He leaned against the rock for a while and then scrambled across the washed out portion of the road and walked on into the rain.
For half a mile the road dropped steeply into the valley and he caught a brief glimpse of the river, winding through the mist below. The rain became colder and darkness started to fall
There was only one way to go, though God knew where it would take him. He wasn’t even armed. His sub-machine gun had gone over the edge with the truck.
Something brushed his face. He raised a gloved hand and saw that it was covered with large melting snow-flakes. He looked up and all around him, snow fell intermingled with the rain.
From further along the road came the rattle of small arms fire and he paused for a moment, the snow gently covering him. Who was it? Hamid or Brackenhurst? But there was no means of knowing and he started to walk again.
Darkness increased and the snow gradually took the place of the rain until it was falling all about him, covering the muddy road with a white mantle. Again there came the rattle of small arms fire, much nearer this time.
The situation was beginning to look desperate. If he Stayed on the road, he was bound to run into trouble sooner or later to judge from the sound of that firing. Without shelter, he would freeze to death on a night like this.
Trees had now begun to cover the valley bottom and he moved into their shelter and stumbled along, parallel with the road, his gloved hands tucked into his armpits against the intense cold.
Somewhere up the road, there was the clatter of a hoof against stone, and a horse snickered softly. Drummond dropped behind a tree and waited.
There was a soft drubbing of hooves muffled by snow and half a dozen horsemen cantered by. They wore the typical rough sheepskin coat of the hillmen, but the red stars in the peaked caps, the Burp guns slung across their backs, told him what they were.
‘What do I do now?’ he said softly as the hoofbeats faded into the night
There was a quiet chuckle almost in his ear and All Hamid said, ‘Exactly what I was wondering.’
The Long Night
“WHEN I first heard you coming, I thought it meant trouble. I was about to become most unpleasant. Hamid smiled, his teeth gleaming in the darkness..A good thing those soldiers rode by. The moment you took cover, I knew you were on the right side.’
It was impossible to see his face in the darkness and Drummond reached out to touch him in sheer relief. ‘AH, you old bastard. What happened?’
‘You tell me. We were waiting for you to come back with news of Brackenhurst and you went by as if half the Chinese Army was on your tail.’
That was Brackenhurst, not me,’ Drummond said and explained quickly what had happened, including the loss of the truck.
There was a moment’s silence when he finished and Hamid said softly, ‘There was heavy firing up ahead, I think he may have paid the price already, Jack.’
‘He couldn’t,’ Drummond said flatly. ‘It’s too heavy..
‘Perhaps, but since Sadar, I don’t think he’s really been responsible for his actions.’
‘Where’s the truck?’
‘About fifty yards back in the woods. I decided to leave the road when we heard the firing up ahead. We obviously weren’t going to get any further. I came back to make sure that the snow covered our tracks.’
‘Judging by the soldiers, the next village is obviously in Chinese hands. What are we going to do?.
1 haven’t the slightest idea. We’ll discuss it in more comfortable surroundings. At least we should be safe here for the night’
Drummond stumbled after him through the darkness and the truck loomed out of the night..Not exactly the Savoy,’ Hamid said, ‘but better than a snowdrift on a night Hlce this. Careful, there are boxes all over the place. I dumped half the load.’
The canvas curtain at the back of the truck moved slightly, showing a chink of light and Father Kerrigan said softly, ‘Major Hamid?’