“What did he want?’
Tra not sure. I rather got the impression he was toying with the idea of killing me, but basically he just wanted to make sure that we hadn’t told the others what really happened at Sadar.’
He explained what had taken place. When he had finished, Hamid nodded slowly, a frown on bis face. ‘Of course, he could argue that he was carrying the gun merely as precaution in case of trouble. He could never have used it Far too noisy. The knife is the weapon for darkness, Jack.’
Tm not sure that he’s rational enough to look at things in that way any more,’ Drummond said. ‘He’s badly scared, and he’s certainly never possessed the kind of cold-blooded guts it takes to go after a man with a knife..
‘We’ll have to watch him from now on, that’s all,’ Hamid shivered suddenly. ‘I don’t like it at this time in the morning, Jack. Makes me think of other dawn-ings, other places and a lot of good men dead.’ He laughed in a peculiar fashion. ‘I must be getting old.’
‘Aren’t we all?’ Drummond said.
He got to his feet and moved to the tailboard. It was already dawn, a grey light seeping through the mist The heavy rain lancing into the ground and he stared out at it morosely, wondering what the day would bring.
Wrapped in a sheepskin on the floor in front of the fire in die headman’s house at Bandong, Piroo was awakened suddenly by a savage kick in the side. He sat up with a start, aware, as if ia a dream, effaces staring down at him, the shining Burp guns, the red stars in the peaked caps.
Somewhere, Yussuf cried aloud, running for the door. A foot tripped him and a rifle butt thudded savagely against the back of his skull, cracking the bone.
Hroo was dragged to his feet, gibbering with fear and then a sharp voice cut across the noise and confusion and there was silence.
Colonel Cheung paused in the doorway, the fur collar of his greatcoat pulled up around his neck, the face beneath the fur hat lined and drawn with fatigue.
There had been considerable delay in crossing the river at Kama. For one thing, the shallows had been deeper than usual owing to the heavy rain and one of the troop carriers had bogged down. They had wasted several hours in trying to salvage it. It had been almost dark when he had finally decided to push on with the remaining vehicle and a dozen mea.
He had kept on the move for most of the night, often at no more than ten miles an hour in the appalling conditions, on several occasions almost losing the vehicle, but there was always the hope that Father Kerrigan and his party might be at Bandong. It was an obvious stopping place. When they had reached the village, he had sent the sergeant and ten men in on foot, giving them five minutes’ start before following in the troop carrier.
‘What’s going on here?. he demanded.
The sergeant, a small, hard-faced Cantonese named Ng, hurried forward. ‘The village is empty, Colonel, except for these two. Deserters from the look of them..
‘Deserters?’ Cheung’s face changed, went pale with excitement as he pushed his men aside and examined Piroo. ‘Who are you?’ he demanded in Urdu. ‘One of
Colonel Sher Dil’s men? Did you escape across the river?”
‘No, sahib,’ Piroo said. ‘I was with the supply convoy.’
The convoy was here?. Cheung said. ‘Where is it now?.
‘Gone, sahib, to India with Colonel Sher Dil and the young Khan. They are hoping to reach the border.’
‘Sher Dil was here?’ Cheung said in amazement.
‘Oh, yes, sahib,’ Piroo babbled. ‘Also Major Hamid and Druramond sahib. They all crossed the river from Sadar.’
‘When did they leave?’
.Yesterday, two hours before dark. They intended to camp somewhere along the road when night fell. I heard the colonel say so.’
Cheung laughed excitedly, slapping his leather swagger stick across his gloved palm. ‘Get the men together at once, Sergeant. We’re going on.’
He turned to the door and Sergeant Ng said quickly,.What shall I do with this one, sir?’