Rupert Henderson started having doubts as soon as New Mount was a safe distance behind. He wondered suddenly whether he had planned it all wrong. This wasn’t the first murder he had committed, but it certainly was one which demanded the most efficiency. He was a killer, and he had long accepted that flaw in his trait as a human.
He was not the kind of man that would have qualms about shooting a man in the back, or placing a man at an undue advantage. To him, the best kill was to empty a gun into one’s target. Had he made this Chris Bawa kill too complicated? Suppose they had just shot Chris Bawa full of lead and dumped him into the river? They could’ve taken the man’s things and buried them. And even if Crankson descended on Little Rock the man’s body would’ve been food for the fishes and the buzzards. Of course Crankson could have raised the argument that Philip Lee-Chan had tried to kill Chris Bawa in Temple Town, but Rupert could always claim that he had had nothing to do with that. He could say he had just pointed out Chris Bawa to the Chinese, who had decided to attack the man to gain favour with their boss. It was highly improbable – no, it was absolutely impossible – for anybody to survive a drop into the Mezac Falls, but there was always an exception to every rule, wasn’t there? And so far, Chris Bawa had seemed to possess the luck of the devil. Men like Chris Bawa were hard to kill!
Rupert Henderson shuddered. If indeed, by some stroke of bad luck, Chris Bawa did survive that fall, then hell would break lose. He would never get a chance at a man like Chris Bawa for a second time. And if it were ever known in Little Rock that the three of them planned such a horrible death for an unconscious man, they would be marched to a lynching tree straight away whether people hated Chris Bawa or not.
For a wild moment Rupert Henderson wanted to go back and be sure, but the darkness had stolen across the sky. Maybe, he should camp in the woods and go back in the morning, descending down to the floor of the Mezac Falls just to make sure. After a while his nerves steadied, and he smiled ruefully. “Chris is mincemeat by now,” he muttered. “Probably being wolfed down by them fishes and birds and foxes. Better get to town and visit the doctor, find some antidote for that itchy heat in my damn groin.” He would eventually visit Mama Tina’s place, though, and tell that damn greedy bitch to take good care of her whores. He rode on, and put the issue of Chris Bawa out of his mind.
Rupert Henderson couldn’t have known how right he was when he thought that it was hard to kill Chris Bawa, and indeed the huge man had the devil’s own luck. If he had known half of the death situations Bawa had passed through in prison, and if he had known how Bawa had dealt with Commander Roger Ayeh, he wouldn’t have hesitated in turning back to make sure Bawa was dead. However, if the truth were known, Chris Bawa had never come so close to death than that moment when he entered the jaws of the murderous Mezac Falls.
The rocks and reefs on the floor of the fall were a freak of nature, an abnormality that could only have been formed by the mind of a devil. The rocks were a series of horizontal and vertical killing edges and points. Their deadly proportions had been shaped by centuries of furious boiling water hammering through them. Perhaps the only thing that saved the jailbird’s life was the fact that the makeshift raft his killers had put him on hadn’t nosedived into the heart of the fall. If that had pointed downward after it cleared the edge of the Falls it would have catapulted Chris straight down unto the jutting rocks below, and he would have been decapitated and cut up so badly that death would’ve been instantaneous.
As fate would have it, Chris Bawa regained consciousness just before the raft shot off the turbulent Falls. His was a hard head, and his instincts for survival went beyond his moments of being awake and fully lucid; even when he was asleep, or totally conked out, a sixth sense always seemed to hover him near the edges. That was also a factor that saved him that night when he was being ruthlessly dragged toward what would have been a heinous death!
He groaned and lifted his head in time to see the raft heading for the fall. Chris’ iron control suffered a jolt when the horror hit him. It was just a split second realization! His instincts made him turn toward the outer end of the raft in a desperate effort to roll free and find something – anything – to cling to. Maybe it was his weight distribution which ensured that at the final moment the raft went over, it didn’t nosedive, but it shot clear into space, and when it began to fall it still stayed flat and free of the main body of the angry waterfall.
Chris Bawa quickly redistributed his weight to keep the balance of the raft. He stretched out his hands to hold unto it tightly. His second luck came at the point of impact. If the raft had been immersed in the main body of the churning water, it would have hit the rocks, and the strong currents and back currents would have twisted and lashed his body through the rocks, ensuring a swift tearing up of his body through the serrated rocks. However, the makeshift raft impacted on the slick surface of a protruding flat rock and shot into the air again, taking him ten feet clear of the main jagged rocks. If the first impact had been on a vertical rock it would have pierced the raft and effectively sliced him into two halves. By the time the raft hit the water again Chris Bawa was almost fully awake. And then his awesome reflexes and natural strength came into play. The impact split the logs, but his arms went round the middle log and held on tight. The log was swept through the rocks with the speed of light, and he held on grimly. Once again, his luck held, and although he came close to many death-rocks that could have split him open, somehow, miraculously, the log seemed to be a living thing, meandering through the rocks like a sinuous eel although Chris felt parts of his body being sliced through by the sharp edges. And then it slid off another flat rock, shot into the air, came down hard, and suddenly Chris Bawa was drifting free into steady water with less strong currents.
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His body was weak, and he knew he could drown any second if he lost consciousness again. He flowed with the currents, gradually steering the log toward the outer edge of the banks. When he was near enough he slid off the log and began to swim. It took all his strength and all his will to fight the sheer force of one of the most powerful elements of nature. A less-conditioned man would’ve lost the fight, but Chris Bawa was no ordinary man. His was a fierce spirit that never knew how to give up, a rare breed of man who could stand strong in the face of daunting obstacles.
Finally, almost dead with exhaustion, he found that he could stand up. He waded through the water to the bank, and struggled out. He moved on rubbery legs to the soft grass, well clear of the river. Chris Bawa fell first on his knees, and then turned onto his right side; by the time he turned on his back he was already asleep. Rest is a weapon; get plenty of rest during the war…it can make all the difference!
He slept soundly, but even in his sleep his massive hands balled up into fists. And his fury was as violent as the raging waters that had almost claimed his life. He would get them. Yes, he would!
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