‘He had a heart attack when I got him inside last night Luckily he’d brought the right sort of drugs along and Janet was able to give him an injection.’
‘He’s in pretty bad shape then?’
‘Couldn’t walk another step and, in case you don’t remember, we lost both horses last night.
He took a cheroot from his pocket, broke it in two and handed Drummond half. ‘The last one so make the most of it. He walked to the door, opened it slightly and peered out ‘Dawn’s coming and the snow seems to be lifting.’ He returned to the fire and pulled on his boots. Til take a walk and find out exactly where we are.’
The door closed behind him softly and a small, trapped wind raced round the walls seeking an outlet and then died. There was a sudden movement in the shadows on the other side of the fire and Janet sat up.
‘Jack, are you all right?’
‘Fine,’ he said softly. ‘Ali’s gone to have a look round.’
He started to dress, fumbling over the buttons with Ms swollen fingers and she threw some more wood on the fire. ‘How’s your foot?’
Tm just beginning to feel it again.’
Td better give you another injection.’
He was hardly aware of the needle going in. ‘How long will that last?’
‘Four or five hours.’
He found the laces of his combat boots quite impossible and she tied them for him after fitting the right boot over the bandaged foot gently.
‘Fine.’ He took her hand. “You look just about ready to fall down. How’s Father Kerrigan?’
‘Not too good, I’m afraid. He needs hospital treatment.’
She chuckled. ‘In better shape than the rest of us put together, I think..
There was a sudden draught as the door opened, then closed and Hamid dropped by the fire, cursing softly and holding his hands to the flames.
‘What’s it like?’ Drummond said.
‘Cold enough to freeze you to the ground, but it’s stopped snowing..
‘What about getting out of here?’
We’re in the hollow of a small plateau overlooking the lower slopes of the mountain. According to the Abbot, it’s five miles down to the big valley and the Indian border.’
‘How rough is the going?’
Hamid shrugged. ‘Impossible to teH, it’s not quite dawa yet, but it shouldn’t take us more than a couple of hours even if conditions are bad. It’s all downhill.’
Drummond got to his feet and swayed slightly, suddenly light-headed. ‘Are you all right?’ Janet said anxiously.
He nodded and walked carefully to the door. Outside it was still dark, but towards the east, a pale, grey light was lifting over the peaks. He followed the line of Hamid’s footsteps, climbing up out of the hollow and stood on the rim, looking down into the darkness of the valley.
After a while, he turned and went back to the hut. Hamid glanced up at him as he dropped beside the fire. “Well, what do you think?’
The old man will never make it.
‘We could carry him.’
Drummond shook his head. ‘We’d have enough trouble getting ourselves down there on foot Even Janet would find it a struggle.’
Then what do we do?’ Hamid said. ‘We can’t leave him.’
There was a tired chuckle from the other side of the fire and Father Kerrigan said in a.faint voice, ‘You haven’t any choice, have you?’
Tm damned if I will,’ Drummond said. ‘If we assume that Cheung and ‘his men stayed overnight at the monastery because of the storm, then we’ve got to expect that he’ll start out again at first light especially as it’s stopped snowing. He’s come this far, he won’t stop till he reaches the border and has to accept the inevitable.’
‘So what do we do?’ Hamid said. ‘Stay here and try to beat him off?’ He picked up the Garrand. ‘With one rifle.’
“What’s your suggestion?’
‘If we got to the border post fast enough, we could get help.’
‘And come straight back?’
That’s right For all we know, they may have air support down there, helicopters even. They’re bound to be reinforcing the entire area in view of what’s happened..