I heard Binnie say angrily, ‘Will you watch what you’re doing, you stupid bastard, or you’ll get my fist in your teeth.’
‘You little runt,’ McGuire answered. I’ll break your bloody neck.’
I could see none of this, of course, as I hauled myself under the rail and slipped inside the wheelhouse. My finger found the button under the chart table, the flap fell.
I reached for the Mauser with my left hand. As I pulled it from the clip, there was the faintest of sounds behind me. I turned, very carefully, to find Dooley standing in the open doorway.
What sixth sense had brought him there I’ll never know, but there was no expression on his face as he stood covering me with the Sterling. I dropped the Mauser, having little option in the matter. He smiled beautifully, then shot me through the left forearm.
I lay on my back in the corner for a moment. There was some sort of disturbance taking place on the other side of the wheelhouse for I could hear McGuire cursing.
Gunshot wounds seldom hurt straight away, but the shock to the nervous system is considerable so that I was understandably not quite myself as I struggled to my feet.
I fully expected Dooley to finish me off there and then, but instead, he moved outside and beckoned me to follow. I must have looked quite a sight as I paused in the doorway, da2ed and shocked, blood pouring from my left arm, because he gave me that smile again and lowered the Sterling.
I think it was the smile that did it, but then I learned a long time ago that you survive in my line of country only by seizing each chance as it comes. I moved out of the door, swaying, ready to fall down at any moment, and gave him the edge of my right hand across his throat. He dropped the Sterling and staggered back against the companion-way.
By rights such a blow should have put him on his back, but the heavy collar of his reefer coat, turned up against the rain, saved him. As I leaned down and tried to pick up the Sterling, he came for me.
I kicked the Sterling under the rail, which seemed the sensible thing to do and put a fist into his mouth when he got close enough. It was like hitting the Rock of Gibraltar and his own blow in return was of such devastating power that I felt at least two ribs go in my right side.
He wrapped those great arms around me and started to squeeze. Perhaps he’d some pleasant little idea in mind like breaking my back across the rail. If so, it was his last mistake, for when he pushed me up against it I let myself go straight over, taking him with me.
And the sea was my element, not his. I kicked hard.
taking us down, clutching at his reefer coat as he tried to
pull away. My back scraped against the anchor chain. I
grabbed hold of it with my left hand, ignoring the pain,
and clamped my right forearm across his throat.
God, how he struggled, but he was already half-gone
and nothing on top of earth or beneath it could have
made me let go. My lungs were near to bursting when I
finally released him and followed him up.
Binnie reached for me as I surfaced beside Dooley. I
sucked in air and shook my head. ‘Give me a line. I’ll pass
it under his arms.’
‘Christ Jesus, Major, the bastard’s dead. You’ve only
got to look at him.’
‘Do as I say,’ I insisted. Til explain later.’
Binnie got a line as I requested, I passed it under the
dead man’s arms and he hauled him over the rail. I
followed a moment later and collapsed on the deck, my
back against the wheelhouse.
‘Jesus, but you look in a bad way, Major,’ Binnie said
anxiously as he leaned over me.
‘Never mind that. What happened to McGuire ?’
I put the knife to him and shoved him over the side.’
‘Good lad. Now bring me a bottle of Jameson up from