Bond slowly took out a handkerchief and wiped his face with it. He was feeling light-headed and the scene in the brilliantly lit saloon, with its brass fittings and its homely advertisements for long-vanished beers and whiskies, was suddenly macabre.

Mr Spang broke the silence. “Bring him over.” The hard jaws that operated the sharp, thin lips separated and cut off each word as cleanly as a meat-slice. “And tell someone to call Detroit and tell the boys they’re suffering from delusions of adequacy up there. And tell ‘em to send down two more. And tell ‘em they got to be better than the last lot. And tell someone else to clean up this mess. Kay?”

There was a faint jingle of spurs on the wooden floor as Mr Spang left the room. With a last look at Bond, a look that held some message that was more than the obvious warning, the girl followed him.

The two men came up to Bond and the big one said “You heard.” Bond walked slowly after the girl and the two men lined up behind him.

There was a door behind the bar. Bond pushed through it and found himself in a station waiting-room with benches and old-fashioned notices about trains and warning you not to spit on the floor. “Right,” said one of the men and Bond turned through a sawn-off swing-door and on to a plank station platform.

And then Bond stopped in his tracks and hardly noticed a sharp prod in the ribs from a gun barrel.

It was probably the most beautiful train in the world. The engine was one of the old locomotives of the ‘Highland Light’ class of around 1870 which Bond had heard called the handsomest steam locomotives ever built. Its polished brass handrails and the fluted sand-dome and heavy warning bell above the long, gleaming barrel of the boiler glittered under the hissing gaslights of the station. A wisp of steam came from the towering balloon smoke-stack of the old wood-burner. The great sweeping cowcatcher was topped by three massive brass lights-a bulging pilot beam at the base of the smoke-stack and two storm lanterns below. Above the two, tall driving wheels, in fine early Victorian gold capitals, was written The Cannonball, and the name was repeated along the side of the black-and-gold painted tender piled with birch logs, behind the tall, square driver’s cabin.

Coupled to the tender was a maroon coloured state Pullman. Its arched windows above the narrow mahogany panels were picked out in cream. An oval plaque amidships said The Sierra Belle. Above the windows and below the slightly jutting barrel roof Tonopah and Tidewater R.R. was written in cream capitals on dark blue.

“Guess you never seen nuthen like that, Limey,” said one of the guards proudly. “Now git goin’.” His voice was muffled by the black silk hood.

Bond walked slowly across and stepped up on to the brass-railed observation platform with the shining brakeman’s wheel in the centre. For the first time in his life he saw the point of being a millionaire and suddenly, and also for the first time, he thought that there might be more to this man Spang than he had reckoned with.

The interior of the Pullman glittered with Victorian luxury. The light from small crystal chandeliers in the roof shone back from polished mahogany walls and winked off silver fittings and cut-glass vases and lampstands. The carpets and swagged curtains were wine-red and the domed ceiling, broken at intervals by oval-framed paintings of garlanded cherubs and wreathed flowers against a background of sky and clouds, was cream, as were the slats of the drawn Venetian blinds.

First came a small dining-room with the remains o’f a supper for two-a basket of fruit and an open bottle of champagne in a silver bucket-and then a narrow corridor from which three doors led, Bond assumed, to the bedrooms and lavatory. Bond was still thinking about this arrangement as, with the guards at his heels, he pushed open the door into the state room.

At the far end of the state room, with his back to a small open fireplace flanked by bookshelves gleaming richly with gold tooled leather bindings, stood Mr Spang, In a red leather armchair near a small writing-desk half way down the car Tiffany Case sat bolt upright. Bond didn’t care for the way she was holding her cigarette. It was nervous and artificial. It looked frightened.

Bond took a few steps down the car to a comfortable chair. He turned it round to face them both and sat down and crossed one knee over the other. He took out his cigarette case and lit a cigarette and swallowed a deep lungful of smoke and let the smoke come out between his teeth with a long, relaxed hiss.

Mr Spang had an unlighted cigar jutting from the exact centre of his mouth. He took it out. “Stay here, Wint. Kidd, get along and do what I said.” The strong teeth bit the words off like inches of celery. “Now you,” his eyes glittered angrily at Bond, “who are you and what’s going on?”

“I shall need a drink if we’re going to talk,” said Bond.

Mr Spang eyed him coldly. “Get him a drink, Wint.”

Bond half turned his head. “Bourbon and branch-water,” he said. “Half and half.”

There was an angry grunt and Bond heard the woodwork creak as the heavy man walked back down the Pullman.

Bond didn’t much like Mr Spang’s question. He went back over his story. It still looked all right. He sat and smoked and looked at Mr Spang, weighing him up.

The drink came and the guard thrust it into his hand so that some of it slopped on to the carpet. “Thank you, Wint,” said Bond. He took a deep swallow. It was strong and good. He took another. Then he put the glass down on the floor beside him.

He looked up again into the tense, hard face. “I just don’t like being leant on,” he said easily. “I did my job and got paid. If I chose to gamble with the money, that was my affair. I could have lost. And then a lot of your men started breathing down my neck and I got impatient. If you wanted to talk to me, why didn’t you just call me on the telephone? Putting that tail on was unfriendly. And when they got rude and started shooting I thought it was time to do some leaning of my own.”

The black-and-white face against the coloured books didn’t yield. “You don’t get the message, feller,” Mr Spang said softly. “Mebbe I better bring you up to date. Gotta coded signal yesterday from London.” His hand went to the breast pocket of his black Western shirt and he slowly pulled out a piece of paper, holding Bond’s eyes with his.

Bond knew the piece of paper was bad news, really bad news, just as surely as you do when you read the word “deeply” at the beginning of a telegram.

“This is from a good friend in London,” said Mr Spang. He slowly released Bond’s eyes and looked down at the piece of paper. “It says ‘Reliably informed Peter Franks held by police on unspecified charge. Endeavour at all costs hold substitute carrier ascertain if operations endangered eliminate him and report’.”

There was silence in the car. Mr Spang’s eyes rose from the paper and glittered redly down on Bond. “Well, Mister Whosis, this looks like a good year for something horrible to happen to you.”

Bond knew he was for it and part of his mind slowly digested the knowledge, wondering how it was going to be done. But at the same time another part told him that he had discovered what he wanted to know, what he had come to America to find out. The two Spangs did represent the beginning and the end of the diamond pipeline. At this moment, he had completed the job he had set out to do. He knew the answers. Now, somehow, he must get the answers back to M.

Bond reached down for his drink. The ice rattled hollowly as he took the last deep swallow and put the glass down. He looked candidly up at Mr Spang. “I took the job from Peter Franks. He didn’t like the look of it and I needed the money.”

“Don’t give me that crap,” said Mr Spang flatly. “You’re a cop or a private eye of some sort and I’m going to find out who you are, and who you work for, and what you know-what you were doing in the Acme Baths alongside that crooked jock; why you carry a gun and where you learnt to handle it; how come you’re tied in with Pinkertons in the shape of that phoney cab-driver. Things like that. You look like an eye and you behave like one and,” he turned with sudden anger on Tiffany Case, “how you fell for him, you silly bitch, I just can’t figure.”

“The hell you can’t,” flared Tiffany Case. “I get handed the guy by ABC and he acts okay. You think maybe I should have told ABC to try again. Not me, brother. I know my place in this outfit. And don’t think you can push me around. And for all you know this guy may be telling the truth.” Her angry eyes swept over Bond and he caught the glint of fear, fear for him, behind them.

“Well, we’re going to find out,” said Mr Spang, “and go on finding out until the guy croaks, and if he thinks he can take it, he’s got another think coming.” He looked over Bond’s head at the guard. “Wint, get Kidd and come back with the boots.”

The boots?

Bond sat silent, gathering his strength and his courage. It would be a waste of time to argue with Mr Spang or to try to escape, fifty miles out in the desert. He had got out of worse jams. So long as they didn’t intend to kill him yet. So long as he gave nothing away. There was Ernie Cureo and there was Felix Leiter. There might just possibly be Tiffany Case. He looked across at her. Her head was bent. She was looking carefully at her fingernails.

Bond heard the two guards come up behind him.

“Take him out on the platform,” said Mr Spang. Bond saw the corner of his tongue come out and slightly touch the thin lips. “Brooklyn stomping. Eighty percenter. Kay?”

“Okay, Boss.” It was the voice belonging to Wint. It sounded greedy.

The two hooded men came up and sat down side by side on a dark red chaise longue that ran down the car opposite Bond. They put football boots down on the thick carpet beside them and started to unlace their shoes.



THE black frogman’s suit fitted tightly. It hurt everywhere. Why the hell hadn’t Strangways made certain the Admiralty got his measurements right? And it was very dark under the sea and the currents were strong, pulling him against the coral. He would have to swim hard against them. But now something had got him by the arm: What the hell…?

“James. For Chrissake. James.” She took her mouth away from his ear. This time she pinched the naked bloodstained arm as hard as she could and at last Bond’s eyes opened between their puffed lids and he looked up at her from the wooden floor and gave a shuddering sigh.

She tugged at him, terrified that he would slip away from her again. He seemed to understand and he rolled over and struggled on to hands and knees, his head hanging down towards the ground like a wounded animal.

“Can you walk?”

“Wait.” The thick whisper coming through the cracked lips sounded strange to him. Perhaps she hadn’t understood. “Wait,” he said again, and his mind started exploring his body to see what was left of it. He could feel his feet and his hands. He could move his head from side to side. He could see the bars of moonlight on the floor. He had been able to hear her. It ought to be all right, but he just didn’t want to move. His will-power had gone. He just wanted to sleep. Or even to die. Anything to lessen the pain that was in him and all over him, stabbing, hammering, grinding him-and to kill the memory of the four boots thudding into him, and the grunts coming from the two hooded figures.