Bond grinned as he heard a shout drowned by the crash of glass and water.
He immediately dropped to one knee and fired two shots at The Robber's legs, but fifty yards for his small-calibre pistol was too much. There was the crash of another tank but the second shot clanged emptily into the iron entrance gates.
Then The Robber was shooting again and Bond could only dodge to and fro behind the cases and wait to be caught in the kneecap. Occasionally he fired a shot in return to make The Robber keep his distance, but he knew the battle was lost. The other man seemed to have endless ammunition. Bond had only two shots left in his gun and one fresh clip in his pocket.
As he shuttled to and fro, slipping on the rare fish that flapped wildly on the concrete, he even stooped to snatch ing up heavy queen conchs and helmet shells and hurling them towards the enemy. Often they burst impressively on top of some tank at The Robber's end and added to the appalling racket inside the corrugated-iron shed. But they were quite ineffective. He thought of shooting out the lights, but there were at least twenty of them in two rows.
Finally Bond decided to give up. He had one ruse to fall back on, and any change in the battle was better than exhausting himself at the wrong end of this deadly coconut-shy.
As he passed a row of cases of which the one near him was shattered, he pushed it on to the floor. It was still half full of rare Siamese Fighting Fish, and Bond was pleased with the expensive crash as the remains of the tank burst in fragments on the floor. A wide space was cleared on the trestle table, and after making two quick darts to pick up his shoes he dashed back to the table and jumped up.
With no target for The Robber to shoot at there was a moment's silence save for the whine of the pumps, the sound of water dripping out of broken tanks and the flapping of dying fish. Bond slipped his shoes on and laced them tight.
'Hey, Limey,' called The Robber patiently. 'Come on out or I start using pineapples. I been expectin' you an' I got plenty ammo.'
'Guess I got to give up,' answered Bond through cupped hands. 'But only because you smashed one of my ankles.'
'I'll not shoot,' called The Robber. 'Drop your gun on the floor and come down the central passage with your hands up. We'll have a quiet little talk.'
'Guess I got no option,' said Bond, putting hopelessness into his voice. He dropped his Beretta with a clatter on to the cement floor. He took the gold coin out of his pocket and clenched it in his bandaged left hand.
Bond groaned as he put his feet to the floor. He dragged his left leg behind him as he limped heavily up the central passage, his hands held level with his shoulders. He stopped half way up the passage.
The Robber came slowly towards him, half-crouching, his rifle pointed at Bond's stomach. Bond was glad to see that his shirt was soaked and that he had a cut over the left eye.
The Robber walked well to the left of the passage-way. When he was about ten yards away from Bond he paused with one stockinged foot casually resting on a small obstruction in the cement floor.
He gestured with his rifle. 'Higher,' he said harshly.
Bond groaned and lifted his hands a few inches so that they were almost across his face, as if in defence.
Between the fingers he saw The Robber's toes kick something sharply sideways and there was a faint clang as if a bolt had been drawn. Bond's eyes glinted behind his hands and his jaw tightened. He knew now what had happened to Leiter.
The Robber came on, his hard, thin frame obscuring the spot where he had paused.
'Christ,' said Bond, 'I gotta sit down. My leg won't hold me.'
The Robber stopped a few feet away. 'Go ahead and stand while I ask you a few questions, Limey.' He bared his tobacco-stained teeth. 'You'll soon be lying down, and for keeps.' The Robber stood and looked him over. Bond sagged. Behind the defeat in his face his brain was measuring in inches.
'Nosey bastard,' said The Robber…
At that moment Bond dropped the gold coin out of his left hand. It clanged on the cement floor and started to roll.
In the fraction of a second that The Robber's eyes flickered down, Bond's right foot in its steel-capped shoe lashed out to its full length. It kicked the rifle almost out of The Robber's hands. At the same moment that The Robber pulled the trigger and the bullet crashed harmlessly through the glass ceiling, Bond launched himself in a dive at the man's stomach, his two arms flailing.
Both hands connected with something soft and brought a grunt of agony. Pain shot through Bond's left hand and he winced as the rifle crashed down across his back. He bore on into the man, blind to pain, hitting with both hands, his head down between hunched shoulders, forcing the man back and off his balance. As he felt the balance yield he straightened himself slightly and lashed out again with his steel-capped foot. It connected with The Robber's kneecap. There was a scream of agony and the rifle clattered to the ground as The Robber tried to save himself. He was half way to the floor when Bond's uppercut hit him and projected the body another few feet.
The Robber fell in the centre of the passage just opposite what Bond could now see was a drawn bolt in the floor.
As the body hit the ground a section of the floor turned swiftly on a central pivot and the body almost disappeared down the black opening of a wide trap-door in the concrete.
As he felt the floor give under his weight The Robber gave a shrill scream of terror and his hands scrabbled for a hold. They caught the edge of the floor and clutched it just as his whole body slid into space and the six-foot panels of reinforced concrete revolved smoothly until it rested upright on its pivot, a black rectangle yawning on either side.
Bond gasped for air. He put his hands on his hips and got back some of his breath. Then he walked to the edge of the right-hand hole and looked down.
The Robber's terrified face, the lips drawn back from the teeth and the eyes madly distended, jabbered up at him.
Looking beyond him, Bond could see nothing, but he heard the lapping of water against the foundations of the building and there was a faint luminescence on the seaward side. Bond guessed that there was access to the sea through wire or narrow bars.
As The Robber's voice died down to a whimper, Bond could hear something stirring down there, awoken by the light. A Hammerhead or a Tiger Shark, he guessed, with their sharper reactions.
'Pull me out, friend. Give me a break. Pull me out. I can't hold much longer. I'll do anything you want. Tell you anything.' The Robber's voice was a hoarse whisper of supplication.
'What happened to Solitaire?' Bond stared down into the frenzied eyes.
'The Big Man did it. Told me to fix a snatch. Two men in Tampa . Ask for Butch and The Lifer. Poolroom behind the “Oasis”. She came to no harm. Lemme out, pal.'
'And the American, Leiter?'
The agonized face pleaded. 'It was his fault. Called me out early this mornin'. Said the place was on fire. Seen it passing in his car. Held me up and brought me back in here. Wanted to search the place. Just fell through the trap. Accident. I swear it was his fault. We pulled him out before he was finished. He'll be okay.'
Bond looked down coldly at the white fingers desperately clinging to the sharp edge of concrete. He knew that The Robber must have got the bolt back and somehow engineered Leiter over the trap. He could hear the man's laugh of triumph as the floor swung open, could see the cruel smile as he pencilled the note and stuck it into the bandages when they had fished the half-eaten body out.
For a moment blind rage seized him.
He kicked out sharply, twice.
One short scream came up out of the depths. There was a splash and then a great commotion in the water.
Bond walked to the side of the trap-door and pushed the upright concrete slab. It revolved easily on its central pivot.
Just before its edges shut out the blackness below, Bond heard one terrible snuffling grunt as if a great pig was getting its mouth full. He knew it for the grunt that a shark makes as its hideous flat nose comes up out of the water and its sickle-shaped mouth closes on a floating carcase. He shuddered and kicked the bolt home with his foot.
Bond collected the gold coin off the floor and picked up his Beretta. He went to the main entrance and looked back for a moment at the shambles of the battlefield.
He reflected that there was nothing to show that the secret of the treasure had been discovered. The top had been shot off the Scorpion Fish tank under which Bond had dived, and when the other men came in the morning they would not be surprised to find the fish dead in the tank. They would get the remains of The Robber out of the Shark tank and report to Mr. Big that he'd been worstei in a gun battle and that there were X thousand dollars' worth of damage which would have to be repaired before the Secatur could bring over its next cargo. They would find some of Bond's bullets and soon guess that it was his work…
Bond grimly shut his mind to the horror beneath the floor of the warehouse. He turned off the lights and let himself out by the main entrance.
A small payment had been made on account of Solitaire and Leiter.
THE Jamaica VERSION
IT was two o'clock in the morning. Bond eased his car away from the sea-wall and moyed off through the town on to 4th Street , the highway to Tampa .
He dawdled along down the four-lane concrete highway through the endless gauntlet of motels, trailer camps and roadside emporia selling beach furniture, sea-shells and concrete gnomes.
He stopped at the 'Gulf Winds Bar and Snacks' and ordered a double Old Grandad on the rocks. While the barman poured it he went into the washroom and cleaned himself up. The bandages on his left hand were covered with dirt and the hand throbbed painfully. The splint had broken on The Robber's stomach. There was nothing Bond could do about it. His eyes were red with strain and lack of sleep. He went back to the bar, drank down the Bourbon and ordered another one. The barman looked like a college kid spending his holidays the hard way. He wanted to talk but there was no talk left in Bond. Bond sat and looked into his glass and thought about Leiter and The Robber and heard the sickening grunt of the feeding shark.
He paid and went out and on again over the Gandy Bridge, and the air of the Bay was cool on his face. At the end of the bridge he turned left towards the airport and stopped at the first motel that looked awake.
The middle-aged couple that owned the place were listening to late rhumba music from Cuba with a bottle of rye between them. Bond told a story of a blow-out on his way from Sarasota to Silver Springs. They weren't interested. They were just glad to take his ten dollars. He drove his car up to the door of Room 5 and the man unlocked the door and turned on the light. There was a double bed and a shower and a chest-of-drawers and two chairs. The motif was white and blue. It looked clean and Bond put his bag down thankfully and said good night. He stripped and threw his clothes unfolded on to a chair. Then he took a quick shower, cleaned his teeth and gargled with a sharp mouthwash and climbed into bed.
He plunged at once into a calm untroubled sleep. It was the first night since he had arrived in America that did not threaten a fresh battle with his stars on the morrow.
He awoke at midday and walked down the road to a cafeteria where the short-order cook fixed him a delicious three-decker western sandwich and coffee. Then he came back to his room and wrote a detailed report to the FBI at Tampa. He omitted all reference to the gold in the poison tanks for fear that The Big Man would close down his operations in Jamaica . The nature of these had still to be discovered. Bond knew that the damage he had done to the machine in America had no bearing on the heart of his assignment - the discovery of the source of the gold, its seizure, and the destruction, if possible, of Mr. Big himself.