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as a chief field agent for k section, that trouble-shooting, free-swinging branch of the cia directed by general mcfee, he was not surprised to be sent into any dark and dangerous corner of the world. there was a clause in his contract that gave him the right to refuse an assignment, but he had never used it. he had been in the business too long to quit now, no matter how low his survival factor had dipped in k section's statistical charts. he knew he would never be allowed to quit. he knew too much. fawcett gold medal books by edward s. aarons: assignment-angelina assignment-ankara assignment-bangkok assignment-black viking assignment-budapest assignment-the cairo dancers assignment-carlotta cortez assignment-long hai kill assignment-the girl in the gondola assignment-golden girl assignment-helene assignment ,nt-karachi assignment-lili lamaris assignment-lowlands assignment-madeleine assignment-maltese maiden assignment-manchurian ,doll assignment-mara tirana assignment-moon girl assignment-nuclear nude assignment-palermo assignment-peking assignment-school for spies assignment-silver scorpion assignment-sorrento siren assignment-star stealers assignment-stella marni assignment-suicide assignment-sulu sea assignment-to disaster assignment-tokyo assignment-treason assignment-white rajah assignment-zoraya catspaw ordeal come back, my love the decoy

don't cry, beloved escape to love girl on the run hell to eternity passage to terror the sinners state department murders assignment silver scorpion by edward s. aarons a fawcett gold medal book fawcett publications, inc., greenwich, conn. assignment silver scorpion all characters in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. copyright (c) 1973 by fawcett publications, inc. all rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof. printed in the united states of america june 1973 to my wife grace assignment silver scorpion chapter i "why don't you just ask me to kill myself?" durell said. the girl delicately fingered back a skein of brown hair that clung to her face with loving persistence. "i don't know what you mean, sam." "i mean that i'm not going in there," durell said. "i've flown from london to lisbon to lamy, in chad. and to here. but i'm not going on." "did you speak to tom adams in lamy?" "yes. he's down with a fever. he gave me some briefing sheets and referred to you as finch, our central in boganda. or has the name of this country changed again?" "i'm finch. so i'm a girl. does it bother you? it's your job to go on." "my job," durell said, "is to stay alive-first, last, and always." he disliked her. he disliked this place. he hated what she was asking him to do. most of all, he had nothing but distaste for her. he stood up. she said, "sit down, cajun." he sat down. he was almost amused by the imperative in her voice. she was taking the business in a very big way, making a production out of it, the way she made a deal out of everything she said and every gesture she made, even to studying the grimy dirt on her bare feet. he had to admit they were small feet for a tall girl,

with a fine arch and delicate ankles. but they were very dirty. he wondered who had given her this job. if and when he ever returned to washington, he'd see that the knot headed bureaucrat was shoved off to the boondocks. his drink, which he hadn't touched, spilled over on the plastic table top. the table jiggled. the plank floor shook and vibrated under the soles of his boots. even the cigarette smoke that clung in the air like the seven veils of sin made abrupt jigs and jogs in their drifting wreaths. dust fell from the ceiling. from far in the distance came the repeated roll of thunder. but it was not thunder. nobody stopped dancing. there was a fat german woman tourist with a lithe, adonisfaced gigolo picked up at cannes, and she laughed and said something to her stud, and durell wondered if she was recalling the gotterdammerung at berlin. she was old enough to remember the nazis clearly. there was a japanese couple, who looked only fleetingly alarmed. there were "liberated" natanga couples who wore mod clothes and miniskirts, their purple-black faces streaked with sweat. they wore their tribal scars and tattoos as if they had become ashamed of them, which was too bad, durell thought. a man without a link to the past drowned in a swamp of crocodiles, without a lifeline to turn to. the band was portuguese, four of them, seated on a little stand at one end of christophe's boite. last week, before the attempted military coup, it had been named ahmad feranni's. the rebellion changed all that. moslem names were no longer popular here. "well?" the girl asked. "why are you so impatient?" "there isn't much time." durell listened to the steady crump of mortar shells landing in the getoba district of the capital city, at the other end of the world from christophe's. people were dying there. moslems and indians and any unlucky traveler who happened to be in the bazaars when the military finally closed the net on the last luckless rebels still acting against genocide. they were dying in any case. he couldn't save them. the girl was being ridiculous. finch brushed back the tendrils of brown hair that persisted in caressing her cheek and covering her eyes. he wondered why she didn't wear a barrette or a hair ribbon or something. he wanted to slap her. "what is your first name again?" he asked, simply to irritate her. her eyes were bland. "georgette. georgette finch. there's more to me than just my name. you've been looking at it." "i'd guess 38-24-38. a womanly woman." "you have the insufferable superiority of man." "and you have the arrogance of youth," he countered. "i'm not going into getoba. why should i?" "i think you're scared," she said. "that's why you're being flippant. do you have a cigarette?" "i don't smoke. and i'm scared of you, of course."

she said promptly, "you're not going to bed with me. i can see that's what you want. i'd kill you." "you'll kill me in bed or out of it in getoba. i'd rather die in bed, finch. who recruited you to k section?" "why does that matter?" "i'm going to see that the idiot gets fired," he said. she contemplated her dirty feet. "the man was general dickinson mcfee, your boss." she paused. "and you're going into getoba. tonight. after you see his excellency, the president, inurate motuku." he still disliked her. the shelling at the other end of the city went on for exactly five minutes. the portuguese band switched to fado music, and the dancers gave up, and a soulfully tragic woman in a costume out of the algarve began to sing a lament for the sailors who went out from lisbon centuries ago with vasco da gama and circumnavigated this troubled continent of africa. the woman's voice had a nice tremolo. no one understood the words, but tragedy clung like limpets to every syllable and note. durell watched georgette finch get up and walk to the bar to buy some cigarettes from the bartender. every man's eye followed the shivering bottom of her stained dungarees and the bounce under her white shirt. he sighed and finally drank his drink. the liquor was a japanese imitation of kentucky bourbon. the air was oppressive, hot, and steamy. outside, as the night deepened, the capital city, for all its modern white cubes built by world bank funds and aid from moscow, peking, and washington-the government was not fussy about ideological payments-began to feel and smell like the surrounding swamp and jungle. death crept out there and mourned with the f ado singer's music. every hour on the hour the mortars crumped and banged and splashed somebody's entrails on the bamboo and thatched huts that went up in smoke with each explosion. anyone who tried to get out of the getoba district was summarily shot at noon the next day on the lawn in front of the pristine presidential palace. durell sighed again and watched georgette finch undulate back to the booth. the f ado singer watched her with vicious eyes. "let's cut out all the nonsense, shall we?" miss finch said, sliding into the booth. "i know all about you, sam durell. you're tough as they come, cruel as a katula viper. why try to put me on? this isn't really the age of aquarius. a new day will dawn, but not tomorrow. i've done a good job here for k section, and nobody bothers. my cover is intact." "you think," he said. "no, it's true. i know the business. i went through basic training summa cum laude. god, if my friends knew i was working out here for the cia, they'd never speak to me again." "then why are you doing it?" her eyes challenged him. "why do you do it?" "it pays a lot of money," he said. "bull crap," she said.

"are you a patriot?" he asked. "semantics. don't try to mix me up." "that would be impossible. you're mixed up enough. do your parents know you're here?" "i've been in this country through three name-changes so far. i wasn't here when it was part portuguese, part british, of course. but then it was uranda-boganda, boganda, natanga boganda. now it's just boganda, which irritates the natanga tribe. boganda means `unity.' nifty, huh?" "i know." "i came here the children work for the here. i have everybody." as a peace corps baby and stayed to take a job teaching english to of the local government clerks and the clerks themselves, and now i government as an official interpreter and clerk, class two. i like it empathy for this country. i want to help them. i want to help

"you'll get killed," he predicted. "no," georgette said. "that's your hangup, not mine. you're the one who does the dying." "i do a little of it every day," he said. "why do i have to go into getoba?" "the president will tell you. inurate motuku is a very nice man. i don't like his wife, but he's a peach." "do you know that you keep using slang straight out of the twenties?" durell asked. "i wish i were back there," georgette said. "but that was thirty years before father inseminated mother." she looked at him with sudden anger. "you keep looking at my dirty feet. they turn you off, don't they?" "that's right." "well, i like going bare foot." "more empathy with the natives?" she spoke between her teeth. "to hell with you." durell said, "i wouldn't touch you with the proverbial ten-foot pole." "don't brag," georgette sighed. they came in as the fado singer finished her last lament. they were as silent as ghosts, they were obscure, they slid into christophe's like smoke. they wore dark, london made suits about the color of their square faces, and their eyes were as dark as the night, muddy-red with exhaustion. killing was a tiring business, durell thought. they looked at him and the girl without seeming to and took a stance at the end of the bar where he couldn't get out without passing close to

them. they were big and tough and professional. the heat didn't bother them, although everyone else was sweating. it was their country, after all. durell was aware of the faint bulge of his gun under his seersucker striped coat. "excuse me, georgette," he said. "the fkp is here. right behind you. don't turn around." she pushed back her hair. "how many?" "two." "they always go in twos. looking at us?" "they're very careful not to." "there is a men's room in the back." "yes, i know." she surprised him by saying "good luck" and made a business again of looking for another cigarette in her fringed handbag. he saw the small .28 revolver in there among her feminine artifacts. she had long dark lashes that made twin fans on her cheek. her hands did not tremble. he got up and walked to the bar and ordered another drink to be sent over to georgette and then paused and looked at the two fkp men. their tribal scars made beaded black pearls on their hard cheeks. one of them met his gaze without smiling; his averted lips were glum. smoke curled from the big black mahogany beams that patterned the ceiling; the place was like a cave. durell turned and went into the men's room at the back of christophe's. behind him the tables seemed quieter, the patrons more restrained, but maybe that was because there was an interlude between musical entertainments. he didn't think so. the men's room was just a closet at the end of a narrow hallway where the plaster had peeled like poor papier-mch. it reeked of urine, vomit, sweat, and mud. there was a small window about two feet square in the wall opposite the door. he fastened the hook on the door but saw that one good push would tear the rusty metal free of the termite ridden wood. there was no urinal, no wash stand, just a cracked concrete hole in the floor. he felt a momentary pin prick of anxiety for the girl and dismissed it. the window opened easily. the hinges were well oiled. he pulled himself up and got his shoulders through, as someone knocked quietly on the door behind him. he didn't stop. he came out head first into the warm black offal o the night and rolled over, got up on his feet. his passport was in his right-hand breast pocket. he shook his gun free into his left hand. crickets harped at him with violent strings. something scuttled away up the short alley, which ended in gloom under a tall cassia tree. he moved fast for the deeper shadows, but he paused before he reached the opening to the side street that went to the palm-lined main boulevard of the capital. footsteps were running somewhere in the night. a car blocked the end of the alley at the boulevard. overhead, a palm frond clacked in the faint breeze that ` came from the natanga river. the breeze smelled of sewage and swamp and the indefinable effluvium of an african city. he went back the other way and found a wire fence at the opposite end of the alley, about nine feet high.' he turned left along it, ran fast, then

jumped, caught the iron pipe at the top, and clambered over. somewhere behind him a man called in telek dialect, "did you see` him?" another man said, "bahundi gamlem." "he went over there," came back in english. durell moved silently, for all his size. he had been in' the business for longer than he cared to remember, and he: was equally at home in paris or london, bangkok, or the jungles of asia and africa. he had long ago learned that, survival was the touchstone of success in this business., you accomplished nothing by dying. and even less by; capture and interrogation. he found himself in another: alley that twisted away from the modern facades that fronted on unity boulevard. the river was not too far, away. in daylight you couldn't see the other shore, and it looked more like a lake than a river. this was the old colonial district of the city, a place of homes for clerks and-7 various european bwanas who had long ago been given their walking papers, expelled by the rush of giddy independence here some years ago. there were pale, whitewashed villas surrounded - by lush gardens, now overgrown; and some of the houses were boarded up. most, however, were now occupied by the new breed of government functionaries who seemed to multiply like flies, imitating the bureaucracies of the west, but with even more of the selfimportant inefficiency of their european tutors. he ran silently down the alley, away from the wire fence behind christophe's. the town was under military curfew, although in this area violations were still winked at, and the few tourists who remained in boganda, in addition to shocked diplomats dismayed by the events of the past week, were permitted a certain amount of freedom. no one, however, was eager to walk the streets at this midnight hour. he had free passage down the lane toward the river. one week ago, before his flight to lamy, durell had been putting in time in london, at k section's massive central not far from the embassy. from lamy in chad, where he had talked briefly to tom adams, he had flown on the battered bpal dc-8-the boganda people's air line-south and east toward mozambique, above the sweltering east coast of africa to this city, poised between mountain and river, savannah and jungle. he had landed in the middle of yet another rebellion against president inurate motuku, the grand old man of boganda's independence, darling of the state department and recipient of a generous tide of aid, world bank, and us foreign aid millions for overcoming a local communist attempt at a coup. motuku never failed to receive glowing and favorable mention in the western press. durell still did not know what the job was; he was simply pleased to get away from the analysis desk at london's central. . as a chief field agent for k section, that troubleshooting, free-swinging branch of the cia directed by general mcfee, he was not surprised to be sent into any dark and dangerous corner of the world. there was a clause in his contract that gave him the right to refuse an assignment, but he had never used it. he had been in the business too: long to quit now, no matter how low his survival factor had dipped in k section's statistical charts. he knew he= would never be allowed to quit. in moscow's kgb head-: quarters at no. 2 dzherzhinsky square and in peking's black house, his dossier was filed with a red tab, marked for a kill. he knew too much. he had lived in this shadow world for too many years to be permitted the dubious freedom of a suburban man, with wife and home and com-. muter schedules. he accepted the loneliness and the danger now without thinking too much about it. he had a: permanent q clearance, free to operate as he deemed necessary. but he was accustomed to caution, and he never

opened a door without thinking of what might lie behind it; he never turned a corner or boarded a subway in london or new york without considering the potential deadliness of those pressed around him. he could kill in silence,' with only his hands if necessary, quickly and without, reluctance or regret. he disdained the usual gadgetry offered by the gimmick boys in k section's laboratory., often he was tired of the work, faced with what seemed a.. hopelessly divided world intent on a suicidal rush toward self-destruction. often he enjoyed what he did, feeling it was right and necessary. he wanted no medals, no flags waved for him. it was a job that someone had to do. he had gone to law school at yale, after his boyhood in the louisiana bayous, and he no longer held any illusions about this kind of work. errors were made, both of judgment and execution. he did his best. what he valued most in the world still existed. he came to the end of the alley, and they were waiting for him there. chapter 2 their breathing made gusty, rasping sounds in the hot african night. they had run fast around the adjacent building, a three-story white stone structure that had once been a portuguese commercial warehouse, but they were not the same two who had entered christophe's. another pair. their big chests heaved with the exertion. they wore the same uniform of the fkp, the dark gray suits, the neat white collars, the dark neckties. they carried with them the same aura, the same stink of secret police everywhere in the world. their muddy eyes gloated. "mr. durell. please." he had his gun openly in his hand when he paused. their red-brown eyes considered the weapon, but they were not alarmed. durell said, "why do you want me?" "it is just for a little talk," one of them said. "you are an alien in this country, my dear fellow, and you must admit that you behave quite strangely-" "i'm an american citizen," durell said, "attached to the us embassy, thirty-four to fifty-six boganda boulevard, recently arrived in this troubled country of yours and assigned to security at the embassy because of recent unhappy events-" "yes, yes. we know all that. your passport, please?" "why?" "and give mr. kantijji your gun. my partner's name is mr. kantijji. my name is abraham yutigaffa." a smile almost touched the brown black lips. "my parents were converted by your methodist missionaries, you see. i bear a good christian biblical name." "abraham is a jewish name," durell said. "the israelis do not proselytize," said yutigaffa. "please give kantijji your gun." "to hell with you," durell said. "am i under arrest?" "let us call it protective custody." "why?" he got a shrug of massive shoulders. "we simply obey our orders, mr. durell."

durell hit him in the breastbone, a sharp rap with the butt of his .38. there came a gust of air from the fkp man, a thin sound of cracking bone, and durell swung away and clipped the other man with the edge of his palm against the side of the throat, making it to the neural ,. center without a miss. while they both staggered, trying to yell for their partners, he turned and ran for the river. there was no help for it. whatever the job might: be-and only georgette could fill him in on it and give him a proper briefing-he believed her when she said there was very little time. if he went with kantijji and yutigaffa, there would be a cell waiting for him, days wasted,. while the mortars crumped and banged and the daily executions went on each noon in front of the lovely white presidential palace. he accepted this much of what georgette had told him, and it was enough. there were two more lanes, and then he reached the:' edge of the river. a low orange moon hung in the black african sky t o_ the west, where the enormous sweep of the sluggish river made a bend to the left. he knew the river here was more than a mile wide, and on the opposite shore were marshes and islets overgrown with jungle vines and a wide stretch of savannah. there was a ferry half a mile upstream, a' rough-timbered donkey-engine affair that only operated: during daylight hours. large barges that carried copper= ore downstream to the frontier were tied up in front of bulky warehouses. a government gunboat made a flat silhouette against the river bank to his right. there were more warehouses for jute and the copper mill that operated on this side of the getoba district. the warehouses were built of corrugated tin and mahogany, with low, flattish roofs and a litter of waste and scrap around them. long piers jutted out into the slow black current of the river. durell ran to the right. they were close behind him, all four of them now, their footsteps thudding in the dirt. he headed for the area of colonial villas, just beyond the nearest warehouses, where tall palms made graceful arcs against the red moon. no lights shone anywhere. the hot river air felt like rags stuffed down his throat. he heard the africans calling to one another, like hounds baying dimly in the bayous of his childhood. he was aware of anger in him, but he could not rightly blame the girl. finch might have been careless in the past; he had no way of telling. it could simply be a routine check on foreigners at this time of crisis. but he did not think it was routine at all. he needed his telephone, his hotel room, the mk-5 radio transceiver in the bottom of his luggage. the natanga hotel was half a mile to the right, on the riverfront, set amid a new park planted with oleanders, date palms, and rose gardens. he got around the first warehouse, sprinted down a dark, sandy lane, heard the men shouting from the adjacent alley that paralleled his way. someone skidded around the corner ahead of him, and he charged at the man, saw a gun glinting, knocked it aside and down. the man went sprawling, but not before he yelled a loud warning. durell ran on. a gun clamored behind him, racketing in the night. it was not too unusual a sound, this past week, in the streets. he heard the bullets smash into the wall behind him, catching up. he dived headlong for the ground, came up at a fast crouch, and rounded the corner. "cajun! hey! over here." he saw her battered land rover, a dark shape loomed against a mass of dusty

shrubbery at the end of the lane. the hotel was still five hundred yards away. her hand waved like a pale underwater plant in the shadows. it was stupid of her. she should have stayed clear of this. he saw her face, leaning out from behind the wheel of the old rover. "sam! this way." he turned and ran in the opposite direction. but it was too late. they came from both ends of the alley, meaning business now, angry and ready to kill. their guns were up, their hands were nervous on the triggers. he stopped dead and raised his hand. "i give up," he said. a chapter 3 one of them said: "why did you run?" the other said: "surely you must be guilty of something, sir. it was merely routine questioning. now, of __ course, we must reconsider our whole attitude toward . you." "i have an appointment with the president," durell _ said. "his excellency, inurate motuku, is waiting for me." they smiled. "do not be stubborn," the first one said. he rubbed the side of his neck. he'd be kantijji, durell thought. he said, "call the president then, if you don't believe me." "we do not believe you." "then call major-general watsube." they smiled again. "he is too busy to be concerned . with suspicious foreigners. that is our job, you see. we are in troubled times, sir. everything out of the ordinary must be investigated." another said, "do you know his excellency, the president?" "i haven't met him yet," durell said. "how do you know you have an appointment with him? have you proof?" "the message and invitation came through my embassy." "at this hour?" "yes, that's right." "but the telephones are-" another began and paused.

"tapped?" durell asked. "bugged?" "you are rather presumptuous, mr. durell, for a stranger in our country." "i'm trying to help," he said. "ah. of course. but which side?" "i'm not on any side." "those who are not for us must be against us." "that statement," durell said, "has been the echo of tyranny down through the ages." "ah. ah." it was hot in the cell. the fkp men sweated. the light glared down on durell like the baleful eye of some jungle idol. they had taken his gun, his passport, his belt, and his shoes, neatly arranging it all, including his wallet, on a plank table against the stone wall of the cell. there was no window, and the door was closed. the air was suffocating. it smelled of sweat, fear, urine, and the garbage in the river. he knew it was one o'clock when the mortars started slamming into the besieged getoba district again. nobody among the fkp men paid any attention. abraham yutigaffa was in charge, apparently. he licked his brown lips and stood in front of durell, very close to him, and said, "you mention major-general watsube. why?" "isn't he your boss?" "he is not in charge of security. do you know him?" "you'll all be sent back to the kraals," durell said, "when the president hears of this." "do you really know his excellency?" "he has requested my aid," durell said. "for what purpose?" "i cannot say." "you mean you will not say?" "presumably it's a state secret." "there are no secrets from the fkp." "this one is." yutigaffa blew out air from his thick lips. his eyes were tired, reddish around the black irises. "mr. durell, you understand that we have leaned over backward, so to speak, in order to be courteous to you. we could use other methods to end

your insolence, you understand. we have been well trained. perhaps not as thoroughly as you, but we have our own interrogative methods. would you like us to begin with them? why do you claim to have an appointment with the president?" "because it's the truth." "but you can't prove it?" durell said tiredly, "call the palace." j "that would be presumptuous." "it would be smart, abraham." he wondered about georgette finch. nobody mentioned her. as far as he knew, they hadn't bothered to pick her up. he listened to the explosions from the mortars and thought of the death that burst and burned in the other end of town, every hour on the hour. yutigaffa said, "can you at least cooperate with us enough to tell us what the president wishes to discuss with you. "it's about the silver scorpion." yutigaffa stared down at him. it was as if a breath of chill wind had suddenly blown into the fetid, closed cell. nobody moved for an instant. one of the fkp men, in the middle of lighting a brown cigarette, let the match burn down until it scorched his fingers. yutigaffa pursed his lips and walked to the plank table and picked up durell's passport, gun, belt, and shoes. "you may go," he said. chapter 4 durell walked the distance back to his hotel. the streets were quiet and empty, containing in their darkness a kind of sullen apathy. on the main boulevard, under the cassia and palm trees that reached from the riverfront to the airport five miles away, a few armored vehicles were parked in the shadows of the median strip, among bougainvillea and oleander shrubs. the cars were crammed with uniformed men wearing the distinctive red bogandan berets. the barrels of their rifles stuck up from the truck bodies like miniature prickly thickets. fires burned in the getoba district, making red puffballs on the horizon. the red moon hung low over the savannah. no wind stirred. the shops along the boulevard were all closed, with steel shutters pulled down over the windows to guard their: wares. a black cadillac limousine was parked in the oval driveway leading to the hotel's wide, glass foyer doors. only a few lights shone in the palm potted lobby. the big bar, called the manhattan unity, was closed, the glass doors emptying blackness from the casino machines and the chrome and plastic chairs and tables in there. two japanese businessmen sat talking on a settee in one corner, of the amoebashaped lobby. heavy teak natanga sculpture stood at various vantage points about the marble floor, imported from livorno, italy. the tribal faces, long and dour, with elongated ear lobes and wild, fiercely painted eyes, stared with alien animosity at durell's tall figure as he entered through the glassed-in doorway. zebra stripes in mosaic formed the walls.

"sir? mtamba?" a gray-haired bogandan detached` himself from the desk and moved gracefully toward him..' he wore the wide, flowing robes of the national costume and a small, beaded skullcap. "mr. durell?" "yes." "i have been sent from the palace. the car outside is at your disposal." "i'm not due yet for half an hour," durell said. "yes, mtamba. at your convenience, of course. his excellency sees you at onethirty o'clock." "does his excellency always work this late at night?". the bogandan smiled. "it is a difficult time. a time of hamiti, as we say. bad trouble. the raga is devoted solely` a to the welfare of our nation. he gives his life for us." "i'll be down in ten minutes," durell said. "i shall be waiting, mtamba." he took the glass-enclosed, self-service elevator up to his room. the hotel might have been anywhere else in the world, the usual pile of modern, air conditioned, concrete. cubicles with surface decor to suit the immediate locale. , his room was on the fifth floor, overlooking the wide, vast river. it had two double beds, a huge mirror, natanga shields on the wall opposite, reed carpets done by native manufacturies, and a balcony that faced the river and the getoba district, where the fires glowed red against the hot, ebony sky. he used his key to unlock the door, pushed it open with a rigid forefinger, waited a moment, took out his gun, stepped in and to one side, and clicked on the lights. "you idiot," he said. finch sat on the edge of his bed. he had been in custody less than twenty minutes, but the girl had somehow managed to change her clothes. she was no longer the bare-foot hippy type. she wore a dark blue frock with white piping around the oval neckline, and she had combed out her tangled brown hair and done it up so that it swung gracefully down her shoulders. somehow she had managed to squeeze low-heeled pumps on her feet. he wondered if she had taken the time to bathe. "they let you go, did they?" she grinned, her chin resting on her hand. he looked beyond her to the sliding doors of the closet and saw they were open and that his luggage had been moved a few inches to the left and the arrangement of his three suits was altered. one of the dresser drawers, where he kept his shirts, was not quite closed. georgette said, "i knew they'd let you go. i figured you'd rap your way out of it, even if abe yutigaffa is a tough one. so is sergeant kantijji. what did you do, tell them you were due to see the president?" "yes. finch, i want-" "you be very careful with the raga. he's very up tight, you know. our job and specific orders are to cooperate with him in every way." "what am i supposed to do in getoba?" he asked.

"his excellency will tell you." "don't you know?" "sure, but-" "then you'd better brief me, finch." "it's not my job to-" he crossed the room with a quick stride and slapped her, not sparing his strength. she rocked sidewise and backward, almost fell off the bed and came up scrambling for her feminine dignity, holding her cheek, her brown eyes filled with golden sparks of shock and anger. "what was that for?" "it's your job to level with me. tom adams, up in chad, said you'd brief me. so no more fun and games. before i see inurate motuku, i want to know everything you know. i mean everything. first of all, i want to know who runs the fkp. who is yutigaffa's boss? is it general watsube who keeps lobbing all those mortar shells into getoba?" "that's what they say," finch murmured. "you had no right to sock me like that, durell-" "you're lucky i don't kill you. i think i'd be safer without you in the picture. what do you mean, that's what they say? does watsube run the intelligence and security apparatus here, or doesn't he?" "i don't think so." "who else then? the president himself?" "i don't think that either. i think it's his wife. the white gal from liverpool, you know? mary magdalene herself, so to speak, in love with black jesus." "is she the silver scorpion?" "oh, hell," finch said. "what does the term mean?" "is that how you got away from yutigaffa?" "i used the words. tom adams mentioned it as one of our problems here, but he had nothing except the name. so i just tossed it out to see what would happen. yutigaffa reacted fast. he was scared. he couldn't have let go of me faster if i'd turned radioactive before his eyes. so explain it, finch. there isn't much time." he looked at his watch and took off his coat and stripped off his necktie and shirt and rummaged among his fresh clothes in the dresser. "and who fanned my room, finch? was it you?" "the fkp, i guess." he let it go. "all right. tell me all." "i'm not supposed to but-"

"go ahead." she said, "you're a bastard, you know that? my face is going to be swollen." "you're lucky. i'm not going to ask you again." "i don't know anything about the silver scorpion. i don't know what the term means or who or what it might represent." "it's your job to know," he said. "well, i don't. you saw what happened to yutigaffa when you said those words? and he's a tough bozo. everybody reacts the same way. it's my guess it's a kind of native society, a sub government, a shadow group that rules by terror. but nobody seems to know." she reached in her bag, and durell watched her until she took out one of her cigarettes and lit it. her hands did not shake. she said, inhaling deeply, "i was recruited two years ago when i was a starry-eyed do-gooder in uranda boganda, teaching the kids the abcs. it didn't seem harmful. tom said i was just to watch, listen, and report the way the political winds were shifting. the chinese and russians were both dangling aid bait for motuku to nibble at. the egyptians were here and so were the israelis; the cairo people wanted to stir up trouble against the portuguese to the south-god knows why it concerned them and the israelis just wanted neutrality and taught some of the natanga outlanders in the savannah and jungle how to set up kibbutz type agricultural stations. it was all fascinating. the real world, not haight-ashbury. everybody after something, and the us too, we're not snow-white angels either, are we?" "get to the point. i haven't much time." "inurate motuku is our fair-haired boy, right? the raga himself. he's truly neutral, truly dedicated to making a viable nation out of this conglomerate of tribes and clans who've killed and eaten each other for centuries. so far we've poured well over four hundred million into boganda. they've built two miles of new boulevard with it, two schools, a top-heavy bureaucracy stuffed with clerks who can't read or write. say they've spent one hundred out of the four hundred million. say they've built a few factories and mills and some experimental farms. where is the rest? three hundred million dollars have vanished." "it can't vanish. it's extended in credit lines, not gold bars or silver maria theresa dollars or dollar bills," durell said. "it's all done by paper work." "not in boganda," she said. she blew smoke at him from pursed lips. she even had put on lipstick. "how do you like the transformation? my dress and all the garbage?" "what did you major in at ucla?" "how did you know i went to ucla?" "i know," he said. "what was it?" "economics. daddy was a banker before he became a senator and a buddy of your boss, general mcfee. daddy wanted me to be a boy. i mashed him properly, i did, turned out to be feminine. he sends me money now to stay away from him."

"you majored in economics?" finch said, "and i have an iq of 165. is that a sin?" "you're still an idiot. go on about the three hundred million dollars of missing american taxpayer money." "well, it's gone," she said. "how can it be gone?" "hard cash, man. the locals want cash when they swing a pick and shovel. that was the pretext for drawing on the credit line. it happened so fast that it slipped by the accountants, and presto-three hundred millions in swiss francs, west german marks, american dollars, a big chunk of british pounds-all here in boganda, in dear old unity country. and vanished." "i don't buy it," durell said. "you have to. it's a hard fact. nobody talks about it. washington is too afraid of international embarrassment and political smears back home, if the facts come out. somebody swiped all the boodle. and you know where it is? where i think it is? where general watsube and maybe the raga himself thinks it is?" durell sighed. "don't tell me. in getoba district." "so right. and you're going in to get it." chapter 5 the girl watched as he checked the mk-5 transceiver, his gun, a handful of fresh cartridges. he picked a dark blue necktie from his suitcase, unfolded it, and pressed the fine buckram stiffening flat. from this he carefully and delicately withdrew several thin sheets of flimsy about four inches long by five inches wide, folded several times. there seemed to be nothing on the tissue until he took the little fan of paper over to a lamp and held it over the heat of the bulb. in a very few moments the warmth brought out the special ink that had been impressed on the onionskin. "that's nifty," georgette said. "what is it?" "data on motuku and his favorite, general watsube. also a mention of the silver scorpion organization. and an analysis of your capabilities. it's surprisingly high, finch. i don't believe it. why was the fkp man, that captain yutigaffa, so switched on when i mentioned the silver scorpion? i want to know, finch." "nobody talks about it. like it's taboo or something. an old tribal legend, going way back, about a monster in the forest that will eat up all the tribes. typical tribal folklore. can i read those dossiers, sam?" "who really runs the fkp?" "can i read the one on me? just that one? i'm curious.".` she paused. "i told you, general watsube runs the fkp." "that's not true. now either we work together, or . you're going home to daddy. at least, you'd better stay as far away and as clear of me as you can get."

"we're together," she conceded. "then tell me how i'm supposed to get into getoba? it's under siege. if general watsube isn't letting anyone out, he's not likely to allow anyone in either, for fear of letting food and ammo in too." georgette said, "but that's your end of the job. figuring it out, i mean." "what do you know about getoba?" she frowned. for a big girl she carried her size gracefully. "the district is two miles long, maybe three wide, . with a wall all around it, built long ago. maybe eight thousand people are still left in it, out of the indians and chinese merchants who used to be there. and the teleks, of course. it was the original portuguese colony here on the river. lots of the district burned down the day before you arrived." "how many telek rebels are in there?" "that's anybody's guess. maybe two thousand." "what kind of equipment do they have?" "not much. russian machineguns, kalashnikov rifles, =. some mortars. they must be running low on ammunition and food by now. i have a packet of food and some fresh water for you at my place, by the way. the cottage down by the river, behind the hotel, that's where i live." "who leads the teleks?" durell asked. "well, it started with a revolutionary council, and some 3 mercenaries. maybe a dozen. a belgian named colonel lefevre, four germans, a swede, two frenchmen from the old oas, and two american mercenaries who came down from nigeria." "americans?" "so i hear. i don't know their names. or anything else about them." she looked down and sidewise, and he wondered if she were lying. there was a faint flush on her cheeks. he wondered if he should push it and decided not to. georgette went on, "the getoba district was pretty scenic and spectacular before general watsube began pounding it to rubble. it had its own bank, a couple of hotels, a lovely old portuguese fort. the money is in the bank -in the vaults-the east natanga exchange, limited. you can't see any of the buildings because of the old wall, of course." "have you ever been in this bank?" "oh, yes, i know where the vault is." "how do you know the money is there?" "i know, all right." "how?" he demanded. she hesitated, looked sidewise again. "daddy helped. or rather, his manager back in california, mr. napier-carl alvin napier-used to be a swiss in geneva, with the

suisse national de geneve. pop is in washington, of course, having fun being a senator. carl put some tracers through, using the family name-old finch can really make the canaries sing, especially when you have some shlock in switzerland, where all the international funds were funneled. there was a sudden demand to convert the credit line of three hundred million into cash-" "how sudden?" "a month ago. just before the attempted coup. it was bloody here, sam, for a week. then watsube got his troops shaped up and bottled them all into getoba." "with the money?" "that's right." "and watsube wants in; the teleks-or the mercenaries sitting on all that cash-want out. right?" "i don't know if anyone but me-and now you and the raga-knows that the cash is actually there." she paused. ._ "now can i look at those dossiers?" he let her read them. as she finished each one, he took ,? a match and burned it in the big stoneware ashtray atop the bedside table. the lamp on the table was a mass-produced mahogany carving of a telek goddess with long ears, an open mouth, and scaled brow and cheeks like a. a snake. it was mostly the telek people-who had the misfortune of subscribing to islam in a country suddenly gone anti-moslem-who were dying in the getoba district after an abortive army coup that left them helpless. the first dossier was on inurate motuku: top secret classification ab/2 for dept. j-12 only/ file gp 22/delta/77 subject: motuku, inurate, president, people's republic of boganda, east africa. see file delta 77a, 77b, kappa 12. the present leader, and the only popularly elected president of the prb since independence day on 11 september 1958, is believed to be about 62 years of age, in, somewhat failing health today, although of enormous physical and psychic reserves,. a fighter for independence through .two colonial regimes and un trusteeship and three aborted rebellions, motuku was early apprehended by british colonial authorities for sabotage of the uranda-boganda copper mines and extradited from the port of san gerosa in portuguese mozambique. subject was then 18, was deported to london for penal service, and the sentence was commuted. he later received scholarship to attend london university, majoring in political science, economics, and language and social studies. inurate motuku was born of pagan tribal chieftain who was murdered by moslem teleks in his youth. spent unknown time in jungle as a hunted man. refused aid and sanctuary from then colonial authorities, he turned to rebellion during years of wwii and became known as the: raga to the natanga tribesmen, a term of high respect and awe. motuku may be '-

called the grand old man of african independence. his urbanity is reflected in his frequent. trips abroad, to moscow in february, 1965, and again in september, 1968; to peking in 1953, 1962, and in 1971. his single visit to washington was in april, 1969, where he was invited to address the us congress and held several highly confidential conferences with state department and presidential aides and sugar cube himself for an unprecedented two hours. referred to in the new york press as the "abraham lincoln of african independence." was voted a special draft of aid for mining equipment, roads, and educational assistance. it should be noted that inurate motuku has, by tribal law and clan custom, something like thirty-four wives and concubines. however, his number-one spouse is irene maitland, aged 24, born liverpool, england. a model for various inexpensive fashion houses, she was displaying some british versions of bogandan lady's wear for motuku's inspection for purchases for his many wives when he was obviously attracted to her, ordered her to join him for dinner, and married her two days later (church of england) in time for his flight back to boganda. the ragihi, as she is called, has proven to be a clever aide to administering executive powers; she is blunt and possessed of a challenging outspoken manner. "what's good for the raga is good for boganda," she is quoted as saying. "that's the same as general motors for the us of a, lovey. what's good for the raga is also good for his number-one wife." finch returned the paper to left out a lot about irene, dazzled by all the platinum ragihi without risking your concerned, it's just jim durell and said, "that's a lot of beeswax, sam. they that bitch. but it doesn't matter. poor motuku is so she rinses in her hair, you can't say a word about the head being cut off. literally. as far as irene is

dandy being the queen bee of bogandaland. what else have you got?" durell said, "items on general watsube. and you." "give me mine." "read about watsube first. you have a lot in common. he may be a general here, but he majored in finance at the university of pennsylvania's wharton school in philadelphia. graduated with high honors too." ipol tpx to kappa sigma/5 us via statdep subject: watsube, iraki, major-general, boganda interpol memo 55708/aa/wa-8254 70 references: ipol file 6466-71-wa8254 70. subject watsube, iraki mendopu kurfagga, a telek tribesman, aged approx. 48, height 5'10", weight last known on uk driver's license as 198, gray-grizzle hair, slight cast left eye, scar right cheek, subject expelled from the then-named uranda-boganda protectorate by british authorities for subversive, terrorist, and revolutionary agitation and activities. deported from lourenco marques by portuguese, 1961. believed to have visited peking, 1962, moscow, 1967. earlier the beneficiary of amity union church ap missionaries to boganda, brilliant scholastic achievements wharton school, u. of p., prior to return to boganda and subsequent deportation again by colonial authorities. attention is directed to ipol of 16 march 1970, charged with smuggling arms and

munitions to jokuran (pagan) tribesmen in southern sudan and inciting terrorism against the khartoum government of the sudan, complaint 4459xb, benghazi, libya. although a moslem telek, subject is never known to have harbored traditional enmity toward natangas who share the countryside. subject returned early date, 1970, named to post of inspector general, finance minister, education minister, by the raga. there are rumors that watsube and the raga are in some intertribal bond, due to some event going back to their early boyhood, although watsube is some decade younger than the raga and much more vigorous physically. the high military post granted the subject is believed to have been payment of a debt, social or political, of unknown origin. subject is noted for firm discipline, a zealot's purpose in stamping out all guerrilla resistance to present regime, whether from his own tribal (moslem telek) peoples or incited by outside sources (peking, moscow, cairo), and it is thought that his unfortunate racial experiences in communist capitals as well as in the us and the sudan have led to iraki watsube's fierce and often cruel determination to "pacify" dissidents within the raga's government. from september 1971 to present date, subject also holds posts of minister of interior defense, chief magistrate, and chief councilor to the raga of boganda. "more bee's wax," said finch. "it isn't true." "what's wrong with the data." "errors of omission. data incomplete. holy cow, it's incomplete." durell said, "what do you know that interpol and mi 6 doesn't know?" "your subject is married. major-general iraki mendopu kurfagga watsube, the great killer, has a tender bride. pretty new addition too. she's the raga's sister-inlaw." "since when?" "it happened a couple of months ago. the ragihi, irene, invited her sister from liverpool to visit then. maybe the general was envious of his blood-brother's white wife. anyway, mathilda never went home. she waltzed her way into watsube's iron heart." "mathilda?" "the local european group refers to her as mickey. a real katula viper. if anything, worse than irene." georgette finch grinned. she had strong white teeth. "but it didn't work. maybe watsube is too dedicated to his work. he lost her." "where? how?" durell asked. "in the getoba district. watsube's wife is cooped up in there. got it? with all the other damned rebellious souls. and he doesn't let anyone in or out, while he tosses those mortar shells in every hour on the hour. it's the cat's meow, right?" she paused. "i want to see my own dossier, sam." "it says that you're the disappointment of your daddy's life. your banker-senator father calls you a freakout, a copout, immature, and irresponsible."

"wow." her eyes glistened. "he thinks that much of me, does he?" "and tom adams says i'm not to trust you." "oh, but you have to," the girl said. "you see, i'm going into the getoba district with you. i'm the only one who knows where the money is." he let her read the last memo without comment. it was a brief review of bogandan history, late and new, borrowed from a state department background file. it detailed the area's development since its exploration by one manoel lisboa da silva in the late seventeenth century. that discovery gave rise to a portuguese claim that had to yield to the british, who recorded a prior exploration by one captain m. p. farragut, who trekked from lake uranda down the natanga river to die of fever in the swamps around the present site of boganda's capital. captain farragut's demise was hastened by a few choice torture episodes by telek tribesmen who had already been introduced to islam by arab slave-raiders from zanzibar. "the present difficulties," the memo read, "arise from rivalry for government plums between natangans and teleks. the natanga people, recently christianized and still largely pagan, are somewhat at a cultural disadvantage vis d vis the telek peoples, who have embraced moslem culture since the sixteenth century. by force of numbers, however, the natangans dominate the area of former boganda. in some instances, regrettably, they have practiced cruel and unwarranted restrictive measures against the more ambitious moslem teleks, who kiss the hand that once enslaved them, as the natangans put it. the entire northeast quadrant of the capital city of boganda has been turned into a ghetto for telek tribesmen who were turned out of their colonial clerical offices by the arrival of `unity.' "there is reason to believe that the teleks, long oppressed since turned to foreign adventurers for assistance and to communist aid and overthrowing the government of president inurate motuku. arms and moscow, shipped via cairo, have been reported in the outlying districts, such as getoba." `unity,' have in subverting from red china capital

there was a small postscript added by a k section philologist familiar with both the natangan and telek dialects of the country. boganda: noun, natangan (1) unity (2) marriage boganda: verb, transitive (1) towed (2) to perform the act of joining in marriage (3) to copulate georgette finch watched durell as .he carefully burned the last of the notes and powdered the black ash in a ceramic tray. without smiling she said, "jeepers, i never really knew the true name of this effing country." chapter 6 the chauffeur, who insisted on calling durell by the old pre-unity term of mtamba, explained that they were not going to the presidential palace. "the raga will not stay there while the executions go on."

"he could stop them, couldn't he?" durell asked. "we are all of us under military law these days, mtamba." they went southeast along the empty, dusty boulevard. a motorcycle escort picked them up but did not use sirens. the streets under the elaborate plantings of palms and oleanders were dark and gloomy, hiding black tragedy under a gloss of western technology. the boulevard was only good for half a mile, going away from the closed airport and paralleling the river. then they turned right, toward the water, and passed through a tall coconut grove grim with more shadows, and finally came through a rusting iron-grill fence and gateway onto new lawns that swept down to the river's edge. durell still couldn't see the other side of the river. it looked like a dark brown, evilly flowing lake under the reddish african moon. because of a bend in the shore, the fires in getoba, less than three miles away, made raw, liquid streaks of scarlet on the current. the place was a european-style bungalow with a thatched roof, once used by the british colonial governor in another age, another world. the grounds were still immaculately groomed, with rose bushes and jasmine and night-blooming cereus scenting the darkness. two familiar figures came out of the shadows just beyond the gate and halted the elderly chauffeur. "the mtamba sees the raga," said the chauffeur. "it is understood." the two men were fpk. captain yutigaffa and his sergeant, kantijji. they did not smile. yutigaffa said, "we must check everyone, of course." durell said solicitously, "how do you feel, captain?" "our misunderstanding left me with a toothache. sergeant kantijji has several bruises. but we do not harbor a grudge. we will help you all we can. we have discussed this and advise you to walk with great care, with pointed toes, as we say." "thank you." there were four steps up to a wooden veranda with tall square columns supporting a high roof. on the veranda were bombay chairs, some teak carvings that lurked like sentinels against the walls, and a heavy door of ornate planking. the chauffeur said something to, a uniformed man, and captain yutigaffa added a word in natanga dialect, and they were allowed in. they met the ragihi. she was waiting, pacing like a tigress ready to pounce. the room in which she met them was small, a receptionist's office done in faded regency furniture that clashed with a few native things of good design. there were curlers in the ragihi's hair, and her lipstick was too red, her hair, too yellow, her cheeks too powder-pale. her huge blue eyes were like saucers. fury did not enhance her tinsel looks. she was a tart, and she was the queen and the first wife and prime mother of boganda. "took you bloody long enough to get here!" she snapped. "what d'you think we've got, yank, a whole stupid year?" her voice was as shrill as her looks. she wore a bogandan costume, all flapping sleeves and floor length hem and zebra stripes. on most women it made them look regal. on irene maitland it made her look like an angry whore cheated out of her two-pound fee in a waterfront joy house. her

curlers were pink plastic, the kind that flashed and flickered with each twist of her head. her neck was extraordinarily long, and as-she walked, she flapped her arms in the wide, wing like sleeves of her robe. yet it seemed to durell that under her harsh makeup and the nasal liverpool accent, she was quite young and frightened. the huge blue eyes did it, he decided. you looked into them, and you drowned in the terror and confusion behind them. "take it easy, mrs. motuku," he said quietly. "wed came as soon as we could." "i didn't ask for miss finch. i asked for you. you're durell, right? you're a cia spook, right? your job is to help me," she said brittlely. "i thought my appointment was with his excellency, "the raga isn't feeling well right now." durell said, "do you speak for him then?" "he has no secrets from me. listen, these are poor, times for everybody in this place. the raga asked for your s help, because i insisted on it. i could've made a request to london, see; to the mi 6 people; we kicked them out last year, when they were caught fooling with the teleks. but they'd have come back." she grinned wickedly, like a child who had successfully snatched a pie off the kitchen windowsill. "i've learned how to handle those phonies, those diplomats, and the trash that hangs around them., maybe you're trash too, but-" durell interrupted. "well, why didn't you call in british . intelligence?" "i don't like 'em," she said. she was suddenly sullen. "i know what they're always thinking. they treat me like well, you know. they're bloody snobs! but i'm the queen. bee here, chum, and they bloody damned well learn to face it or get out. that's what i told them. and don't think. the raga won't back me up. he eats outa me hand, he does. does. the sweetest, gentlest man i ever did know. blimey, if people really understood what it was like between him, and me-" she paused again and stopped pacing butt flapped one arm in her robe, pointing at durell. "you've got to help me." "is it about the missing treasury?" "i don't know anything about any bloody treasury or bloody missing money!" she shrilled. "my ass, that's all you people think about. it's none of my business, you hear? and the raga doesn't know anything about it either. he leaves all that to his ministers. he left it all to general watsube-my brother-in-law." she shouted the name like a curse. "he's the one who knows about the money. it's mickey i'm worried about." "mickey?" "mathilda. my sister, damn you! haven't you done your homework?" "yes, ma'am," durell said. she looked at him, her expressive blue eyes suddenly pacified; but she was president motuku."

suspicious. "you think i'm just a tramp, an opportunist, don't you?" "no, ma'am. you are the ragihi. but i came to see his excellency, the president." "you've come to get your orders from me, about my sister, mickey. or should i ask the chinks and the russians to help? they'd tie glad to, you know." durell turned away. "come along, finch." georgette said, "what? but-" "let her go to the chinese or the russians. i'd be just as pleased to skip the getoba job. besides, i'm sick of this crude blackmail. every little cheesecake country likes to play it big, threatening the us with appeals to the reds if we don't come through with everything they ask for, on their terms. well, to hell with it now. let them go to moscow and good luck to them." he started out of the bungalow. irene maitland motuku stared at him with her mouth open. plainly she hadn't been addressed like this since her marriage and arrival in boganda as the queen. then she said, "hey, wait! come this way. i'll take you to the raga now." durell paused, shrugged. and went back. finch tagged along at his heels; she moved well for a tall girl. abraham yutigaffa and sergeant k--tifii had vanished. the bungalow was larger than he expected, with a wide center hall way of polished plank flooring and high ceilings with old wooden fans. on one wall were plaques, one of which depicted britain's st. george, another the personal crest of manoel lisboa da silva, the "discoverer" of boganda..` durell was surprised that the plaques were still allowed to hang here in the former colonial administrator's home.. the ragihi flapped her batlike sleeves and went ahead, feet slapping the polished floor planks, and then stood aside with an imperious gesture at a double doorway, an act taken straight from liverpool's music halls. even her speech changed, as if the words had been carefully tutored and rehearsed. "his excellency will be down in ten minutes. be comfortable." her sudden, careful accent hid her earlier outburst. "i simply wish you to understand, mr. durell, that you have been lent to us, so to speak, to aid boganda in certain and specific problems. you have been placed under our jurisdiction, sir. if you choose not to aid us, you may leave without prejudice." durell smiled. "do you have a drink?" "of course. i've forgotten me-my manners. over there, please. help yourself." there was a well-stocked bar under a portrait darkened by time and africa's climate. it seemed to be another of the earlier administrators. durell made himself a bourbon and water. georgette refused anything, shaking her head. she seemed fascinated by the little blond queen with the big eyes and the hair curlers. "mrs. motuku," she said finally. "you mentioned your sister-ah, mickey? would that be-ah-general watsube's wife?" "true enough, for sure." irene grinned wickedly again and reminded durell of some elfin spirit, with her big eyes. "mickey decided to take a page out of me own book, seeing the soft landing i made with his excellency. but with mickey it was different. or maybe watsube is different. me, i never liked him. but you can't say

anything against the general to the raga. the raga won't listen to any criticism of his `brother,' even though watsube is a moslem telek. the general can do .no wrong. but the cruel, murdering bastard is chopping up getoba, and his own wife, my sister, is caught in there, trying to get out-and he won't let her out!" "does general watsube really know-" durell began. "of course he knows! he just figures it's an easy way to get rid of her." "but he married your sister-" "size married him, if you know what i mean. like they were both copying the raga and me. and then mickey she was always a tough little bitch, pardon the expression -mickey started poking her pinkies into the pies here, trying to run things, ordering people about, making her :own personal setups, like. i guess the general just got sick of her and figured her lily-white body-a bit shop-worn, just between us!-wasn't worth her taking over and embarrassing him. so there she is in getoba, and he won't let her out, he won't let anybody in or out, and i want to save her." finch said flatly, "why?" the ragihi blinked, touched her hair curlers, and stared at georgette with blue eyes that looked momentarily blind. "what a bloody question that is! she's me sister, that's why!" "but you don't like her very much, do you?" "what difference does that make? you're going to go in there and get her out, see? and i don't have to tell you why, you're just to go in there and do it, right?" "right," durell said. his excellency, president inurate motuku, looked ill. all his years of fighting for the independence of his people, the years of violence and blood, of silent exile, showed in his bowed shoulders, his gray head, the downward droop and swoop of his strong, savage mouth. his black eyes were the mirrors of his exhaustion. he sat on a straight-backed wooden chair in a kind of bed-sitting room at the opposite end of the presidential cottage, with windows that would have given a striking view of the wide, lake like river if they hadn't been firmly closed with bahamian wooden shutters. the room smelled of his illness. the big bed was rumpled, and there was a sheraton dresser under a huge mirror opposite the bed, laden with= irene maitland's cosmetics and a glittering, flashing array of cut-glass dispensers. , motuku wore a masculine version of irene's bat-wing cloak, but he wore it with dignity and refinement, lending a nobility to the garment by his mere presence. durell thought of the stolen three hundred million in aid funds and found it hard to connect the man with the money. motuku spoke in precise english, his voice rich and resonant, accustomed to command. but the weariness was there too, in the timbre of his words, in the way he paused to pick and choose his phrases.

"we are a civilized people, my dear durell. true, we are an evolving nation, not quite viable enough to keep up with the white industrial west in technical affairs, but-" " he raised a slim brown hand, "-but we do our best. we' are most concerned about our image among the world's family of nations. it seems important, since we are in need of aid and friendship from any source generous enough to make such help available." "your image, excellency, would be better served if you called off general watsube's slaughter in getoba." "ah, yes." "can you order him to stop- it?" "our nation suffers what you might call growing pains. we are in a state of flux." "you can't control watsube?" "alas, for the moment, passions are inflamed, and the populace is on the edge of hysteria. a strong hand is need-' ed." "do you approve of watsube's tactics?" something stirred in the tired, muddy eyes. "do not put' stones between my teeth, as my people say. the teleks and certain foreign mercenaries who gathered in getoba attempted the violent overthrow of my government. i am fortunate in having a loyal brother like watsube. the teleks are his own people, do you know that? but he places the nation above early loyalties. everything i lived and worked for was threatened for four days last week, until the subversion and the rebellion, the terrorism and the murders, were contained. over one thousand people were slaughtered, my dear sir-people loyal to me, their raga, and to my dreams and plans for boganda. am i to show mercy and weakness? am i to forgive the foreign intrusion of weapons and assassins?" "can you prove the teleks are led by others?" "ali. you americans. eager always to have everything in black and white. you would like public proof of russian, egyptian, or chinese interference in our internal affairs? it is not to be had. not yet." irene said, astonishingly, "daddy, the american only wants to know about the damned money. he says he won't go into getoba just to help mickey." "my dear, i spoke to the general. he will make no exceptions. no one will be shown favor. it is his oath, but it is difficult for you to understand." "but mickey is my sister and his wife!" "no." the voice was stronger, with a hint of thinly suppressed anger in it like the smoldering rumble of a latent volcano. "your sister is an evil woman, my dear, with a lust for power and a callous attitude toward the victims of her schemes. my brother watsube was right to divorce her by tribal custom. my brother watsube is always right."

irene said, "he's not your brother! why do you keep calling him that when he's wrecking the whole country-" "he does what is needed, whatever his pain." "he's only after the money for himself, that's all!" irene shouted. inurate motuku stood up slowly. durell had not realized how tall the man was. he must have topped seven feet, and his emaciation only emphasized his extraordinary height. his dark eyes suddenly blazed. "you will leave us, irene." "but i-daddy-" "and do not use that stupid term to me again." "yes, but about mickey-" the woman broke off, finally recognizing the change in her black husband. she looked at durell like a child suddenly lost in the middle of an incomprehensible adult game. then she turned and walked out. for a moment there was silence. then the raga sighed. "a sweet child, a memento of the madness of my middle age, my dear durell. she walks a thorny path, blinded by her sense of importance to me. she does not know that she is the ornament of an impulse that has long since cooled to ashes." "is her sister mickey important?" durell asked. "you will rescue her, if you can. but you will not cross general watsube in any way. he will not permit you, if he knows, to go into getoba. in this one thing we differ. and therefore your-ah-project is most dangerous. in this one matter i keep a secret from my blood brother watsube. i am guilty of this betrayal. and if he learns of your mission, he will kill you. and i shall never have known your name." durell said, "do you want the money back?" "yes, for the good name of boganda." the raga sighed again. his enormous, thin height was a shadow that swayed briefly in and out of other shadows in the room. "i am at fault, of course, caught up in too many things to do, to build, to teach. and i have no one among the bogandans, natanga or telek, who is educated enough to cope with this decade in this century of african life. i had to leave certain matters to others. the money is there, mr. durell. i know it was not taken from the country or from this city. it is in getoba. the rebellion came at a time, perhaps, inappropriate to the thieves; or perhaps the theft was designed to finance the new self-proposed rulers of boganda." the thin shoulders hunched briefly. "it is your country's money, mr. dwell. i would like to turn that paper and metal into factories and schools and telephones and roads. but i fear it may be lost. you must not let it happen." "maybe watsube is after it. maybe that's why he's so adamant about smashing the rebels in getoba." "he does his duty, sir, as you will do yours." the tall black man sat down suddenly into his straight-backed chair, as if something inside him had suddenly given way, as if the accustomed steel springs of will that held his tall body together had abruptly snapped. a grayness spread under his brown skin. "whatever has befallen my brother watsube will happen to me too. it has been predicted many years ago. do not think of me as a superstitious savage, sir. i have given your

mission much thought. it is the first time since childhood that i keep a secret from watsube. but you will go into getoba for me and locate those funds and, i hope, discover who attempted to steal it from my people. it is the theft of schools and roads and a better life, you see. the thief, whoever he may be, must be apprehended. his punishment will be swift; it will be merciless." durell stared at the sick man. a film of perspiration shone on inurate motuku's forehead. durell said, "why choose me? why not a russian, a chinese? why not your own secret police, why not the fkp?" "because i can trust you, mr. durell." the raga sounded utterly exhausted. "and i can trust no one else. will you go into getoba for me?" "yes," durell said. chapter 7 the sky flickered with a violent red from the hourly barrage of mortar shells on getoba. from the veranda of the presidential bungalow, durell could see the explosions light up the surface of the river, making long ribbons of pink and yellow on the current. he looked for the chauffeur beside the limousine. the elderly man was gone. he felt georgette move beside him to start down the veranda steps, while the crash and bang of the distant guns made the black leaves tremble overhead. the grounds around the bungalow were in darkness. he caught the girl's wrist and was surprised for a moment by the delicacy of her bones. "wait." "what is it?" "i don't know yet." the limousine had been moved out toward the gates while they were inside the presidential bungalow. he couldn't make out anyone near it. he suddenly remembered himself as a boy in the louisiana bayous, stalking game along the shadows of the chenieres. he had had an instinct even then of a change in his surroundings, a subtle difference, a hunter's knowledge of another's presence something had changed here too; but he couldn't quite tell what it was. "mtamba?" it was a very faint whisper from the shrubbery near the veranda steps. durell took out his gun and stepped down onto the path. georgette moved silently with him. he couldn't see the old man. he heard a crackling sound, as thin as the breaking of a sparrow's wing, and then there came an explosive shout, "durell, look out! rural" he thought it was captain yutigaffa's voice. he jumped sidewise, pulling georgette with him, and heard the thud of feet and the sudden roar of a starting engine. headlights came on directly in his face, blinding him. he did not raise the gun in his hand. across the twin shafts of light he saw yutigaffa jump up from the bushes and run toward the gate. a man in uniform came after him, swinging an automatic rifle at the back of yutigaffa's head. kantijji shouted somewhere, and the sound ended in a gurgle. yutigaffa went down. it was done as quietly as possible, but men in pain persist in screaming and howling. there were more soldiers, grim men in elite red berets, and through the gateway came a personnel carrier. "jiminy, is it a coup?" georgette whispered.

"keep quiet. don't run." "i feel like a -bug on a pin, in this light." "that's their general idea." "are they after the raga?" "no. they want us. these are the general's men." there was a struggle near the gate. arms and weapons rose and fell, and there came muffled groans and thumpings. sergeant kantijji came crawling along the lawn without sight or senses, his face bloody, his eyes blind. one of the troopers kicked him in the ribs and knocked him sidewise. kantijji lay on his side, twitching like a wounded animal. there was still a struggle going on around abraham yutigaffa's big frame. he refused to go down under an avalanche of blows. the truck motor was revved impatiently. two officers, wearing sidearms and white cartridge belts, looking very natty in their khaki and red berets, came trotting up from the melee toward the veranda. "mr. durell? miss finch? this way, please." the girl began, "listen, does his excellency know-" "the raga need not be disturbed. you are requested for a simple interview, that is all. no need for alarm." the officer's teeth flashed very white in the gloom. behind him the thump and thud of blows landing on yutigaffa went on. sergeant kantijji looked dead, lying with his knees drawn up under his chin on the shadowed lawn. the officer said, "general watsube requests the pleasure of a few moments of your time. he is a busy man, as you must understand. we ask your cooperation. do not delay." durell looked at the two beaten fkp men. "let them go. they meant no harm." "we have no use for spies of that sort. are they your special friends?" asked the officer. "no. but they're good men." "good for what, sir? they are dirt. they are katula vipers. they would spy on their own mothers and have them shot, if they were told to do so. but if you wish them to be freed-" the officer shouted something across the lawn. the struggle at the gateway ended. captain yutigaffa stood erect, pulling air into his huge chest ,with a great effort. blood streamed down his face, disfiguring him. blood filled his open mouth. there was nothing in his insane and . defiant stare that meant anything to durell. "are we under arrest?" finch asked. her voice was pitched too high, too loud. "not at all. but we are under a military curfew, under martial law," the officer said. "come this way, please." the natanga hotel was surrounded by watsube's red beret elite troopers. the lobby was filled with excited,. awed civilians, even at this early-morning hour; the ;;

guests . were being soothed by a black public relations officer. the elevators were available to guests only up to the tenth floor. beyond that, military guards took over. apparently, general iraki mendopu kurfagga watsube had established his siege headquarters in the hotel tower suites. it-: had been done swiftly and efficiently. scattered over the hotel grounds were machinegun crews in small bivouacs, ` smoking, sleeping, cooking over small fires amid the elegant shrubbery. durell and the girl were hurried into an elevator and ushered out at the top level, past a security, guard posted behind a desk, and into what the american builders of the hotel had fondly named the presidential suite. perhaps it was symbolic, durell thought, that: whereas president motuku had never occupied these' rooms, general watsube had now moved in. the general amplified his dossier in startling ways..' where the raga was very tall and emaciated, watsube was short and stout despite the aid of an obvious corset. under his uniform; he was much blacker than the president, with the round face and bulging frog eyes of the telek people. two opposites could not have been more unlikely to call themselves brothers, as these two were: fond of doing. there might have been some chinese in watsube-not in color, but in the high slant of cheekbones and eyes. the man's round head was shaved and waxed until it gleamed under the lamp in the sitting room of the suite. through the windows behind .him, the fires in distant getoba were clearly visible, and some of the smoke, acrid and thin, even worked its way through the air-conditioning. "i do not have much time to spend over you both," watsube said. his uniform was simple, rumpled, sweat stained. his english was colloquial american, a philadelphia accent. "obviously, you can understand that i'm a busy man. so you will answer briefly and truthfully. sit down, miss finch. did you know that i once met your father?" "when he was still in the banking business?" the girl asked. "did he ever leave it, my dear, even when he was elected as one of your senators?" watsube's smile was quick and mechanical. he was a man with a lot on his mind. "senator finch is charming but dedicated eternally to the dollar. i do not think you are much like him:" "thank you," georgette said. "did you arrest us to discuss how i relate to my family back home?" "my dear miss finch, you are not under arrest. you." watsube turned his bulging eyes toward durell. "please tell me what the raga wanted of you. the raga and i have been united for forty years. we are brothers. does he now have secrets from me? i, who kill my own people, the teleks, to preserve his dream of nationhood?" "is the killing necessary?" durell asked. "they will not surrender. it is just as well. once an enemy, always an enemy. there is no reconciliation with traitors. what did the raga want of you?" durell said, "it was really the ragihi's request." "so?" "she is worried about her sister-your wife." "and?" "she wondered if i could help somehow."

"how exactly?" "she had some romantic idea of my rescuing your wife= the raga was annoyed. his excellency said that your personal affairs are your own, general." "but he did not commission you for this chivalrous gesture of rescuing mathildawho likes to be called mickey?" general watsube's black eyes were like stones. his thick mouth drooped downward under his thin moustache. "am i supposed to believe such a ridiculous story? how, can i believe it, when you were accompanied by those two dogs, those fkp men?" durell said, "i thought they worked for you, general.: are they still alive?" watsube waved a negligent hand. he stood up, short' and corpulent, his moon face turned briefly to the wide windows to examine the fires burning at the opposite end of the city. "captain yutigaffa plays his role very well. i am not concerned with the fkp. you worry me more than you should, sir. and you too, young lady." he looked curiously at georgette's tall figure. somehow, the girl managed to look graceful as she sat down and crossed her long legs. "as for my wife, mr. durell, i am sorely misunderstood. it is not a question of my allowing her out of the getoba. the fact is, she can not come out. she is being: held as a hostage. she is being used to demand escape for= rebels and murderers. does that change the picture for you?" "i had the impression that she had appealed to you to be allowed out of the getoba while the fighting went on." "quite wrong. she is a .prisoner there, kept to intimidate me, to make me yield to certain demands. trucks, amnesty, free and unmolested passage to the border. which i cannot and will not permit. does that clarify matters, sir?" "couldn't mathilda maitland-your wife-be rescued?" "getoba will fall within three days. it is so planned. if my wife is still alive, she will be allowed to leave the country. if her captors kill her out of malice, then she will be but one more sacrifice for the unity of my country." watsube breathed heavily for a moment. durell sensed a violent anger in the man. then a telephone rang on a table across the room. an aide picked it up, said something in telek, and nodded to the general. watsube picked up an extension on his desk, listened, nodding his bald, shaven skull. once he looked up directly at georgette's height, but his eyes were blank, and he might have been staring at the wall. he put down the telephone, and his nostrils flared. "we will speak later, mr. durell. until then you must consider yourself under house arrest here in the hotel. the two of you must remain in your room, mr. durell. in the morning you will be deported from boganda. a bpa plane will leave at ten a.m. for mozambique. you will both be on it. until then there will be no displays of american chivalry, understood?" durell nodded. "may i ask one question?" "i am busy-" "if you don't run the fkp-and i don't think now that you do, from the way your people handled yutigaffa and if the raga doesn't run the secret police either, then who does?"

there was silence, while the general pushed papers around on his desk without purpose. his head was lowered, and durell could not see the man's eyes. then watsube said, "the silver scorpion rules the fkp." "i thought that was all a myth-" "you have had your question. you will proceed at once to your quarters. or would you prefer the military compound where our getoba prisoners are kept?" "we'll take the hotel room," finch said promptly. chapter 8 the red-bereted lieutenant showed his white teeth in another grin and closed the door to durell's room, stepping back into the hushed corridor outside as he did so. two armed troopers stood guard there. durell paused and-: listened to the lock click. the hotel had been built with reasonable sound-proofing. he looked at finch. the tall girl seemed at a loss. "where did you park your rover?" he asked quietly. "at my cottage. why?" "let's get it." "get it? how? we're locked in-" "just listen and do as i tell you." "where are we going?" "out. immediately. before they're organized on their guard duty and decide that they should send a man in here=. to sit with us." "but how-" "just don't look as if you're rushed, finch." "yes, siree," she said. "are you still going to get into the getoba?" "yes. now. later might be too late." "sam, you're a real zingaroo." "shut up," he said. there was a connecting door to the next guest room,; from which durell had heard no sounds since checking in;; it was unoccupied, he hoped. from his luggage he took a set of picklocks and went to work on the door, and in a moment it clicked open. the next room was in darkness.' he touched finch's hand and led her inside. he had been right. it was empty. like most modern hotels, each room had a connecting door to the next, to make up into suites if necessary. he went ahead through the gloom, through a bath and another sitting-room to the next connecting door. it gave him no more trouble with his steel pick than the first. he paused in the quiet gloom. "finch?" "i'm here." "tell me about mickey maitland. and irene. two sharp sisters from liverpool, right? married the two top men in boganda." "it's occurred to me," georgette said. "what's mickey like?" "beautiful, i guess. if you like 'em that way. like ice. she came here six months after irene nailed the raga into marriage. obviously she wanted a piece of the cake too. she didn't worry about the flavor of the icing, so to speak. general watsube is number two man, so she got him. not bad work for a couple of slum girls born near the docks." "and when did the teleks get restless?" georgette said flatly, "after mickey got here." "is there a connection?"

"it seems to me," georgette said, "that all of boganda's recent troubles stepped off the plane in the person of mathilda maitland. and earlier with irene." "what do you think they want?" durell asked. "the whole darned country," the girl said. "are we staying here for the night?" "follow me. be careful." the last room he crossed was at a corner of the hotel corridor, with the hall door opening around the turn, out of view of the guards lounging some distance back, outside his own room. he opened the hall door with care. finch, standing close behind him was as tall as he was. there was a faint, pleasant scent to her brown hair. he wondered if her shoes pinched. "now just walk quietly with me to the elevator, do you understand?" he said. "no panic?" she said. "just smile." the soldier in the elevator did not recognize them as prisoners and did not challenge their descent. from the lobby durell turned left and went through the empty community rooms in the rear, big and cavernous and echoing and desolate. a side door took them out of the airconditioning and back into the dark, humid reality of boganda's . night streets. the thump and bang of the mortars surrounding getoba sounded louder and more implacable at three o'clock in the morning. durell drove georgette finch's battered land rover, wondering if it had been a personal gift from her senatorbanker father. durell credited her with a willingness to work out of a family background of inherited wealth; an acceptance of poverty and disease in a strange and alien land; a determination to keep at her job with k section, even if her lack of perspective and training made her a liability and a danger to him. "how do you expect to get into getoba?" she asked . quietly. her manner had changed; she was almost meek. "there's always a way. it can't be cordoned off too . tightly." "some teleks tried to escape. they were caught and shot. some portuguese merchants wanted to get out under ' a truce flag two days ago. general watsube drove them back at gunpoint. nobody in or out, sam." "we'll get in," he said. "and will we get out?" "you're the one who insists on this job being done. we'll worry about getting out of the trap after we've taken the cheese." he turned off the boulevard into a side street. the sky, seemed filled with sheet lightning up ahead, but it was really general watsube's mortars. nobody was on the streets. he had a pass, along with one for finch, and they had been stopped twice and then released reluctantly. apparently they hadn't yet been missed from their quarters at the hotel. durell pulled up in the shadow of a tin-sided, corrugated warehouse near the river front. the air smelled hot and fetid. there were native fishing boats on the muddy, reed-grown bank. he looked back at the girl's dim

face. there was only the lowering moon and the starlight to outline the night. he twisted farther on the seat. the mortars stopped abruptly, and hanging over the edge of their ugly sound had been the mutter of a car engine behind them. "wait here," he said. "no, i want to stay close to you." "wait," he said again. he got out of the rover and walked back down the lane. he decided that if finch disobeyed and followed him, he would get rid of her, here and now. he couldn't risk an uncertain partner who had no sense of discipline. something scurried out of his way in the dark, sandy alley. he didn't hear a sound out of finch, and he felt a bit better about it. when he came to the end of the warehouse wall, where he could see the night horizon across the black, sluggish river, he stopped and shook his gun loose into his hand. it felt warm and slippery as he gripped it and reliably heavy. he turned the corner and saw the small, black fiat with the police insignia on the door. "be careful, please," he said to the two men in the car. they were captain abraham yutigaffa and sergeant kantijji. yutigaffa had a puffed lower lip, a deep cut over his left eye, a piece of white surgical tape across the back of his neck. kantijji had a bandage of dark cotton print across his temple. neither man seemed either surprised or displeased that he had doubled back and found them. "captain," durell said to yutigaffa, "you seem a bit the worse for wear." "we survived, mtamba. it was a difficult moment at the president's bungalow. there has always been rivalry between general watsube's elite troops and the fkp. we were fortunate, however. they did not kill us. killing gets easier every day, it seems." "are you still thinking of busting me?" durell asked. j "no, mtamba. how did you get away from the general?" "we walked out. just as you did." "what did he want of you, mtamba?" "he put us under arrest, pending deportation tomorrow. we're to fly to mozambique in the morning. i'm not ready to go yet," durell said. "i am pleased," said yutigaffa. "don't put me on." "no, sir. you have the confidence of the raga, and therefore you command our respect and our loyalty." "but not your trust, is that it?" "we trust you, mtamba. we wish to help you." "why doesn't the raga have confidence in the fkp?" "did he say that, sir?"

"i'm definitely not to use you for my job, captain." yutigaffa stared out over the black waters of the river for a long moment. he touched his bruised face with long, sensitive fingers. "it is a pity, durell. because you can't possibly succeed without my help. kantijji and i have talked it over. we are not angry because of the beating; given to us by watsube's men. as i said, violence grows with each hour it is encouraged. kantijji and i are willing to help you." "why?" durell demanded. j

sergeant kantijji spoke around his puffed mouth. "be cause we love and trust the raga, sir. because we do not love love what has happened to our country. our loyalty is to the nation, and the raga is our nation, so we are loyal to him." yutigaffa put his hands splayed flat on the wheel of his little fiat. his eyes slid to durell's gun. "how do you propose to get into the getoba district, mtamba? with that little weapon?" "i don't know yet. i may not go at all, since the job is, already known to the fkp. and i don't trust the fkp." "only kantijji and i have guessed your assignment, mr. .s durell. only we can help you. we have maps. we have a knowledge of the area, far better than miss finch's. and i know a way through the siege lines." durell said grimly, "am i supposed to trust you?" "you must, mtamba. otherwise, general watsube's men will shoot to kill if they see you. come with me, into this place. we need some light, and we must not show ourselves to any of the patrols. you must trust us, please, sir." durell looked at the wide river and smelled the mud and the garbage clotted along the sandy banks and saw the glow of red flames from new fires in the northern sector of the city. it was very quiet here. no one walked about, no army patrols came through this area. if his absence from the hotel with finch had been discovered yet, there was no sign of it. the warehouse had a sliding corrugated metal door. from inside came the smell of jute, mingling oddly with the sharp pungency of tea leaves. the door was open just enough to allow a man to slip through. he considered yutigaffa. "you first, captain." "of course." "be very careful." "we have a dossier on you, sir. your code name is cajun. we understand that you could teach us much in our profession." yutigaffa paused. "kantijji, you had best go back and stay with miss finch." the two fkp men got out of the little fiat, and the shorter kantijji, limping a little, drifted away as silent as smoke. they were competent men, durell decided. he followed yutigaffa into the warehouse. there came a dim rumbling as the bogandan rolled the warehouse door shut. durell drowned in blackness, in the odors

of jute and tea. then a light sliced through the dark, hot air and showed him a partition, a concrete floor covered with scattered straw, a door with a glass window set in the partition. yutigaffa's eyes gleamed behind the shine of the flashlight. "in here, sir, my office. i have a map." "take it out of your pocket slowly." "yes, sir." there was a desk in the office, a tattered cloth shade over the glass window in the door, a smell of stale pipe tobacco, of natanga sweat, a thick mug half-filled with cold 'tea on the desk. yutigaffa put a folded map on the desk. he placed a beretta .32 beside it. his teeth showed briefly, white between his brown lips. he, gestured, pointing. on the wall opposite the doorway was thumb tacked a large map of boganda-the city, durell noted, not the whole country. the width of the river spilled out over the western half of the chart, and the sinuous banks made a . series of sigmoid curves diagonally upward from the lower left corner. the streets and alleys of the city made yellow cross-hatchings. someone had used grease pencils to demarcate different districts of the capital city, and the extreme area to the northeast, the getoba district, was outlined irregularly in red. within the red outline someone ! had marked a small square with a blue crayon, down near the river's edge. yutigaffa's long, black finger tapped the blue area. ' "the thompson-strang jute mill." durell nodded. "so?" "it is the waste pipe, sir. these dotted lines?" "they go into the river," durell commented. "yes. there is no other place to discharge the waste." "how big is the conduit?" "it is two meters in diameter, sir." y "and how far out into the river does it go?" "about thirty meters, mtamba. the top of the conduit is only a foot or two under the surface, at this season. there is a buoy to mark the end of it. we will need a boat. i can procure one. the pipe slants sharply, however. per haps ten meters is completely submerged. it is still a long and very dangerous swim through the pipe to reach the bank." "under water? filled with slop?" "let me explain," said yutigaffa. his english was very precise, marked with his effort to make himself clear.:' "the getoba district is the old moslem area of the town. the teleks built the wall around it, enclosing a kind of medina, as they did when fortifying most of their cities of north africa. because of the centuries of rivalry between teleks and natangas, the wall was always kept in excellent repair. it is still intact, mtamba. not even a rat could get through it from the landward side. it is the wall that keeps back the federal troops from ending the rebellion at once." "and the approach from the river?" "there are landings, certain piers and gates. but general watsube has already secured most of the landings, and the gates are closed and secured. the teleks know they have no hope for mercy. they have european and american mercenary

leaders, by the way-professional military men, renegades, who know they have no future beyond a firing squad or a beheading. perhaps they hold out now in the dream of foreign interference. there have been articles in pravda decrying the massacre in getoba. there have been protests from peking. your own country, as usual, maintains a discreet silence on the unhappy affair. there will probably be no comment from washington until the issue is resolved-and american public opinion is brought to bear upon the situation too late-as usual." durell ignored the tone of the man's words. he considered the map in the light of yutigaffa's flashlight. the light made the beaded scars on the fkp man's face stand out against his brown face. the marks of the beating he had taken at the hands of the troopers were puffy and ugly. but the man's dark black eyes were impassive, without expression, waiting. "you've done your homework," durell said. "and not just in the last few minutes either." "no, sir. we have been thinking--sergeant kantijji and i have been thinking-that perhaps an exercise in the penetration of getoba might eventually be necessary. we thought we should prepare for it. we are ready to obey your orders, mr. durell. to secure the funds, of course, that are supposed to be in the getoba and perhaps to save the ragihi's sister, if possible." "aren't you taking some rough chances with your superiors?" captain yutigaffa smiled faintly. his puffed and bruised mouth looked painful. there was a small clot of blood still: on his upper lip, and his eyes looked sad. "sir, i do not 4 know who my superiors are in these confused times. when, do you wish to try to go in there, mr. durell?" "right now," durell said. "it's as dangerous to stay' here, where general watsube might nail me." "and miss finch?" "we take her with us. she knows the combination to the safe." yutigaffa stared at him. "then we should make the penetration at once." chapter 9 the moon had sunk beneath the western bend of the broad natanga river, leaving a heavy, brooding darkness over the night that was helped only a little by the stars. it was three o'clock in the morning, and general watsube's mortars began their grim tolling again. the night was lighted by the explosions, and the air was shaken by the regular, implacable concussions. a smell of smoke and pestilence drifted over the black waters of the river. durell-` halted in the shadows of some banyan trees that grew: along the water's edge. to his right he could see the ancient crenellated wall of the getoba district, pock-marked: by crumbled blocks that had been blasted from their positions. the thin, anemic crackle of distant rifle fire made a= futile reply to the mortars. the rifles sounded like russian-made kalashnikovs. kantijji's arm came up, thirty feet ahead of them, at the end of the row of banyan trees. the riverbank had been cleared here, and some fishermen's huts that had been burned to the ground still smelled of smoke and charred wood. the tinsheathed roofs, made from gasoline drums and tins, formed grotesque traceries on the overgrown shore. plenty of cover, durell thought. he heard the distant

retching noise made by an armored car's engine being started. the thin, blackout slits of its headlights made cat's eyes in the darkness. a cool wind suddenly blew from the river and died as quickly. the armored car moved along the battered street parallel to the high wall surrounding the telek district. it made a snarling sound like an angry animal. sergeant kantijji signaled again for them all to stay down as the truck rumbled nearer. georgette finch breathed too quickly. "they're bound to see us, sam. by golly, they've just about-" "be quiet," durell whispered. "how come you got so generous and let me come with you?" "because i don't trust you. i'd rather have you where i can keep an eye on you, than leave you back there making mistakes that might kill me. now keep your head down." from the safety of the banyan trees and the twisted wreckage along the riverbank, durell spotted movement on top of the irregular medina wall. a man ran briefly along it, crouching low, then dropped flat. something small and dark went looping down toward the prowling armored truck. there was a dim shout of warning, but it came too late. the driver gunned the motor and twisted the controls, but his arrogance in approaching so close to the rebels was now paid for. there came a tremendous roar, the blinding flash of explosives, and the armored vehicle was lifted on two wheels and hurled sidewise. bodies flew from the boxlike body behind the cab. there were screams,-,the smell of smoke and hot metal, the sudden burst of crackling fire as gasoline exploded and detonated the ammunition. durell felt captain yutigaffa's hand touch his shoulder. he did not start. "now, mtamba," said the man. they got up and ran under cover of the confusion. beyond the trees there was an open space under the wall of getoba, littered by wreckage and only partly cleared. the teleks on top of the wall, durell thought, would not differentiate them from general watsube's men, if they were spotted. georgette stumbled and fell over some twisted tin sheeting. she made a stifled sound of pain. durell yanked her up without ceremony. "come on. keep going!" "listen, i-" "you asked for it. follow kantijji." the walls of the medina came almost to the water's edge, but there was a wide landing at the base, built of cut slabs of stone. it had probably been constructed by the portuguese over two hundred years ago. the riverside landing was littered with the broken debris of battle. yutigaffa ran - ahead through the shadowed junk like a broken-field football runner and then suddenly vanished over the side of the stone docking area. durell shoved the girl ahead, behind kantijji. the wall loomed menacingly over them. he thought he heard someone shout, but the noise of the burning armored truck behind them and the screams of the wounded men who had tumbled out of it drowned out any nearby sounds. the stone platform was slippery with rotted vegetation, hemp, trash and garbage' thrown over the wall by the besieged teleks inside. finch was panting when durell shoved her down again. she lay flat beside him, her hip hard against his, and tried to pin her hair back in

place. durell, beside kantijji, looked over the edge of the stone embarkation wharf. there was a float down below; moving slightly with the tug of the sluggish black current. farther out in the stream, something pale bobbed on the surface of he river. all he could see of captain yutigaffa was a flash of white eyes. he heard a whisper. "down here, sir." "you first, finch," durell said. she shivered a little. "listen, i'm afraid-" "get down there. don't wait. we've been lucky-" their luck seemed to run out then, as the clatter of a machinegun suddenly burst from behind and above them on top of the wall. kantijji grunted. bullets chocked into the stone deck of the pier. kantijji made another odd sound and suddenly slid over the string piece. his body splashed into the water with a noise that was overridden by the rattling of the machinegun. durell urged finch over the side. her tall body felt tight and muscular, resisting him. she went quickly down suddenly, on a slatted ladder, and half fell into yutigaffa's arms. durell followed hard behind her. "kantijji?" he called. "i am safe." the sergeant crawled up onto the small float, shaking his head like a wet dog. his teeth flashed briefly in the gloom as he grinned. "i am sorry i was so clumsy." the machinegun stopped firing. for some moments durell kept them crouching on the float, and there was only the sound of the burning armored car, the dim shouts of approaching rescuers, then the sudden crunch of a bursting grenade. the river made lapping, purling sounds against the stone embankment. farther out on the black, ruffled surface of the water, something splashed and splashed again and then flicked away. it could have been a large fish, a night hawk, a croc. durell touched captain yutigaffa's shoulder. "how far to the outfall from the jute mill?" "around that point there. perhaps two hundred meters." the fkp man gestured toward a sharp, rectilinear jutting of high black stone that blocked the end of the wharf, an abutment to the district's walls. the raked mast of a local fishing boat, not unlike a nile felucca, made a dim pattern against the stars. the mortars stopped their monotonous hammering on the other side of the besieged town. the feeble crack of return rifle fire from the telek walls pattered out like the last of falling october leaves. "we must swim in the water," yutigaffa whispered. "unless--sergeant?" "yes?" said kantijji. "do you see that canoe-off the forteleza?" "yes, sir." "swim for it. bring it back here. quietly!"

"yes, sir." the stockier of the two bogandans slid into the scummy black water. in a moment he had vanished completely from sight. durell felt georgette move beside him on the float, against the shelter of the stone embankment wall. she was still shivering a bit, although the night was now hot and breathless and sultry. her face was a pale amorphous outline, close to his. "finch, do you know the getoba?" he murmured. "i used to work in it when i was in the peace corps." "do you know this jute mill?" _

"i've seen it. it's not so hotsy-totsy. a sweatshop operation run by a couple of old chinese gentlemen." durell said, "spare me the socio-economic-ecological implications. do you know the building?" she shook her head. "i've never been in it, no." "then we have to trust yutigaffa here?" the girl looked at the tall, scarred bogandan watching the surface of the river where kantijji had swum away.. she said to durell, "you're pretty blunt about your worries, talking about yutigaffa as if he wasn't right here at your elbow." "honesty is the best policy," durell said. "hot dog," she said. "a arrayed word of wisdom." there came a dim splash from out in the sullen darkness of the river. durell watched the medina wall, his gun: in hand. nothing stirred up there now, but he couldn't be certain they were not under observation. he had the feeling that eyes watched them. then kantijji came swimming, back, towing a long, dugout-type canoe. there was a small five-horse outboard engine on the port quarter, but they wouldn't be able to use it. georgette got in with a certain expertise, apparently being familiar with the native craft. yutigaffa followed. kantijji pulled himself, dripping, out of the water and into the boat; he muttered something to the captain and then reached out to hand durell a pole. "the river is deep here, mtamba, because of the ferry and other river boats that tie up to this dock when times are normal. we must go around the fort-that high tower on the wall ahead of us. then we will see the strang mill." "and how do we find the outfall?" "i believe i mentioned a buoy that marks the end of the conduit. there is a small creek that comes out into the river through the same waste pipe. the pipe itself is quite wide, easily big enough to accommodate a swimming man. you can see the disturbance in the surface current where the water comes out. and there is air inside the conduit at all times-more just now than normally, because this is the dry season."

durell, standing on the float below the wall of the wharf, held up a hand. "hold it a moment, captain." "sir? is something-" "i'm not sure." he turned and faced back the way they had come. the littered surface of the stone embankment held no movement under the starlight. the fire from the burnt-out armor car, some distance behind them and around the corner of the medina wall, had died out. the red embers that were left cast a ruddy glow on the walls and heaps of wreckage along the waterfront. something moved there, a flickering shape, a blot of pallor, a flutter of clothing. yutigaffa came and watched, standing beside durell. "it is one of the troopers from the armored car. he is wounded, perhaps." "no, i don't think so," durell said. "it's a woman." finch turned. "a woman? here?" durell looked at her and cut off an obvious reply. the figure, running through the shadows, was again outlined against the red glow of ashes beyond. he was right. it was a woman. he glimpsed a strand of pale hair, like a medusa's tendril, flying behind the intent thrust of the head and face. "it's irene," be said. yutigaffa sucked air. "the ragihi?" "yes. she's spotted us." durell climbed the ladder to the surface of the stone wharf again. irene swerved, running through the shadows,' her mouth open in an anguished face. he waved an arm briefly, swearing softly to himself, and checked the top of the telek walls. he didn't see any sentries stirring there. but there could easily be a rifle following the woman's erratic, hip-weaving progress as she saw durell and came toward him. "get down," he called softly. "do you want to get killed?" she came toward him, sank to her knees, put her arms out as if in supplication. he felt astonishment, then decided there was nothing here to be surprised about. he helped her over the edge of the wharf, keeping an'. eye on the wall. something moved up there briefly. he pulled her down behind the shelter of the massive, cut;' stones and onto the float where the others waited. "irene- ragihi-what are, you doing here?" "i'm going with you," she gasped. "oh, lordie, i: thought i'd never make it, indeed." "are you alone?"

"course i'm alone. caught you just in time, didn't i? i; ain't about to let me sister get chopped up here in the getoba. i wormed it all out of the raga, you see. he doesn't, know i've followed you, naturally. but here i am." "you can't come along," durell said. "can't i?" her small face changed from a gamin's grin to the strong and stubborn grimace of a dockside girl.. "you think not? you take me with you, however you plan to get in, or i'll scream me bloody head off. and what do you think will happen when they hear us over that wall?" chapter 10 they poled and paddled forward, hugging the deep shadow cast by the stone wharf. the river stretched out in smooth blackness as far to the left as they could see, its current like slippery dark glass. durell wondered why the teleks didn't have pickets out along the shore. or why general watsube had not covered this point from the river. perhaps it was because the teleks were river people, and most of the available boats were tied up just beyond the looming tower up ahead, known as the portuguese fort. and the teleks probably commanded a good line of fire from atop their ancient wall. kantijji was in the bow of the long, unstable canoe, while captain yutigaffa loomed like a carved wooden idol in the stem, handling a steering paddle with easy familiarity. ahead of yutigaffa was georgette, using both hands on the smooth, worn gunwales of the canoe to balance herself. durell sat amidships, with irene's blond head swiveling to look at everything around them. she was still breathing fast from her long run after them, but there was an air of excitement and anticipation in the way she sat, in the straight line of her back and slight forward-bending from her hips, that made durell uneasy. "irene," he said softly. "may i call the ragihi by her familiar name?" "oh, sure." she turned her head and grinned at him. her great eyes looked enormous in the starlight reflected from the river's surface. the water made a purling sound at the canoe's bows, the paddles handled by the fkp dripped quietly. the bank of the river, with the low wall of, the getoba district, slid slowly by, as if they were standing still and the land was moving. irene said, "i told you, i'm worried about mickey. so i called her." "you telephoned to her?" "oh, mass gray hurt sure. the lines are still working. funny, huh?" irene pointed at the looming of the portuguese fort' on the riverbank. they were almost opposite the low, bulk. "mickey is in there, all right. she's fine. at least, she hasn't been yet: so i told her i was coming in."

"why?" "what do you mean, why? she's me sister, isn't she?" "if you could reach her on the telephone, then mickey can't be too badly off," durell said. "oh, you'll see. you'll find out all about it, when we get. in there."

"are they expecting us then? is that why there haven't been any shots at us so far?" she pouted. "well; no. mickey told me to stay out of it all. she said i ought to stay nice and safe with the president. but i was always one for a bit of fun and excitement, you might say. i'm afraid i got her quite angry with me when i said i was coming in, anyway." "how angry?" "well, when i said i'd try to catch up with you, she said.; she'd kill you." durell's face did not change in the gloom. "you told' her about me?" "why, sure. why not?" her big blue eyes grinned back, at him from the center of the canoe. the starlight played: on the planes of her face. behind her eyes, he saw something suddenly cruel and feline and not at all naive. "i told. mickey all about you, mr. durell. mr. cajun. that's your code name, isn't it? you're a spy, aren't you? didn't the' president ask for you, to help him out about the missing money? he had a whole dossier on you, sam, me boy. i've= got a good memory, though you might not think it, the way i babble on. so i told mickey all about you. anything: wrong in that?" "maybe nothing," durell said. "maybe everything." the siege had been going on for eight days now, since the first day when the initial coup attempt, which included an armed rush for the presidential palace and the police barracks, had failed. the rebellion, according to durell's briefing, had been one of resentment against the domination by natanga people in the government of president inurate motuku. the teleks had always been the traders and businessmen in boganda; they were a composite of interbred black tribal moslems, the east indians with their shops and home industries, and the offspring of portuguese colonial clerks who considered themselves much superior by virtue of their partial european blood. the natangas, by sheer force of numbers, if not ability, had dominated the unity, taking the prize administrative jobs and passing restrictive legislation against the teleks in the people's unity congress. it was small wonder that the teleks finally rebelled. africa had not traveled that far along the way from the simple brutality of tribal passions to permit any reaction other than violence. durell looked both ways along the crowded canoe. nothing had gone right since he had arrived in boganda. he had always preferred to go his way alone; it would have been dangerous enough to get into the besieged getoba district that way. now he had two women on his hands, with their own diverse and emotionalized patterns of behavior. not to mention the two fkp men, whose competence he did not doubt for a moment, but whose loyalties were a big question mark in his mind. durell had survived this long in the business by taking nothing for granted. as a boy in the louisiana bayous at peche rouge, he had been taught how to hunt and depend on only himself, following the patient tutoring of his old grandpa jonathan. now he slowly turned his head to consider the smooth black surface of the river, the towering gloom of the old portuguese martello fortress, seen against an evanescent starlight in the african sky. there was a mist against the river's horizon to the north, where the opposite bank was hidden over a mile away. he touched the gun tucked into his left belt. there was a smell of corruption, of smoke and decay, that drifted on the faint, hot night wind from the besieged wall town it stank of death.

they had just rounded the fortress tower that loomed as a feudal anachronism against the riverbank's palms and banyans when the machinegun and the spotlights found them. there was no warning. the shaft of light hit them like the sudden thrust of a lance, bright and dazzling and lethal. the machinegun began to hammer at them only a moment later. yutigaffa, in the stern, yelled and fell sidewise. durell did not know if he had been hit or not. the canoe wobbled dangerously, threatening to overturn. irene made a little choking sound and started to stand up in the delicate craft. there was no hope after that. "jump!" durell shouted. he shoved georgette, and they both hit the water while bullets screamed and kicked up fountains of spray from' the surface of the river. the canoe turned completely over. he went down, holding the girl, and felt irene's hands on him, clinging desperately, pulling him still farther under the river's surface. the telek surprise attack was complete. he went down and down, feeling the sluggish push of the natanga's current. irene's grip on him was desperate and frantic. georgette did not struggle. durell twisted, let finch go her own way, and turned on irene, pulling her fingers free of his shoulder, and grabbed her waist. her thighs and breasts pushed tight against him. he punched her chin, lightly, kicked and thrust upward with his legs, seeking air. when he broke the surface of the water, the spotlight-was still on the overturned canoe, floating some yards, away. he saw irene's wet, frantic face bob up, her carefully pampered hair plastered to her scalp in total disarray. "the bitch!" she gasped. "oh, the nasty, selfish little bitch!" "let go," durell said. "can you swim?" the woman's eyes were wild. "she knew i was coming, see. she had to know it was me!" "keep quiet." he turned in the water. "finch?" "here." "yutigaffa?" "here too, mtamba." "i thought you were hit." "no, sir. kantijji is safe with me too." someone on the walls lobbed a grenade into the river. durell felt the concussion even at this distance, as he swam upstream. the spotlight left the sinking canoe and began to sweep the black surface of the water in an irregular pattern, closer to the shore. he turned again in a complete circle, treading water. irene was gulping and spitting out river water that sloshed into her mouth. something loomed on the surface of 'the river not more than fifty feet away. it was a massive buoy, painted with red and white stripes that reflected the glare of the floodlight playing on the water nearby. the automatic fire suddenly stopped. he heard a faint shout from the high stone walls that loomed over the riverbank, and then he saw what he wanted.

"this way, finch. irene, follow us." she looked about, half-sinking. "what about captain yutigaffa?" "he knows the way." beyond the buoy was the loom of a half-rounded shape, like the partially submerged back of some giant water beast. durell felt the urgent current that came from it as soon as he drew near. he tried to swim silently, without splashing, but irene did not do as well; her strokes were awkward, beating at the water with loud and irregular slaps. the spotlight began traversing out toward them as durell reached the end of the big conduit. the water flow from the huge pipe was cooler than the temperature of the river, but it was not too swift to prohibit swimming against it. he reached up and caught the top of the metal flange. it was like -a cave inside there, when he peered in. the machinegun began to rattle again, moving uncertainly toward them. he pulled finch and irene toward him, then ducked. irene looked pale and frightened; her pale hair was a screen pasted to her face. he saw yutigaffa and kantijji draw near and then looked toward the shore. the strange jute mill that yutigaffa had described was some distance from the massive walls of the old fort. but there obviously was an underwater turn in the big waste conduit if it led out from the factory. they were about a hundred feet from the shore at this point, and it was anybody's guess whether there was enough air in the pipe to let them swim through. his first doubt was about irene. but he was worried about georgette too. part of the conduit was submerged deeply under the surface of the river, probably where the elbow occurred, and they would have to swim blindly underwater through the big pipe and pray they could reach a pocket of air before their lungs gave out. a new burst of bullets whined through the dark air over their heads. flashlights moved about on the parapet of the portuguese fort. he thought he heard the sudden throb of a marine engine, then he swore softly. sure enough, a motor launch was coming out to search for them. irene spoke in angry fear. "what are we waiting for? why can't we just swim ashore?" "they've spotted us. there's no chance of making it when that boat comes nearer." "but those are my friends," irene gasped, arguing. "they won't do anything to hurt me." "maybe not. but i'd rather meet them when the odds can be arranged a little better." "so what do we do?" durell looked at yutigaffa. "we swim in through the pipe, according to your judgment. is that right?" "yes, mtamba." irene exclaimed, "are you crazy? i couldn't- i wouldn't swim in there not for all the tea in china and-" "go," durell said and shoved her into the yawning half circle that protruded above

the river's surface. he went ahead with yutigaffa. the tall bogandan was like an eel in the river water. he waited until the two women were sheltered safely within the corrugated steel conduit, with kantijji covering them all from the rear, before durell went on, moving through the cooler water with careful strokes. the darkness was complete. there were few problems at first. the water level was shallow enough for the initial twenty feet going inshore through the pipe, but then the pipe suddenly sloped downward on the river bottom. then the level of the water rose continually until swimming was a necessity and there was barely enough air space to gulp a breath in through the nostrils without banging against the mossy metal top. they have two. prey moved very slowly. yutigaffa had said nothing about it, but durell would not been surprised to find nests of water creatures in here, maybe even a croc or trapped in the conduit, with their weapons unavailable, they could be easy for anything-or anyone.

he heard a deafening hammer stroke of sound all at once, as a few slugs from the machinegun hit the metal pipe's outer skin where it projected from the water. his head rang with the echoes. irene made a sound of pain. "what is it?" he asked. "i bumped me stupid head." "try to be careful." "i can't. i'm s-scared." "stay close to miss finch." "i'd rather stay close to you." they spoke to each other in absolute darkness, unable to see a finger raised before the eyes. durell turned and went on, feeling yutigaffa's big hand on his arm, urging him forward. the "ceiling" of the conduit suddenly sloped downward again, and there was no more air to breathe on the top of the pipe. they halted. "now we must swim for it, mtamba." "how far?" durell asked. "i do not know. i go only by the old building and architect's charts. the pipe may have sunk deeper than the charts show." the fkp man's voice was strange, echoing slightly in the narrow confines of the last air space. "old floods may have changed the conduit's direction a bit, because of the force of the water." durell said, "there must be a point of no return, swimming underwater through the tunnel like this. a point where we have to turn back or else." "yes, sir. i am troubled by this, of course. i do not think the ragihi-" "do you want to go back with her and see that she's safe? her whole venture here is dangerous for her," durell suggested. he hoped the tall, thin natangan would

agree. but yutigaffa shook his narrow head. "no, sir. there is nothing for me to go back to, now. not for the ragihi or myself. i will stay with you, and if you please, i will go first, mtamba." "no," durell said. "i'll lead the way." when they stopped talking, the metallic echoes of their words slowly faded away. there was only a faint lapping sound from the current that came sluggishly through the conduit, and the hiss and gasp of irene's quick, frightened breathing. he felt georgette finch touch him, her hands groping awkwardly in the darkness. "sam, maybe we shouldn't go on." "you can go back too," he said bluntly. "you don't want any of us with you, do you?" "no, not any of you." "but you'd never succeed in this by yourself. you don't know anything about the getoba or what you might run into in there." "i can learn," he said. "i'd have a better chance going in alone." "don't you trust anybody at all?" "no." "not even me?" he wished he could see her face in the darkness. "no. especially not you." he turned away from her and ducked his head under the surface of the water. behind him, abraham yutigaffa did the same. durell swam hard and fast, using a sidestroke because of the narrow confines of the conduit. after a count of ten, he let himself come upward, hoping for air at the top level of the pipe; but his head only bumped painfully on the growth-covered interior of the corrugated metal, and he went down again. another ten strokes, and he felt his lungs begin to ache and protest. he could feel the turbulence of yutigaffa's swimming strokes behind him, and he could sense the pressure of the current coming through the pipe from the stream that emptied into the river. his outthrust hand struck metal that curved to the left. he could still return to the higher area of the conduit, where he had left the girls with sergeant kantijji. he had not yet reached the halfway point, he judged, where his lungs would give out before he could return to the air behind him. he swam on, counting still another ten strokes, then lifted himself again and reached upward for the top of the huge metal tube. his hand came out of the water, but only by an inch or two. he rolled over on his back, aware now of a dangerous pressure in his lungs and an even more dangerous pressure from possible panic. he let his face come up, and his mouth sought the inch or two of air that existed in the very top of the tunnel. gratefully he drew a deep lungful of the precious air, feeling its heaviness and moist warmth. behind him, abraham yutigaffa pushed and shoved to reach the air too. durell gave way for the fkp man, and for several moments they floated on their backs, resting, their faces exposed to the black air. there was absolutely nothing they could see. the darkness was complete. "mamba, it is difficult," yutigaffa murmured. his voice echoed unnaturally in the narrow tongue of air that supported their lives. "very hard, even for men like you and me. can the ladies swim this far?"

"they will have to," durell said, "or else they can go back." "have you made an enemy of the ragihi?" "whether she's a friend or an enemy is of no consequence to me." "but she can be like a spiteful child, sir. she insists that we go on and take her with us, so we must help her." "if you like, i'll go back and drag her along," durell decided. "you are a brave man, sir." "and you're a puzzling one," durell said. he had rested enough. in a moment he doubled over and jackknifed, and swam back the way he had come, swimming harder now, with more confidence, knowing that the path was feasible, after all. the way back seemed shorter and quicker than his first swim. he suddenly bumped into a woman's wet body, knew instinctively it was georgette, and came up. in a moment he had explained to the two girls and kantijji what had to be done. it was strange, speaking into the closed blackness of the conduit, inches away from the others, but unable to see them. finch seemed calm enough. irene said, "i'm just plain funky. i'm afraid. i never learned to swim too well in the alleys, you know." "i'll go along with you," durell suggested. "just hold your breath and don't panic." "i'm afraid of closed-in spaces too," she added. he started to reply with impatience, but the decision was made for them when there came a sudden great uproar of clanging noises on the outer skin of the pipe, a hammering of metal on metal that rang deafeningly in their brains. a loud voice came bellowing down the conduit from the end that projected above the river's surface. the words were not intelligible, but the meaning was clear. they were being asked to come out. it was an order to surrender. the voice had the power of military force behind it. "sam?" georgette murmured. "they're not sure we're in here." "but is it the teleks? or could they be general watsube's men?" he shrugged. he was just able to stand, by ducking his head at this point, where the level of the water was lower in the big pipe. the thin current that moved outward into the river felt definitely colder now. he said, "doesn't matter, does it, if it's watsube or the teleks? at the moment either side will cheerfully kill us." there came another clang and clamor of metal striking the skin of the conduit. they would be in a boat, durell guessed, as many as a dozen of them. if they began firing down the tunnel the thought coincided with the fact. he heard the sudden hammering of an automatic rifle, saw the distant flare of dame at the mouth of the conduit. they would be dead in another moment. it was like being shot at in the bottom of a barrel. he yelled an order, shoved georgette under the surface, pulled irene with him, and

felt kantijji slide by as smoothly as a fish. chapter 11 the machinegun stopped. light flickered through the water. durell heard the officer's voice bellowing again, amplified by the curved steel walls of the conduit. there was no time to think about it now. forty strokes, long and hard, should bring them all to the curve in the pipe. ten more beyond that, and there would be air, with yutigaffa waiting to help. georgette swam ahead first, moving quickly, not questioning him now. irene floundered awkwardly, bubbles coming from her mouth. durell bumped into her, felt her thrash about in wild-panic; she grabbed . dangerously-for his head and neck, and he pushed away her desperate gestures and wound his fingers in her long.: hair, remembering the careful array of curlers she had displayed hours earlier. he pulled her unceremoniously by the hair now, using one arm to stroke. the others had made it farther ahead, leaving a mild turbulence in their wake. he reached the bend in the tunnel. no air here yet. he felt the strain in his lungs again and wondered if irene could hold out. he turned and started to count his strokes ` once more. he reached for the top of the conduit. no air here either. irene thrashed about violently, then began to go limp. he pulled desperately at her, struck out forward again, then felt a hand reach and grab for his own and pull him strongly along the way. he gulped air, held irene's chin up above the surface of the stream that flowed through the corrugated steel pipe. for a bad moment he thought she had stopped breathing. . then she began to gasp and cough and gurgle and retch. "hurry, mtamba." it was yutigaffa speaking. "it is shallower farther on; there we can all walk. if you like, 1. will help the ragihi." "never mind," durell said. "i've got her." they surged forward through the pipe, crouching, sometimes on all fours. it slanted sharply upward all at once, and the level dropped as a consequence. in a moment it was no deeper than to their knees. irene had made. herself a dead weight, hanging heavily in his arms. he paused and lightly slapped her face. "come on out of it, irene. you're all right. we're all" safe now." "oh, you bastard, you bloody-"she groaned. "stand up now." "i can't." "then i'll just let you drown." "you would, wouldn't you?" he released her suddenly. she went down, floundering,. swearing in her liverpool accent, using every gutter term: she had grown up with. in a moment, however, she had found her footing on the slime-slippery bottom of the conduit. there was still nothing to see. durell squeezed beyond yutigaffa and forged upward through shallowed water. all at once he thought he saw starlight. he went farther ahead, trying to keep his splashing noises to a minimum. there was still the possibility of an alert welcoming party of teleks waiting for them at this end. he held back the others, warning them in a whisper to be quiet, then went ahead again. the air felt different. it smelled a little fresher, if the stink of

burned timbers and old bombings could be considered better than the dead air in the conduit. the roof of the big pipe suddenly gave way, opening into a little banked stream that ran alongside the wreckage of the jute mill. durell waded quickly up out of the water and threw himself flat along the embankment. the warm night air plastered his clothes to his body. he heard the clicking of insects, the sudden scurry of tiny clawed feet. there would be rats here, of course; and desperate men, entombed in this besieged area for too many days of despair. hungry, perhaps, and thirsty too, waiting for the next hourly barrage of mortar shells to claim its victims. several mortar shells, as a matter of fact, had struck the jute mill not too long ago. one whole end of the corrugated tin roof had been blown in and lay in great sheets at odd angles to the sky. several trees had also been blasted by the explosions and had fallen across the tangled wreckage. but on this side, toward the little creek, the loading platform and big warehouse doors were still intact, and the roof towered over thick foliage that grew in great vine patterns up over the walls. the sign, thomson-strang jute mill, ltd., had fallen from one of the mortar blasts and lay partially buried in the little stream that ran alongside the building. looming to the right, beyond the jute mill compound, was 'the heavy outline of the portuguese fort, downstream from where they had emerged from the conduit. the jute mill seemed to have been, used and incorporated as part of the getoba district's walls. this area of the old medina had once bordered the river's edge. a little beyond, durell saw narrow lanes, shabby natanga houses on high wooden stilts, a few signs hanging motionless under the black, star-spangled sky. the smell of burned-out buildings, the smell of death, was a tangible stench that seemed to stick solidly in his nostrils. there was no one in sight. he waited a bit longer, watching carefully to make certain there was no immediate danger here. looking back across the black expanse of the river, he could barely make out the buoy that marked the conduit entrance. the mutter of a powerboat's engine came from there, along with an occasional wink of light. they were still searching, still probing for them, in the entrance to the huge water pipe. some native wagons and a bombed-out truck stood at the partially burned loading platform. beyond this a road went along the riverbank and vanished into brush, trees, and natangan houses on stilts that came right down to the water's edge. the way into the getoba, however, led through the wreckage of the jute mill. finch slid along the bank of the stream and sat herself down beside him. she had managed to tie up her hair in a rough knot atop her head, although it was still dripping wet, and her thin clothing clung to her tall figure to reveal her junoesque proportions. durell was a little surprised. she caused some pebbles to rattle in the stream bed, but he did not reprimand her for the noise. "can you see anything?" she whispered. "no, but i think it's safe-as long as irene doesn't blunder into anything." "why do you suppose she really wanted to come along? it doesn't make much sense, does it?" durell said, "everything that girl does must have a good reason-at least from her personal and avaricious point of view. get the others up here, please." "yes, siree," finch said. surprisingly, even after the swim through the conduit, the girl smelled good. they had a short run across an open area from the stream bed to the loadingplatform and the burned-out truck that stood there. yutigaffa went first this time, while durell tried to dry his gun the best he could. then georgette finch made the run, moving quickly and smoothly for all of her height and size. kantijji

took up the rear again. durell touched irene's arm, and the girl turned a sullen, petulant face toward him. "you made me swim through that pipe on purpose, didn't you?" she said resentfully. "we could have bloody well paddled right up to the shore, you know." "and been shot at, first thing?" "there's nobody guarding this riverbank." "the teleks aren't worried about this area. it's an attack from the waterside that gives them the itch." "we were shot at, anyway," irene pointed out. "yes," durell said patiently. "probably on your sister's orders." "mickey? oh, no, mickey wouldn't-" "but she would. you know she would. she doesn't want you to have your piece of the cake, does she?" "what cake? i don't know what you're talking about." irene made a spitting sound. "you just wait. you haven't treated me very nice, you know. you're just like all the rest of 'em, thinking you're so much better than mickey and me." "let's go. can you make it to the mill?" she said sullenly, "i'm all right." he urged her forward with him. there was no telling what eyes watched them from the dark lanes and alleys that radiated into the getoba from the other side of the jute mill. he was aware of the stack of a donkey engine that leaned precariously toward them, with some of the guy wires snapped and dangling loosely-and then he threw himself into the dark shadow of the loading platform where the others waited. the soft slap of footsteps behind him announced that kantijji had followed faithfully. "everybody inside," durell said. "i want to go to the fort," irene objected. "i don't want to go into that brokendown place. suppose it comes down on us? besides, i think mickey is in the fort." "you'll have to stay with us for a little longer," durell told her. "no arguments for now. just hope that we don't get shot at by some triggerhappy teleks who mistake us for part of watsube's army." he straightened, climbed onto the platform, and found a wide, open loading bay into the mill. the smell of dust and heat filled his nostrils, but already, in the few minutes since getting free of the conduit, his clothing was beginning to dry. he took his gun in his hand, although it had been soaked and was of dubious value at the moment. starlight filtered down through great gaps in the twisted corrugated roofing overhead. the behemoth shapes of pulping and shredding machines loomed all around him. he paused to listen, checking the others behind him. he couldn't hear anything of consequence. great mounds of raw vegetable fibers were heaped twice his height off to the right, against the still-standing wall that paralleled the river. the floor underfoot felt dusty and covered by smaller bits

of dry pulp. each step he took made unavoidable crunching sounds. it was like trying to walk silently on peanuts. he saw a brighter area of light off to his left, and he identified the dim glow of the night sky in panes of dusty glass windows that enclosed a roofless office area. he went that way. a rickety wooden staircase led up to the open office door. the mortar shells that had blasted in the roof of the mill had, with the fickleness of explosives, left the office floor intact. but durell suddenly checked himself and the others behind him. the familiar smell of putridity touched him. two dim human shapes remained at their desks inside the office area. neither shape moved. durell guessed the men in there had been dead for some days, maybe shot by the rebels or by the rebellious workmen who had been employed here. old hatreds usually took advantage of newly troubled times, he thought grimly. nobody had bothered to remove and bury the corpses. but they gave him an indication of conditions inside the besieged telek fortress. the opposite end of the mill was completely blocked with debris from the blown-in roof. there were high walkways overhead, above the office area. they made a spider's web of precarious wooden planks that crisscrossed above the main floor of the mill and led to high lofts up there. durell turned to the far wall beyond the offices. the others followed slowly. he finally saw what he was looking for-a door leading out on the opposite side, which would certainly get him into the alleyways of the getoba. he was almost there when he heard the patrol approaching at a halfrun, urged by the barking command of an officer. they still could have made it. they were hidden in the darkness of the old jute mill, and by taking any sort of cover, they could have gone unsuspected. but irene had different ideas. her sudden shrieking appeal for help was like an alarm siren going oft just behind durell. "help! hey, you there! we're over here! come along, boys, and hurry! i'm here! the ragihi is here!" durell didn't wait. he grabbed finch's hand and dived for cover. chapter 12 there were several moments when no one knew for certain what . was happening. the telek patrol crashed through the wide doorway of the jute mill and began firing without discrimination, without issuing any challenges. their nerves must have been overly tight after the long days and nights of siege. the racket of their automatic rifles was deafening in the big, hollow area of the mill. dust flew and splinters whined, and the storm of bullets slammed wildly overhead. durell thought he heard irene scream in surprise or dismay; he wasn't certain. he lay flat on the dusty floor of the mill, half covering georgette finch with his body, for several thunderous seconds while the muzzle flames of the patrol's guns spat and tongued at them. he had no time to shout to the two fkp men. he assumed they could take care of themselves. he caught. finch's wrist and pulled her with him as he crawled carefully back toward a ladder. when he reached the bottom of it, he looked back and saw a confusion of lights probing into the open area of the mill.

"up you go," he whispered. "sam, shouldn't we just let them know who we are and that we've come here voluntarily and maybe we should just surrender and see what they do-" "up!" he said impatiently. she climbed with quick agility into the thick, dusty shadows overhead. an overly anxious member of the, telek patrol began firing in the opposite direction, startled by a moving shadow. during the thunderous racket durell took the opportunity to swarm quickly up the ladder after the girl when he was at the top, he felt her hand reach out to guide him. they sprawled flat on one of the webs of plank catwalks high over the mill floor. he looked carefully over the edge of the catwalk. the patrol was spreading out, flashlights probing ahead of them. he thought he saw one man, a white officer, who looked as if he might be in command, perhaps one of the telek mercenaries; but he couldn't be sure. one thing was certain, he noted grimly: yutigaffa and his sidekick kantijji had vanished like smoke, bent on their own mysterious errands. durell swore softly as he saw irene step forward suddenly, bathed in the glare of half a dozen lanterns and torches. she looked innocent and angry and defiant. her commands were evident in the way she stood, foreshortened by durell's vantage point high above. "here, you! stop all this nonsense and take me at once to colonel chance, do you hear, you perfect idiots? i mean what i say. take me to him at once!" there was a dim murmur of voices from the patrol below, the words echoing sibilantly in the vast, dusty ruins. most of the men wore ragged outfits that could hardly be called uniforms, but they were all well armed with their kalashnikov rifles. durell remained flat on the planks high above their heads. a few of the teleks were idly turning their flashlights here and there over the floor of the jute mill, highlighting the vague shapes of metal machinery, the rollers and crushers, the big vats, the power belts and balers. dust came up, thick and pungent, from their booted feet on the wooden planking. durell felt the warmth and solidity of finch's thigh against his shoulder. her face, in the dim glow of the reflected light coming down from the high crossbeams of the ceiling, showed him a wan smile. there was a 'little trickle of blood along her jaw line where she had scraped herself. he reached cautiously forward to touch her mouth and insure her silence. a surprisingly american voice, with, a trace of new york accent, said sharply, "is this all of your party?. where are the rest of you? who came with you?" "coo." irene's voice echoed genuine surprise. "you're major willie wells, aren't you?" "i am, ma'am." "mickey told me a lot about you. you were in vietnam, with the american army, weren't you?" "i was. i meant to send 'em back all my medals, because they busted me when 1 came home." the man's voice was flat, without emotion. durell moved carefully until he could look over the edge of the catwalk. the man talking to irene was a tall black, wearing a khaki uniform with a personal badge as a shoulder patch and an insignia that might have denoted his rank among the telek rebels. his face was brown and smooth; he was in his late twenties. durell hadn't known for certain that there were american mercenaries among the teleks. the black officer, who

looked subtly different from his bogandan troopers, spoke with calm and competent assurance. "how many were you?" "well, there were two men from the fkp. both of them. officers, i think. and there were these two americans." "what americans?" "a man and a girl. miss finch used to be a peace corps worker. then she worked for the raga's government. the man's name is durell, sam durell. he's called the cajun. i, think he-but you'd better let me talk about it to colonel adam chance, right? and i want to see my sister, and you' had better bloody well take your hands off me, you hear? i won't stand for any nonsense. don't play soldier with me, willie!" the american mercenary said quietly, "where did the others go when we came in?" irene made a contemptuous sound. "scattered like the: wind, they did. scared of all your ferocious mice." "did they run out of the building?" "i don't know, for sure, but you'd better not keep me waiting too long. they're not worth looking for, to my mind, see? and you-" the first mortar shell burst without warning only a few hundred yards south of the ruined jute mill, in the maze of alleys and lanes leading into the getoba. durell looked at his watch. it was exactly on the hour, four in the morning. for just an instant, following the first explosion, durell leaned over the edge of the plank catwalk and seemed to stare straight down into the searching eyes, of the mercenary as he looked upward. then a blast of dust and rubble billowed in from the outer lane, and part of the wall blew inward as well. one of the patrol screamed as he was struck by flying debris, and there-were shouts and yells of recrimination. apparently the teleks were not accustomed to being taken by surprise -by the hourly bombardment, and the search for durell's party had forced them to abandon their usual precautions. another shell burst, a little farther away this time, but now the teleks, about eight of them, ran from the wreckage of the jute mill. the american officer shouted impatiently at them, took a few steps with irene, then halted, and looked up again into the gloom of the high, beamed ceiling of the mill, staring directly at where durell and finch lay stretched out on the planks. georgette started to stir, but durell clamped a hand on her thigh, forcing her down. "don't move," he whispered. the mortar shells kept coming in, one after the other, with a deadly rhythm. the place was filled with dust and the iron stench of explosives. a fire broke out somewhere near the mill, and durell could see the flames through the broken walls of the rambling place. "now," he said abruptly. "in the back, finch." the girl got up and moved quickly ahead of him, balancing on the planks with her arms outstretched like a tightrope walker. the noise of the mortars effectively covered the sounds they made. for some reason, general watsube was concentrating this particular hourly barrage on the mill and the riverside area, almost as if he knew that durell and the ragihi had penetrated the getoba at this point. but there was no time to think about the meaning of that. the roof of the jute mill had been blown down at their end, and the whole structure slanted precipitously toward the floor, squeezing them under the roof timbers. finch halted at the end of the slanting catwalk, and he slid past her on

their dangerous perch, leading the way to duck under broken beams and then slide down toward a lower level of the broken, corrugated-tin roof. dust and heat engulfed them in the maze of wreckage. he hoped nothing would give way under their weight and bury them under the massive timbers and roof sheeting. one false move could upset the dangerous balance of the wreckage. he tested each foot of the way, moving back twice when there came a faint sound of stress and a tremor of movement under his weight. outside, the pounding of the mortars seemed to be walking away from them, covering other areas of the getoba district. "oh, please. let's rest," finch gasped. "do you have to?" "yes. i'm really-all in. and i'm scared." 44 "all right." he paused. he thought they might well be like mice burrowing into the tangle of wreckage at this end of the jute mill. there was an opening here among the shattered beams and a kind of plank platform that had once been part of an upper storage floor. light from the fire in the nearby alley flickered through the broken walls and showed them the way to a reasonably solid and secure refuge. the thunderous crump and bang of the mortar shells seemed to go on and on, as if the usual five minutes of barrage had lengthened itself into hours. "sam," finch said. she put her mouth close to his ear to make him hear above the noise. "what happened?" she paused for a moment. "i thought we were supposed to get in here without anyone knowing about it. but it looks as if they were waiting for us. what went wrong?" .. "don't you know?" "sam, you know darn well what i mean. the minute we get here, kantijji and yutigaffa split, right?" "you're getting your slang mixed. all of a sudden you're out of the twenties and you're up to date. yes, the fkp boys split." "can you figure out why?" "they have business of their own to attend to here in the getoba." "yeah," the girl said thoughtfully. "jiminy, i'll bet she really did tell her sister we were coming. and mickey . . ." she paused again. he saw her face briefly in a sudden brightening of the flames outside the mill. her cheeks were streaked with mud and dirt and dust, and her clothing was a total loss, plastered with dirt from their crawl up the stream bed and into the wrecked mill. he rubbed a smudge of mud from her nose. her eyes looked blankly into his without acknowledging his gesture. "so what business could it be to make a couple of tough cookies like yutigaffa and his sidekick take this buggy ride with us and risk their lives here?" "money," durell said. "right. our money." "wrong. american taxpayers' money." . "i'm a taxpayer," she said. "so are you. so it's our money." "and irene?" he asked. "she's a flit," georgette said. "a little conniving creep."

"conniving, yes. a creep, no," durell replied thoughtfully. "such devotion to her sister mickey passeth all ordinary understanding." "she thinks mickey is going to do her out of something?" finch asked. "nothing more or less. and the something has to be the money," durell suggested. "holy cow," finch said. "it's going to be a regular parade to that bank vault." "if someone hasn't already gotten there first." "gee, sarn--but i'm the only one of the locals who knows the combination." . the mortars stopped, right on schedule. at the same moment someone starting shooting at them through the twisted tangle of broken beams and debris that sheltered them. they weren't mice, after all, durell thought. they were caught like rats in a trap. the steady, deliberate hammering of a us colt .45 deafened them with echoes and brought more dust sifting around their little niche in a steady downpour. one of the crooked beams that supported their little platform suddenly creaked and moved a few inches. a beam of light flickered through the wreckage and made an outlandish pattern of brightness and shadow all around them, hazed by the dust and fibers floating in the air. "durell!" the voice suddenly thundered up and echoed from below like the sound of doom. the shots stopped. durell heard small metallic clickings, the sound of a boot, the sudden crash of a broken timber being tossed angrily aside. georgette shivered with a sudden involuntary violence. then she sat still, tailor fashion, her hands resting palms upward on her knees. her face was blank in the flickering, stabbing light that sought them out. "mr. durell! hey, are you all right?" durell did not reply. through the pattern of shattered walls and leaning beams, he saw a single figure moving slowly along on the ground floor below them. "hey, man, this is major wells. willie wells. i work for the teleks, that's all. a gun for hire, like they say, no more and no less. i have no axes to grind, understand?" durell watched the man's careful approach through the rubble. it was the american mercenary officer, the tall black with the calm, unprovoked face. the man held his .45 loosely in competent fingertips, and durell realized that the metallic clickings had betrayed the reloading. there was a fresh clip of slugs in the butt. he touched georgette and cautioned her again to silence. "durell! don't be a fool! there's no place for you to hide here. we're all in this bag together, man. i need to talk to you. i need to know who's trying to score here, right? i'm not sure i ought to stay in this rat trap, myself. you got in, maybe we can all get out together, right?" durell kept his silence. he held his own gun in his hand, the snub barreled smith and wesson .38 revolver he preferred over the automatics. major wells' colt was

big enough to knock any man down, even if a slug merely grazed him. the mercenary kept moving carefully, picking his way through the debris, coming closer, his head bent back on his neck as he searched the tangle of rafters and panels of rusty, corrugated roof panels. "come on, durell, i saw you up there. i didn't let on when my men were still in the place. i know you're still here." again, georgette started. to move, as if on impulse, ready to yield to persuasion; and again durell checked her. he was used to waiting. he was a hunter by nature, but he knew the other side of the coin too; he knew what it was like to be hunted. he looked down from their height amid the wreckage and watched the foreshortened image of major willie wells stalk back and forth, like a frustrated predator balked by prey that had gone up a tree. wells wasn't quite sure where they were hidden. durell had the feeling that he had heard about this black mercenary somewhere, a vietnam veteran who had fought with great distinction in southeast asia; but for the moment, no details came to him. it couldn't have been in an official briefing or from one of the file dossiers; he would have remembered it completely in that case. it must have been a news article then. he would dredge it up out of his memory later, he decided. "you bastard!" wells suddenly shouted up into the dusty darkness. "i just want to make a deal with you, don't you understand? this whole business has gone sour for me. can't we talk?" durell saw georgette lift inquiring brows in the dimness. he shook his head, shaping the words with his mouth. "no. no deal." "durell?" major wells stopped pacing and prowling on the debris-strewn floor down there. he swore softly, the sound of his voice sibilant in the dust. then he turned and stalked away and vanished from sight. durell kept georgette from moving for several long minutes. he listened with every ounce of possible concentration. there were noises in the getoba, the sounds of distant men shouting as they fought fires caused by the mortar barrage, the dim moan of an ambulance siren, the rattle of small-arms fire like a distant string of firecrackers. the jute mill itself had gone completely silent. nothing stirred. he heard finch draw a long, slow breath. he waited five minutes, then ten. suddenly he was convinced that the mercenary had given up and gone. "let's get out of here now," he said. "where do we go?" the girl asked. "it will be dawn in an hour. we'll have to find some food somewhere. and rest, maybe. but first of all, you take me to where the money is." "just like that?" he looked into her eyes without expression. "exactly like that." "you don't believe in wasting time, do you?" "time is something we have none of to spare." chapter .13

the winding, narrow streets of the getoba, as durell and the girl picked their way along, were often empty, stark and deserted, and then just as often filled with men digging in the debris for survivors or the dead left behind by general watsube's most recent barrage. regardless of the regularity of the mortars, promptly at each hour, conditioning the defendants to take cover in good time, there was always some damage, always some unfortunates who were found out by the blast and concussion of the incoming shells. there was no true defense against it. the rubble of broken buildings, the wreckage of shops, the smell of dust and death in the cooling dawn air, was testimony to watsube's relentless pressure on the rebellious populace bottled up here in siege. finch carefully picked her way through some of the litter that blocked the lane she had chosen as their escape route from the jute mill. there were no more guards, no more sudden surprise, no teleks waiting in ambush outside. major wells was gone. there was just the faintest hint of the coming dawn in the pale grayness that touched the eastern sky. the wind, in this brief hour, would blow with cooling respite before the implacable african sun struck down again with its pitiless heat. "how many times have you been in the getoba before?" he asked the girl. "oh, my. i used to teach here, when i was a peacie. every day, eight to ten hours a day. i enjoyed it. i really felt as i were doing some good. then came the orders to go home. i think daddy arranged for all that, to get me out of the jungle, as he thought of it. so i simply refused:. to go back." "why not?" "well, i think my life is more useful being right here," georgette said simply. "you mean, working for the boganda government?" "yes." she grinned, and her grimy face looked oddly gamine. "working for unity, brother. hallelujah." "the boganda people take it seriously," durell suggested. "oh, so do i. more important, so do the teleks." the getoba was old, even ancient, compared to the modernized area of the adjacent capital city of boganda with its new boulevards, airport, and carefully landscaped: concrete-and-glass boxes used for government 'functions. and hotels. the getoba had none of the rawness of the new. everything smelled and looked its age. here was: the true origin of settlement, the basic birthplace of the natanga culture that had grown up and merged with, then swallowed the arab caravans and the ambitious and aggressive portuguese, and which finally had ousted the colonial british. the buildings leaned toward each other as if tired:. by the weight of their centuries. the lanes were made for donkeys and camels, not automobiles. nowhere within; the walls of the getoba was there room for a modern automobile, except in the central square that also served as & souk, or marketplace, in normal times. now the square was used as a focal point for the distribution of rations and the water that came from the tiled fountain and old we . that served this ageless community. as the sky brightened, the people began to stir, chinese and hindu, arab and mixed portuguese, and the short, _ chunky figures of the teleks, whose tribal genetics

made them easily distinguishable from the taller natangans. there were none of the latter in sight. there were also very few women. no one paid any attention to durell and the tall girl who walked beside him. every man carried; arms, either a rifle or old shotgun or beautifully chase arab rifle. there were knives, pistols, grenades, and near the fountain, a stock of grenade launchers. here and there were warning signs, and durell spotted a maze of booby traps and trip wires set up by the defenders in the event that general watsube's government troops broke through the walls to end the siege. all at once it was broad daylight. they had taken most of an hour to reach the central portion of the besieged town. bells began to ring from the old portuguese cathedral on the central square, and the iron clamor somehow sounded of alarm. like well-trained puppets, the people who were gathered around the well and standing in the ration lines began to move off, stumbling into doorways and down into areas marked as shelters. they seemed mostly tired and dispirited, of a uniform grayness that tended to erase their racial and national origins. it was as if each man carried within himself the knowledge of impending doom. they were all targets now, of no special identity under the hourly barrage of watsube's impersonal mortars. "we'd better get under cover with the rest of these people," finch said. "let's wait and see where the barrage lands." durell looked back and saw the grim gray tower of stone from the portuguese fort, half a mile behind them on the river bank. "the fort hasn't ever been hit directly, did you notice that?" "i hadn't thought of it," the girl said. "but it's one of the best targets in the getoba," durell said. "it's also the rebel headquarters, i'm betting." "you think there's some kind of a deal?" "some kind of funny works going on." "cheese it," finch said suddenly. "the cops." a small patrol of telek rebels, with rifles slung across their backs, came along at a dog trot, herding the few stragglers who still remained in the streets. the first shell came over right on the dot of the hour, crunching into the getoba about a quarter of a mile to the south. a thick mushroom cloud of black smoke immediately stained the dawning african sky. the explosion was followed almost; immediately by a walking pattern of other shells, moving; still farther southward, smashing houses and streets, shops and vehicles, and the luckless people who hadn't yet taken: shelter. durell drew the girl back around the nearest. corner, out of sight of the ragged telek patrol. in the. dawning light finch looked tired, utterly disheveled and dirty, still wet from their swim in the natanga river. she looked at him and said simply, "i'm hungry. what do we do about food here, sam?" "it will be rationed, of course." "and if they have i.d. cards, we're out of luck, right?" "then we'll have to steal two of them," he said.

"and get shot on the spot? no, thank you. these people look pretty desperate." he drew her into a surety, recessed doorway, painted= blue for good luck according to moslem custom. the thin sunlight touched their faces, and in the chill of the morning the heat felt good. the explosions came marching toward them again. it would last five minutes, according to watsube's usual schedule. the lane was empty now. not a, soul was in sight. "where do we look for the money?" durell asked. "you argued me into coming here. it's up to you now, finch. you said you know the combination. do i take that literally?" she drew a deep breath and nodded slowly. "it was, placed, according to my information, in the natanga people's national bank and depository. owned and run by. watsube, if you must know. the president's brother-in-; law, no less. all the international credits that were turned: into cash, upon presentation of development plans and payrolls and supply bills to be met-over three hundred= million in all, that's not in dollars only, it's in swiss francs british pounds, russian rubles-all deposited in the vaults'' of the east natanga exchange." "why not in the boganda treasury?" he asked. the girl shrugged. "who knows what kind of hanky-panky was going in? who can guess why anything is done= the way it's done in this country? i don't even really know why they're fighting here, why people, women and children, are getting blown to bits in the getoba at this very minute!" "where is the tank?" "believe it or not, it's in a converted old portuguese church, just off the central square, past the old souk. you can't miss it." she sighed. "i'm so damned hungry, sam. thirsty too." durell listened to the slamming and banging of the mortar shells and watched the repeated clouds of black smoke and pitiful debris blown skyward against the pale pink sky. the noise was deafening, heart shaking in the knowledge that they were like fish in a barrel, being shot at by the inexorable and efficient war machinery of general watsube. it was hard to believe that life went on with some semblance of normalcy out there, beyond the getoba walls. the brief glimpses he had already obtained of what was going on in here showed the other face of the coin of rebellion. it was hopeless for the teleks, of course at least, the military part of it-unless the mercenary leaders had some ace up their sleeves. the rebellion, commanded by mercenaries like major willie wells, could not go on much longer against the .crushing, deadly shelling that occurred every hour on the hour, day after day. nor was there much chance of escape. any teleks who tried to get out of the bottle usually ended up before the firing squads on the presidential lawns. aside from his briefing in lamy, chad, on his flight down here, he had taken the time to get some data from wally johnson, whose cover job at a bank in lisbon was more than useful now. he looked at finch. the girl was slumped, tired and dispirited, in their doorway niche. at that moment, as they huddled in the sunny recess in front of the blue door, booted feet suddenly slammed on the rough stones of the lane, and the telek patrol they had originally backed away from came trotting with determination down the alley straight toward them.

what happened then came too quickly to prevent. "sam!" finch shrieked a warning a split second too late as the first of the patrol yelled and raised his gun to fire at them. there was no challenge, no questions, no request for. their identities. maybe they were already known, durell thought, in that split second of time. the rifle crashed, the-; bullet chunked splinters out of the blue plank door, and, durell spun, slammed his shoulder against the panel, felt it give way under the impact, and tumbled inside with the. girl. there was momentary darkness, and uncertainty, waited ahead of them in the telek house. but there was, certain death behind them. "give me your hand," durell snapped. he grabbed the girl's wrist and plunged ahead into the. darkness, hit a wall, bounced to the left, saw a staircase, raced up with the girl dragging behind at his heels. the house shook. plaster clouded down around them. the-. sound of the explosion from the mortar shell, in a suddenly new pattern, was deafening. it had to be luck, nothing more, durell thought fleetingly. the shell had landed on the house next door. vaguely, he heard a man yelling. a: woman shrieked and cried and moaned. "come on." at the top of the stairs, a corridor led them toward the back of the house. there were balconies, stone steps, and a maze of pathways on an upper level leading right and left, down to a narrow alley behind the lane. several patched and colored awnings had already been spread across the alley as protection against the rising sun, making a tunnel out of the path below them. "jump," durell said. "what?" behind them, the thudding feet of the telek patrol came stumbling up the dark staircase. durell stepped up on the sill of the wide, arched window and kicked out the remaining panes of glass that still were intact. a rifle hammered on the stairway. a man shouted. a second mortar shell landed in the alley they had just quit, and several timbers fell, making great cracks in the wall of the houses on either side of the window. smoke drifted from the wrecked building next door. the woman trapped in there still cried and moaned. the man had slopped yelling. "jump," he said again. finch leaped from the windowsill for the awning stretched directly below. she hit, bounced, slid downward and vanished. durell followed. it was no more than twenty feet. his impact, however, was too much for the tattered canvas. it ripped under his weight, and he went through, his momentum broken enough so that when he struck the paving stones below the flapping, ripped awning, nothing broke. he came up on his feet instantly. "finch, this way!" but the girl had gone to the left, not the way he had indicated. "finch!" a third mortar shell blew up the house they had just left. in the thundering explosion there was no time to think or act except in self-preservation: roof tiles, chunks of stone and cement, splintered beams and rafters, all came raining down in a cloudburst of smoke, dust and noise. one entire wall, and the one with the window from which they had jumped, slid down into the street and blocked the

way to the left, imposing a barricade too high and too jumbled to cross after the girl. there was no hope of going after her now. durell lay on his stomach close to the base of the collapsed wall and lay still, feeling his shoulders and back and legs pelted by falling stones and debris. luckily, nothing too heavy came down to strike him. he heard a dim screaming in the wreckage, but there was no chance to go back in after anyone. the tattered awnings over the alley had all been blown away. he got up, aware of a trickle of blood on his jaw from a deep, stinging cut, and then moved off to the right. the people here had been well disciplined. nobody came running out into the open to expose themselves to further shelling. he looked backward, saw no sign of finch, and abruptly decided it was just as well. he was better off alone, for what he had to do. he ran for the corner, found a doorway, and dived into it. for another minute the mortar shells fell at random, turning the world into an insane, crashing inferno. more fires broke out in the sector where finch had run. he did not know if the girl had survived or not. he felt a deep pang of worry over her, which made him wonder, since she was not his responsibility in this business and was more of a liability than an asset. he told himself it was stupid and unprofessional to be concerned about her; but he couldn't help it. at the same time, however, he did not go back to look for her. when the shelling stopped, precisely at five minutes after the hour, he got up and dusted himself off and walked quickly through the growing crowds of survivors. he headed for the chinese area of the getoba. chapter 14 he knew exactly where he was going. tom adams, who worked at monc et cie at lamy, chad, had briefed him thoroughly after his stop at lisbon. he put georgette finch out of his mind. she would have to take care of herself. the chinese quarter was only a half mile away across the getoba, beyond the central square that was dominated by a mosque and a tall, spired portuguese cathedral. it was curious to see how the teleks had become conditioned to their state of siege. from the moment the hourly bombardment ended, the streets filled with the trapped inhabitants-men, women, and children-along with a heavy sprinkling of uniformed rebels. morale was running low among the civilians, durell thought, and the sight of their long ration lines reminded him of his own hunger. each man, woman, and child had a crumpled slip of paper, however, and he didn't dare join one of the lines without such a ration card. water could be had at any of the public fountains, although he risked dysentery here. he paused long enough to wash his face and duck his head under the fountain, letting the spray of water cool and partially cleanse some of the grime off him. but then he let his hunger and thirst grow as he went on toward the chinese quarter. there wasn't much to it. a few small streets, with leaning wooden houses, chinese signs hanging in the hot breeze, an ineffable scent of the far east mingled with the flat dust of africa. the chinese quarter ended against the old medina wall, where once the proud arabs had shut themselves off from the black natangans. the moment that durell entered the area, he felt that here, at least, there was a divorcement from the tragedy being played out all around the place. the shops were open, revealing wispy-bearded old men in black silken skull caps and stout chinese matrons and tumbling, fat-cheeked children with slanted, bright sloe eyes of jet black. durell checked the signs on the alley walls and found the one that tom adams had recommended. he had not mentioned the safe house to georgette finch. he did not know if she knew about it. but perhaps she would show up at lu chin's, in any case. he followed the alley, picking his way among the playing children and the old men who sat and smoked in the hot sunlight. he ended up against the medina wall. he

spotted a machinegun post up there and saw a regular patrol pacing along the crenellated top of the wall. beyond the wall he could glimpse dense green jungle foliage. painted signs in old portuguese still survived on the gray stones of the barrier. halfway toward it, durell found the shop he wanted. the chinese, he thought, were the world's greatest commercial people. wherever they went, they found something to sell, trade, or barter, something that was needed. this particular shop catered to charms of all kinds, from specialized aphrodisiacs from china, india, and ! mexico, to african gimcracks from beyond boganda's borders. there was some curious red and gold calligraphy that durell could not identify on a plaque just to the left of the dusty, glass-paned doorway. there were two other en trances to the place, used only by men, and tom adams in lamy had warned him about it. ;; "the old man, lu chin, is only a front, of course. he runs the shop, selling powder from crushed and ground ;r rhino horns, that sort of thing. it's the daughter who works for us, sam. her name is pearl lu. if you really need s help-i mean, if it gets truly rough-go see her. we're saving her as a sleeper, though, so use her only in an emergency, understand?" "all right," durell had said. he considered it emergency enough now. tom adams had gone on, "pearl lu has been pulling down a retainer out of our budget for the past three years; and she's sent back some nice data on the personal peculiarties and sexual whims of some important people in boganda. you'd better watch what you say, however. pearl is an expert in electronics, she owns a factory of her own in hong kong '., and is a silent partner, with a major interest, in another plant in st. louis, of all places. she specializes in compiling taped dossiers for us. you know the sort of thing you can pick up in a whorehouse. and a chinese joint, at that." tom adams laughed, his stout belly moving, his voice a grunting sound. "pearl is reliable, if you have to go k to her, but she'll have your head on a platter, like a chinese salome, if she doesn't trust you. her data has been fine, but i can't guarantee anything. you pays your money, and you takes your choice." "thanks for nothing." "you're welcome. as i say, it all depends," tom adams said with a sly grin, "on whether pearl lu likes you." "what's the matter, didn't she take to you, tom?" "oh, she did, she did. beautiful. lovely. i wish i were going to boganda with you." "you're too fat," durell said. "but what's the matter with our official central, run by this finch girl?" "nothing at all, really. miss finch is sharp, good at what she gets around to doing, but she's kind of a political appointee-and an amateur. you can take my word for it, pearl lu really knows which end is up." tom adams laughed at his own words. "that's pearl's business, after all. to tell you the truth, she's quite a girl, and i'd never have survived very long if i'd stayed with her, considering j

all the tricks she has for sale." "do you want to know something, tom?" durell had asked. "you're rolling in lascivious memories. but i've known pearl lu for a long time. i just wanted to hear what you had to say about her. i met her in hong kong five years ago, at least. it seems she hasn't changed much since then. so i won't go to her unless i really need help." "you son of a bitch," tom adams said. a small bell tinkled as durell pushed open the shop door. the shadows inside were deep and intense. he smelled incense, dust, noodles cooking, fresh tea. there was nothing identifiable under the grimy glass display cases, except for a few pornographic danish publications, mixed curiously with potency amulets and old bottles filled with mysterious potions. the tinkling of the bell faded away. durell stood against the wall beside the door and waited. through the glass door behind him, he could see the narrow street outside, the signs hanging with bright yellow and red chinese characters over the other shops, two old men smoking ragged-looking cigarettes, and two small boys chasing each other. no other young people were in sight. the chinese were known to adopt neutrality and sensible noninterference in wars that were not their own. "yes, sir?" the voice spoke in english, as thin as a reed, as fragile as the strands of a spider's web. "sir? mtamba? you american man, yes? i speak english for you. you come wrong door, i think. you telek officer? you off-duty? we do not cater-" "i want to see pearl lu," durell said. "my daughter very busy, good girl, work hard, no trouble to telek police, we all favor rebellion, equal rights, unity forever for boganda, yes, is so?" "that depends. where is pearl?" "ah. you american, for sure. very direct. very blunt. good businessman, do not waste time. i think i know who you be. you are pearl's business, not mine, eh?" the old chinese chuckled and coughed and bent over, and when he straightened up, he was not as old or as fragile as he had seemed to be; the browning pistol equalized everything. his black slanted eyes were suddenly sharp and hard, his old blue-veined hand as steady as a rock. "stand right there and 'stay very still, sir." his english improved too. "be very careful. i am a nervous old man, and old men count their days with more preciousness than the young. these are difficult times, and everyone in the getoba is on edge. you understand? we cannot endure much more of the mortaring. it is a devilish device, that regular bombardment. like water torture; you see. drip, drip. bang, bang. so many hide every hour, and yet so many are killed. terrible, terrible. and the teleks are desperate, you see. we hear they shoot everyone who tries to escape. they surely shoot spies, eh? and you are a spy. am i right?" "i've come to see pearl." "but not for a bed with one of her girls, am i not correct? you are not colonel chance, the american officer who persists in this madness because he has a money contract. no, no. i know that man by sight. a madman who fights for anyone, as

long as he is paid. he and the black american, major wells, yes, that is his namethey are both a little insane, i think. we will all die here in this rubble if it is not stopped. either we will be blown up, or we will die of starvation, eh?" "where is pearl?" durell asked again. "you talk too much, mr. lu. i've come a long way to see your daughter. her business is not your business, and you would be better off not to know about it. put away your gun. my stomach is sensitive. i am not your enemy." "what are you, then?" the old chinese asked. "a customer, perhaps. it depends on what pearl has to sell." "you look as if you had a hard time getting here. you know what pearl and her girls sell, sir." "she has other business interests, however," durell said. "yes, i can see that you know about all that. and a man like you would not pay for a woman. yes, i can see that now. i am sorry. i humbly apologize. you are not angry because i point this gun at you? i am an old man, and i cherish what days are left to me." "i'm not angry. but put the gun away, please." "thank you. it is done." the browning disappeared into the old man's big sleeve as nicely as it had first appeared. there was a beaded curtain in the back of the mildewed shop. the old man moved backward toward it, gesturing for durell to lead the way. he shook his head and looked out once more at the narrow street that ended in the defense wall. the chinese quarter had not been a special target for general watsube's vengeful mortars. there was hardly any blast damage at all in these few little streets. he looked up at the top of the wall, perhaps two hundred feet away, and saw the telek rebels there behind the sandbags of their machinegun emplacement. nothing else had changed in the street. the two old men were lighting new cigarettes. the two fat chinese boys had disappeared. durell went through the beaded curtains. a feeble lamp showed him a flight of wooden stairs, up which the old man shuffled with a curious wheezing noise as he breathed, and then there was a long corridor. he heard a girl's high, amused laughter. he heard a man's voice rumbling in reply behind a closed door. he smelled pot, he thought he smelled opium smoke. the corridor was carpeted, and there were delicate watercolor scrolls hanging on the walls, but they were badly damaged by -a africa's heat and mildew. through another door and he realized he had stepped into the adjoining house. a big chinese, about forty, with cropped gray hair, looked up and brought his tilted chair down with a bang. the old man rattled something at him in fast cantonese, and the big man nodded, looking at durell with hostile eyes. when the guard moved, it was like the flicker of a passing shadow. his attack then came like the thunder of an express train. later, durell thought he had no excuse for it. true, he had had no sleep, it had been a difficult night getting into the getoba, and he had little rest since flying by jet from lisbon to chad and finally to boganda. but it should not have happened. he was hungry and thirsty and close to exhaustion. he was not superman. but still, he should not have gone down.

he felt pain explode in the back of his head, and his spine jolted as he hit the floor on his knees, tumbling forward. he tried to reach for his gun, thinking it was a hell of a way to end, in a chinese whorehouse in the middle of africa. dimly, through a roaring in his ears, he heard the old man screeching at the behemoth bouncer, and at the same time he twisted as his shoulder hit the carpet. he got his left hand free and caught the brute's ankle somehow and yanked. he might just as well have tried to uproot a hundred-year-old oak tree. the old man, lu chin, kept up his high screeching in cantonese, but there was anger in a the bouncer's face now, and his gun shone with a blue wetness and the muzzle was an enormous black eye as it came down to stare into durell's gaze. durell had his gun , in his right hand now. he squeezed the trigger and count- .) ed on it to fire even after the swim in the natanga river. `' he heard an explosion like an echo to his own report and saw the giant look surprised, with a sudden black hole in his face, and then the chinese crumpled as if made of papier-mch. something hit the back of durell's head as he tried to get out of the way of the falling giant, and everything went black. chapter 15 poor sam. grandpa is very angry with you." "why?" "you killed ting kai, that's why." "i'm glad." "but grandpa was very fond of ting kai." "mr. ting was going to kill me. which would you rather have?" pearl lu giggled in her throat. most women did not know how to giggle, durell thought. pearl's sound was deep and warm and something like the bubble of a latent volcano. he felt her naked breasts move against his chest. "i'd choose you, sam. anytime," she said. "i calmed grandpa down. it wasn't your fault. ting kai was being trained to carry him around on his back, something like sinbad the sailor. so now grandpa thinks you are a very dangerous man. i told him he was right." she paused. "it's been so long, sam." "five years?" "every single day of them," the chinese girl said. "is business good?" "wonderful. i don't work at the trade myself, you understand. you know i never did. i just manage everything." "don't be defensive, pearl." "i'm not. ting kai was my bouncer, of course. he was in love with one of my girls, maybe with me too, so he got a little upset when you showed up." "he's not upset anymore." "he'll be marked down as a victim of the shelling, i think. that would be best, in

case the authorities, when everything is settled, ask questions. i wish i hadn't come here. i wish i were still in st. louis. you know all about my business interests there, don't you?" "yes." "i felt much safer there. are you all right now, sam?" "i feel better." "is the tea all right? i import it from india, actually. was the luncheon good?" "everything is fine." she moved against him. "do you still like me a little bit, sam?" "as always." "like this? i really haven't been with anybody, you know. i don't sell myself." "i know." "is it the same?" "you're better," he said. "we'll talk business later then," she said, making her voice sound like the deepthroated purr of a jungle cat. they were in a huge chinese bed together, naked under remarkably, cool, silken sheets. there were no windows in the room. at least two hours had passed, durell thought, recalling two series of hourly bombardments so far by general watsube's mortars. he hadn't been out for more than a few minutes, and at first he had fought blindly against the hands that tried to minister to him. then he had recognized pearl lu's voice, and he gave in and let himself be bathed and fed: there was a gash across the back of his neck that pearl attended to with antiseptic and a piece of surgical gauze. it still stung from where ting kai's bullet had grazed his nape. another half inch and it would have blown away his spinal column. he had no regrets about shooting the big man. now and then he had heard the other girls in the establishment, and two of them came in to help pearl, bringing food and tea. they were annamese, and he gathered there were also some african girls, two scandinavians, a couple of new yorkers, and some hookers from hamburg. pearl lu never operated on a small scale. he had last seen her in germany, after their initial meeting in hong kong, when he'd stopped to pick up some briefing data in munich. even then, with her grandfather, she had been in this oldest business in the world. according to her dossier, she had really been born in st. louis, despite all her references and attachments to mainland china and hong kong as her ancestral homes. "pearl lu?" "yes, sam." "you know that i'm here on business?" "yes, darling. my business comes first, though." "there isn't that much time."

"oh ho. we will make the time. you must rest. were you swimming in the river?" "to get here, yes." "to see me?" "among other things." she leaned over him on one elbow, frowning very prettily, her black almond eyes puzzled and thoughtful. "there have been all sorts of stories about the real reasons for this rebellion. i mean, the real reason. i'm not talking about the teleks and their rights and how they've been abused since this alleged `unity.' i mean, what the telek leaders are really after. those mercenaries. they are terrible men, those two americans, those two officers. they run everything here, they say. i'm ashamed of them as an american, myself. but of course, they take their orders too, they say." "who says?" she shrugged. "people." "what do they say?" "they whisper about the silver scorpion, an old wives' tale straight out of the jungles of a hundred years ago. a terrible creature, according to the myths, who secretly rules the world. it is superstition, of course. but somebody in the getoba is the silver scorpion, you know. the mercenaries take orders from the scorpion, the teleks believe." "and what do you think of old superstitions, pearl. lu?" she laughed again in her throat and bent down to kiss.. him, her long jet hair making a screen on either side of his face. "oh ho. later, darling sam." her hands moved down his chest and his stomach and along his thighs. she was an expert at it. she should be. he could not help his response. her body was as silken as the.. sheets in the big chinese bed, as active and undulating as a serpent, but warm and eager, even avid for him. there: was nothing pearl lu did not know about the act of love. for the next half hour she employed every trick of her: trade upon him. he did not mention his concern about the; missing georgette finch; he did not think it would be quite diplomatic, at the moment. he yielded to pearl and felt the tension drain away from him, and afterward he slept for two more hours,, a deep, sound sleep undisturbed by any problems. when he awoke, pearl was gone. two girls, one of them the smiling annamese, the other a slender but big-breasted german, brought more food and tea and offered t bathe him with hot towels dipped in perfumed water, carried in a huge porcelain bowl that would have graced the chinese exhibit of any new york museum. durell pushed: them aside, not ungently, and pretended he did not under-stand the german girl's suggestive insinuations. he threw. aside the silken coverlet and put his feet on the floor and stood up, naked, although the girls protested, playfully trying to push him back on the bed. "i need my clothes." "they have been washed and ironed, sir. they are quit ready," said the little

annamese. "but miss pearl said we,. are to please you in all ways, if you wish." "maybe later. i have business with pearl." "she waits," said the annamese, and the girl looked genuinely disappointed. there were fresh khaki slacks, a pair and a dark blue shirt with bigpockets girl gave him his .38 s&w, holding it said in german, "i am glad you killed us all." of shoes that fitted remarkably well, linen, made to carry bush equipment. the german in both hands, palms upward; she smiled and ting kai. he was too big, a monster. he hurt

durell nodded, still pretending not to understand her, and said in english, "miss pearl?" "this way, please." the next bombardment, at noon, began as he followed the german and annamese girls down the corridor. he checked the time with his watch. he must have missed one while he slept. the shells were landing on the other side of the getoba, and he noticed again that there were few, if any, traces of damage in the little chinese quarter. perhaps there had been an earlier understanding between pearl's grandfather and general watsube-or more likely, between pearl lu herself and the general. in any case, durell was grateful. life here seemed to proceed as usual. pearl was in a small, efficiently equipped business office at the end of the hall. there were slatted bamboo blinds over the two windows, and he moved past her desk and files, aware of the way her black, dispassionate eyes followed him, and looked out. the office was directly above the old man's aphrodisiac shop. the street was empty for the moment. the noonday heat had built up, and the sunlight danced and wavered before his eyes. in the office a wooden ceiling fan stirred the air and made things feel slightly better. all the same, he felt oppressed by the noon temperatures, and he wondered how pearl could look so cool in her cheongsam. "sit down, sam, please. it makes me nervous." "i'd rather stand, thank you." "do you realize i could say just one word and have you shot, darling? one message to the fort, where the mercenaries command, and you would be a dead man." "why should you do that, after we-" "i was very, very glad to see you. i was carried away by my sense of joy. it does not happen very often." pearl' lu's words were clipped and precise now, the business-:` woman whose interests were truly worldwide. "what did:. you come here for, sam?" "weren't you briefed by tom adams in lamy? didn't he tell you i was coming?" "you know he did not. i don't work like that, on regular salary. my job is piecework, in a way." she smiled faintly at her own words. "i wouldn't let myself become` indebted to k section in that fashion. i've done regular work, but only on odd jobs, on specialties, yes. you know all that. when i am called upon to help, i do or i don't, depending on how the project looks to me. i've got a good thing here. the rebellion does not matter to me. it will be over, soon enough. whichever side wins, i shall endure..` i'll be here for as long as i choose. i am needed

more by my interests in hong kong and st. louis, but my grandfather is settled here and will not move. it amuses him to stay here. and you know how we chinese respect our parents." she smiled again. "when this is over, i will still be in business. and i do not want to risk that status by anything you say or do or try to get me involved in." "telephone tom adams in chad. or johnson in lisbon." "no." "you have a gk-12 transceiver, haven't you?" the girl nodded. her face was like carved ivory, unmoved. "i do. i rarely use it. i do not want to use it. i don't want to hear from your mr. adams in lamy or from your central in lisbon or from washington. you talk, sam. if i' believe you and think i' can be useful, fine. if i decide to help you, i will. agreed?" "all right," he said. "i'll have to put it in my report, though." "that doesn't matter to me. you need me more than i need you. i left my home in st. louis a long, long time ago, sam. obviously, i'll probably never go back. so what can you do to me? send some spooks to fix me up, maybe to ruin me here in boganda or even kill me? you wouldn't do such a thing." "i need your help." "i told you. maybe yes, maybe no. now explain to me why you swam in the river and came in here, when most everybody in the getoba is literally dying to get out." he told her. he did not hold anything back. he spoke about the international credits to be used for economic, social, and educational developments in boganda and how the credits had been converted little by little, based on false reports of expenditures over the past six months, into hard cash as payments for projects that were never completed-and some never even begun-and how it entailed an international swindle of the first magnitude and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in american taxpayers' money. pearl lu listened quietly. "and how did your k section get into it? you're supposed to be chasing spies, not some smart crooks." "anything abroad that concerns the us concerns k section. some clever accountant back in washington, in the budget bureau, i think, took just a little extra time to check. none of this is public yet, for obvious domestic political reasons. the senate committees, especially those against foreign aid, would make hay out of it. but it will have to come to light in the press, eventually." "so who stole the money?" pearl lu asked. "was it the raga? or watsube?" durell shrugged. "we don't really know yet. but we certainly want it back, come hell or high water or local revolution." "so that's what the telek uprising is really about?" "perhaps. it won't be the first time a whole people were duped into martyrdom by some smart confidence men." pearl lu shook her head. "i don't like it. if the money.. is already gone-" "it isn't gone. it's here in the getoba."

her jet eyes grew round,' but nothing else changed in her face. she said flatly, "you mentioned three hundred million, i believe. in cash? here, being shot to pieces with the rest of us?" "don't get avaricious," durell said gently. "i just can't believe it, that's all." "i believe it. it's right here in the bank vaults. at least, that's what georgette finch says. she knows the combination, she says." "oh ho," said pearl. "what do you mean, `oh ho'?" "so now you tell me about that idealistic and clumsy official-agency female friend of yours. i have been waiting, = for it." durell smiled faintly. "jealous, pearl lu?" "perhaps." "you have no reason to be after this morning." she reached across the desk to touch his hand. "ah, ., sam. oh, cajun. three hundred million in cash? international currencies? you must trust me very much to tell me about it." "i don't trust anybody. but about finch?" -

"oh ho. yes, yes. she is very fine. i have her here. i. found her wandering alone in the getoba, near the old portuguese plaza. i have known for some time that she worked for your people. it is my business to know such: things. i thought it peculiar and dangerous for her to be' here alone. so i had my men bring her to the house-not' without some difficulty, i assure you. she is a stubborn= girl." pearl lu grinned. "i also knew of your arrival in bowganda, sam. i always check the airport and hotels. such knowledge is useful. so i knew you would be along here: too. and i have been waiting to see if you would mention; the finch girl. i was testing your honesty about her. a woman is a woman, after all." "is georgette all right?" "are you concerned about her?" "i think i am." "you are truly honest, cajun. but you and that overgrown girl? she speaks so oddly. she talks a lot of rumbleseat pidgin." "it's her hobby. a mannerism."

"and she knows the combination?" "to the vault where the money is stored, yes." "oh ho," pearl lu sighed. georgette finch looked clean and fresh in new slacks and sneakers and a clean, white, man's shirt, all obviously provided by the establishment. her ripe mouth was sullen, however, as she watched durell come into the room, which was one of the bedrooms used by pearl lu's girls. it was a very nice room, with good furniture and a big bed, but georgette looked around it with more scom and finally sat down on the edge of the bed with obvious distaste. "sam, what is this? am i really in a whorehouse?" "yes." she stood up quickly from the bed. "for real? is this white slavery?" "white, yellow, black, and brown. but not slavery. the girls are here willingly. it's their business. they're quite happy at it, making a lot of money." she sneered. "and i suppose you know them all intimately, hey?" "i know pearl lu. she's a good friend. she treated you quite well, didn't she?" "did you tell her anything?" "everything," duelll said. "oh, for god's sake. that's really the cat's whiskers. how can you trust her?" "we need her help, and at least she's taken us in off the streets. she's fed you, washed you, clothed you. isn't that enough?" "and what else did she do for you?" she asked. "that's none of your business." "you look like a tomcat just in from a long night in the alleys." fortunately, pearl lu came in. georgette pointed a finger at her promptly and said, "and you look like the cat who stole all the cream!" "yes, i did, my dear child. now please be still and let us have no more nonsense. this is a discreet place. we allow no quarreling and certainly no jealousies. we have much more important business to attend to." "we?" finch looked genuinely angry. "i'm supposed to be- well, you know, i have a job in boganda." "so does pearl lu," durell explained. "she has done work for k section too." finch stared. "but nobody ever told me-" "you didn't have to know."

she looked even angrier. "but my job here in boganda is as k section's central. i'm not about to be displaced by a-by a-" "a madame?" pearl lu's smile was dangerously sweet. "my dear, i've worked with sam while you were still enjoying college life, paid for by your rich daddy. now please be rational. the problem we are involved in concerns a lot of money, and we must recover it." "what do you expect to get out of it?" georgette challenged. "if you're thinking of two-timing and doublecrossing us...durell slapped her. it wasn't a hard blow, but it was enough to turn her head aside and leave a growing red blush where his fingers struck her cheek. she stepped back, her brown eyes blurred by shock and uncertainty. durell said, "if you can't recognize a friend, then you have no right to be in this business." "do you trust this woman?" "i do. i have to. she knows what would happen to her if she tried for the money on her own." pearl lu said, "sam would devote all his time afterward to getting to me and killing me." "but suppose you knifed him in the back first?" pearl lu smiled again. "if i could manage that, then i would deserve the money." there was a long silence. georgette took a deep breath. her breasts strained against the clean starched whiteness of her borrowed shirt. then she said, "yes, sir. yes sirree. jim dandy. i'll buy it on those terms. we can get the money, and pearl lu has the manpower to haul it over here. we can hide it in the chinese quarter until all this telek rebellion is over. it's a lead-pipe cinch that general watsube will be in the getoba within the next forty-eight hours. all we have to do is keep the money safe until then. then we can contact tom adams in chad, and through him we'll talk to washington for instructions. after that the money will be taken care of, flown out by plane or new arrangements made with the raga for its disposition. and we'll all be in the clear." pearl lu said, "it will all cost something-my part of it, i mean. the men, the transportation, the hiding place after we get it out of the bank." "you'll be paid," finch said coldly. "you'll be paid enough." there were strange lights in pearl lu's almond black eyes. "a percentage of the three hundred million?" "a very small percentage," finch said. "but a fair one?" durell said, "it will be enough." "thank you, darling sam. i trust you. i take your word, not hers." "thank you," durell said. "let's go." chapter 16

they had to wait until after the one o'clock shelling. the day seemed hotter than usual, and the midday sun was a bright blinding glare directly overhead through the heat haze. the air was filled with smells and stinks that drifted over the besieged town in almost tangible waves. the smell of death and corruption, particularly, was everywhere. regardless of the knowledge that the mortars would open up precisely on the hour, there were always a few careless victims. the defense, the water and food rationing, were efficient, however. the teleks fought with the desperate courage of men who felt doomed in any ', case. the armed patrols were alert and dangerous. almost every man outside the chinese quarter carried some kind of weapon, a pack of rations, a canteen of water, a cartridge belt for his kalashnikov automatic rifle. on the f walls were machinegun emplacements, and in the streets :_ there were spider webs of trip-wires, boobytraps, and mines to slow watsube's troops, should the wall be broken through. confidence seemed to be increasing, spread by that 4 mysterious essence of morale that seeped down through the ranks of the- teleks, the moslem shopkeepers, and young boys, from the very top command, the mysterious and efficient mercenary officer corps that had been recruited for the coup. there were german, french, and russians among the small group of whites who masterminded the defense of the getoba district. twice, durell and his entourage had to duck into dismal, black-shadowed alleys to avoid passing defense patrols. between mortar rounds the populace of the getoba streamed gratefully into the streets and lanes and did their shopping in the quickly-developed black markets along the souk and in the shops of the area's byways. there were almost a dozen people with durell, strung out inconspicuously: finch and pearl lu and the rest of her men, scrawny young chinese who were much tougher than they looked. none of them had an obvious weapon, but durell did not count on that. finch was remote and sullen, often eyeing pearl lu with open hostility. the chinese girl seemed intense and anxious. during a pause to let a patrol go by, durell and finch shared a doorway under a tattered canvas awning in front of a hindu shop window. "you said you know the combination, finch." "yes, that's what i said." "and do you?" "by golly, i know it." "how did you come to learn of it?" he asked. "what's the matter, do you think i'm lying?" "i'd like to learn how you operate." "i do just fine, thank you," the tall girl said. he waited a moment. "well?" "oh. the combination. well, it's a kreuger-schmidt safe, you see, made in essen, germany-" "how do you know that?"

"i looked at it. i keep an account there and a box. i thought i should. i have forty-two american dollars there." she looked thoughtful. "i put it in just to be able to see the bank and the vault. i know about banks and vaults, remember? daddy was a banker before he became a us senator." "i know. go on." "so when i learned it was a kreuger-schmidt, i phoned overseas to marty forsdyke, and he said-" "who is marty forsdyke?" "he works for daddy in the bank business. he once asked me to marry him, but i came to africa instead. anyway, just for me, he checked with the kreuger schmidt people in essen, west germany and had them look at their records, and we learned that the safe in the bank here was sold to the boganda government on november 13, 1970, and was given the. identification number of s 5584." j "i see," durell said. "not bad." "what do you see?" j

"and your devoted friend marty used your father's name and influence as a banker and a senator and got the combination of kreuger-schmidt bank vault 5584, which, of course, they keep on permanent file in their records." georgette said, "you're a real whiz-bang, sam." "i'm glad you think so. and you remember the combination marty gave you, yes?" "i do. i know it. and i'm not telling you, or you .a wouldn't have any more use for me, and you'd wrap me up in cotton wool and stash me somewhere until everything is safe and tidy around here again. am i correct?" "right as rain," durell said. "so we'll see when we get there, okay?" "okay." ? j several shells had hit the building that housed the bank during the past week of siege and bombardment. from the central plaza built by the first portuguese settlers who struggled through a thousand miles of jungle, infested rivers, and discouraging mountains, durell considered the four-man patrol that paced languidly in the heat, back and forth, in front of the ruined and crumbled stone structure. it was one of the few stone buildings left in the getoba,aside from the fort, and it had obviously been devoted atone time to the portuguese catholic missions set up by zealous friars in the middle of natanga's fever-infested bush. it had lost its use as a church over a century ago, when the teleks, having adopted islam, surrounded the area with their homes and shops and slave markets. its big ..e carved doors were built of mahogany planks and studded asked me to marry him., but i came to africa instead. anyway, just for me, he checked with the kreugerschmidt people in essen, west germany and had them look at

their records, and we learned that the safe in the bank here was sold to the boganda government on november 13, 1970, and was given the identification number of 5584." "i see," durell said. "not bad." "what do you see?" "and your devoted friend marty used your father's name and influence as a banker and a senator and got the combination of kreugerschmidt bank vault 558,4, which, of course, they keep on permanent file in their records." georgette said, "you're a real whiz-bang, sam." "i'm glad you think so. and you remember the combination marty gave you, yes?" "i do. i know it. and i'm not telling you, or you wouldn't have any more use for me, and you'd wrap me up in cotton wool and stash me somewhere until everything is safe and tidy around here again. am i correct?" "right as rain," durell said. "so we'll see when we get there, okay?" "okay." several shells had hit the building that housed the bank during the past week of siege and bombardment. from the central plaza built by the first portuguese settlers who struggled through a thousand miles of jungle, infested rivers, and discouraging mountains, durell considered the four-man patrol that paced languidly in the heat, back and forth, in front of the ruined and crumbled stone structure. it was one of the few stone buildings left in the getoba, aside from the fort, and it had obviously been devoted at one time to the portuguese catholic missions set up by zealous friars in the middle of natanga's fever infested bush. it had lost its use as a church over a century ago, when the teleks, having adopted islam, surrounded the area with their homes and shops and slave markets. its big carved doors were built of mahogany planks and studded enough passersby in the square, going about their errands in the besieged town, to make their presence unnoticed for the moment. two of the guards stopped to smoke cigarettes, one lighting the other's from a butt. the other two yawned and sat down in the dust against the old church wall and broke open small packets of rations and began to eat their noon meal. from somewhere came the shrill ululation of a muezzin in one of the several mosques, whose minarets still stood defiantly against the sun-bleached african sky. the former parsonage stood on a site at one of the corners of the old portuguese plaza. there was a silversmith's place across from it and an alley leading back into the maze of streets beyond. durell touched pearl lu's arm and pointed, and she nodded. with two of her men leading the way and several more behind them, they walked slowly through the pattern of alleys and lanes until they had circled about and come out on the opposite corner of the plaza. the soldiers who had seated themselves against the wall of the bank were now asleep, their cloth fatigue caps pulled low over their weary eyes. the other two were playing cards and still sharing cigarettes. there were iron bars over the former parsonage windows too, but pearl lu indicated that the back door could be opened. the place was now used as an annex to the

bank, for storing old and out-of-date papers. "we'll cross the plaza now," the chinese girl said. "do it casually. do not run, or they will notice you. we still have fifteen minutes until the next bombardment. when the mortars begin, we must not be seen on the streets, or we will be picked up. i think they must be looking for you, sam." "why do you say that?" "there are more patrols out than usual. you did not make a friend of miss irene, the ragihi?" "hardly." "i am surprised-with all your charms," pearl lu said. she smiled with satisfaction as georgette bit her lip. "well, we must go. slowly now. no hurry, please." her two forward men crossed easily. then pearl lu herself strolled over with durell. he saw one of the card players move a bit and stare at him and put a hand on his automatic rifle, but it was only to shove the weapon out of the sun and into the thin shade cast by the tower of the former cathedral-turned-bank. georgette walked over next, moving a bit too quickly; but no one noticed. then pearl lu's other chinese men came over, by twos and threes. they paused in the stifling shade of the alley. "we can use the back door," pearl lu said. "have you a key?" georgette snapped. "it happens to be locked." "i'm sure sam can open it." "not without noise," finch said coldly. "but it so happens that i can open it. 1 have a key. i saw to it last week. the portuguese who still work here- well, one of them wanted me to meet him here after closing time, on a date." pearl lu said acidly, "and did you, dear? it's private enough, down among the crypts, i suppose." "to hell with you," finch said. she took a key from a string between her breasts and opened the heavy wooden door in the back of the former parsonage. the lock squeaked a little, and then they were all safely inside, crowded into a small tiled vestibule that smelled of musty old age. there was no sound. the heavy doors and narrow, barred tightly against the shelling, effectively cut them off there were filing cabinets, a few steel desks, all the storage area. another door took durell into a corridor a heavy, carved wooden balustrade going down. windows, which were sealed from the outside world. paraphernalia of a business and a flight of steps with

finch said, "there aren't many cellars in boganda, but as pearl lu seems to know, the old church had one, for crypts and thing. the bank used the lower area for the vault." "you did a good preparatory job," durell said. "don't patronize me," georgette snapped.

durell went down the stone steps into abruptly cool darkness. the flashlight he had taken from pearl lu's house was useful. there was an arched tunnel and, at the end of it, a heavily paneled door studded with nails in the same pattern as the street entrance. he tried the big iron handle. it was locked. he pushed quietly against it. it did not yield. he looked at the big keyhole and knew his modern picklocks would be useless against this massive mechanism. to blow the door open would only alarm the telek patrols. he pinched his nostrils in frustration. "let me," georgette said sweetly. "i have the key, which i just happened to' think of getting after you were sent for. and-surprised?-l brought it along." she reached without ceremony into the waistband of her slacks, fumbled a moment, and winced as she tore surgical tape from her flat stomach. she came up with the key still attached to the tape. it was a massive piece of iron of north african design, clumsy looking but efficient. it took only a moment for the girl to open the door. the lock was ;, well oiled, and the bolt moved aside with only a faint click. durell hoped there were no guards inside the former church. he pushed the door open slowly. a smell of dust and mildew and unusually cool air came at him as he stepped through the entrance. finch was right. he stood in the old portuguese crypt of the church, vague and dark . and dusty, built of stone that must have been hauled hundreds of miles from the nearest quarry down river. :l there were medieval-style arches, deep niches, a flagged stone floor; there was dust in the corners. but the flag stones looked as if they had seen recent travel. "oh, lordie," finch breathed. halfway up the stone steps leading to the main floor of the bank-what had been the nave and apse of the old . church-durell's flashlight picked out the sprawled figure j of a man. the man lay head down, his arms and legs every which way. his shirt had once been a natty blue, but it was now a clotted mass of dark red blood. his shoes were neatly shined. "don't anyone move," durell whispered. he went quickly and quietly up the stone steps to the body. the man had been riddled with automatic rifle fire; his back was torn away, and his skull was blown apart. he had been a short man, brown-skinned, but not a natangan. his clothes were western. what was left of the face and the single, staring, bulging blue eye made no sense at all to durell. "does anyone know him?" durell asked quietly. he looked at finch and pearl lu. both girls nodded solemnly in the light of his torch. "can you identify him?" finch said, "he was ferdinando gomez. the bank manager. he was the one who tried to make a date with me and gave me the key." "pearl?" "she's right. he was a good customer of mine." finch made a wry face. durell considered the dead man for another moment. the bank manager had not been dead very long; he had probably been shot in the morning, while he himself had been with pearl lu. probably the same suggestion crossed finch's mind, he thought wryly, watching her lips tighten briefly. he turned and went up the stairs. there was little need for caution now. there was no one on the :y

main floor of the church. all the pews had been removed years ago, and the floor had been made over with tellers' cages, benches, and all the furniture and paraphernalia sacred to any bank anywhere in the world. he turned left, toward the rear, which would have been behind the original altar. the stained-glass window had long ago been removed; it was replaced by iron bars. insects buzzed and hummed somewhere high in the lofty, arched ceiling. he held his gun ready as he went through the wooden gateway to the rear, where he caught the gleam of stainless steel shining in the shadows. the safe was open. the heavy door stood ajar. finch halted beside him and heaved a deep sigh. "okay. so they got the combination from poor ferdinando gomez okay? all right? we're a bit late." "relax." "and it was all done this morning while you were so-so busy." "no matter. it happened because we forced it to happen," durell said, "just by coming into the getoba. and especially because we took irene with us." "all that money," pearl lu whispered. she looked small and mournful, her piquant chinese face sober and very disappointed. "i was just hoping to see it all, that's the thing. and it's all gone. three hundred million, you said?" "that's right," durell agreed. "so they shot poor ferdinando, as finch says, after y they squeezed the combination out of him. and then they, cleaned it all out. all that money." "the question is, who took it?" durell asked. somebody chuckled behind them. a man said pleasantly, "why, i did, of course. mickey, _ irene, and me. who else?" chapter 17 he was very tall and very thin, with a british colonel's pips on his khaki shoulder straps; he wore a row of miniature medals and ribbons decorating his shirt over his left pocket. he carried an israeli uzi, a wicked little automatic rifle that rarely jammed and always meant business. he carried a us colt .45 in a low-slung cartridge belt, and his brown boots were neatly polished, his khaki slacks immaculately pressed. his smile showed gleaming white teeth.' his hair was grizzled, cropped short, above a surprisingly; youthful face that was darkened by many tropical suns but still looked engaging-for a thief. there was a charm in the man, durell thought, and a kind of feral danger, as if he would do anything on the spur of the moment that happened to suit his convenience, without thought of harm and injury to anyone in his way. "i am adam chance," said the man quietly. "my rank is colonel, of course, actually." he had the sort of upper-class, quality new york accent that was dying out these days. "i'm in command of the getoba, in command of all the teleks and everyone within these walls-and therefore, mr. durell, you are under my command too. please drop your gun."

durell did not drop it. he held it out, and colonel chance gestured to someone behind him, and durell saw it was the same black american, major wells, who had hunted for him last night in the ruins of the jute mill. wells' face was expressionless as he took the snub-barreled .38 from durell's fingers. durell said, "it's a very good weapon. i'd hate to damage it by dropping it on the stone floor." "as you wish," colonel chance said. his lean, bony face smiled handsomely. "those chinese boys tell 'em all to drop whatever they've got up their sleeves. pearl lu, you'd better do it." the chinese girl spoke to her men in cantonese, and an assortment of knives and small-arms clattered to the stone flagging. colonel chance said, "pearl lu, i am surprised. i've left you and your people alone, because you said you were a neutral, not a damned commie chink." "i'm an american," the small girl snapped. "i happen to be an ethnic chinese, as well. not a gook, not a native, not a chink. certainly not a communist. i'm a capitalist in every sense of the word, a believer in free enterprise, as you well know. understood?" "you seem touchy." "and why shouldn't i be?" the girl snapped. "all right, all right. willie?" "yes, six," said the black major. "is this the man you spotted last night, the one who brought irene in?" "i'm not sure." colonel adam chance turned his head slightly. "irene, what do you say?" the ragihi of boganda came forward out of the shadows of the old church, affecting a curious blend of bogandan imperial quality with a sly and frightened liverpool urchin feeling out of place here. "it's him, all right. it's the cajun, like they call 'em. it's bloody-right him, adam." "good. so there are no more problems," colonel: chance said. durell said quietly, "but there are plenty of them. there's the problem of the missing money, a lot of missing money. several hundreds of millions of american taxpayers' money." "really?" chance chuckled. "i haven't counted it all, yet. and it isn't really missing, old man. 1 have it. willie and i and irene and mickey-we all have it, safe and sound at the fort, pending whatever happens here in the getoba." a new voice intervened, a woman's voice, as thin and cold as the first skim of ice on a new england pond. she didn't have quite the gutter accent that irene, her sister, had, and there was a taut intelligence in mickey maitland that irene, with her hair curlers and affectations, would never achieve. standing side by side, they looked enough alike to verify the fact that they were sisters. female pirates, durell thought. predators on the international scene. a great many things

became clear to him in those few moments. mickey spoke coldly. "adam, this man they call the cajun is simply a spy, an agent for the cia's k section. love, don't take any chances with him. irene told me about him last night. she used the telephone to the fort the one that still works, oddly enough, and which my esteemed military husband-or ex-husband, i'm not sure of the local tribal laws-general watsube, at any rate, doesn't know about it. irene thinks we should kill this man at once." colonel chance weighed the uzi in his hands and said mildly, "really, baby?" "kill him," the woman said urgently. "and do it right now. the way you did the bank manager." "all right," colonel chance said matter-of-factly. "if you say so, hon." he raised the uzi and pointed it at durell. durell took a deep breath. the big portals of the old church were open now, and he could see the telek troopers out there, armed with their russian rifles, waiting to see what their mercenary white officers would do. the sunlight made a blinding triangle of light that came into the darkened bank vault. the smells of dust and heat and death drifted in from the old portuguese plaza outside. major wells said quietly, ".take it easy, adam." "what?" "who are you fighting? the natangans, which we are paid to fight, or the us government, which spells a lot of gratuitous trouble? ever since vietnam, you and i agreed we'd make a living this way, but it wasn't just because we had to put in two years in that bastardly war. so take it easy." "mickey says-" "since when does mickey command here?" wells said. mickey maitland said, "why, you black son of-" major wells spoke quietly, with no change of expression on his brown face. "shut up, you bitch." "listen, don't you-!" "shut up," he said again. something in his quiet manner, in his soft voice, suddenly made the older maitland sister retreat a step. she put a hand to her cheek as if she had been slapped. "adam, you can't take any risks with this man, this durell. he can upset everything." irene wailed, "mickey is bloody right about that. kill him and get it over with." adam chance smiled. "my partner says we'd better-wait. right, willie? anyway, durell and his girl aren't. going anywhere. there's plenty of room at the fort for everybody, while we parlay with watsube. there's a deal to be made here, i can see that, and any sensible man will be: reasonable until he learns what terms he can

get." "you're not making a deal with watsube," mickey, snapped. "that wasn't in the arrangement." "maybe not. but i'm betting that the general thinks it is." colonel chance sighed and looked at durell with lugubrious brown eyes in his handsome, lean face. "so you've got a reprieve, cajun." "thank you," durell said. "and about pearl lu-" "she doesn't know anything. let her go." "all right. i don't want any trouble with the chinese here in the getoba. none of us can get out, anyway. so let's go, huh?" durell looked at his watch. it was exactly two o'clock in the afternoon. promptly on the hour the mortar shells: began to fall and burst again. chapter 18 the cell was dark and stifling hot. it smelled of the-'. river and rat droppings and garbage. there were two cots in it, and a narrow window that had been boarded up so that only the thinnest hint of daylight seeped through between the cracks. georgette finch lay on the cot under the closed window, her hands clasped under her head, her eyes considering the vaulted stone ceiling. durell tried not to let his anger and frustration move in him too much. he was annoyed by her withdrawn silence too. he had examined the cell, checking the solid iron door with its narrow ventilation grill, and he stood on his cot to test the tiny barred window with its wooden shutter that all but cut out the daylight. there was no way out. he prowled the cell restlessly. the girl lay on her back and bit her lip now and then and stared at the ceiling. he checked the door again. and checked the window once more. another mortar barrage began, lasting the regular precise five minutes. it was after three o'clock now. the heat in the cell was intolerable. every effort to move brought about panting exhaustion. they had not been given anything to eat or drink. he was aware of the thirst raging in his throat, and he looked at georgette and wondered what was going on in her mind. "you seem crushed," he said. "did you have your mind so set on just walking in here and recovering the money?" "i guess so. it certainly seemed simple enough," she murmured. "are they going to feed us soon?" "i don't know. nothing is simple in this business, finch. just take it easy." "i -am. there's nothing else to do. but i'm so thirsty too." "that's part of colonel chance's technique." "do you really think he got the money?" the girl asked. "it's here in the fort. i can smell it," durell said. "that's what the whole thing is all about." "jiminy. the sisters, you mean?"

durell said quietly, "it's pretty plain now, isn't it? the two maitland sisters from liverpool, mickey and irene, are trying to rape this country of everything they can beg, borrow, and steal, and they're ready to use any means and any man who might help them to do so. they can't be counted as unimportant, compared to colonel chance. he's mean enough, but i think mickey is meaner." "she's a real bitch. were you scared when she asked adam to shoot you, then and there?" durell sat down on the edge of her cot. she did not move away from him. in the dim light her face looked almost pretty. she was pretty, durell decided a lot of woman, he thought. he said, "would it have bothered you if i'd been killed back in the bank?" "sure. i still need you, sam. i haven't given up yet, have you?" "no," he said. "but we can't get out of here, can we?" "not for the moment. what kind of edge does mickey:. have over adam chance?" finch said, "oh, she's his lover,, that's plain. she's got him tied over a barrel. they started together just before the coup, when chance was an officer under watsube, on the boganda frontier patrol. but adam spent more time. in the capital than on the borders. he saw watsube at his home in the city quite a lot. mickey made a play for = adam, and the first thing you know, everybody was talking about how he had hopped into her bed. general watsube didn't seem to hear or notice anything. by then mickey had control of the fkp, so the security people were in her pocket and kept their mouths shut. but i guess the general knew, all right. and about two weeks after. that all started, adam led the telek rebellion. it can't bell. coincidence, sam." "was irene in on it from the start?" georgette shook her head and kept staring at the ceiling. "i don't know. irene plays dumb, but she isn't. both: of those girls are on the make for anything they can get=. out of boganda. i think we can agree that they're out to: rob the country blind. i think they talked adam chance, and the teleks into attempting the coup just to get the money. but general watsube happened to be one jump, ahead of them." she laughed grimly. "they didn't get far watsube bottled them up here in the getoba right at the start." "is the raga, president motuku, innocent of all this?" "he's like a lamb. a dear man. much too idealistic to survive in this world." "the raga has done well enough in the survival department. don't write him off," durell said. "he and watsube didn't live in africa this long, building a new nation together, to be put down by a couple of liverpool tarts." "they married those tarts, didn't they? you men!" finch snorted. "just like you and pearl lu-" , "you sound jealous." "don't be ridiculous."

he said, "how many other mercenary officers do you know here, georgette?" "forget them. the frenchmen, the two germans, the renegade russian they're only on the payroll, that's all." "do you think they know about the money?" finch said, "not if my estimate of mickey maitland is correct. she wouldn't share a nickel of it that she didn't have to. she'll lie, steal, desert her husband, hop into bed with adam, start a revolution, kill anything, to get that money. it obsesses her, i think. and irene goes along with what her sister tells her to do." "what about chance? mightn't he have plans of his own?" "he's a hard, ruthless character, under all that overt charm. he and mickey deserve each other, all right. i used to run into him at official affairs, now and then, before the coup. i wouldn't put anything past him. he could even give mickey back to general watsube, in exchange for a truce that would let him get out with the money." "is mickey smart enough to think of that?" "she's smart enough to cover all the bases." durell said, "what about willie wells?" "he's decent enough," finch said. "how decent? would he help us?" "well, that i don't know." "what about kantijji and yutigaffa? i haven't seen any sign of them since the jute mill. they took off into the getoba the moment we got through the walls, on business of their own. what business could that be?" finch said irritably, "i don't know all the answers, sam. that's your business, to find out these things." "i just don't want you to hold out anything else on me, georgette." "i'm not. cross my heart. sam-?" he looked at her, waiting. "sam, are you scared?" "i don't like it," he admitted. time passed slowly. there were two more shellings that concentrated on the far side of the getoba district, before anyone acknowledged their existence in the cell. the heat built up hour by hour. durell took off his shirt, but kept his slacks and boots on, in view of the things that scuttled across the old stone floor. the girl took off the man's shirt she wore and her slacks and tried to cool off in her bra and panties. it was no time to stand on ceremony. there was something defenseless about her now, in her simplicity. her antagonism toward durell had evaporated. she seemed willing to be guided entirely by what he said. he did not think it was fear that motivated the change in her. he had to admit

that his own attitude toward her was changing. her initial obnoxious behavior seemed to be totally gone, and she had proved competent enough during the night and day that had passed. after the last barrage, when the echoes of the distant explosions faded away in the twilight of the late afternoon, booted footsteps suddenly rang .and clattered on iron stairs outside the cell. voices muttered, and there was a metallic clink of a key, and the iron door to the cell creaked open. georgette sat up quickly on the bunk, her legs pressed together, her hands folded in her lap. in the light that came inside from a battery lantern, her face was pale. major willie wells entered with a tray of hot food and two thermos bottles of water and coffee. his brown face was impassive as he put the items down on the floor. behind him two shaggy telek militiamen kept their rifles at the ready. wells stepped back a bit and said, "the condemned eat a hearty dinner, eh?" "who has condemned us?" durell asked. "you did it yourself, man-by coming into the getoba and trying to mess things up for colonel chance. he's not a man who likes to be crossed. neither is his woman." finch said, "are we going to be shot?" "probably," wells said in a flat voice. "when?" "would it do you any good to know that, ma'am?" the black american looked at durell. "i am trying to argue them out of it. don't ask me why. it isn't because i'm sorry for either of you or want to help you. it's a matter of instinct, a case of self-preservation. i don't think mickey and adam are going to get away with what they're trying to do, and even if they do get out of the getoba, you people will never let them rest, i figure. you'll hound them anywhere they go on earth." "that's correct," durell said. "i've told them they won't have any place to hide anywhere in the world. no matter where. china or russia, algeria or cuba. what good will all that money do them in those places? south america? hell, man, you people have all the connections." "then why did you get into it?" durell asked. major wells shrugged. "a guy sometimes just drifts into things. i want to tell you the truth, i kind of enjoyed vietnam. it was bad enough, but it gave me a sense of pride and honor for a while. it taught me a lot of the facts of life. i'm not an american anymore, you see. i'm a citizen of the world. i'm not talking about the immature and impractical movements of black people back home. they're all dreams, man. the only way out is to belong to the whole world. as for being in boganda, i don't feel any special affinity to these people. it's just a job. like i say, i drifted into it. but i don't want mickey and adam to make it any worse." "is the money here?" finch asked. "in the fort?" wells stared at her with blank brown eyes. he looked tired, as if he hadn't really slept since the siege of the getoba had begun. there was something very remote, very self-sufficient about the man, and durell wondered what had turned him off, and then he thought of a dozen obvious possibilities, considering his heritage, and he

wished it hadn't happened to someone like willie wells. "you ask me a foolish question, miss finch," wells said in his flat voice. "did you know i once met up with your father?" "the banker?" she asked. "the senator. when they were handing out medals for, vietnam. i'm one of the boys who kept mine, no matter' how i felt about the tin ware then. i didn't send any of= them back. they look nice when i apply for military work. in other places around the world." the black man paused. "yes, the money is in the fort, miss finch. but you can forget about it." the man's brown eyes slid toward durell. . "i reckon you'd better come along with me; man." instantly, georgette was on her feet. "why? what are; you going to do with sam? wherever he goes, i go." "shut up," wells said. his voice changed, turned as' sharp and hard as a razor. "you wouldn't like it. eat your' stuff there, mr. durell, and then come along. you've got about ten minutes." "i'd like to know where i'm going, myself," durell said. ` "you can eat first," major wells said. "and you can make your peace with god while you eat. the lady wants to see you. miz maitland, sub, miz mickey, colonel= chance's woman, the ex-wife of general watsube." "right now?" "i said, eat your dinner first. but it won't make her feel more kindly toward you." durell sat down beside finch and ate his dinner. he didn't hurry. chapter 19 mickey maitland looked even sharper and harder than the first impression he had gained of her at the bank. she was a bit taller than her sister irene, not quite as plump and curved, and her blond hair, streaked by the african sun, was pulled back in a severe knot at the nape of her pale neck. the room had been one of the old cannon emplacements in the martello fort, and now it had been turned into a bed-chamber which she obviously shared with colonel chance. the colonel's uniforms, desk, maps, and military equipment were scattered around, some on the furniture and some on the floor. it was obvious that adam chance, who seemed outwardly meticulous and even neurotically tidy, had not been able to cope with mickey's slum habits of slovenly disorder. the bed was rumpled and unmade and stained with last night's lovemaking. mickey maitland watsube wore light white cotton slacks, slightly belled and flared, hugging her low on her hips. there was nothing of her flesh left to the imagination. she wore a striped singlet on top, no bra-obviously-and her face held only a bit of powder and lipstick, although an elaborate makeup kit stood open on an old wooden trunk that was shoved against the stone wall. "thank you, willie. you can leave us alone now." major wells said, "he is a dangerous man, ma'am." "i can handle him. you can go." wells nodded. "if you say so, ma'am."

he backed out of the room and closed the heavy plank door. mickey said, "that's one soldier who knows his place, huh?" durell said nothing. the woman paced back and forth, twenty feet from him. there were rattling noises somewhere in the fort, the echo of a man's call, a distant tramp of feet. he saw the small nickel-plated revolver on a crate beside the bed that served as a lamp table. he wondered if he could go for it. he thought that maybe she had planted it there as bait for him, to give her an excuse to kill him out of hand. he decided to be very careful with this woman. "what happened to captain yutigaffa and his sergeant, kantijji?" she asked abruptly. "they came in with you, didn't they?" "yes, yutigaffa showed me the way." "so where are they? why did they disappear?" "i don't know." "can't you even guess?" "i thought they worked for you," durell said. she smiled. "for me? why for me?" "they are fkp men, loyal to watsube, i think. so they'd be loyal to you, as watsube's wife." "i'm not the general's wife anymore. and the general hasn't operated the fkp for some time now. so where are those two men?" "i told you, i don't know, and i can't guess." . she hugged herself, as if to repress a shudder. "i don't like their being around here somewhere. they give me the horrors, y'know? they're assassins, did you know that? professionals, i mean. among certain minor natanga tribes, they train youngsters from childhood to be killers. something like they did in ancient sparta. i read that in a book one time. it's a hell of a profession, don't you think?" "are you afraid they are after you?" "even you believe they're loyal to the general, right? and the general knows i'm here in adam's .bed. so he let yutigaffa and his sidekick in. otherwise, do you think you'd really have gotten through the siege lines the way you did?" "i'm not sure, but i think you're worried over something that doesn't exist," durell said. "you'd better tell me where they are." "i don't know," durell said again. he didn't think she was really interested in the two fkp men. he didn't think she i

would be afraid of any man, as a matter of fact. she had been brought up in a hard school, in a world where the thought of simple, essential survival was always basic and uppermost. a world in which men showed her their weak and indulgent sides most often. in some ways, however, she was less dangerous than irene. irene seemed too naive and childish to be taken seriously; mickey was overtly dangerous, so you were forewarned about her. he stood still, waiting. he didn't look at the little revolver again. through the barred gun-port which now served as a window, he noted that the daylight was fading. the smells of cooking rice and curry, as well as sewage, drifted in through the barred opening. he watched the thin woman light a cigarette. she didn't offer him one. she said, "if i had my way, i'd get rid of you, mr. durell. like fast, like right now. but adam thinks you might be useful later on, as a sort of hostage, y'know? can you give me an idea of how you might be useful to us right now?" "not really." "you're bloody well right, not really. you'll never let go of your job, will you? you'll do everything you can to stop irene and me, right? so why not make a deal? how much do you want?" "i can't bargain with you. it's no deal." "money talks to everybody in this world, so don't put me on. and there's plenty for everybody here. so how much will it cost for you to forget everything and send a nice, cozy report to washington that the funds were blown up, burned up, destroyed by the shelling. that's a logical thing to report, isn't it? it could happen that way?" "yes, it might." something moved in her pale blue eyes. "then it is deal? you'll throw in with us, for a reasonable share?" "no," durell said. "i can't do it, because i know the money has not been destroyed and because i know that- , you and the colonel and willie wells have it and intend to steal it; and that you and your sister might well doublecross both of those men whom you've used to make away with every cent this poor country has begged and borrowed to pull itself up out of the swamp." she spoke with a sneer. "so you're an honest man? you're worried about bloody old boganda? bloody old, effing unity land?" "yes," he said. "i don't believe you," she snapped. he said nothing. he just stood there. he waited. she smoked her cigarette in quick, angry drags. she paced the stone floor between him and the bed, between him and the , little nickel-plated gun. he knew she trembled with the desire to kill him. from her point of view it would be the simplest solution. the two men she had engaged were more practical or more cautious, aware of the weight and implacability of k section's determination to avenge him if he were murdered and the money were stolen. mickey and irene didn't care about that, any more than they cared about the potential results of their fleecing of this new, struggling nation. they were determined to take boganda to the cleaners, he thought. they were ruthless, scheming, dangerous women, and they would permit nothing to stop them. least of all, he thought grimly, his own life.

"suppose," mickey said, stopping to stare at him, touching the wide leather belt that kept up her hip-huggers, "suppose i let you in for a one fifth share. do you have any idea of what that might amount to?" "something in the neighborhood of sixty million in negotiable cash," durell said. "bloody right," she snapped. "do you ever expect to enjoy that much money in your lifetime?" "the grave is a lonely place," durell said. "you can't spend a penny there." "oh, we'll make it. irene and i will make it." she paused, then paced again, whirling to stare at him, her small teeth gleaming momentarily between her wet, parted lips. "you want more? you want me, maybe? irene?" "no, thanks." "oh, you bastard." "you can't buy me, mickey. understand that." "if i can't buy you, there are other things that might persuade you. that girl, that miss finch, is crazy about you. i guessed you jollied her a few times, hey? how would you like it if i handed her over to some of our telek fighters? they'd love a big, juicy american girl like miss finch, pal. they'd kill each other to get in line for a gang bang, right? there wouldn't be much left of your miss finch when they were through." "she's not `my miss finch,' " durell said quietly. "i've seen her look at you. she has the hots for you. you're kind of responsible for her, aren't you? you've got such a great conscience, worrying about poor old boganda left penniless, i'll bet you feel chivalrous about your miss finch too. you wouldn't let me give her to the teleks." "yes," durell said. "i would." mickey stopped pacing and stared, her cigarette forgotten, her lips parted again. it was very quiet in the room. her pale eyes swept durell's craggy face, touched the trace of silver in his black hair, inspected and judged every muscle of his body, came back to his face, met his dark blue eyes that looked almost black now, and then she drew a long, sibilant breath. "i believe you. a bastard. a dedicated spook. just like willie wells said." she turned her back to durell for a moment, moving toward the side of the rumpled, stained bed. "i don't care what adam thinks. or willie wells. 1 think we'll all be a lot better off if you're dead." he saw her reach for the little gun. it was not a trap now, not a ploy to make him move, to give her an excuse to murder him. she was going to kill him anyway. he had no choice, after all. she was quick, like a darting snake, and she had her hand on the gun before he his palm down hard on her her finger on the trigger a warning shot. the woman reached her. durell was faster. he slammed the edge of wrist, heard her suck in a hiss of pained air, caught guard and squeezed it there, preventing her from firing was strong and slippery, her body hot with the passion

of her anger. she twisted and tried to knee him, her eyes gone flat and hard; he slid aside, still holding to the gun, and brought her hand down hard on the edge of the crate that served as a makeshift table. the gun came loose. when he ducked down for it, she tried to kick him in the face, missed, clawed at his eyes, managed to rake a deep furrow down his cheek, and then opened her mouth to scream. he hit her. just the smallest beginning of a cry for help came from her before her eyes rolled and she sagged down against him, one breast pulled free from the shirt as she slipped heavily in his arms. he didn't trust her. he let her go down and stepped back, holding the little gun, thinking it might be worthless, more of a hazard than a help. he wasn't sure if she were faking it or not. he watched her breathing, saw the quick, shallow rhythm of her breasts rising and falling, then he knelt and flipped back an eyelid. there would be a bruise on her jaw when she awoke. satisfied, he straightened and went to the door, holding the little revolver loosely in his fingers. the six o'clock hourly barrage of mortars began. this time the targets were closer, around the central plaza of the getoba. the ground shook with the concussions. dust sifted down from the old bricks in the vaulted ceiling. he tried the door carefully. the corridor outside seemed to be deserted. there was a desk against the opposite wall, but no one happened to be sitting at it. he stepped outside, closing the plank door behind him, and turned left toward a flight of stone stairs with iron railings. there were dim electric bulbs in the ceiling, with exposed wires, and they flickered on and off as the shells exploded half a mile away. probably the mercenary officers had rigged up a generator for their own power. he chose to go up the. stairs and took them two and three at a time to the next upward level. part of the fort had long ago crumbled away to ruins, the victim of time and erosion in the jungle climate. the central tower and inner courtyard where portuguese militia once mustered and paraded was already a patch of shadows and gloom. boxes and crates of supplies and ammunition were scattered about, piled high against the vine-grown brick walls of the old colonial fortress. through an arched casement window durell glimpsed the main gate beyond a heap of debris. heavy tire tracks were visible in the deepening dusk. a kind of ramp was partly evident about fifty feet in from the barred main gate. sentries paced the walls that encircled the area, which must have been at least three acres in extent. a few trees grew in the central courtyard, some travelers' palms and an old banyan tree and a shiny-green sapodilla with a heavy, gnarled trunk. another flight of rusted iron steps led durell quickly toward the top ramparts. from here he could see the river, blood-red in the lowering sunlight. below the wall he saw that there had been another ramp built for two trucks that were partly hidden under an overhang on the west side. old cannon emplacements had been removed to make room for the six-wheelers. he climbed higher, hoping that if he were spotted, the sentries would assume he was one of the white mercenary officers. the central tower of the fort gave him a view over most of the getoba, with its narrow alleys and minarets and markets. the damage from the week of mortar shelling was extensive, worse than he had estimated. some fires burned near the chinese quarter, and he wondered what had happened to pearl lu and the old man who ran the shop. then he saw that a wide river barge had been moored under the shelter of the walls, tied to the heavy stone embankment there. the barge was motorized and held two trucks. he knew he must be looking at the stolen three hundred million. it was all there, in the trucks. the trucks were waiting to be driven onto the barge and then slipped downstream beyond the reach of general watsube's troops. he remembered a chart of boganda

shown to him by tom adams in chad, and he knew there was a major railhead only ten miles down the river. there was no military activity in that direction. if the two sisters - could get the trucks on the parallel highway there, they a would have a clear four-hour run to the border, where sympathy for the teleks would make them welcome. he . had no doubt that mickey and irene had already arranged for free passage of the trucks to whatever destination they sought. perhaps they wouldn't even have to go that far. if they could have a plane waiting for them, an old dc-3 parked on a jungle landing strip, they would have it made. they could be up and away and free, with three hundred million stripped from boganda's feeble economy. he held the little nickel-plated revolver loosely and wished he had a better weapon. so far there had been no alarm. but mickey would come to any moment, and then the fort would be turned upside-down in a search for him. s and mickey would demand his immediate execution. the sun was enormous, blood red, in the west, behind a long barrier of clouds that sent strange beams of color arching into the air overhead. the river was the color of steel. a flight of pink flamingos made a long sedate line halfway to the opposite bank. something large splashed. and rippled in the water close inshore. he looked over the ;< edge of the wall. another banyan tree grew close to the outer barricade, not too far for him to jump. he could get out that way. every instinct told him to go. but then he thought of finch. he wished he could have her with him '3 right now. they could make good their escape together. he didn't owe her anything, he told himself. in the business you took your chances and stood alone. if you were abandoned, you accepted it as part of the job. you did not expect your partners to sacrifice anything for you. finch o knew all this. he had to go. he stood there, measuring the distance from the top of the wall to the nearest solid branch of the banyan tree, and decided to jump. from below, in the courtyard, someone shouted. the figures of running men seemed small from this height. at the same moment he heard the familiar thudding beat of a helicopter approaching from the south, from the airfield a few miles outside the main city of boganda. it was the first aircraft he had seen since his arrival on the last flight from chad. it was a gun-ship type, a sikorksy, modified at some military base so that its skids carried several men on a small platform. a distant popping of rifle fire began, following the flight of the machine over the walls of the getoba. durell crouched against the brick parapet of the tower, out of sight of most possible observers. he heard the rattle of a machinegun, and then another joined the distant rifle shots. the chopper came on like some prehistoric monster, inexorably approaching on a line of flight that would carry it directly over the fort. he wondered if there were bombs aboard. a few hundred-pounders would wreak havoc here, blasting the brick walls into death-dealing sprays of chips that would devastate the defenders. he couldn't see any bombs under the chopper's belly. there were no markings on the aircraft. for a moment he wondered if it was all part of mickey's and irene's thievery scheme. but the firing directed against the ship indicated that it wasn't. men poured out of the main building of the fort. he thought he saw mickey and irene, screaming something at the lean, running figure of colonel adam chance. willie wells :was with the colonel and several white, uniformed mercenaries. their alarm was not over his escape. they were shocked by the appearance of air power from general watsube, who was not supposed to have a single air craft at his command. ` the thud and beat of the chopper came closer. something like pandemonium existed

in the courtyard as men ran to their weapons and posts. durell told himself to jump. finch could take care of herself. he didn't owe her anything. he told himself to get out of there. instead, he turned and ran for the tower steps as the helicopter churned its way directly overhead. he knew what he had to do now. the firing came from all over the fort, aimed at the chopper. so far no reply came from the aircraft. durell swung toward the door leading down from the tower roof. , as he opened it, two men burst upward, too quickly for him to retreat. their faces were familiar. they were the mysteriously missing fkp men, yutigaffa and kantijji. he . wasn't sure who was the most surprised. at the same time something struck him on the back of the head. stunned, he fell forward into the darkness of the iron stairway. he felt: a hot wetness spread down the back of his neck. he heard.' yutigaffa exclaim, and the man scrambled to catch him as, he fell. his partner, kantijji, drew back. and durell fell,, going down the iron stairs, into a deep and complete darkness. chapter 20 "are you all right, sam?" "yes." "no, i mean, are you really all right?" "i don't know." "can you see me?" "i see you," durell said. "why don't you have any. clothes on, finch?" "oh, dear. i guess you are conscious, truly." "you look great." "you don't have any clothes on either, sam." "and how do i look?" "awful." georgette continued to cluck and fuss with a makeshift.. bandage around his head. they were back in the same cell, from which he had been taken by major wells. he listened but heard nothing in the fort except the distant: sound of a generator pumping away somewhere. a faint electric light seeped like yellow mist through the tiny barred window in the plank door of the cell. tie wondered how long he had been out. his head ached, and there was something wrong with his left leg, the one he had injured some years ago on another assignment. he had probably twisted it when he fell unconscious down the stairwell, between yutigaffa and kantijji. he tried moving his arms. they ached. his head pounded when he turned to watch georgette. she looked truly magnificent in her nudity. he had not imagined that she was that much of a woman. her body was smoothly tanned all over, her legs were long and straight and firm, her stomach was flat. "did you see captain yutigaffa?" he asked. "no, i didn't." "or kantijji?" "i didn't know they were here." he said, "they're hiding out somewhere in the fort for reasons of their own. why are we naked?" finch made a face. "it was mickey maitland's funny idea. you lost a lot of blood, sam. i think you were grazed by a stray bullet, in the back of your head. your eyes still don't look right." he stared at her breasts. "i can see, all right." "oh, shut up about me. it's awkward enough, isn't it, without your making remarks.

it's embarrassing. that's why the bitch did it, i guess. she's going to have you shot, sam." "i suppose so." "did you find the money?" she asked. "i know where it is. there are two trucks filled with it, and a barge tied up practically out of sight, under the walls here. the barge is big enough to take both trucks. my guess is that a select party will vacate the fort in the trucks, on the barge, and go down river to the nearest highway and make for the border." she nodded and sat down on the rough cot beside him. she did not try to cover up her nakedness. she was quite natural about it. "i thought you were going to leave me here," she said quietly. "i would have, if i could." "i don't believe that," finch said. "not you." "i didn't think you esteemed me that highly." "you wouldn't have left me to mickey, would you?" "maybe not," he admitted finally. she said, "i bandaged your head. you were bleeding so badly. they threw you in here like a sack of cold meat. like a slaughtered animal. i thought you were dead. i even threw up." "that didn't help anything." "i couldn't stop it. i felt so awful about you. then they took our clothes away. mickey was there and some soldiers. they had a good time, stripping. me, but she wouldn't let them go any farther. not yet, she said. she's terrible, sam. she scares me." "me too. relax, finch. i'm all right now." "you still look awful." he felt awful. when he gingerly touched the back of his head, he realized that the stray bullet had dug a furrow, under the back of his skull, missing his brain by millimeters. he thought his head would burst. he wished he had some water, but there was none in the cell. "what about the helicopter?" he asked "i heard it and all the shooting. but nothing happened it just came over the fort and then flew away." "it has to mean something," he said. "i don't think the fighting will last much longer." the girl frowned. "i don't understand about captain yutigaffa hiding out around here. mickey asked me about him and kantijji too." her face was pale. she sat bending forward, her hands between her thighs, her knees pressed close together.

"that woman isn't very nice, sam." "i've finally figured out yutigaffa. and mickey too," durell said. "there was all this talk about the silver scorpion taking over boganda; running things, reviving old tribal myths about a female jungle demon, a woman who could perform magic through terror and death." finch nodded, watching him. "the silver scorpion took over the secret police, the fkp, little by little. it's usually the way to do it, taking over a state and moving it into totalitarianism. it was a new element in boganda's life as an independent nation. and we had a new element in mickey and irene." "oh," finch said. "i think i see." "my guess is that mickey began buying up key men in the fkp; turning them against the raga, by using her base of power as general watsube's white wife. she's smart enough to use local superstition to make her start. i think mickey maitland named herself the silver scorpion and took over the fkp." "and yutigaffa?" "his loyalty remained with the raga. so he and kantijji, perhaps of all the secret police, were on their own that's why those two were willing to help us. that's why they came into the getoba, and that's why they're hiding out somewhere near here." "why hide out?" "they're waiting for a chance to kill mickey. mickey called them trained tribal assassins. that may have beer true in their youth. i think all that changed when boganda became free; but now they've reverted to more primitive passions." the girl said, "whoopee. we have allies." she didn't re, ally sound elated. "or do we?" "i don't know." "what can we do now, sam?" durell said, "we wait." two hours passed. nothing happened. no one came to the cell to check on them. the night grew chilly when the sun went down. the chill was augmented by the dampness that pervaded the old fort on its riverfront site. the cell was below ground level and could not hold the heat of the day. without clothing the girl began to shiver. durell was not sure whether his own shudders came from a fever due to the wound on the back of his head or if he was cold himself. at first the girl lay on her own cot, silent and miserable in the gloom that filled the cell. rats scuttled across the filthy floor. there were two more distant mortar barrages, marking the hours. one of the shells burst nearby, set something on fire, and a dim red haze crept through the barred window high in the wall. durell got up twice to check the door and the window. there was no way out. when he went back to his own cot, finch was there, silently stretching out beside him, shivering with the damp cold. he took her in his arms and held her quietly for some moments.

"sam?" she whispered. " yo. "do you think she'll kill us both?" "if she can talk chance into it, yes." "what about willie wells?" "he certainly seems worried about something," durell .. said. "maybe it's his innate sense of decency." "would he help us?" "our only chance is to help ourselves." she was silent for a moment. then she moved, and her hip and thigh slid against his, and her face turned, and she kissed him lightly on the cheek. she whispered, "i don't want to die yet, sam. i want to make love. i want to be in , love for the rest of my life-for a long, long time." ,'i know." don't you like me, sam?" "you know i do." "don't you want me?" "yes. obviously." he could not help responding to the pressure of her long, rich body close to him. the red glare that seeped through the loose boards on the cell window, became brighter. her lips seemed wet, her teeth gleamed. her eyes looked drowned. she moved against him again, and he turned toward her and kissed her. her breasts were firm against his chest. she breathed quickly and kissed him with a sudden, avid hunger that betrayed her fear of death, that told him how much she wanted to live. he murmured, "georgette.-" "my friends call me winky," she whispered. "why?" "i can't tell you that. but call me winky, sam." "all fight." "not finch any more." "p right." "it's so good to know-" there were footsteps outside in the stone corridor of the dungeon. they were booted, quick, determined, coming toward the cell. the girl drew back with a small exclamation of dismay. "gosh darn it all-i" "

durell sat up. the girl slid swiftly off his cot and went to her own. durell swore softly. lights flickered strongly through the bars in the opening of the plank door. a set of keys rattled. "durell? mr. durell?" it was irene maitland's voice. "are you still alive in there?" irene called. he saw finch grin. "yes," he answered. "i've brought you both some clothes." the door opened. irene's voice sounded different. there was a furious anger latent in her words, in the way she stood there with two armed men behind her. she held the keys. she signaled imperiously, and one of the men tossed in a pair of pants and shoes for durell and a native cotton print for georgette, an ankle-length smock affair that she quickly pulled on over her head. irene looked at them both in brief puzzlement that only momentarily quenched the anger in her. "come along. you too, miss finch. i'm just not going to stand for it another bloody second, that's all." "stand for what?" durell asked. "my darling sister, that's what. she's planning to double-cross me." chapter 21 irene led them quickly and quietly along a vaulted, brick passageway under the portuguese fort, then up a flight of steps to ground level. the two telek soldiers followed without asking questions. irene turned at a barred doorway and spoke to the soldiers in dismissal. the two teleks muttered something and looked at each other. irene's seething temper burst out in a volcano of expletives. the two armed men beat a quick retreat, although looking dubiously at durell and finch. "you know that they'll talk," durell said to irene. "they'll tell colonel chance or major wells that you've let us out of the cell." "no, they won't. they've been paid." "but they're rebels. they're not loyal to you or the: raga." "money buys loyalty. it doesn't matter, anyway. get in there." finch looked at durell as if wondering why he didn't simply overpower irene and make their escape. he ignored her, remembering briefly the smooth slide of her body against his, then put it out of his mind. irene held the door open. he went in first, observing that the room was a duplicate of mickey's-a large bed against a brick wall,: set in an alcove that had once been a gun emplacement. the slot served as a window, barred now, but without: glass and with a painted wooden shutter folded inward. the smell of the river came into the room, and he saw that they were situated in

the wall facing the mile-wide stream and the wharf area directly below. from the window he could see the motor barge tied up under the shelter of the crenellated wall. some men were working down there, fashioning braces for a ramp from the brick embarkation to the barge's stern deck, using heavy planks and broken lumber. the ramp would be solid enough to, support the two trucks, durell thought. once aboard the barge, they would be off for the frontier, unhindered. he noticed major wells on the barge, arms akimbo, talking to three blacks in uniform. the smell of smoke from a nearby fire drifted through the narrow window. irene had lighted an oil lantern. there didn't seem to be any wiring from the local generator in this room. "never mind what's out there, mr. durell," she said in her thin voice. "you'd better be paying some attention to me, if you want to live much longer." durell turned to her. "all right. you've got a proposition to make, obviously; so make it." "mickey is going to shoot you-both of you" irene made the announcement like saying it was going to rain. her big blue eyes were innocent of any malice as she looked at her jewel-encrusted watch. "in an hour, she says. after the next bombardment." "and you want to keep us alive? why?" "it's only to get your help again, not out of snapped. "after all i've done for that bitchy can split and get away with all that cash and she's got another bloody think coming to her, stop her, don't you?" "how can i trust you?" "you've just got to, mister," irene retorted. "i could get shot myself, if she finds out what i've done already. i wouldn't put it past her-or beyond that conniving, insulting, slick article she's putting out for, that colonel chance, that bloody bastard. i think she's gone balmy for him, that's what i think. every time i see her, she's waiting to go to bed with him again. poor man, he's worn down to a nubbin, i bet." "you sound jealous," finch said acidly. "yes? and what about you and durell, what you were about to do when i so rudely interrupted?" irene's anger was genuine. she clenched her fists at her sides and went on, "i told you, mickey is going to cross us all up. she and that handsome hunk, that adam chance. they're going to roll the trucks onto the barge at three o'clock this morning and slip away and leave us all holding the bag. i tell you, it's all arranged." "how do you know about it?" irene made a noise like a spitting cat. "i just happened to overhear. i slipped into their room while they was while they made love. i was just snooping around. it's my right, isn't it? after all, i'm the ragihi here, and it's my duty to find out what i can, to help the president!" "are you switching sides now?" durell asked. any bleedin'-heart motives," irene sister of mine, for her to think she leave me to face the music! well, that's all i can say. you want to

"maybe i never changed sides, how about that? you can't prove what i was planning and thinking of doing. i'll tell the raga i came here to help him, if mickey ever gets away." "will he believe you?" the blond girl smiled crookedly., "i can make inurate believe anything i say. he's crazy for me." "maybe not this time," durell warned. she shrugged. "i'm not worried about it. what i want from you is a little help, to see she doesn't get away with it. after all, i bloody well gave her the chance to get in on the ground floor in this country. we could've lived high, wide, and handsome in boganda, all safe and secure and respected like, by everybody. it would be a whole new life for us both, i wrote her. i figured she'd make a good catch, but i didn't expect her to get so high, like making it with general watsube. it kind of surprised me, but i was really glad for her, and i figured even that was all right. i was still the ragihi. after all those years in liverpool, while she claimed to be the brains, while she told me day in and day out that i should do this and that, and then little dumb irene comes here and really makes it, i mean, really. and that bloody slut tries to move in and steal the pennies off dead men's eyes. lord!" irene literally quivered with rage. "and now she plans to cut me out of it all. i won't let her do it, you hear?" "how do you plan to stop her? we're prisoners here," durell said quietly. "admittedly, she's done you a wrong. but are you sure she plans to leave you here and take off on the barge with the truckloads of cash?" "i was in their closet while they were bloody well loving it off, just an hour ago. i could see it all through the door. i kept it open a little." she bit her lip. "mickey really ties him up in knots in bed. she's got him eating off herwell, you know what. he'll do anything she says. and they were laughing at me, together! laughing, imagine that! after i brought her to boganda and set her up." georgette said sympathetically, "i can see why you're angry, but what do you want us to do?" "stop them, that's what you can bloody well do! i can't trust anybody else here in this crazy place. they're all going to be shot when watsube moves his troops in. and he'll do it too. he'll massacre them all, the bloody fools. the raga will still be president, and they'll be fed to the crocodiles, that's what. but not me! not little irene. if i can't have my share, nobody's going to get away with anything." durell said, "all right. my job is to save the money for boganda. how can i help?" irene said flatly, "you can kill her." "your own sister "they caught me in that stupid closet," she said in a shamed whisper. she lowered her big blue innocent eyes. "they made a lot of fun at me. both of them in the stark, y'know? standing there laughing at me. telling me i was out of it all, they didn't need me or want me here, i was just a nuisance to them. and then she saidmickey said that adam had agreed to kill you both and hide your bodies where you'd never be found, and nobody could question anything after all the fighting. is that

what you want, durell?" "not exactly. why can't you get rid of mickey yourself,:' irene?" "because she wouldn't trust me near her again, that's why. so i got you out of your cell. i can get you a gun. i tried to make it to the telephone, the one that's still connected to the president's bungalow. the crazy thing still works. but she stopped me and ripped it out. i slipped, away from the room, after i tried to warn the raga and= show him me heart's still in the right place. i- i bribed one of the teleks and got you out. and we're wasting time, you know. she'll be coming for you, durell, any minute now." mickey spoke from the doorway. "dearie, i'm here already." she carried a uzi automatic in her right hand, crooked,] in her elbow. behind her colonel adam chance smiled. 9 he held his colt .45 pointed at finch. major wells, be- ; hind them both, seemed to be unarmed and thinking about,' something else. .l chance said, "one move, durell, and you've got a dead girl on your hands." mickey maitland said, "the next mortar barrage, durell. when all the noise comes, that's when you go. i quick and quiet. so nobody hears the shots in the fort and asks questions or acts as a witness later." durell said, "colonel, you can't make it. mickey will knock you off too, the first chance she gets, once you help her out of the country. that's the kind of woman she is." adam chance smiled. "i know what she is." durell said, "mickey, he knows you too. you'll both be at each other's throats. it's just too much money. it's too much for anyone to try to steal, either alone or together. you'll never make it. if you don't get adam first, he'll get' you, to save his throat from being slit." "shut up, you!" mickey raged. "and what about irene?" durell asked. "will you execute her too?" "she'd kill me, wouldn't she? so why not?" adam spoke easily. "take it easy, mr. durell. you might as well be peaceful." he looked at his watch. "you have thirty-five minutes until watsube sends over his next mortar shells." chapter 22 their new cell was black, tiny, and cold. it had no windows. there were two inches of muddy, stagnant, stinking water on the stone floor. there were no bunks, no chairs, no toilet facilities. there was nothing but blinding blackness, so thick you could almost cut it. durell could not see finch or irene. all three of them had been taken down another flight of steps, then along a curved stone corridor, and thrown without ceremony through the doorway. the steel door clanged shut,

bolts rasped, a lock clicked. no light came through the steel panel. there was nothing but time, only minutes of it, and the waiting. irene wept. he could hear her sniffling and trying to blow her nose, only two feet away from him, but he could not see her. he wondered if her tears were from rage or fear. "finch?" he said quietly. georgette's voice was calm. "i told, you to call me winky, sam. please." "yes. how do you feel?" "awful. nothing seems to work, does it? do you really think they'll go through with it? do you really believe they'll just actually come in here and shoot us and bury us where we'll never be found?" "yes, i think so," durell said. "if they can." "aren't you scared, sam?" "yes." "i'm glad. you wouldn't be human, otherwise." irene choked off her sobs for a moment. "the bloody. . bitch! she'll do it, all right. and i'm her true sister! i offered her everything, a whole new life here-" "and went in with her to rob the country blind," durell said coldly. "oh, shut up! don't harp on it!" irene began to weep again in the total darkness. the cell was very small, not more than six feet square. the arched ceiling of mossy, wet bricks scraped the top of durell's head when he stood up. finch slipped her hand into his. her fingers were very cold. the water on the floor sloshed back and forth around their ankles. durell looked at the luminous dial of his watch. it was already twenty minutes to three in the morning. twenty minutes left, until watsube's besieging forces began their hourly barrage there was no way out. no way to stop the clock, to persuade mickey maitland and her mercenary lover to change their minds. he could have offered himself as a-= hostage for ransom, perhaps; but he didn't think the . woman would have gone for that. the principal thing was to stay alive somehow. but he couldn't see any way to do it now. there was something about adam chance that made any appeal bound to be fruitless. perhaps he could have persuaded willie wells to help. no opportunity for a' : talk with the black man had presented itself for hours, however. for one of the rare moments in his life, after all his years in the business with k section, he saw himself without hope. irene stopped sobbing-., "listen! oh, god, they're coming now! it's too early, isn't it? they're not supposed to do' it until the noise of the barrage begins. isn't that what she said? oh, she can't really mean it! she won't kill me! after all we went through as kids, all the hard-rotten times we..' suffered- no, she won't do it to me."

"she will," georgette finch said coldly. "so stop sniffling and pull yourself together." "listen!" irene insisted. "hush!" they were all quiet. the water noise around their feet died away as they stood still in the fetid darkness and trained their senses outward. at first durell could hear nothing. then he detected a faint clinking noise, more imagined than heard. he moved carefully to the cell door, felt its lock, put his fingers lightly on it, and waited. there was a momentary thin shock in his fingertips. and another. the old iron plate moved slightly. "sam?" georgette whispered. "someone is out there." "what are they doing?" "trying to work the lock." "but i don't understand-" the lock definitely moved under his fingers. he felt the tall girl press close beside him in the blackness. he smelled the scent she had used in her hair. there came several more clicking sounds, one last tremor. someone out there began to open the door. a very thin shaft of light came into the cell. durell stepped back, pushing finch behind him. raising both arms, he clasped his hands together above his head to form a bludgeon. he would not go meekly like a lamb to the slaughter, he decided. the door opened wider. the light flooded in, illuminating the tiny cell, the slimy stone walls; the black water in which they stood. irene whimpered. durell waited, arms raised. a long shadow fell into the room and darkened georgette finch's pale face. "mtamba?" someone whispered. durell did not take his eyes from the narrow opening. the door stopped moving. no one came in. "mtamba? it is i, captain abraham yutigaffa. and sergeant kantijji." durell nodded to finch, who said loudly, "are you the execution squad?" "no, no, please, miss finch. we have come to help you. be quiet, please. no one knows we are here." the shadow became foreshortened, and a man stepped through the cell doorway. durell brought his raised, clenched fists down with all his strength. the man grunted, j stumbled forward into the cell. a large automatic pistol flew from his hands and splashed into the water on the :_ floor. the man was kantijji. he fell on all fours, shook his : head, slumped face down into the water, and began to cough and groan and choke. durell shoved him over on

his back with his foot.

"come in, yutigaffa. throw in your weapon first, or kantijji is a dead man." finch started to scoop up the automatic, and irene darted for it, but finch knocked her aside. kantijji kept groaning on his back. the light wavered from outside. ' "do not kill kantijji, please," came the voice from the corridor. "your gun, captain." "yes, sir." a hand and an arm appeared, holding another automatic. irene hissed and reached for it. again finch blocked her, knocked her against the wall, and took the gun. she . was now doubly armed. "come in, captain," durell said softly. "yes, mtamba." the tall fkp man carried a flashlight. durell eased the ` door almost shut after him, careful not to let the latch fall and lock them all in again. in the glare of the torch, yutigaffa's eyes were bloodshot, and his face was an odd gray, etched with exhaustion. "how did you get here?" durell asked. "answer quickly. we don't have much time." "we have been hiding. we know this place, mr. durell -all the secret rooms and corridors. we have been looking for the silver scorpion, who has taken control over the police. the scorpion is nominally my superior, who gives . me orders." yutigaffa paused and looked down at kantijji, who now struggled to sit up. his brown face, with its tribal scars, was without expression. "we know who the silver scorpion is now. we know that the fkp, as an organization, was ordered to act in treason against the raga." "i know who the scorpion is too," durell said. "yes. general watsube," yutigaffa said. "wrong. it's his ex-wife. mickey maitland. she's the one," durell said. there was a moment's silence while yutigaffa thought about it. durell took one of the guns from finch. it felt fine in his hand, heavy and solid. he decided he would kill anyone in his. way now, without compunction. yutigaffa met his gaze and then looked away, nodding. "yes. yes, mtamba. i see it. i was mistaken." "it's mickey, all right," irene said suddenly. "durell is right. i can tell you all about that. she used old telek tribal chiefs to revive the old jungle legends. she was bloody clever, that sister of mine. she's your new boss, captain." yutigaffa shook his head. "may i help the sergeant?" "stand him up," durell said. "you hit him very hard, sir."

"i meant to kill him. he's lucky." "but we are loyal to the president, inurate motuku. we are devoted to him and to boganda. can you believe that, sir? we want to do what is best for our country, and we believe in the raga." "all right," durell said. "so what?" "so we must get you out of here at once." durell looked at his watch. it was still fifteen minutes before the hour. "we have a little time." "no, sir. the teleks are finished. it will all be over soon. but we must leave at once, because-" "hot diggity," finch said. durell heard the whistling sound of the mortar shell before it burst. even before it fell, the thought flashed through his mind that it was almost a quarter of an hour early. for over a week watsube had been lulling the defenders of the getoba into a sense of regularity, by shelling the teleks punctually on the hour for exactly five minutes. they had become habituated 'to the time schedule, and they had grown careless about seeking shelter before the hour. now, all in an instant as the first explosion came, watsube's strategy became evident. the teleks were caught in the open, unprepared, in their beds at this early hour of the morning; the sentries would be drowsing, secure in the belief that they had a quarter of an hour more -1 before they had to go underground. there came a violent crash, somewhere in the fort directly overhead. and another. then the full fury of the barrage fell all around them. -' brick dust filled the air. chips of concrete rattled down . around them. there came distant screams and shouts of dismay through the pandemonium of bursting shells. the ground shook. durell caught finch's arm, pushed irene out of the cell, and noted that yutigaffa helped his sergeant up and out through the door behind them. there was a dim light at one end of the corridor that flickered, went out, and came on again as they headed that way. running feet sounded on a spiral stairway at the end of, the vault. more brick chips flew from the repeated shocks of the shelling. dimly, through .the bedlam, durell heard' the chukking sound of machineguns. "not up the stairway, sir," yutigaffa said. his shadow was long, somehow primitive, in the faint glow of the naked, flickering bulb. "there is a doorway just beyond. it goes to an ammunition cellar, where the portuguese kept their shells in the old days, many, many years ago." "you first, irene," durell said. the girl hung back. her mouth trembled. "i don't understand what's happening." "the getoba is finished, that's what's happening," durell said. "go ahead."

there came a rumbling crash as part of the old fort collapsed. it was plain that general watsube knew where the mercenaries made their headquarters. the shelling was concentrated right here. as they ducked under the iron stairs, booted footsteps crashed on the treads, coming down. durell pushed finch through the narrow magazine door and waited. yutigaffa and kantijji were still in sight. the man who came down was white, but he was not colonel chance. judging by his khaki uniform, he was one of the mercenary officers. the man's face was panic-stricken. "wait!" he spoke with a german accent. "bitte. colonel chance must have the ragihi. we are being destroyed! the ragihi must help us stop the enemy, send a message-" he had a luger in his hand. as he leveled it at durell, his mouth contorted, durell shot him twice, once in each leg. the man screamed and came tumbling down the rest of the spiral steps, falling over the rail to thud on the stone floor at their feet. "come on," durell snapped. he followed yutigaffa and kanfijji into the old arsenal. finch held the flashlight. the place was a huge vaulted cavern, filled with dust and old junk lumber, barrels, scrap iron; it was divided into smaller cubicles along the wall in which weapons and munitions had once been stored. irene's voice was an echoing wail. "how do we get out of here now?" "there is another door, ragihi. this way." the bombardment grew in intensity. even down in the old arsenal the shocks and explosions made loose mortar fly. finch began to cough in the dust. her eyes met durell's and slid toward the two fkp men. "can you trust diem?" "we have to. where is the door, captain?" "over there." yutigaffa looked like an elongated, primitive, african wood carving. "but i cannot go with you. i have my own job to do." "the silver scorpion "she must be finished, mtamba." "we'll all go with you," durell said. yutigaffa nodded. his face was solemn. "as you wish, mtamba." chapter 23 "it will be very difficult for the ladies," yutigaffa said "you wish to stop the barge, do you not?" "i intend to," durell said. "when i saw it last, the trucks were being gotten ready to drive aboard." durell turned to irene. "you can stay, here if you wish. i think you'll be safe

until the fighting is over." "no, i couldn't bear it _ alone in this place." her small: jaw was suddenly stubborn. in the light of the flashlight,: he saw that her face was smudged and dirty, strained with her exhaustion; but he saw a new determination there, a strength that must have been born into her to enable her to survive the slums of her childhood. she shook herself. "i've got a job to do too. it's all my fault, all of it. all the killing, the rebellion, all this. if i hadn't brought mickey here, none of it would have happened. so it's my responsibility. i figure that whatever the raga does to me, i deserve it." "why the change?" finch asked mildly. irene looked up at the tall girl. "the raga treated me real decent, he did. and all i did was bring trouble to him and and his country." "but if mickey hadn't tried to cross you, you'd have: gone off with her and all the loot," finch persisted. "i don't know. maybe i would. maybe i wouldn't. but i'll stay with you, if you don't mind." "all right," durell said. "let's go." there was an iron trapdoor in the brick ceiling. a narrow ladder led up to it, spiked into the wall. kantijji climbed up first, guided by the flashlight finch held. the man reached the ceiling and the iron plate built into it, got his shoulders against the trap, and heaved confidently. nothing happened. kantijji shoved again, his face showing the strain. big veins stood out at his temples. his brown face reflected the anguish of his effort. yutigaffa called up to him softly. kantijji tried once more. the iron trapdoor creaked upward, fell aside with a loud clang. the tumult of the bombardment doubled suddenly. there was, fighting somewhere in the north area of the fort, and the distant reply of machineguns sounded from the getoba's walls. durell urged irene up the ladder, then finch. yutigaffa hesitated, then followed. durell went last. a narrow corridor, not more than two feet wide, led them on a slightly curved route between high brick walls and a crudely plastered ceiling. yutigaffa went along it for about fifty paces, then played the light on the wall and found still another iron door, and opened it. they were outside. the endless roar of shells bursting and the intermittent blasts of light struck them with a physical impact. the barrage hammered at the walls of the getoba near the fort. there were dim sounds of return small-arms fire in between the shell bursts. they were on a narrow parapet guarded by a rusty iron railing. below them was the east wall, reaching to the right, where fires burned fiercely in the narrow alleys. a number of bodies of the defenders were sprawled in the wreckage of houses and in crumbled masses of stone and splintered wood that blocked some of the little streets. the hot night air struck them with the impact of steaming towels. durell looked the other way and saw the red glimmer of more fires reflected on the black surface of the natanga river. "we'll go that way," he decided. "mtamba, there is fighting there along the waterfront," yutigaffa suggested. "the barge is there too, right?" "yes, sir."

durell went first. irene and the two fkp men were in the middle. georgette, armed with one of the pistols,: guarded the rear. the parapet extended for about a hundred feet toward the river, then suddenly broadened into a wider terrace behind the moorish-styled walls. a: shell had burst here, tearing away part of the masonry, :, creating a gap that blocked their way just at the corner where they would face the riverside. the hole was narrower close to the wall of the old fort, and durell studied it for a moment, then gathered himself, and jumped across. when he landed on the other side, a block of stone gave:, way, and he suddenly started to fall. he grabbed at the opposite edge, felt his hands slide on the rough fragments of: stone. his left foot scraped on a projection. he caught it. with his feet and checked his fall. for a few seconds he simply clung there, maintaining his balance, with nothing: but empty space below. "sam?" finch called. "i'm all right." he pulled himself upward very carefully. his muscles' trembled with the tension. he got one knee on the opport site side of the crater, then the other. he still had the gun: he pulled himself forward, then stood up. men ran along the top of the wall over his head, shouting to each other. a shell burst up there, then another. ' mortar and chips of stone rained down around him. he looked back to the others. "yutigaffa? jump. i'll catch you." the fkp captain nodded, stepped back a bit, then: leaped across the gap. his outstretched hand sought, durell's. durell caught him and pulled him easily to safety. "irene? you're next." "i- i can't," the girl whimpered. "you have to! jump!" "i'm afraid!" "we will catch you, ragihi," yutigaffa called. the blond girl bit her lip. her small face trembled. ashell burst reflected in her wide, frightened eyes. her hair was disheveled, falling down across her face. she started forward, hesitated, drew back. kantijji said something to her, his words drowned out by more shell bursts. she nodded, suddenly ran forward, and jumped. she was far too short. durell abruptly leaned forward, one hand holding to yutigaffa's arm, the other outstretched wide. he caught irene's flailing body, felt his grip slip, caught her arm, felt it slide through his fingers as she went down, then hooked onto her wrist. she dangled there for a long moment, her mouth open, but no scream or any sound at all came from her. "pull back, yutigaffa." "i cannot. i cannot hold you both." "you have to!" durell gasped. "quick!" he felt his feet sliding out from under him toward the hole blown in the parapet. irene slipped down another few inches. dangling there, she looked up into durell's eyes. he felt his shoulder muscles crack as he pulled her upward. the movement gave yutigaffa a little leverage. durell heaved again, got irene halfway up, felt the fkp man pull at him, and they both moved back from the edge of the crater. irene fell flat on her stomach on the safe side of the parapet, gasping and shaking. "you're all right now," durell said.

"bloody close, that was," she whispered. "finch?" "coming." the tall girl made the jump easily, landed in durell's arms, leaned against him for a moment, then stepped away. kantijji was left. the stocky bogandan looked backward, as if he were listening for something. his mouth was open. his eyes reflected the red glare of the fires in the getoba. there came a burst of machinegun fire from up above, on the defense wall. kantijji's thick body jerked, his arms came up, and he spun around on tiptoe like a big puppet on a string. his face dissolved into bloody pulp as one of the machinegun slugs burst through his head. he fell backward off the parapet, over the thin iron rail, into the darkness below. instantly, durell shoved irene and finch around the corner of the parapet, facing the riverfront. he could not see the machinegun or the man who had fired it. bullets' chipped the stone toward his feet as he jumped back around the corner. "hold it, folks," someone said. he turned slowly. the parapet widened on this side of the fort, overlooking the dock where the barge was tied up. facing their, blocking their further progress, was=. major willie wells. behind the tall black american was mickey maitland. they were in a curved, recessed embrasure, a former gun port that had once defended the fort from across the broad reaches of the river. the machinegun behind them stopped firing. but the uzi in major wells' strong hand and the .45 held by the white woman were enough to stop.. them all in their tracks. "this is as far as you go, durell," said wells. his voice was heavy with exhaustion, but he sounded calm and solid. "end of the line. fini. all right? drop your gun. you too, miss finch." "wait a moment," durell said. "kill them!" mickey screamed. "they're traitors. kill that yutigaffa first. he disobeyed all my orders. he's loyal to the raga. he'll have us all executed-" "shut up," wells said calmly. mickey's mouth fell open. "what? what did-" "shut up. it's my play now." "like hell. you take orders from me. you do what i tell you! now shoot them or i will!" major wells moved with what appeared to be a casual slowness, but his big hand struck the woman across the face before she could duck, and then his other hand smashed down at the pistol in her fingers and knocked it to the stone deck. mickey yelped and tried to recover the weapon, and wells kicked it over the edge. durell could

have taken him in that moment. but he did not move. neither did he drop his own weapon. the woman began to scream curses and insults, her liverpool accent sharp and violent in her dismay. "i'll get adam," she gasped. "he'll fix you." "do that," wells suggested. durell said, "don't let her go." "i'll do this my way, if you don't mind," wells said quietly. "why didn't you take me just then?" "i think you can help us," durell said. "i think you want to, and you will. there's no way out of this mess for you, otherwise." "i was figuring that way," wells nodded. "why, you rotten-" mickey started for the big american mercenary, then suddenly turned and ran away. wells quietly let her go. irene called tauntingly, "hey, sister, you thought you'd get rid of us all! you heard the man! you can't get away!" she turned angrily to durell. "for god's sake, give me that bloody gun." durell ignored her. he watched mickey maitland vanish down the broad stone platform. he let his arm drop, pointed his gun at the floor, and walked to the edge of the parapet and looked down. the big motor barge was still there, secured under the overhang of the fort's walls. small floodlights illuminated the scene. men with rifles slung over their backs labored to secure the ramp for the waiting trucks. even above the din of fighting on the other side of the fort, durell could hear the throb of the diesel engine. he saw both trucks, with canvas tops securely lashed, being edged cautiously onto the loading ramp. behind him willie wells laughed softly. "we could take 'em, you know." "could we?" . "and three hundred million. it's a lot of bread." "are you thinking of it, willie?" durell asked. "i've been mulling it over in my mind. i figure i can't do it alone. even if i got away with it, i wouldn't get far, i reckon. i've got too much respect for you fellows. i've seen k section work in vietnam. even if i put you under, somebody else would come after me, never leave me . alone. but. . ." the black man's voice trailed off. "but you see a way to do it? a way out?" _

"yeah. man, it could be done. there's plenty on those trucks for everybody. i know how to get those vehicles out of the country too. not by the road adam is figuring on.., there's another way, a jungle path through telek country. general watsube's men wouldn't dare go in after us over there. the frontier is pretty vague in that direction too. and the country next door wouldn't ask too many questions. we could spread some of the cash around, maybe a: hundred grand, to grease the way. it could be done. we could make it."

" `we'?" durell repeated. "you and me, man. easy as apple pie. you know your' own people, their ways and methods. you're one of the: best of them, i hear." major wells spoke calmly, with a; small smile on his broad, strong mouth. "you and me, we could do it. and live happily ever after. you'd know how." "i see. and chance? and mickey?" "they'll he taken care of," willie said easily. "watsube is coming. we don't have too much time to decide. his: people are already in the getoba. that bombardment was, an ace play, catching everybody by surprise, out of synch. his chopper landed in the chinese area of the getoba. there's street fighting, but once his men are inside in . force, it's an easy make. he'll be here in the fort in fifteen: minutes more. most of the teleks are getting ready to run,: anyway." durell looked down from the wall at the trucks below. the first vehicle was already on the barge. he could understand wells' temptation. it was enough money to tempt anyone. he. studied the big black man who waited with the' same small smile, his eyes tired but calm, intelligent and: ruthless. "you'll be lucky," durell said, "if you get out of this with your life, willie." "i know. my life or three hundred million in cash." "are you quitting adam chance?" "right. yes." "and the silver scorpion?" "that bitch would cut her mother's throat-or kill her own sister." willie's eyes swung briefly to irene. "she'd do it for all that money. they would soon enough figure they didn't need this black man, either." "i have to say no to your offer," durell said. willie wells said, "out of patriotism?" "is it a dirty word?" "i reckon not, man. you've got your way of looking at things, and i've got mine. so what now? it's a shame to give it up, but i wouldn't try to make it without you." there was a moment's pause between them. a machinegun stitched through the black african sky. smoke drifted around them. wells said, "so what now?" "give me the uzi," durell said. "we'll stop the barge together." "and what happens to me?" "you can go somewhere else and look for another job fighting for other people. i won't stop you. i won't even mention you, if you prefer that." wells smiled slowly. "well, i'd like that. i've taken enough from chance and his woman. everything is lost here anyway. hell, i've never even gotten paid, except for the five thousand advance deposited in my swiss bank." -

"let's go," durell said. major wells handed him the uzi. the way down from the parapet was by another iron stairway through the northeast corner of the tower. their footsteps clanged and echoed on the old iron treads. the shelling went on with increased fury. all over the getoba, men were dying, being blown to bits. a great piece of the stone coping crashed from the tower, and a few of the blocks tumbled down the steps after them. at the bottom major wells signaled a halt. his whole manner had changed. he moved smoothly, with a predatory efficiency. he opened the door carefully with one hand stretched be hind him. light came through the opening. then he darted in, ducked aside, and sighed quietly. "okay. come along." ` "i'll go first," durell said. "you hear that chopper?" "i hear it. it's landing in the fort." "watsube will be on it. with his hand-picked men, all e of them killers." willie licked his lips softly. "they won't ask questions. they shoot first. anybody found here gets the ax." durell went through the doorway. he wished finch and irene were not with him. the girls were an awkward responsibility. he saw yutigaffa look backward up the steps. "what is it?" the fkp man said, "i mourn for my companion, sergeant kantijji." "grieve for him later or someone may have to grieve' for you." "that is true, mtamba." major wells chuckled. "he respects you. that man was one of the worst-or one of the best-of the fkp. depends on how you look at it. you're sure he's on our side?" "i'm sure." durell went on. they were in a barracks area of the fort, but all the bunks in the old gun embrasures were empty now, the defenders busy on the walls. he crossed the floor quickly, smelling the remnants of telek cooking mixed with sweat and urine and blood. he turned right where two wide corridors met and headed for the water-: side. big double doors stood open there, on the stone . wharf where the barge was tied up. the sound of the helicopter persisted through the racket of small-arms fire. the machine was landing. the mortaring had stopped here. smoke filled the air. beyond the open doors to the dock, he glimpsed the dark river and the night sky. colonel. chance had doused the floodlights. he heard the heavy, groan of the last truck engine as it rolled carefully across the ramp onto the wide deck of the barge. men were al ready casting off the lines. durell glimpsed colonel chance still on the dock, with mickey maitland, in khaki shirt and slacks, beside him.

he raised the uzi and fired a long burst over their heads while he stood in the shelter of the wide loading doors. for a moment nothing happened. he heard the clamor of finch's automatic pistol beside him and felt a brief admiration for the girl. several of the men on the barge turned, staring at them. "hold it!" durell called. adam chance looked at them with a small, tired smile. mickey maitland shrieked something that no one could understand. she raised her gun and fired blindly at them. wood splintered from the big doorway. durell pushed finch out of the way, but irene screamed a gutter oath and ran out on the dock. "ragihi!" yutigaffa called. the small blond woman paid no attention. "mickey!" she cried. "you can't do it! you can't just leave me here like this!" in the subdued glow of the fires her sister gave her a strange, cruel smile. very carefully mickey raised her gun, held it in both hands, and aimed it at irene. durell did not dare use the uzi. but yutigaffa moved silently and swiftly. the knife he took from his belt had been hidden up to now. it was a long karang, a natanga throwing knife. the steel shimmered and shivered in the light as it flew across the dock toward the other woman. mickey fired. there was a flat, dull sound beside durell, and a sudden movement. from the corner of his eye he saw the look of surprise on georgette finch's tanned face. her eyes widened, and then there carne a great gush of blood over her forehead, like a thick and ominous curtain, as if to drown her. her mouth opened, and she halfturned toward durell, the surprise still there, as if she wanted to question him about something. she dropped her gun. she fell suddenly down to her knees, her torso still erect. then, as if bowing forward in prayer to some mysterious, unseen object, she bent until her head touched the paving and remained there. yutigaffa made a thick sound in his throat. chapter 24 adam chance turned and ran, moving along the length of the barge toward a stone bastion that protruded from the walls of the fort. there was a sudden clamor of gunfire above them as general watsube's men came on the scene. durell saw mickey stand there for a moment, in the instant that yutigaffa's knife flicked for her heart. then she too ducked and screamed adam chance's name and ran after him. uniformed men came swarming down the walls of the 'fort, heading for the barge. "stay here," durell said thickly. "drop your weapons and raise your hands."

he didn't wait to see if they obeyed. he hugged the wall, moving fast, and went after chance and the woman. .'. he did not look back at finch, and yet he took her with him, the image of her questioning, stunned look in his mind, the remembrance of how the thick blood flowed down across her face where the bullet had hit her and note irene. it was like a hot iron brand in his mind. he could not say if he felt anger or not. but suddenly it was no' longer simply a job in the business he was in. it was no' longer a question of survival, of completing the assignment and going home. it was intensely personal, and this c was against all the rules. you did not last long in the dark world in which durell moved and worked, if you permitted personalities and emotions to guide your actions. but he couldn't help it. the tall, gawky girl, with her affectation for slang out of the twenties, had gotten to him. he was beyond anger perhaps. he wanted colonel chance. more than that, he wanted mickey, whose greed destroyed all rules of human decency. a gun slammed above him, and the bullet screamed off the iron stairs at his feet. he went on in, pulling the tower door shut behind him. it cut off some of the light that silhouetted him as a target. he saw a. blur of movement, heard a clang of metal, the scrape of a shoe. "mickey( adam!" his voice echoed back and forth inside the tower. it seemed to reverberate with his remembered image of finch going down on her knees. he was impelled upward. he could not stop himself. his footsteps slammed and banged on the iron treads without care or caution. high above, mickey's gun roared again. the tongue of flame from the muzzle flickered at him. the bullet made a rushing and slapping sound past his ear. his head rang. he kept going. he could hear, through the echoes, the voice of adam chance, shouting something; it had a tinge of panic to it, a plea; then he heard mickey's thin, acid-sharp reply. a door slammed up above. the footsteps were gone. he ran up the stairs quickly, the gun in his hand, eager and ready for them. there was a steel platform and a door set deeply into the stone wall, midway to the top of the tower. durell came up to it, then checked himself. the door was closed. he put a hand on the iron latch but did not turn it. he couldn't tell if chance was directly behind the door or not. he might walk into a blast of bullets if they were waiting for him to rush through. on the other hand, every moment's delay helped their chances to escape in the confusion of the fighting. he. could not afford to wait and test and probe and use all the prescribed rules for caution. neither could he afford to rush blindly into an ambush. he had no illusions about mickey maitland. there was some-' thing totally amoral about her, something missing in her= makeup that even her greedy little sister irene possessed. a conscience, perhaps. for mickey anyone else's life was meaningless. he stared at the blank iron door. dim light came. through a break in the wall at the top of the tower. the -_ iron rivets mocked him. there was fighting nearby on the= roof and the walls. it was coming closer. he couldn't wait. he opened the door and plunged through fast, note knowing what lay beyond. he ducked right, keeping low,' his gun up; but his hip hit an obstruction, and he bounced back to the left, hit something else, and went down on one knee, feeling

steel slats under him. for an instant he could' see nothing. he had the feeling of open space all around: him, as if he were on a tiny platform above a far drop. he "` thought he heard water lapping below. the place smelled of the river. the light, such as it was, seemed to come from down there, rather than from above. water dripped: on his head, suddenly cool and evil smelling, from the= arched brick ceiling over the steel platform on which he` crouched. he thought he heard something slide and scuffle somewhere ahead. the platform was not limited in that direction. the railing extended forward, over the open space. he could not figure it out. then he suddenly realized that; he was in an old watergate, with the light coming through the opening to the river. he remembered ground-floor palazzos in venice and how. gondolas were withdrawn from the canal into a sort of water garage. he was on a transverse walkway high above this tiny inlet of the river,;' where portuguese colonists had once kept their steam launches safe from natanga tribesmen. a smell of age and decay, of rotted wooden docking, of mud and scum and offal, touched his nostrils. "durell!" colonel chance's voice echoed like brass in the dark space. durell could not locate him. the brick walls bounced back the sound from every direction, distorting. and repeating his name. he crouched lower, holding his gun ready. "durell!" durell called, "give it up, colonel." instantly the racketing burst of automatic fire reached for him, chipping at the brick wall, screeching off the iron slats of the high walkway. the winking muzzle flame came from almost directly ahead, perhaps a little to the left. durell fell flat and aimed a careful burst in that direction. the noise was deafening in the enclosed space. there was no chance to hear an outcry, to tell if he had aimed true. he released the trigger. the echoes died away. his eyes were adjusted to the gloom now. lying flat on the iron walkway, he saw there was a t-junction with another platform on the other side; he made out a second door over there. down below, there was a small dock, and a long, sleek motor launch was moored to it. a ladder went down from the walkway on that side, toward the dock and boat. he could not be sure, but he thought he saw movement against the wall. "chance! mickey!" there was no answer now. he had fired almost blindly and did not know if his burst had been effective. he got up carefully and ran in a crouch across the walkway. more shots came at him. he reached the other side of the watergate. there was a faint burning sensation in his left shoulder, just about the collar bone. he had been grazed. it would be painful later. but it did not hamper his movements. he slid sidewise, his back to the bra :k wall, toward the ladder that led down to the dock and the launch. all at once he saw them, about thirty feet directly below. he did not challenge them again. chance was just waiting to spot his location. he knew he was invisible to them now, against the dark, arched ceiling of the watergate. he aimed a burst

at the boat, poking the muzzle of the uzi between the iron slats. he heard a faint cry above the echoes of his firing and checked his finger on the trigger. "durell! hold it!" "drop your guns," he called. "both of you." "mickey's been hit. she's hurt badly." "drop the guns," he said` again. "right. we quit." he heard the clang of their weapons striking the deck down there. "now stand still," he called. "don't move." "i need help for mickey," came the man's voice. "you'll get it." he started down the ladder. he saw them now, standing:, beside the launch. the woman was on her knees, holding, her stomach. adam chance stood with his hands away from his sides, fingers splayed open, to show he was now; unarmed. durell was halfway down the ladder when mickey maitland suddenly straightened up. in the dim light her face was venomous. her eyes looked insane. she held a: small revolver in her hand. in that moment she seemed the= very personification of the mythical figure of the silver= scorpion, the jungle goddess she had tried to emulate. just= before she fired, he thought of all her avaricious efforts to, rob and rule through terror in this new, struggling nation= he thought of how she had betrayed everyone-general: watsube, irene, and the raga himself, who had allowed` her to seek a new life here in boganda. the bullet hit him in the left leg. he heard the sound of the shot afterward, as his grip on-. the ladder suddenly slipped and he began to fall. he: thought he heard chance yell in sudden triumph. they, were both turning to jump into the boat. he had lost his footing on the iron rungs and now dangled by his hands.: he told himself he could not let himself be destroyed by`, this woman who called herself the silver scorpion. his:. shoulder muscles cracked with the effort to pull himself up'. by one hand. he had not dropped the uzi. he tried his left; foot, getting his knee on one of the ladder rungs. it was a long way down. he pushed upward and put his weight on. the injured leg. not bad. mickey had been too hurried t take careful aim. he got his other foot on the next rung; and steadied himself. he was sweating. mickey's taunt echoed up to him. "durell?" he did not answer. "we're going to make it. you hear the barge's motor, you bloody spook? it's coming for us. watsube can never stop us!" the thrumming beat of the diesel engine washed into the watergate. a shadow crossed the opening into the river. adam chance started the launch's motor. it throbbed at once with easy, latent power. durell tried to shift the uzi around to fire one last time. he couldn't make it. his left leg suddenly gave way under his

weight, and he almost fell again. then the barge halted outside the gate, blocking the launch's way out. he suddenly became aware that all the firing and shelling had ended throughout the old fort. the battle was over. in the abrupt silence the loom of the big motor barge, with the two canvas-covered trucks on the deck, made a sullen, stubborn blockade, preventing the launch from exiting. mickey maitland spun the wheel angrily. she screamed at the men on the barge and then maneuvered the launch in quick, splashing lurches, until the bow was pointed at the other boat. durell began to lower himself again. he had to move slowly, his leg paining him now. blood dripped down into his shoe. the men on the barge were all armed, lined up around the trucks. a powerful flood lamp sprang to life on the big boat, glaring like an enormous eye into the dark cavern of the watergate. mickey and colonel chance were bathed in the hot illumination. they stood upright in the launch, their weapons lowered, staring in dismay. chance started to call out, had to clear his throat. "we're coming aboard!" durell reached the bottom of the ladder. from his angle he could see what the mercenary could not. general watsube was in command of the barge. he stood just to one side of his bereted paratroopers, squat and froglike, his black face tired and sullen. he said quietly, "you must surrender, colonel." chance stiffened in shock. he looked at mickey, and it was obvious that he was thinking he'd been caught with the general's wife, the woman he had stolen, who had" used him to start the insurrection, who had used the fkp to spread lies, terror, and myths throughout boganda. his smile was crooked. "general watsube?" "be very careful, colonel." "yes, sir." mickey suddenly shouted, "adam, you bastard! are you giving up?" "we can't do anything else," chance said quietly. "it's the fortunes of war-right, general? watsube has won. we've lost everything. are you looking for the money, general?" "we know it is in the trucks," said watsube. "it will go back into the national treasury of boganda." "if you don't steal it yourself," chance sneered it was his fatal mistake. watsube shot him. the single report was like a hammer blow. it knocked adam chance backward, his face dissolved in blood and broken bone, his smile gone forever in a splintered mass of flesh. he fell from the launch, splashed heavily into the dark, oily water, disappeared for a moment, and then came up, floating face down. general watsube's broad dark face turned to the wife who had betrayed him. "it is

your turn now, my dear." mickey maitland remained an angry, greedy woman to the end. she was unable to comprehend the man she had married in this distant country. she was unable to yield, compromise, or surrender. perhaps, however, she knew watsube better than anyone. perhaps she was aware of" ' her future in a boganda prison and could not face it. she raised her gun suddenly, aiming at watsube. watsube did not hesitate. he fired once, just as he had shot adam chance, and mickey fell forward over the bow of ' the launch. her gun slipped from her dead hand. watsube came forward along the barge rail and peered down at her. he made a brief signal to a corporal nearby, who fended off the launch and shoved it back through the watergate. durell limped forward. "general?" watsube looked up from contemplating his dead wife. his dark, square face was expressionless. "yes?" duren threw down his uzi and walked to the barge. the rank of elite troopers stirred. he saw watsube raise and point his gun at him. he did not know if the angry man would shoot him too. he kept walking until he was clearly in the light of the floodlamp on the barge. he was pleased that he had not shot the woman and adam chance himself. "come aboard, mr. duren," said watsube. "the raga will wish to thank you personally for all you have done for us." durell, with the image of finch in his mind, did not think it mattered. "general, about my friend-the girl-have you found her?" "miss finch? come, sir. i believe you need some medical help yourself." chapter 25 for the first time since durell's arrival in boganda, the hours were not marked by the ugly. crashing of mortars. he did not remember being taken out of the battered, burning getoba district. watsube had a portuguese doctor with him who promptly injected a sedative in his veins. he remembered seeing pearl lu, oddly enough, and her old father and several of pearl lu's girls. pearl had bent over him and kissed him sympathetically and whispered, "i'll cover the preliminary reports to lisbon central. they'll clean it up and cable to washington. don't worry about anything." "pearl lu, where's finches she was shot-" the chinese girl kissed him again. "don't worry about ` anything, sam. please. just relax." he could not help himself. he wanted to keep going, as if something had wound up like a steel spring inside him and had to finish its effort before he could relax. but his physical exhaustion and the doctor's needle settled all that. he felt himself drifting off into sleep, and finally he stopped fighting it. pearl lu held his hand, and then her . image faded away into the darkness.

when he awoke, an airconditioner purred in the window. he studied the ceiling for some time, considering the hot afternoon sunlight reflected there. the room was modern, with a wide bed, fresh coverlets, soft pillows. it was a woman's room he could smell the scent of perfume. on a mahogany dresser to his right there was a display of bottles, and near it stood a very feminine chaise lounge, upholstered in flowered silk in a subdued pattern. not a hospital, definitely, he decided. there was still a smell of smoke from burning getoba, but now, even above the hum of the airconditioner, he heard the sound of a car outside and the sounds of small boys playing. a flame tree rubbed its knobby branches against the upper part of the curtained window. his eyes focused gradually. he felt comfortable. he tried his left leg. it was bandaged high up on the thigh,, but s obviously nothing important had been damaged by mickey maitland's bullet. it hurt, but the leg was operative. he turned his head as a shadow fell across the bed. near the paneled doorway stood a tall figure, a dark carving out of africa's past. the figure moved, came closer, ': and became captain abraham yutigaffa. "mtamba?" "hello." "i have been keeping watch, sir." "thank you. i'm alive." "you will be up and about in a day or two, the doctor says. you needed rest more than anything else." "and you?" "i have slept. i bathed you. i helped the doctor." "thank you again." the african's tribal scars glistened on his narrow brown face. his eyes were perpetually solemn. yutigaffa wore a european brown linen suit, polished shoes, a white shirt, and a solid brown necktie. underneath the facade the jungle brooded, competent and dangerous and unpredictable. durell said, "i'm truly very sorry about your friend kantijji." yutigaffa shrugged. "many were killed, both women and children, in this foolish and treacherous attempt to destroy my country. but it is over now. general watsube has named me as head of the fkp. i am now a lieutenant-general. there will be much to do. the fkp was almost destroyed by the silver scorpion. it was built into a terrible thing of blood, designed to betray the raga, to turn brother against brother, and detach the teleks from the natanga people. it will take a long time to ease the sorrows and to placate the bereaved." "is the silver scorpion really dead?" "miss maitland-she was divorced by our laws during the fighting; and general watsube denounced her-yes, she is dead."

"and colonel chance?" "dead too. it is all over, sir." "what about willie wells? he helped us, you know." yutigaffa shrugged. "gone, mtamba." "how, gone?" "he has vanished." "can you tell me where i am?" durell asked. "you are in miss finch's bungalow. she insisted that you be taken here to recuperate." durell sat up abruptly. his gun, his wallet, his passport and papers were all neatly arranged on a table beside the bed. he felt an ineffable shock of pleasure at yutigaffa's words. "is she alive?" "yes, mtamba." "but when i saw her last, her head and face were covered with blood. i thought she-" "it was a scalp wound, sir. it looked very bad. if you had had the time at that moment, you might have realized it had only stunned her. but it bled a great deal. miss finch is in excellent shape. there is nothing to worry about with her." durell sank back with a long sigh. "nothing for you, maybe. where is she?" "waiting anxiously to talk to you, sir. can i get you, anything? are you hungry?" "get me miss finch," durell said he waited. he could not believe that yutigaffa had lied to him. fifteen minutes passed. a half hour. and an hour. the bungalow was quiet. it seemed deserted. during part of the, hour he dozed off. when he awoke again, the light was fading from the window. the day was ending. somewhere; along the corridor water ran. he slid his feet and legs over the edge of the bed. there were natanga rugs, woven from native fibers, on the floor. they felt bristly under the soles: of his feet. very gingerly he put his weight on his left leg.' a quick spasm of pain went up his thigh, then faded away. he broke into a sweat. he looked down at his naked body,: saw the scars of past work he had done, saw the new clean. white bandage on his leg. he took a step, almost fell, took' another step. "please, sam. you're supposed to be in bed." he looked up, holding on to the carved post at the foot of the big bed, and saw finch standing there in the doorway. he thought for a moment he had never seen a finer, sight. he was getting sentimental, he thought ruefully.

she smiled. "you're doing just great." "yes." "may i come in?". "it's your house." "how do you feel?" "worse than i look." "then get back into bed." "i'm worried about that," he said. she grinned. "because of me?" "maybe." "say it," she said. "what?" "call me winky." "all right. winky." "it's a silly name, isn't it, for a big slob like me?" "you're not too big," he said. "ah. the first kind word out of you, sam. i hear you were worried about me and thought i'd been taken for the big buggy ride by that awful woman, right?" "i was a little worried," he admitted. "good. i'm glad." she looked great. there was a small bandage on her scalp, but it was partly hidden by her long brown hair. her eyes, he saw, were not as dark brown as he had thought, nor were they as plain. she had no makeup on and looked as if she had just gotten out of the tub, which explained the water he had heard running somewhere. her eyes were amber, really, he thought. he felt another wave of pleasure at seeing her alive. "you're naked," she said. "are you trying to tempt me?" "i'm sorry." "that's a lot of bee's wax. you're not sorry at all. look, before you ask me a lot of questions about business, i'll tell you what you want to know. do you want something to eat, by the way?" "not yet. tell me." she sighed and came all the way into the room, closing the door. he heard the click as she turned the latch but did not comment on it. she wore a long, natanga woman's

dress, all whorls and zigzags in a bright pattern, the shape of it like a tall pyramid, completely concealing her figure. he sat down on the bed. it was a relief to get off his leg. "hot diggity. the man can relax." "tell me," he said again. "everything is under control. didn't pearl lu debrief you? she's an efficient gal. she also told me you weren't fooling with her girls when you visited her cat house." "it was business. were you jealous?" "i could have killed you. i've claimed you, you know. you've wanted me from the first time you saw me, right?" he did not deny it. "you should have told me that pearl lu was in the business. i should have been told about her long ago, when i first went to work for your outfit. why do you people have to be so spooky, anyway? both, of us, pearl lu and me, working in the dark. we could have helped each other." "she wasn't supposed to be active." finch grinned again. "no, i guess not. she had plenty of her other business to attend to. however, it doesn't matter now, i guess." she paused. "you're going to get mad at me, i think. it's about willie wells. he wanted a job with us, if he got away clear. so i arranged it. i sent him on to tom adams in chad. maybe he'll make it and work on our side for a change." "i'm not mad about that. what about the money?" "all safe and sound. every bit of it, under lock and key in the national treasury of boganda. even i don't know the combination there, and i'll bet daddy, with all his banking connections, couldn't find out how to open the raga's strongbox again." "how about irene?" "she's sorry. she's in tears. she is very penitent. the raga is thinking it over, but i think she'll be deported." "back to liverpool?" "i don't know. that would be too bad, wouldn't it? i think i'll put in a good word for her. you do that too, will you, sam? it was her sister, after all, who revived the scary old legends about the silver scorpion and wrecked the fkp. the raga will listen to you, sam. he's waiting to pin a medal on you. i mean, literally." "no medals," durell said. "he'll be disappointed." "sorry. no publicity." "oh, me. after all that buggy ride?" "come here," durell said. she started for the bed, then said, "oh, no." "come here, winky." "oh, yes." there seemed to be nothing more to say. for once he didn't even have to fill out the endless coded reports to general dickinson mcfee, back at k section's headquarters in washington. he felt remarkably free. the room was in deep shadow now. the day was done. he watched the tall girl as she shed the tent like, natanga robe. her

tall figure was without a blemish anywhere. she looked rich with love. finch got into the bed. "boop-boop-a-doop," she sighed. "right on," durell said.