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King Rat \ (by James Clavell, 1999) -

King Rat \   (by James Clavell, 1999) -

King Rat \ (by James Clavell, 1999) -

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King Rat \ (by James Clavell, 1999) -
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1999
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James Clavell
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David Case
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upper-intermediate
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15:07:15
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72 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

King Rat \ :

.doc (Word) clavell_james-king_rat.doc [1,1 Mb] (c: 7) .
.pdf clavell_james-king_rat.pdf [17,25 Mb] (c: 7) .
audiobook (MP3) .


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KING RAT by James Clavell There was a war. Changi and Utram Road jails in Singapore do or did exist. Obviously the rest of this story is fiction, and no similarity to anyone living or dead exists or is intended. Changi was set like a pearl on the eastern tip of Singapore Island, iridescent under the bowl of tropical skies. It stood on a slight rise and around it was a belt of green, and farther off the green gave way to the blue-green seas and the seas to infinity of horizon. Closer, Changi lost its beauty and became what it was an obscene forbidding prison. Cellblocks surrounded by sunbaked courtyards surrounded by towering walls. Inside the walls, inside the cellblocks, story on story, were cells for two thousand prisoners at capacity. Now, in the cells and in the passageways and in every nook and cranny lived some eight thousand men. English and Australian mostly a few New Zealanders and Canadians the remnants of the armed forces of the Far East campaign. These men too were criminals. Their crime was vast. They had lost a war. And they had lived. The cell doors were open and the cellblock doors were open and the monstrous gate which slashed the walls was open and the men could move in and out almost freely. But still there was a closeness, a claustrophobic smell. Outside the gate was a skirting tarmac road. A hundred yards west this road was crossed by a tangle of barbed gates, and outside these gates was a guardhouse peopled with the armed offal of the conquering hordes. Past the barrier the road ran merrily onward, and in the course of time lost itself in the sprawling city of Singapore. But for the men, the road west ended a hundred yards from the main gate. East, the road followed the wall, then turned south and again followed the wall. On either side of the road were banks of long "godowns" as the rough sheds were called. They were all the same sixty paces long with walls made from plaited coconut fronds roughly nailed to posts, and thatch roofs also made from coconut fronds, layer on mildewed layer. Every year a new layer was added, or should have been added. For the sun and the rain and the insects tortured the thatch and broke it down. There were simple openings for windows and doors. The sheds had long thatch overhangs to keep out the sun and the rain, and they were set on concrete stilts to escape floods and the snakes and frogs and slugs and snails, the scorpions, centipedes, beetles, bugs all manner of crawling things. Officers lived in these sheds. South and east of the road were four rows of concrete bungalows, twenty to a row, back to back. Senior officers majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels lived in these. The road turned west, again following the wall, and met another bank of atap sheds. Here was quartered the overflow from the jail. And in one of these, smaller than most, lived the American contingent of twenty-five enlisted men. Where the road turned north once more, hugging the wall, was part of the vegetable gardens. The remainder which supplied most of the camp food lay farther to the north, across the road, opposite the prison gate. The road continued through the lesser garden for two hundred yards and ended in front of the guardhouse. Surrounding the whole sweating area, perhaps half a mile by half a mile, was a barbed fence. Easy to cut. Easy to get through. Scarcely guarded. No searchlights. No machine gun posts. But once outside, what then? Home was across the seas, beyond the horizon, beyond a limitless sea or hostile jungle. Outside was disaster, for those who went and for those who remained. By now, 1945, the Japanese had learned to leave the control of the camp to the prisoners. The Japanese gave orders and the officers were responsible for enforcing them. If the camp gave no trouble, it got none. To ask for food was trouble. To ask for medicine was trouble. To ask for anything was trouble. That they were alive was trouble. For the men, Changi was more than a prison. Changi was genesis, the place of beginning again. Book One Chapter 1 "I'm going to get that bloody bastard if I die in the attempt." Lieutenant Grey was glad that at last he had spoken aloud what had so long been twisting his guts into a knot. The venom in Grey's voice snapped Sergeant Masters out of his reverie. He had been thinking about a bottle of ice-cold Australian beer and a steak with a fried egg on top and his home in Sydney and his wife and the breasts and smell of her. He didn't bother to follow the lieutenant's gaze out the window. He knew who it had to be among the half-naked men walking the dirt path which skirted the barbed fence. But he was surprised at Grey's outburst. Usually the Provost Marshal of Changi was as tight-lipped and unapproachable as any Englishman. "Save your strength, Lieutenant," Masters said wearily, "the Japs'll fix him soon enough." "Bugger the Japs," Grey said. "I want to catch him. I want him in this jail. And when I've done with him I want him in Utram Road Jail." Masters looked up aghast. "Utram Road?" "Certainly." "My oath, I can understand you wanting to get him," Masters said, "but, well, I wouldn't wish that on anyone." "That's where he belongs. And that's where I'm going to put him. Because he's a thief, a liar, a cheat and a bloodsucker. A bloody vampire who feeds on the rest of us." Grey got up and went closer to the window of the sweltering MP hut. He waved at the flies which swarmed from the plank floors and squinted his eyes against the refracted glare of the high noon light beating the packed earth. "By God," he said, "I'll have vengeance for all of us." Good luck, mate, Masters thought. You can get the King if anyone can. You've got the right amount of hate in you. Masters did not like officers and did not like Military Police. He particularly despised Grey, for Grey had been promoted from the ranks and tried to hide this fact from others. But Grey was not alone in his hatred. The whole of Changi hated the King. They hated him for his muscular body, the clear glow in his blue eyes. In this twilight world of the half alive there were no fat or well-built or round or smooth or fair-built or thick-built men. There were only faces dominated by eyes and set on bodies that were skin over sinews over bones. No difference between them but age and face and height. And in all this world, only the King ate like a man, smoked like a man, slept like a man, dreamed like a man and looked like a man. "You," Grey barked. "Corporal! Come over here!" The King had been aware of Grey ever since he had turned the corner of the jail, not because he could see into the blackness of the MP hut but because he knew that Grey was a person of habit and when you have an enemy it is wise to know his ways. The King knew as much about Grey as any man could know about another. He stepped off the path and walked towards the lone hut, set like a pimple among sores of other huts. "You wanted me, sir?" the King said, saluting. His smile was bland. His sun glasses veiled the contempt of his eyes. From his window, Grey stared down at the King. His taut features hid the hate that was part of him. "Where are you going?" "Back to my hut. Sir," the King said patiently, and all the time his mind was figuring angles had there been a slip, had someone informed, what was with Grey? "Where did you get that shirt?" The King had bought the shirt the day before from a major who had kept it neat for two years against the day he would need to sell it for money to buy food. The King liked to be tidy and well-dressed when everyone else was not, and he was pleased that today his shirt was clean and new and his long pants were creased and his socks clean and his shoes freshly polished and his hat stainless. It amused him that Grey was naked but for pathetically patched short pants and wooden clogs, and a Tank Corps beret that was green and solid with tropic mold. "I bought it," the King said. "Long time ago. There's no law against buying anything here, anywhere else. Sir." Grey felt the impertinence in the 'Sir'. "All right, Corporal, inside!" "Why?" "I just want a little chat," Grey said sarcastically. The King held his temper and walked up the steps and through the doorway and stood near the table. "Now what? Sir." "Turn out your pockets." "Why?" "Do as you're told. You know I've the right to search you at any time." Grey let some of his contempt show. "Even your commanding officer agreed." "Only because you insisted on it." "With good reason. Turn out your pockets!" Wearily the King complied. After all, he had nothing to hide. Handkerchief, comb, wallet, one pack of tailor-made cigarettes, his tobacco box full of raw Java tobacco, rice cigarette papers, matches. Grey made sure all pockets were empty, then opened the wallet. There were fifteen American dollars and nearly four hundred Japanese Singapore dollars. "Where did you get this money?" Grey snapped, the ever-present sweat dripping from him. "Gambling. Sir." Grey laughed mirthlessly. "You've a lucky streak. It's been good for nearly three years. Hasn't it?" "You through with me now? Sir." "No. Let me look at your watch." "It's on the list " "I said let me look at your watch!" Grimly the King pulled the stainless steel expanding band off his wrist and handed it to Grey. In spite of his hatred of the King, Grey felt a shaft of envy. The watch was waterproof, shockproof, self-winding. An Oyster Royal. The most priceless possession of Changi other than gold. He turned the watch over and looked at the figures etched into the steel, then went over to the atap wall and took down the list of the King's possessions and automatically wiped the ants off it, and meticulously checked the number of the watch against the number of the Oyster Royal watch on the list. "It checks," the King said. "Don't worry. Sir." "I'm not worried," Grey said. "It's you who are to be worried." He handed the watch back, the watch that could bring nearly six months of food. The King put the watch back on his wrist and began to pick up his wallet and other things. "Oh yes. Your ring!" Grey said. "Let's check that." But the ring checked with the list too. It was itemed as A gold ring, signet of the Clan Gordon. Alongside the description was an example of the seal. "How is it an American has a Gordon ring?" Grey had asked the same question many times. "I won it. Poker," the King said. "Remarkable memory you've got, Corporal," Grey said and handed it back. He had known all along that the ring and the watch would check. He had only used the search as an excuse. He felt compelled, almost masochistically, to be near his prey for just a while. He knew, too, that the King did not scare easily. Many had tried to catch him, and failed, for he was smart and careful and very cunning. "Why is it," Grey asked harshly, suddenly boiling with envy of the watch and ring and cigarettes and matches and money, "that you have so much and the rest of us nothing?" "Don't know. Sir. Guess I'm just lucky." "Where did you get this money?" "Gambling. Sir." The King was always polite. He always said "Sir" to officers and saluted officers, English and Aussie officers. But he knew they were aware of the vastness of his contempt for 'Sir' and saluting. It wasn't the American way. A man's a man, regardless of background or family or rank. If you respect him, you call him 'Sir'. If you don't, you don't, and it's only the sons of bitches that object. To hell with them! The King put the ring back on his finger, buttoned down his pockets and flicked some dust off his shirt. "Will that be all? Sir." He saw the anger flash in Grey's eyes. Then Grey looked across at Masters, who had been watching nervously. "Sergeant, would you get me some water, please?" Wearily Masters went over to the water bottle that hung on the wall. "Here you are, sir." "That's yesterday's," Grey said, knowing it was not. "Fill it with clean water." "I could've swore I filled it first thing," Masters said. Then, shaking his head, he walked out. Grey let the silence hang and the King stood easily, waiting. A breath of wind rustled the coconut trees that soared above the jungle just outside the fence, bringing the promise of rain. Already there were black clouds rimming the eastern sky, soon to cover the sky. Soon they would turn dust into bog and make humid air breathable. "You like a cigarette? Sir," the King said, offering the pack. The last time Grey had had a tailor-made cigarette was two years before, on his birthday. His twenty-second birthday. He stared at the pack and wanted one, wanted them all. "No," he said grimly. "I don't want one of your cigarettes." "You don't mind if I smoke? Sir." "Yes I do!" The King kept his eyes fixed on Grey's and calmly slipped out a cigarette. He lit it and inhaled deeply. "Take that out of your mouth!" Grey ordered. "Sure. Sir." The King took a long slow drag before obeying. Then he hardened. "I'm not under your orders and there's no law that says I can't smoke when I want to. I'm an American and I'm not subject to any goddam flag-waving Union Jack! That's been pointed out to you too. Get off my back! Sir." "I'm after you now, Corporal," Grey erupted. "Soon you're going to make a slip, and when you do I'll be waiting and then you'll be in there." His finger was shaking as he pointed at the crude bamboo cage which served as a cell. "That's where you belong." "I'm breaking no laws " "Then where do you get your money?" "Gambling." The King moved closer to Grey. His anger was controlled, but he was more dangerous than usual. "Nobody gives me nothing. What I have is mine and I made it. How I made it is my own business." "Not while I'm Provost Marshal." Grey's fists tightened. "Lot of drugs have been stolen over the months. Maybe you know something about them." "Why you Listen," the King said furiously, "I've never stolen a thing in my life. I've never sold drugs in my life and don't you forget it! Goddammit, if you weren't an officer I'd " "But I am and I'd like you to try. By God I would! You think you're so bloody tough. Well, I know you're not." "I'll tell you one thing. When we get through this shit of Changi, you come looking for me and I'll hand you your head." "I won't forget!" Grey tried to slow his pumping heart. "But remember, until that time I'm watching and waiting. I've never heard of a run of luck that didn't sometime run out. And yours will!" "Oh no it won't! Sir." But the King knew that there was a great truth in that. His luck had been good. Very good. But luck is hard work and planning and a little something besides, and not gambling. At least not unless it was a calculated gamble. Like today and the diamond. Four whole carats. At last he knew how to get his hands on it. When he was ready. And if he could make this one deal, it would be the last, and there would be no more need to gamble not here in Changi. "Your luck'll run out," Grey said malevolently. "You know why? Because you're like all criminals. You're full of greed " "I don't have to take this crap from you," the King said, and his rage snapped. "I'm no more a criminal than " "Oh but you are. You break the law all the time." "The hell I do. Jap law may say " "To hell with Jap law. I'm talking about camp law. Camp law says no trading. That's what you do!" "Prove it!" "I will in time. You'll make one slip. And then we'll see how you survive along with the rest of us. In my cage. And after my cage, I'll personally see that you're sent to Utram Road!" The King felt a horror-chill rush into his heart and into his testicles. "Jesus," he said tightly. "You're just the sort of bastard who'd do that!" "In your case," Grey said, and there was foam on his lips, "it'd be a pleasure. The Japs are your friends!" "Why, you son of a bitch!" The King bunched a hamlike fist and moved towards Grey. "What's going on here, eh?" Colonel Brant said as he stomped up the steps and entered the hut. He was a small man, barely five feet, and his beard rolled Sikh style under his chin. He carried a swagger cane. His peaked army cap was peakless and all patched with sackcloth; in the center of it, the emblem of a regiment shone like gold, smooth with years of burnishing. "Nothing nothing, sir." Grey waved at the sudden fly-swarm, trying to control his breathing. "I was just searching Corporal " "Come now, Grey," Colonel Brant interrupted testily. "I heard what you said about Utram Road and the Japs. It's perfectly in order to search him and question him, everyone knows that, but there's no reason to threaten or abuse him." He turned to the King, his forehead beaded with sweat. "You, Corporal. You should thank your lucky stars I don't report you to Captain Brough for discipline. You should know better than to go around dressed like that. Enough to drive any man out of his mind. Just asking for trouble." "Yes, sir," the King said, outwardly calm but cursing himself inside for losing his temper just what Grey was trying to make him do. "Look at my clothes," Colonel Brant was saying. "How the hell do you think I feel?" The King made no reply. He thought, That's your problem, Mac you look after you, I'm looking after me. The colonel wore only a loincloth, made from half a sarong, knotted around his waist kiltlike and under the kilt there was nothing. The King was the only man in Changi who wore underpants. He had six pairs. "You think I don't envy you your shoes?" Colonel Brant asked irritably. "When all I've got to wear are these confounded things?" He was wearing regulation slippers a piece of wood and a canvas band for the instep. "I don't know, sir," said the King, with veiled humility, so dear to officer-ear. "Quite right. Quite right." Colonel Brant turned to Grey. "I think you owe him an apology. It's quite wrong to threaten him. We must be fair, eh, Grey?" He wiped more sweat from his face. It took Grey an enormous effort to stop the curse that quivered his lips. "I apologize." The words were low and edged and the King was hard put to keep the smile from his face. "Very good." Colonel Brant nodded, then looked at the King. "All right," he said, "you can go. But dressed like that you're asking for trouble! You've only yourself to blame!" The King saluted smartly. "Thank you, sir." He walked out, and once more in the sunshine he breathed easily, and cursed himself again. Jesus, that'd been close. He had nearly hit Grey and that would have been the act of a maniac. To gather himself, he stopped beside the path and lit another cigarette and the many men who passed by saw the cigarette and smelled the aroma. "Blasted chap," the colonel said at length, still looking after him and wiping his forehead. Then he turned back to Grey. "Really, Grey, you just must be out of your mind to provoke him like that." "I'm sorry. I - I suppose he " "Whatever he is, it certainly isn't like an officer and a gentleman to lose your temper. Bad, very bad, don't you think, eh?" "Yes, sir." There was nothing more for Grey to say. Colonel Brant grunted, then pursed his lips. "Quite right. Lucky I was passing. Can't have an officer brawling with a common soldier." He glanced out of the door again, hating the King, wanting his cigarette. "Blasted man," he said without looking back at Grey, "undisciplined. Like the rest of the Americans. Bad lot. Why, they call their officers by their first names!" His eyebrows soared. "And the officers play cards with the men! Bless my soul! Worse than the Australians and they're a shower if there ever was one. Miserable! Not like the Indian Army, what?" "No. Sir," Grey said thinly. Colonel Brant turned quickly. "I didn't mean - well, Grey, just because " He stopped and suddenly his eyes were filled with tears. "Why, why would they do that?" he said brokenly. "Why, Grey? I we all loved them." Grey shrugged. But for the apology he would have been compassionate. The colonel hesitated, then turned and walked out of the hut. His head was bent and silent tears streamed his cheeks. When Singapore fell in '42, his Sikh soldiers had gone over to the enemy, the Japanese, almost to a man, and they had turned on their English officers. The Sikhs were among the first prison guards over the prisoners of war and some of them were savage. The officers of the Sikhs knew no peace. For it was only the Sikhs en masse, and a few from other Indian regiments. The Gurkhas were loyal to a man, under torture and indignity. So Colonel Brant wept for his men, the men he would have died for, the men he still died for. Grey watched him go, then saw the King smoking by the path. "I'm glad I said that now it's you or me," he whispered to himself. He sat back on the bench as a shaft of pain swept through his bowels, reminding him that dysentery had not passed him by this week. "To hell with it," he said weakly, cursing Colonel Brant and the apology. Masters came back with the full water bottle and gave it to him. He took a sip and thanked him and then began to plan how he would get the King. But the hunger for lunch was on him and he let his mind drift. A faint moan cut the air. Grey glanced abruptly at Masters, who sat unconscious that he had made a sound, watching the constant movement of the house lizards in the rafters as they darted after insects or fornicated. "You have dysentery, Masters?" Masters bleakly waved away the flies that mosaiced his face. "No sir. At least I haven't for nearly five weeks." "Enteric?" "No, thank God. My bloody word. Just amebic. An' I haven't had malaria for near three months. I'm very lucky, an' very fit, considering." "Yes," Grey said. Then as an afterthought, "You look fit." But he knew he would have to get a replacement soon. He looked back at the King, watching him smoke, nauseated with cigarette hunger. Masters moaned again. "What the hell's the matter with you?" Grey said irately. "Nothing, sir. Nothing. I must have" But the effort to speak was too much and Masters let his words slip off and blend with the drone of flies. Flies dominated the day, mosquitoes the night. No silence. Ever. What is it like to live without flies and mosquitoes and people? Masters tried to remember, but the effort was too great. So he just sat still, quiet, hardly breathing, a shell of a man. And his soul twisted uneasily. "All right, Masters, you can go now," Grey said. "I'll wait for your relief. Who is he?" Masters forced his brain to work and after a moment said, "Bluey - Bluey White." "For God's sake, get hold of yourself," Grey snapped. "Corporal White died three weeks ago." "Oh, sorry, sir," Masters said weakly. "Sorry, I must have It's er, I think it's Peterson. The Pommy, I mean, Englishman. Infantryman, I think." "All right. You can go and get your dinner now. But don't dawdle coming back." "Yes, sir." Masters put on his rattan coolie hat and saluted and shambled out of the doorless door, hitching the rags of his pants around his hips. God, Grey thought, you can smell him from fifty paces. They've just got to issue more soap. But he knew that it wasn't just Masters. It was all of them. If you didn't bathe six times a day, the sweat hung like a shroud about you. And thinking of shrouds, he thought again about Masters and the mark that he had on him. Perhaps Masters knew it too, so what was the point of washing? Grey had seen many men die. The bitterness began to well as he thought about the regiment and the war. Damn your eyes, he almost shouted, twenty-four and still a lieutenant! And the war going on all around - all over the world. Promotions every day of the year. Opportunities. And here I am in this stinking POW camp and still a lieutenant. Oh Christ! If only we hadn't been transshipped to Singapore in '42. If only we'd gone where we were supposed to go - to the Caucasus. If only "Stop it," he said aloud. "You're as bad as Masters, you bloody fool!" It was normal in the camp to talk aloud to yourself sometimes. Better to speak out, the doctors had always said, than to keep it all choked inside - that way led to insanity. Most days were not so bad. You could stop thinking about your other life, about the guts of it - food, women, home, food, food, women, food. But the nights were the danger time. At night you dreamed. Dreamed about food and women. Your woman. And soon you would enjoy the dreaming more than the waking, and if you were careless you would dream while awake, and the days would run into nights and the night into day. Then there was only death. Smooth. Gentle. It was easy to die. Agony to live. Except for the King. He had no agony. Grey was still watching him, trying to hear what he was saying to the man beside him, but he was too far away. Grey tried to place the other man but he could not. He could see from the man's armband that he was a major. By Japanese order all officers had to wear armbands with rank insignia on their left arms. At all times. Even naked. The black rain clouds were building fast now. Sheet lightning flecked the east, but still the sun thrust down. A fetid breeze broomed the dust momentarily, then left it settle. Automatically Grey used the bamboo fly-swat. A deft, half unconscious twist of the wrist and another fly fell to the ground, maimed. To kill a fly was careless. Cripple it, then the bastard would suffer and repay in tiny measure your own suffering. Cripple it and it would soundless scream until ants and other flies came to fight over its living flesh. But Grey did not take the usual pleasure in watching the torment of the tormentor. He was too intent on the King. Chapter 2 "By George," the major was saying to the King with forced joviality, "and then there was the time I was in New York, in '33. Marvelous time. Such a wonderful country, the States. Did I ever tell you about the trip I made to Albany? I was a subaltern at the time . . ." "Yes, sir," the King said tiredly. "You've told me." He felt he had been polite long enough and he could still feel Grey's eyes on him. Though he was quite safe and not afraid, he wanted to get out of the sun and out of the range of the eyes. He had a lot to do. And if the major wouldn't come to the point, what the hell! "Well, if you'll excuse me, sir. It was nice to talk to you." "Oh, just a minute," Major Barry said quickly and looked around nervously, conscious of the curious eyes of the men that passed, conscious of their unspoken question - What's he talking to the King for? "I er, could I see you privately?" The King gauged him thoughtfully. "We're private here. If you keep your voice down." Major Barry was wet with embarrassment. But he had been trying to bump into the King for days now. And it was too good an opportunity to miss. "But the Provost Marshal's hut is " "What have the cops to do with talking privately? I don't understand, sir." The King was bland. "There's no need - er - well, Colonel Sellars said that you might be able to help me." Major Barry had only the stump of a right arm and he kept scratching the stump, touching it, molding it. "Would you handle something for us, I mean me." He waited until there was no one within hearing distance. "It's a lighter," he whispered. "A Ronson lighter. Perfect condition." Now that he had come to the point, the major felt a little easier. But at the same time he felt naked, saying these words to the American, out in the sun, on the public path. The King thought a moment. "Who's the owner?" "I am." The major looked up, startled. "My God, you don't think I stole it, do you? Good Lord, I'd never do that. I've kept it safe all this time, but now, well, now we've got to sell it. The unit's all agreed." He licked his dry lips and fondled the stump. "Please. Would you? You can get the best price." "Trading's against the law." "Yes, but please, you would you please? You can trust me." The King turned so that his back was towards Grey and his face towards the fence - just in case Grey could lip read. "I'll send someone after chow," he said quietly. "Password is 'Lieutenant Albany said for me to see you.' Got it?" "Yes." Major Barry hesitated, his heart pumping. "When did you say?" "After chow. Lunch!" "Oh, all right." "Just give it to him. And when I've looked it over, I'll get in touch with you. Same password." The King flipped the burning top off his cigarette and dropped the butt onto the ground. He was just about to step on it when he saw the major's face. "Oh! You want the butt?" Major Barry bent down happily and picked it up. "Thanks. Thanks very much." He opened his little tobacco tin and carefully tore the paper off the butt and put the half inch of tobacco into the dried tea leaves and mixed them together. "Nothing like a little sweetening," he said, smiling. "Thank you very much. It'll make at least three good cigarettes." "I'll see you, sir," said the King saluting. "Oh, um, well " Major Barry did not know quite how to put it. "Don't you think," he said nervously, keeping his voice low, "that, well to give it to a stranger, just like that, how do I know that well, everything will be all right?" The King said coldly, "The password for one thing. Another thing, I've got a reputation. Another thing, I'm trusting you that it's not stolen. Maybe we'd better forget it." "Oh no, please don't misunderstand me," the major said quickly, "I was just asking. It's, well, it's all I have left." He tried to smile. "Thanks. After lunch. Oh, how long do you think it'll take to, er, to dispose of it?" "Soon as I can. Usual terms. I get ten percent of the sale price," the King said crisply. "Of course. Thank you, and thanks again for the tobacco." Now that everything had been said, Major Barry felt an enormous weight off his mind. With luck, he thought as he hurried down the hill, we will get six or seven hundred dollars. Enough to buy food for months, with care. He did not think once of the man who had owned the lighter, who had given it into his keeping when the man had gone to the hospital, months ago, never to return. That was in the past. Today he owned the lighter. It was his. His to sell. The King knew that Grey had been watching him all the time. The excitement of making a deal in front of the MP hut added to his well-being. Pleased with himself, he walked up the slight rise, responding automatically to the greetings of the men - officers and enlisted men, English and Australian - that he knew. The important ones got special treatment, the others a friendly nod. The King was conscious of their malevolent envy and it bothered him not at all. He was used to it; it amused him and added to his stature. And he was pleased that the men called him the King. He was proud of what he had done as a man - as an American. Through running he had created a world. He surveyed his world now and was well satisfied. He stopped outside Hut Twenty-four, one of the Australian huts, and poked his head through a window. "Hey, Tinker," he called out. "I want me a shave and a manicure." Tinker Bell was small and wiry. His skin was pigment-brown and his eyes were small and very brown and his nose was peeling. He was a sheep shearer by trade but he was the best barber in Changi. "Wot's this, your ruddy birthday? I gave you a manicure the day before yesterday." "So I get another today." Tinker shrugged and jumped out the window. The King sat back in the chair under the lee of the hut's overhang, relaxing contentedly as Tinker put the sheet around his neck and settled him just right. "Look at this, mate," he said, and held a little cake of soap under the King's nose. "Smell it." "Hey," said the King, grinning. "That's the real McCoy." "Don't know about that, mate! But it's Yardley's ruddy violets. A cobber o' mine swiped it on a work party. Right from under the nose of a bloody Nip. Cost me thirty dollars," he said with a wink, doubling the price. "I'll keep it just for you, special, if you likes." "Tell you what. I'll make it five bucks a time, instead of three, as long as it lasts," the King said. Tinker calculated quickly. The cake of soap would last perhaps eight shaves, maybe ten. "Strike a light, mate. I 'ardly makes me money back." The King grunted. "You got taken, Tink. I can buy that by the pound for fifteen a cake." "My bloody oath," Tinker burst out, feigning anger. "A cobber taking me for a sucker! Now that ain't right!" Furiously he mixed hot water and the sweet-smelling soap into a lather. Then he laughed. "You're the King all right, mate." "Yeah," the King said contentedly. He and Tinker were old friends. "Ready, mate?" Tinker asked as he held up the lathered brush. "Sure." Then the King saw Tex walking down the path. "Wait a minute. Hey, Tex!" he called out. Tex looked across at the hut and saw the King and ambled over to him. "Yeah?" He was a gangling youth with big ears and a bent nose and contented eyes, and he was tall, very tall. Without being asked, Tinker moved out of earshot as the King beckoned Tex closer. "Do something for me?" he asked quietly. "Sure." The King took out his wallet and peeled off a ten-dollar note. "Go find Colonel Brant. The little guy with the beard rolled under his chin. Give him this." "You know where he'd be?" "Down by the corner of the jail. It's his day for keeping an eye on Grey." Tex grinned. "Hear you had a set-to." "The son of a bitch searched me again." "Tough," said Tex dryly, scratching his blond crewcut. "Yes." The King laughed. "And tell Brant not to be so goddam late next time. But you should have been there, Tex. Man, that Brant's a great actor. He even made Grey apologize." He grinned, then added another five. "Tell him this is for the apology." "Okay. That all?" "No." He gave him the password and told him where to find Major Barry, then Tex went his way and the King settled back. Altogether, today had been very profitable. Grey hurried across the dirt path and up the steps to Hut Sixteen. It was almost lunchtime and he was painfully hungry. Men were already forming an impatient line for food. Quickly Grey went to his bed and got his two mess cans and mug and spoon and fork and joined the line. "Why isn't it here already?" he wearily asked the man ahead of him. "How the hell do I know?" Dave Daven said curtly. His accent was public school - Eton, Harrow or Charterhouse - and he was tall like bamboo. "I was just asking," Grey said irritably, despising Daven for his accent and his birthright. After they had waited an hour, the food arrived. A man carried two containers to the head of the line and set them down. The containers had formerly held five gallons of high-octane gasoline. Now one was half full of rice - dry, pellucid. The other was full of soup. Today it was shark soup - at least, one shark had been divided ounce by ounce into soup for ten thousand men. It was warm and tasted slightly of the fish, and in it there were pieces of eggplant and cabbage, a hundred pounds for ten thousand. The bulk of the soup was made from leaves, red and green, bitter and yet nutritious, grown with so much care in the gardens of the camp. Salt and curry powder and chili pepper spiced it. Silently each man moved forward in turn, watching the serving of the man in front and the man behind, measuring their portions against the one he was given. But now, after three years, the measures were all the same. A cup per man of soup. The rice was steaming as it was served. Today it was Java rice, each grain separate, the best in the world. A cupful per man. A mug of tea. Each man took his food away and ate silently, quickly, with exquisite agony. The weevils in the rice were added nourishment, and the worm or insect in the soup was removed without anger if it was seen. But most men did not look at the soup after the first quick glance to find out if there was a piece of fish in it. Today there was a little left over from the servings and the list was checked and the three men who headed it got the extra and thanked today. Then the food was gone and lunch was over and dinner was at sundown. But though there was only soup and rice, here and there throughout the camp a man might have a piece of coconut or half a banana or piece of sardine or thread of bully or even an egg to mix with his rice. One whole egg was rare. Once a week, if the camp hens laid according to plan, an egg was given to each man. That was a great day. A few men were given one egg every day, but no man wanted to be one of the special few. "Hey listen, you chaps!" Captain Spence stood in the center of the hut, but his voice could be heard outside. He was officer of the week, the hut adjutant, a small dark man with twisted features. He waited till they had all moved inside. "We've got to supply ten more bods for the wood detail tomorrow." He checked his list and called out the names, and then looked up. "Marlowe?" There was no reply. "Anyone know where Marlowe is?" "I think he's down with his unit," Ewart called out. "Tell him he's on the airfield work party tomorrow, will you?" "All right." Spence started coughing. His asthma was bad today, and when the spasm had passed he continued: "The Camp Commandant had another interview with the Jap General this morning. He asked for increased rations and medical supplies." He cleared his throat in the momentary hush. Then he went on and his voice was flat. "He got the usual turndown. The rice ration stays at four ounces of grain per man per day." Spence looked out of the doors and checked that both lookouts were in position. Then he dropped his voice and all the men listened expectantly. "The Allies are about sixty miles from Mandalay, still going strong. They've got the Japs on the run. The Allies are still going in Belgium but the weather's very bad. Snowstorms. On the Eastern front, the same thing, but the Russians are going like bats out of hell and expect to take Krakov in the next few days. The Yanks are going well in Manila. They're near" - he hesitated, trying to remember the name - "I think it's the Agno River, in Luzon. That's all. But it's good." Spence was glad that this part was over. He learned the news by heart daily at the hut adjutants' meeting, and every time he stood up to repeat it publicly, his sweat chilled and his stomach felt empty. One day an informer might point a finger at him and tell the enemy that he was one of the men who delivered the news, and Spence knew that he was not strong enough to stay silent. Or one day a Japanese might hear him tell the others, and then, then "That's all, chaps." Spence went over to his bunk, filled with nausea. He took off his pants and walked out of the hut with a towel over his arm. The sun beat down. Two hours yet until the rain. Spence crossed the asphalt street and stood in line for a shower. He always had to have a shower after he gave the news, for the sweat-stench was acrid on him. "All right, mate?" Tinker asked. The King looked at his nails. They were well manicured. His face felt tight from the hot and cold towels, and tangy with the lotion. "Great," he said as he paid him. "Thanks, Tink." He moved out of the chair, put on his hat and nodded to Tinker and to the colonel who had been waiting patiently for a haircut. Both men stared after him. The King walked briskly up the path once more, past clustering huts, heading for home. He was pleasantly hungry. The American hut was set apart from the others, near enough to the walls to share the afternoon shade, and near enough to the encircling path which was the life stream of the camp and near enough to the fence. It was just right. Captain Brough, USAF, the senior American officer, had insisted that the American enlisted men have their own hut. Most of the American officers would have preferred to move in too it was difficult for them to live among foreigners but this was not allowed, for the Japanese had ordered that officers be separated from enlisted men. The other nationalities found this hard to stomach, the Australians less so than the English. The King was thinking about the diamond. It would not be easy to swing this deal, and this deal he had to swing. Suddenly as he approached the hut, he noticed beside the path a young man sitting on his haunches, talking rapidly in Malay to a native. The man's skin was heavily pigmented and beneath the skin the muscles showed. Wide shoulders. Slim hips. The man wore only a sarong, and the way he wore it, it seemed to belong. His face was craggy, and though he was Changi-thin, there was a grace to his movements and a sparkle about him. The Malay black-brown, tiny was listening intently to the man's lilting speech; then he laughed and showed teeth abused by betel nut, and replied, accenting the melodious language with a wave of his hand. The man joined his laugh and interrupted with a flood of words, oblivious of the King's intent stare. The King could catch only a word here and a word there, for his Malay was bad and he had to get by with a mixture of Malay and Japanese and pidgin English. He listened to the rich laugh and knew it was a rare thing. When this man was laughing, you could see that the laugh came from inside. This was very rare. Priceless. Thoughtfully the King entered the hut. The other men looked up briefly and greeted him amiably. He returned their greetings without favor. But he knew and they knew. Dino was lying on his bunk half asleep. He was a neat little man with dark skin and dark hair, prematurely flecked with gray, and veiled liquid eyes. The King felt the eyes and nodded and saw Dino's smile. But the eyes were not smiling. In the far corner of the hut Kurt looked up from the pants he was trying to patch up and spat on the floor. He was a stunted, evil-looking man with yellow-brown teeth, ratlike, and he always spat on the floor and not one of them liked him, for he would never bathe. Near the center of the hut Byron Jones III and Miller were playing their interminable chess. Both were naked. When Miller's merchant ship was torpedoed two years before, he had weighed two hundred and eighty-eight pounds. He was six feet, seven inches. Now he turned the scale at a hundred and thirty-three, and the folds of belly skin hung like a pelt over his sex. His blue eyes lit up as he reached over and took a knight. Bryon Jones III quickly removed the knight, and now Miller saw that his castle was threatened. "You've had it, Miller," Jones said, scratching the jungle sores on his legs. "Go to hell!" Jones laughed. "The Navy could always take the Merchant Marine at anything." "You bastards still got yourselves sunk. A battleship yet!" "Yeah," Jones said thoughtfully, toying with his eye patch, remembering the death of his ship, the Houston, and the deaths of his buddies and the loss of his eye. The King walked the length of the hut. Max was still sitting beside his bed and the big black box that was chained to it. "Okay, Max," the King said. "Thanks. You can quit now." "Sure." Max had a well-used face. He came from West Side New York and he had learned the lessons of life from those streets at an early age. His eyes were brown and restless. Automatically the King took out his tobacco box and gave Max a little of the raw tobacco. "Gee, thanks," Max said. "Oh yeah, Lee told me to tell you he's done your laundry. He's getting chow today we're on the second shift but he told me to tell you." "Thanks." The King took out his pack of Kooas and a momentary hush fell upon the hut. Before the King could get his matches out, Max was striking his native flint lighter. "Thanks, Max." The King inhaled deeply. Then, after a pause, he said, "You like a Kooa?" "Jesus, thanks," Max said, careless of the irony in the King's voice. "Anything else you want?" "I'll call you if I need you." Max walked down the hut to sit on his string bed beside the door. Eyes saw the cigarette but mouths said nothing. It was Max's. Max had earned it. When it was their day to guard the King's possessions, well, maybe they'd get one too. Dino smiled at Max, who winked back. They would share the cigarette after chow. They always shared what they could find or steal or make. Max and Dino were a unit. And it was the same throughout the world of Changi. Men ate and trusted in units. Twos, threes, rarely fours. One man could never cover enough ground, or find something edible and build a fire and cook it and eat it not by himself. Three was the perfect unit. One to forage, one to guard what had been foraged and one spare. When the spare wasn't sick, he too foraged or guarded. Everything was split three ways: if you got an egg or stole a coconut or found a banana on a work party or made a touch somewhere, it went to the unit. The law, like all natural law, was simple. Only by mutual effort did you survive. To withhold from the unit was fatal, for if you were expelled from a unit, the word got around. And it was impossible to survive alone. But the King didn't have a unit. He was sufficient unto himself. His bed was in the favored corner of the hut, under a window, set just right to catch the slightest breeze. The nearest bed was eight feet away. The King's bed was a good one. Steel. The springs were tight and the mattress filled with kapok. The bed was covered with two blankets, and the purity of sheets peeped from the top blanket near the sun-bleached pillow. Above the bed, stretched tight on posts, was a mosquito net. It was blemishless. The King also had a table and two easy chairs, and a carpet on either side of the bed. On a shelf, behind the bed, was his shaving equipment-razor, brush, soap, blades - and beside them, his plates and cups and homemade electric stove and cooking and eating implements. On the corner wall hung his clothes, four shirts and four long pants and four short pants. Six pairs of socks and underpants were on a shelf. Under the bed were two pairs of shoes, bathing slippers, and a shining pair of Indian chappals. The King sat on one of the chairs and made sure that everything was still in place. He noticed that the hair he had placed so delicately on his razor was no longer there. Crummy bastards, he thought, why the hell should I risk catching their crud. But he said nothing, just made a mental note to lock it up in future. "Hi," said Tex. "You busy?" "Busy" was another password. It meant "Are you ready to take delivery?" The King smiled and nodded and Tex carefully passed over the Ronson lighter. "Thanks," the King said. "You like my soup today?" "You bet," Tex said and walked away. Leisurely the King examined the lighter. As the major had said, it was almost new. Unscratched. It worked every time. And very clean. He unscrewed the flint screw and examined the flint. It was a cheap native flint and almost finished, so he opened the cigar box on the shelf and found the Ronson flint container and put in a new one. He pressed the lever and it worked. A careful adjustment of the wick and he was satisfied. The lighter was not a counterfeit and would surely bring eight hundred, nine hundred dollars. From where he was sitting he could see the young man and the Malay. They were still hard at it, yaketty, yaketty. "Max," he called out quietly. Max hurried up the length of the hut. "Yeah?" "See that guy," the King said, nodding out the window. "Which one? The Wog?" "No. The other one. Get him for me, will you?" Max slipped out of the window and crossed the path. "Hey, Mac," he said abruptly to the young man. "The King wants to see you," and he jerked a thumb towards the hut. "On the double." The man gaped at Max, then followed the line of the thumb to the American hut. "Me?" he asked incredulously, looking back at Max. "Yeah, you." Max said impatiently. "What for?" "How the hell do I know?" The man frowned at Max, hardening. He thought a moment, then turned to Suliman, the Malay. "Nanti-lah," he said. "Bik, tuan," said Suliman, preparing to wait. Then he added in Malay, "Watch thyself, tuan. And go with God." "Fear not, my friend but I thank thee for thy thought," the man said, smiling. He got up and followed Max into the hut. "You wanted me?" he asked, walking up to the King. "Hi," the King said, smiling. He saw that the man's eyes were guarded. That pleased him, for guarded eyes were rare. "Take a seat." He nodded at Max, who left. Without being asked, the other men who were near moved out of earshot so the King could talk in private. "Go on, take a seat," the King said genially. "Thanks." "Like a cigarette?" The man's eyes widened as he saw the Kooa offered to him. He hesitated, then took it. His astonishment grew as the King snapped the Ronson, but he tried to hide it and drew deeply on the cigarette. "That's good. Very good," he said luxuriously. "Thanks." "What's your name?" "Marlowe. Peter Marlowe." Then he added ironically, "And yours?" The King laughed. Good, he thought, the guy's got a sense of humor, and he's no ass kisser. He docketed the information, then said, "You're English?" "Yes." The King had never noticed Peter Marlowe before, but that was not unusual when ten thousand faces looked so much alike. He studied Peter Marlowe silently and the cool blue eyes studied him back. "Kooas are about the best cigarette around," the King said at last. "'Course they don't compare with Camels. American cigarette. Best in the world. You ever had them?" "Yes," Peter Marlowe said, "but actually, they tasted a little dry to me. My brand's Gold Flake." Then he added politely, "It's a matter of taste, I suppose." Again a silence fell and he waited for the King to come to the point. As he waited, he thought that he liked the King, in spite of his reputation, and he liked him for the humor that glinted behind his eyes. "You speak Malay very well," the King said, nodding at the Malay, who waited patiently. "Oh, not too badly, I suppose." The King stifled a curse at the inevitable English underplay. "You learn it here?" he asked patiently. "No. In Java." Peter Marlowe hesitated and looked around. "You've quite a place here." "Like to be comfortable. How's that chair feel?" "Fine." A flicker of surprise showed. "Cost me eighty bucks," the King said proudly. "Year ago." Peter Marlowe glanced at the King sharply to see if it was meant as a joke, to tell him the price, just like that, but he saw only happiness and evident pride. Extraordinary, he thought, to say such a thing to a stranger. "It's very comfortable," he said, covering his embarrassment. "I'm going to fix chow. You like to join me?" "I've just had lunch," Peter Marlowe said carefully. "You could probably use some more. Like an egg?" Now Peter Marlowe could no longer conceal his amazement, and his eyes widened. The King smiled and felt that it had been worthwhile to invite him to eat to get a reaction like that. He knelt down beside his black box and carefully unlocked it. Peter Marlowe stared down at the contents, stunned. Half a dozen eggs, sacks of coffee beans. Glass jars of gula malacca, the delicious toffee-sugar of the Orient. Bananas. At least a pound of Java tobacco. Ten or eleven packs of Kooas. A glass jar full of rice. Another with katchang idju beans. Oil. Many delicacies in banana leaves. He had not seen treasure in such quantity for years. The King took out the oil and two eggs and relocked the box. When he glanced back at Peter Marlowe, he saw that the eyes were once more guarded, the face composed. "How you like your egg? Fried?" "Well, it seems a little unfair to accept." It was difficult for Peter Marlowe to speak. "I mean, you don't go offering eggs, just like that." The King smiled. It was a good smile and warmed Peter Marlowe. "Think nothing of it. Put it down to 'hands across the sea' lend-lease." A flicker of annoyance crossed the Englishman's face and his jaw muscles hardened. "What's the matter?" the King asked abruptly. After a pause Peter Marlowe said, "Nothing." He looked at the egg. He wasn't due an egg for six days. "If you're sure I won't be putting you out, I'd like it fried." "Coming up," the King said. He knew he had made a mistake somewhere, for the annoyance was real. Foreigners are weird, he thought. Never can tell how they're going to react. He lifted his electric stove onto the table and plugged it into the electric socket. "Neat, huh?' he said pleasantly. "Yes." "Max wired it for me," he said, nodding down the hut. Peter Marlowe followed his glance. Max looked up, feeling eyes on him. "You want something?" "No," the King said. "Just telling him how you wired the hot plate." "Oh! It working all right?" "Sure." Peter Marlowe got up and leaned out of the window, calling out in Malay. "I beg thee do not wait. I will see thee again tomorrow, Suliman." "Very well, tuan, peace be upon thee." "And upon thee." Peter Marlowe smiled and sat down once more and Suliman walked away. The King broke the eggs neatly and dropped them into the heated oil. The yolk was rich-gold and its circling jelly sputtered and hissed against the heat and began to set, and all at once the sizzle filled the hut. It filled the minds and filled the hearts and made the juices flow. But no one said anything or did anything. Except Tex. He forced himself up and walked out of the hut. Many men who walked the path smelled the fragrance and hated the King anew. The smell swept down the slope and into the MP hut. Grey knew and Masters knew at once where it came from. Grey got up, nauseated, and went to the doorway. He was going to walk around the camp to escape the aroma. Then he changed his mind and turned back. "Come on, Sergeant," he said. "We'll pay a call on the American hut. Now'd be a good time to check on Sellars' story!" "All right," Masters said, almost ruptured by the smell. "The bloody bastard could at least cook before lunch not just after not when supper's five hours away." "The Americans are the second shift today. They haven't eaten yet." Within the American hut, the men picked up the strings of time. Dino tried to go back to sleep and Kurt continued sewing and the poker game resumed and Miller and Byron Jones III resumed their interminable chess. But the sizzle destroyed the drama of an inside straight and Kurt stuck the needle in his finger and swore obscenely, and Dino's sleep-urge left him and Byron Jones III watched appalled as Miller took his queen with a lousy stinking pawn. "Jesus H. Christ," Byron Jones III said to no one, choked. "I wish it would rain." No one answered. For no one heard anything except the crackle and the hiss. The King too was concentrating. Over the frypan. He prided himself that no one could cook an egg better then he. To him a fried egg had to be cooked with an artist's eye, and quickly yet not too fast. The King glanced up and smiled at Peter Marlowe, but Marlowe's eyes were on the eggs. "Christ," he said softly, and it was a benediction, not a curse. "That smells so good." The King was pleased. "You wait till I've finished. Then you'll see the goddamnedest egg you've ever seen." He powdered the eggs delicately with pepper, then added the salt. "You like cooking?" he asked. "Yes," said Peter Marlowe. His voice sounded unlike his real voice to him. "I do most of the cooking for my unit." "What do you like to be called? Pete? Peter?" Peter Marlowe covered his surprise. Only tried and trusted friends called you by your Christian name how else can you tell friends from acquaintances? He glanced at the King and saw only friendliness, so, in spite of himself, he said, "Peter." "Where do you come from? Where's your home?" Questions, questions, thought Peter Marlowe. Next he'll want to know if I'm married or how much I have in the bank. His curiosity had prompted him to accept the King's summons, and he almost cursed himself for being so curious. But he was pacified by the glory of the sizzling eggs. "Portchester," he answered. "That's a little hamlet on the south coast. In Hampshire." "You married, Peter?" "Are you?" "No." The King would have continued but the eggs were done. He slipped the frypan off the stove and nodded to Peter Marlowe. "Plates're in back of you," he said. Then he added not a little proudly, "Lookee here!" They were the best fried eggs Peter Marlowe had ever seen, so he paid the King the greatest compliment in the English world. "Not bad," he said flatly. "Not too bad, I suppose," and he looked up at the King and kept his face as impassive as his voice and thereby added to the compliment. "What the hell are you talking about, you son of a bitch?" the King said furiously. "They're the best goddam eggs you've seen in your life!" Peter Marlowe was shocked, and there was a death-silence in the hut. Then a sudden whistle broke the spell. Instantly Dino and Miller were on their feet and rushing towards the King, and Max was guarding the doorway. Miller and Dino shoved the King's bed into the corner and took up the carpets and stuffed them under the mattress. Then they took other beds and shoved them close to the King so that now, like everyone else in Changi, the King had only four feet of space by six feet of space. Lieutenant Grey stood in the doorway. Behind him a nervous pace was Sergeant Masters. The Americans stared at Grey, and after just enough of a pause to make their point they all got up. After an equally insulting pause Grey saluted briefly and said, "Stand easy." Peter Marlowe alone had not moved and still sat in his chair. "Get up," hissed the King, "he'll throw the book at you. Get up!" He knew from long experience that Grey was hopped up now. For once Grey's eyes were not probing him, they were just fixed on Peter Marlowe, and even the King winced. Grey walked, the length of the hut, taking his time, until he stood over Peter Marlowe. He took his eyes off Peter Marlowe and stared at the eggs for a long moment. Then he glanced at the King and back to Peter Marlowe. "You're a long way from home, aren't you, Marlowe?" Peter Marlowe's fingers took out his cigarette box and put a little tobacco in a slip of rattan grass. He rolled a funnel-cigarette and carried it to his lips. The length of his pause was a slap in Grey's face. "Oh, I don't know, old boy," he said softly. "An Englishman's at home wherever he is, don't you think?" "Where's your armband?" "In my belt." "It's supposed to be on your arm. Those are orders." "They're Jap orders. I don't like Jap orders," said Peter Marlowe. "They are also camp orders," Grey said. Their voices were quite calm and only a trifle irritated to American ears, but Grey knew and Peter Marlowe knew. And there was a sudden declaration of war between them. Peter Marlowe hated the Japanese and Grey represented the Japanese to him, for Grey enforced camp orders which were also Japanese orders. Relentlessly. Between them there was the deeper hate, the inbred hate of class. Peter Marlowe knew that Grey despised him for his birth and his accent, what Grey wanted beyond all things and could never have. "Put it on!" Grey was within his right to order it. Peter Marlowe shrugged and pulled out the band and slipped it about his left elbow. On the band was his rank. Flight Lieutenant, RAF. The King's eyes widened. Jesus, an officer, he thought, and I was going to ask him to "So sorry to interrupt your lunch," Grey was saying. "But it seems that someone has lost something." "Lost something?" Jesus Christ, the King almost shouted. The Ronson! Oh my God, his fear screamed. Get rid of the goddam lighter! "What's the matter, Corporal," Grey said narrowly, noticing the sweat which pearled the King's face. "It's hot, isn't it?" the King said limply. He could feel his starched shirt wilting from the sweat. He knew he had been framed. And he knew that Grey was playing with him. He wondered quickly if he dared to make a run for it, but Peter Marlowe was between him and the window and Grey could easily catch him. And to run would be to admit guilt. He saw Grey say something and he was poised between life and death. "What did you say, sir?" and the "sir" was not an insult, for the King was staring at Grey incredulously. "I said that Colonel Sellars has reported the theft of a gold ring!" Grey repeated balefully. For a moment the King felt lightheaded. Not the Ronson at all! Panic for nothing! Just Sellars' goddam ring. He had sold it three weeks ago for Sellars at at a tidy profit. So Sellars has just reported a theft, has he? Lying son of a bitch. "Gee," he said, a thread of laughter in his voice, "gee, that's tough. Stolen. Can you imagine that!" "Yes I can," said Grey harshly. "Can you?" The King did not answer. But he wanted to smile. Not the lighter! Safe! "Do you know Colonel Sellars?" Grey was asking. "Slightly, sir. I've played bridge with him, once or twice." The King was quite calm now. "Did he ever show the ring to you?" Grey said relentlessly. The King double-checked his memory. Colonel Sellars had shown him the ring twice. Once when he had asked the King to sell it for him, and the second time when he had gone to weigh the ring. "Oh no, sir," he said innocently. The King knew he was safe. There were no witnesses. "You're sure you never saw it?" Grey said. "Oh no, sir." Grey was suddenly sick of the cat-and-mouse game and he was nauseated with hunger for the eggs. He would have done anything, anything for one of them. "Have you got a light, Grey, old boy?" Peter Marlowe said. He had not brought his native lighter with him. And he needed a smoke. Badly. His dislike of Grey had dried his lips. "No." Get your own light, Grey thought angrily, turning to go. Then he heard Peter Marlowe say to the King, "Could I borrow your Ronson please?" And slowly he turned back. Peter Marlowe was smiling up at the King. The words seemed etched upon the air. Then they sped into all corners of the hut. Appalled, groping for time, the King started to find some matches. "It's in your left pocket," Peter Marlowe said. And in that moment the King lived and died and was born again. The men in the hut did not breathe. For they were to see the King chopped. They were to see the King caught and taken and put away, a thing which beyond all things was an impossibility. Yet here was Grey and here was the King and here was the man who had fingered the King and laid him like a lamb on Grey's altar. Some of the men were horrified and some were gloating and some were sorry and Dino thought angrily, Jesus, and it was my day to guard the box tomorrow! "Why don't you light it for him?" Grey said. The hunger had left him and in its place was only warmth. Grey knew that there was no Ronson lighter on the list. The King took out the lighter and snapped it for Peter Marlowe. The flame that was to burn him was straight and clean. "Thanks." Peter Marlowe smiled, and only then did he realize the enormity of his deed. "So," said Grey as he took the lighter. The word sounded majestic and final and violent. The King did not answer, for there was no answer. He merely waited, and now that he was committed, he felt no fear, he only cursed his own stupidity. A man who fails through his own stupidity has no right to be called a man. And no right to be the King, for the strongest is always the King, not by strength alone, but King by cunning and strength and luck together. "Where did this come from, Corporal?" Grey's question was a caress. Peter Marlowe's stomach turned over and his mind worked frantically and then he said, "It's mine." He knew that it sounded like the lie it was, so he added quickly, "We were playing poker. I lost it. Just before lunch." Grey and the King and all the men stared at him stunned. "You what?" said Grey. "Lost it," repeated Peter Marlowe. "We were playing poker. I had a straight. You tell him," he added abruptly to the King, tossing the ball to him to test him. The King's mind was still in shock but his reflexes were good. His mouth opened and he said, "We were playing stud. I had a full, and . . ." "What were the cards'?" "Aces on twos." Peter Marlowe interrupted without hesitation. What the hell is stud? he asked himself. The King winced. In spite of magnificent control. He had been about to say kings on queens, and he knew that Grey had seen the shudder. "You're lying, Marlowe!" "Why, Grey, old chap, what a thing to say!" Peter Marlowe was playing for time. What the bloody hell is stud? "It was pathetic," he said, feeling the horror-pleasure of great danger. "I thought I had him. I had a straight. That's why I bet my lighter. You tell him," he said abruptly to the King. "How do you play stud, Marlowe?" Thunder broke the silence, grumbling on the horizon, and the King opened his mouth but Grey stopped him. "I asked Marlowe," he said threateningly. Peter Marlowe was helpless. He looked at the King and though his eyes said nothing, the King knew. "Come on," Peter Marlowe said quickly, "let's show him." The King immediately turned for the cards and said without hesitation, "It was my hole card " Grey whirled furiously. "I said I wanted Marlowe to tell me. One more word out of you and I'll put you under arrest for interfering with justice." The King said nothing. He only prayed that the clue had been sufficient. "Hole card" registered in the distance of Peter Marlowe's memory. And he remembered. And now that he knew the game, he began to play with Grey. "Well," he said worriedly, "it's like any other poker game, Grey." "Just explain how you play the game!" Grey thought that he had them in the lie. Peter Marlowe looked at him, his eyes flinty. The eggs were getting cold. "What are you trying to prove, Grey? Any fool knows that it's four cards face up and one down one in the hole." A sigh fled through the room. Grey knew there was nothing he could do now. It would be his word against Marlowe's, and he knew that even here in Changi he would have to do better than that. "That's right," he said grimly, looking from the King to Peter Marlowe. "Any fool knows that." He handed the lighter back to the King. "See it's put on the list." "Yes, sir." Now that it was over, the King allowed some of his relief to show. Grey looked at Peter Marlowe a last time, and the look was both a promise and a threat. "The old school tie would be very proud of you today," he said with contempt, and he started out of the hut, Masters shuffling after him. Peter Marlowe stared after Grey, and when Grey had reached the door, he said just a little louder than was necessary to the King, still watching Grey, "Can I use your lighter - my fag's out." But Grey's stride did not falter, nor did he look back. Good man, thought Peter Marlowe grimly, good nerves - good man to have on your side in a death battle. And an enemy to cherish. The King sat weakly in the electric silence and Peter Marlowe took the lighter from his slack hand and lit his cigarette. The King automatically found his packet of Kooas and stuck one in his lips and held it there, not feeling it. Peter Marlowe leaned across and snapped the lighter for the King. The King took a long time to focus on the flame and then he saw that Peter Marlowe's hand was as unsteady as his own. He looked down the length of the hut where the men were like statues, staring back at him. He could feel the sweat-chill on his shoulders and the wetness of his shirt. There was a clattering of cans outside. Dino got up and looked out expectantly. "Chow," he called out happily. The spell shattered and the men left the hut with their eating utensils. And Peter Marlowe and the King were quite alone. Chapter 3 The two men sat for a moment, gathering themselves. Then Peter Marlowe said shakily, "God, that was close!" "Yes," the King said after an unhurried pause. Involuntarily, he shuddered again, then found his wallet and took out two ten-dollar bills and put them on the table. "Here," he said, "this'll do for now. But you're on the payroll from here on in. Twenty a week." "What?" "I'll give you twenty a week." The King thought a moment. "Guess you're right," he said agreeably and smiled. "It is worth more. We'll make it thirty." Then his eyes noticed the armband, so he added, "Sir." "You can still call me Peter," Peter Marlowe said, his voice edged. "And just for the books I don't want your money." He got up and began to leave. "Thanks for the cigarette." "Hey, wait a minute," the King said, astonished. "What the hell's gotten into you?" Peter Marlowe stared down at the King and the anger flickered his eyes. "What the hell do you think I am? Take your money, and shove it." "Something wrong with my money?" "No. Only your manners!" "Since when has manners got anything to do with money?" Peter Marlowe abruptly turned to go. The King jumped up and stood between Peter Marlowe and the door. "Just a minute," he said and his voice was taut. "I want to know something. Why did you cover up for me?" "Well, that's obvious, isn't it? I dropped you in the creek. I couldn't leave you holding the baby. What do you think I am?" "I don't know. I'm trying to find out." "It was my mistake. I'm sorry." "You got nothing to be sorry about," the King said sharply. "It was my mistake. I got stupid. Nothing to do with you." "It makes no difference." Peter Marlowe's face was granite like his eyes. "But you must think me a complete shit if you expect me to let you be crucified. And a bigger one if you think I want money from you when I'd been careless. I'm not taking that from anyone!" "Sit down a minute. Please." "Why?" "Goddammit, because I want to talk to you." Max hesitated at the door with the King's mess cans. "Excuse me," he said cautiously, "here's your chow. You want some tea?" "No. And Tex gets my soup today." He took the mess can of rice and put it on the table. "Okay," said Max, still hesitating, wondering if the King wanted a hand to beat hell out of the son of a bitch. "Beat it, Max. And tell the others to leave us alone for a minute." "Sure." Max went out agreeably. He thought the King was very wise to have no witnesses, not when you clobber an officer. The King looked back at Peter Marlowe. "I'm asking you. Will you sit down a minute? Please." "All right," said Peter Marlowe stiffly. "Look," the King began patiently. "You got me out of the noose. You helped me it's only right I help you. I offered you the dough because I wanted to thank you. If you don't want it, fine but I didn't mean to insult you. If I did, I apologize." "Sorry," Peter Marlowe said, softening. "I've got a bad temper. I didn't understand." The King stuck out his hand. "Shake on it." Peter Marlowe shook hands. "You don't like Grey, do you?" the King said carefully. "No." "Why?" Peter Marlowe shrugged. The King divided the rice carelessly and handed him the larger portion. "Let's eat." "But what about you?" said Peter Marlowe, gaping at the bigger helping. "I'm not hungry. My appetite went with the birds. Jesus, that was close. I thought we'd both had it." "Yes," Peter Marlowe said, with the beginning of a smile. "It was a lot of fun, wasn't it?" "Huh?" "Oh, the excitement. Haven't enjoyed anything so much in years, I suppose. The danger excitement." "There are a lot of things I don't understand about you," the King said weakly. "You mean to say you enjoyed it?" "Certainly didn't you? I thought it was almost as good as flying a Spit. You know, at the time it frightens you, but at the same time doesn't and during and after you feel sort of lightheaded." "I think you're just out of your head." "If you weren't enjoying it then why the hell did you try to throw me with 'stud'? I bloody nearly died." "I didn't try to throw you. Why the hell would I want to throw you?" "To make it more exciting and to test me." The King bleakly wiped his eyes and his face. "You mean to say you think I did that deliberately?" "Of course. I did the same to you when I passed the questioning to you." "Let's get this straight. You did that just to test my nerves?" the King gasped. "Of course, old boy," Peter Marlowe said. "I don't understand what's the matter." "Jesus," said the King, a nervous sweat beginning again. "We're almost in the pokey and you play games!" The King paused for breath. "Crazy, just plain crazy, and when you hesitated after I'd fed you the 'hole' clue, I thought we were dead." "Grey thought that too. I was just playing with him. I only finished it quickly because the eggs were getting cold. And you don't see a fried egg like that every day. My word on it." "I thought you said it wasn't any good." "I said it wasn't 'bad.'" Peter Marlowe hesitated. "Look. Saying it's 'not bad' means that it's exceptional. That's a way of paying a chap a compliment without embarrassing him." "You're out of your skull! You risk my neck and your own to add to the danger, you blow your stack when I offer you some money with no strings attached, and you say something's 'not bad' when you mean it's great. Jesus," he added, stupefied, "I guess I'm simple or something." He glanced up and saw the perplexed look on Peter Marlowe's face and he had to laugh. Peter Marlowe began laughing too, and soon the two men were hysterical. Max peered into the hut and the other Americans were close behind. "What the hell's gotten into him?" Max said gaping. "I thought by now he'd be beating his fucking head in." "Madonna," gasped Dino. "First the King nearly gets chopped, and now he's laughing with the guy who fingered him." "Don't make sense." Max's stomach had been flapping ever since the warning whistle. The King looked up and saw the men staring at him. He pulled out the remains of the pack of cigarettes. "Here, Max. Pass these around. Celebration!" "Gee, thanks." Max took the pack. "Wow! That was a close one. We're all so happy for you." The King read the grins. Some were good and he marked those. Some were false and he knew those anyway. The men echoed Max's thanks. Max herded the men outside once more and began to divide the treasure. "It's shock," he said quietly. "Must be. Like shell shock. Any moment he'll be tearing the Limey's head off." He stared off as another burst of laughter came from the hut, then shrugged. "He's off his head and no wonder." "For God's sake," Peter Marlowe was saying, holding his stomach. "Let's eat. If I don't soon, I won't be able to." So they began to eat. Between laughter spasms. Peter Marlowe regretted that the eggs were cold, but the laughter warmed the eggs and made them superb. "They need a little salt, don't you think?" he said, trying to keep his voice flat. "Gee, I guess so. I thought I'd used enough." The King frowned and turned for the salt and then he saw the crinkling eyes. "What the hell's up now?" he asked, beginning to laugh in spite of himself. "That was a joke, for God's sake. You Americans don't have much of a sense of humor, do you?" "Go to hell! And for Chrissake stop laughing!" When they had finished the eggs, the King put some coffee on the hot plate and searched for his cigarettes. Then he remembered he had given them away, so he reached down and unlocked the black box. "Here, try some of this," Peter Marlowe said, offering his tobacco box. "Thanks, but I can't stand the stuff. It plays hell with my throat." "Try it. It's been treated. I learned how from some Javanese." Dubiously the King took the cigarette box. The tobacco was the same cheap weed, but instead of being straw-yellow it was dark golden; instead of being dry it was moist and had a texture; instead of being odorless it smelled like tobacco, sweet-strong. He found his packet of rice papers and took an overgenerous amount of the treated weed. He rolled a sloppy tube and nipped off the protruding ends, dropping the excess tobacco carelessly on the floor. Godalmighty, thought Peter Marlowe, I said try it, not take the bloody lot. He knew he should have picked up the shreds of tobacco and put them back in the box, but he did not. Some things a chap can't do, he thought again. The King snapped the lighter and they grinned together at the sight of it. The King took a careful puff, then another. Then a deep inhale. "But it's great," he said astonished. "Not as good as a Kooa - but this's " He stopped and corrected himself. "I mean it's not bad." "It's not bad at all." Peter Marlowe laughed. "How the hell do you do it?" "Trade secret." The King knew he had a gold mine in his hands. "I guess it's a long and involved process," he said delicately. "Oh, actually it's quite easy. You just soak the raw weed in tea, then squeeze it out. Then you sprinkle a little white sugar over it and knead it in, and when it's all absorbed, cook it gently in a frying pan over a low heat. Keep turning it over or it'll spoil. You've got to get it just right. Not too dry and not too moist." The King was surprised that Peter Marlowe had told him the process so easily without making a deal first. Of course, he thought, he's just whetting my appetite. Can't be that easy or everyone'd be doing it. And he probably knows I'm the only one who could handle the deal. "Just like that?" the King said smiling. "Yes. Nothing to it really." The King could see a thriving business. Legitimate too. "I suppose everyone in your hut cures their tobacco the same way." Peter Marlowe shook his head. "I just do it for my unit. I've been teasing them for months, telling them all sorts of stories, but they've never worked out the exact way." The King's smile was huge. "Then you're the only one who knows how to do it!" "Oh no," said Peter Marlowe and the King's heart sank. "It's a native custom. They do it all over Java." The King brightened. "But no one here knows about it, do they?" "I don't know. I've really never thought about it." The King let the smoke dribble out of his nostrils and his mind worked rapidly. Oh yes, he told himself, this is my lucky day. "Tell you what, Peter. I got a business proposition for you. You show me exactly how to do it, and I'll cut you in for " He hesitated. "Ten percent." "What?" "All right. Twenty-five." "Twenty-five?" "All right," the King said, looking at Peter Marlowe with new respect. "You're a hard trader and that's great. I'll organize the whole deal. We'll buy in bulk. We'll have to set up a factory. You can oversee production and I'll look after sales." He stuck out his hand. "We'll be partners split right down the middle, fifty-fifty. It's a deal." Peter Marlowe stared down at the King's hand. Then he looked into his face. "Oh no it's not!" he said decisively. "Goddammit," the King exploded. "That's the fairest offer you'll ever get. What could be fairer? I'm putting up the dough. I'll have to " A sudden thought stopped him. "Peter," he said after a moment, hurt but not showing it, "no one has to know we're partners. You just show me how to do it, and I'll see you get your share. You can trust me." "I know that," Peter Marlowe said. "Then we'll split fifty-fifty." The King beamed. "No we won't." "Jesus Christ," the King said as he felt the screws applied. But he held his temper and thought about the deal. And the more he thought he looked around to make sure that no one was listening. Then he dropped his voice and said hoarsely, "Sixty-forty, and I've never offered that to anyone in my life. Sixty-forty it is." "No it isn't." "Isn't?" the King burst out, shocked. "I've got to get something out of the deal. What the hell do you want for the process? Cash on the line?" "I don't want anything," said Peter Marlowe. "Nothing?" The King sat down feebly, wrecked. Peter Marlowe was bewildered. "You know," he said hesitantly, "I don't understand why you get so excited about certain things. The process isn't mine to sell. It's a simple native custom. I couldn't possibly take anything from you. That wouldn't be right. Not at all. And anyway, I " Peter Marlowe stopped and said quickly, "Would you like me to show you now?" "Just a minute. You mean to tell me you want nothing for showing me the process? When I've offered to split sixty-forty with you? When I tell you I can make money out of the deal?" Peter Marlowe nodded. "That's crazy," the King said helplessly. "It's wrong. I don't understand." "Nothing to understand," Peter Marlowe said, smiling faintly. "Put it down to sunstroke." The King studied him a long moment. "Will you give me a straight answer to a straight question?" "Yes. Of course." "It's because of me, isn't it?" The words hung in the heat between them. "No," said Peter Marlowe, breaking the silence. And there was truth between them. An hour later Peter Marlowe was watching Tex cook the second batch of tobacco. This time Tex was doing it without help, and the King was clucking around like an old hen. "You sure he put in the right amount of sugar?" the King asked Peter Marlowe anxiously. "Exactly right." "How long will it be now?" "How long do you think, Tex?" Tex smiled back at Peter Marlowe and stretched his gangling six-foot three. "Five, maybe six minutes, thereabouts." Peter Marlowe got up. "Where's the place? The loo?" "The John? Around the back." The King pointed. "But can't you wait till Tex's finished? I want to make sure he's got it right." "Tex's doing fine," Peter Marlowe said and walked out. When he came back Tex took the frypan off the stove. "Now," he said nervously and glanced at Peter Marlowe to check if his timing was right. "Just right," said Peter Marlowe, examining the treated tobacco. Excitedly the King rolled a cigarette in rice paper. So did Tex and Peter Marlowe. They lit up. With the Ronson. Another delighted laugh. Then silence as each man became a connoisseur. "Jolly good," said Peter Marlowe decisively. "I told you it was quite simple, Tex." Tex breathed a sigh of relief. "It's not bad," said the King thoughtfully. "What the hell're you talking about," Tex said, flaring. "It's goddam good!" Peter Marlowe and the King were convulsed. They explained why and then Tex too was laughing. "We got to have a brand name." The King thought a moment. "I got it. How about Three Kings? One for King Royal Air Force, one for King Texas an' one for me." "Not bad," Tex said. "We'll start the factory tomorrow." Tex shook his head. "I'm on a work party." "The hell with it! I'll get Dino to sub for you." "No. I'll ask him." Tex got up and smiled at Peter Marlowe. "Happy to know you, sir." "Forget the sir, will you?" Peter Marlowe said. "Sure. Thanks." Peter Marlowe watched him go. "Funny," he said quietly to the King. "I've never seen so many smiles in one hut before." "There's no point in not smiling, is there? Things could be a lot worse. You get shot down flying the hump?" "You mean the Calcutta-Chungking route? Over the Himalayas?" "Yeah." The King nodded at the tobacco. "Fill your box." "Thanks. I will if you don't mind." "Anytime you're short, come and help yourself." "Thanks, I'll do that. You're very kind." Peter Marlowe wanted another cigarette but he knew that he was smoking too much. If he smoked another now, then the hunger would hurt more. Better go easy. He glanced at the sun-shadow and promised that he would not smoke again until the shadow had moved two inches. "I wasn't shot down at all. My kite my plane got hit in an air raid in Java. I couldn't get it up. Rather a bore," he added, and tried to hide the bitterness. "That's not so bad," said the King. "You might've been in it. You're alive and that's what counts. What were you flying?" "Hurricane. Single-seat fighter. But my regular plane's a Spit-Spitfire." "I've heard about them never seen one. You guys sure as hell made the Germans look sick." "Yes," said Peter Marlowe softly. "We did, rather." The King was surprised. "You weren't in the Battle of Britain, were you?" "Yes. I got my wings in 1940 just in time." "How old were you?" "Nineteen." "Huh, I'd've thought, looking at your face, you'd be at least thirty-eight, not twenty-four!" "Up yours, brother!" Peter Marlowe laughed. "How old are you?" "Twenty-five. Son of a bitch," the King said. "Best years of my life and I'm locked up in a stinking jail." "You're hardly locked up. And it seems to me you're doing very well." "We're still locked up, whichever way you figure it. How long you think it's going to last?" "We've got the Germans on the run. That show should be over soon." "You believe that?'" Peter Marlowe shrugged. Careful, he told himself, you can never be too careful. "Yes, I think so. You can never tell about rumors." "And our war. What about ours?" Because the question had been asked by a friend, Peter Marlowe talked freely. "I think ours will last forever. Oh, we'll beat the Japs. I know that now. But for us, here? I don't think we'll get out." "Why?" "Well, I don't think the Japs'll ever give in. That means we'll have to land on the mainland. And when that happens, I think they'll eliminate us here, all of us. If disease and sickness haven't got us already." "Why the hell should they do that?" "Oh, to save time, I suppose. I think as the net tightens on Japan, they'll start pulling in their tentacles. Why waste time over a few thousand prisoners? Japs think of life quite differently than we do. And the idea of our troops on their soil will drive them around the bend." His voice was quite flat and calm. "I think we've had it. Of course I hope I'm wrong. But that's what I think." "You're a hopeful son of a bitch," the King said sourly, and when Peter Marlowe laughed he said, "What the hell are you laughing about? You always seem to laugh in the wrong places." "Sorry, bad habit." "Let's sit outside. The flies're getting bad. Hey Max," the King called out. "You want to clean up?" Max arrived and began tidying up and the King and Peter Marlowe slipped easily through the window. Just outside the King's window there was another small table and a bench under a canvas overhang. The King sat on the bench. Peter Marlowe squatted on his heels, native style. "Never could do that," said the King. "It's very comfortable. I learned it in Java." "How come you speak Malay so well?" "I lived in a village for a time." "When?" "In '42. After the cease-fire." The King waited patiently for him to continue but nothing more came out. He waited some more, then asked, "How come you lived in Java in a village after the cease-fire in 1942 when everyone was in a POW camp by then?" Peter Marlowe's laugh was rich. "Sorry. Nothing much to tell. I didn't like the idea of being in a camp. Actually, when the war ended, I got lost in the jungle and eventually found this village. They took pity on me. I stayed for six months or so." "What was it like?" "Wonderful. They were very kind. I was just like one of them. Dressed like a Javanese, dyed my skin dark you know, nonsense really, for my height and eyes would give me away worked in the paddy fields." "You on your own?" After a pause Peter Marlowe said, "I was the only European there, if that's what you mean." He looked out at the camp, seeing the sun beat the dust and the wind pick up the dust and swirl it. The swirl reminded him of her. He looked away towards the east, into a nervous sky. But she was part of the sky. The wind gathered slightly and bent the heads of the coconut palms. But she was part of the wind and the palms and the clouds beyond. Peter Marlowe tore his mind away and watched the Korean guard plodding along beyond the fence, sweating under the lowering heat. The guard's uniform was shabby and ill-kempt and his cap as crumpled as his face, his rifle askew on his shoulders. As graceless as she was graceful. Once more Peter Marlowe looked up into the sky, seeking distance. Only then could he feel that he was not within a box a box filled with men, and men's smells and men's dirt and men's noises. Without women, Peter Marlowe thought helplessly, men are only a cruel joke. And he bled in the starch of the sun. "Hey Peter!" The King was looking up the slope, his mouth agape. Peter Marlowe followed the King's gaze and his stomach turned over as he saw Sean approaching. "Christ!" He wanted to slip through the window out of sight, but he knew that that would make him more conspicuous. So he waited grimly, hardly breathing. He thought he had a good chance of not being seen, for Sean was deep in conversation with Squadron Leader Rodrick and Lieutenant Frank Parrish. Their heads were close together and their voices intent. Then Sean glanced past Frank Parrish and saw Peter Marlowe and stopped. Rodrick and Frank stopped also, surprised. When they saw Peter Marlowe they thought, Oh my God. But they concealed their anxiety. "Hello, Peter," Rodrick called out. He was a tall neat man with a chiseled face, as tall and neat as Frank Parrish was tall and careless. "Hello, Rod!" Peter Marlowe called back. "I won't be a moment," Sean said quietly to Rodrick and walked towards Peter Marlowe and the King. Now that the first shock had worn off, Sean smiled a welcome. Peter Marlowe felt the hackles on his neck begin to rise and he got up and waited. He could feel the King's eyes boring into him. "Hello, Peter," Sean said. "Hello, Sean." "You're so thin, Peter." "Oh I don't know. No more than anyone. I'm very fit, thanks." "I haven't seen you for such a long time why don't you come up to the theater sometime? There's always a little extra around somewhere and you know me, I never did eat much." Sean smiled hopefully. "Thanks," Peter Marlowe said, raw with embarrassment. "Well, I know you won't," Sean said unhappily, "but you're always welcome." There was a pause. "I never see you any more." "Oh, you know how it is, Sean. You're doing all the shows and I'm, well, I'm on work parties and things." Like Peter Marlowe, Sean was wearing a sarong, but unlike Peter Marlowe's, which was threadbare and multifaded color, Sean's was new and white and the border was embroidered with blue and silver. And Sean wore a short-sleeved native baju coat, ending above the waist, cut tight to allow for the swell of breasts. The King was staring fascinated at the half-opened neck of the baju. Sean noticed the King and smiled faintly and brushed back some hair that the wind had caressed out of place and toyed with it until the King looked up. Sean smiled inside, warmed inside, as the King flushed. "It's, er, it's getting hot, isn't it?" the King said uncomfortably. "I suppose so," Sean said pleasantly, cool and sweatless, as always however intense the heat. There was a silence. "Oh, sorry," Peter Marlowe said as he saw Sean looking at the King and waiting patiently. "Do you know " Sean laughed. "My God, Peter. You are in a state. Of course I know who your friend is, though we've never met." Sean put out a hand. "How are you? It's quite an honor to meet a King!" "Er, thanks," the King said, hardly touching the hand, so small against his. "You, er, like a smoke?" "Thanks, but I don't. But if you don't mind I will take one. In fact two, if it's all right?" Sean nodded back towards the path. "Rod and Frank smoke and I know they'd appreciate one." "Sure," the King said. "Sure." "Thanks. That's very kind of you." In spite of himself the King felt the warmth of Sean's smile. In spite of himself he said, meaning it, "You were great in Othello." "Thank you," said Sean delightedly. "Did you like Hamlet?" "Yes. And I never was much on Shakespeare." Sean laughed. "That's praise indeed. We're doing a new play next. Frank has written it especially and it should be a lot of fun." "If it's just ordinary, it'll be great," the King said, more at ease, "and you'll be great." "How nice of you. Thanks." Sean glanced at Peter Marlowe and the eyes took on an added luster. "But I'm afraid Peter won't agree with you." "Stop it, Sean," Peter Marlowe said. Sean did not look at Peter Marlowe, only the King, and smiled, but fury lurked beneath the smile. "Peter doesn't approve of me." "Stop it, Sean," Peter Marlowe said harshly. "Why should I?" Sean lashed out. "You despise deviates isn't that what you call queers? You made that perfectly clear. I haven't forgotten!" "Nor have I!" "Well, that's something! I don't like to be despised least of all by you!" "I said stop it! This isn't the time or the place. And we've been through this before and you've said it all before. I said I was sorry. I didn't mean any harm!" "No. But you still hate me why? Why?" "I don't hate you." "Then why do you always avoid me?" "It's better. For God's sake, Sean, leave me be." Sean stared at Peter Marlowe, and then as suddenly as it had flared, the anger melted. "Sorry, Peter. You're probably quite right. I'm the fool. It's just that I'm lonely from time to time. Lonely just for talk." Sean reached out and touched Peter Marlowe's arm. "Sorry. I just want to be friends again." Peter Marlowe could say nothing. Sean hesitated. "Well, I suppose I'd better be going." "Sean," Rodrick called out from the path, "we're late already." "I won't be a moment." Sean still looked at Peter Marlowe, then sighed and held out a hand to the King. "It was nice to meet you. Please forgive my bad manners." The King couldn't avoid touching the hand again. "Happy to meet you," he said. Sean hesitated, eyes grave and searching. "Are you Peter's friend?" The King felt the whole world heard him when he said, stumbling, "Er, sure, yeah, I guess so." "Strange, isn't it, how one word can mean so many different things. But if you are his friend, don't lead him astray, please. You've a reputation for danger, and I wouldn't like Peter hurt. I'm very fond of him." "Er, yes, sure." The King's knees jellied and his backbone melted. But the magnetism of Sean's smile pervaded him. It was unlike anything he had ever felt. "The shows are the best thing in the camp," he said. "Make life worth living. And you're the best thing in them." "Thank you." And then, to Peter Marlowe: "It does make life worthwhile. I'm very happy. And I like what I'm doing. It does make things worthwhile, Peter." "Yes," Peter Marlowe said, tormented. "I'm glad all's well." Sean smiled hesitantly a last time, then turned quickly and was suddenly gone. The King sat down. "I'll be goddamned!" Peter Marlowe sat down too. He opened his box and rolled a cigarette. "If you didn't know he was a man, you'd swear to God that he was a woman," the King said. "A beautiful woman." Peter Marlowe nodded bleakly. "He's not like the other fags," the King said, "that's for sure. No sir. Not the same at all. Jesus, there's something about him that's not " The King stopped and groped and continued helplessly, "Don't quite know how to put it. He's he's a woman, goddammit! Remember when he was playing Desdemona? My God, the way he looked in the negligee, I'll bet there wasn't a man in Changi that didn't have a hard on. Don't blame a man for being tempted. I'm tempted, everyone is. Man's a liar if he says otherwise." Then he looked at Peter Marlowe and studied him carefully. "Oh, for the love of God," Peter Marlowe said irritably. "Do you think I'm queer too?" "No," the King said calmly. "I don't mind if you are. Just as long as I know." "Well, I'm not." "It sure as hell sounded like it," the King said with a grin. "Lovers' quarrel?" "Go to hell!" After a minute the King said tentatively, "You known Sean long?" "He was in my squadron," Peter Marlowe said at length. "Sean was the baby, and I was sort of detailed to look after him. Got to know him very well." He flicked the burning end off his cigarette and put the remains of tobacco back in his box. "In fact he was my best friend. He was a very good pilot - got three Zeros over Java." He looked at the King. "I liked him a lot." "Was was he like that before?" "No." "Oh, I know he didn't dress like a woman all the time, but hell, it must have been obvious he was that way." "Sean was never that way. He was just a very handsome, gentle chap. There was nothing effeminate about him, just a sort of compassion." "You ever seen him without clothes on?" "No." "That figures. No one else has either. Even half naked." Sean was allowed a tiny little room up in the theater, a private room, which no one else in the whole of Changi had, not even the King. But Sean never slept in the room. The thought of Sean alone in a room with a lock on the door was too dangerous, because there were many in the camp whose lust swept out, and the rest were full of lust inside. So Sean always slept in one of the huts, but changed and showered in the private room. "What's between you two?" the King asked. "I nearly killed him once." Suddenly the conversation ceased and both men listened intently. All they could hear was a sigh, an undercurrent. The King looked around quickly. Seeing nothing extraordinary, he got up and climbed through the window, Peter Marlowe close behind. The men in the hut were listening too. The King peered towards the corner of the jail. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Men still walked up and down. "What do you think?" the King asked softly. "Don't know," said Peter Marlowe, concentrating. Men were still walking by the jail, but now an almost imperceptible quickening had been added to their walk. "Hey, look," Tex whispered. Rounding the corner of the jail and heading up the slope towards them was Captain Brough. Then other officers began to appear behind him, all heading for various enlisted men's huts. "Got to mean trouble," Tex said sourly. "Maybe it's a search," Max said. The King was on his knees in an instant, unlocking the black box. Peter Marlowe said hurriedly, "I'll see you later." "Here," the King said, throwing him a pack of Kooas, "see you tonight if you like." Peter Marlowe raced out of the hut and down the slope. The King jerked out the three watches that were buried in the coffee beans and got up. He thought a moment, then he stood on his chair and stuffed the three watches into the atap thatch. He knew that all the men had seen the new hiding place but he did not care, for that could not be helped now. Then he locked the black box and Brough was at the door. "All right, you guys, outside." Chapter 4 Peter Marlowe was thinking of nothing except his water bottle as he shoved through the sweating hive of men forming up on the asphalt road. He tried desperately to remember if he had filled the bottle, but he could not remember for sure. He ran up the stairs from the street towards his hut. But the hut was already empty and a soiled Korean guard already stood in the doorway. Peter Marlowe knew that he would not be allowed to pass, so he turned back and ducked under the lee of the hut and up the other side. He ran for the other door and was beside his bunk with his water bottle in his hand before the guard saw him. The Korean swore at him sullenly and walked over and motioned for him to put the water bottle back. But Peter Marlowe saluted with a flourish and said in Malay, which most of the guards understood, "Greetings sir. We may have a long time to wait, and I beg thee, let me take my water bottle with me, for I have dysentery." As he spoke he shook the bottle. It was full. The guard jerked the bottle out of his hands and sniffed it suspiciously. Then he poured some of the water onto the floor and shoved the bottle back at Peter Marlowe and cursed him again and pointed at the men on parade below. Peter Marlowe bowed, weak with relief, and ran to join his group in line. "Where the hell have you been, Peter?" Spence asked, dysentery pain adding to his anxiety. "Never mind, I'm here." Now that Peter Marlowe had his water bottle he was giddy. "Come on, Spence, get the bods lined up," he said, needling him. "Go to hell. Come on, you chaps, get into line." Spence counted the men and then said, "Where's Bones?" "In hospital," Ewart said. "Went just after breakfast. I took him myself." "Why the hell didn't you tell me before?" "I've been working in the gardens all day, for Christ sake! Pick on someone else!" "Keep your blasted shirt on!" But Peter Marlowe wasn't listening to the curses and chatter and rumors. He hoped that the colonel and Mac had their water bottles too. When his group was accounted for, Captain Spence walked along the road to Lieutenant Colonel Sellars, who was in nominal charge of four huts, and saluted. "Sixty-four, all correct, sir. Nineteen here, twenty-three in hospital, twenty-two on work parties." "All right, Spence." And as soon as Sellars had all the numbers from his four huts, he totaled them and took them up the line to Colonel Smedly-Taylor, who was responsible for ten huts. Then Smedly-Taylor took them up the line. Then the next officer took them up the line, and this procedure was repeated throughout the camp, inside and outside the jail, until totals were given to the Camp Commandant. The Camp Commandant added the figures of men inside the camp to the number of men in hospital and the number of men on work parties, and then he passed the totals over to Captain Yoshima, the Japanese interpreter. Yoshima cursed the Camp Commandant because the total was one short. There was an aching hour of panic until the missing body was found in the cemetery. Colonel Dr. Rofer, RAMS, cursed his assistant, Colonel Dr. Kennedy, who tried to explain that it was difficult to keep a tally to the instant, and Colonel Rofer cursed him anyway and said that that was his job. Then Rofer apologetically went to the Camp Commandant, who cursed his inefficiency, and then the Camp Commandant went to Yoshima and tried to explain politely that the body had been found but it was difficult to keep numbers accurate to the second. And Yoshima cursed the Camp Commandant for inefficiency and told him that he was responsible if he couldn't keep a simple number perhaps it was about time another officer took charge of the camp. While the anger sped up and down the line, Korean guards were searching the huts, particularly the officers' huts. Here would be the radio they sought. The link, the hope of the men. They wanted to find the radio as they had found the one five months ago. But the guards sweltered as the men on parade sweltered, and their search was perfunctory. The men sweated and cursed. A few fainted. The dysenteric streamed to the latrines. Those who were very sick squatted where they were or lay where they were and let the pain swirl and consummate. The fit did not notice the stench. The stench was normal and the stream was normal and the waiting was normal. After three hours the search was completed. The men were dismissed. They swarmed for their huts and the shade, or lay on their beds gasping, or went to the showers and waited and fumed until the water cooled the ache from their heads. Peter Marlowe walked out of the shower. He wrapped his sarong around his waist and went to the concrete bungalow of his friends, his unit. "Puki mahlu!" Mac grinned. Major McCoy was a tough little Scot who carried himself neatly erect. Twenty-five years in the Malayan jungles had etched his face deeply that and hard liquor and hard playing and bouts of fever. "Mahlu senderis," Peter Marlowe said, squatting happily. The Malay obscenity always delighted him. It had no absolute translation into English, though "puki" was a four-letter part of a woman and "mahlu" meant "ashamed." "Can't you bastards speak the King's English for once?" Colonel Larkin said. He was lying on his mattress, which was on the floor. Larkin was short of breath from the heat and his head ached with the aftermath of malaria. Mac winked at Peter Marlowe. "We keep explaining and nothing can get through the thickness of his head. There's nae hope for the colonel!" "Too right, cobber," Peter Marlowe said, aping Larkin's Australian accent. "Why the hell I ever got in with you two," Larkin groaned wearily, "I'll never know." Mac grinned. "Because he's lazy, eh, Peter? You and I do all the work, eh? An' he sits and pretends to be bedridden just because he's a wee touch of malaria." "Puki mahlu. And get me some water, Marlowe!" "Yes, sir, Colonel, sir!" He gave Larkin his water bottle. When Larkin saw it he smiled through his pain. "All right, Peter boy?" he asked quietly. "Yes. My God, I was in a bit of a panic for a time." "Mac and me both." Larkin sipped the water and carefully handed the water bottle back. "All right, Colonel?" Peter Marlowe was perturbed by Larkin's color. "My bloody oath," Larkin said. "Nothing a bottle of beer couldn't cure. Be all right tomorrow." Peter Marlowe nodded. "At least you're over the fever," he said. Then he took out the pack of Kooas with studied negligence. "My God," said Mac and Larkin in one breath. Peter Marlowe broke the pack and gave them each a cigarette. "Present from Father Christmas!" "Where the hell you get them, Peter?" "Wait till we've smoked them a bitty," Mac said sourly, "before we hear the bad news. He's probably sold our beds or something." Peter Marlowe told them about the King and about Grey. They listened with growing astonishment. He told them about the tobacco-curing process and they listened silently until he mentioned the percentages. "Sixty-forty!" exploded Mac delightedly. "Sixty-forty, oh my God!" "Yes," said Peter Marlowe, misreading Mac. "Imagine that! Anyway, I just showed him how to do it. He seemed surprised when I wouldn't take anything in return." "You gave the process away?" Mac was appalled. "Of course. Anything wrong, Mac?" "Why?" "Well, I couldn't go into business. Marlowes aren't tradesmen," Peter Marlowe said, as though talking to a child. "It's just not done, old boy." "My God, you get a wonderful opportunity to make some money and you turn it down with a big fat sneer. I suppose you know that with the King behind the deal, you could have made enough to buy double rations from now until doomsday. Why the hell didn't you keep your mouth shut and tell me and let me make " "What are you talking about, Mac?" Larkin interrupted sharply. "The boy did all right, and it would have been bad for him to go into business with the King." "But " "But nothing," Larkin said. Mac simmered down immediately, hating himself for his outburst. He forced a nervous laugh. "Just teasing, Peter." "Are you sure, Mac? My God," said Peter Marlowe unhappily. "Have I been a fool or something? I wouldn't want to let the side down." "Nay, laddie, it was just my way of joking. Go on, tell us what else happened." Peter Marlowe told them what had happened and all the time he wondered if he had done something wrong. Mac was his best friend, and shrewd, and never lost his temper. He told them about Sean, and when he had finished he felt better. Then he left. It was his turn to feed the chickens. When he had gone Mac said to Larkin, "Dammit I'm sorry. I'd no cause to fly off the handle like that." "Don't blame you, cobber. He's got his head in the sky. That boy's got some strange ideas. But you never can tell. Maybe the King'll have his uses yet." "Ay," said Mac thoughtfully. Peter Marlowe carried a billycan filled with scraps of leaves that had been foraged. He walked past the latrine area until he came to the runs where the camp chickens were kept. There were big runs and small runs, runs for one scraggy hen and a huge run for one hundred and thirty hens those that were owned by the whole camp, whose eggs went into the common pool. The other runs were owned by units, or a commune of units who had pooled their resources. Only the King owned alone. Mac had built the chicken run for Peter Marlowe's unit. In it were three hens, the wealth of the unit. Larkin had bought the hens seven months ago when the unit had sold the last thing it possessed, Larkin's gold wedding ring. Larkin had not wanted to sell it, but Mac was sick at the time and Peter Marlowe had dysentery, and two weeks earlier the camp rations had been cut again, so Larkin sold it. But not through the King. Through one of his own men, Tiny Timsen, the Aussie trader. With the money he had bought four hens through the Chinese trader who had the camp concession from the Japanese, and along with the hens, two cans of sardines, two cans of condensed milk and a pint of orange-colored palm oil. The hens were good and laid their eggs on time. But one of them died and the men ate it. They saved the bones and put them into a pot with the entrails and feet and head and the green papaya that Mac had stolen on a work party and made a stew. For a whole week their bodies had felt huge and clean. Larkin had opened one can of the condensed milk on the day they had bought it. They each had a spoonful as long as it lasted, once a day. The condensed milk did not spoil from the heat. On the day that there was no more to spoon, they boiled the can and drank the liquor. It was very good. The two cans of sardines and the last can of condensed milk were the unit's reserve. Against a very bad run of luck. The cans were kept in a cache, which was constantly guarded by one of the unit. Peter Marlowe looked around before he opened the lock on the chicken coop and made sure there was no one near who could see how the lock worked. He opened the door and saw two eggs. "All right, Nonya," he said gently to their prize hen, "I'm not going to touch you." Nonya was sitting on a nest of seven eggs. It had taken a great amount of will for the unit to let the eggs remain beneath her, but if they were lucky and got seven chicks, and if the seven chicks lived to become hens or cocks, then their herd would be vast. Then they could spare one of the hens to sit permanently on a clutch. And they would never have to fear Ward Six. Ward Six housed the sightless, the men blinded by beriberi. Any vitamin strength was magic against this constant threat, and eggs were a vast source of strength, usually the only one available. Thus it was that the Camp Commandant begged and cursed and demanded more from the Overlord. But most of the time there was only one egg per man per week. Some of the men received an extra one every day, but by then it was usually too late. Thus it was that the chickens were guarded day and night by an officer guard. Thus it was that to touch a chicken belonging to the camp, or to another, was a vast crime. Once a man had been caught with a strangled hen in his hand and had been beaten to death by his captors. The authorities ruled it was justifiable homicide. Peter Marlowe stood at the end of his run admiring the King's hens. There were seven, plump and giants against all others. There was a cock within the run, the pride of the camp. His name was Sunset. His sperm grew fine sons and daughters and he could be had for stud by any. At a price: choice of litter. Even the King's hens were inviolate and guarded like the others. Peter Marlowe watched Sunset nail a hen into the dust and mount her. The hen picked herself off the dust and ran about clucking and pecked another hen for good measure. Peter Marlowe despised himself for watching. He knew it was weakness. He knew he would think of N'ai and then his loins would ache. He went back to the henhouse and checked to see that the lock was tight and left, holding the two eggs carefully all the way back to the bungalow. "Peter, mon," Mac grinned, "this is our lucky day!" Peter Marlowe found the pack of Kooas and divided them into three piles. "We'll draw for the other two." "You take them, Peter," Larkin said. "No, we'll draw for them. Low card loses." Mac lost and pretended sourness. "Bad cess to it," he said. They carefully opened the cigarettes and put the tobacco in their boxes and mixed it with as much of the treated Java weed as they had. Then they split up their portions into four, and put the other three portions into another box and gave the boxes into Larkin's keeping. To have so much tobacco at one time was a temptation. Abruptly the heavens split and the deluge began. Peter Marlowe took off his sarong, folded it carefully and put it on Mac's bed. Larkin said thoughtfully, "Peter. Watch your step with the King. He could be dangerous." "Of course. Don't worry." Peter Marlowe stepped out into the cloudburst. In a moment Mac and Larkin had stripped and followed him, joining the other naked men glorying in the torrent. Their bodies welcomed the sting, lungs breathed the cooled air, heads cleared. And the stench of Changi was washed away Chapter 5 After the rain the men sat enjoying the fleeting coolness, waiting until it was time to eat. Water dripped from the thatch and gushed in the storm ditches, and the dust was mud. But the sun was proud in the white blue sky. "God," said Larkin gratefully, "that feels better." "Ay," said Mac as they sat on the veranda. But Mac's mind was up country, at his rubber plantation in Kedah, far to the north. "The heat's more than worthwhile - makes you appreciate the coolness," he said quietly. "Like fever." "Malaya's stinking, the rain's stinking, the heat's stinking, malaria's stinking, the bugs're stinking and the flies're stinking," Larkin said. "Not in peacetime, mon." Mac winked at Peter Marlowe. "Nor in a village, eh, Peter boy?" Peter Marlowe grinned. He had told them most of the things about his village. He knew that what he had not told them, Mac would know, for Mac had lived his adult life in the Orient and he loved it as much as Larkin hated it. "So I understand," he said blandly and they all smiled. They did not talk much. All the stories had been told and retold, all the stories that they wanted to tell. So they waited patiently. When it was time, they went to their respective lines and then returned to the bungalow. They drank their soup quickly. Peter Marlowe plugged in the homemade electric hot plate and fried one egg. They put their portions of rice into the bowl and he laid the egg on the rice with a little salt and pepper. He whipped it so that the yolk and white were spread evenly throughout the rice, then divided it up and they ate it with relish. When they had finished, Larkin took the plates and washed them, for it was his turn, and they sat once more on the veranda to wait for the dusk roll call. Peter Marlowe was idly watching the men walk the street, enjoying the fullness in his stomach, when he saw Grey approaching. "Good evening, Colonel," Grey said to Larkin, saluting neatly. "Evening, Grey," Larkin sighed. "Who's it this time?" When Grey came to see him it always meant trouble. Grey looked down at Peter Marlowe. Larkin and Mac sensed the hostility between them. "Colonel Smedly-Taylor asked me to tell you, sir," Grey said. "Two of your men were fighting. A Corporal Townsend and Private Gurble. I've got them in jail now." "All right, Lieutenant," Larkin said dourly. "You can release them. Tell them to report to me here, after roll call. I'll give them what for!" He paused. "You know what they were fighting about?" "No, sir. But I think it was two-up." Ridiculous game, thought Grey. Put two pennies on a stick and throw the coins up into the air and bet on whether the coins come down both heads, or both tails, or one head and one tail. "You're probably right," Larkin grunted. "Perhaps you could outlaw the game. There's always trouble when " "Outlaw two-up?" Larkin interrupted abruptly. "If I did that, they'd think I'd gone mad. They'd pay no attention to such a ridiculous order and quite right. Gambling's part of Aussie makeup, you ought to know that by now. Two-up gives the Diggers something to think about, and fighting once in a while isn't bad either." He got up and stretched the ague from his shoulders. "Gambling's like breathing to an Aussie. Why, everyone Down Under has a shilling or two on the Golden Casket." His voice was edged. "I like a game of two-up once in a while myself." "Yes, sir," Grey said. He had seen Larkin and other Aussie officers with their men, scrambling in the dirt, excited and foul-mouthed as any ranker. No wonder discipline was bad. "Tell Colonel Smedly-Taylor I'll deal with them. My bloody oath!" "Pity about Marlowe's lighter, wasn't it, sir?" Grey said, watching Larkin intently. Larkin's eyes were steady and suddenly hard. "He should've been more careful. Shouldn't he?" "Yes, sir," Grey said, after enough of a pause to make his point. Well, he thought, it was worth trying. To hell with Larkin and to hell with Marlowe, there's plenty of time. He was just about to salute and leave when a fantastic thought rocked him. He controlled his excitement and said matter-of-factly, "Oh, by the way, sir. There's a rumor going the rounds that one of the Aussies has a diamond ring." He let the statement linger. "Do you happen to know about it?" Larkin's eyes were deepset under bushy eyebrows. He glanced thoughtfully at Mac before he answered. "I've heard the rumors too. As far as I know it isn't one of my men. Why?" "Just checking, sir," Grey said with a hard smile. "Of course, you'd know that such a ring could be dynamite. For its owner and a lot of people." Then he added, "It would be better under lock and key." "I don't think so, old boy," Peter Marlowe said, and the "old boy" was discreetly vicious. "That'd be the worst thing to do if the diamond exists. Which I doubt. If it's in a known place then a lot of chaps'd want to look at it. And anyway the Japs'd lift it once they heard about it." Mac said thoughtfully, "I agree." "It's better where it is. In limbo. Probably just another rumor," Larkin said. "I hope it is," Grey said, sure now that his hunch had been right. "But the rumor seems pretty strong." "It's not one of my men." Larkin's mind was racing. Grey seemed to know something who would it be? Who? "Well, if you hear anything, sir, you might let me know." Grey's eyes swooped over Peter Marlowe contemptuously. "I like to stop trouble before it begins." Then he saluted Larkin correctly and nodded to Mac and walked away. There was a long thoughtful silence in the bungalow. Larkin glanced at Mac. "I wonder why he asked about that?" "Ay," said Mac, "I wondered too. Did ye mark how his face lit up like a beacon?" "Too right!" Larkin said, the lines on his face etched deeper than usual. "Grey's right about one thing. A diamond could cost a lot of men a lot of blood." "It's only a rumor, Colonel," Peter Marlowe said. "No one could keep anything like that, this long. Impossible." "I hope you're right." Larkin frowned. "Hope to God one of my boys hasn't got it." Mac stretched. His head ached and he could feel a bout of fever on the way. Well, not for three days yet, he thought calmly. He had had so much fever that it was as much a part of life as breathing. Once every two months now. He remembered that he had been due to retire in 1942, doctor's orders. When malaria gets to your spleen well, then home, old fellow, home to Scotland, home to the cold climate and buy the little farm near Killin overlooking the glory of Loch Tay. Then you may live. "Ay," Mac said tiredly, feeling his fifty years. Then he said aloud what they were all thinking. "But if we ha' the wee devil stone, then we could last out the never-never with nae fear for the future. Nae fear at all." Larkin rolled a cigarette and lit it, taking a deep puff. He passed it to Mac, who smoked and passed it to Peter Marlowe. When they had almost finished it, Larkin knocked off the burning top and put the remains of tobacco back into his box. He broke the silence. "Think I'll take a walk." Peter Marlowe smiled. "Salamat," he said, which meant "Peace be upon thee." "Salamat," Larkin said and went out into the sun. As Grey walked up the slope towards the MP hut, his brain churned with excitement. He promised himself that as soon as he got to the hut and released the Australians he would roll a cigarette to celebrate. His second today, even though he had only enough Java weed for three more cigarettes until payday the next week. He strode up the steps and nodded at Sergeant Masters. "You can let 'em out!" Masters took away the heavy bar from the door of the bamboo cage and the two sullen men stood to attention in front of Grey. "You're both to report to Colonel Larkin after roll call." The two men saluted and left. "Damn troublemakers," said Grey shortly. He sat down and took out his box and papers. This month he had been extravagant. He had bought a whole page of Bible paper, which made the best cigarettes. Though he was not a religious man, it still seemed a little blasphemous to smoke the Bible. Grey read the scripture on the fragment he was preparing to roll: "So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. And then his wife said" Wife! Why the hell did I have to come across that word? Grey cursed and turned the paper over. The first sentence on the other side was: "Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?" Grey jerked upright as a stone hissed through the window, smashed against a wall and clattered to the floor. A piece of newspaper was wrapped around the stone. Grey picked it up and darted to the window. But there was no one near. Grey sat down and smoothed out the paper. On the edge of it was written: Make you a deal. I'll deliver the King on a plate if you'll close your eyes when I trade a little in his place when you got him. If it's a deal, stand outside the hut for a minute with this stone in your left hand. Then get rid of the other cop. Guys say you're an honest cop so I'll trust you. "What's it say, sir?" Masters asked, staring rheumy-eyed at the paper. Grey crumpled the paper into a ball. "Someone thinks we work too hard for the Japs," he said harshly. "Bloody bastard." Masters went to the window. "What the hell they think'd happen if we didn't enforce discipline? The buggers'd be at each other's throats all day long." "That's right," said Grey. The ball of paper felt animated in his hand. If this is a real offer, he thought, the King can be felled. It was no easy decision to make. He would have to keep his side of the bargain. His word was his bond; he was an honest "cop," and not a little proud of his reputation. Grey knew that he would do anything to see the King behind the bamboo cage, stripped of his finery even close his eyes a little to a breaking of the rules. He wondered which of the Americans could be the informer. All of them hated the King, envied him - but who would play Judas, who would risk the consequences if he were to be discovered? Whoever the man was, he could never be such a menace as the King. So he walked outside with the stone in his left hand and scrutinized the men who passed. But no one gave him a sign. He threw the stone away and dismissed Masters. Then he sat in the hut and waited. He had given up hope when another rock sailed through the window with the second message attached: Check a can that's in the ditch by Hut Sixteen. Twice a day, mornings and after roll call. That'll be our go-between. He's trading with Turasan tonight. Chapter 6 That night Larkin lay on his mattress under his mosquito net gravely concerned about Corporal Townsend and Private Gurble. He had seen them after roll call. "What the hell were you two fighting about?" he had asked repeatedly, and each time they had both replied sullenly, "Two-up." But Larkin had known instinctively that they were lying. "I want the truth," he had said angrily. "Come on, you two are cobbers. Now why were you fighting?" But the two men had kept their eyes obstinately on the ground. Larkin had questioned them individually, but each in his turn scowled and said, "Two-up." "All right, you bastards," Larkin had said finally, his voice harsh. "I'll give you one last chance. If you don't tell me, then I'll transfer you both out of my regiment. And as far as I'm concerned you won't exist!" "But Colonel," Gurble gasped. "You wouldn't do that!" "I'll give you thirty seconds," Larkin said venomously, meaning it. And the men knew that he meant it. And they knew that Larkin's word was law in his regiment, for Larkin was like their father. To get shipped out would mean that they would not exist to their cobbers, and without their cobbers, they'd die. Larkin waited a minute. Then he said, "All right. Tomorrow " "I'll tell you, Colonel," Gurble blurted. "This bloody sod accused me of stealing my cobbers' food. The bloody sod said I was stealing " "An' you were, you rotten bastard!" Only Larkin's snarled "Stand to attention" kept them from tearing each other's throats out. Corporal Townsend told his side of the story first. "It's my month on the cookhouse detail. Today we've a hundred and eighty-eight to cook for " "Who's missing?" Larkin asked. "Billy Donahy, sir. He went to hospital this a'ernoon." "All right." "Well, sir. A hundred and eighty-eight men at a hundred and twenty-five grams of rice a day works out at twenty-three and a half kilos. I always go up to the storehouse myself with a cobber and see the rice weighed and then I carry it back to make sure we got our bloody share. Well, today I was watching the weighing when the gut rot hit me. So I asked Gurble here to carry it back to the cookhouse. He's my best cobber so I thought I could trust him " "I didn't touch a bloody grain, you bastard. I swear to God " "We were short when I got back!" Townsend shouted. "Near half a pound short and that's two men's rations!" "I know, but I didn't " "The weights weren't wrong. I checked 'em under your bloody nose!" Larkin went with the men and checked the weights and found them true. There was no doubt that the correct amount of rice had started down the hill, for the rations were weighed publicly every morning by Lieutenant Colonel Jones. There was only one answer. "As far as I'm concerned, Gurble," Larkin said, "you're out of my regiment. You're dead." Gurble stumbled away into the darkness, whimpering, and then Larkin said to Townsend, "You keep your mouth shut about this." "My bloody oath, Colonel," Townsend said. "The Diggers'd tear him to pieces if they heard. An' rightly! Only reason I didn't tell them was that he was my best cobber." His eyes suddenly filled with tears. "My bloody oath, Colonel, we joined up together. We've been with you through Dunkirk an' the stinking Middle East, and all.through Malaya. I've knowed him most of my life and I'd've bet my life " Now, thinking about it all again in the twilight of sleep, Larkin shuddered. How can a man do such a thing? he asked himself helplessly. How? Gurble of all men, whom he had known for many years, who even used to work in his office in Sydney! He closed his eyes and put Gurble out of his mind. He had done his duty and it was his duty to protect the many. He let his mind drift to his wife Betty cooking steak with a fried egg on top, to his home overlooking the bay, to his little daughter, to the time he was going to have afterwards. But when? When? Grey walked quietly up the steps of Hut Sixteen like a thief in the night and headed for his bed. He stripped off his pants and slipped under the mosquito net and lay naked on his mattress, very pleased with himself. He had just seen Turasan, the Korean guard, sneak around the corner of the American hut and under the canvas overhang; he had seen the King stealthily jump out of the window to join Turasan. Grey had waited only a moment in the shadows. He was checking the spy's information, and there was no need to pounce on the King yet. No. Not yet, now that the informer was proved. Grey shifted on the bed, scratching his leg. His practiced fingers caught the bedbug and crushed it. He heard it plop as it burst and he smelled the sick sweet stench of the blood it contained - his own blood. Around his net, clouds of mosquitoes buzzed, seeking the inevitable hole. Unlike most of the officers, Grey had refused to convert his bed to a bunk, for he hated the idea of sleeping above or below someone else. Even though the added doubling up meant more space. The mosquito nets were hung from a wire which bisected the length of the hut. Even in sleep the men were attached to each other. When one man turned over or tugged at the net to tuck it more tightly under the soaking mattress, all the nets would jiggle a little, and each man knew he was surrounded. Grey crushed another bedbug, but his mind was not on it. Tonight he was filled with happiness about the informer, about his commitment to get the King, about the diamond ring, about Marlowe. He was very pleased, for he had solved the riddle. It is simple, he told himself again. Larkin knows who has the diamond. The King is the only one in the camp who could arrange the sale. Only the King's contacts are good enough. Larkin would not go himself directly to the King, so he sent Marlowe. Marlowe is to be the go-between. Grey's bed shook as dead-sick Johnny Hawkins stumbled against it, half-awake, heading for the latrines. "Be careful, for God's sake!" Grey said irritably. "Sorry," Johnny said, groping for the door. In a few minutes Johnny stumbled back again. A few sleepy curses followed in his wake. As soon as Johnny had reached his bunk it was time to go again. This time Grey did not notice his bed shake, for he was locked in his mind, forecasting the probable moves of the enemy. Peter Marlowe was wide awake, sitting on the hard steps of Hut Sixteen under the moonless sky, his eyes and ears and mind searching the darkness. From where he sat he could watch the two roads - the one that bisected the camp and the other that skirted the walls of the jail. Japanese and Korean guards and prisoners alike used both roads. Peter Marlowe was the north sentry. Behind him, on the other steps, he knew that Flight Lieutenant Cox was concentrating as he was, seeking the darkness for danger. Cox guarded south. East and west were not covered because Hut Sixteen could only be approached by north or south. From inside the hut, and all around, were the noises of the sleep dead-moans, weird laughs, snores, whimpers, choked half-screams mixed with the softness of whispers of the sleepless. It was a cool good night here on the bank above the road. All was normal. Peter Marlowe jerked like a dog pointing. He had sensed the Korean guard before his eyes picked him out of the darkness, and by the time he really saw the guard, he had already given the warning signal. At the far end of the hut, Dave Daven did not hear the first whistle, he was so absorbed in his work. When he heard the second, more urgent one, he answered it, jerked the needles out, lay back in his bunk, and held his breath. The guard was slouching through the camp, his rifle on his shoulder, and he did not see Peter Marlowe or the others. But he felt their eyes. He quickened his step and wished himself out of the hatred. After an age, Peter Marlowe heard Cox give the all-clear signal, and he relaxed once more. But his senses still reached out into the night. At the far corner of the hut, Daven began breathing again. He lifted himself carefully under the thick mosquito net in the top bunk. With infinite patience, he reconnected the two needles to the ends of the insulated wire that carried the live current. After a backbreaking search, he felt the needles slip through the worm-holes in the eight-by-eight beam which served as the head crosspiece of the bunk. A bead of sweat gathered on his chin and fell on the beam as he found the other two needles that were connected to the earphone and again, after a blind tortured search, he felt the holes for them and slipped the needles cleanly into the beam. The earphone static'd into life. ". . . and our forces are moving rapidly through the jungle to Mandalay. That ends the news. This is Calcutta calling. To summarize the news: American and British forces are pushing the enemy back in Belgium, and on the central sector, towards St. Hubert, in driving snowstorms. In Poland, Russian armies are within twenty miles of Krakow, also in heavy blizzards. In the Philippines, American forces have driven a bridgehead across the Agno River in their thrust for Manila. Formosa was bombed in daylight by American B-29's without loss. In Burma, victorious British and Indian armies are within thirty miles of Mandalay. The next news broadcast will be at 6 a.m. Calcutta time." Daven cleared his voice softly and felt the live insulated wire jerk slightly and then come free as Spence, in the next bunk, pulled his set of needles out of the source, Quickly Daven disconnected his four needles and put them back in his sewing kit. He wiped the gathering sweat off his face and scratched at the biting bedbugs. Then he unscrewed the wires on the earphone, tightened the terminals carefully, and slipped it into a special pouch in his jock-strap, behind his testicles. He buttoned his pants and doubled the wire and slipped it through the belt-loops and knotted it. He found the piece of rag and wiped his hands, then carefully brushed dust over the tiny holes in the beam, clogging them, hiding them perfectly. He lay back on the bed for a moment to regain his strength, and scratched. When he had composed himself he ducked out of the net and jumped to the floor. At this time of night he never bothered to put his leg on, so he just found his crutches and quietly swung himself to the door. He made no sign as he passed Spence's bunk. That was the rule. Can't be too careful. The crutches creaked, wood against wood, and for the ten millionth time Daven thought about his leg. It did not bother him too much nowadays, though the stump hurt like hell. The doctors had told him that soon he would have to have it restumped again. He had had this done twice already, once a real operation below the knee in '42, when he had been blown up by a land mine. Once above the knee, without anesthetics. The memory edged his teeth and he swore he would never go through that again. But this next time, the last time, would not be too bad. They had anesthetics here in Changi. It would be the last time because there was not much left to stump. "Oh hello, Peter," he said as he almost stumbled over him on the steps. "Didn't see you." "Hello, Dave." "Nice night, isn't it?" Dave carefully swung himself down the steps. "Bladder's playing up again." Peter Marlowe smiled. If Daven said that, it meant that the news was good. If he said, "It's time for a leak," that meant nothing was happening in the world. If he said, "My guts're killing me tonight," that meant a bad setback somewhere in the world. If he said, "Hold my crutch a moment," that meant a great victory. Though Peter Marlowe would hear the news in detail tomorrow and learn it along with Spence and tell other huts, he liked to hear how things were going tonight. So he sat back and watched Daven as he crutched towards the urinal, liking him, respecting him. Daven creaked to a halt. The urinal was made out of a bent piece of corrugated iron. Daven watched his urine trickle and meander towards the low end, then cascade frothily from the rusted spout into the large drum, adding to the scum which collected on the surface of the liquid. He remembered that tomorrow was collection day. The container would be carried away and added to other containers and taken to the gardens. The liquor would be mixed with water, then the mixture would be ladled tenderly, cup by cup, onto the roots of plants cherished and guarded by the men who grew the camp's food. This fertilizer would make the greens they ate greener. Dave hated greens. But they were food and you had to eat. A breeze chilled the sweat on his back and brought with it the tang of the sea, three miles away, three light-years of miles away. Daven thought about how perfectly the radio was working. He felt very pleased with himself as he remembered how he had delicately lifted a thin strip off the top of the beam and scooped beneath it a hole six inches deep. How this had all been done in secret. How it had taken him five months to build in the radio, working at night and the hour of dawn and sleeping by day. How the fit of the lid was so perfect that when dust was worked into the edges its outline could not be seen, even on close inspection. And how the needle holes also were invisible when the dust was in them. The thought that he, Dave Daven, was the first in the camp to hear the news made him not a little proud. And unique. In spite of his leg. One day he would hear that the war was over. Not just the European war. Their war. The Pacific war. Because of him, the camp was linked with the outside, and he knew that the terror and the sweat and the heartache were worth it. Only he and Spence and Cox and Peter Marlowe and two English colonels knew where the radio actually was. That was wise, for the less in the know, the less the danger. Of course there was danger. There were always prying eyes, eyes you could not necessarily trust. There was always the possibility of informers. Or of an involuntary leak. When Daven got back to the doorway, Peter Marlowe had already returned to his bunk. Daven saw that Cox was still sitting on the far steps, but this was only usual, for it was a rule that the sentries did not both go at the same time. Daven's stump began to itch like hell, but not really the stump, only the foot that was not there. He clambered up into his bunk, closed his eyes and prayed. He always prayed before he slept. Then the dream would not come, the vivid picture of dear old Tom Cotton, the Aussie, who had been caught with the other radio and had marched off under guard to Utram Road Jail, his coolie hat cocked flamboyantly over one eye, raucously singing "Waltzing Matilda," and the chorus had been "Fuck the Japs." But in Daven's dream, it was he, not Tommy Cotton who went with the guards. He went with them, and he went in abject terror. "Oh God," Daven said deep within himself, "give me the peace of Thy courage. I'm so frightened and such a coward." The King was doing the thing he liked most in all the world. He was counting a stack of brand-new notes. Profit from a sale. Turasan was politely holding his flashlight, the beam carefully dimmed and focused on the table. They were in the "shop" as the King called it, just outside the American hut. Now from the canvas overhang, another piece of canvas fell neatly to the ground, screening the table and the benches from ever-present eyes. It was forbidden for guards and prisoners to trade, by Japanese - and therefore camp - order. The King wore his "outsmarted-in-a-deal" expression and counted grimly. "Okay," the King sighed finally as the notes totaled five hundred. "Ichi-bon!" Turasan nodded. He was a small squat man with a flat moon face and a mouthful of gold teeth. His rifle leaned carelessly against the hut wall behind him. He picked up the Parker fountain pen and re-examined it carefully. The white spot was there. The nib was gold. He held the pen closer to the screened light and squinted to make sure, once more, that the 14 carat was etched into the nib. "Ichi-bon," he grunted at length, and sucked air between his teeth. He too wore his "outsmarted-in-a-deal" expression, and he hid his pleasure. At five hundred Japanese dollars the pen was an excellent buy and he knew it would easily bring double that from the Chinese in Singapore. "You goddam ichi-bon trader," the King said sullenly. "Next week, ichi-bon watch maybe. But no goddam wong, no trade. I got to make some wong." "Too plenty wong," Turasan said, nodding to the stack of notes. "Watch soon maybe?" "Maybe." Turasan offered his cigarettes. The King accepted one and let Turasan light it for him. Then Turasan sucked in his breath a last time and smiled his golden smile. He shouldered his rifle, bowed courteously and slipped away into the night. The King beamed as he finished his smoke. A good night's work, he thought. Fifty bucks for the pen, a hundred and fifty to the man who faked the white spot and etched the nib: three hundred profit. That the color would fade off the nib within a week didn't bother the King at all. He knew by that time Turasan would have sold it to a Chinese. The King climbed through the window of his hut. "Thanks, Max," he said quietly, for most of the Americans in the hut were already asleep. "Here, you can quit now." He peeled off two ten-dollar bills. "Give the other to Dino." He did not usually pay his men so much for such a short work period. But tonight he was full of largess. "Gee, thanks." Max hurried out and told Dino to relax, giving him a ten-dollar note. The King set the coffeepot on the hot plate. He stripped off his clothes, hung up his pants and put his shirt, underpants and socks in the dirty-laundry bag. He slipped on a clean sun-bleached loincloth and ducked under his mosquito net. While he waited for the water to boil, he indexed the day's work. First the Ronson. He had beaten Major Barry down to five hundred and fifty, less fifty-five dollars, which was his ten percent commission, and had registered the lighter with Captain Brough as a "win in poker." It was worth at least nine hundred, easy, so that had been a good deal. The way inflation is going, he thought, it's wise to have the maximum amount of dough in merchandise. The King had launched the treated tobacco enterprise with a sales conference. It had gone according to plan. All the Americans had volunteered as salesmen, and the King's Aussie and English contacts had bitched. But that was only normal. He had already arranged to buy twenty pounds of Java weed from Ah Lee, the Chinese who had the concession of the camp store, and he had got it at a good discount. An Aussie cookhouse had agreed to set one of their ovens aside daily for an hour, so the whole batch of tobacco could be cooked at one time under Tex's supervision. Since all the men were working on percentage, the King's only outlay was the cost of the tobacco. Tomorrow, the treated tobacco would be on sale. The way he had set it up, he would clear a hundred percent profit. Which was only fair. Now that the tobacco project was launched, the King was ready to tackle the diamond The hiss of the bubbling coffeepot interrupted his contemplations. He slipped from under the mosquito net and unlocked the black box. He put three heaped spoons of coffee in the water and added a pinch of salt. As the water frothed, he took it off the stove and waited until it had subsided. The aroma of the coffee spilled through the hut, teasing the men still awake. "Jesus," Max said involuntarily. "What's the matter, Max?" the King said. "Can't you sleep?" "No. Got too much on my mind. I been thinking. We can make one helluva deal outta that tobacco." Tex shifted uneasily, soaring with the aroma. "That smell reminds me of wildcatting." "How come?" The King poured in cold water to settle the grounds, then put a heaped spoonful of sugar into his mug and filled it. "Best part of drilling's in the mornings. After a long sweaty night's shift on the rig. When you set with your buddies over the first steaming pot of Java, 'bout dawn. An' the coffee's steamy hot and sweet, an' at the same time a mite bitter. An' maybe you look out through the maze of oil derricks at the sun rising over Texas." There was a long sigh. "Man, that's living." "I've never been to Texas," the King said. "Been all over but not Texas." "That's God's country." "You like a cup?" "You know it." Tex was there with his mug. The King poured himself a second cup. Then he gave Tex half a cup. "Max?" Max got half a cup too. He drank the coffee quickly. "I'll fix this for you in the morning," he said, taking the pot with its bed of grounds. "Okay. Night, you guys." The King slipped under the net once more and made sure it was tight and neat under the mattress. Then he lay back gratefully between the sheets. Across the hut he saw Max add some water to the coffee grounds and set it beside the bunk to marinate. He knew that Max would rebrew the grounds for breakfast. Personally the King never liked re-brewed coffee. It was too bitter. But the boys said it was fine. If Max wanted to rebrew it, great, he thought agreeably. The King did not approve of waste. He closed his eyes and turned his mind to the diamond. At last he knew who had it, how to get it, and now that luck had brought Peter Marlowe to him, he knew how the vastly complicated deal could be arranged. Once you know a man, the King told himself contentedly, know his Achilles heel, you know how to play him, how to work him into your plans. Yep, his hunch had paid off when he had first seen Peter Marlowe squatting Woglike hi the dirt, chattering Malay. You got to play hunches in this world. Now, thinking about the talk he had had with Peter Marlowe after dusk roll call, the King felt the warmth of anticipation spread over him. "Nothing happens in this lousy dump," the King had said innocently as they sat in the lee of the hut under a moonless sky. "That's right," Peter Marlowe said. "Sickening. One day's just like the rest. Enough to drive you around the bend." The King nodded. He squashed a mosquito. "I know a guy who has all the excitement he can use, and then some." "Oh? What does he do?" "He goes through the wire. At night." "My God. That's asking for trouble. He must be mad!" But the King had seen the flicker of excitement in Peter Marlowe's eyes. He waited in the silence, saying nothing. "Why does he do it?" "Most times, just for kicks." "You mean excitement?" The King nodded. Peter Marlowe whistled softly. "I don't think I'd have that amount of nerve." "Sometimes this guy goes to the Malay village." Peter Marlowe looked out of the wire, seeing in his mind the village that they all knew existed on the coast, three miles away. Once he had gone to the topmost cell in the jail and had clambered up to the tiny barred window. He had looked out and seen the panorama of jungle and the village, nestling the coast. There were ships in the waters that day. Fishing ships, and enemy warships - big ones and little ones - set like islands in the glass of the sea. He had stared out, fascinated with the sea's closeness, hanging to the bars until his hands and arms were tired. After resting awhile he was going to jump up and look out again. But he did not look again. Ever. It hurt too much. He had always lived near the sea. Away from it, he felt lost. Now he was near it again. But it was beyond touch. "Very dangerous to trust a whole village," Peter Marlowe said. "Not if you know them." "That's right. This man really goes to the village?" "So he told me." "I don't think even Suliman would risk that." "Who?" "Suliman. The Malay I was talking to. This afternoon." "It seems more like a month ago," the King said. "It does, doesn't it?" "What the hell's a guy like Suliman doing in this dump? Why didn't he just take off when the war ended?" "He was caught in Java. Suliman was a rubber tapper on Mac's plantation. Mac's one of my unit. Well, Mac's battalion, the Malayan Regiment, got out of Singapore and were sent to Java. When the war ended, Suliman had to stick with the battalion." "Hell, he could've got lost. There are millions of them in Java" "The Javanese would have recognized him instantly, and probably turned him in." "What about the co-prosperity sphere yak? You know, Asia for the Asiatics?" "I'm afraid that doesn't mean much. It didn't do the Javanese much good, either. Not if they didn't obey." "How do you mean?" "In '42, autumn of '42, I was in a camp just outside Bandung," Peter Marlowe said. "That's up in the hills of Java, in the center of the island. At that time there were a lot of Ambonese, Menadonese and a number of Javanese with us men who were in the Dutch army. Well, the camp was tough on the Javanese be