Read Like A Hole In The Head Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

Like A Hole In The Head (9 page)

BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
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     "There it is. I guess . . ."
     I saw she wasn't listening. She had stiffened and was looking beyond me and the scared look was back in her eyes.
     I looked around.
     Raimundo was leaning against one of the uprights of the verandah. His eyes were screwed up against the sun. He was looking directly at me.
     I finished my coffee, taking my time, then I asked him what he wanted.
     "Can I talk to you?" He sounded polite and he wasn't grinning.
     "Go ahead."
     He glanced at Lucy.
     "You coming over to the gallery?"
     I got to my feet.
     "I'll get to work," I said, smiling at Lucy. "See you."
     I left the shade of the verandah and started off towards the gallery. Raimundo fell into step beside me. We walked in silence until we reached the gallery.
     "What's on your mind?" I asked.
     "It's not what's on my mind. It's what's on yours. Why isn't he shooting?"
     "Look, glamour-boy, you take care of security and I'll take care of the shooting . . . right?"
     His eyes were like points of steel now.
     "It's time you came down to earth, soldier. You don't seem to know what you've walked into."
     "You're flapping with your mouth again. Beat it !" I said. "I have a job to do and you have a job to do. I do my job my way : you do yours your way. Now, dust !"
     He walked into the lean-to and sat on one of the benches. I hesitated, then joined him.
     "Come on . . . beat it !" I snapped.
He looked up at me.
"Are you having trouble with Timoteo?"
"Up on the legs and dust."
"Because if you are I can fix it. That's why I'm here."
"Is it I thought you were here to take care of the security."
"That and Timoteo."
     Then I remembered what Savanto had said.
Two of my men will be
arriving tomorrow with Timoteo. They will look after security, and
will also look after Timoteo if he gets difficult.
     I sat down on the opposite bench. I thought for a moment, then shrugged.
     "I guess I'm having trouble with him," I said. "He doesn't want to shoot."
     "Okay. Why didn't you say so? I'll fix it."
     The confidence in his voice made me stare at him.
     "I didn't ask you to fix it. What's the matter with him?"
     Raimundo sneered.
     "Just a big yellow streak . . . that's all. You and Mrs. Benson have now been with him since 06.00. He has fired off only two shots. Okay, now I'll talk to him."
     "What do you tell him?"
     A sneering smile showed his white teeth.
     "That's between Timoteo and myself, soldier."
     "I'll talk to him first. This morning he was so jumpy he couldn't even hold the rifle. He's had time to calm down. I'll talk to him. If it doesn't work, then you talk to him."
     "Okay. I'll give you two hours."
     "You'll give me nothing! I'll tell you when to talk to him . . . understand?"
     He regarded me with a sneering pity that tempted me to hit him.
     "Man ! Do you sound off ! Maybe, instead of talking to him, I'd better talk to you." He sat back and stabbed his forefinger in my direction. "You don't know it yet, but you're in a jam. You've got to deliver or else. What you have to get into your thick skull is this set-up isn't a game. That yellow slob has got to shoot and it's your job to make him shoot ! If you flop, then you'll not only lose the money Mr. Savanto's promised you, but you will be in personal trouble ! "
     I felt blood rush to my face.
     "Are you threatening me?"
     "No. I don't threaten anyone . . . I deliver messages." He stared at me with his bleak, black eyes. "That's the message Mr. Savanto told me to deliver to you. Remember this : this isn't a game. You're being well paid. You deliver or you'll be in trouble." He stood up. "Don't bust an artery over me. I'm just the messenger boy." He balanced himself on his feet, his hands hanging loosely and I could see he was ready to take and to give a punch. "You got the message, soldier?"
     "Get my phone connected." I said. "I'll talk to Savanto. I'm going to tell him I want you off the scene."
     He grinned.
     "Wouldn't you like that? If he isn't shooting by 16.00, I'll talk to him."
     He walked off. When he was some fifty yards from me, he began to sing. With his looks and his voice he was a TV natural.
* * *
     I found Timoteo sitting under a palm tree, staring out to sea. His long legs were drawn up so that his chin was resting on his knees; his big hands hung slackly between his drawn-up legs.
     I paused to watch him. I stood there in the hot sun for perhaps a minute. During that time, he didn't move. He looked as if he were in a trance.
     So I had to teach this zombie to shoot ! In the past, I had had some crummy material through my hands, but none so crummy as this sad sack.
     I had promised Lucy I would handle him with kid gloves. My instinct was to kick him to his feet and then kick him to the gallery. I waited another minute while I mentally put on my kid gloves, then I approached him. It wasn't until my shadow fell across his big feet that he became aware I was with him.
     He reacted as if someone had goosed him with a hot iron. He sprang to his feet and looked around in panic for a way of escape.
     "Hi, Tim," I said. "Sorry if I startled you. You were miles away."
     He was wearing the sun goggles again. I had to restrain myself from jerking them off his face and smashing them.
     "For the love of mike, sit down." I grinned at him. "The way you act, I'm beginning to think you don't like me."
     I sat in the shade. He still stood there, looking as if he were going to bolt, the vein in his temple pounding.
     "Can't you sit down?"
     He gulped, hesitated, then slowly and reluctantly folded himself about five feet from me. He drew up his long legs and stared fixedly out to sea.
     "I want to talk to you," I said. "Lucy's convinced me from the moment we met we got off on the wrong foot. You're due an explanation. You see, Tim, I'm a one time Army instructor. In the Army, things have to get done fast. There's no time to take personalities into consideration, and without meaning to I have got you feeling hostile towards me."
     I waited for him to say something, but he didn't. He continued to hide behind the goggles and look towards the sea.
     I rubbed the back of my neck and contained my impatience. I had promised Lucy to handle him with kid gloves, so I was going to.
     "Your father wants you to become a crack shot. He wants to win an important, big money bet. You know about that. He made a mistake making the bet, but we all make mistakes sometime or other. I guess because you're his son, you'll want to get him out of the mess he's in." Again I eyed the profile: again no response. He picked on me to help you. I don't know if he told you, but he is offering me fifty thousand dollars to make you a good shot in nine days. With your co-operation, this is possible." Again no response. I went on, "You've been here a few hours and you've seen this place. It's in a mess. I've sunk all the money I got from the Army into it. Maybe I've made a mistake. What I need is extra capital to give this dump a shot in the arm. Your father will give me the capital if — only if — I turn you into a good shot. With this capital, Lucy and I can make a success of the range."
     I looked at him. He continued to stare out to sea. He might have been stone deaf for all the impact I was making on him.
     I sat for a long minute, resisting the urge to get up and kick the arse off him.
     "You've already talked to Lucy," I said, making my final appeal. "She tells me you two think alike. Getting capital to put this place on its feet is as important to her as it is to me. What I'm trying to say, Tim, is now I've explained the set-up to you, can I rely on your co-operation? Will you help us by letting me help you?"
     I waited, watching him. He just sat there, but his big hands had turned into fists. Well, at least he was showing signs of being alive.
     I waited. I had said all I had to say. If he didn't respond, then I had made up my mind to give him the Army treatment.
     Finally, just when I was about to start bawling at him, he began to unwind like a mechanical figure and he climbed to his feet. He hesitated, not looking at me, then with slow, dragging steps, he started towards the shooting gallery.
     When he had disappeared into the lean-to, I got up and went after him.
     I found him standing by his rifle. He had taken off the goggles and he looked as miserable and as animated as a drowned cat.
     I loaded the rifle.
     "Go ahead, Tim," I said. "Take it nice and easy. We have all the afternoon. I want you to get as close to the bull as you can. Don't get fussed if you don't make good shooting : that'll come. Okay?"
     He took the rifle, went over to the shooting stand and began firing.
     I let him loose off six shots. He didn't even clip the target.
     "Okay, Tim . . . hold it." I got out the tripod that Nick Lewis used to use for his most hopeless women pupils. I fixed it up, screwed the rifle to it, lined up the sight, then stepped back. "Just keep shooting." With the tripod he couldn't miss. I thought maybe when he saw his grouping, he might get ambitious. I let him fire off twenty rounds during which time he cut the bull out of the target.
     "That's shooting, but it's only because the gun is rock steady." I took the gun off the tripod. "Now take it dead slow. I only want you to shoot when you're sure you're on target. If it takes an hour to fire six rounds that's okay with me."
     With sweat running down his face, he hung on to the rifle for so long I thought he had become paralysed, then finally he fired. We had a new target now. He got an outer. Well, at least he was hitting something.
     After an hour, he had managed to place six shots around the outer ring and in a group. This was better progress than I had hoped for. All the time he was shooting, he remained silent. He was so tense I imagined I could hear his muscles creaking. Although I wanted to keep him at it, I knew this wouldn't help.
     "Okay, Tim, let's knock it off. I've got a thirst on me that would slay a camel. Let's go over to the bungalow and show Lucy what you've been doing."
     He lowered the rifle the way Hercules must have lowered the world. I went down the sand and took off his two targets and then joined him.
     "How do you feel about it, Tim? It's not so hard, is it?"
     He put his sun goggles on again and I was shut out.
     As we approached the bungalow, I saw Lucy was painting. She was on a ladder, doing the gutter. Already the bungalow looked pretty smart.
     "Hi, Lucy . . . beer," I called.
     She looked down and waved her paint brush, smiling.
     "Get it yourself, helpless. I'm busy."
     "Come on down. I want you to see what Tim's been doing."
     "Suppose Tim comes on up and finishes this gutter. It's killing me!"
     He started forward like a greyhound released from the trap. He was at the bottom of the ladder before I got moving. I heard him say, "I'll be glad to do it. It's too hard for you, Lucy."
     I hung back as she came down the ladder and gave him the brush and the pot of paint. As he climbed the ladder she joined me.
     We walked together into the kitchen.
     "The trouble with him is he's simple minded," I said as I took two cans of beer from the refrigerator.
     "How did he shoot?"
     I waved to the two targets on the table, then zipped open one of the cans of beer. I took a long pull from the can as she studied the targets.
     "This is good, isn't it?"
     "Well, it's a start."
     She looked quickly at me.
     "Thank you for being kind to him, Jay. He needs kindness."
     She went out carrying a can of beer. I hesitated, then shrugged. I was sweating. When I had finished the beer, I went into the bedroom, stripped off and took a shower. I didn't hurry. Thirty minutes later, I came out on to the verandah.
     Lucy was finishing off the gutter. Timoteo wasn't around. "Where is he?"
     Lucy looked down from the top of the ladder.
     "He's gone hack to the gallery."
     "He has? What's this . . . sudden enthusiasm?"
I heard the crack of the rifle.
"I asked him to go back."
"Thanks, Lucy. I'll get over there."
     "No, don't. Leave him alone. Let him shoot on his own. We have a bet on."
     I looked up at her. I could see she was anxious and bothered. "You betted him he could do better?"
     "Yes." She slapped on more paint. "He needs that sort of encouragement."
     I began to get it.
     "You mean he's fallen for you. Is that it?"
     "I guess so. You don't mind, do you, Jay?"
     I grinned a little uneasily.
     "So long as you haven't fallen for him."
     She flushed and looked away.
     "Of course not !"
     All the time we were talking the rifle was firing . . . slow : five or six shots every three minutes. I could imagine him shooting as if his life depended on it. Then I saw Raimundo coming across the sand. He was carrying a long cardboard box in his hand, swinging it and slapping his thigh with it as he walked.
BOOK: Like A Hole In The Head
7.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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