Read Like A Hole In The Head Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

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BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
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     "I guess so. How about 18.00 on 29th unless I call you?"
     "Okay." I stood up. "I look forward to helping you."
     Lepski finished his Coke, then got to his feet.
     "I see you're doing some painting around here."
     "Giving the place a face lift."
     "It sure needs it. Nick Lewis is an old friend of mine. He taught me to shoot. You know, I never thought he'd sell the place. Let's see, you've been here for four months? How's it working out?"
"Early days yet. We'll make out."
     "You should do. You've quite a reputation. Is it right you're the best shot in the Army?"
     "Not now. I was rated the second best a year ago."
     "That's something! Those guys know how to shoot." The ice-blue eyes probed again. "I heard you were a sniper."
     "That's right."
     "Not a job I'd dig for, but I guess it calls for some pretty quick shooting."
     "It wasn't a job I liked either, but someone has to do it."
     "I guess that's right." He started to move to the door, then paused. "This pupil of yours must be a dope if you have to give up two solid weeks of your full time to teach him to shoot or does he want to be as good as you?"
     "A rich man's whim. You know how it is. He has the money and he wants it exclusive. I'm not complaining," I said as casually as I could.
     "Anyone I would know?"
     "No . . . he's here on vacation."
     Lepski nodded understandingly.
     "Yeah . . . plenty of those here now. More money than brains and they don't know what to do with themselves." He reached the front door, paused and shook hands. "Unless I call you, I'll see you on the 29th."
     "That's it. Thanks for keeping my wife company."
He grinned.
"It was my pleasure."
     Lucy joined me at the door and we watched him drive away. I took out my handkerchief and wiped off my sweating hands, then shut the door, locked it and followed Lucy into the sitting-room.
     "I hope it was all right what I told him, Jay." She was looking anxious. "You look so tense. I thought the best thing was to tell him right away that you were tied up."
     "It's all right." I sat on the table. "It's just my bad luck he should have turned up."
     "Why bad luck?"
     I hesitated, wondering whether to tell her what Savanto had told me. For a few brief moments I decided not to tell her, then I changed my mind. She would have to know. There was to be no more talk about Timoteo and she would have to be told why. So I told her.
     She sat motionless, her hands between her knees, her eyes a little wide, listening.
     "So you see this makes for complications," I concluded. "From now on, we mustn't say a word about Timoteo or his father or our arrangements to anyone. Understand?"
     "Could the police involve you if they found out you were teaching a man who, by law, mustn't touch a gun?" she asked.
     "Of course not. I'll say I didn't know."
     "But, Jay, you do know."
     "They couldn't prove it."
     "I also know. Do you expect me to lie to the police if they ask me?"
I pushed myself off the table and began to prowl around the room.
"I must earn this money. I'm hoping you will co-operate."
"By co-operation, you mean I will have to lie to the police?"
I turned around, staring at her.
     "Look at this." I took the envelope from my pocket, took out the bond and laid it on the table. "Look at this."
     She got up, walked to the table and bent over the bond. Her long, silky hair fell forward, hiding her face. She straightened, then looked at me.
     "What about it?"
     "That's one of the bonds I told you about. It's worth twenty-five thousand dollars. Savanto gave it to me. I can keep it, along with the other bond, when I have done the job. He means business, so we have to mean business . . . you and I . . . both of us."
     "Why did he give it to you when you haven't earned it?"
     "To show he trusts me."
     "Are you sure?"
     I was beginning to heat up again.
     "Why else for God's sake?"
     "It could be a psychological move." She leaned forward, her eyes scared. "You see, Jay, now you have this bond, you won't want to part with it. You'll be hooked with it."
     "So okay, he doesn't trust me, but he gives me twenty-five thousand dollars to get me hooked. He doesn't have to do that! I'm hooked already ! I know what money this big can do for us! I'm going to earn it! I'll teach that guy to shoot if I have to kill him!"
     She stared at me as if she were looking at a stranger. Then she moved to the door.
     "It's getting late. Let's go to bed."
     "Just a minute." I found a pen, wrote my name and address and my bank account number on the envelope, put the bond in an envelope and sealed down the flap. Will you go to the bank first thing tomorrow, Lucy, and tell them to hold this for me? I would do it myself, but Timoteo is coming at six and I have to make a start with him. Will you do that? Will you also get in a stock of food?" I took two of the hundred dollar bills Savanto had given me from my wallet. "Buy enough food for a week and get in a lot of beer."
     She took the money.
     "All right."
     She went along the passage to the bedroom. I knew for the first time since we had married, she was unhappy. The thought nagged me. I stood looking at the envelope. I had to think of our future. She would snap out of it in time, I told myself. I had Timoteo on my mind. For the moment, she had to take second place.
     Carrying the envelope, I went into the bedroom. She was in the bathroom, taking a shower. I put the envelope under my pillow, then sat on the bed, waiting for her.
     Neither of us slept much that night.
C
HAPTER
T
WO
     We got up at 04.45, and while Lucy heated the coffee, I took a shower and had a shave. Although I had slept badly, I was now more relaxed. I had a job of work ahead of me, and when I'm working, I'm always in a good frame of mind. During the past four months when I had had so little to do except worry about our finances, I had been getting slack and irritable. That doesn't mean I hadn't enjoyed having a lazy time with Lucy, but enough was enough. I was ready to go to work again.
     I found Lucy sitting on the patio, sipping her coffee and watching the sun come up behind the palm trees.
     "When Timoteo arrives," I said, taking the cup of coffee that was waiting for me on the table, "you won't see me until lunch time." I sat down by her. She looked a little wan and still worried, but this wasn't the time to worry about her worries. I would have to shelve that problem until later. "I want you down at the bank by nine o'clock. When you get back, will you telephone our six pupils and tell them we are closed until the end of the month? I don't think they'll care. Colonel Forsythe might be tricky. Turn the charm on. Tell him we just have to paint the place. I am sure you can handle him."
     "All right, Jay."
     "Get enough food in to last a week." I hesitated, then went on. "Watch your cooking. His father is paying the bills. He'll expect to be well fed. We have five hundred dollars to cover the expenses."
     Panic showed in her eyes.
     "All right, Jay."
     I smiled at her.
     "Now don't flap. We are about to earn fifty thousand dollars. Remember you are as important as I am in this deal. I'm relying on you to take everything off my back except teaching this guy to shoot." I finished my coffee and lit a cigarette. The first cigarette of the morning is always my favourite. "Everything good that comes to me, I want to share with you."
     She pressed her hands together.
     "Is it this job or the money that has made you change?" she asked in a low voice.
     "Change? I haven't changed. I don't get it."
     "You have changed, Jay." She looked up and forced a smile. "When you told me the first time we met that you had been an army instructor, I found it hard to believe. You weren't like an army man . . . you were so kind, so understanding to me. I couldn't believe you could handle men, give orders, be ruthless. It puzzled me." She paused. "I see now why you will teach this man to shoot. I'm a little scared of you now. I do see you have to be rough and hard if you are to succeed, but please try not to be tough and hard with me."
     I got up and pulled her out of her chair and took her face in my hands.
     "No matter what, Lucy, remember this: I love you. I am the luckiest guy alive to have found you. Go along with me for a few days, then it will change. You'll look back on this and you'll forgive me if I've hurt you and you'll see what I'm doing now is right for both of us."
     We were kissing, holding each other and I was even forgetting what was ahead of me when the sound of an approaching car parted us.
     "Here they come," I said. "Okay, honey, I'll see you at lunch time."
     I moved off the verandah into the sun.
     Coming up the drive was a small truck. Two men were in the front seats. The driver, seeing me, waved his hand, then steered the truck towards me. I waited.
     The truck pulled up and both men got out. The driver was middle height, wearing only a pair of black boxing trunks. His body was covered with thick, coarse hair. He was around thirty years of age with a fleshy, swarthy face. If you like the Dago type — I don't — you could call him handsome. He was certainly sexy and in fine condition. Flat muscles rippled under his skin. He could be as quick as a lizard and as strong as a bull.
     My eyes shifted to his companion. He was older, shorter and he wore one of those Hawaiian shirts that have dropped out of favour : yellow flowers on a red background and a pair of grubby white slacks. His swarthy face was pock-marked, his eyes small, his lips thin and his nose broad and flat. He looked like one of those types you see on TV, playing a minor moronic gangster.
     The driver came towards me, revealing perfect white teeth in a wide, know-all smile.
     "Mr. Benson? I'm Raimundo. I'm Mr. Savanto's right hand, left hand and possibly left leg." His grin widened. "This is Nick. Don't bother about him. No one does. He's just the jerk who sweeps up the horse droppings."
     As he didn't offer his hand, it saved me from shaking hands with him. I didn't like him. I didn't like his companion.
     "What are you doing her?" I asked.
     "We've got things for you, Mr. Benson." He suddenly looked beyond me and his eyebrows went up. I glanced over my shoulder. Lucy was moving into the bungalow, carrying our cups. She was wearing a halter and cotton jeans. As she moved, her bottom gave a little twitch.
     "Is that Mrs. Benson?" Raimundo asked, his eyes moving back to me.
     "That's Mrs. Benson." I gave him the hard eye. "What things have you brought?"
     "The works: the rifle, ammunition, food, booze. I haven't missed a trick."
     "What do you mean . . . food? We're capable of buying our own food."
     His grin became sly. "You don't have to . . . it's all here with Mr. Savanto's compliments."
     He turned to his companion who was standing indifferently by the truck.
     "Hey, Nick, get the stuff unloaded." He turned to me. "Is that the shooting range over there? We'll unload the ammunition there if it's okay with you."
     I hesitated, then shrugged. If Savanto wanted it this way, he was the boss and it would save me money.
     "Where's Timoteo?"
     "He's on his way. He'll be here any minute. Have you somewhere we can pitch a tent? Me and Nick won't bother you. We have our own food. Nick knows how to take care of me." Again the wide grin. "Just say where we can be out of your way and that's where we'll be."
     "What are you going to do around here?"
     "Security. We'll wander around out of sight. If anyone comes here, we'll ease him off. No rough stuff, Mr. Benson. All done with charm. That's what Mr. Savanto said and what Mr. Savanto says goes."
     I pointed to some distant palm trees: over five hundred yards from the bungalow.
     "Anywhere beyond those trees."
     "Okay. I'll give Nick a hand."
     He strolled over to the truck. I returned to the bungalow. I had an
itchy feeling down my spine: the feeling I used to get in the jungle when I was sure one of the Vietcong was moving in my direction. Lucy had come out on to the balcony and was watching.
     "Who are they?" she asked when I reached her.
     "Two of Savanto's men. They have brought provisions."
     She stared at me.
     "Provisions?"
     "That's it. Savanto is providing the food so that saves you a shopup." I looked at my watch. "Show them where to put the stuff, honey."
     She looked helplessly at me, hesitated, then moved down the steps towards the truck. Both Raimundo and Nick were coming towards her, staggering under the weight of two wooden cases. Raimundo gave her his sexy smile.
     "Plenty of good food here, Mrs. Benson," he said. "Where do you want it put?"
     At this moment I saw the black Cadillac coming up the drive.
     "Here he is, honey. I'll leave you to handle this," and I started across the sand to meet the car as it pulled up.
     The driver who looked like a chimpanzee slid out of the car, opened the rear door, then ran around to the boot, opened it and took out a suitcase.
     Timoteo Savanto got slowly out of the car and stood awkwardly in the sun as I approached him.
BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
10.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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