Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

‘What time is it?. he asked softly.

She glanced at her watch. ‘Just after three. I couldn’t sleep..

She made tea in two tin mugs and handed him one and they sat in companionable silence in the glow of the stove. After a while, he said gently, ‘What is it, Janet? Are you afraid?’

.I think I am,’ she said simply. ‘Even Vietnam didn’t prepare me for anything like this. Do you think well get out?’

He was tempted to answer witih a false assurance and then looked into that calm, grave face and knew that he couldn’t. I’m not sure. As Sher Dil says, if the Chinese have moved fast along the other side, they could be ahead of us. They’re bound to find boats at Huma or one of the other riverside villages. They could put men across to cut the road with no trouble.’

This bridge up ahead that Sher Dil mentioned. Do you think there may be trouble there?’

‘Trouble is where you find it. There’s never any sense in worrying too much in advance.’ He smiled. “What will you do when all this is over?’

‘Carry on to Chicago with Kerim, I suppose. That still stands whatever else may be changed. I’m due three months leave anyway.’

‘And afterwards?’

Tm not sure. I go wherever the Society sends me..

‘Isn’t it tune you thought about settling down?.

‘Is that a straight ofier?’

He shook his head. ‘I could offer you money, Janet, enough and to spare. But take a look at the debit side. I’m forty years old, a beat-up ex-Navy flyer who’s seen too much of hot countries and strange cities, had enough of flying to places where no one else will go. I want to rest my head somewhere for a while. That doesn’t sound like much of a catch to me.’

‘I know one thing,’ she said quietly. If we don’t try, we’ll regret it for the rest of our lives.’

He sat staring down at the light of the stove, her hand in his, sighed and got to his feet Til get a little air. Fve got some thinking to do.’

Janet sat there in the darkness, and after a while Hamid climbed over the tailboard. He helped himself to tea and squatted on the other side of the stove from her.

‘I should wake Jack. He’s supposed to take over from me at four.’

That’s all right. He was here. He’s just gone for soraa air.’

Trouble?’ Hamid said.

She shrugged. ‘Four o’clock la the morning talk, that’s aH. He’s just decided he’s too old for me.’

Hamid nodded. ‘He’s tired, that’s all.’ He hesitated and then decided to carry oa. ‘Jack isn’t aware that I know this, Janet, but for the past five years at least, he’s been working for British Intelligence, mainly flying illegal reconnaissance flights across the borders of what might be termed the less friendly powers.’

The breath went out of her in a long sigh. Tbu’re sure about this?’

‘Oh, yes, the information comes to me from friends la Indian Army Intelligence. A long time for a man to live on Ms nerves..

‘Which explains a great many things.’

‘Last year he crashed in the Borneo jungle and was badly wounded. They nearly got him that time and the Indonesians do not care for the British these days. His fate would hardly have been a pleasant one.’

‘Is that when he got that terrible scar on his face?”

He nodded and leaned across, his face grave in the diffused light of the stove. ‘He’s a good man, Janet, but he’s had enough. Take him home, wherever that turns out to be.’

There was an obvious change in her, she seemed confident, assured, smiled suddenly and squeezed his hand. ‘I will, Ali, I will.’ She got to her feet. ‘I’d better check on Kerim.”

Hamid poured himself some more tea, feeling strangely sad, and after a while Drummond climbed over the tailboard and joined him.

‘Where’s Janet?’

“Gone to have a look at Kerim. Who’s on duty at the road?’

‘Ahmed, I think.’ Drummond hesitated and then went on, ‘Brackenhurst turned up when I was doing my hour up there last night.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack