Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

Drammoad moved a little doser. It was a Chinese soldier, swinging by a rope from one of the charred beams, tongue protruding obscenely from the black, swollen face. Where the eyes had been, were only empty, ragged sockets and one ear had been torn off.

As his eyes became accustomed to the half-light, he saw the others, each hanging from a beam, staring blindly into eternity.

‘We were away when they arrived,’ Moro said simply. ‘When we returned, the fools were so busy ravishing the women, they had not even thought to post a guard.’

One of the children ran forward with a harsh laugh and grabbed the nearest corpse by the legs, swinging it from side to side furiously and the other children followed suit, running through the shadows, dodging the swinging bodies, helpless with laughter.

Drummond turned and moved into the sunlight again, his mouth dry. ‘I think we should be making a move.’

Mr. Cheung didn’t speak. His face was strangely pale and there was shock and pain in his eyes as they returned to the village. Moro whistled for his horse, caught the bridle and led the way back to the lake.

‘What did you bring this time?’ he asked Drummond.

‘Automatic rifles, sub-machine guns and ten thousand rounds of ammunition.’

The Tibetan nodded. ‘Good, but we could do with some explosives next time.’

Drummond glanced at Cheung enquiringly. ‘Can you manage that?’

The Chinese nodded. ‘I think so. Would a fortnight today be too soon?’

‘Not for me,’ Drummond said. ‘Two more trips and I’m finished. The sooner I get them done, the better I’ll like it.’

‘A fortnight, then,’ Moro said and they went over the escarpment and down to the shore beside the lake.

His men had unloaded the plane and already several packhorses were on their way to the village. Drurnmond gave him a final cigarette, climbed in and strapped himself into his seat As the engine roared into life, Mr. Cheung turned and held out his hand.

“We are united in the same struggle,. lie said and climbed into the plans.

As he closed the door and fastened Ms seat belt, the Beaver turned into the wind and started to taxi along the shore, sand whipped up by the propeller rattled against the windows. A moment later, the bluff at the far end of the lake was rushing to meet them and they were rising into the air.

Drummond circled once and Moro, already back in the saddle, waved, turned his horse and galloped back towards the village.

Drummond checked his instruments and started to gain altitude. ‘Well, what did you think?.

‘Words fail me.’

‘I thought they would..

Cheung lit a cigarette and sighed heavily. To you, it is nothing, Jack. Dangerous, unpleasant, yes, but something you are mixed up in for one reason only-money.’

‘And to you it’s a holy war,’ Drummond said. ‘I know, only don’t start trying to get me to join the crusade. I had a bellyful of that kind of thing in Korea. Enough to last a lifetime.’

‘AH right,’ Qieung said wearily..What about these explosives Moro wants on the next trip? If I have them delivered to the railhead at Juma by next weekend can you pick them up?’

Tm flying down tomorrow with Major Hamid,. Drommcndsaid. ‘Hg’s taking a week’s leave. He thought he might enjoy it more if I went along. Why don’t you join us?’

Cheung shook his head. Td like to, but Fve been getting behind with the paperwork and I’m supposed to be dining with the old Khan on Saturday night.’

“Suit yourself,’ Drummond said.

Another two thousand. That brought the total standing to his credit in the Bank of Geneva to œ23,000. Two more trips plus the money Ferguson owed him and he’d have a straight œ30,000. After that, he was finished. Time he had a rest. He leaned back in the seat, humming to himself and concentrated on his instruments as he took the Beaver slanting across the glacier and into the pass.

Moro galloped alongside the packhorses, whistling, slashing their bony rumps with the heavy leather riding whip. He urged Ms mount forward and entered the village first, clattering over the loose stones and dismounted outside his house.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack