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With frightening suddenness, the decision was made for him. Out of the mists to Bond's right the gleaming torpedo shape of the electric Chariot shot into the arena. Largo sat astride it in the saddle. He was bent down behind the small perspex shield to get extra speed and his left hand held two of the Manta spears pointing forward while he controlled the single joystick with his right. As he appeared, the two guards dropped their guns on the sand and held up the coupling of the sled. Largo slowed down and drifted up to them. One man caught the rudder and wrestled to pull the Chariot backward toward the couplings. They were going to get out! Largo was going to take the bomb back out through the reef and drop it in deep water or bury it! The same thing would be done with the second bomb in the Disco . With the evidence gone, Largo would say that he had been ambushed by rival treasure hunters. How was he to know they came from a United States submarine? His men had fought back with their shark guns, but only because they had been attacked first. Once again the treasure-hunt cover would hide everything!

The men were still wrestling with the coupling. Largo was looking back anxiously. Bond measured the distance and flung himself forward with a great kick against the coral.

Largo turned in time to fling up an arm and parry Bond's stab with his right-hand spear and Bond's stab with the left rattled harmlessly off the aqualung cylinders on Largo's back. Bond drove on head first, his hands outstretched for the air tube in Largo's mouth. Largo's hands flashed to protect himself, dropping his two spears and jerking back the joystick he had been holding in his right. The Chariot surged forward away from the two guards and shot obliquely upward toward the surface while the two bodies clung and struggled on its back.

It was impossible to fight scientifically. Both men tore vaguely at each other while their teeth clenched desperately on the rubber mouthpieces that were their lifelines, but Largo had a firm grip on the Chariot between his knees while Bond had to use one hand to hang on to Largo's equipment to prevent himself from being thrown. Again and again Largo's elbow crashed into Bond's face while Bond dodged from side to side to take the blows on the mouth and not on the precious glass of his mask. At the same time Bond hammered with his free hand at his only target, Largo's kidneys, beneath the brown square of flesh that was all he could reach.

The Chariot broke surface fifty yards down the wide channel leading to the open sea and tore crazily on, its nose, tilted by Bond's weight over the tail, sticking at forty-five degrees out of the water. Now Bond was half in the wash, and it would only be minutes before Largo managed to twist and get both hands to him. Bond made up his mind. He let go of Largo's aqualung and, clutching the stern of the torpedo between his legs, slid back until he felt the top of the rudder at his back. Now, if he could avoid the screw! He reached one hand down between his legs, got a firm grip on the rudder, and heaved himself backward and off the machine. Now his face, inches away from the whirring propeller, was buffeted by the turbulence, but he dragged hard downward and felt the stern coming with him. Soon the damned thing would be almost upright. Bond wrenched the blade of the rudder sideways in a right-angled turn and then, his arms almost torn out of their sockets by the strain, let go. Above and in front of him, as the torpedo veered right-handed, Largo's body, thrown by the sharp turn and the change of balance, crashed into the water, twisted quickly over and faced downward, the mask searching for Bond. Bond was beat, utterly defeated by exhaustion. Now there was nothing for him but to get away and somehow stay alive. The bomb Was immobilized, the Chariot gone, careering in circles over the sea. Largo was finished. Bond summoned the remains of his strength and sluggishly dived down toward his last hope, a refuge among the coral. Almost lazily, Largo, his strength unimpaired, came down after him, swimming in a giant, easy crawl. Bond swerved in among the coral heads. A white sand passage showed up and he followed it; then there was a fork. Bond, trusting to the small extra protection of his rubber suit, followed the narrower lane between the sharp clumps. But now a black shadow was above him, following him. Largo had not bothered to get into the channel. He was swimming above the coral, looking down, watching Bond, biding his time. Bond looked up. There was a gleam of teeth round the mouthpiece. Largo knew he had got him. Bond flexed his fingers to get more life into them. How could he hope to defeat those great hands, those hands that were machine tools?

And now the narrow passage was widening. There was the glint of a sandy channel ahead. There was no room for Bond to turn round. He could only swim on into the open trap. Bond stopped and stood. It was the only thing to do. Largo had him like a rat in a trap. But at least Largo would have to come in and get him. Bond looked upward. Yes, the great gleaming body, followed by its string of silver bubbles, was forging carefully on into the open water. Now, swiftly, like a pale seal, he dived down to the firm sand and stood facing Bond. Slowly he advanced between the walls of coral, the big hands held forward for the first hold. At ten paces he stopped. His eyes swiveled sideways to a coral clump. His right hand shot out at something and gave a quick yank. When the hand pulled back, it was writhing, writhing with eight more fingers. Largo held the baby octopus in front of him like a small, waving flower. His teeth drew away from the rubber mouthpiece and the clefts of a smile appeared in his cheeks. He put up one hand and significantly tapped his mask. Bond bent down and picked up a rock covered with seaweed. Largo was being melodramatic. A rock in Largo's mask would be more efficient than having an octopus slapped across his. Bond wasn't worried by the octopus. Only a day before he had been in company with a hundred of them. It was Largo's longer reach that worried him.

Largo took a pace forward and then another. Bond crouched, backing carefully, so as not to cut his rubber skin, into the narrow passage. Largo came on, slowly, deliberately. In two more paces he would attack.

Bond caught a glint of movement out in the open behind Largo. Someone to the rescue? But the glint was white, not black. It was one of theirs!

Largo leaped forward.

Bond kicked off the coral and dived down for Largo's groin, the jagged rock in his hand. But Largo was ready. His knee came up hard against Bond's head and at the same time his right hand came swiftly down and clamped the small octopus across Bond's mask. Then from above, both his hands came down and got Bond by the neck, lifted him up like a child, and held him at arm's length, pressing. Bond could see nothing. Vaguely he felt the slimy tentacles groping over his face, getting a grip on the mouthpiece between his teeth, pulling. But the blood was roaring in his head and he knew he was gone. Slowly he sank to his knees. But how, why was he sinking? What had happened to the hands at his throat? His eyes, squeezed tight in agony, opened and there was light. The octopus, now at his chest, let go and shot away among the coral. In front of him Largo, Largo with a spear sticking horribly through his neck, lay kicking feebly on the sand. Behind him and looking down at the body stood a small, pale figure fitting another spear into an underwater gun. The long hair flowed round her head like a veil in the luminous sea.

Bond got slowly to his feet. He took a step forward. Suddenly he felt his knees beginning to give. A wave of blackness began to creep up over his vision. He leaned against the coral, his mouth slackening round the oxygen tube. Water seeped into his mouth. No! He said to himself. No! Don't let that happen!

A hand took one of his. But Domino's eyes behind her mask were somewhere else. They were blank, lost. She was ill! What was the matter with her? Bond was suddenly awake again. His eyes took in the blood patches on her bathing dress, the angry red marks on her body between the scraps of bikini. They would both die, standing there, unless he did something about it. Slowly his leaden legs began to stir the black fins. They were moving up. It wasn't so difficult after all. And now, vaguely, her own fins were helping.

The two bodies reached the surface together and lay, face downward, in the shallow troughs of the waves.

The oyster light of dawn slowly turned pink. It was going to be a beautiful day.

24.

"Take It Easy, Mr. Bond''

Felix Leiter came into the white, antiseptic room and closed the door conspiratorially behind him. He came and stood beside the bed where Bond lay on the edge of drugged sleep. "How's it going, feller?''

"Not bad. Just doped.''

"Doctor said I wasn't to see you. But I thought you might care to hear the score. Okay?''

"Sure.'' Bond struggled to concentrate. He didn't really care. All he could think about was the girl.

“Well, I'll make it quick. Doctor's just doing his rounds and I'll get hell if he finds me here. They've recovered both bombs, and Kotze---the physicist chap---is singing like a bird. Seems SPECTRE'S a bunch of really big-time hoodlums---ex-operators of SMERSH, the Mafia, the Gestapo---all the big outfits. Headquarters in Paris. Top man's called Blofeld, but the bastard got away---or anyway they haven't caught up with him yet, according to C.I.A. Probably Largo's radio silence warned him. Must be quite a Mister Genius. Kotze says SPECTRE'S banked millions of dollars since they got going five or six years ago. This job was going to be the final haul. You were right about Miami. It was going to be Target No. 2. Same sort of operation. They were going to plant the second bomb in the yacht basin. Bond smiled weakly. ”So now everybody's happy.'' “Oh, sure. Except me. Haven't been able to get away from my damned radio until now. Valves were almost blowing. And there's a pile of cipher stuff from M just longing for you to get around to it. Thank God the top brass from C.I.A. and a team from your outfit are flying in this evening to take charge. Then we can hand over and watch our two Governments getting snarled up over the epilogue--- what to tell the public, what to do with these SPECTRE guys, whether to make you a lord or a duke, how to persuade me to run for President---tricky little details like that. And then we'll damned well get away and have ourselves a ball some place. Maybe you'd care to take that girl along? Hell, she's the one that rates the medals! The guts! They cottoned onto her Geiger counter. God knows what that bastard Largo did to her. But she didn't sing---not a damned word! Then, when the team was under way, she somehow got herself out of the cabin porthole, with her gun and aqualung, and went to get him. Got him, and saved your life into the bargain! I swear I'll never call a girl a `frail' again---not an Italian girl, anyway. Leiter cocked an ear. He moved swiftly to the door. ”Hell, there's that damned medic gumshoeing down the corridor! Be seeing you, James.'' He quickly turned the door handle, listened for a moment, and slipped out of the room.

Feebly, desperately, Bond called, "Wait! Felix! Felix!'' But the door had closed. Bond sank back and lay staring at the ceiling. Slowly anger boiled up inside him---and panic. Why in hell didn't someone tell him about the girl? What the hell did he care about all the rest? Was she all right? Where was she? Was she . . .

The door opened. Bond jerked himself upright. He shouted furiously at the white-coated figure, "The girl. How is she? Quick! Tell me!''

Dr. Stengel, the fashionable doctor of Nassau, was not only fashionable but a good doctor. He was one of the Jewish refugee doctors who, but for Hitler, would have been looking after some big hospital in a town the size of Düsseldorf. Instead, rich and grateful patients had built a modern clinic for him in Nassau where he treated the natives for shillings and the millionaires and their wives for ten guineas a visit. He was more used to handling overdoses of sleeping pills and the ailments of the rich and old than multiple abrasions, curare poisoning, and odd wounds that looked more as if they belonged to the days of the pirates. But these were Government orders, and under the Official Secrets Act at that. Dr. Stengel hadn't asked any questions about his patients, nor about the sixteen autopsies he had had to perform, six for Americans from the big submarine, and ten, including the corpse of the owner, from the fine yacht that had been in harbor for so long.

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