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Action Front Boyd Cable

In Enemy Hands

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Then the officer spoke. "One minute," he said, "and then I fire." He lifted his pistol and pointed it straight at Macalister's face. "I am not bandaging your eyes," went on the officer, "because I want you to look into this little round, round hole, and wait to see the fire spout out of it at you. Your minute is almost up ... you can watch my finger pressing on the trigger."

The last coil slipped off Macalister's wrist; he was free, but with a curse he knew it to be too late. A movement of his hands from behind his back would finish the pressure of that finger, and finish him. Desperately he sought for a fighting chance.

"I would like to ask," he muttered hoarsely, licking his dry lips, "will ye no kill me if I say what ye wanted?"

Keenly he watched that finger about the trigger, breathed silent relief as he saw it slacken, and watched the muzzle drop slowly from level of his eyes. But it was still held pointed at him, and that barely gave him the chance he longed for. Only let the muzzle leave him for an instant, and he would ask no more. The officer was a small and slightly made man, Macalister, tall and broadly built, big almost to hugeness and strong as a Highland bull.

"So," said the officer softly, "your Scottish courage flinches then, from dying?"

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While he spoke, and in the interval before answering him, Macalister's mind was running feverishly over the quickest and surest plan of action. If he could get one hand on the officer's wrist, and the other on his pistol, he could finish the officer and perhaps get off another round or two before he was done himself. But the pistol hand might evade his grasp, and there would be brief time to struggle for it with those bayonets within arm's length. A straight blow from the shoulder would stun, but it might not kill. Plan after plan flashed through his mind, and was in turn set aside in search of a better. But he had to speak.

"It's no just that I'm afraid," he said very slowly. "But it was just somethin' I thought I might tell ye."

The pistol muzzle dropped another inch or two, with Macalister's eye watching its every quiver. His words brought to the officer's mind something that in his rage he had quite overlooked.

"If there is anything you can tell me," he said, "any useful information you can give of where your regiment's headquarters are in the trenches, or where there are any batteries placed, I might still spare your life. But you must be quick," he added "for it sounds as if another attack is coming."

It was true that the fire of the British artillery had increased heavily during the last few minutes. It was booming and bellowing now in a deep, thunderous roar, the shells were streaming and rushing overhead, and shrapnel was crashing and hailing and pattering down along the parapet of the forward trench; the heavy boom of big shells bursting somewhere behind the forward line and the roaring explosion of trench mortar bombs about the forward trench set the ground quivering and shaking. A shell burst close overhead, and involuntarily Macalister glanced up, only to curse himself next moment for missing a chance that his captor offered by a similar momentary lifting of his eyes. Macalister set his eyes on the other, determined that no such chance should be missed again.

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Action Front
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