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Oddjob was waiting angrily. He pushed past Bond, looked carefully round the lavatory and came out again, shutting the door. Bond walked back to his seat. Now the SOS was in the bottle and the bottle had been committed to the waves. Who would be the finder? How soon?

Everyone, down to the pilot and co-pilot, went to the blasted little lavatory before they got back on the ground. As each one came out, Bond expected to feel the cold nose of a gun in his neck, the harsh suspicious words, the crackle of the paper being unfolded. But at last they were back in the Buick and speeding over the Triborough into uptown Manhattan and then down the river on the parkway and in through the well-guarded doors of the warehouse and back to work.

Now it was a race - a race between Goldfinger's calm, unhurried, efficient machine and the tiny gunpowder trail Bond had lit. What was going on outside? During every hour of the next three days Bond's imagination followed what might be happening - Leiter telling his chief, the conference, the quick flight down to Washington, the FBI and Hoover, the Army, the President. Leiter insisting that Bond's conditions be adhered to, that no suspicious moves be made, no inquiries started, that no one moved an inch except according to some master plan that would operate on the day and get the whole gang into the bag so that not one of them escaped.

Would they accept Bond's conditions or would they not dare take the chance? Had they talked across the Atlantic with M? Had M insisted that Bond should be somehow pulled out? No, M would see the point. He would agree that Bond's life must be disregarded. That nothing must jeopardize the big clean-up. They would have to get the two 'Japanese', of course, somehow beat out of them the code message Gold-finger would be waiting for on D-1.

Was that how it was going, or was it all a shambles? Leiter away on another assignment. 'Who is this 007? What does it stand for? Some crazy loon. Hi, Smith, check on this, could you? Get down to the warehouse and take a look. Sorry, mister, no five grand for you. Here's car fare back to La Guardia. Afraid you've been hoaxed.'

Or, worse still, had none of these things happened? Was the plane still standing in a corner of the field, unserviced?

Night and day, the torment of thoughts went through Bond's head while the work got cleared and the hours ticked by and the deadly machine whirred quietly on. D-1 came and flashed by in a last fever of activity. Then, in the evening, came the note from Goldfinger.

First phase of operation successful. Entrain as planned at midnight. Bring copies of all maps, schedules, operation orders. G.

In close formation, with Bond and Tilly Masterton - he in a white surgeon's coat, she dressed as a nurse - wedged in the middle, the Goldfinger contingent marched swiftly through the almost empty Concourse of Pennsylvania station and down to the waiting Special. Everyone, including Goldfinger, was wearing the conventional white garb and armbands of a medical field force and the dim platform was crowded with the ghostly waiting figures of the posses from the gangs. The silence and tension was appropriate for an emergency force hurrying to the scene of a disaster, and the stretcher and decontamination suits being loaded into the compartments added drama to the scene. The Superintendent was talking quietly with the senior physicians in the shape of Midnight, Strap, Solo and Ring. Nearby stood Miss Galore with a dozen pale-faced nurses who waited with eyes bent as if they stood beside an open grave. Without makeup, their exotic hair-do's tucked into dark blue Red Cross caps, they had been well rehearsed. They were giving an excellent performance - dutiful, merciful, dedicated to the relief of human suffering.

When the Superintendent saw Goldfinger and his party approaching he hurried up. T>r Gold?' his face was grave. 'I'm afraid the news coming through isn't too good. Guess it'll all be in the papers tonight. All trains held at Louisville, no reply from the depot at Fort Knox. But we'll get you through all right. God Almighty, Doctor! What's going on down there? People coming through from Louisville are talking about the Russians spraying something from the air. Of course' - the Superintendent looked keenly at Goldfinger -'I'm not believing that kind of stuff. But what is it? Food poisoning?'

Goldfinger's face was solemn. He said in a kindly voice, 'My friend, that's what we've got to find out. That's why we're being rushed down. If you want me to make a guess, but mark you it's only a guess, it's a form of sleeping sickness - trypanosomiasis we call it.'

'That so?' the Superintendent was impressed by the sound of the malady. 'Well, believe you me, Doctor, we're all mighty proud of you and your folks of the Emergency Force.' He held out his hand, Goldfinger took it. 'Best of luck, Doc; and now, if you'll get your men and the nurses on board, I'll have this train on its way just as quick as may be.'

'Thank you, Superintendent. My colleagues and I will not forget your services.' Goldfinger gave a short bow. His contingent moved on.

'Board!'

Bond found himself in a Pullman with Tilly Masterton across the aisle and the Koreans and Germans all around them. Goldfinger was in the front of the car talking cheerfully with his satraps. Miss Pussy Galore strolled by. She ignored the upturned face of Tilly Masterton but gave Bond the usual searching glance. There was a banging of doors being closed. Pussy Galore stopped and rested an arm on the back of the seat in front of Bond. She looked down at him. 'Hullo, Handsome. Long time no see. Uncle doesn't seem to let you off the lead much.'

Bond said, 'Hullo, Beautiful. That outfit suits you fine. I'm feeling rather faint. How about doing a bit of nursing?"

The deep violet eyes examined him carefully. She said softly, 'You know what, Mister Bond? I got a feeling there's something phoney about you. I got instincts, see? Just what are you and that doll' - she jerked her head back -'doing in this outfit?'

'We do all the work.'

The train began to move. Pussy Galore straightened herself. She said, 'Mebbe you do. But if any little thing goes wrong with this caper, for my money it'll be Handsome who knows why. Get me?'

She didn't wait for Bond's answer, but moved on down and joined the Chiefs of Staff meeting.

It was a confused, busy night. Appearances had to be kept up before the inquisitive, sympathetic eyes of the conductors. Last-minute conferences up and down the train had to wear the appearance of serious medical conclaves - no cigar smoking, no swearing, no spitting. Jealousies and competition between the gangs had to be kept under rigid control. The cold superiority of the Mafia, particularly vis-a-vis Jack Strap and his soft, easy living crowd from the West, might have led to gunplay if the chiefs hadn't been ready for trouble and constantly on the lookout for it. All these minor psychological factors had been foreseen by Goldfinger and prepared for. The women from the Cement Mixers were carefully segregated, there was no drinking and the gang chiefs kept their men occupied with further exact briefings, dummy exercises with maps and lengthy discussions about their escape plans with the gold. There was casual spying on each other's plans and Goldfinger was often called in to judge who should have which routes to the Mexican border, to the desert, to Canada. To Bond it was amazing that a hundred of the toughest crooks in America, on edge with excitement and greed, could be kept as quiet as they were. It was Goldfinger who had achieved the miracle. Apart from the calm, dangerous .quality of the man, it was the minuteness of the planning and the confidence he exuded that calmed the battle nerves and created some sort of a team-spirit among the rival mobs.

As the iron gallop of the train stretched itself out through the flat lands of Pennsylvania, gradually the passengers fell into an uneasy, troubled sleep. But not Goldfinger or Oddjob. They remained awake and watchful and soon Bond gave up any idea he might have had of using one of his hidden knives on Odd job and making a bid for freedom when the train slowed through a station or on an up-gradient.

Bond dozed fitfully, wondering, imagining, puzzling over the Superintendent's words. The Superintendent had certainly thought they were the truth, knew that Fort Knox was in emergency. Was his news from Louisville the truth or part of the giant cover plan that would be necessary to get every member of the conspiracy in the bag? If it was a cover plan, how meticulously had it been prepared? Would someone slip up? Would there be some ghastly bungle that would warn Goldfinger in time? Or if the news was true, if the poison had been successful, what did there remain for Bond to do?

Bond had made up his mind on one score. Somehow, in the excitement of H-Hour, he would get close to Goldfinger and cut his throat with one of his hidden knives. How much would that achieve apart from an act of private vengeance? Would Goldfinger's squad accept another man's order to arm the warhead and fire it? Who would be strong enough, cool enough to take over? Mr Solo? .Probably. The operation would perhaps be half successful, they would get away with plenty of gold - except Goldfinger's men who would be lost without him to lead them. And in the meantirne, whatever else Bond could not do, had sixty thousand people already died? Was there anything he could have done to prevent that? Had there ever been a chance to kill Goldfinger? Would it have done any good to make a scene at Pennsylvania Station? Bond stared at his dark reflection in the window, listened to the sweet ting of the grade-crossing bells and the howl of the windhorn clearing their way, and shredded his nerves with doubts, questions, reproaches.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

THE RICHEST MAN IN HISTORY

SLOWLY THE red dawn broke over the endless plain of black grass that gradually turned to the famous Kentucky blue as the sun ironed out the shadows. At six o'clock the train began to slacken speed and soon they were gliding gently through the waking suburbs of Louisville to come to rest with a sigh of hydraulics in the echoing, almost deserted station.

A small, respectful group was awaiting them. Goldfinger, his eyes black-ringed with lack of sleep, beckoned to one of the Germans, picked up his authoritative little black bag and stepped down on to the platform. There was a short, serious conclave, the Louisville Superintendent doing the talking and Goldfinger interjecting a few questions and nodding gravely at the answers. Goldfinger turned wearily back to the train. Mr Solo had been deputed to take his report. He stood at the open door at the end of the Pullman. Bond heard Goldfinger say sorrowfully, 'I am afraid, Doctor, the situation is as bad as we feared. I will now go forward to the leading diesel with this,' he held up the black bag, 'and we will proceed slowly into the infected area. Would you please tell all personnel to be prepared to put on their masks? I have masks for the driver and fireman. All other railway personnel will leave the train here.'

Mr Solo nodded solemnly. 'Right, Professor.' He closed his door. Goldfinger walked off down.the platform followed by his German strong-arm man and the respectful, head-shaking group.

There was a short pause and then silently, almost reverently, the long train whispered its way out of the station leaving the little group of officials, now reinforced by four rather shamefaced conductors, with hands raised in benediction.

Thirty-five miles, half an hour, to go! Coffee and doughnuts were brought round by the nurses, and (Goldfinger thought of everything) for those whose nerves needed it, two grains of dexedrine. The nurses were pale, silent. There were no jokes, no smart remarks. The train was electric with tension.

After ten minutes there was a sudden slackening of speed and a sharp hiss from the brakes. Coffee was spilled. The train almost stopped. Then there was a jerk and it gathered speed again. A new hand had taken over on the dead man's handle.

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