There was a discreet tap on the door and she called quickly,.Who is it?’
‘Ali – can I speak to you for a moment?.
She pulled on her dressing gown, fastened the cord and opened the door. Hamid came in, resplendent in his best uniform.
.How are you feeling?’
‘Fine. I slept for an hour, then had a shower..
‘Good.’ He hesitated and then went on apologetically. Tm sorry about this, Janet, but Fm afraid I’d already arranged something for this evening.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘As it is, I’m pressed for time.’
1 hope not,9 he said solemnly.
She chuckled. ‘You’re quite incorrigible. Better not keep her waiting.’
‘lack went out to the airstrip to check on some cargo we’re taking with us tomorrow. Motor spare, I think. He shouldn’t be more than half an hour..
She listened to the sound of his footsteps fade along the narrow passage and then closed the door. She stood with her back to it, a slight frown on her face and then walked slowly across to the window.
The drumming was louder now, an insistent throb. bing that filled the night and someone was singing in & high, reedy voice, hardly moving’from.one note to another, monotonous and yet strangely exciting.
She hurried across to the bed, opened her second suitcase and took out a sleeveless black dress in heavy silk that she had purchased in a moment of weakness in Saigon. She held it against herself for a moment in the mirror, and then smiled and started to dress. When she was ready, she pulled on a white linen duster coat against the night air, wound a silk scarf around her head and went downstairs.
The Hindu night clerk dozed at his desk, but came awake at once when she touched him lightly on the shoulder. ‘I want to go to the airstrip. Can you get me a tongaT
‘Certainly, memsahib. Come this way.’
He took her out through the entrance and down the steps to the street. A light, two-wheeled tonga was parked at the kerb, a magnificent affair, a beautiful, high-stepping horse between the shafts, his brass har. ness gleaming in the lamplight
The driver squatted on the pavement, chatting to an old beggar, but he sprang to his feet at once and ran forward. The Hindu desk clerk handed Janet in, gave the man his destination and then moved away.
The sky was scattered with the fire of a million stars, the moon so large that it seemed unreal like a pasteboard cut-out The wind blew in through the darkness carrying the last heat of the day across the river and she breathed deeply, wondering what the night might bring, her body shaking with a strange, nervous excitement
The airstrip was half a mile outside Juma on a fiat plain beside the river. It was not an official stopping place for any of the big air-lines and had been constructed by the RAF as an emergency strip during the war.
There was one prefabricated concrete hangar still painted in the camouflage of wartime, and the plane squatted inside, the scarlet and gold of its fuselage gleaming in the light of a hurricane lamp suspended from a beam.
Drummond leaned against a trestle table beside a wall-eyed Bengali merchant named Samil, Cheung’s agent in Juma, and watched two porters load the aarrow boxes into the plane.
‘What’s in this one?’ he asked, kicking a wooden crate that carried the neatly stencilled legend Machine Parts, F. Cheung, Esq., Sadar, Sikkim.
Samil produced a bunch of keys, unfastened the padlock which secured the lid of the crate and opened it He removed a mass of cotton waste and revealed a layer of rifles, each one still coated in grease from the factory.
Drummond took one out. It was a Garrand automatic, a beautiful weapon. He examined it closely and frowned..What about this?’ He indicated the legend, United States Army on the butt plate..A bit stupid, isn’t it? I don’t think our American friends would be amused,.
That’s what they sent me this time,’ Samil shrugged. ‘Surplus stock always comes cheaper, you should know that’
‘Somehow, I don’t think Cheung is going to like it. He raised the Garrand, took an imaginary sight out of the door and stiffened suddenly as Janet Tate moved out of the shadows.