Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

Her mouth opened to cry a warning and he ducked, turning to meet the rush of feet from the darkness.

A fist grazed his cheek, he lost his balance and rolled over and over, hands protecting his genitals as feet swung in viciously.

He sprang up and backed to the wall. There were three of them, dark, shadowy figures in tattered robes, scum from the market place hired for a few rupees. Above them on the steps below the lamp, stood the man from the cafe, supported by two of his friends, blood on his face.

A knife gleamed dully and Janet ran in past the three men to join Drummond against the walL ‘Kill him!” the bearded man cried. ‘Kill the swine!’

Drummond was tired. It had been a long evening. His hand disappeared inside his coat reaching to the leather holster on his left hip and reappeared holding a Smith & Wesson.38 Magnum revolver with a three-inch barrel.

He fired into the air and there was a sudden stillness. ‘Go on, get out of it!’ he shouted angrily and fired a shot towards the man on the steps that ricocheted into the night.

The men from the market place were already running away along the shore, cursing volubly, and the gover- nor’s son and his two friends staggered into the darkness.

Drummond slipped the revolver back into its holster and looked down at her calmly. ‘You know, I really think it’s time we went back to the hotel, don’t you?’

She started to tremble uncontrollably and he reached out, pulling her into his arms. ‘It’s all right. Everything’s all right now.’

He stroked her hair gently with one hand and his lips brushed her forehead. In the heavy stillness of the night, she could almost hear her heart beating. When he tilted her chin and kissed her gently on the mouth, it was like nothing she had ever known before.

He slipped her arm in his without speaking, and together they went up the steps to the embankment

The Last Place God Made

THE air was bumpy as they flew out of the pass for a forty-knot wind was blowing across the mountains. They climbed through a heat haze that was already blurring the horizon and levelled out at 9,000 feet to cross the mountains between India and Balpur.

Janet Tate was in the front passenger seat beside Drummond and Hamid sat behind her. She was wearing a white blouse, collar turned down over the neck of a cashmere sweater, cream whipcord slacks and a sheepskin coat that Drummond had provided.

Hamid poured coffee into a plastic cup and handed it to her. ‘We’re moving into Balpur now,’ he said. The mountains to the east are in Bhutan with Assam far beyond in the haze. The Chinese broke through in strength there in 1962.’

“Were you there?’

He shook his head. ‘No, I was on the Ladakh front in the north-west.

It was supposed to be pretty bad up there, wasn’t it?.

‘A vision from hell,’ he said grimly. ‘Can you imagine what it’s like trying to live at 20,000 feet, never mind fight? The mules died of asthma, the men of pulmonary oedema. You’ve heard of it, I suppose.’

She nodded. The lungs fill with water, don’t they?’

.An ironic way for a man to die in battle – by drowning. We could never get them down to the base hospitals in time for treatment, that was the trouble.’

‘Hadn’t you any air support, helicopters?.

He laughed harshly. ‘Until October, 1962, we hadn’t needed them. The way of peace was the way for India.’ He shook his head..No, we didn’t have the necessary planes. Even if we had, there weren’t the pilots. Certainly not the kind who could fly hi that sort of country. That’s where I met Jack, you know.’

She turned to Drummond in surprise..You were flying for the Indian Army?’

‘Five hundred quid a week,’ he said. ‘Good money by any standards.’

“Don’t listen to him,’ Hamid broke in. ‘A game he plays. From Leh, he flew three operational flights a day into the Ladakh mountains to one small airstrip at 18,000 feet, taking in supplies and ammunition, bringing out the sick and wounded. In five weeks, he flew just over a hundred sorties, then collapsed and spent three weeks in hospital suffering from complete exhaustion.

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