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Authors: James Hadley Chase

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BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
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     Give her time, I told myself.
     Time? Hell! There wasn't any time!
     When I had listened to her talking, I was sold she was handling him right. After all, she had got him to hit an inner, but now . . . Why didn't she get him started? Why wasn't he shooting?
     I sat there for twenty-five minutes: each second I expected to hear a shot : each second dragged by . . . no shot.
     By now I had worked myself into a vicious mood. I damned him and I damned Lucy. What did they think they were playing at? Exasperated, I got to my feet, threw away my fourth cigarette and started across to the shooting gallery.
     I now didn't give a goddam about shaking his nerves. I was fit to kick his backside. I stormed into the dim lean-to like a destructive hurricane.
     They weren't there . . . no one was there. The two rifles lay on one of the benches. The distant targets I had set up were untouched. A lizard darted up into the roof, offering the only sign of life.
     I walked out of the lean-to, smouldering with fury. Then I saw two sets of footprints in the sand, heading towards the sea.
     I stood still, feeling the sun beating down on my head and I looked along the distant beach until I saw them.
     They were walking side by side, paddling in the surf, close together : he towering above her, his head bent as if listening to what she was saying. She was carrying her sandals, swinging them as she walked, kicking at the little waves that broke around her ankles. Neither of them looked as if they had a care in the world.
Probably they hadn't, but I had.
C
HAPTER
T
HREE
     As I stood in the hot sun, I decided there were two things I could do. I could leave them alone or I could go down there, grab him by the scruff of the neck, drag him back to the gallery, slam the rifle in his hands and make him shoot and keep on shooting.
     I stood for a long moment watching them, then I contained my rage, turned around and walked back to the bungalow.
     My decision to leave them alone was based entirely on what had happened so far. At least, Lucy had got him to hit an inner and I wasn't sure if I could have got him to do that.
     To occupy myself and to try to cool down, I sorted out the cans of food and put them away in the store cupboard. I put two bottles of champagne and a dozen cans of beer in the refrigerator.
     For lunch, I decided we would have a can of tomato soup, chickens' breasts, garden peas and fruit salad. I lined up the cans on the table, then I took a beer from the refrigerator and carried it out on to the verandah. I sat down and held on to my temper which was at flash point.
     The time was close on 11.36.
     From where I sat I couldn't see the beach. The gallery blocked my view. I just sat there thinking about the bond I had buried.
     
As good a shot as you,
Savanto had said.
This is the age of miracles.
     Boy ! Some miracle if we were going to continue the way we had started!
     After I had smoked three more cigarettes and drunk one more beer, I saw Lucy come into sight around the shooting gallery. She headed towards me, half running, half walking, still holding her sandals in her hand.
She was alone.
I forced myself to sit still.
Why alone?
     I waited. She came up a little breathlessly. I could tell by her expression she was scared.
     "Hi !" I put down my glass and looked at her. I gave her the look I reserve strictly for goons. "Did you have a nice paddle?"
     She flinched, but she held her ground.
     "There was nothing else to do." I could see she was desperately anxious to explain it all to me. "When you left, he couldn't even hold the rifle. You frightened the wits out of him."
     "Is that right?" I was ready to explode. "What's with this boneless creep? Is he weak in the head or something?"
     "You frighten him, Jay."
     "You think so?" I sat forward, the blood rising to my face. "Not half as badly as I intend to frighten him if he goes on acting like a goddam prima donna! Where is he?"
     "I told him to stay on the beach until I had talked to you."
     "What's he doing . . . paddling? You realise he should be shooting, don't you? You realise if he doesn't learn to shoot fast we don't get the money? You do realise that, don't you?"
     She looked directly at me.
     "It's because I do realise it and I do realise how much this means to you that I'm trying to help."
     "You think it's helping to take this goof for a paddle?"
"You wound him up . . . I was unwinding him."
     "What do you mean . . . I wound him up?" My voice was a bark. "I couldn't have been nicer to the creep! I left him alone with you just so long as he would shoot. So what happens? You take him paddling!"
     "You don't seem to realise, Jay, that you frighten people."
     "Now you're going to tell me I frighten you too, aren't you?"
     She nodded. Her hands turned into fists. She looked very young, scared and vulnerable.
     "Yes. Since this happened you've become someone I don't know. Yes, you frighten me."
     I slapped my hands down hard on my knees. The sound made her start.
     "I'm sorry. I don't want to frighten you, but this is important to me. It's important to you. We haven't much time." I looked around for a way to ease the tension. "Have a beer?"
     "Yes, please."
     I got up and went into the bungalow. I got a beer and poured it into a glass. I took the glass out to her. She was sitting, staring across at the shooting gallery. I gave her the glass, then sat down. The tension had eased. I watched her drink. Her hand was unsteady. I waited.
     "You see, Jay . . . he doesn't want to shoot."
     I stared at her.
     "He doesn't want to shoot?"
     "No."
     "That's fine! That's marvellous! I only want to hear that to make this my perfect day!" I flung my half-smoked cigarette on to the sand. "So he doesn't want to shoot? Then what the hell is he doing here? His father said he would co-operate! His father said this goof knew the set-up. Now, you tell him he doesn't want to shoot !"
     "He's frightened of his father."
     I ran my fingers through my hair.
     "But he isn't frightened of you. . . that's something."
     "We are rather alike."
     "You're not ! Don't compare yourself with this goon, Lucy. I don't like it."
     "We think alike, Jay."
     I lit another cigarette. I had to do something, otherwise I would have flipped my lid.
     "I don't think so, but never mind. Let's get this straight. You've talked to him. Would you say he doesn't give a goddam if his old man loses half a million bucks?"
     "He didn't say that."
     "And he also wouldn't give a goddam if we lose fifty thousand bucks?" I leaned forward. Okay, I knew I looked ugly with rage, but who wouldn't flip a lid? "Well, I do ! So does his old man! So he's going to shoot if I have to kick him black and blue! He told his father he would cooperate and that's what he is going to do!"
     Lucy put down the glass of half-finished beer. She put her hands on her knees and stared at them as if she were seeing them for the first time.
     "You can't make him shoot, Jay, unless he wants to. You know that."
     "So I'll make him want to!"
A long pause, then she looked at me, her clear blue eyes inquiring.
"How will you do that?"
Yeah . . . the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.
     "I'll talk to him." I wasn't even convincing myself. "I'll make him understand how important this is."
     "He isn't interested in money, Jay. He told me so."
     "I can see that. It's not his money. It's his father's money and my money. Yes, I can see that."
     "Even if it was his, it wouldn't interest him."
     I forced myself to stay calm.
     "Now listen, Lucy, I've had punks like him before and I have turned them into riflemen. You go along with them so far, then you have to turn on the heat." I paused, hesitated, then went on, "I'm beginning to think Savanto had something when he said it would be better for you not to be here. I want you to pack a bag and go to Paradise City. I'll fix a hotel for you. I want you to stay there for nine days and forget Timoteo. I want you to go right away."
     She looked shocked for a moment, then she stared directly at me.
     "You want me to go because you will do things to that boy you would be ashamed to do if I were here. Is that it, Jay?"
     That was it, but I wasn't going to admit it.
     "Don't talk nonsense. This goof has to be handled. We don't have women around in the Army. I don't want my wife around now. This is important. I want you out of here!"
     "I'll get lunch."
"Lucy ! You heard what I said! I want you out of here!"
She got to her feet.
"I'll get lunch," and she went into the bungalow.
I sat still, on the boil, then I got up and followed her in.
She was looking at the cans lined up on the kitchen table.
"Is this what you want for lunch, Jay?"
"If it's okay with you."
She began opening the cans.
"After lunch I want you to pack and go."
     "I'm not going." She poured the soup into a saucepan. Then she paused and looked directly at me. "I'm not going, Jay." Her eyes were bright with tears, but her mouth and chin were firm. "You said : "No matter what, Lucy, I love you. You'll look back on this and you'll forgive me if I've hurt you." That's what you said." She began to shake a little and she looked quickly out of the open window. "You're hurting me now, but I'll look back and I'll forgive you."
     That brought me up short. My anger died. I hesitated, then lifted my hands helplessly.
     "Okay, Lucy, you win. I'm not fighting you or losing you for fifty thousand dollars. So I'll quit. I'll tell Timoteo to get the hell out of here. I'll send the bond back to Savanto. We'll settle for this broken down range and we could still make a success of it. Is that what you want?"
     She was looking at the opened can of chickens' breasts.
     "This looks nice. Are you hungry?"
     "Did you hear what I said?"
A tear ran down her cheek and she flicked it away impatiently.
     "Yes, I heard." She put down the can and now her lips were trembling. "You may be difficult, Jay, and you may be tough and sometimes unkind, but I do know for sure you're not a quitter."
     I stood looking at her for a long moment. It took me a second or so to realise what she was saying, then I grabbed her, whisked her off her feet and carried her into the bedroom.
     "Jay! What are you doing?" She tried to wriggle out of my grip. "Jay! There's lunch to get ready ! Oh, Jay, you mad fool !"
     I undid the tops of her jeans and skinned them off her the way you skin a rabbit. I had her standing on the back of her neck before I got them off.
     She was protesting, but laughing and crying at the same time.
     If I couldn't handle Timoteo Savanto, I could handle my wife.
     Hemingway once wrote that when a man and a woman come together the earth moves . . . not often, but sometimes.
     Well, the earth moved for us.
*
"Jay . . . you could have given me a baby," Lucy said.
     I opened my eyes and stared up at the ceiling with its patterns of sunlight, then I turned over on my side to look at her.
     "Would you like that?" I asked.
     "Yes. Would you?"
     "I guess. I'd teach the little bastard to shoot."
"It could be a girl."
I grinned at her.
     "Then you could teach her to be nice, kind, understanding and as sexy as you are."
     We looked at each other.
     "I'm sorry, honey. I got worked up. Truly, I'm sorry."
     She touched my hand.
     "It's all right, Jay . . . honest."
     From her smile I knew it was all right.
     "You don't really think we made a kid?" I asked.
     She giggled.
     "That's how babies are made. We could have."
     She slid off the bed and struggled into her jeans.
     "Look at the time!"
     It was 12.43.
     I got off the bed and found my slacks.
     "I'll get him. You get lunch."
     "No. . . leave him. He told me he doesn't have lunch. He only eats once a day."
     I shrugged, thinking : a real goon.
     "Well, okay, but remember I eat three times a day."
"As if I could forget."
She ran off into the kitchen.
     I went out on to the verandah. Making love the way we had had relaxed me. I felt I had solved a problem with Lucy, but I still had to solve the problem with Timoteo.
     After lunch we took our coffee out on the verandah.
     "What will you do, Jay?"
     "Go down there and talk to him. It's okay, Lucy, I'll handle him with kid gloves. Did you get around to calling our six pupils?"
     She flushed.
     "I - I forgot."
     "It doesn't matter. The phone's on the blink."
     She looked questioningly at me.
     "What's the matter with it?"
     "The same as the car. We're cut off for nine days. Raimundo is in charge of security."
     "This is crazy !"
BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
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