Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

Drummond shook his head. ‘You’ll be facing your own tribunal, Colonel. You lost the young Khan, remember?’

Something glowed in Cheung’s eyes, he pushed the girl away from him and the revolver came up. Drummond tensed himself to spring, knowing already that he was too late.

Cheung took a deep breath and shook his head. ‘Oh, no, Jack, nothing as easy as that, I promise you..

Somewhere horses plunged and snorted and a hard, familiar voice called, ‘Over here, Cheung!’

Hamid was already sliding from the back of a mule tip on the rim of the hollow, an automatic rifle in his hands. Cheung turned, crouching, and Hamid fired three times so quickly that they sounded like one, the first shot catching Cheung in the shoulder, spinning him round, the second and third driving him hard against the wall.

Janet turned away quickly, stumbling into Drum-mond’s arms as Cheung struggled for life, clawing for the revolver he had dropped, and then blood erupted from his mouth in a bright flow and he’coughed once and lay still.

Lieutenant Singh came over the skyline on a mule, reaching for the bridle of Hamid’s mount, following him down into the hollow. Hamid turned Cheung over , with his toe and looked down at him.

‘The face of the damned.’

‘What happened?’ Drummond said. ‘I thought the Indian Army was supposed to stay on its own side of the border?’

‘It still is,’ Hamid said. ‘Young Singh here, woke me just after you left. He thought I might have other ideas, which I did. Being a young man of spirit, he decided to come with me.’

‘And Major Nam?’

‘Most unhappy.’

‘Do I detect the possibility of a court martial in the near future?’

‘A matter of supreme indifference to either of us, but, in any event, unlikely. The newspapers wouldn’t like it. Is Father Kerrigan all right?’

.As right as he ever win be,’ the old priest said, appearing in the doorway. ‘Nothing that a bottle of Jamiesons’ and a decent meal wouldn’t cure.’

“Then I suggest we take you to where we can obtain both items as quickly as possible. Poor Naru will be most uncomfortable until we cross the border.’

They brought out the horses and helped Father Kerrigan and Janet into the saddle. The old man looked down at Cheung, crossed himself and muttered a prayer as he moved off between Singh and Hamid, and Janet followed.

Drummond was the last to leave, and after he’d mounted, he sat on his mule for a moment or two looking down at Cheung, feeling strangely sad.

But nothing mattered now except that life began again, and as he rode up towards Janet, waiting for him on the edge of the plateau, he was smiling.

The End

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Categories: Higgins, Jack