Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

The room had once been the governor’s office. Thc walls were hung with Bohara rugs, sheepskias covered the floor and logs burned in the large stone firepkce.

A Chinese officer stared down into the fire, one foot on the hearth, and tapped his booted leg with a leather swagger stick impatiently. The heavy greatcoat wife the fur collar which swung from his shoulders carried the epaulets of a full colonel.

He turned and examined Drummoad calmly. Tota don’t look too good, Jack.’

.No thanks to you, you bastard.’

‘Nothing personal, Jack. We just happen to be on different sides. Regrettable, but true.’

“What are you, Military Intelligence?.

That’s right.’

‘Am I allowed to ask for how long you’ve been making a monkey out of them back on Formosa?’

Tve never been to Formosa,’ Cheung said. “The Nationalists did have an agent called Cheung and they did send him on a mission to Nikkim. He got as far as Singapore. I took his place from there.’

‘What about the guns I flew into Tibet and Moro and his boys? All that was a fake, too, I suppose?’

‘An elaborate pretence which enabled me to communicate constantly with my superiors to help pave the way for the regaining of what has always been legally a part of the Chinese Empire by the Army of the People’s Republic.’

‘I can do without the speeches,’ Drummond said. “Where did Famia fit in?

‘She and her mother were of no particular importance. I paid them well to keep me informed of your movements.’

.You speak in the past tense.’

‘Only where Famia is concerned. She was struck in the head by a piece of sharpnel back at the airstrip.’

Remembering the months of pretence, Drummond dismissed her with no particular regret. ‘Do you really think you’re going to get away with this?”

‘Why not?’ Cheung said. ‘India will not interfere. She is interested only in maintaining the status quo and the two countries have never had a mutual defence pact. In the United Nations, there will be an emergency session, they will talk far into the night and do precisely nothing. No one wants to rock the boat, Jack. A phrase you taught me.’

“You’ve got it afl nicely worked out, haven’t you?.

‘Except for one rather important detail. The Khan is dead, which is something of a convenience, but these are a superstitious people, and to them the Khan is priest as well as king. Prince Kerim can be his only successor.’

‘And as such, an obstacle to the setting up of a People’s Republic.’

‘Not at alL’ Cheung smiled briefly. ‘With our guidance, he could be of great help to his people. He could jead them along the true path.’

‘Now Fvs heard everything,’ Drummond said.

‘Good, then perhaps you will be sensible enough to help me in this matter. After all, you always did have aa eye to the main chance. Where is the boy?.

Drummond stared at him in astonishment.Y0i& mean you don’t know?’

‘He is not at the mission. Neither are Father Kerrigan not the American girl. My men have spent hours checking the crowds and searching the immediate area of the city.’

‘And you expect me to help?’

1 know you went straight to the mission from your bungalow after Brackenhurgt brought you news of the Invasion. Famia told me.’

Drummond decided to take refuge in tiie truth. Thafs right We left my jeep and told Father Kerrigan to pack up as quickly as possible and meet us at the airstrip. Your mea moved too fast for him, I suppose.’

‘But Brackenhurst also Is proving difficult to locate. You arranged an alternative plan in case of trouble. I know you, Jack. I know how your mind works.8

‘Can I go now?’

.You might find it wiser to co-operate. I could things easier for you.’

.Do me a favour, for God’s sake,’ Drummond said. That’s like a line from a bad play.’

Colonel Cheung stared at him, apparently calm, the leather swagger stick beating against his right boot ‘All right, take him away, Sergeant,’ he said abruptly in Chinese. ‘Bring the other one.’

Drummond paused in the doorway and shook his head. “Now you really are wasting your time,’ he said.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack