'Don't worry about me, my darling,' she had said when the men came for them. 'I am happy to be with you again. My heart is full of it. For some reason I am not afraid although there is much death very close. Do you love me a little?'
'Yes,' said Bond. 'And we shall have our love.'
'Giddap,' said one of the men.
And now, on the surface, it was getting lighter, and from below the cliff Bond heard the great twin Diesels stutter and roar. There was a light flutter of breeze to windward, but to leeward, where the ship lay, the bay was a gunmetal mirror.
Mr. Big appeared up the shaft, a businessman's leather brief-case in his hand. He stood for a moment looking round, gaining his breath. He paid no attention to Bond and Solitaire nor to the two guards standing beside them with revolvers in their hands.
He looked up at the sky, and suddenly called out, in a loud clear voice, towards the rim of the sun:
'Thank you, Sir Henry Morgan. Your treasure will be well spent. Give us a fair wind.'
The negro guards showed the whites of their eyes.
'The Undertaker's Wind it is,' said Bond.
The Big Man looked at him.
'All down?' he asked the guards.
'Yassuh, Boss,' answered one of them.
'Take them along,' said The Big Man.
They went to the edge of the cliff and down the steep steps, one guard in front, one behind. Mr. Big followed.
The engines of the long graceful yacht were turning over quietly, the exhaust bubbling glutinously, a thread of blue vapour rising astern.
There were two men on the jetty at the guide ropes. There were only three men on deck besides the Captain and the navigator on the grey streamlined bridge. There was no room for more. All the available deckspace, save for a fishing chair rigged right aft, was covered with fish-tanks. The Red Ensign had been struck and only the Stars and Stripes hung motionless at the stern.
A few yards clear of the ship the red torpedo-shaped paravane, about six foot long, lay quietly on the water, now aquamarine in the early dawn. It was attached to a thick pile of wire cable, coiled up on the deck aft. To Bond there looked to be a good fifty yards of it. The water was crystal clear and there were no fish about.
The Undertaker's Wind was almost dead. Soon the Doctor's Wind would start to breathe in from the sea. How soon? wondered Bond. Was it an omen?
Away beyond the ship he could see the roof of Beau Desert among the trees, but the jetty and the ship and the cliff path were still in deep shadow. Bond wondered if night-glasses would be able to pick them out. And if they could, what Strangways would be thinking.
Mr. Big stood on the jetty and supervised the process of binding them together.
'Strip her,' he said to Solitaire's guard.
Bond flinched. He stole a glance at Mr. Big's wrist watch. It said ten minutes to six. Bond kept silence. There must not be even a minute's delay.
'Throw the clothes on board,' said Mr. Big. 'Tie some strips round his shoulder. I don't want any blood in the water, yet.'
Solitaire's clothes were cut off her with a knife. She stood pale and naked. She hung her head and the heavy black hair fell forward over her face. Bond's shoulder was roughly bound with strips of her linen skirt.
'You bastard,' said Bond through his teeth.
Under Mr. Big's direction, their hands were freed. Their bodies were pressed together, face to face, and their arms held round each other's waists and then bound tightly again.
Bond felt Solitaire's soft breasts pressed against him. She leant her chin on his right shoulder.
'I didn't want it to be like this,' she whispered tremulously.
Bond didn't answer. He hardly felt her body. He was counting seconds.
On the jetty there was a pile of rope to the paravane. It hung down off the jetty and Bond could see it lying along the sand until it rose to meet the belly of the red torpedo.
The free end was tied under their armpits and knotted tightly between them in the space between their necks. It was all very carefully done. There was no possible escape.
Bond was counting the seconds. He made it five minutes to six.
Mr. Big had a last look at them.
'Their legs can stay free,' he said. 'They'll make appetizing bait.' He stepped off the jetty on to the deck of the yacht.'
The two guards went aboard. The two men on the jetty unhitched their lines and followed. The screws churned up the still water and with the engines at half speed ahead the Secatur slid swiftly away from the island.
Mr. Big went aft and sat down in the fishing chair. They could see his eyes fixed on them. He said nothing. Made no gesture. He just watched.
The Secatur cut through the water towards the reef. Bond could see the cable to the paravane snaking over the side. The paravane started to move softly after the ship. Suddenly it put its nose down, then righted itself and sped away, its rudder pulling out and away from the wake of the ship.
The coil of rope beside them leapt into life.
'Look out,' said Bond urgently, holding tighter to the girl.
Their arms were pulled almost out of their sockets as they were jerked together off the jetty into the sea.
For a second they both went under, then they were on the surface, their joined bodies smashing through the water.
Bond gasped for breath amongst the waves and spray that dashed past his twisted mouth. He could hear the rasping of Solitaire's breath next to his ear.
'Breathe, breathe,' he shouted through the rushing of the water. 'Lock your legs against mine.'
She heard him and he felt her knees pressing between his thighs. She had a paroxysm of coughing, then her breath became more even against his ear and the thumping of her heart eased against his breast. At the same time their speed slackened.
'Hold your breath,' shouted Bond. 'I've got to have a look. Ready?'
A pressure of her arms answered him. He felt her chest heave as she filled her lungs.
With the weight of his body he swung her round so that his head was now quite out of water.
They were ploughing along at about three knots. He twisted his head above the small bow-wave they were throwing up.
The Secatur was entering the passage through the reef, about eighty yards away, he guessed. The paravane was skimming slowly along almost at right angles to her. Another thirty yards and the red torpedo would be crossing the broken water over the reef. A further thirty yards behind, they were riding slowly across the surface of the bay.
Sixty yards to go to the reef.
Bond twisted his body and Solitaire came up, gasping.
Still they moved slowly along through the water.
Five yards, ten, fifteen, twenty.
Only forty yards to go before they hit the coral.
The Secatur would be just through. Bond gathered his breath. It must be past six now. What had happened to the blasted mine? Bond thought a quick fervent prayer. God save us, he said into the water.
Suddenly he felt the rope tighten under his arms.
'Breathe, Solitaire, breathe,' he shouted as they got under way and the water started to hiss past them.
Now they were flying over the sea towards the crouching reef.
There was a slight check. Bond guessed that the paravane had fouled a niggerhead or a piece of surface coral. Then their bodies hurtled on again in their deadly embrace.
Thirty yards to go, twenty, ten.
Jesus Christ, thought Bond. We're for it. He braced his muscles to take the crashing, searing pain, edged Solitaire further above him to protect her from the worst of it.
Suddenly the breath whistled out of his body and a giant fist thumped him into Solitaire so that she rose right out of the sea above him and then fell back. A split second later lightning flashed across the sky and there was the thunder of an explosion.
They stopped dead in the water and Bond felt the weight of the slack rope pulling them under.
His legs sank down beneath his stunned body and water rushed into his mouth.
It was this that brought him back to consciousness. His legs pounded under him and brought their mouths to the surface. The girl was a dead weight in his arms. He trod water desperately and looked round him, holding Solitaire's lolling head on his shoulder above the surface.
The first thing he saw was the swirling waters of the reef not five yards away. Without its protection they would both have been crushed by the shock-wave of the explosion. He felt the tug and eddy of its currents round his legs. He backed desperately towards it, catching gulps of air when he could. His chest was bursting with the strain and he saw the sky through a red film. The rope dragged him down and the girl's hair filled his mouth and tried to choke him.
Suddenly he felt the sharp scrape of the coral against the back of his legs. He kicked and felt frantically with his feet for a foothold, flaying the skin off with every movement.
He hardly felt the pain.
Now his back was being scraped and his arms. He floundered clumsily, his lungs burning in his chest. Then there was a bed of needles under his feet. He put all his weight on it, leaning back against the strong eddies that tried to dislodge him. His feet held and there was rock at his back. He leant back panting, blood streaming up around him in the water, holding the girl's cold, scarcely breathing body against him.
For a minute he rested, blessedly, his eyes shut and the blood pounding through his limbs, coughing painfully, waiting for his senses to focus again. His first thought was for the blood in the water around him. But he guessed the big fish would not venture into the reef. Anyway there was nothing he could do about it.
Then he looked out to sea.
There was no sign of the Secatur.
High up in the still sky there was a mushroom of smoke, beginning to trail, with the Doctor's Wind, in towards the land.
There were things strewn all over the water and a few heads bobbing up and down and the whole sea was glinting with the white stomachs of fish stunned or killed by the explosion. There was a strong smell of explosive in the air. On the fringe of the debris, the red paravane lay quietly, hull down, anchored by the cable whose other end must lie somewhere on the bottom. Fountains of bubbles were erupting on the glassy surface of the sea.
On the edge of the circle of bobbing heads and dead fish a few triangular fins were cutting fast through the water. More appeared as Bond watched. Once he saw a great snout come out of the water and smash down on something. The fins threw up spray as they flashed among the tidbits. Two black arms suddenly stuck up in the air and then disappeared. There were screams. Two or three pairs of arms started to flail the water towards the reef. One man stopped to bang the water in front of him with the flat of his hand. Then his hands disappeared under the surface. Then he too began to scream and his body jerked to and fro in the water. Barracuda hitting into him, said Bond's dazed mind.
But one of the heads was getting nearer, making for the bit of reef where Bond stood, the small waves breaking under his armpits, the girl's black hair hanging down his back.
It was a large head and a veil of blood streamed down over the face from a wound in the great bald skull.
Bond watched it come on.
The Big Man was executing a blundering breast-stroke, making enough flurry in the water to attract any fish that wasn't already occupied.
Bond wondered whether he would make it. Bond's eyes narrowed and his breath became calmer as he watched the cruel sea for its decision.
The surging head came nearer. Bond could see the teeth showing in a rictus of agony and frenzied endeavour. Blood half veiled the eyes that Bond knew would be bulging in their sockets. He could almost hear the great diseased heart thumping under the grey-black skin. Would it give out before the bait was taken?