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die. Yet now he would not die, for dying would give them victory. He would
live, he would escape, he would flaunt it in their faces. He would show them
what a man could do.
They were out there now, seeking him. Very well, let them find him, and find
A few had died, he knew that. The pursuit of him had not gone easily for
them. How many his traps had killed he did not know, but he knew of three who
had died with the helicopter, and there had been others. All right, if they
wished to pay the price, he would give them what they wished.
No longer would he simply flee to escape them. Now he would fight back.
Rukovsky was waiting beside the fire when Suvarov drove up. "He's up there
somewhere," Rukovsky said. "It is rough, but we will find him." He gestured.
"I've a dozen patrols scattered along this valley. When we have eaten, we will
start up the mountains. You can tell your Colonel Zamatev that we will have
Suvarov nodded, but kept his doubts to himself. "We have pursued him for
months. I would like to see him taken."
"Have no fears. My men will take him." He turned his back to the wind that
was blowing down from the mountain. It was not a strong wind, but cold, very
"It will be an exercise for them. Get them in shape for the real thing. This
could not have come at a better time."
Suvarov looked up at the mountains. Here there was some snow on the ridges
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and a huge bank of it under one ridge.
"You are from the Ukraine?" Suvarov looked at the mountain again. "Have you
traveled mountains in the winter?"
"A little. No matter; my men can handle mountains. They can handle anything."
He looked around. "Personally, I'll be glad to get into the hills. Get away
from some of this wind."
Rukovsky glanced at Suvarov. "I've a bottle in the car. How about a nip of
"Why not?" Suvarov stood up, nervously. "I thought I smelled smoke?"
"You probably did. My men have fires; they're making tea and having a bite."
He glanced at his wristwatch. "They've not much longer."
Suvarov took a swallow from the bottle and passed it to Rukovsky. "I hear
Comrade Shepilov has recruited trappers to find the American."
Rukovsky smiled. "No matter. We will get him first."
"That's rough country up there," Suvarov gestured. "I have not seen it
myself, but I have heard stories."
He took another swallow from the vodka and reached for his teacup. He filled
it and stood up. "I say, that's an awful lot of smoke!"
Rukovsky got to his feet. It was quite a lot. Suddenly he was angry. "They've
let their fire get away from them!" He swore and reached for the radio. He
asked a question and then began barking orders.
"Get in. We will see what's going on." They scrambled into the car, and the
driver stepped on the starter. It whirred, but nothing happened. The driver
stepped on the starter again, and at that moment the smoke billowed up, a
cloud of it swept over them, and they saw a wall of flame racing toward them
ahead of the wind. The grass in the small valley was dry, and the fire was
coming fast. "To hell with the car!" Rukovsky dropped to the ground and
started for the rocks. Suvarov and the driver were only a step behind him.
They scrambled up in the rocks where there was very little growth just as the
flames swept down the valley. They hit the car and rolled around it, and then
the flames got to the gas spilled around the tank. Flames roared, flames
leaped up, and then the car exploded. For a moment the flames shot skyward and
then roared madly as the remaining gas burned.
Rukovsky swore again. "I will find who is responsible for this, and I'll  !"
The line of flames raced down the little valley, leaving the grass charred
and black behind it. Only a few of the soldiers had suffered minor burns, most
of them in attempting to save equipment or food.
Rukovsky glanced around impatiently. Suvarov said, "Before you assign the
blame, it would be well to think of the American."
"What do you mean?"
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"He could have set the grass afire."
"Nonsense!" Rukovsky spoke and then paused to consider. "Is it likely? Would
he attempt such a thing?"
Suvarov repeated the story of the helicopter. Of numerous traps, "It is
guerrilla warfare. He's very good at it."
"Come! Let's go see where the fire started."
Soldiers were beginning to climb down from the rocks where they had taken
refuge. Most had escaped with their arms; some had escaped with rations. Three
vehicles had been destroyed, the last one a truck just beyond the line of the
"This one was set afire after the fire had passed, Colonel. See? It was over
this rise, out of sight of most of the command."
"Is anything missing?"
Several cases of rations had been ripped open and both food and ammunition
taken. An AK-47 was missing.
Reports came in slowly. Most of the food supplies had been burned and much
equipment damaged. The fire had been sudden and unexpected and had moved
swiftly ahead of the wind. Most men had saved their weapons; some had rations
upon them; some had been hastily gathered among the rocks and out of reach of
the flames. Not enough remained to keep the command in the field.
"Did anyone see him?"
Nobody had seen anything, but it was apparent that the flames had come from
several points. "Fire arrows," somebody said.
"What?" Rukovsky turned on him.
"In the films, sir. I saw it when I was a boy. The Indians used fire arrows [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]