Diamonds Are Forever Page 26

Directly he thought of the two men and of Mr Spang, the will to live came into Bond in a flood and he said “Okay”. And then again “Okay” so that she would be sure to understand.

“We’re in the waiting room,” whispered the girl. “We must get to the end of the station. Left, outside the door. Do you hear me, James?” She reached out and brushed the damp, sticky hair away from his forehead.

“Have to crawl,” said Bond. “Follow you.”

The girl got to her feet and pushed open the door. Bond gritted his teeth and crawled out on to the moonlit platform and when he saw the dark patch on the ground, rage and revenge gave him strength and he got clumsily to his feet, shaking his head to keep the red-black waves from drowning him and, with Tiffany Case’s arm round him, he limped along the wooden boards to where they sloped down towards the ground beside the gleaming rails.

And there, in the single-line siding, was a railroad handcar.

Bond stopped and gazed at it. “Petrol?” he said vaguely.

Tiffany Case gestured towards a row of cans against the station wall. “Just filled her up,” she whispered back. “It’s what they use for inspecting the line. And I can work it. And I shifted the points. Hurry. Get aboard,” she giggled breathlessly. “Next stop Rhyolite.”

“My God, you’re a girl,” whispered Bond. “But there’ll be a hell of a noise when we start that thing. Wait. Got an idea. Got some matches?” Half his pain had fallen away from him. The breath came fast through his teeth as he turned away from her and focused on the silent, tinder-dry buildings.

She was wearing slacks and a shirt. She dug into the pocket of the slacks and handed him her lighter. “What’s the idea?” she said. “We oughta be moving.”

But Bond lurched over to the row of petrol tins and started opening them and hurling the contents over the wooden walls and platform. When he had emptied half a dozen cans he went back to her. “Get her going.” He bent agonizingly down and picked up a crumpled newspaper from beside the rails. There was the angry whine of the self-starter and then the little two-stroke engine caught and started hammering busily.

Bond flicked the lighter. The piece of paper flared and he flung it away from him amongst the petrol cans. The whoosh of flame almost caught him as he threw himself backwards on to the little platform of the car. But then the girl let in the clutch and the handcar started down the line.

There was a rattle and a sickening lurch at the points and then they were out on the main line and the speedometer was trembling at thirty and the girl’s hair was flowing back like a golden banner towards him.

Bond turned and looked back at the great bloom of fame they had left behind them. He could almost hear the dry boards crackling and the shouts of the sleepers as they dashed from their rooms. If only it would get Wint and Kidd and catch the paint on the Pullman and fire the wood in the tender of The Cannon-ball and finish off the gangster’s box of toys!

But he and the’ girl had their own problems. What time was it? Bond gulped down the cool night air and tried to get his mind to work again. The moon was low. Four o’clock? Bond hunched his way painfully up the platform to the two bucket seats and somehow scrambled over and got down beside the girl.

He put an arm round her shoulders, and she turned and smiled into his eyes. She raised her voice above the noise of the engine and the hammer of the iron wheels on the rails. “That was quite an exit. Like something out of an old Buster Keaton film. How d’you feel?” She surveyed the battered face. “You look terrible.”

“Nothing broken,” said Bond. “Suppose that’s what’s meant by an eighty percenter.” He grinned painfully. “It’s better being kicked than being shot.”

The girl’s face cringed. “I just had to sit there and pretend that I didn’t care. Spang stayed and listened and watched me. Then they checked up on the ropes and slung you into the waiting room and everyone went happily to bed. I waited an hour in my room and then I got busy. The worst part was trying to wake you up.”

Bond tightened his arm round her shoulders. “I’ll tell you what I think of you when it doesn’t hurt so much. But what about you, Tiffany? You’ll be in a jam if they catch up with us. And who are those two men in the hoods, Wint and Kidd? What are they going to do about all this? I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of those two.”

The girl glanced sideways at the grim curl of the bruised lips. “Never seen them without those hoods on,” she said truthfully. “They’re supposed to be from Detroit. Strictly bad news. They do the strongarm work and special undercover jobs. They’ll all be after us now. But don’t you worry about me.” She looked up at him again and her eyes were shining and happy. “First thing is to get this crate to Rhyolite. Then we’ll have to find a car somewhere and get over the state border into California. I’ve got plenty of money. Then we’ll get you to a doctor and buy you a bath and a shirt and think again. I got your gun. One of the help brought it over when they’d finished picking up the pieces of those two guys you wrassled with in the Pink Garter. I collected it after Spang had gone to bed.” She unbuttoned her shirt and dug into the waistband of her slacks.

Bond took the Beretta, feeling the warmth of her on the metal. He flicked out the magazine. Three rounds left. And one in the breach. He replaced the magazine, put the gun on safe and tucked it into the top of his trousers. For the first time he realized that his coat was gone. One of his shirt sleeves hung in tatters. He tore it off and threw it away. He felt for the cigarette case in his right-hand hip pocket. It was gone. But in the left-hand pocket there was still his passport and note-case. He pulled them out. By the light of the moon he could see that they were cracked arid dented. He felt for his money in the note-case. It was still there. He put the things back in his pocket.

For a while they drove on with only the purr of the little engine and the clickety-click of the wheels to break the looming silence of the night. For as far as they could see, the thin silver line of the rails spun on towards the horizon with only an occasional break, marked by a points lever, where a rusty branch line curved off into the dark mass of the Spectre Mountains on their right. To their left, there was nothing except the endless floor of the desert on which the hint of dawn was beginning to edge the writhing cactus clumps with blue, and, two miles away, the gun-metal shimmer of the moon on Highway 95.

The handcar sang happily on down the rails. There were no controls to bother with except a brake lever and a kind of joystick with a twist-grip accelerator which the girl held fully open with the speedometer steady at thirty. And the miles and the minutes clicked by, and every now and then Bond turned painfully in his seat and inspected the blossoming red glow in the sky behind them.

They had been going nearly an hour when a thin humming undertone in the air or on the rails made Bond stiffen. Again he looked back over his shoulder. Was there a tiny glow-worm glimmer between them and the false red dawn of the burning ghost town?

Bond’s scalp tingled. “D’you see anything back there?”

She turned her head. Then, without replying, she slowed the engine down so that they were coasting quietly.

They both listened. Yes. It was in the rails. A soft quivering, not more than a distant sigh.

“It’s The Cannonball,” said Tiffany flatly. She gave a sharp twist to the accelerator and the handcar sped on again.

“What can she do?” asked Bond.

“Maybe sixty.”

“How far to Rhyolite?”

“Around thirty.”

Bond worked on the figures for a moment in silence. “It’s going to be a near thing. Can’t tell how far away he is. Can you get anything more out of this?”

“Not a scrap,” she said grimly. “Even if my name was Casey Jones instead of Case.”

“We’ll be all right,” said Bond. “You keep her rolling. Maybe he’ll blow up or something.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “Or maybe the spring’ll run down and he’s left the key of his engine at ‘home in his pants pocket.”

For fifteen minutes they sped along in silence and now Bond could clearly see the great pilot-light of the engine cutting through the night, not more than five miles away, and an angry fountain above it from the woodsparks flaming out of the great dome of the smoke-stack. The rails were trembling beneath them and what had been a distant sigh was a low threatening murmur.

Perhaps he’ll run out of wood, thought Bond. On an impulse he said casually to the girl, “I suppose we’re all right for gas?”

“Oh, sure,” said Tiffany. “Put in a whole can. There’s no indicator, but these things’ll run for ever on a gallon of gas.”

Almost before the words were out of her mouth, and as if to comment on them, the little engine gave a deprecating cough. ‘Put. Put-put.’ Then it ran merrily on.

“Christ,” said Tiffany. “D’you hear that?”

Bond said nothing. He felt the palms of his hands go wet.

And again. ‘Put. Put-put.”

Tiffany Case gingerly nursed the accelerator.

“Oh, dear little engine,” she said plaintively. “Beautiful, clever little engine. Please be kind.”

‘Put-put. Put-put. Hiss. Put. Hiss…’ And suddenly they were free-wheeling along in silence. Twenty-five, said the speedometer. Twenty… fifteen… ten… five. A last savage twist at the accelerator and a kick from Tiffany Case at the engine-housing and they had stopped.

“–” said Bond, once. He got painfully out on to the side of the track and limped to the petrol tank at the rear, pulling his bloodstained handkerchief out of his trouser pocket. He unscrewed the filler cap and lowered the handkerchief down so that it must reach the bottom of the tank. He pulled it out and felt it and sniffed it. Dry as a bone.

“That’s that,” he said to the girl. “Now just let’s think hard.” He looked all round. No cover to the left, and two miles at least to the road. On the right the mountains, perhaps a quarter of a mile away. They might get there and hide up. But for how long? It looked the best chance. The ground beneath his feet was shaking. He looked down the line at the glaring, implacable eye. How far? Two miles? Would Spang see the handcar in time? Would he be able to stop? Might he be derailed? But then Bond remembered the great jutting cow-catcher that would sweep the light car out of the way like a bale of straw.

“Come on, Tiffany,” he called. “We’ve got to take to the hills.”

Where was she? He limped round the car. She was running back down the track in front. She came up panting. “There’s a branch line just ahead,” she gasped. “If we can push the thing there and you can work the old points, he might miss us.”

“My God,” said Bond slowly. Then, with awe in his voice. “There’s something better than that. Give me a hand,” and he bent down and gritted his teeth against the pain and started pushing.

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