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CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

The thing that surprised Harry most was to discover that all the time the diamonds had been in my possession - or rather in Suzanne’s. It seemed easy to prove that Harry was innocent of the De Beers robbery. But the murder at Marlow stopped him coming out to prove his case. The thing we came back to, again and again, was the Colonel. Was Guy Pagett the Colonel?

‘I would say he was, but for one thing,’ Harry said. ‘Think back, Anne. That night on the Kilmorden, we ran round and found Pagett lying on the deck.’

‘Yet since it became known that you were “the Man in the Brown Suit” he’s been saying it was you who hit him.’

‘Well, suppose that as he woke up, he saw me disappearing? It must have seemed obvious to him that I was the one who had hit him?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘But it changes our ideas.’

‘Why was the Mill House chosen for the murder?’ Harry asked. Would the Colonel have made Pagett the scapegoat if I had not appeared?’

‘Then you think he may be innocent?’

‘We have to find out what he was doing in Marlow. If he’s got a reasonable explanation…’ Harry suddenly stopped and held up his hand. ‘What’s that?’

I heard it too, the splash of a boat coming towards our island. We stared into the darkness. There was a boat on the water.

‘Quick.’ Harry pulled me back and took down two guns from the wall. ‘Can you load a gun with bullets?’

‘Show me how.’

I understood his instructions well enough. We closed the door and Harry stood by the window.

‘Who’s that?’ shouted Harry, as the boat came in. Immediately, bullets flew all around us. Harry shot with his gun again and again. I heard groans and a splash. In the flashes of light from the gunfire I recognized the red-bearded Dutchman. The others were natives.

Harry reached for the second gun. ‘More bullets, Anne,’ and I did as I was told. More bullets were also coming in at us, and one cut Harry’s face slightly. The shots he fired were doing more damage to the enemy. I got the gun ready and he turned to me to take it. Then he held me close and kissed me before he turned to the window to fire again. Suddenly he shouted, ‘They’re going - they’ve had enough for the moment. Anne, you beauty! You wonder! As brave as a lion. Black-haired witch! He caught me in his arms and kissed my mouth. ‘And now to business,’ he said. ‘We must get to the boat before they come back, they’ll be better organized next time.’

But both of Harry’s boats had been cut loose and had drifted away in the river.

‘They’re coming again,’ I said, seeing dark shapes moving out from the other side of the river.

‘Yes. See - they’ve got two boats this time, they’re going to land at two different points. We’re in a dangerous place, honey. Do you mind?’ Harry asked.

‘Not with you.’

‘Ah, but dying together is not much fun. We will do better than that. Come, Anne, we’ve got to try a desperate way out of this.’

Hand in hand, we raced across to the other side of the island. There was only a narrow stream of water between the island and the shore here.

‘I’ve got a friend in Livingstone who will help. But we’ve got to swim across. Can you swim at all? If not, I can get you there. There are too many rocks here for a boat to get near us.’

‘I can swim. What’s the danger, Harry?’ I had seen the look on his face.

‘Crocs, that’s the trouble.’

‘Crocodiles?’

‘Yes, but don’t think of them - or say your prayers, whichever is best for you.’

So we went into the water. My prayers must have been good, for we got to the shore safely, and climbed up wet and dripping on the bank.

That walk into town was very difficult. Finally, I stopped, unable to move another step. Harry carried me into Livingstone at the first faint light of dawn. How he managed for all that way, I don’t know.

Harry’s friend, Ned, was a young man who had a shop. He gave us food and hot coffee in a back room and went out to find what had happened to Sir Eustace’s party, and if any of them were still at the hotel.

I had been safe while my enemies thought I was dead. Now, wherever I went on my own, they could follow me and murder me quietly. I would have no one to protect me. We agreed that I should join Suzanne, and use all my energy to take care of myself. I would not to try to catch the Colonel. I would wait for instructions from Harry, who planned to go and find Colonel Race and see if he was a friend.

‘We ought to have a code.’ I said thoughtfully. ‘We don’t want to be fooled again by messages from our enemies.’

‘That’s easy.’ Harry replied. ‘Any real message will have the word “and” crossed out in it. Any telegrams from me will be signed “Andy”.’

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