Read Like A Hole In The Head Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

Like A Hole In The Head (10 page)

BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
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     I waited, aware that Lucy, high up on the ladder, had also stopped painting.
     He came up, taking his time, his eyes first going to Lucy, then shifting to me.
     "So you've got him shooting." he said.
     "What do you want?"
     "Something from Mr. Savanto . . . special delivery. Goon has to shoot with it . . . orders." He offered me the box.
     "What is it?"
     "Take a look, soldier. You've got eyes." He stared up at Lucy, then he gave me his jeering smile, turned around and walked off with that insolent lounging movement that made me long to kick him.
     As I began to open the box, Lucy scrambled down the ladder and joined me.
     "What is it, Jay?"
     I squatted on the sand as I took off the lid. There was a slip of paper on top of some foam packing. The note was typewritten:
Timoteo will shoot with these two attachments. See to it, please.
     "What is it?" Lucy repeated, peering over my shoulder.
     "A telescopic sight. This is a silencer. They are both highly sophisticated . . . both cost the earth."
     "But why?"
     "The telescopic sight will make it much easier for him to hit a bull. When Savanto first talked to me I wondered about a telescopic sight, but I didn't imagine it would come within the rules of his bet." I turned the sight over in my hands. "He can't fail to shoot well with this."
"But why a silencer?"
I shrugged. I was asking myself the same question.
     "I don't know." I stood up. "The silencer will make it a little more tricky for him. I'll get these two attachments fitted to the rifle right away before he gets used to the rifle as it is."
     "All this worries me, Jay."
     "Oh, come on, Lucy," I said a little impatiently. "There's nothing to get worried about."
     Leaving her, I walked over to the gallery. He was there, the rifle against his shoulder, his face against the shoulder of the gun, his shirt black with sweat. As I came in, he fired again. I looked beyond him at the distant target. He had another set of holes topside of the inner ring. He was still off the bull, but at least he was still grouping.
     "Hi, Tim," I said. "We've got the answer to your problem. Look at this."
     He started like he had received an electric shock and dropped the rifle. He spun around, gaped at me, flinched, then stepped back where he had no room to step back, cannoned off the shooting rest.
     "For God's sake!" I was as startled as he by this exhibition of nerves. "Can't you relax? Look at this."
     He continued to gape at me, his eyes wild, his expression dazed.
     "Your father sent this over. It'll help you more than I can."
     As he still remained paralysed, I picked up the rifle and took it over to one of the benches. I sat down. It took me a couple of minutes to clip on the sight and to screw on the silencer.
     I looked at him. He was staring at the rifle like you might stare at a snake that had dropped into your bath.
     What a goon ! I thought. To give him time to straighten himself out, I went over to the shooting rest and sighted through the telescopic sight at the target. It was as if I could stretch out my arm and put my finger right on the hull. In my time, I had handled a lot of telescopic sights, but nothing as good as this one.
     "Take a look through this, Tim," I said, turning.
     The sight of him as he stood in the dimly lit lean-to set my nerves tingling. He looked as if he had gone out of his mind. There was a wild, crazy look in his eyes: his mouth was working: the muscles in his neck were standing out like knotted ropes and he began hissing through his clenched teeth.
     "Hey ! Tim !" I shouted. "What's the matter?"
     He came at me with two quick shuffling strides. I was handicapped by the rifle I was holding. His fist slammed against the side of my head with the force of a steam hammer. My knees buckled, then dimly I saw his fist coming again towards my face. There was nothing I could do about it. I felt the shock, then a white flash of light scorched my eyes, then nothing.
* * *
     I became aware of the sound of the sea pounding on the beach. Then I became aware my jaw was aching. The ache reminded me of the fist flashing towards my face. I shook my head, grunted and sat up. This wasn't the first time I had taken a punch, but I couldn't remember taking a harder one.
     I looked around. I was on my own. I fingered the swelling on my jaw, winced, then levered myself to my feet.
     The rifle with its telescopic sight and its silencer lay on the sand. I looked at it, continued to rub my jaw, coaxing my mind to work.
     Then I heard a sound. Raimundo appeared in the doorway. He propped himself up against one of the posts of the lean-to and regarded me. His eyes were bored; a cigarette burned between his fingers.
     I picked up the rifle and laid it carefully on one of the benches. "For a guy who's getting paid fifty thousand bucks, you certainly are some flop," he said.
     "That's right." I sat down, pushing the rifle along the bench to give me room. "Yeah, I guess that's fair criticism." I was still a little dizzy in the head. "What's with this jerk? Is he crazy?"
     Raimundo flicked ash off his cigarette.
     "He's nervous."
     "Just nervous, huh?" I tried my teeth carefully with my tongue. None of them seemed loose. "He's quite a puncher, isn't he?"
     "You could call him that."
     "What makes him nervous?"
     Raimundo flicked more ash off his cigarette.
     "He has his troubles. Don't we all ?"
     "He's more than nervous. He has a couple of screws loose and you know it."
     Raimundo shrugged.
     "Where is he?"
     Nick's taking care of him."
     I rubbed my jaw. It didn't help.
     "Get my phone connected. I'm going to talk to his father."
     "I bet." Raimundo sneered. "Right now, Mr. Savanto doesn't want to talk to you, soldier. When he does talk to you, he'll want to hear the goon
can shoot. He isn't interested in your problems. He pays. You deliver."
I got to my feet. "Then I'll talk to Timoteo."
Raimundo shook his head.
     "You've had your chance. You don't know how to handle him. He doesn't react to the soft approach. From now on, I'm handling him and tell your wife to lay off the palsy-walsy act. You be here at 09.00 tomorrow. Goon will be here, ready to shoot."
     Why should I care? I reasoned to myself. I was being paid to teach him to shoot not to act as a mental nurse.
     "Suits me."
     I unclipped the telescopic sight, ran a rag over it, unscrewed the silencer and put it and the sight into the box. I put the rifle back in its case and the box and the rifle case into the gun rack.
     "Nine tomorrow, then?"
     "That's it, soldier."
     I left the gallery and started across the hot sand to the bungalow. The time was 19.34.
     Lucy had finished painting. As I walked into the living- room, I heard the shower going. I went to the liquor cabinet, took out a bottle of scotch and poured a slug. I drank it neat, then went into the bedroom.
     Lucy came out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her.
     "Did you bring Tim with you?" she asked, darting to the closet to find a dress.
     "No. Raimundo is taking care of him. You finished with the shower?"
     The note in my voice made her turn quickly. She saw the bruise and the swelling on my face.
"What happened? Your face !"
I stripped off my shirt.
"It's nothing, honey."
"But what happened?"
I told her.
     "He's as nutty as a fruit cake." I said as I kicked off my shoes. "Our luck . . . to get landed with him."
     She held the towel around her as she stared at me.
     "I can't believe it. He hit you!"
     I took off my slacks.
     "He carries quite a punch. Anyway, what's it matter? In the state he was in he'd have hit his own father."
     I went into the shower. After standing under the cold water for some minutes, I felt more relaxed. I dried off and came back into the bedroom.
     Lucy had put on a dress. She sat on the bed and watched me while I threw on slacks and shirt.
     "Why did he hit you, Jay?"
     "He was worked up. I don't know. He looked as if he were going to throw a fit."
     "But what did you do to him?"
     "I did nothing to him !" I found I was shouting at her. I throttled back. "I'm sorry, Lucy. I'm getting worked up myself. What's for supper?"
     "There's something terribly wrong. He wouldn't hit anyone. This worries me."
     "Well, he hit me." I tried to grin, but it didn't come off. "He's neurotic. Let's forget him. I've had him in my hair all day. What's for supper?"
     She got up.
     "Would you like eggs and ham or do you want something more fancy?" Her voice was unsteady and her eyes cloudy.
     "Eggs and ham would be fine. Come do . . . I'll help."
     We went into the kitchen and I sat on the table while she got the eggs from the refrigerator.
     "Is he coming to sleep here?"
     "I don't think so. I hope not." I watched her as she set the frying pan on the stove. "Now look, Lucy, don't get worked up. He has a screw loose. I'm sure of it. I should have let Raimondo handle him from the start. We made the mistake of being soft with him. Raimondo says he starts shooting tomorrow morning. That's all I want to hear. Let's forget him for tonight. I've had enough of him."
     She turned to face me.
     "He's desperately frightened."
     "You call it one thing. I call it another. Let's forget him for God's sake!"
     "Yes. Jay."
     I watched her break the eggs into the hot fat.
     "You've forgotten the ham."
     She flushed and began to dither. She turned off the gas and put on the grill.
     "That's not a hot idea, is it?"
     She started shaking.
     "Oh, Jay, I'm so worried. What does all this mean?"
     "You're making a mess of our dinner," I said. "Come on, Lucy, forget him !"
     I left her and went out on to the verandah. Maybe I was being unkind, but I had had enough of Timoteo Savanto and my jaw ached.
     After a while, she brought out two plates. The eggs were like bullets and the ham soggy. While we ate, I told her about the bond in the biscuit box and where I had buried it.
     "Are you listening, Lucy? This is important."
     "It's a lot of money. I'd look a dope if it were stolen."
     We left most of the food on our plates.
     "I'm sorry, Jay. It was badly cooked."
     "I've eaten worse." I lit a cigarette. "Anything on TV?"
     "I don't know . . . I haven't looked."
     I went inside to get the TV Guide. There was a six-year-old Western with Burt Lancaster. My jaw was now beginning to ache in earnest. I turned the set on.
     Lucy took the plates into the kitchen. I sat down and watched the antics on the screen. Men rode down the mountains in a cascade of falling rocks and dust. They killed each other with guns and knives. I held my throbbing jaw and watched.
     Later, Lucy came and sat near me. She didn't look at the screen. She sat still, looking out of the open window as the darkness slowly settled over the beach and the sea.
     The film finished with a massacre as most Westerns do. As the credit titles came up, I switched off.
     "Let's go to bed."
     "Is it all right to leave everything open?"
     I knew she was thinking of Raimundo.
     "Why not? I'm here."
     We went into the bedroom. We took turns in the bathroom and then we lay on the bed with the view of the moon lighting the sea and the palms outlined against the dark sky.
     My jaw still throbbed, but I was being brave about it.
     "What's going to happen tomorrow, Jay?" she asked out of the darkness and in a small voice.
     I slid my arm around her and pulled her to me.
     "Why worry about tomorrow?" I turned her so she could see over my shoulder as I held her. "Look at the moon."
     I was at the gallery a few minutes to nine o'clock and I didn't have to wait long. As the minute hand of my watch moved on to the hour, I saw Raimundo and Timoteo coming across the sand.
     I watched them come. Raimundo walked with his usual swagger. Timoteo, his head bent, shuffled along, a step or two in the rear. He was wearing his sun goggles and his shirt was already sticking to him.
     I had the rifle ready. I didn't know what to expect and I wasn't in a relaxed frame of mind. My jaw was sore and the bruise was turning black. I still couldn't believe a slob like Timoteo could have punched that hard.
     When they were within ten yards of me, Raimundo said something to Timoteo who stopped short and stood like an ox waiting for the yoke. Raimundo joined me.
     "Take him," he said. "He'll do what you tell him. Get him shooting, soldier. Don't chat him up. Just get him shooting."
     I beckoned to Timoteo. I decided to treat him like an Army recruit : nothing personal and all business.
     Without looking at me, he walked slowly and heavy-footed into the lean-to and stopped, looking helplessly at the distant targets.
BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
5.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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