed. Bond threw himself back under cover, but he had just had time to see a glorious sight. In the brake van, Scaramanga had slid from the large chair and was down on his knees looking as though he was in pain. Bond’s bullet had hit him. It was very good news, but there were still four armed men remaining.

Then a voice from the back of the train - Felix Leiter’s voice - called out, ‘OK, you four guys. Throw your guns over the side. Now! Quick!’ There came the boom of a shot. ‘I said quick! There - Mr Gengerella is dead. Do the rest of you want to go the same way? OK, then. That’s better. And now put your hands behind your heads. Right. OK, James, the battle’s over. Are you OK? Show yourself.’

Bond rose carefully. He could hardly believe it! Leiter must have been riding secretly on the buffers behind the brake van. He would not have been able to show himself earlier for fear of Bond’s gunfire. Yes! It was definitely Leiter! He was standing beside the now fallen body of Scaramanga and pointing his pistol at the three surviving men in the carriage. Bond’s shoulder had really begun to hurt now. He shouted, with the anger of huge relief, ‘Thanks a lot, Leiter. Why on earth didn’t you show up before? I could have been hurt.’

Leiter laughed. ‘That’ll be the day! Now listen. Get ready to jump. I’m going to stay with these guys for a while and hand them over to the police in Green Island Harbour.’ At this point he shook his head silently to show Bond that these words were actually a lie. ‘It’s swampland, so you’ll have a soft landing. It stinks a bit, but don’t worry, we’ll give you some aftershave when you get home. All right?’

Bond looked ahead down the line. In the distance he could see the metal structure of the Orange River bridge. He looked back into the carriage. He could see the dead body of Hendriks, rolling from side to side on the bench. In the seat behind Hendriks, Gengerella also lay dead. Next to him and behind him, the other three gangsters looked terrified. They had not expected all this. They were in serious trouble and they knew it.

Bond gave these cold men, who had been prepared to murder him, one last look before he got down onto the steps of the cabin, ready to jump. He chose his moment and threw himself clear of the train and into the soft, wet mass of the stinking mangrove swamp.

As he fell a bird gave a loud screech and flew up and away. The stink was unbearable. He raised his head in time to see Leiter, some 200 metres away, throw himself off the brake van. He seemed to land clumsily and did not get up. And now, within only a few metres of the long metal bridge, another man jumped from the train. It was a tall figure wearing a white jacket. There was no doubt about it! It was Scaramanga! Why on earth had Leiter left the train without putting a finishing bullet through the man’s head? The fight was not over yet.

Bond watched as the track began to take the steam train across the bridge. He wondered what would happen to those three men. Perhaps the train would run out of steam and they would run away to the hills. Or could they get the train under control and go on to Green Island Harbour and try and take the motorboat over to Cuba? Immediately the answer came. Halfway across the bridge, the engine suddenly rose up into the air. At the same time there came a crash of thunder and a huge sheet of flames, before the bridge started to collapse. Bond watched as the bridge folded in on itself and the train crashed down into the river.

A terrible silence fell. A bird then began to sing and two butterflies lazily flew past Bond where he lay. His shoulder was causing him a great deal of pain, but he got slowly to his feet, pulled himself out of the wet mud and began walking up the track towards the bridge.

Leiter lay in the stinking swamp. His left leg was at a hideous angle. Bond knew that it was badly broken. He knelt down by the man and said softly, ‘I can’t do much for you now. I’ll give you a bullet to bite on for the pain and get you into some shade. There’ll be people coming soon. I’ve got to follow Scaramanga. He’s somewhere up there by the bridge. What made you think he was dead?’

Leiter groaned, more with anger with himself than from the pain. ‘There was blood all over the place. And I thought that if he wasn’t dead already, the bridge would put an end to him.’ He gave Bond a weak smile. ‘Did you like what I’d planned for the bridge? Did it get rid of the train OK?’

Bond smiled in return. ‘It was a fabulous fireworks display. The crocodiles will be sitting down to their dinner right now. But that shop dummy! That gave me a real shock. Did you put it on the track?’

‘Ah, yes. Sorry about that, James. I had no idea your girlfriend was blonde, or that you’d believe it was her. Mr S told me to tie the thing to the track and as I’m supposed to be the assistant manager, I couldn’t refuse. But it gave me the excuse I needed to get the explosives under the bridge this morning.’

‘Stupid of me, I suppose,’ admitted Bond. ‘I thought he’d caught her last night. Anyway, come on. Here, bite on this bullet.

This is going to hurt, but I must get you under cover and out of the sun.’ Bond put his hands under Leiter’s armpits and dragged him, as carefully as he could, to a dry patch under a big mangrove bush. Leiter gave a groan as he fainted from the pain. Bond looked thoughtfully down at him. Fainting was probably the best thing that could happen to him right now. He took Leiter’s gun out of his waistband and put it beside his left, and only, hand. Bond was still in a lot of danger. If he ended up dead, then Scaramanga would certainly make Felix his second target.

Bond started to creep along the line of mangrove bushes towards the bridge. It was early afternoon now and the sun was high. He was hungry and very thirsty and his shoulder wound was hurting as he moved. He struggled to remain focused on what he had to do. About 100 metres lay between him and the bridge. He covered another 20 by walking near the track then moved sideways into the mangroves. He found that if he kept close to the roots of the bushes he could move fairly easily and silently. His ears were alert, like an animal, ready to hear the smallest sound. Bond guessed that he had gone about 200 metres into the swamp when he heard a single, controlled cough.

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