Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

Drummond slung the sub-machine gun across his back and took the reins. The horse moved away from him, rolling an eye and he pulled it back savagely and scrambled into the crude saddle.

Hamid urged his mount into a gallop and Drummond hung on grimly as his own horse followed. There was excited shouting somewhere to the rear, but no shooting and then the black finger of rock loomed out of the falling snow on their left and Hamid turned into the trees.

Father Kerrigan v/as standing anxiously beside the truck and Janet leaned over the tailboard as they dismounted. “What happened?’ the old priest said.

‘Never mind now,’ Drummond told him. ‘Get the boy. We’ve got to get out of here.’

Janet handed Kerim down, slung a small military haversack over her back and followed him. Swathed in the grey army blankets, the boy looked like a little old woman and didn’t seem to be in the least afraid, his large, dark eye taking in everything with interest.

Drummond gave Janet a leg up on to his horse and handed her the child. She settled him in front of her and took the reins.

‘Across the road and up the hillside,. he said, ‘and don’t waste any time getting there..

As Hamid helped Father Kerrigan into the saddle of the other horse, there was movement up on the road, voices called excitedly and then, quite suddenly, the sharp report of a rule and a bullet thudded into the side of the truck.

Drummond unslung his sub-machine gun and gave

Hamid a violent shove. ‘Get out of it, All! Til hold them.’

Hamid didn’t argue. He vaulted up behind Father Kerrigan and smashed his clenched fist against the horse’s hindquarters. It bounded forward into the trees and the other horse followed instinctively.

Drummond fired a quick burst through the brush towards the excited voices and someone cried out sharply. He ran from the shelter of the truck and dropped on one knee behind a tree.

He could hear the sound of his friends’ progress somewhere to the left as Hamid took them away on a diagonal course, obviously intending to cross the road lower down.

A mounted soldier burst through the trees towards the truck, another behind him. Drummond loosed off a long burst that sent both men and horses down in a confused heap, turned and ran headlong through the trees, following the trail left in the snow by the others.

There was movement over to his right, dark shadows against the snow and he emptied the sub-machine gun in a great, sweeping arc and ran on.

As he emerged into a small clearing, a Chinese soldier ran out of the trees on his right. Drummond’s submachine gun was empty. He dropped it and rushed straight at the Chinese at the same headlong pace.

The man was badly shaken. Instead of trying to aim his Burp gun, he raised it defensively. Drummond ducked under the flailing weapon, grabbed for the throat and lifted a knee into the man’s crutch. As the Chinese sank into the snow, he tore the weapon from his grasp and ran on.

He was sobbing for air as he stumbled through the trees and scrambled up the little slope to the road. He slipped and fell to one knee. As he stood up and made to cross, he heard voices through the falling snow.

At least a dozen soldiers were running towards him, but these weren’t mounted, they were on foot and wore normal quilted uniforms. And then he saw Cheung in his long greatcoat with the fur collar, mouth open in a soundless cry.

Drummond emptied the magazine in one continuous, clumsy burst that ripped up the surface of the road for twenty yards in front of the Chinese, ran across and started to scramble up the hillside.

He heard the roars of the men behind as they followed then a cry of alarm echoed by an explosion. A few seconds later, there was another. He kept on moving and fell oa his face.

Hands dragged him to his feet and Hamid said, ‘A good thing I had those grenades.’

Drummond leaned against him, feet splayed and fought for breath. The lot I ran into just now,’ he said. ‘Not soldiers from the village. Cheung and his men. They must have followed on foot from the bridge. Isn’t the bastard ever going to give up?’

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Categories: Higgins, Jack