Hamid cursed savagely and went back inside and
Drummond stayed there, listening to the sound of the Land Rover fade into the distance, aware of the wireless operator’s excited voice as he finally contacted Indian Army Headquarters.
The smoke swirled around him, touched with crimson, and the sickly-sweet stench of burning flesh was everywhere. In the great heat, things seemed to lack definition and nothing was real any more.
A bullet splintered the wooden framework of the door and several Chinese ran out of the smoke. He ducked inside as Hamid appeared at a shattered window and emptied a Sten gun, driving them back into the smoke.
Sher Dil turned from the radio and dropped the hand mike he had been using. ‘From the sound of things we’d better get moving. Every man for himself, and try to get across the river. There’s a village called Bandong ten miles due south on the load. We’ll meet there.’
The rear door led into a fenced yard. It was strangely quiet and the smoke hung low ia the heavy rain, reducing visibility considerably.
The wireless operator climbed up on the fence and swung a leg over. There was a sudden cry and a group of Chinese appeared about forty yards to the left Several of them fired at once and he screamed and fell backwards into the yard, clutching his face.
Sher Dil scrambled through a gap in the fence and Started up the slope and Drummond went after him, weaving desperately from side to side as the Chinese continued to fire. He was aware of Hamid hard on his heels, of Sher Dil disappearing over the rim of the escarpment
He could taste blood in his mouth as he clawed his way up, slipping on the wet earth, and then the jagged rocks on the skyline loomed above him. He went over the top, head down, sobbing for breatihi and tripped over aa outstretched foot
He had one brief impression of Sher BE sliding down the steep slope of shale to the river below, picking himself up at the bottom and plunging into the water, and then they moved out of the swirling smoke to surround him, small and misshapen in their quilted uniforms, each carrying a rifle that seemed too large for him, an old-fashioned sword bayonet on the end.
Hamid was lying on the ground a few yards away and a soldier stood over him, a foot on his neck. Drumraond backed against a boulder and the brown peasant faces moved in on him.
Edge of the Sword
THE town gaol was one of the few major buildings left undamaged by the attack, and from the small cell on the comer of the second floor, Drummond had an interesting view of the city through the barred window.
It was 10 a.m., four hours since the initial attack, but smoke still drifted across the stricken city through the heavy rain and a heavy grey mist moved up from the river and crouched at the end of the streets.
It was unbelievably cold and rain drifted in a fine spray through the bars as Drummond dropped to the ground. ‘It’s going to be aa early winter this year. I feel it in my bones..
Tor us, a matter cf academic interest only,. Hamid ‘said from his bunk.
‘You think so?’
There was &e sullen chatter of a machine gun from down by the river and Hamid smiled bleakly. There’s your answer. Nothing like cutting down on the opposition. They haven’t stopped since this morning.’
Then why have they let us last this long? Why the special treatment?’
There was no time for a reply. A key grated in the lock, the door opened and a small sergeant stepped in, flanked by two privates armed with sub-machine guns. Hamid got to his feet and the sergeant shook his head.
‘Not you, this one.’
They pushed Drummond Into the corridor before he had a chance to say anything, and the door clanged into place with a grim finality.
The sergeant turned without a word and started along the corridor and Drummond followed, the two privates bringing up the rear. They mounted a flight of stone steps to the top floor and halted outside a door. The sergeant knocked, listened for a moment and then led the way in.