Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

Til go with you,’ Hamid said.

They walked away together and Drummond called to Ahmed and helped Janet down. The little Afridi arrived on the run. ‘Yes, sahib?’

‘Miss Tate’s going to cook a meal for us in the back of the supply truck,’ Drummond said. ‘Get the spirit stove going for her and open a few tins. If you don’t do everything she tells you at the double, I’ll cut your throat.’

Ahmed grinned at Janet. The sahib has a kind heart, memsahib. He could never do such a terrible thing. You come with me. I will see to everything.’

They moved away and Drummond went after Father Kerrigan and Hamid. He found them in the back of the third truck with the refugees. An engine inspection

Kght bad been rigged up to illuminate the interior. Brackenhurst sat on an ammunition box, stripped to the waist, as Father Kerrigan carefully peeled layers of bandage away from his left arm and the women and children watched solemnly.

Ke looked pale and drawn and every so often glanced furtively at Hamid who watched calmly. The priest removed the final bandage, examined Hie arm and nodded.

‘Nothing like as bad as I thought at first You’ll be fine in a day or two.’

‘It hurts like hell,’ Brackenhurst said.

‘What a shame.’ Drummond pulled himself up and looked over the tailboard. ‘Don’t you think that’s a shame, AH?’

‘Undoubtedly,’ Hamid replied calmly. “You must rest, Tony. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.’

Brackenhurst threw them both a glance of pure hatred and Drummond dropped to the ground and moved back to the supply truck. He could smell cooking, and a sudden, hollow ache told him how long it had been since he’d eaten. When he climbed inside, Janet and Ahmed crouched over the stove and Sher Dil sat on a packing case, the map across his knees.

‘You look worried.’

Tm thinking about tomorrow. We swing very close to the river again. If the Chinese have moved fast along the other side in their troop carriers and get a few patrols across, we could run into trouble. The bridge across the Sokim Ravine, for example-if that was destroyed, we would be on foot.

‘We can worry about that in the morning,’ Drummond said. Tm only interested in one thing at the moment – food.’ m

Ahmed passed plates of stewed meat and beans across, and as they started to eat Father Kerrigan climbed up, followed by Hamid.

‘Will you see that Mr. Brackenhurst gets something to eat,’ the priest said to Ahmed and frowned at Drummond. ‘Weren’t you a little hard on him back there? Any man’s nerve can go for a while in a situation like this..

‘He never had any in the first place,. Drummoad said flatly.

The old priest frowned, glancing from one to the other, aware that there was something here that he did not understand. Drummond jumped over the tailboard and went round to the cab.

He sat in the warm darkness smoking and Ahmed brought him a mug of strong, scalding tea. A little later Sher Dil opened the door.

Tve worked out a guard rota. Td like you to take over from Amal up on the road at ten. You’ll also ba on guard down here for an hour from 4 a.m. I want everyone up at five. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.’

He vanished into the darkness and Drummond pulled the fur-lined hood of his parka over his head. Ten o’clock. That left tune for a couple of hours sleep. He settled into the comer and closed his eyes.

He was naming down a long, dark road and somewhere ahead of him was Janet. She was calling to him and he knew that something terrible was close behind. He ran faster and then the surface of the road changed to mud and his feet began to stick in it, ankle-deep. Clouds of rain blew across his path, blotting her from sight, and only the sound of her voice told him she was still there. It became fainter and fainter and then he felt terribly afraid and the thing behind him, the nameless evil that made him so afraid, grabbed him violently by the shoulder.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack